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Ubuntu Phone Isn't Important Enough To Demand an Open Source Baseband

Unknown Lamer posted about 9 months ago | from the pick-your-battles dept.

Cellphones 137

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Canonical is producing a version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution specifically for smartphones, but Richard Tynan, writing for PrivacyInternational.org, recently pointed out that the baseband in Ubuntu-powered phones will remain proprietary. ... Some have criticized Canonical for missing an opportunity to push for a fully Open Source smartphone, but in order to fix this problem (and open up the code for this super-critical bit of software), we need companies that have a large amount of clout, in the smartphone market, to make it a priority. Canonical (with Ubuntu) just doesn't have that clout yet. They're just now dipping their toes into the smartphone waters. But you know who does have that clout? Google.

Google has made a point of touting Open Source (at least sometimes), and they are the undisputed king of the smartphone operating system world. And yet I hear no big moves by Google to encourage phone manufacturers to utilize Open Source baseband firmware, such as OsmocomBB. So has Canonical missed an opportunity? No. Not yet. If (some may say 'when') Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share in the phone world, that will be their chance to pressure manufacturers to produce a truly Open Source phone. Until then, Canonical needs to continue to work within the world we have today."

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They're not important even on the desktop (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569395)

If (some may say 'when') Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share in the phone world, that will be their chance to pressure manufacturers to produce a truly Open Source phone.

Such naivety. Ubuntu never even gained a significant amount of market share in the regular desktop/laptop world. Google, which supposedly uses its own spin of Ubuntu internally, recently released Google Now for Windows and Mac but didn't bother with Linux. The Google Drive client has been out for Windows and Mac for ages and yet a client for Linux is "still in development".

The only people who think it's a case of 'when' Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share in the phone world are fanboys and kids who are still too idealistic and don't want to face the mountain of evidence which suggests Canonical don't know how to make something make money. They still haven't even turned a profit in close to 10 years for fucks sake! I'm sorry if this sounds like trolling but I'm sick and tired of Linux fans having their heads in the clouds and not being down to earth like I was expecting them to be.

Re:They're not important even on the desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569425)

Canonical don't know how to make something make money

Who would have thought that giving away software for free and opening up all your software wouldn't be a big money maker?!? That's unpossible!!!

Re:They're not important even on the desktop (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569589)

It can work when you have corporate clients with big support contracts who are also funding development for the project to implement features they see as important. But who funds it when it is non-corporate end users? The people who balk at paying for software and expect it to come for free with their hardware anyway (iOS, Android, etc. even the cost of Windows is amortized to the point people don't notice it) are not going to pay for support contracts so projects like that are not going to be funded, except via ads, which people hate and use adblockers so the value of that model is being diluted anyway.

Re: They're not important even on the desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569891)

The billionaires behind RedHat apparently

RedHat targets corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570343)

The billionaires behind RedHat apparently

Different target users. RedHat's users are willing to fund development and pay for expensive support contracts, Ubuntu's are not.

Re:RedHat targets corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570503)

"Who would have thought that giving away software for free and opening up all your software wouldn't be a big money maker?!? That's unpossible!!!"

Where is there any mention of "unless its the right target group"?

In other words, it is possible to do what the guy said and make money.

Re:RedHat targets corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570535)

Where is there any mention of "unless its the right target group"?

Well given that the discussion is around that RedHat can do it and Canonical can't I think mentioning the reason why does make sense don't you?

In other words, it is possible to do what the guy said and make money.

Yes but not for Canonical, because their target market is different.

Re:They're not important even on the desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571399)

It worked for Google.

Re: They're not important even on the desktop (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569871)

Most used OS at Google : OSX on Macs. They use 40,000 Macs. The rest is using Linux. (And not Chrome)

(Windows : almost none)

Re: They're not important even on the desktop (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570421)

(Windows : almost none)

Which is why we see so many Google-baiting articles on Slashdot.

In reality, they have little or nothing to do with this story about Ubuntu phones, yet "ColinEagle", a poster with a history of defending Microsoft http://slashdot.org/~colinneag... [slashdot.org] succeeds in getting to the frontpage by framing it as a negative story about Google. Sadly, this is an example of how Slashdot has been overrun by Microsoft to the extent that it's pretty much a marketing brochure now.

Anyway, carry on with your Scroogling. I guess the 'softies need to get their hourly 2 minutes of hate in.

Re: They're not important even on the desktop (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570809)

The question posed is perfectly reasonable, why does Google only do Open Source when it suits them? If the answer is that they leech off open source in their own self-interest then that is an acceptable answer.

Sadly, this is an example of how Slashdot has been overrun by Microsoft to the extent that it's pretty much a marketing brochure now.

Yeah totally, nobody *ever* hates on Microsoft (or Apple or Google or Oracle or Samsung or whoever) on slashdot ::rollseyes:: it's all a marketing brochure for Microsoft (or Apple or Google or Oracle or Samsung or whoever) because they totally eliminate all negative discussion about them. Odd that you can't stop reading it though and still have a desperate need to post to defend your company of choice from some perceived injustice on a site you don't like, very strange indeed, the sort of thing only somebody who was paid would do.

