Vote Up
8
Votes
Vote Down

Long story short, the FSF is supporting the development of a free as in freedomz cellphone. The phone is going to be consisted entirely of hardware running open source firmware, and it’s going to run a OS made from the open source parts of Android, called Replicant.

There is a problem though: The firmware the WiFi chip runs is closed source. Stallman’s solution? Make the firmware non upgradeable, so it can be treated as a circuit! (no, srsly) So, I guess that any malicious features and eavesdropping code said firmware may have (you know, the dangers Stallman insists that come with the use of proprietary software or firmware) magically become irrelevant if said software/firmware is considered as a circuit.

The modus operandi of the FSF should be clear by now, even to the loons: If a “gray zone” appears in the Great Free Software Religion, like in the case of firmware or javascript, make up some arbitary rules and pass it to the believers as the one and only truth. Just like any other weird cult on the planet does.

#1 Posted by DigitalAtheist on Sep 26, 2011 5:00 PM

OpenMoko? Again?

#2 Posted by _sw on Sep 26, 2011 5:25 PM

Haha. That’s great.

#3 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 26, 2011 5:30 PM

Are the Loons even aware of what happened to Replicants in either the Phil K Dick book or the Tony Scott film?

Still, as titles go, it beats “The GiMP.”

Even though that would probably be a better name for it, all things considered.

I’m looking forward to the Stallman explanation of why this wonderful new Free device can’t be used to track you down, wherever you are …

#4 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 26, 2011 5:31 PM

(Ridley Scott, my mistake.)

#5 Posted by DigitalAtheist on Sep 26, 2011 5:44 PM

The first time I heard the name “Replicant”, the first thing that came into my mind was “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, and simultaniously “Bladerunner”. And consdiering the fates of replicants in both, I wondered why in hell the blandroidtards would choose that name.

#6 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 26, 2011 6:16 PM

Aha! Another replicant, I see…

#7 Posted by ReverseControllerSE on Sep 26, 2011 6:16 PM

Because they’re idiots and can’t tell what normal people will associate with the name.

Nongeeks: replicant = copycat

Geeks: replicant = to be terminated on sight

#8 Posted by administrator on Sep 26, 2011 8:25 PM

So now they’re cloning Android? Replicant is an apt name as it applies to almost all FOSS-peddled software.

#9 Posted by ChrisTX on Sep 26, 2011 9:10 PM

I thought OpenMoko was not doing smartphones anymore?
http://mobile.slashdot.org/story/09/04/04/228240/no-more-openmoko-phone

#10 Posted by Gesh on Sep 27, 2011 3:25 AM

How the hell removing of the ability of a piece of firmware makes it circuit? wtf? I know that Windows is not a firmware, but still on the same logic, if I turn off the automatic updates, is it know a circuit? yes, no, maybe?
P.S. on a side note, why the hell open source project cannot pick up a decent name? I dont know about you, but openmoko sounds to me like a masturbating monkey (hey, a great new name for the next release of ubuntu).

#11 Posted by Gesh on Sep 27, 2011 3:26 AM

edit to the above post:
... of the ability of a piece of firmware to update ...

#12 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 27, 2011 5:09 AM

“why the hell open source project cannot pick up a decent name?”

Because they try to sound smart and witty? “Look, I can do wordplay me!” The height of this lunacy is recursive acronyms, or in other words “Look how smart I am, I can take a word, pretend it’s an acronym, and that the first letter of the acronym corresponds to the very same acronym, yay!”. If the second letter of the “acronym” corresponds to “not”, “ain’t” or “isn’t” (ex Wine, GNU), then you can be sure the project is maintained by the looniest of the loons.

“I thought OpenMoko was not doing smartphones anymore?
http://mobile.slashdot.org/story/09/04/04/228240/no-more-openmoko-phone

The project had gotten stuck mainly because they couldn’t put the phone’s OS together ( http://bit.ly/oM3jJe ). Don’t think of anything fancy, it was just a Symbian S60 knock-off, and they couldn’t put even that together ( http://bit.ly/nrUP9C). But now with Replicant there is hope they might get something usable out the door. That is, if they manage to make the hardware.

