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Amazon Releases Kindle Source Code 153

Posted by timothy
from the use-the-forks-luke dept.
MackieChan writes with a piece of news that slipped past earlier this month: "Barnes & Noble receives a lot of credit from the Slashdot community for standing up to Microsoft and for allowing the Nook to be so easy to root, but perhaps Amazon releasing the source code to the Kindle will help it gain back supporters it lost after remotely removing ebooks."
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Amazon Releases Kindle Source Code

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  • Well its a nice show of faith by Amazon, let the hacking begin!
    • Nook easy to hack? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mystikkman (1487801) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:06AM (#38201532)

      The new Nook tablet comes with a locked bootloader, unike the Nook touch.

      • The new Nook tablet comes with a locked bootloader, unike the Nook touch.

        Does it still boot from MicroSD? I'm happy to wipe the internal memory and put CM9 on it anyway.

        • by glop (181086)

          You need to unlock the boot loader first and I have yet to read any news about that :-(

          It's very disappointing that the boot loader should be locked as 99% of the Nook users would use the Nook software without any hacks anyway if it wasn't locked.

          This just means that they won't get all the free press the Nook Color got everytime a cool hack made it the tablet to have. For instance, this tablet ran a hacked version of Honeycomb BEFORE the first demo of the Motorola Xoom which was to be the first Honeycomb-ba

    • by DrXym (126579)
      Well its a nice show of faith by Amazon, let the hacking begin! It's not a show of faith, it's a legal obligation. And releasing just the GPL parts means squat for pretty much anybody. I suppose the kernel drivers might come in handy but if you were expecting to see the client code rather than some Linux glue you can forget it.
  • All of 'em (Score:5, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @09:57AM (#38201446) Journal

    Not just the source to the recent Kindle Fire, but code for all of them back to the original. Nice move.

    I wonder if they held any bits back?

    • Re:All of 'em (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hardhead_7 (987030) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:07AM (#38201546)
      Considering that the Kindle Fire runs Android, are we supposed to forgive them for intrusive DRM because they abided by their legal requirements to us? Maybe we should also be happy that McDonald's food isn't full of arsenic or Mattel toys don't have lead paint. I mean, that's great and all, but they had to do it. It doesn't make up for the sorry state of the locked down Kindle.

      Incidentally, this is coming from an Amazon Prime customer. I buy almost everything off of Amazon these days, with one exception: books. For that I have my Nook, which I use mainly because it reads PDFs too.
      • Re:All of 'em (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JoeMerchant (803320) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:09AM (#38201578)

        Considering that the Kindle Fire runs Android, are we supposed to forgive them for intrusive DRM because they abided by their legal requirements to us

        Celebrate your easy victories... just because it's "legally required" doesn't mean that anyone will do it, especially major corporations.

        • That was my thought. And to answer the Summary's question, no it won't because the people who aren't buying a Kindle because of remote-wipe capability are the same people who will now complain that there is DRM somewhere or that the chip design isn't also open or...

      • Re:All of 'em (Score:5, Interesting)

        by somersault (912633) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:11AM (#38201602) Homepage Journal

        I take it you missed the part of the comment you replied to that said they released the source for all of the Kindles? I can't think of anything I'd like to do with mine right now, but it is cool that I can mess about with it if I want. Porting nethack or something might be cool, since that's pretty well suited to an e-ink display.

        • Interactive fiction.

      • They're only legally required to release the kernel source.
      • Re:All of 'em (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@NosPaM.cornell.edu> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:52AM (#38202076) Homepage

        Intrusive DRM?

        B&N is the one who locked the Nook Tablet's bootloader, tivoizing it. Not Amazon.

        I love how the article points out how easily hackable the Nook Touch was while ignoring the fact that B&N has made a major move towards lockdown with the Tablet - locked bootloader, plus it is partitioned so you can only use 1GB of the storage for sideloaded content. The rest is "B&N Content" only.

        • Re:All of 'em (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@ w o r f.net> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:30PM (#38203276)

          B&N is the one who locked the Nook Tablet's bootloader, tivoizing it. Not Amazon.

          I love how the article points out how easily hackable the Nook Touch was while ignoring the fact that B&N has made a major move towards lockdown with the Tablet - locked bootloader, plus it is partitioned so you can only use 1GB of the storage for sideloaded content. The rest is "B&N Content" only.

          It's apparently a requirement for Netflix.

          Sure every Android device can get Netflix, but what they stream is the SD version of the video. If you want the HD version, your device needs to be locked down.