Re: They're not important even on the desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571413)

No wonder they can't design an interface or site to save their lives.

Re: They're not important even on the desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571503)

You mean Windows, the uggliest and most convoluted GUI OS ever is the only one being able to create creativity?

Wow. Trolling level 11.

"some say" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569433)

Some pigs will one day fly out of Mark Shuttleworth's bunghole.

Google is not open sources friend. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569439)

The only thing google likes about open source is the cost, and the geek cred, everything else they hate, and will actively try to remove.

Re:Google is not open sources friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569611)

Let the fanboys keep thinking that they're some big champions of open source by buying Google. In the end Google will make MS and Apple look like saints. If the whole truth of their operations were known I'm sure that would be true today.

Re: Google is not open sources friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569897)

Intelligent people already know that. It's just that the deluded gSheeps are screaming bloody murder pretty loud.

Re:Google is not open sources friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571427)

Nothing could ever make Apple and company that I would ever do any business with whatsoever, but you're right about Microsoft. At current time, I do honestly think that Google is more evil.

Re: Google is not open sources friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569905)

They also like the fact that it's"not Microsoft"

Ubuntu isn't important enough for anything (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569459)

Since Mint has solidly dethroned it, who cares about Ubuntu?

http://distrowatch.com/dwres.p... [distrowatch.com]

Too bad Canonical hasn't quite figured out trying to act like Microsoft in the OSS world doesn't work out very well.

Re:Ubuntu isn't important enough for anything (3, Informative)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 9 months ago | (#46569527)

Mint probably cares about Ubuntu, since it's a fork. Or was that supposed to be funny?

Re:Ubuntu isn't important enough for anything (1)

gonnagetya (3580051) | about 9 months ago | (#46570385)

That's not entirely accurate. The other main version of Mint is called Linux Mint Debian, a Debian variant with a similar look and feel to the Ubuntu-based version, as well as having some enhancements like proper font anti-aliasing out of the box, but still being based on Debian as opposed to Ubuntu. This means that if Canonical goes batshit crazy (or crazier anyway) and makes enough decisions that are counter-productive to the future of the main Linux Mint edition, then the Mint guys can focus entirely on their Debian spin.

Open mouth, Insert foot. (2)

westlake (615356) | about 9 months ago | (#46569603)

Since Mint has solidly dethroned it, who cares about Ubuntu?

Next time, don't link to a page that debunks your own argument.

The DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistics are a light-hearted way of measuring the popularity of Linux distributions and other free operating systems among the visitors of this website. They correlate neither to usage nor to quality and should not be used to measure the market share of distributions. They simply show the number of times a distribution page on DistroWatch.com was accessed each day, nothing more.

DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking [distrowatch.com]

Google? Not very likely (5, Insightful)

Inev (3059243) | about 9 months ago | (#46569501)

Google, these days, is interested in making as much of the Android ecosystem closed source as possible in order to exert control over it and manufacturers. So I don't see them wanting to open source something important like the baseband firmware. Source: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets... [arstechnica.com]

Re:Google? Not very likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570411)

Interesting article - much better than OP. I wouldn't trust Samsung anymore than Google to keep their apps open, far from it. so a truly open source fork of AOSP would be great.

One Words (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569511)

Patents.

Ain't never gonna happen.

Dreames. Nothing but dreamers.

They need to fix Touch first. (3, Insightful)

slackware 3.6 (2524328) | about 9 months ago | (#46569557)

How can an Ubuntu phone be taken serious when Touch is horribly buggy and hardly runs on anything. I tested it on my Nexus 7 and it was basically unusable it doesn't even have a working memory management. I would probable have better luck with Haiku. O well back to CM, at least it works and has a cool animation at startup. Which is all that matters if you want to look cooler and nerdier that the other guy reading his tablet on the toilet.

Re:They need to fix Touch first. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46569599)

and the latest nightly is not much better.

Ubuntu Phone is at LEAST 2 years out before it is even ready for beta testing.

Re:They need to fix Touch first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569681)

Uh, it's a VM running in a VM. And it's beta. You're right, let's just scrap the entire idea because....Google. NO FURTHER QUESTIONS.

Re:They need to fix Touch first. (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#46569839)

Uh, it's a VM running in a VM. And it's beta.

So what you're saying is that Ubuntu Phone isn't real enough to be a phone.

You're right, let's just scrap the entire idea because....Google. NO FURTHER QUESTIONS.

I would like to use Android on a PC, but I have the same reservations regarding Android-x86. They keep kicking out new releases, but they never actually finish one. So there's plenty of fail in the Android ecosystem, and everyone [who cares] knows it.