Sure, I am all for making a phone for tinkerers and hackers that has all it’s firmware and software open source, but not being able to find/make an WiFi chip with open source firmware simply means that there aren’t enough tinkerers and hackers willing to buy such a phone. In other words, the device doesn’t have enough customer base to justify development. But let’s make it anyway, because it will protect our weird definition of freedom or something.

#13 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 27, 2011 5:13 AM

Also, it’s not a tinkerer/hacker’s phone if the WiFi firmware isn’t fully open, so if they make the firmware non upgradable, the phone is going to lose any little audience it may had.

#14 Posted by KimTjik on Sep 27, 2011 6:32 AM

This is a quite entertaining story. I give RMS credit though for being up to pace with how the legal system works. In a sense – not that it makes any logical sense to me personally – it’s ingenious.

#15 Posted by imgx64 on Sep 27, 2011 9:37 AM

This is a recent trend by Stallman. He finally realized that his fight against firmware blobs is a lost cause (it’s a real shame that Debian developers bought it), so now he created this baffling arbitrary rule of upgrade-able == non-free.

Apparently, his rationale is that carriers and phone manufacturers can upgrade the firmware remotely without user approval (is that really so? I don’t really know). However, the gaps in this logic this time are bigger than all other gaps in his previous ramblings combined. Let’s see…

1- One of the biggest points of Free Software is the ability to fix bugs even if the original vendor no longer supports the product. If the firmware can’t be upgraded, you can’t get the bugs fixed even if the vendor still supports the product. This defeats a whole class of Stallman’s other arguments for Free Software.
2- The GPLv3 explicitly prohibits such restrictions. If you put GPLv3 software in firmware, you can’t apply Stallman’s magical solution for turning software into circuits (Man, and I thought we needed expensive fabs for that).
3- If we assume what he says about mobile phones is true, it’s definitely not true for PCs. On PCs, the OS is responsible for loading the firmware blob into the chip, which means it’s already non-upgradeable without user consent. However, Stallman is still against firmware blobs in the kernel and in distributions (see: http://www.gnu.org/distros/common-distros.html ). The double standard here is ridiculous.
4- Again, even if we assume what he says about firmware blobs in mobile phones is true, it only applies to the GSM/CDMA chip firmware, not the Wifi firmware. The former is independent of the OS, while the latter is under direct control of the OS (just like in PCs). Wanting to “free” the wifi firmware (by locking it, no less) is pointless.
5- I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it one more time: Stallman will never endorse a mobile phone because the network can track any phone as long as it can receive calls. This can’t be solved by “freeing” any software on the phone, period. (Hey, maybe they can make a peer-to-peer mobile phone network!)

#16 Posted by imgx64 on Sep 27, 2011 9:39 AM

Oh, forgot one:

6- If you accept the use of “evil” proprietary firmware, you are already trusting the vendor, trusting the vendor to upgrade it is no different than trusting it the first time.

#17 Posted by Adam_King on Sep 27, 2011 10:35 AM

There is no huge inherent merit to making a circuit Free because circuits can not be copied, modified, and shared its original and useful form. Firmware which is fundamentally but of the hardware (eg: can’t be upgraded or whatever) has similar properties to circuits in this manner.

Once 3D Printers and the like become more advanced and mainstream that will change, but we are not there yet.

#18 Posted by ChrisTX on Sep 27, 2011 11:01 AM

“There is no huge inherent merit to making a circuit Free because circuits can not be copied, modified, and shared its original and useful form.”

If that’s so, what’s VHDL, VeriLog and this ( http://wiki.opengraphics.org/tiki-index.php ) ?

A circuit can be printed by anyone. How is making something a circuit and not open sourcing the specifications a difference to software there? I can implement a backdoor in VHDL and in C proprietary code, but the one in VHDL is ok then?

Oh oh oh, if Ford made their SYNC auto PCs non-upgradable would it count as circuit or as software? I would really love to hear where the difference lies.
An XOR in machine code is apparently a major difference to an XOR in a curcuit or a firmware ROM.

“Stallman is still against firmware blobs in the kernel and in distributions”

Because those can be upgraded! There’s a difference. If you’d put the exact same firmware on a ROM instead of leaving it to the OS to load it, it’d be free hardware. It’s logical, right?

