RMS / FSF / OsmocomBB / Free Software GSM phone

Scott Weisman sweisman at pobox.com
Mon May 2 17:20:58 UTC 2011

I think this is awesome. I would try to put in some help if I could, as long
as someone else told me what to do (:-). I have experience with fairly
low-level C programming and I did have a job writing laboratory control
software (in Forth) when I was in college (1980s). I have several
Osmocom-class phones I have purchased over the last year. I did run the
hello world app on a phone, just to make sure I could. I compiled the tool
chain myself with a script I found and customized that made a really clean
install (let me know if anyone is interested, but there are better scripts
out there now). Most of the cell stuff talked about on this list is above my
head, though I have gained a basic understanding of what's going on. I found
the c3 lectures fascinating, and watched quite a few. I'm definitely
interested in doing something for this project if I can.

Harald, I know you and the other people contributing to this project are
interested in this more from a research and understanding perspective.

But I also agree with RMS about the need for a fully open phone. You guys
have revealed just how weak the GSM network is, with its closed stack
assuming that all participants were noble knights who always followed the
rules (:-). It actually concerns me just what the telcos might be capable of
doing, especially after seeing the talks on silent SMS messaging.

There's no good reason for this software to be so closed. This is the big
one too. There are lots of other areas where proprietary software is
dominant, but few affect as many people directly as cellular phones. I also
have no doubt that a usable phone would get a LOT of attention. Could help
encourage efforts in other areas. Color laser printers are another area of
concern, because of the embedded ID on every printed page.

I am not surprised in the least that RMS is interested, even very


On Mon, May 2, 2011 at 6:26 PM, Harald Welte <laforge at gnumonks.org> wrote:

> Hash: SHA1
> Hi!
> Some months ago, Richard Stallman (rms) has contacted me regarding
> my work with OsmocomBB.  As it is not a big surprise to us, he is
> really interested in the project.  After all, it would be the first
> mobile phone that he himself would be able to use, given that there
> is no proprietary software on the baseband anymore.   And of course
> it would enable loads of other freedom-loving users to finally have
> an alternative to the proprietary telephony world.
> Here in Morocco, I've had some further discussion on the topic face to
> face with him, and he is sort of unhappy with the fact that nobody is
> working on making an actual self-contained phone (no matter how simple
> or limited in features) that can be used by a regular user as 'just a
> phone'.
> I explained to him that our motivation is mostly a different one
> (research, security, GSM-attached PBX, etc.) and thus there is no
> intrinsic motivation to work towards a more user-friendly version.
> Furthermore, we are system level hackers with an interest in
> communications, not particularly people who like to work on a UI
> or usability.
> So we agreed to make a public call for volunteers to wokr on that aspect
> of the phone.  I understand this will likely cause some effort on our
> side (fencing off poeple who don't have the neccessary skills,
> integrating such code, finally deciding on a RTOS to use, etc.).
> However, I more or less see it as my (and our?) duty to realize the
> potential of our protocol stack and baseband firmware.  Next to all
> our own self-motivated personal interestes, there is a bigger cause
> that we can help along: Free Software based telephony.  So the least
> we can do is to try to find somebody who can work on that part, and
> help developer[s] to interact with our code.
> It's the question of whether we are just hacking away on our personal
> little pet, or if we try to achieve something bigger.
> I've already drafted a version of the 'job description' and with some
> luck the FSF will soon publish it, reaching out beyond our existing
> small Osmocom community.
> e will try to draft a similar job description related to MS-side GPRS
> support (L1, RLC/MAC, ..).  That would be yet another area where we
> would appreciate some contribution, and which eventually be important
> beyond our existing voice telephony capabilities.
> Regards,
>        Harald
> - --
> - - Harald Welte <laforge at gnumonks.org>
> http://laforge.gnumonks.org/
> ============================================================================
> "Privacy in residential applications is a desirable marketing option."
>                                                  (ETSI EN 300 175-7 Ch. A6)
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> =Cmo8
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