Maru is open source!

Feb 11, 2016 — Preetam D'Souza

Wow. That happened fast.

Last Thursday I announced Maru, software that turns your smartphone into a PC. It got a lot more attention than I was expecting, so I want to clarify things a bit.

It all started in 2013, when I was excitedly watching the unveiling of the Galaxy S4 and its octa-core processor from my dorm room. I was streaming the event on my expensive dual-core laptop, not quite believing that a phone could pack that kind of hardware. By the end of the same year, 64-bit ARM chips were starting to ship. I started to think that the term “smartphone” was really a misnomer; the devices that we carry around in our pockets are powerful computers that can get serious work done--they’re not just smarter phones. Yet we were only using a fraction of that power. Imagine tapping into that potential and carrying a single device that would adapt itself to any screen. That vision drove me to begin R&D on a proof-of-concept in my spare time, and in 2015 I actively started development on what would soon become Maru.

Fast-forward a year (and several seemingly insurmountable obstacles) later, and I was finally ready to release a beta. I thought I’d set up a nice website with a sign-up list and see if anyone was interested in trying it out. I thought maybe I’d get a couple early enthusiasts willing to give it a shot.

Instead, I got a couple thousand.

In a few hours, someone picked it up on Hacker News, where it hit #5. Within the next 48 hours, dozens of tech websites, forums, and blogs started buzzing about Maru. My mailbox started filling up fast and my mailing list even faster. People from all over the world were asking when Maru would be supported on their devices. The press began speculating about a “hitherto unknown group of developers” challenging the likes of Microsoft and Ubuntu.

I freaked out. I was the only one who knew that Maru was really just me. How the heck was I going to handle the thousands of people that signed up for the beta?

Then different emails started showing up. Emails from people who said they were “ready to offer support in any way” and would “absolutely love to help”, and on and on. The support kept pouring in. (Thank you guys!)

I’ve gotta say, the open source community never ceases to amaze me. I’ve had emails from people asking if they can help test Maru on other devices on a Sunday. How many normal people do you know that willingly want to give up their Sundays to help test software? I’ve experienced this helpfulness time and time again, whether it was the speakers at open source conferences so willing to share their knowledge, or the folks on forums who were so keen to help out beginners like me. Maru would never have been possible without that spirit of openness.

With that spirit in mind, I’m open sourcing Maru. Setting up a large-ish open source project is new to me so please be patient. There’s a decent amount of work that needs to be done to document and automate things so people can easily get started with the code. A lot of stuff on the website will be changing too. I’ll be posting frequent updates as this progresses.

While this goes on, new development for Maru will be on pause. I’ll go ahead and open up the beta downloads for a couple of days for everyone who has already signed up--you guys deserve to try out Maru--but I suspect that Maru will change a lot in this process so you may want to hold off until the dust settles.

I think that together we’ll be able to make Maru better than ever. We can get Maru on more devices, have more thorough testing, and benefit from all the great ideas within the community. What started out as a personal quest quickly became a shared vision by everyone who felt a spark of excitement at Maru’s promise. And that promise extends far beyond the developer community. Imagine if we can give people who don’t have access to a PC a similar experience on their low-cost smartphones. I think Maru can have a serious impact here, and I am very keen on hearing from anyone who can help with this.

I can’t wait to see where Maru goes from here--all I know is that when you get a group of passionate people together, amazing things happen.

Thank you for your enthusiasm!

Preetam D’Souza

P.S. I’m looking for as much help as I can from here on out. If you think you can help (contributions, testing, advice, ideas, new opportunities for Maru, anything) I would love to hear from you! You can get in touch via email or @getmaru.

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