[Gta04-owner] Some thoughts about customer attraction

Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at goldelico.com
Wed Jun 11 13:52:19 CEST 2014


Am 11.06.2014 um 13:29 schrieb Mario Barcala <email at mario.barcala.name>:

> Hi all:
> 
> Maybe you have discussed about this in the past, but as customer
> buying demand is always relevant in this list... I go.
> 
> So, the starting point for this reasoning is about the following
> questions:
> 
> 1) What parts of GTA04 cannot work with free software?

WiFi, 3D GPU.

> 
> 2) Is it possible to build a phone using only free software?
> 
> As far as I remember, inside GTA04 there are some "chunks" which there
> aren't free software: something related with GSM/UMTS

well, the firmware within the UMTS module is closed. Some people
(like FSF, R. Stallman) don't see this as a problem since it "can be considered
hardware". It is connected through a standard USB interface, so no difference
to the firmware within an  USB memory key.

Others have a problem with any firmware because it might have built in backdoors.

So it is not exactly clear what "free software" means in this case.

> and, maybe (I'm
> not sure), something related to Wifi

The WiFi chip needs a firmware that is injected during boot. And is stored on
the root file system of the device. This makes a Linux Distribution which includes
the firmware "non-free" (in the definition by FSF). Debian provides this binary
in a non-free repository which must be referenced explicitly by the user.

> and/or Graphics,

The same with the firmware (micro-operating system) that runs directly on the GPU.

> in some cases
> for something related to firmware blobs and in another ones because of
> propietary drivers.

There are no proprietary drivers. All are included in the Linux kernel. Only
the operating systems for the WiFi Chip and the GPU are closed binaries.

For UMTS we don't even have a binary, so we can't think about open source...

> 
> Why is this important?
> 
> I think that building a completely free software phone could be a key
> to promote and to increase customers interest. If you get attention of
> Free Software Foundation, for example, as in Gluglug X60 Laptop
> (https://www.fsf.org/news/gluglug-x60-laptop-now-certified-to-respect-your-freedom),
> I guess yoy can reach more clients. But for this to take effect, you
> must get closer to sell a complete device (something like the idea of
> Letux 2804 with a new case) than to sell a motherboard. Perhaps to
> create two more independent parallel concepts/webs/products will help
> to see that, on one hand there is a phone, for not hackers users which
> want a free phone, and on the other there is a motherboard, for hackers,
> environmentalists or DIY users.
> 
> I don't know if it is really possible to do a completely free software
> just now. As there are completely free software laptops with wifi, I
> think the only one problem is GSM/UMTS module. Is there any free
> software GSM/UMTS module in the world?

Yes or no - depending on what the meaning for free software is in this
case.

There is none with open firmware, but all use standard serial or USB
interfaces and most communicate through standards like GSM 07.07
AT commands.

In the FSF sense this is free enough. I had a long discussion with
Richard Stallman but only about the WiFi stuff.

BTW: the GTA04/Letux2804 can be operated as a full smartphone.
Without WiFi. Just by not installing the problematic firmware and keeping
it switched off.

And none of the User interfaces currently *requires* to use the GPU
(neither Replicant, nor QtMoko nor SHR) because the CPU is fast
enough to do "normal" animations quick enough. Only 3D games
would need it.

> If not, for me the idea that works is "We have the most free software
> phone possible" or "We are doing all possible to get the most free
> software phone", and even better if, in a second level information,
> there are some explanations about why the module X could not be free
> software.
> 
> I don't know if there is much people like me, but FSF announcement of
> glugglug-X60 was the first time that I consider to buy a new laptop
> technically worse than the one I have if mine get crashed :)

:)

> 
> Another question which could be interesting to deal with is to define
> in a very clear way the objectives of the different projects: gta04,
> openphoneux, etc. I know about gta04 for a year (more or less) and I
> have read the web several times and I have some doubts about the main
> objectives of the project: Free software?, ecology? In which
> proportion? Which degree of implication in each of them? Which are the
> new directions to make progress on each valueable aim?

Well, in my view, there are no "new" directions yet. It needs to be discussed
and based on what the community wants to know, achieve and is interested
in.

The original objective of the gta04 project was to get new features into the
existing GTA02 (Openmoko Freerunner): faster CPU, UMTS and some other
improvements, and capable to run latest Linux. So it started as a motherboard
upgrade.

> 
> Just for reflection.
> 
> Best regards,
> 
>  Mario Barcala
> 
> P.D. Let me know if openphoenux is better list for this kind of
> thinking. I know openphoenux is discussing things related to my email,
> but gta04 is a more tangible project for me.

No problem. IMHO most people are subscribed on both lists.

BR and thanks for this valuable contribution,
Nikolaus



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