Works in progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571733)

How can an Ubuntu phone be taken serious when Touch is horribly buggy and hardly runs on anything. I tested it on my Nexus 7 and it was basically unusable it doesn't even have a working memory management. I would probable have better luck with Haiku. O well back to CM, at least it works and has a cool animation at startup. Which is all that matters if you want to look cooler and nerdier that the other guy reading his tablet on the toilet.

If I remember right these are, more or less, experiments! There raw, and unfinished. They put the a base out there and want the community to hopefully fix/add/fine tune it.

Irrational open source fanboys (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#46569567)

What part of you thinks a company with half a clue is going to 'open up' their special magic so that companies like Huawei can rape them in the process?

NO smartphone maker gives enough of a shit about Ubuntu for them to have ANY chance at ALL of opening the baseband.

You guys live in a really silly fantasy world where people seem to hurt themselves to benefit you, that doesn't actually happen and you have provided absolutely no reason they should actually open the baseband. You're a statistically insignificant group of people demanding something silly that no one else on the planet gives a shit about because you think no one else's way is possibly acceptable, you're way or the high way ...

Theres no compelling reason for any one to open their baseband.

Demanding OSS firmware is fucking silly anyway, the chips aren't open, you can't actually see whats going on in them and you never will because again, theres NO REASON to compel them to do so.

Your monitor/display ... not OSS. Your computer hardware ... not OSS pretty much the only OSS in your life is the tiny little bit you run on your desktop, which is itself in no way what so ever open ...

You guys pick some random silly shit to rant about and miss far bigger issues. It really makes you look silly and unaware of what you're talking about when you rant on about OSS baseband on a proprietary chip.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569667)

Being condescending and dismissive doesn't make your opinion valid. It hurts it. Just saying.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (3, Insightful)

exomondo (1725132) | about 9 months ago | (#46570957)

He may be condescending and dismissive but I do see his point, this same formula has been repeated for years (first in desktops) with almost no successful results because it is flawed. Open source rarely gets used by end users because it's open source, it gets used because it is a more compelling product for one reason or another. Saying "you should open this up" inevitably leads to the question of "why" and if you cannot answer that then obviously it won't be opened up.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 9 months ago | (#46569837)

[...] theres NO REASON to compel them to do so.

How about to make sure there isn't a backdoor in the baseband software?
https://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/replicant-developers-find-and-close-samsung-galaxy-backdoor [fsf.org]

The NSA's activities should have us rushing to audit and open as much as possible.
"Trust us" isn't a viable business model anymore.

Re: Irrational open source fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569945)

The galaxy backdoor was not located in the baseband but in Samsung's Android additions.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (0)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#46570583)

Even if you saw what you thought was the baseband, that doesn't mean you're seeing any potential back doors. Thats my point. All ranting and raving about getting at the source so you can make sure you don't have any back doors ... because they can't just hard code that right into the chip and never let you see it ...

Ranting about some tiny little bit of the device not being open source is retarded with the other 80% is as locked down far tighter than any source code ever.

You trust people constantly, and then pick random things to rant about. Lets go over a list of other things that aren't open and you can't peak at that you still use.

BIOS
Chipsets
Processor cores
Network card cores
Graphics card cores
Keyboard controllers
Your cars ECU
Your TVs software (assuming you have one)
Your monitors internal software
The software for any digital clocks you might have

I could go on for days with all the shit in your world that is not open that you won't bother to worry about ... but god damn, you know that baseband is software, and god dman that should FOSS because ... because ... well, I'm still waiting for someone to tell me magically why baseband (and software in general) is something that must be open, but hardware, you'll use that shit all day long without thinking twice. So if I just embed my code into the processor itself, you won't bitch.

Thats just silly.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 9 months ago | (#46570973)

How about to make sure there isn't a backdoor in the baseband software?

Well if there is then they're hardly going to open it up and show you now are they? If you take that as admission that there is then the next step would be to begin developing your own solution instead of badgering them to give you theirs that you probably don't want anyway.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570361)

Huawei already rapes companies though, open or not. Doesn't help when US companies still keep using Chinese manufacturing and assembly plants to create tech despite the well knowing habit of the Chinese Governement having plans for said tech copied to use in their own businesses, such as Huawei.

Also you seem to be under the impression that if a minority wants something, then they must be silly because they're a minority, and the majority must be right because the majority are never short-sighted or ignorant of potential issues.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (1)

fermion (181285) | about 9 months ago | (#46570423)

This has little to do with manufacturing cell phones. There are only three companies making money on cell phones, Apple, Samsung, and MS through royalty payments by most Android Manufacturers.

It is more a matter of what is legal. User can't really be allowed to change how cell phones work at this level. Such things can cause interference.

What Ubuntu can do, and what Google was supposed to do, is provide a way for users to modify and update their open source phones independent of their carrier. This should not be something that is prohibited, and where Google lost in their open source push. Apple bypassed the carriers by working with a desperate ATT and then using power built up over time to push the way into other more reluctant carriers.

This should be what Ubuntu should do. Find a desperate carrier. Sell quality phones. You are right that the fanatics will cause problems. But the others will do worse.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about 9 months ago | (#46570619)

Sadly you are misinformed or poorly educated.
The companies you mention make nothing off this software.