          Compare Netflix on the old Color and the new Tablet and you'll see a difference in video quality. It's another reason why I wrote off the "Netflix on Fire is blurrier on Fire" comparison reviews - of course it is if Amazon didn't qualify for Netflix HD. (And yes, the Amazon version was noticiably blurrier as it was scaled up to the screen, whilst the Tablet was scaling down a higher-quality stream).

          And the Nook tablet having 1GB of user content - big whoop. Do what you do with every other Android device and stick an SD card in it.

          B&N feels more people would want higher-quality Netflix than the small crowd who wants to hack the device (they're a nice bunch, but not as big a group as those who just want to consume stuff).

          • Re:All of 'em (Score:5, Informative)

            by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:23PM (#38203962) Homepage Journal

            (And yes, the Amazon version was noticiably blurrier as it was scaled up to the screen, whilst the Tablet was scaling down a higher-quality stream).

            I think the HD stream is encoded with a higher bitrate (per pixel), and perhaps the Amazon scaler is crap. The HD/SD distinction isn't so much about resolution.

            Good SD video with competent upscaling ought to be plenty for a 7" screen. I watched a few DS9 episodes on my Nook Color (CM7 w/Netflix) and there was quite a bit of block aritfacting and quantization noise (and ... buffering delays). Playing a DVD-ripped AVI (mplayer IIRC) looked great.

            • by Andy Dodd (701)

              Netflix's SD on Android is just plain "meh".

              Netflix HD is pointless - I have yet to see a single item of HD content.

            • by Rix (54095)

              You don't know what you're talking about.

      • For that I have my Nook, which I use mainly because it reads PDFs too.

        I have a Kindle ("third generation"; I think they're calling the the Kindle Keyboard now, or something like that), and it reads PDFs just fine.

      • I do not see any requirements under law that they have DRM. They may have contracted with the content owners that included that provision but there is no law requiring it. Lets not confuse safty with IP protection they are nowhere near each other.

      • My Kindle (third generation, 3G) reads PDFs too. I think it was only early versions that didn't.

        I actually use the feature from time to time to get around the Kindles awful fonts. Import into OpenOffice.org, format using Century Schoolbook, export as PDF using page size settings optimized for the Kindle, and you have a nice looking document. Only works if you have access to the raw content of course, but for a lot of public domain stuff and websites...

      • by DM9290 (797337)

        Incidentally, this is coming from an Amazon Prime customer. I buy almost everything off of Amazon these days, with one exception: books. For that I have my Nook, which I use mainly because it reads PDFs too.

        Except that the Kindle also reads PDFs too.

      • by JASegler (2913)

        You do realize the Kindle reads PDFs as well.

        I have a Kindle Keyboard (Wi-Fi) and all I have to do is copy the PDF over into the documents folder via the USB cable.

      • by awyeah (70462) *

        The Kindle can read PDFs. It just can't do ePub - although as I understand it, ePub can be easily converted to a format readable on the Kindle.

      • Note that they have released the code for all versions of Kindle (i.e. the eInk devices as well, including all historical ones), not just Kindle Fire. I don't think those run Android.

      • by ThePeices (635180)

        ummmm, my Kindle that i just bought reads PDF's as well. Did you have the original kindle or something?

      • by batkiwi (137781)

        The kindle reads PDFs as well, and has for years.

    • Re:All of 'em (Score:5, Informative)

      by chrb (1083577) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:19AM (#38201706)

      It looks like this is just the GPL software. Nothing terribly exciting but maybe it has kernel drivers for the e-ink display. AFAIK the Kindle uses a locked bootloader so there is no way to actually get your ROM image running anyway. The Fire is a bit more promising, and the source release does seem to have kicked off a bit of interest in hacking it a bit, it's been rooted and Android market runs [eetimes.com]. I'll save you the 148MB download; here's the contents of Kindle_src_3.3_611680021.tar.gz:

      gplrelease/
      gplrelease/picocom-1.4.tar.gz
      gplrelease/util-linux-2.12r.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/atk-1.26.0.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/uboot-1.3.0-rc3.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/pango-1.24.5.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/gstreamer-0.10.17.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/taglib-1.5.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/e2fsprogs-1.38_patch.tar.gz
      gplrelease/fuse-2.7.1.tar.gz
      gplrelease/libltdl-1.2.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/libol-0.3.18.tar.gz
      gplrelease/syslog-ng-1.6.11.tar.gz
      gplrelease/busybox-1.7.2.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/webkit-1.1.7.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/e2fsprogs-1.38.tar.gz
      gplrelease/wireless_tools.29.tar.gz
      gplrelease/mtd-utils-1.0.0.tar.gz
      gplrelease/pango-1.6.0.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/lrzsz-0.12.20.tar.gz
      gplrelease/gst-plugins-base-0.10.17.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/libvolume-id_092.ipk
      gplrelease/ifupdown_0.6.8.tar.gz
      gplrelease/gst-plugins-good-0.10.6.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/gst-plugins-base-0.10.6.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/linux-2.6.26-lab126.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/gnutls-2.8.4.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/module-init-tools-3.2.2.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/libgpg-error-1.4.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/DirectFB-1.2.0.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/libproxy-0.2.3.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/module-init-tools-3.2.2_patch.tar.gz
      gplrelease/glib-2.22.2.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/udev-112.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/alsa-lib-1.0.13_patch.tar.gz
      gplrelease/enchant-1.4.2.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/gtk+-2.16.5.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/libgcrypt-1.4.4.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/base-files_3.0.14.ipk
      gplrelease/alsa-lib-1.0.13.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/fuse-2.7.1_link.tar
      gplrelease/dosfstools-2.11.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/libsoup-2.30.0.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/procps-3.2.7.tar.gz
      gplrelease/procps-3.2.7_patch.tar.gz
      gplrelease/base-passwd_3.5.9.tar.gz
      gplrelease/powertop-1.10.tar.gz
      gplrelease/iptables-1.3.3.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/glibc-2.5.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/alsa-utils-1.0.13_patch.tar.gz
      gplrelease/alsa-utils-1.0.13.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/gdb-6.6.tar.bz2
      gplrelease/sysvinit-2.86.tar.gz
      gplrelease/cairo-1.8.6.tar.bz2

      • by chrb (1083577)

        And Kindle_src_6.1_11185402.tar.gz contains:

        android-2.6.35 kernel
        Some Android stuff (mainly webkit)
        Some stuff from Texas Instruments (u-boot, x-loader)

        The kernel source might be useful for drivers? The other stuff is already open-source projects.

      • by Nursie (632944)

        Locked bootloader?

        That's just not sporting, damn their eyes.

        I now want my Touch 3G to arrive all the faster so I can poke at its insides.

    • Releasing the source code in this case is pretty meaningless. You can't actually do anything with it. Sure, you can modify the code, but the device is locked so that, in order to put that modified code back on your device, you'd need to break Amazon's DRM. That feat could land you in jail. And they still have some secret parts. Like the part about remotely being able to turn off text to speech, the part that enables them to gather metrics about user use and book access, etc. All of that is still secret. So
    • by Intron (870560)

      Not just the source to the recent Kindle Fire, but code for all of them back to the original. Nice move.

      I wonder if they held any bits back?

      Just two.

  • Remote removing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @09:59AM (#38201466) Homepage

    Is the sourcecode sufficient to disable Amazon's ability to remotely remove ebooks?

    • Re:Remote removing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:03AM (#38201498) Homepage

      Yes if someone compiles a new OS and software package and delivers a "hack" that eliminates their control.

      I'm just betting the "ad supported" version will become the first target as someone compiles and makes a file that turns it into a normal kindle.
      Then we will hear of a federal bailout of the Executives as they will barely afford new Mercedes once a month anymore....

      • Re:Remote removing (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:12AM (#38201620)

        Those already exist for most kindles, with the only requirement being a jailbreak. The kindle is built upon a linux system, with a java framework and a bunch of shell scripts. The shell scripts are the important bits which handle downloading the ads & and there was also a mod to revoke amazon's control entirely.

        Source: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=150

      • I'm guessing here but wouldn't just installing the normal Kindles OS be sufficient? I suspect the devices are physically identical so the "full Kindle" OS should work.
    • that's the question. otherwise it's only good for finding security flaws/bugs.

    • by MBCook (132727)
      If you turn off the wireless, it's really hard for them to do that kind of thing. A charge also lasts 4x as long without WiFi checking in all the time.
  • I know this gem is hidden somewhere in the Kindle source.

    10 REM Write I hate Apple to Screen
    20 print "I hate Apple"
    30 goto 20
    40 gosub Kindleforipad

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:06AM (#38201534) Homepage

    I downloaded the source for Kindle_src_3.3_611680021.tar.gz (randomly picked).

    The contents of their tarball is the below list of files. Which of these sub-tarballs contains the Amazon reader and interface software? Or are they just releasing the bare minimum required by the GPL and keeping their stuff proprietary? Can Kindle owners blank their devices and use the published tarball to restore all functionality?

    Put another way: is there a contribution here, or are they just doing what's necessary to avoid getting sued?

