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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, 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 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: []
  • 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 BitZtream (692029) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:29PM (#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.

  • 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 ( [] ) 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).

  • 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.

  • 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? []

    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 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)

  • 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 exomondo (1725132) on Monday March 24, 2014 @10:01PM (#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.

A man is not complete until he is married -- then he is finished.