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Cellphones Google Open Source Wireless Networking

Ubuntu Phone Isn't Important Enough To Demand an Open Source Baseband 137

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the pick-your-battles dept.
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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Ubuntu Phone Isn't Important Enough To Demand an Open Source Baseband

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  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:23PM (#46569527)
    Mint probably cares about Ubuntu, since it's a fork. Or was that supposed to be funny?
  • Regulatory issues (Score:3, Informative)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:36PM (#46569629) Homepage

    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.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:36PM (#46570801) Journal

    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.

  • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:01AM (#46571749) Homepage

    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.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @05:11AM (#46572263)

    "Spectrum is a public resource."

    So is air and water, but you can't just pollute them as you see fit. Rules exist for everyones benefit, they're not there just to piss you off personally. Get over it.

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@[ ]nell.edu ['cor' in gap]> on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:32AM (#46573707) Homepage

    Keep in mind that Qualcomm has almost total dominance of the LTE modem market and they want to keep it that way.

    Even massive pressure from Google won't work here... Maintaining their lead in baseband chipsets (which is heavily dependent on their modem firmware being as difficult to RE as possible) is EXTREMELY important to Qualcomm. Losing dominance of the LTE market will hurt their cash flow there, and also their ability to keep using it to sell complete SoCs. (It's only recently with Krait that Qualcomm's SoCs were able to stand on their own and obtain design wins without pairing to a Qualcomm modem. The old Scorpion cores in the Snapdragon S3 family kind of sucked.)

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