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A Truly Open Linux Phone 164

Posted by kdawson
from the apt-get-phone-software dept.
skelator2821 writes to tell us about the debut of the OpenMoko, a Linux phone with GPS that is open from top to bottom. The device is set to debut to developers this month for $350, according to the article, but there is no detail on how to get your hands on one, and no link to the manufacturer (FIC). From the article: "This is the first phone in a long time to get us really interested in what it is, what it isn't, and the philosophy behind it. The philosophy is the thing that makes Linux great... it is really open. It runs the latest kernel, 2.6.18 as of a few weeks ago, and you can get software from a repository with apt-get."
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A Truly Open Linux Phone

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  • I own a Sharp Zaurus, and aged as it might be, it pretty much keeps pace - absent the GSM bit.

    Of course, I will buy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lindseyp (988332)
      You mean apart from the one piece of functionality which defines it as not being a phone?
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:06PM (#16761403)
    I doubt very much that carriers will be friendly towards open,hack-by-anybody, phones. Most/all carriers require all kinds of certification & testing before they allow vendors to hook up a phone to their network. They also don't like time wasters trying to hook up low volume/low profit phones to their networks. The testing can cost a big bunch of dollars -- ballpark $250k. Now if Joe hacker wnats to spend that, and he can convince the carrier he's going to sell many thousands, he's welcome. Otherwise, at least some part of the phone firmware will be locked down and tamper proof to keep ceritication valid.
    • by idiot900 (166952) *
      It's an unlocked GSM phone, so it should work with many carriers in many countries. What carriers exclude handsets by model number?
      • by Shadow99_1 (86250)
        Most of them in the US...
        • by VP (32928) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:42PM (#16761849)
          Not the GSM vendors (Cingular and T-Mobil) - any unlocked phone with the appropriate SIM card will work on their networks.
          • by Shadow99_1 (86250)
            Ah... see I have no experience with either since they don't offer service in my area... My choices are locals or Verizon (with a very very small Sprint footprint not worth mentioning).

            It's nice to know other vendors aren't quite so barbaric...
          • by webgeek2point0 (1003266) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:03PM (#16762517)
            You're absolutely right. I work for T-Mobile. As long as you have a handset that takes a SIM card, you can use any phone you like. We actually have a tech support department devoted to just helping people with unsupported devices. I help people all the time set up their GSM phones to use on our network (i.e. - internet and picture messaging). I believe Cingular is the same way...as is most of the rest of the world.
        • I haven't found that to be the case. I've worked with Cingular and T-Mo (the two major GSM carriers) and they have given me no trouble with alien hardware. The problem is going to be marketing if the carriers aren't selling it for you. Most ppl won't buy one unless they can get it from their carrier.
          • by Shadow99_1 (86250)
            Do you really think so? My carrier is Virgin Mobile, but that's purely a cost consideration on my part (I don't need more than ~100 minutes a month, which through all my possible carrier chocies where I live doesn't exist). I buy my phones outright (though they must be approved by my carrier as none are sim replacable and they don't sell sim cards).

            Otherwise the 2 local cell phone vendors (Blue wireless & CellOne) as well as Verizon (& Sprint if you feel like tracking down their one store in my area
        • by dwater (72834)
          ...perhaps they're interested in other markets then??? "Other markets than the US???" shock. horror.
      • So it can't, in all honesty, be called fully open.
    • by btarval (874919) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @12:05AM (#16763055)
      Well, you're just not familiar with what's going on in the Open Source Phone world.

      First of all, the Carriers have little choice here. Fully functional Reference kits are available in the under $1000 range. For GSM, you can get them for about $200-300. These are the kits that companies who build cell-phones use to jumpstart their designs. So what's a Carrier going to do? Outlaw these? And kill development for cell-phones? I don't think so.

      The most they might do is to tighten down on the registration. But that involves overhead and hassle. Unless these kits prove to be an issue, it's not going to happen; at least not with the GSM market. And not worldwide.

      You are also wrong about the "time wasters" who supply low volume and low profit phones. What the Carriers want (at least some of them) is to sell the airtime. Some of these Carriers really don't care where it goes, as long as they get paid for it.

      There's a whole resale market here which underscores the point. You want to to become your own cell-phone company? You can, if you have the money. And if you don't think *those* resellers are hungry, you're kidding yourself.

      I admit that as far as the standard view about "time wasters" goes (for the big companies) you are correct. And it's explicitly been this attitude which has severely hindered innovation in the cell-phone market. There are a plethora of uses for small markets. Some of the hungrier carriers fully realize this, and are supportive of anything which will make them money.