“I know that Windows is not a firmware, but still on the same logic, if I turn off the automatic updates, is it know a circuit? yes, no, maybe?”

I guess it’d need to be on a ROM. What if it’s a Windows PE live CD? Oh I know, it can be free or non-free. That depends on whether you used a CD-R or a CD-RW to burn it. CD-RW = the software is evil and non-free, CD-R = it’s free.

#19 Posted by imgx64 on Sep 27, 2011 11:08 AM

“but we are not there yet.”

We are already there when it comes to firmware, but Stallman wants to take us back to “circuits” that can’t be copied or modified because it makes… Wait, it doesn’t make anything easier or better.

The eternal question remains: Why does Stallman do the crazy things he does? (and no, I’m not talking about his campaign for software freedom, I’m talking about arbitrary rules he makes up as he goes).

#20 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 27, 2011 11:11 AM

@imgx64
As regards 5, you can install SSL enabled talk and text apps in all your company’s/drug cartel’s cellphones and mandate your employees/fellow gangsters to only call and text trough those apps. You can also put proxy functionality in those apps. This should foil any eavesdropping attempts. As regards tracking, just go into flight mode when you are not calling or texting. This could be easily done on Android, because said apps don’t have to be uploaded on an appstore. I am suprised the bad guys haven’t figured that out yet, and still get caught by their cellphone conversations. Can you imagine the ad slogan? “World’s 58 biggest drug cartels recommend Android” lol.

@Adam
What i am trying to say is that, since the hardware can record and track your calls from the hardware level, without the software or the firmware ever noticing (it’s possible to implement a call recording and tracking device entirely on transistors, right?), what does it matter what software runs on top of said hardware? It doesn’t really prevent unauthorized by the user call recording and tracking. So, Stallman’s biggest taking point against proprietary software and firmwares in phones and PCs is null.

#21 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 27, 2011 11:20 AM

“CD-RW=The software is evil and non free. CD-R= It’s free”

LMAO. Very nice example. I am so writing an email to Stallman with a link to this FUD entry.

Which brings us back to the basics: Why should the source of software be free, and not the artwork of chips, the blueprints of cars, the save files for music and movies etc

#22 Posted by Adam_King on Sep 27, 2011 10:09 PM

No that really has nothing to do with it. The whole privacy thing is a tangential concern.

If you want to understand why RMS is against proprietary software but not against proprietary “circuits”, he explains why on GNU’s website over here:

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-versus-community.html

#23 Posted by imgx64 on Sep 27, 2011 11:03 PM

That article about copyright is really irrelevant to this topic, isn’t it? And how is a closed circuit more free than an upgradeable firmware?

#24 Posted by DigitalAtheist on Sep 28, 2011 12:01 AM

“That article about copyright is really irrelevant to this topic, isn’t it? And how is a closed circuit more free than an upgradeable firmware?”

Because Tricky Dick Stallman said it is.

#25 Posted by Conzo on Sep 28, 2011 4:10 AM

Breaking news: FSF performs first truly Open heart surgery.

Quoth Mr. Richard M. Stallman: “In the past, operating procedures were locked down by organizations like the AMA. We believe that people should be free to modify and distribute medical procedures without restrictions.”

Mr. Stallman’s psychiatrist was not available for comment, since he was too busy injecting Mr. Stallman with thorazine.

———————————
Save the innocent – join Penguins United Against Linux now!

#26 Posted by FBM on Sep 28, 2011 5:48 AM

There’s more in the project request page: http://projects.goldelico.com/p/gta04-main/page/FirmwareInjector/

“The task is to develop a prototype of a microcontroller that sends an immutable firmware program through an SDIO interface into a Marvell 8686 based WLAN chip independently from the main CPU. The goal is to isolate the non-free firmware binary from the main CPU so that it becomes effectively circuitry.”

OK, so apparently adding a microcontroller that sends an immutable firmware (which is software) to the WLAN chip makes the whole thing magically free.

Better than that, sending an immutable firmware to the chip at power-up magically transforms the firmware into a circuit, with gates and all the stuff. Wow, that’s a software-to-circuit compiler, without a fab or anything like that! You just need a microcontroller.

