I know of the FreeRunner, but are there any other Linux cell phones out there? Are they any good?
Nokia N900 is one of the Linux based phones I know. It even has a terminal app out of the box to access shell!
All Android based phones are also Linux machines. Take into consideration that they run a Dalvik or Java Virtual Machine on the top.
Android relies on Linux version 2.6 for core system services such as security, memory management, process management, network stack, and driver model. The kernel also acts as an abstraction layer between the hardware and the rest of the software stack.
Palm's WebOS phones are Linux powered as well. They do not need to be rooted to gain access to the system. WebOS has a very active home-brew community and many standard Linux packages available via optware. I've got my Palm Pre set up as a web server, accessible via ssh, and even had samba running on it for a while. Check out WebOS Internals.
Even older than the FreeRunner was the GreenPhone. It ceased production in 2007. The software did manage to live on as QtMoko/Debian for the FreeRunner.
Are they any good?
My answer is about Nokias and Androids. I recommend you to wait with them until the problems fixed below.
Poor Keyboards with Nokias but not with Androids, at least G1. Poor usability in both camps however will hinder your productivity
The family, N8XX and N9XX, has very poor keyboard designs -- darn hard to get even tilde and programming quotes -- that kills your productivity like hXll. Android phones in conrast, such as G1, have much better keyboards but otherwise not as open as Nokia family, opennes here is a very subjective term -- however hard they market their phones with "open source", they are not. Heard Nokia N900 is more open than N8XX but if I have understood right it still have some code like related to transmitter/antenna closed, check the current state from Freenode's Maemo channel, this can change like a windmill. As for Androids, I tried everything like Cyanogenmod, Dev phones but just busy-box-cli-abstraction and multi-tasking commandline not possible (not in Androids and not in Nokias) -- again a blow to productivity.
Some infant problems with current "linux" phones
- native multi-tasking CLI (no abstraction pling-pling like busy-box), not the same as Nokias "GUI multitasking"-marketing-pling-pling
- missing/implemented-poorly programs such as GNU Screen, Mutt, Vi, irssi and such basics (bad for productivity)
- poor QWERTY keyboard with hard-to-use programmer-keys, please, no more display clicking like with Nokias
- no native Debian or similar OS running, you need to box it at least with N900
- not open and obfuscated code, like with Cyanogenmod's Nvidia driver (not verified just rumour in Freenode's #cyanogenmod, speculation)
Cannot recommend any of the infant products, they are disgraceful in their usability and debatable openness. You may like some of their features like SSH but you will encounter productivity problems. I got rid of my Nokias, Androids, Cyanogen-mod-messes -- will go back if I can find a phone with fixed above problems.
Please, let me know if you know any phone that address the problems -- and seriously why the title is about "linux", I want BSD phone, any idea whether any OBSD phone planned or in production?
- there is a growing list here:
Documenting devices with mainline Linux support - Help needed https://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=99357
- things are changing constantly and new projects are emerging:
... and more?