      Finally, the lockdown on GSM transceivers is a bit silly. The interface is extremely simple; it's a variation of the old Hayes Modem interface. I kid you not. "ATDT....". There's even an Open Source Project for this. Here's the link:

      http://sourceforge.net/projects/libgsmc [sourceforge.net]

      Finally, there's even a group dedicated to a fully Open Source phone. Namely, the Silicon Valley Homebrew Mobile Phone Club. They are having a meeting tomorrow night in San Francisco. Here's a link to their mailing list archives:

      http://telefono.revejo.org/pipermail/svhmpc_telefo no.revejo.org/ [revejo.org]

      Check out the list, and the information on various associated websites. There's really a groundswell building in this area. And those Carriers which close things off are going to miss an opportunity that their competitors are actively interested in.

      • by gregorio (520049)
        Finally, the lockdown on GSM transceivers is a bit silly. The interface is extremely simple; it's a variation of the old Hayes Modem interface. I kid you not. "ATDT....".
        That's just an emulated modem created by the GSM chipset. The GSM network doesn't work like that.
        • by btarval (874919)
          It's a bit more than just a modem, as it allows for voice transmissions, not just data. Classical modems didn't.

          If, by "the GSM network" you're referring to the radio-wave transmissions, yes, you are correct. I thought it was clear from the context that I am referring to the user-level interface to the transceiver module.

          Or, to make it more clear, I'm referring to the proprietary drivers that are on this phone. My point is that it doesn't have to be this way, and this company missed an opportunity to pr

    • by iabervon (1971)
      That's why they're using a closed GSM module. It's like using a cell modem with your laptop, except that it's internal. The carrier doesn't care what you say to your cell modem, because the device is certified to behave appropriately regardless. And the GSM modules are high volume, because a wide variety of applications use them, and the modules don't get new versions all the time to add new UI bells and whistles.

      So you're right that part of the device is locked down and tamper-proof, but it's running on an
    • Yes, vendors will try to lock you in, but when they can't, they'd rather have your business than not.

      For example, I have a Treo 650. I could have gotten the newer Treo 700, but that only comes in Sprint and Verizon models, requiring that I choose which vendor into which I lock myself. The 650, on the other hand, has a "generic" version where I can choose my own vendor, so I chose T-mobile.

      Now, T-mobile generally doesn't sell Treos. If you go to a T-mobile store and ask for one, they'll ask you to get a W
  • Why not make a 100$ one that simply, lets me make phone calls, and not much else? I don't care if the are Wifi. Or Wii. Im 34, and I'm over that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by snarkth (1002832)
      I assume you are living in the US.

      Buy a tracfone. $29.xx at Walmart, 250 minutes for fifty bucks (or better if you want to spend more). Unless you need something that'll let you talk to your girlfriend for fourteen hours at a time, they are a pretty good deal. I recently carried mine on a trip across NW South Dakota and had a tower for just about the whole trip. No credit check, they pretty much just work, although adding minutes can be a pain sometimes, their tech support has been pretty good in m
    • by burns210 (572621)
      How about the Motofone [motorola.com]? No linux, but exactly what you want. Cheap, reliable and has an e-ink display to boot.
  • So if it's an open phone... Does it come "Locked"?
  • OpenMoko does not yet return results on Google.

    Yahoo shows 2 results for OpenMoko.

    The $350 price tag is looking a lot better than the $600 tag attached to a similar Linux phone from D-Link.
  • two points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hakubi_Washu (594267) <robert...kosten@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:23PM (#16761623) Homepage
    1. From TFA: Everything barring a few small drivers is GPL'ed.
      This is a joke, right? The drivers are probably the most important part of any piece of hardware, so calling this thing "open" but keeping drivers proprietary is ridiculous.
    2. From the site: FIC recommends Windows(r) XP
      Yeah, and I am to buy a Linux product from you? Dream on...
    • by IvanCruz (316505)
      From the site: FIC recommends Windows(r) XP
      Yeah, and I am to buy a Linux product from you? Dream on...

      HP recommends Win XP, DELL recommends Win XP and even IBM recommends Win XP, so, what is your point?
      • HP recommends Win XP, DELL recommends Win XP and even IBM recommends Win XP, so, what is your point?
        What makes you think I own any hardware produced by any of them?
        • by cos(0) (455098)
          I think the grandparent's point is that no matter whose hardware you own, the manufacturer will recommend Windows XP, regardless of how well they support Linux.
          • I think the grandparent's point is that no matter whose hardware you own, the manufacturer will recommend Windows XP, regardless of how well they support Linux.
            Well, AMD isn't (neither on their frontpage, nor does their search turn up anything. Maybe they still do, but not as blatantly as a company trying to sell a Linux phone, don't you agree?), same goes for ASUS, etc.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by scott_karana (841914)
      It's the radio and the GPS which are closed, but that's for Federal reasons; you can't have people broadcasting willy-nilly these days, and I know that there are some GPS restrictions. The interfaces to the drivers are perfectly usable. RTFA, and do some research.
      • It's the radio and the GPS which are closed, but that's for Federal reasons; you can't have people broadcasting willy-nilly these days, and I know that there are some GPS restrictions. The interfaces to the drivers are perfectly usable. RTFA, and do some research.
        I RTFA and I did "some research" before posting, thank you. That doesn't change the fact that the "completely open" system isn't "completely open". If it's not possible to provide free software solutions for your hardware then don't include said
    • by Pastis (145655)
      If you look at it from a black or white points of you, yes it's a joke.