The companies that do make money from this software prefer not to be in he public eye. It's more profitable.
Qualcom for instance. There are others, but I don't feel like digging their names up.

They hold the high ground, because Apple, Android, almost irrelevant Ubuntu and MS all need their chips and software for their chips.
If one company controlled the smartphone market they could force something, as long as there is more than one it isn't going to happen. i.e. never

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 9 months ago | (#46571075)

Any one of the biggies could make an open baseband chip. Both Samsung and Apple have chip designers, and Samsung even has foundries. None of them cares. Why would they? What do they possibly have to gain by going to all the trouble to either make their own baseband chip or force an existing manufacturer to do it?

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (2)

gravious (19912) | about 9 months ago | (#46571537)

Irrational? No. Maybe you could argue for misguided. Or optimistic. Or deluded. But irrational? No, it's _entirely_ rational to desire this state of affairs.

Regarding smartphone manufacturers having a clue. Way back in the day before Linux people made the same arguments about servers and desktops and laptops. Before Android people made the same argument about smartphones. Heck now there's even an open hardware server consortium. These processes always seem impossible right up until the point they become reality and then they were the most obvious thing in the world.

Smartphone makers employ engineers and engineers give enough of a 'shit' about Ubuntu, ergo smartphone makers give enough of a 'shit' about Ubuntu.

This 'silly fantasy world' you speak of. It's called mutual cooperation. It's called trust. It's called sharing the load. It's called socially responsible. It's called not being hostile to your users and customers. The only hurt I see is the current situation. A mirage of short-term gains for longer-term whatever the opposite of benefits is (what's the opposite of benefits again? aaargh, stupid brain).

Statistically insignificant? 75% of smartphones run a more or less free and open-source OS. Oh, there's that word silly again. And shit. And fucking silly. And ... Oh dear I'm having a hard time digesting your argument (you do have an argument, don't you) what with all the childish insults you're dropping. Tell you what, when you grow up and want to have an adult conversation with us I'm all ears, until then any chance you could stay away from that keyboard of yours and not waste our time. You come across like you're aged 14 and so do the people who upvoted you.

mod up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46572129)

this should be modded up instead of the moron above.

Re:Irrational open source fanboys (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46572121)

Your mostly right about the smartphone makers thinking.

But you are still wrong on a moral level. I happen to think the world would be a better place if more things were open. And that is why I keep fighting for it.
Sometimes we win, sometimes not. It does not matter, but it is still right to argue for it.

That is the bigger issue, I do not care about companies and raping, that is what companies do anyway. Go enjoy our iphone untill it stops being supported. Meanwhile, I happily run my own device, as open as possible. And slowly getting more and more open (including the chips).

Oh, and I hope evolution will slowly phase out think patterns like yours.

Edit: captcha: triumphs

What an open source baseband can be. (5, Interesting)

queazocotal (915608) | about 9 months ago | (#46569605)

Open source basebands cannot, legally, in most parts of the world be up-datable by the user, which removes most of the interest.

There are several good reasons for this.
Radio is a shared resource. Cellphones only work as well as they do as the towers arrange it so that no cellphone is transmitting on top of another one.

The modem hardware is quite capable in most cases of transmitting right over the top of other transmissions. The worst case would be a free app turning up that gave free data transfer between nearby phones. And did this by ignoring the towers, and going direct.
This has the potential to knock off dozens of calls from the network per user, some of which may be emergency calls.

FCC/... approvals are inherently with a given software version of the modem - most of the behaviour of the modem is set by software - and changing that software without approval will void the approval of the phone.

In some countries, there is actual specific legislation.
If your open-source baseband could change the IMEI, then once you have been informed that this has been done, you are actually committing an offence if you continue to sell the phone which enables the user to do this in the UK.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569649)

More importantly government has a pretty serious interest in owning your baseband.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) | about 9 months ago | (#46569697)

I was actually curious about this - when I used to play with radio scanners, you could (theoretically) get in lots of trouble if you opened them up and sniffed on frequencies that weren't approved. I would imagine very low level control of the radio within a phone could get you in tons of trouble if you were able to spoof things like the IMEI, but even if it was somehow burned into the silicon, you could still play silly buggers with a very controlled set of rules and standards.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about 9 months ago | (#46570935)

In the US, and you got caught, years in prison. pretty much the same in many countries. RF is legislated, heavily! Sniff where you're not allowed at your peril. That said, it's difficult to impossible to detect passive scanning. except for the idiot that opens his mouth ...

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 9 months ago | (#46571753)

Here in australia your not supposed to listen in to police comms, but journalists, tow truck drivers and whoever else have been doing so for decades with no penalty.

