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CyanogenMod is an aftermarket firmware for three families of cell phones—HTC Dream (marketed as T-Mobile G1 in Europe and the US, Era G1 in Poland, and Rogers HTC Dream in Canada) and HTC Magic (T-Mobile myTouch 3G in the US, Rogers HTC Magic in Canada, Vodafone HTC Magic in Australia and DoCoMo HT-03A in Japan), and the Google Nexus One.[1]

CyanogenMod is a community-based distribution of the open-source Android operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android-based firmwares of vendors of these cell phones, including support for FLAC Lossless Audio, multi-touch, the ability to store and run downloaded applications from the microSD card, compressed cache (compcache), a large APN list, a reboot menu, support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB tethering, as well as other enhancements. CyanogenMod was also the first mobile OS to incorporate BFS as the task scheduler, a change that has been merged into experimental branches in the official Android source tree.[2] CyanogenMod claims to increase performance and reliability over official firmware releases.

In late September 2009, Google issued a cease-and-desist letter to CyanogenMod's chief developer, Steve Kondik. This action was widely viewed as a challenge to the open source community Google had claimed to embrace. However, the legal issue was Cyanogen's inclusion of closed source Google applications in the ROM, not the open source Android OS. This action generated substantial press coverage in various major media outlets including PC World, The Register, The Inquirer, Ars Technica, The H, ZDNet, Gigaom, and eWeek.[3]



Shortly after the introduction of the HTC Dream mobile phone in September 2008, a method, dubbed "rooting" by the Android community, was discovered by which one could attain privileged control (known as "root access") within Android's Linux subsystem.[4] This discovery, combined with the open source nature of the Android operating system, allowed the phone's stock firmware to be modified and re-installed onto the phone at will. These modifications are unnecessary for certain handsets specifically designated for development, such as the Android Dev Phone, which includes a hardware unlocked bootloader.[5]

The CyanogenMod firmware is currently based on code released by the Android team including the standard 1.6 "Donut" release and portions of the 2.0 "Eclair" branch including Eclair art, widgets, browser, calculator, alarm clock, multitouch API, visual enhancements, wi-fi update, activity manager, graphics layer, and other performance improvements. The custom portions of CyanogenMod are primarily written by Cyanogen (Steve Kondik) but includes contributions from the xda-developers community (such as an enhanced launcher tray, improved dialer, improved browser) as well as other sources (such as busybox in the shell).[6]

Cyanogen is also the maintainer of a "recovery image" used in conjunction with CyanogenMod. The recovery image is a special boot mode which is used to back up or restore the device's memory, and repair or upgrade firmware.[7] Cyanogen's recovery image is integral to the "One-Click Root" method of rooting the majority of currently available Android devices.[8][9]

An application called CyanogenMod Updater allows CyanogenMod users to receive notifications when new updates are available, download them to their phone, and install them. It is available on the Android Market. It was created and is maintained by Garok89 (Ross McAusland) and Firefart (Christian Mehlmauer) of xda-developers and is based on the JF-Updater by Sergi Velez.

Nexus One and future development

Following Google's introduction of the Nexus One, Cyanogen has indicated his intent to release a version of CyanogenMod for the new phone, which he has code-named "Makin' Bacon".[10] This new firmware works with a custom recovery image for the Nexus One developed by user Amon_Ra based on Cyanogen's version.[11] Cyanogen has also promised to continue development for the Dream and Magic phones.[12] On January 25, 2010, Cyanogen released an experimental CyanogenMod 5.0 for the Nexus One.

Licensing Controversy

Until version, CyanogenMod included several closed-source applications by Google, such as Gmail, Maps, Market, Talk, and YouTube, as well as several proprietary hardware drivers. These packages were included with the vendor distributions of Android, but not licensed for free distribution. After Google sent a cease and desist letter to Cyanogen demanding that he stop distributing the aforementioned applications, development ceased for a few days.[13][14][15][16] The reaction from many CyanogenMod users towards Google was hostile, with some claiming that Google's legal threats hurt their own interests and violated their informal corporate motto to do no evil.[17][18][19]

Following a statement from Google clarifying its position[20] and a subsequent negotiation between Google and Cyanogen, it was resolved that it could be possible to continue the CyanogenMod project, albeit in a form that did not bundle in the proprietary "Google Experience" components.[21][22].

It was also determined that the proprietary Google apps may be backed-up from the Google-supplied firmware on the phone and then re-installed onto CyanogenMod releases without infringing copyright. However, due to the controversy, some Android developers have decided to create open-source apps to replace the Google-owned ones.[23]

Cyanogen has also warned that while issues no longer remain with Google, there are still potential licensing problems regarding proprietary, closed-source device drivers.[24]. However, he is rebuilding the source tree, and believes the licensing issues with drivers can be worked out. He is also receiving assistance from Google employees.[25]

Cyanogen and other developers have also formed the Open Android Alliance (not to be confused with the Open Handset Alliance) an organization whose stated goal is to distribute "a *Flavor* of Android that is fully customizable and does not rely on Google or other copyrights. As of now the goal is a ROM (No google at all) that the user can make calls from and text."[26][27]


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