      But life ain't like that. This thing looks almost white, and if Harald Welte (who is/was part of the project) thinks it's good enough, then I might be inclined to believe him.

      http://gnumonks.org/~laforge/weblog/2006/11/08#200 61108-my_no_longer_secret_project [gnumonks.org]
      • From that blog "Yes, it's not the perfect phone. It runs a proprietary GSM stack on a separate processor. There are some minor, self-contained proprietary bits on the back end side in userspace."
        I might have a different threshold than he does before calling something "open"...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GooberToo (74388)
      According to your crazy logic, no one is able to run OpenGL apps on Linux with NVIDIA hardware because the drivers are closed source. If that's not what you mean, then your comment is completely without value. If that is what you mean, then you completely misunderstand. So long as the interface is available and documented (html, text, or simply header files), interfacing to a proprietary driver is not a problem at all. Just like writing OpenGL applications which run on NVIDIA's proprietary graphics driv
      • Thanks for calling me crazy. I do in fact think binary drivers are a bad idea (though I never said they couldn't be used!).
  • by fortinbras47 (457756) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:27PM (#16761667)
    if(!at_home && distance(get_current_location(), get_house_location()) lessthan FIFTYYARDS) ) {
    FILE* mail = openMailStream(girlfriend@house.com, "Hi honey!");
    fprintf(mail, "I'm home!\n");
    closeMailStream(mail);
    at_home = true;
    }
  • More details (Score:5, Informative)

    by IvanCruz (316505) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:35PM (#16761763) Homepage
    ... can be found on Linux Devices: http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS2986976174.html [linuxdevices.com] and also http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS7056478804.html [linuxdevices.com]
  • WTF (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sabit666 (457634)
    When is this ITSATRAP shit going to end?
  • But, for the record, this was indeed tagged 'itsnotatrap' before 'itsatrap'.

    Your efforts at countering today's 'itsatrap' initiative, while numerically significant, aren't really helping.
  • No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.
  • Sure it might be open, but you think there'd be some way to get more than just GPRS on these kind of phones? It's not as if GPRS is the only game in town for data, there's certainly no credible reason why it's omitted on these phones
    • I second that. GPRS data is cruel and unusual punishment. EDGE isn't broadband by any measure, but it IS fast enough to be tolerable. It makes me sick to think that the TrollTech GreenPhone gave up EDGE to use the slightly-cheaper GPRS-only chipset and shave a whopping $5 or so off the manufacturing cost of a phone meant to sell for $500+.

      And no gamepad? Jesus Christ, would it *really* kill phone manufacturers to just bite the bullet and give us a decent analog (hell, even digital) gamepad for once? It migh
  • Does it have Wifi? I think Wifi is really important, because while at a hotspot, like in your home, you could route your voice calls over VoIP. That would make it so much cheaper, and could be a killer app for Joe Average. I really think we ought to do this.

    That said, I'll stand in line to get one of these, if the hardware is a bit rough. I'm sick and tired of my Sony Ericsson K700i, I've had it less than a year, and it is just totally borked allready. It is important that a phone can take a bit of beating.
  • Yeah, but.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Flopy (926705)
    Does it run Linux?
  • The Motorola A780 (about 2 years old) has integrated GPS and runs the Linux Kernel and a heavy Linux filesystem. Its got the camera/mp3 player/GPRS-EDGE/320x240 color screen/Blue Tooth/microSD slot/USB blah blah blah... Its really cool. I finally got one, but only the European version has the integrated GPS. So I had to order it through ebay.co.uk and find someone willing to ship to the US. It even came with CoPilot preinstalled so you can really use the GPS functionality.

    Why it isn't for sale in the U
  • Finally someone who's not calling me a dumb-ass first thing in the morning over this issue :-) I agree, it's a step in the right direction, though not a very big one (the drivers are what's most important to a cellphone, so that's why I find it a joke in this case). And when the words "completely open" are involved I naturally argue semantics, because that's all it is :-)

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