That said I wouldn't be surprise if its encrypted (or whatever they do) these days.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571941)

Most Police Comms are encrypted in W.A, and there are penalties if you do manage to intercept, decode & use the information. News gathering organisations, towies and the like, have a media office that will inform them of events they think you should know about, dependent on your identity, reputation and record of prior responsible use of that information.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569745)

It's going to happen anyway.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#46569825)

Open source basebands cannot, legally, in most parts of the world be up-datable by the user, which removes most of the interest.

But they could use signature verification to [more or less] prevent people from updating it while still releasing the source code. As long as you could compile it (though not load it) you could verify that it was the software used on the device.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570019)

> As long as you could compile it (though not load it) you could verify that it was the software used on the device.

Yep. This is one of the huge benefits that folks are asking for.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | about 9 months ago | (#46571007)

Maybe not, depending on the license [gnu.org] .

In fact, protecting the integrity of the software by using a digital signature is expressly the use case that GPLv3 is trying to forbid.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571145)

Which is why they wouldn't use such a license.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 9 months ago | (#46571079)

Thank you - this was almost exactly the comment I had in my head.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 9 months ago | (#46571115)

What good is that to them? Why do they have to prove anything to you? I'm not saying you're wrong or that your request is unreasonable but frankly I don't see any reason they would go to any effort to comply with your request.

Re: What an open source baseband can be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569941)

So should we all ban internet comments and forums because I could make a bomb threat or post child porn there? Come on. Just because something could be abused doesn't mean it should be banned

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570305)

That's a lot of bullshit for one comment.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 9 months ago | (#46570445)

There are good reasons why base band processors cannot be opened up for anyone to use. Opening up the base band would allow hackers to run wild disrupting operating of networks.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 9 months ago | (#46570647)

Hackers can workaround proprietary software. Did you hear about reverse engineering?

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (2)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 9 months ago | (#46570729)

Yes. I have heard about reverse engineering on posts on the Internet. I also have read that many base band processors are implemented in ASICs (QUALCOMM) which are difficult to hack. The base band processors are done with ASICs because they are ultra-low power. A software based band processor will eat your battery very quickly.
So there are reasons, besides hacking prevention, to guide one to make hardware based units.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

queazocotal (915608) | about 9 months ago | (#46572213)

Calling them ASICs is both correct, and misleading.

The modem parts contain both processors running a fairly complex program (typically several meg), to do both the management of the high-level protocol, and the low-level data framing.
Then there are special units to write and read from the radio hardware at the precisely correct time and rate.
In addition, digital filters and low-level modulators and demodulators.

Doing a cell modem with pure SDR - with just analog to digital converters and then doing it all in software - will be extremely expensive, both in terms of power use and purchase cost.
The performance required of the general purpose processors goes way up.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (3, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 9 months ago | (#46570721)

Spectrum is a public resource. Your comment perfectly illustrates why we need segments of various classes of signal free and open to the public. No restrictions like on family-band where store and forward packet radio is illegal.

I don't see what the huge concern is. Really, for less that $20 you can create a small tunable jammer. If people want to do the jamming they can already. The assumption that folks won't play by the rules is idiotic considering the existence of short-wave two-way radios. Who knows what innovation we could have if tinkerers were allowed to play. Perhaps a world wide distributed store and forward self organizing spread spectrum multi-power level mesh network with data deduplication (infohashes for resources) which inherently has low latency, free collocation, and anonymity built in because you get most of your data from your neighbors or their neighbors instead of re-sending from the source -- Essentially a terrestrial version of NASA's Space Internet (Delay Tolerant Network) is possible.

We have the technology to create a network where you only pay for the device then become a node in a network: No monthly fees, bigger and more expensive node, faster your cross country connection. We have the technology to automatically frequency hop and reduce or increase power so that channels can be reused over short ranges. We have the technology for point to point line of sight beams. We hobbyists have organized complex information networks like Fidonet before, and were such system allowed, non profit groups could handle coordination and management of local line-of-sight networking. Folks that say it's impossible have never tried, and are likely ignorant of HAM radio operations. Cell phones are proof of the viability.

Given the existence of legally purchasable capacitors, transistors and wires, the issue isn't that software defined radio could possibly stomp on other people's signals -- Hell, a fist or bat could potentially injure people, but we don't lop off hands and outlaw ball games. The issue is that software defined radio threatens to destroy the need for carriers altogether. That's a good thing for the consumers, and hence why it isn't happening: The FCC and equivalent bodies operate in the best interest of the corporations not the people.

Re:What an open source baseband can be. (1)

nukem996 (624036) | about 9 months ago | (#46571809)

This seems like something you could fix by hard coding the supported freqencies in silicon.

Regulatory issues (2, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 9 months ago | (#46569629)

Most of it's probably regulatory issues. Anything that transmits radio has to be set up so it can't go outside the FCC-set limits (eg. stays within maximum allowable power for a given channel, stays only on assigned channels, etc. etc.). That used to be handled in hardware, but these days it's cheaper to use generic hardware that'll transmit at any power on any channel and then impose the limitations within the baseband code. And it's cheaper to allow updating of the baseband than it is to replace phones to fix problems in the baseband code. That combination means that open-source baseband would allow you to re-flash a baseband that'd go outside regulatory limits, which'd be a no-no. Combine with a legal environment where the phone manufacturer, not the consumer, would be the one sued (because they've got deep pockets and the consumers don't) and you can see why we have the situation we have.