    • alsa-lib-1.0.13_patch.tar.gz
    • alsa-lib-1.0.13.tar.bz2
    • alsa-utils-1.0.13_patch.tar.gz
    • alsa-utils-1.0.13.tar.bz2
    • atk-1.26.0.tar.bz2
    • base-files_3.0.14.ipk
    • base-passwd_3.5.9.tar.gz
    • busybox-1.7.2.tar.bz2
    • cairo-1.8.6.tar.bz2
    • DirectFB-1.2.0.tar.bz2
    • dosfstools-2.11.tar.bz2
    • e2fsprogs-1.38_patch.tar.gz
    • e2fsprogs-1.38.tar.gz
    • enchant-1.4.2.tar.bz2
    • fuse-2.7.1_link.tar
    • fuse-2.7.1.tar.gz
    • gdb-6.6.tar.bz2
    • glib-2.22.2.tar.bz2
    • glibc-2.5.tar.bz2
    • gnutls-2.8.4.tar.bz2
    • gst-plugins-base-0.10.17.tar.bz2
    • gst-plugins-base-0.10.6.tar.bz2
    • gst-plugins-good-0.10.6.tar.bz2
    • gstreamer-0.10.17.tar.bz2
    • gtk+-2.16.5.tar.bz2
    • ifupdown_0.6.8.tar.gz
    • iptables-1.3.3.tar.bz2
    • libgcrypt-1.4.4.tar.bz2
    • libgpg-error-1.4.tar.bz2
    • libltdl-1.2.tar.bz2
    • libol-0.3.18.tar.gz
    • libproxy-0.2.3.tar.bz2
    • libsoup-2.30.0.tar.bz2
    • libvolume-id_092.ipk
    • linux-2.6.26-lab126.tar.bz2
    • lrzsz-0.12.20.tar.gz
    • module-init-tools-3.2.2_patch.tar.gz
    • module-init-tools-3.2.2.tar.bz2
    • mtd-utils-1.0.0.tar.gz
    • pango-1.24.5.tar.bz2
    • pango-1.6.0.tar.bz2
    • picocom-1.4.tar.gz
    • powertop-1.10.tar.gz
    • procps-3.2.7_patch.tar.gz
    • procps-3.2.7.tar.gz
    • syslog-ng-1.6.11.tar.gz
    • sysvinit-2.86.tar.gz
    • taglib-1.5.tar.bz2
    • uboot-1.3.0-rc3.tar.bz2
    • udev-112.tar.bz2
    • util-linux-2.12r.tar.bz2
    • webkit-1.1.7.tar.bz2
    • wireless_tools.29.tar.gz
    • On the bright side, there seems to be enough stuff in there to port any Linux (including Android) system into the Kindle (or, saying that in another way, all the drivers seem to be there).

      On the bad side, no the reader is not there, and you won't be able to remove their capacity of remotely excluding your books (except if you remove the reader). It is also not more than they are required by the (L)GPL, and there is nothing telling if the boot loader will accept a user supplied system, or if you'll need to root it like any other tablet.

      • by mspohr (589790)
        I've had a copy of 1984 (not from Amazon) on my Kindle for a year now. They haven't deleted it.
        • They can remove only books with their DRM (that means, stuff you brought from Amazon). Also, they only removed one version, of the several they have available.

          I'd buy a Kindle to use as a tablet if it is easy to hack and cheap enough (and meets the specs I need, and if they deliver it here). I'll certanly hack it if I buy one, and won't buy DRMed books (Kindle or not). Thus Amazon probably isn't amazed by the idea of selling it to me. I can see why they'd ignore the entire demographics that thinks like me.

    • Put another way: is there a contribution here, or are they just doing what's necessary to avoid getting sued?

      One of the major lessons of cryptography is that every code is breakable, it's just a matter of how long it takes to break. Releasing a pile of open source is sort of like encryption in the clear, it will take time and effort to decode what has (and possibly has not) been released.

      This release of source code should put a good light on Amazon until the Christmas shopping season is over, it will take at least that long for anyone who cares to stir up trouble for them if they haven't released something they s

    • by Nimey (114278)

      Yeah, doesn't look to me like they released any of the proprietary stuff that makes it a Kindle. It's not surprising, really. GPL doesn't require it, and this is what makes their software what it is, so from their perspective there's no reason to do so.

      Still, as has been pointed out, ideally this is all you'll need to write your own custom OS for Kindles.

