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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 Anonymous Coward

    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

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

      (Windows : almost none)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    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.
  • by Inev (3059243) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:22PM (#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]
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Uh, you know Google don't write or control the baseband firmware, right? It is provided by the manufacturer of the system-on-chip that includes the baseband processor. Qualcomm, Samsung, Alcatel, Huawei or whoever they are using.

      It's those guys keeping it closed source. They do it because they don't want to give their competitors free hints, they don't want their competitors examining their source code for patent infringements, they don't want black hats examining the code for vulnerabilities and they can't

      • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@cCOWornell.edu minus herbivore> 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.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Patents.

    Ain't never gonna happen.

    Dreames. Nothing but dreamers.

    • by unixisc (2429386)

      True

      However, is there any reason a baseband has to be ARM based? Can't it be based on, say, OpenRISC? If it could, then they could very well have an open source baseband CPU, put Linux on it, and then build up from there? Yeah, patents will still be an issue, but one could design around that?

  • by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:27PM (#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.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      and the latest nightly is not much better.

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

  • 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 insignific

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:02PM (#46569837) Journal

      [...] 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.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        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 t

        • Thats just silly.

          Oh it's all so hard there's so much to do we may as well give up and not try.

          Oh and while we're at it let's try to shit on the people who are doing something about it because that's much easier than doing anything else.

          --BitZstream

          • by exomondo (1725132)

            Oh it's all so hard there's so much to do we may as well give up and not try.

            AFAICT his point is that this is starting at an obviously stupid place. Opening up the baseband software serves little purpose because the hardware is closed anyway and if you design new open hardware you're going to write new open baseband software for it anyway or use something like OsmocomBB. Why waste the effort when it serves no purpose?

        • by peppepz (1311345)

          because they can't just hard code that right into the chip and never let you see it ...

          No, because we would see either the software interfacing with the hard-coded backdoor, or some undocumented hardware means of communication coming out from the chip, and we'd start asking questions.

          So if I just embed my code into the processor itself, you won't bitch.

          Thats just silly.

          Embedding code in (readonly or flash) ROMs is actually preferred from Stallman's point of view, because it allows the hardware to work out-of-the-box when using free software to control that hardware. Binary firmware is problematic for free software operating systems, not because free software enthusiasts have so

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        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.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Except that the "backdoor" you mention turned out to be far less serious than initially though and doesn't appear to have impacted sales in the slightest, so apparently "trust us" is still viable.

        I agree it would be nice to audit everything for backdoors and NSA/GCHQ hacks, but don't kid yourself that anyone other than a handful of geeks even knows what baseband software is and why it matters.

        • by Andy Dodd (701)

          Yeah. Most importantly, no one ever proved that shipped (released builds as opposed to leaks or test builds) basebands ever used those functions. In fact, no one even found a leaked/test baseband firmware image that ever used those functions.

          It wasn't really a "backdoor", it was Samsung being their typical careless selves and leaving debug code compiled in to a release build. That "backdoor" has nothing on exynos-abuse for example...

    • by fermion (181285)
      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

      • 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 somethin
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          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?

    • by gravious (19912)

      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 rea

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        it's _entirely_ rational to desire this state of affairs.

        That state of affairs? Yes. The path to getting there by begging to open source the firmware for closed hardware? No. The effort should go into creating the open hardware upon which you will either develop firmware or use an existing software solution like OsmocomBB rather than trying to get companies to give up the source code element that runs on closed hardware.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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 p

  • by queazocotal (915608) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:32PM (#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.

    • 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.
      • 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 ...
        • by sg_oneill (159032)

          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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

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

      • by exomondo (1725132)
        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.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

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

        How? Read the firmware off the device and compare it bit for bit? How do you know you are getting the read firmware? Thanks to Snowden we know that the NSA hacks hard drive firmware to provide infected boot files to Windows but then when anyone tries to read them back later present the real uninfected ones to anti-virus software. A similar trick is used by XBOX 360 mod chips that alter the DVD drive's firmware but prevent the 360 from detecting it.