Re:Regulatory issues (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 9 months ago | (#46570457)

The irony is that if somebody really wanted to cause trouble they'd just buy or make a jammer. I can see why the FCC wants to have commercially sold devices certified, but they shouldn't need to be locked down to this degree. If people want to experiment with them, how is that worse than them experimenting with home-built hardware? You can legally buy hardware capable of broadcasting arbitrary signals on arbitrary frequencies already.

And as far as changing IMEI/etc goes - an authentication system which is based on a number which is not unique to the account is a poor system. IMEI is just security by obscurity. Anybody who has physical possession of a phone can find its IMEI, including whoever sold it to you. Changing an IMEI is always possible, no matter how hard the phone vendors try to make it. The phone should just authenticate with a shared secret which is actually secret, or should use a smartcard built into the SIM/etc. And yes, I realize this would probably require changing GSM.

Re:Regulatory issues (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 9 months ago | (#46570565)

Making a jammer, yes, but buying radio hardware isn't quite that simple. For anything operating in unlicensed or open-access spectrum (eg. CB radio), it's easy to buy hardware that won't exceed the allowable limitations. Buying gear that can transmit on any channel and/or at any power usually requires having your license recorded as part of the sale. No license = no gear.

As for the IMEI, as far as I know it's not used to authenticate to the cel network. That's done via the IMSI which is on the SIM. The IMEI's mostly used for locating hardware (eg. a lost/stolen phone). Authentication is done using a challenge/response system, and the key used to generate the response from the challenge is in secure storage in the SIM (can't be read short of direct physical access to the internals of the SIM). Unlike other systems, GSM treats the phone as just an interchangeable accessory, the subscriber identity and everything critical to network authentication is carried in the SIM. That's why I can pop the SIM out of one phone and pop it in another (or pop another carrier's SIM in my phone, if the phone isn't locked) and things Just Work.

Re:Regulatory issues (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#46570667)

Have you ever built a ghz+ range radio from scratch?

Do you not understand how much easier it is to fix with some software and flash a phone compared to building your own phone from scratch?

IMEI ... security through obscurity ... oh geez, can you know less about how it works? Your IMEI identifies the phone. Your sim card authenticates you and tells them who you are. Copying an IMEI is ... well, more or less worthless unless you're on some shitty network like verizon which still doesn't use GSM and SIM cards. It has nothing to do with security.

Whats that ... you don't realize that everyone is already ON GSM except Verizon?

Its trivial to make an IMEI unchangeable. You make it controlled by fuses. You burn them once, and they simply physically will not ever burn again, thus can't be changed. This isn't anything new and electronics have done this since the 70s when I got into it, not sure when it really started.

Re:Regulatory issues (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 9 months ago | (#46572055)

Making the IMEI physically unalterable doesn't help. If you can re-flash the baseband and firmware, you can make it ignore the burned-in IMEI in favor of a programmable one stored in the phone's non-volatile memory.

vever going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569633)

open source baseband just isn't going to happen - at least not for anything that could be considered a "modern" network standard. The levels of complexity for 4G baseband and the like are in another universe when compared to anything currently in the open source world - and they change at a staggering rate.

I'll pass. (2, Interesting)

Drunkulus (920976) | about 9 months ago | (#46569677)

A phone from Canonical? This is the company who brings us the buggiest linux distribution in history, the company whose own forums got hacked and were down for two weeks while they tried to restore a backup. They have never made money and are completely dependent on the continued financial support of their self appointed benevolent dictator for life. With tens of millions in personal losses so far, and years past his own deadline for Canonical to break even, do you really trust that they will be around? I hear all the time that Ubuntu is good for linux. I suppose it is, the same way that factory farming is good for chickens.

Re: I'll pass.... nail on the head (1)

mexsudo (2905137) | about 9 months ago | (#46569887)

Yup, you nailed it

Re:I'll pass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570077)

So you'd rather be fucked in the ass by the biggest data miners on earth? Check.

Re:I'll pass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570111)

No thanks, I'm using my Openmoko Neo Freerunner while waiting for the Neo900. Unlike the free baseband, those devices are possible to do and are providing all the user freedoms that are possible to provide.

Re:I'll pass. (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 9 months ago | (#46570129)

If Google had not turned completely incompetent, and have shown their complete inability to produce a even half decent smartphone OS, I would agree.

but at this point we need as many competitors as possible.

Re:I'll pass. (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about 9 months ago | (#46570981)

Canonical has their problems. Making money is not one of them
They've made at least hundreds of millions.
Mark Shuttlesworth, heard of him? bought a ticket to space.

Do your research!

your comment is a fail

Re:I'll pass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46571179)

Canonical has made hundreds of millions? Since when? Canonical has yet to turn a profit. His hundreds of millions came from selling his CA to Verisign not Canonical.