In my understanding, free hardware has the same restrictions than free software, by the FSF standards of freedom.

That’s why I really can’t understand how making the non-free firmware immutable by adding some hardware to prevent users to change it makes the hardware free. I mean, I thought freedom was about NOT restricting what users can do with their hardware.

Or if it is effectively the case, then all game consoles are free. I mean, MS, Sony, and Nintendo all put hardware to make sure no one can modify the firmware running on their consoles. It’s EXACTLY the same thing the FSF wants to do, but when the FSF does it, it apparently makes the hardware free.

Now, I’ll quote Stallman, in answer to a journalist saying there is no free software running on consoles: “That’s why there is no possible ethical way you could use [a game console], and so you shouldn’t have it”.

Well well well. But the software which runs on consoles immutable, so it’s all circuitry, so there’s really no software at all running on consoles, only circuits.

Either making the software immutable makes the hardware free, and all consoles are free, or it doesn’t, and the OpenMoko isn’t free.

But the FSF can’t have both.

#27 Posted by DrLoser on Sep 28, 2011 6:31 AM

Well, there’s probably some flavour of FPGA out there with the capability for lock-down. That might solve all of RMS’s needs: it’s definitely circuitry, albeit circuitry programmed at some point, and it’d be immutable once embedded. Plus, I understand that FPGAs basically expose their inner workings at power-on.

Brillant! Freedom and total whack-job lockdown at the same time! 'Course, the damn things are expensive and clunky and slow and draw about five times as much power as a fabbed chip would …

... but that’s Freedom for you.

#28 Posted by kurkosdr on Sep 28, 2011 7:51 AM

Oh, the reply for my email came from Stallman:

—My e-mail:

Subject: Regarding the firmware of the wifi chip of the GTA04 being treated as a circuit

Here is a thought: If the firmware of the wifi chip of the GTA04 can be treated as a circuit by making it non upgradeable, can you also treat a BartPE CD (think of it as a LiveCD for Windows XP) as a circuit by putting it in a CD-R? (CD-Rs act as non upgradeable rom chips). What about other proprietary OSes like AIX, IRIX etc (which dont have any malicious DRM features like XP does)? Can you also treat those OSes as a circuit if you put them in a LiveCD-R?

Or you are actually trying to draw a line between “software” and “firmware”? Noone has ever managed to do that. What’s “software” for someone can be “firmware” for someone else in certain cases. There is no clear distinction between the two.

There is an interesting discussion here (especially the comments): http://www.tmrepository.com/fudtracker/so-is-it-a-circuit-or-a-piece-of-software/

—Stallman’s reply:

Subject: Re: Regarding the firmware of the wifi chip of the GTA04 being treated as a circuit

I don’t think so, because there is no reason to even ask the question
about a level of software which is commonly available as free software.
——-

In other words, “I am not addressing the question because deep inside me I know my logic is flawed.” (i hope Adam King is reading this).

#29 Posted by FBM on Sep 28, 2011 8:07 AM

Thanks Kurkos for sharing this with us.

Also, one can note that once again, RMS doesn’t have an answer to “why non-free software is evil, but not other things, like hardware, cooking recipes, car engines, ...?”

Because if I remember well, one of the main advantages of free software is that you can study the source, and make sure the software doesn’t do evil things.

So, if I understand well, it’s ok if hardware does evil things, but if software does, it’s not?

(Unless of course the software is not upgradeable, as it automagically makes it a circuit).

#30 Posted by ChrisTX on Sep 30, 2011 2:48 PM

“I don’t think so, because there is no reason to even ask the question
about a level of software which is commonly available as free software.”

O right. So let me recap that, there’s no 'commonly available’ WiFi with open firmware? Atheros AR9170: https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-80211n-usb-wireless-network-adapter (yes, that thing has open firmware and works with linux-libre)

Also, why would firmware in the kernel be bad then and once you soldered the SAME THING in, it’s ok? The actual question is, if I’d have a WiFi card using said Marvell firmware, can I use it for free or not?

If I install a virus on my PC, plug it from the internet, so it can’t update, is it still a virus or friendly code?

You must be signed in to leave comments.