There is one more free phone project still kickin':
I somehow doubt that these new folks on the scene (indiephone.eu) will
produce a phone with a baseband processor whose firmware is delivered
to end users in full source form. At best they might match the level
of freedom one can get today with GTA04 (free AP + closed black box
modem), but more likely they will probably end up like blackphone. I
looked on blackphone.ch, and nowhere do I see any software source
download links, let alone hardware schematics - WTF?! Do they
seriously expect people to fork over $$$ for a closed plastic box that
is just as proprietary as the standard run-of-the-mill Androids and
iPhones to which they supposedly offer an alternative?
Meanwhile, FreeCalypso is steadily progressing toward its goal of
running 100% free software on all 3 hardware targets: Mot C1xx,
Openmoko GTA02 and Pirelli DP-L10. Just yesterday I finished
reconstructing the source for the required subset of TI's GPF OS
Adaptation Layer (i.e., writing new C code to replace the bits which
were available only in binary object form, replicating the original
logic flow extracted from disassembly), and today I've got GPF
integrated onto the fledging gcc-built firmware skeleton. It's
running on my GTA02 as I type this.
I am not aware of any projects other than OsmocomBB and my own
FreeCalypso that have ever promised or done any work toward a phone of
any kind, dumb or smart, that can make or receive phone calls using
only Free Software, i.e., software that provides its users with the
essential Four Freedoms as defined by the FSF. Yes, if one excludes
the baseband from the freedom requirement, then anything from a Samsung
device running Replicant to GolDeliCo's GTA04 will pass. But for
some people that is not good enough, and if there exists a choice
between a more-free solution and a less-free one, why would you choose
The OsmocomBB community seems to be interested only in security
research, aka hacking, whereas the goal of producing a usable phone,
if they ever had such a goal at all, appears to have been completely
abandoned. Consider this one little factoid: OsmocomBB was first
presented at 27C3 in the last days of 2010; a video recording of that
presentation (by Harald Welte) is online. If you watch that video,
you can see what the state of functionality was as of that date.
Well, here is a bit of breaking news: the level of functionality that
OsmocomBB offers for normal phone usage (as opposed to hacking) is
*exactly the same* today, in mid-2014, as it was at the end of 2010:
the phone can kinda-sorta connect to cell networks (not very reliably)
and can do calls and SMS for as long as it remains tethered to a PC,
with the GSM protocol stack running on the PC instead of the Calypso.
As evidenced by the video of Harald's talk, it did exactly the same in
December of 2010. So what the heck have these people been doing for
the past 3.5 years??
In comparison, FreeCalypso got a much later start: I only succeeded in
obtaining the key starting-point materials when they were published in
the fall of 2013, less than a year ago, whereas Harald Welte and his
gang have undoubtedly had them many years earlier, probably before they
even started OsmocomBB.
If life circumstances (finances etc) permit me to continue working on
FreeCalypso without slowing down, then by the end of 2014 we shall
have fully free firmware with basic GSM functionality running on the
GTA02 GSM modem, and by fully free I mean full C source compiled
with gcc, no blobs or proprietary compilers. The same fw will run on
dumbphone hw targets too, but will still be controlled by external
AT commands, no UI, hence only a toy like OsmocomBB. Adding UI would
be the next step.
Because I would rather give an overly pessimistic time estimate than
give an overly optimistic one and then fail to deliver, I'll estimate
the time to fruition as follows:
* 2014-12-31: GSM fw fully running on the Calypso baseband, controlled
by AT commands, which would be good enough for practical use on the
GTA02, but a toy on the other targets. Voice + SMS only; adding CSD
and GPRS would be subsequent extra work.
* 2015-06-30: the above plus the UI layers to make a Calypso dumbphone
with available schematics and no undocumented chips (e.g., Mot C139)
work as a practically usable cellphone running 100% free software
which any user can recompile from source and reflash at will.
(The above are estimates, not a binding contract; anyone interested in
a firmer commitment in exchange for pay is welcome to contact me
So as you all can see, the goal of a phone that runs 100% free software
with *no* closed baseband is quite within reach. Now back to your
regularly scheduled programming.
Viva la Revolucion,
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