Re:I'll pass. (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 9 months ago | (#46571277)

Mark Shuttlesworth, heard of him? bought a ticket to space.

...thanks to the fortune he made selling his company (Thawte) to Verisign.

Sorry... but you can't have this. National Securit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569769)

I am very sorry but we will not give you access to the radio.
There is too much non-public functionality in a cell phone's
radio that would wind up not being implemented or even deliberately
exploited in a way that is damaging to the intended purposes of
a cell phone.

Sorry, but you will need to use Qualcomm's Advanced Mobile Subscriber
Software (AMSS) or similar offerings that implements the entire
cell phone feature-set both public and non-public.

Now go back and debate Android vs. Ubuntu's finer points on the application
core of your phone and forget about what the radio core is doing on your phone
right now in this moment.

It's not that easy. (5, Insightful)

dos1 (2950945) | about 9 months ago | (#46569821)

If the open source baseband was even remotely feasible to do, open projects like Openmoko, OpenPhoenux (GTA04, Neo900) together with OsmocomBB would already come up with 100% open GSM device. The people working on those project dream to be able to do that, but they simply can't. OsmocomBB is practically a research project, as there are no practical use-cases for it to "normal user" (in most countries it's illegal to use modem with OsmocomBB on it unless you're operating it with your own BTS-lab network you got permission to set up for development or research purposes), and it only operates on very old devices with TI Calypso, as basically all of more modern basebands are cryptographically signed (TI Calypso was also supposed to be, but for some unknown reason that feature was disabled, probably due to misconfiguration at the factory - this is the only reason OsmocomBB was possible at all).

Unless we do lots of legal lobbying and raise much more resources than a company like Canonical has (trust me, building proper 4G modem is awfully hard and expensive. You have to comply to several thousands pages of protocol documentation and pass many certifications. Canonical probably could would be able to afford producing Ubuntu Edge, but they certainly won't be able to afford the modem development), it's much more helpful to look at projects like Neo900 ( http://neo900.org/ [neo900.org] ) which aim for the best possible separation between APE and the baseband with built-in monitoring in case you suspect modem might be doing something malicious. In my opinion, this is the proper step forward the truly free mobile devices in our pockets, not shouting and demanding open basebands (even if we all, including Neo900 developers, dream about them).

Re:It's not that easy. (2)

dos1 (2950945) | about 9 months ago | (#46569869)

Also, "The choice of Canonical to use a binary only baseband is even more disappointing when Osmocom have already produced a functional open-source GSM baseband for the Calypso chipset. One must wonder why was this not adopted or improved upon by the talented individuals at Canonical, especially given the previous enthusiasm for open-source philosophy."

The reason is simple. They didn't want to limit their capabilities to 2G EDGE. I suppose that the target niche that could accept such limitation to gain some freedom already has their Freerunners in their pockets.

I so much want a free device and I completely agree with the spirit of the article, but it's unfortunately so damn wrong at technical level it hurts :(

Re:It's not that easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569913)

Also, compliance testing Osmocom BB would be an enormous effort. This is something you can do in house (at least for the European market), but the skills and equipment are very specialised and likely unavailable outside companies already making basebands.

Ubuntu doesn't care about OSS. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569863)

Since when did Ubuntu care about being 100% open-source? As I recall, Ubuntu gained share early on because it was one of the few which said "Closed source video blobs? No Problem!".

Why would phones be any different? Why would Ubuntu care if the baseband code is proprietary but it worked? None of this has seemed to matter for Ubuntu ever, so why does this summary suggest they will ever care?

Not so open source friendly (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 9 months ago | (#46569911)

Google and open source? Hmm...

How about an open source Hangouts client to begin with? Or at least a protocol spec so that I can write my own?

Re:Not so open source friendly (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#46570685)

...

The protocol is XMPP. The video and audio is Jingle. Its rather well known and isn't something Google Invented. (maybe they did make Jingle? Can't recall off the top of my head). Not sure how they do the apps and desktop sharing portions.

Re:Not so open source friendly (4, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 9 months ago | (#46570801)

The protocol is not XMPP anymore, not since Talk was phased out in favor of Hangouts. It was pretty big news item a year ago, did you miss it [slashdot.org] ? It even made the EFF chime in to complain [eff.org] .

Coincidentally, a mere week before that happened, Microsoft added [theverge.com] Google Talk support to outlook.com webmail (which already supported FB chat and Live/Skype). Needless to say, said support became effectively dysfunctional for anyone who "upgraded" from Talk to Hangouts.

Re:Not so open source friendly (3, Informative)

jopsen (885607) | about 9 months ago | (#46571749)

Coincidentally, a mere week before that happened, Microsoft added [theverge.com] Google Talk support to outlook.com webmail (which already supported FB chat and Live/Skype). Needless to say, said support became effectively dysfunctional for anyone who "upgraded" from Talk to Hangouts.