    • 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.
      • by manu0601 (2221348)
        Hackers can workaround proprietary software. Did you hear about reverse engineering?
        • 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.
          • 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 i

        • Basebands have not - with rare exceptions - been hacked.
          They typically run signed firmware, with no documentation of the hardware platform, which considerably raises the bar.
          Can they be hacked - certainly it's likely some can.
          But, it's a very different matter legally between 'some nasty people cracked my phone' - and 'I made it freely accessible'.

          The prospect of peer-peer file transport apps that have a side-effect of knocking emergency calls offline is real.

          Radio is a shared resource.
          A stronger or closer t

    • 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.

      • 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 Lehk228 (705449)
        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

        how exactly is data supposed to get from one place to another without a service provider?

        mesh networks are great for short to medium range emergency communication, and it would be nice to have wifi mesh capabilities built into future phones however such a network can only grow so big before it has a congestive c
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Really, for less that $20 you can create a small tunable jammer.

        Yes, but in most places jammers are illegal. The point of the law is not to alter reality so they no longer exist, it is to punish people who abuse a shared resource by operating them.

    • by nukem996 (624036)
      This seems like something you could fix by hard coding the supported freqencies in silicon.
  • 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 Rich0 (548339)

      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 i

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        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

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        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 car

        • by Todd Knarr (15451)

          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.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          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.

          It wouldn't be illegal to spoof in many countries if it didn't matter.

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

          Considering that I have a GSM phone in my pocket, I'd say your statement is rather arrogant.

          Its trivial to make an IMEI unchangeable. You make it controlled by fuses.

          Security by obscurity. If you want to clone the IMEI you just make your own phone and you can make the IMEI whatever you want it to be. Or you can hack the baseband on the phone you already have. Or you replace the fuses.

          Yes, none of those is easy to do, which is why it is security by obscurity. It wouldn't be "obscurity" if it were easy to do.

  • I'll pass. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Drunkulus (920976)
    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 h
    • 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.

    • 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
      • by exomondo (1725132)

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

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

  • by dos1 (2950945) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:00PM (#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).

    • by dos1 (2950945)

      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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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?

  • 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?

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      ...

      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.

      • 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 Eskarel (565631)

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

            • by jopsen (885607)

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

              I'm no expert, but I imagine it could be open sourced. But you're probably right that people won't be allowed to flash their own baseband code. Which makes source availability a lot less interesting. Even the ability to verify integrity of the binary would be hard, though useful..

          • Well, Google complained that MS doesn't really "play ball" in that they didn't open their own networks in the same way (e.g. Skype), and that is a valid complaint.

            Still, it's a really sad state of affairs when the most cross-platform mainstream IM network is Facebook chat...

            • by jopsen (885607)

              Well, Google complained that MS doesn't really "play ball" in that they didn't open their own networks in the same way (e.g. Skype), and that is a valid complaint.

              valid complaint, true. But it's not a valid reason for closing the network.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:18PM (#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)

  • 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 ope
    • by Viol8 (599362)

      I hate to break the news to you , but holding an amateur radio license doesn't mean you can transmit whatever you please on the amateur bands. Digital transmissions are severely restricted in a number of countries and in most places if someone tried out some home brew modulation technique they'd soon find themselves without a license or a rig. You *might* be able to get away with it on the CB bands since they're virtually dead in most places now and no one really cares about them, but even then , you wouldn

      • The frequencies 2305-2310 MHz provide bandwidths of 0.05-1MHz for full duplex analog or digital modes. Amateur operators appear to be secondary operators on that band however. Appears that most digital modes are low rate and low bandwidth. These would not provide bandwidth to approach data rates for EDGE let alone WCMA and LTE. The ARRL could have chosen to lobby Congress and the FCC years ago change rules to allow for more experimentation at higher bandwidths and frequencies.
  • 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 (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.

  • 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.

  • 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 co
  • a) No phone maker has opensourced the baseband ..

    b) Ubuntu hasn't opensourced the baseband .......

    c) Therefore Ubuntu Phone isn't important .......

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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