[Gta04-owner] Some thoughts about customer attraction

Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at goldelico.com
Sun Jun 22 18:57:10 CEST 2014


Hi,

Am 21.06.2014 um 16:44 schrieb Mario Barcala:

> Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
> 
>> 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.
> 
> It would be very important for me going towards a manufacturer
> surveillance free phone (using free software). GTA04 model, therefore,
> has "problems" with Wifi, GPU and GSM/UMTS in this field.

Not really. The "manufacturer" of the GTA04 devices does not want to do any surveillance.

But there is the assumption that some components *could* do it, although nobody
has proven that they really do. Or that they don't. It is simply unknown to the
public - and to the user.

So it is the 0.1% of confidence missing to 100%.

> Disabling
> GPU seems not to be very problematic, but I think disabling wifi means
> to avoid using a very valuable functionality. GSM/UMTS modem seems to
> be a hard question, because there is not alternative one which include
> free software firmware.
> 
> So, what I would do, or in a more clear way, what would motivate me
> to get a phone/motherboard like this and what would get me ivolved in
> this project would be to read in the objectives of the project.
> 
>  "We try to get the most manufacturer surveillance free phone"
> 
> Which means the same for me that to get the most free software
> phone/board, that is, to build a phone/board with as free software as
> possible.

The GTA04 designs appears to be the best what is currently possible.

Possible in the sense of really building it (not thinking about practically
unobtainable components).

Supporting the project today also helps to make it better in the future.

Otherwise it becomes a deadlock :)

* not enough support because it does not develop
* not enough development because it does not get enough support

> 
> And then I would try to replace in sucessive GTA versions as much
> "conflictive" components as possible: wifi adapter, GPU firmware
> and/or GSM/UMTS modem. If it was not possible to replace all of them
> (due to there not exists any better alternative), I'll maintain the
> same component and explain that there isn't any better alternative.

Yes, that is exactly the status with the GTA04 (incl. GTA04b7 = Neo900).

We all are trying for approx. 3 years to find good replacements, but
there was no breakthrough yet.

This is also a reason why there don't come new successive GTA versions
as you suggest. There is simply no known path to improve towards
the goal (which I think many of us share).

And the newer devices currently being developed (Neo900, Pyra-Handheld)
are not different.

> 
> As far as I know, currently you cannot guarantee that wifi atapter or
> GPU firmware doesn't have malware or backdoors which could get
> unauthorized data from the terminal, isn't it?

The GPU and WiFi (as well as UMTS) have no direct access to the main memory.

Every bit of communication from main memory with these subsystems is going
through an open source kernel driver.

So you can *always* inspect the traffic and their activities through free software.
Or even "firewall" the driver.

What you can't do is to analyse what is going on *inside* the WiFi or UMTS chips/modules.

They might try to initiate radio activities on their own... But you can turn them off
to prevent that. Or encrypt every bit of data going over wireless networks so that
they can only reveal that you exist and communicate. But not your data.

But beware: IMHO there are some risks in the encryption software,
even if they are free and open.

> If I understand well
> GSM/UMTS seems not to be a problem because you can "limit" access from
> it to the system data, but you cannot assure the same for GPU or wifi.

There is no difference in access limitations.

But there is one difference: the GPU and the WiFi system need a binary
"Operating System" that is sent into the subsystem at boot time.

Technically it is not important if it is stored on your SD card and loaded
by the driver or if it is stored inside the subsystem in some NAND flash (like
for the UMTS modem) and available after power-on.

The issue FSF points out is a completely different one. It is not even about surveillance
or getting access to your personal data. It is about you being able to reconstruct
the binary "OS" from some source code. If you need to maintain it or add new
features. And if the original manufacturer stops support. So it is about freeing users
from despotism by the original manufacturer.

> Once a surveillance free phone was done, I would go throw environment
> issues, fair conditions, local production, etc.
> 
> This is my point of view.

Thanks for sharing and having interesting discussions!

BR,
Nikolaus



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