Yeah, Google really took a page from the Microsoft playbook there...

I seriously doubt they're going to get us anything open sourced. Google is starting to look more like Microsoft in the 90'ties.

This move is particularly sad, because Google went with XMPP because they didn't have a customer base and needed others to open up and integrate. And now that Microsoft plays ball, Google just kicks it off the field.


On-topic, open source baseband isn't so important. It's not really something that very hackable anyways. Nor should it be hackable, just imagine teenager bringing down the GSM network by playing around with their firm ware. That is not a good thing.
Nevertheless, Mozilla with Firefox OS might eventually be in a position to pressure manufacturers at some point. I know they should love to, but there is still some market to grow before they have enough leverage.

Re:Not so open source friendly (1)

Eskarel (565631) | about 9 months ago | (#46572009)

Given the legal issues I don't think the entire smart phone industry combined is actually big enough to get the baseband code opensourced.

mod d0wn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46569939)

but with Netcraft We''l be able to

Open source baseband will never happen (3, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | about 9 months ago | (#46569963)

Even if Samsung (the biggest phone maker in the world) decided it wanted open source baseband for its phones, it wouldn't happen.
It wont happen because of:
1.NDAs and secret stuff. (last I checked, protocols like GSM still contain stuff you cant officially get without NDAs, also the makers of the cellular radio hardware would never give away the secrets of their cellular radio hardware to their competitors)
2.Patents (with all the patents applying to cellular technology, any source that was made available would be examined by an army of patent lawyers looking for violations, also some of the license agreements tied to cellular standards probably specifically prohibit sharing source with anyone who hasn't also signed a patent agreement)
3.Carriers (no carrier is going to want a baseband that could be changed because it could be changed in ways that harm their networks (maybe not intentionally but it could still happen)
4.Regulations (FCC and other regulators have strict rules about how cellphones are allowed to operate and I doubt they would allow a phone with an open source baseband to get approval because such a phone could be modified to violate the rules)

Re:Open source baseband will never happen (-1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 9 months ago | (#46570471)

4.Regulations (FCC and other regulators have strict rules about how cellphones are allowed to operate and I doubt they would allow a phone with an open source baseband to get approval because such a phone could be modified to violate the rules)

This might make sense if non-open-source firmware couldn't be modified to violate the rules. There really isn't any information in the source code that isn't also in the binary if you're determined enough. Likewise, if you have physical possession of the phone, it is impossible to prevent you from modifying it in arbitrary ways.

But, the FCC doesn't have to make sense...

Re:Open source baseband will never happen (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about 9 months ago | (#46570999)

Nice to see someone who has more than a clue.
I should have tagged the original story as flamebait

Opportunity for amateur radio (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 9 months ago | (#46570475)

Those who hold am amateur radio license would be able to build experiments to develop end-point radios with modulation techniques found in today's modern wireless communications systems. The trouble is that many of the folks in the amateur radio community are not 'pushing' the state of the art in communications technologies. Amateur radio operators have licenses to transmit but many lack the background in signal processing and software design to make it happen. The community as a whole needs amateur operators to embrace these areas and innovate.

Who cares about the baseband? (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 9 months ago | (#46570483)

As long as baseband has its own isolated memory and can't physically subvert the OS I can live with trusting the baseband as much as I trust the carriers. (e.g. not at all)

Canonical is the past not the future (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about 9 months ago | (#46570709)

Canonical (with Ubuntu) just doesn't have that clout yet

They won't ever, they've got no idea what they're doing.

If (some may say 'when') Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share

when? Who writes this drivel? "Hey guys, I know I'm 8 YEARS hate to the party and the whole market is overflowing with MASSIVE players, but it's just a matter of time before we gain critical market share!". when? never.

Canonical excels at missing opportunity. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46570777)

Destroy all of the community goodwill with bad management decisions, then bet the entire house on smartphones hoping that some shoddy, closed-source riddled version of Linux. Great idea there, we already have a close-source riddled version of Linux, it's called Android and Canonical has absolutely no hope of displacing it. Not with an ass like Mark "We Already Have Root" Shuttleworth at the helm.

you don't need a "fully open baseband" (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 9 months ago | (#46570805)

From the point of view of the application processor, the baseband processor and its software can simply be treated as part of the communications infrastructure: closed source and inherently untrustworthy. All that is necessary is that the application processor is sufficiently isolated from the baseband processor. That isolation has been lacking in some phones, but Ubuntu and Firefox phones could easily provide it.

No clout despite sales.... (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 9 months ago | (#46571009)

Google doesn't have nearly as much clout with baseband manufacturers as you might think. For most people, the choice isn't between an Android phone and no phone, it's between an Android phone and a different phone, both which will have a baseband. So to the baseband manufacturer, whether their product is running under Android or something else makes very little difference.

I guess is a manufacturer thought having an exclusive lock on Android phones was more profitable than what they are doing now they could go to Google and offer a deal, but since Google has very little control over the handset manufacturers it probably wouldn't have very much clout.
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