[Community] Growing the Community

Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at goldelico.com
Mon Jun 24 09:38:27 CEST 2013

Am 23.06.2013 um 23:35 schrieb Sven:

> Hello Nikolaus,
> > The main driver for this idea was that the Openmoko community urgently asked (after
> > the Bass/Buzz/#1024-fixes were successful) for a speed fix for CPU, Glamo and wireless
> > data rate. So the GTA04.org project was born as a pure motherboard upgrade.
> could you explain some background of what is meant with "Bass/Buzz/#1024-fixes", with "speed fix for CPU" and what's the relationship between both, please? Some of the members of this list never had an GTA02, like me...

Well, let's do some history lesson :)

Nov 2006	Sean Moss-Pultz announced the first really open Linux based smartphone
Jan 2007	Steve Jobs announced the iPhone (1)
Summer 2007	Openmoko started to ship the Neo 1973

Like any device as complex as these, there are bugs, flaws and customers having different expectations and requirements from what is really available.

So in May 2008 the redesigned Neo Frerunner (GTA02) started shipping. It did change:
* battery fuel gauge added
* WLAN added (sacrificing one of the stereo speakers)
* slightly improved processor, more RAM
* GLAMO GPU added

After a while it turned out that some (not all!) users experience problems with the GTA02:
* depending on network operator and location and time of day there was a "GSM Buzz" in the signal sent from the microphone to the other end of the telephone call
* the bass frequencies on the (single) speaker were not as powerful as one would expect from comparable devices
* with more mature software (FSO) it turned out that the GSM modem did not go properly to the lowest power mode [1024]
* using the SD card may generate interferences on the built-in GPS antenna (the SD interface uses a 25.0000 MHz clock and 63*25 MHz is 1575 MHz which is the GPS frequency)

The last one was fixed by software (by slowing down the SD interface) and hardware by adding a capacitor during production.

The others were not fixed during production because Openmoko, Inc. decided to no longer invest into the GTA02.

Fixing these things needed to open the device and solder smaller or bigger capacitors at the right positions. There were upgrade parties (I still remember someone doing it life at FOSDEM 2010 while sitting at the corner of the table an using his fingers as SMD tweezers) and we (Goldelico) did offer a send-in/fix/send-back service done by a professional SMD rework company.

At the same time others did rise their expectations and asked if it could be possible to "fix" other hardware induced issues as well. Like CPU and GPU speed, more RAM. Or that there is only GSM and no UMTS available. So people started to demand what I now call a "CPU, GPU and Wireless speed fix" [1]. So a small team formed itself to develop the GTA04 to fix these issues. It turned out that it needs a complete motherboard upgrade to achieve these goals and the GTA04 started shipping in Aug 2011.

There was some concern that the GTA04 could have the same issues, but since it was a completely different design, the issues were completely different... We only did copy the GPS issue by forgetting the capacitor in the design :) The solution was the same (is applied to all boards shipped ever).

> Based on that I'm especially interested in to know: If a GTA02-user would get the idea to buy an additional GTA04 and to connect both together over USB and to modify their software so that the GTA04 uses the 100% free and open modem of the GTA02 instead of its own

AFAIK the GTA02 modem isn't 100% free&open as well (see also below). I am not aware that there is a complete firmware in the public that you can compile yourself with the same feature set as the original GTA02 modem firmware.

> , would this be a significant improvement for him, compared to the possibility of just continuing to use the GTA02 as is?

Well, IMHO carrying two devices *and* connecting them is less practical than just carrying *two* device... Simple mathematics : 2+4 < 2+u+4 (u > 0)
And you will loose UMTS data rates.

> I'm asking because you know I'm convinced that the essential show stopper of the success of our GTA04 project is its closed source modem. So if we aren't able to get a free and open 3G or 4G modem due to the horrible amounts of money this would cost, why not try to arrange something with the free and open 2G modem we have? There're approx. 15k of them out there in the wild.

Well, the free&open 2G modem topic was not a showstopper for the GTA01/02. In fact it was not the key value of Openmoko because they did get the chips, firmware and documentation of the modem only under NDA and had to pay for the approval (CE/FCC) of this specific hard- and firmware combination. You will find that the schematics of the modem are excluded from the open documents as well [4]. So the GTA04 or 02 are on the same openness/closedness level when coming from factory and when looking into manufacturer support.

It is just that there are some independent projects that have reverse engineered and found some leaked sources for the Calypso modem chipset used in the GTA02 (and other mobile devices). And use it for other purposes (e.g. OsmocomBB), but AFAIK not as a complete AT controlled modem.

> Perhaps this would help to come at least a small step closer to get a community of developers of a free and open 3G or 4G modem.

If you want to start this, please organize a project with exactly this aim. IMHO it needs a project agenda, some Wiki and most importantly a team willing to invest a lot of time (and some money) to do reverse engineering. The team will need a long-lasting spirit to work through very thick walls. I think the OpenPhoenux community will support this effort as good as we can (everyone has different limitations...).

For the PowerVR/SX GPU  [2] and the Marvell WLAN chip [3] there are already such projects. But both are lacking activities and any progress...

Maybe, because it is too challenging for volunteers and too less rewarding for the time investment? I guess it is because society has changed as well in the past years. "100% Freedom" has become much more expensive than years ago. Because there was invested so much into "control". And as we know 99% of world population find the closed devices they can buy in the super-market open enough. I.e. someone sitting for weeks in his shack doing such work will not be appreciate by his family&friends because they don't understand why he/she is doing it. And another factor: it is not anymore an IT research area, so universities will not start diploma/master/PhD theses on such topics.


[1024]: http://docs.openmoko.org/trac/ticket/1024
[1]: http://freeyourphone.de/portal_v1/viewtopic.php?p=17083#p17083 (German)
[2]: http://powervr.gnu.org.ve/doku.php
[3]: http://projects.goldelico.com/p/gta04-main/issues/310/
[4]: http://downloads.openmoko.org/developer/schematics/

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