[Tinkerphones] Curious

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Wed Jul 4 00:16:39 CEST 2018


On Thursday 14. June 2018 17.54.56 H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
> 
> What are you currently working on (wrt. to Tinkerphones)?

I thought I should finally respond to this in some way. As some people 
following the rather exclusive Lenny400 mailing list (for the Letux 400 
notebook computer) as well as the Letux-kernel list may already know, I have 
been looking at the L4 Runtime Environment and the Fiasco.OC microkernel:

http://www.boddie.org.uk/paul/L4Re-Fiasco.OC.html
http://www.boddie.org.uk/paul/Landfall.html

This has some kind of relevance to this list because L4-based operating 
systems are widely deployed on smartphones. Certain devices employ L4-based 
technologies for managing security-related functions, and it seems to be the 
case that these technologies are also used for virtualisation, meaning that 
the "visible" operating system on various phones might not be running on the 
bare metal (as people might have assumed).

My own interest in this is to experiment more freely with device drivers and 
to potentially build up a "multiserver" operating system, but there would be a 
lot of work involved in doing so, despite all the work already done by 
projects like L4Re and the background Free Software ecosystem. At one point, 
as some of you may also know, there was an effort to port GNU Hurd to one of 
the L4 kernels [*]. Either way, developing such things provides some element 
of choice and flexibility with regard to the software used on our devices.

(I also started to find Linux-related development a burden. It was informative 
to improve the Letux kernel support for the Letux 400, but my development 
hardware is probably not up to the task of juggling kernel source repository 
branches, at least in the way I end up doing so. I also don't really care for 
the way Linux kernel development seems to be done, either.)

Of course, this is all rather tangential to Tinkerphones. I guess it would be 
interesting to deploy the software described above on phone-like devices, but 
without the software being more complete, those devices would merely be 
interesting deployment targets and not much more. Not that such 
experimentation was beyond the scope of things like Openmoko, as I seem to 
recall.

> What do you expect from doing this? What are you missing
> most? What should happen to make you contribute here more
> actively?

I generally don't expect very much from my endeavours. I suppose more 
enthusiasm for the cause of open, ethical, sustainable, privacy-respecting 
computing devices would be generally welcome, but I think that many people are 
in the realm of "good enough" with respect to the devices they use, and they 
perhaps don't see much point in supporting alternatives if the level of 
inconvenience is too great.

But with regard to contributing here more actively, more communication would 
be good in general. I think that many mailing lists and forums tend to become 
highly specific to certain technologies, and broader discussion on more 
general topics just doesn't have a home anywhere. I have experienced this with 
various other projects of mine, but I probably make things difficult for 
myself in pursuing my own course.

Certainly, I feel that venues like this list are vital and that people should 
feel able to use the list to share what they are working on, even if their 
progress is not always as encouraging as they might want it to be. More 
communication, even about the setbacks people experience, would make many a 
crowdfunding campaign go better, and I don't think this community is so 
different fundamentally.

Paul

[*] I personally think that this work would be more readily approachable now, 
given various desired or necessary but absent features having been provided by 
some L4 variants, but I think people abandoned L4 and started to work on other 
things, forgetting to check back to see if their assumptions were still valid.


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