  • by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:09AM (#38201570) Homepage

    The remote book removal was 2 years ago, and helped shape Amazon (and much of the mobile tech industry) to be extremely weary of using kill switches. Frankly, I'm glad it happened. It immediately stopped the usual slow creep of increased user control.

    I don't think this helps "gain back supporters", but I do think it reinforces Amazon as a company moving in their new direction since then. I like the Amazon model which tries to take the best of Google and the best of Apple, and throw out the worst parts. Tight product integration, but if you want to hack it, why bother stopping you.

    • Some people are very small-minded and hold the very few public PR failures a given company may have up as a totem to their evil nature.

      cf. Sony Music's rootkit code for the other one that comes up all the time on Slashdot.

      Companies that are better at hiding their evil ways get a free ride somehow among geeks, which makes no sense to me. Sadly, not all geeks are smart, some are just geeky.

  • Nothing to see here. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kufat (563166) <kufat@kufaRASPt.net minus berry> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:18AM (#38201694) Homepage

    It's just a minimal GPL drop. No application level source. Unlike (for example) Netgear or Linksys, they don't even provide the object code and build tools to let you build your own usable device ROM image from a combination of proprietary and OSS components.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by daid303 (843777)

      Which is funny, because a minimal GPL drop requires:

      The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it. For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable.

      (from GPLv2 section 3)
      How I read it, if I cannot reproduce the binary you produced, then you didn't really give me everything I needed by GPL.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nimey (114278)

        I think you're reading it wrong. The code drop looks to be enough to get the /operating system/, but not the Kindle /application/.

        If we did a naive reading of the GPL as you did, then it wouldn't be possible to run proprietary software without released source code on Linux.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          If we did a naive reading of the GPL as you did, then it wouldn't be possible to run proprietary software without released source code on Linux.

          False. The user has the right to download proprietary software and run it on their GPL system. It's when the distributor bundles up some GPL parts and proprietary parts, and then ships it as a whole work that the GPL applies.

          It's true that pretty much everybody ignores this aspect of the GPL and claims "mere aggregation", and even the vast majority of authors of GPL programs do not care about or believe in this interpretation of the license, but that doesn't mean it isn't in the license as written.

          • Is your analysis still valid of GPLv3 with its explicit reference to coupling ("intimate data communication or control flow") and its more precise definition of an "aggregate"?
            • by Raenex (947668)

              I said I was done with this discussion as at the end you didn't provide counter-arguments and chose to engage in silly tactics instead, condescendingly assigning me "homework".

              If you want an answer for this new line of inquiry then I expect an acknowledgment of this fact and an apology, as well as a promise to treat any future arguments in this debate with sincerity, respect, and intellectual honesty.

              • by tepples (727027)

                If you want an answer for this new line of inquiry then I expect an acknowledgment of this fact and an apology

                My Slashdot signature at the time I posted that comment was intended as such. If you happen to have signatures turned off in your Slashdot preferences, please allow me to reproduce it below:

                --
                I have made a fool of myself. Ubuntu is illegal [slashdot.org].

  • by AdamJS (2466928) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @10:35AM (#38201834)

    You can get the full Kobo/Touch source code if you e-mail their support staff and wait two to four weeks.
    And then you can't really do jack-squat with it.
    Which is infuriating because the features most people want to steal from the Kindle are amazingly easy to implement in the Qt environment the Kobo uses.

  • Last time I looked at the code it was just things like busybox.tar.gz and kernel.tar.gz, just to comply with the GPL. You can download all that lot from Sourceforge FFS.

    Its not like you can actually compile you own Kindle OS from what they're distributing, there's no Makefile or documentation on how all the bits glue together.

    Its certainly not like Android where you can compile your own phone OS (if you have the proprietary blobs for gfx/gps etc.)

  • The source code is nothing but a simple collection of GPL software. There's NOTHING kindle-specific in it.

    Hacks to get a simple (root) shell prompt to the Kindle are actually a lot more useful than this source drop. Google is your friend. Use at your own risk. Slippery when wet.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      I dunno, knowing exactly what code was built can be handy in finding those hacks to get a simple root prompt and such. Knowing they used busybox tells you nowhere as much as having the exact source that was built.

  • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:54PM (#38203590)

    but perhaps Amazon releasing the source code to the Kindle will help it gain back supporters it lost after remotely removing ebooks.

    You are talking about one of the hottest products on the market.

    "Winning back" the geek is not all that important.

    • by coljac (154587)

      Anyway, the geeks like me want the coolest device and know how to get the DRM off the books. I wonder if Amazon really cares; as long as it involves one consumer-unfriendly step (such as installing a Python interpreter), then the system works well enough to keep the publishers happy.

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