RMS / FSF / OsmocomBB / Free Software GSM phone

Harald Welte laforge at gnumonks.org
Mon May 2 20:51:54 UTC 2011

Hi Sylvain,

On Mon, May 02, 2011 at 08:13:50PM +0200, Sylvain Munaut wrote:
> > 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.
> Well, if you're extremist about it, there is still the DSP.
> Not much we can do about it without making our own ASIC tough :p

I do not think the DSP is an issue, as it is programmed by mask ROM.

As far as I understand RMS' position, any mask ROM code on a separate
processor is tolerable for him.  Just code that resides in FLASH or
other r/w memory is required as Free Software.

> Well, even if we have reached major milestones (IMHO) and are able to
> make actual phone calls, 

of course, I didn't want to say that the project has not reached
milestones or is not making progress.  I just wanted to say that the
speed has slowed down and recent developments go in other areas than to
make a 'stupid phone': sniffing, running phone as BTS, fuzzing/security
stuff, general reasearch, lcr-integration, etc.

> there is still a bunch of things missing even for voice / SMS and
> reliability problems in some cases.

Sure.  RMS and I were not talking about a 'end user production ready'
phone, but something that -even though initially unreliable and very
limited in functionality- can be used as a phone.

Progress in stabilization, testing in real networks etc. can be made
from that point on.

> Besides the UI there is also a lot of things that need to be done to
> be usable as a phone, like being able to charge the battery, 

roh has done some battery charging work in the past, but i guess it was
never merged.

> or at least not drain it in a few hours by having all chips fully
> powered on all the time.

i'm not so sure if that absolutely has to come first.  A Free Software
phone that runs for a couple of hours is better than none at all.  The
power management can be improved gradually.

> The RLC/MAC layer can certainly be useful for a lot of reasons (both
> MS and BTS side), but is anyone seriously gonna use GPRS non-edge ?

It depends for what.  You have to keep in mind the screen real estate
and processing power.  So for e.g. updating your identi.ca, or using som
instant messenger instead of SMS it would be sufficient.

Also, the RLC/MAC will be independent of the L1 (like our GSM L2/L3 is),
and it could be used on EDGE capable devices if other baseband
processors are supported later on.  I seriously hope the Calypso is not
the last chip we support.


- 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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