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Fairphone and Indiephone updates

Added by George T over 5 years ago

I attended last Friday's Indietech summit https://ind.ie/summit/ in Brighton/UK, where I had the chance to have a brief talk with Olivier Hebert the Fairphone CTO on the state of Replicant OS support.

Again this was only a brief chat but I was able to get the following:
- Fairphone(or at least the CTO) does not seem to share the same concern as Replicant with regards to having the modem and processor separate and sees it as a trivial problem if a problem at all. His rationale was that if someone wants to access the processor he can do so directly via the WiFi connection anyway without going through the modem. Admittedly my own understanding of smartphone engineering is pretty much limited so I did not press him further on this, although I kept on thinking afterwards that surely the way to get any connection from the outside must be done through the modem unless I am missing something.

- When I asked whether Replicant support is in the plans for a future date, he replied with a definite yes and that the next iteration of Fairphone is coming out next summer. It looks like Fairphone would really like to have Replicant support but again they do not seem to understand why the modem/security issue is important.

- On a separate development, a new phone seems to be in the works called IndiePhone http://indiephone.eu/faq , that is also in talks with Fairphone on collaborating together; details are very vague at the moment and it will start crowdfunding at some point in late October/early November. The target is to have an "open" and "user data respecting" smartphone that is "beautifully designed", running on IndieOS (no details whether it's going to be a new OS along with the phone or it'll be based off on something existing).


Replies (5)

RE: Fairphone and Indiephone updates - Added by Paul Kocialkowski over 5 years ago

His rationale was that if someone wants to access the processor he can do so directly via the WiFi connection anyway without going through the modem.

That's invalid. If you run fully free software on the CPU, why would the Wi-Fi be compromised (unless from its firmware, but it's orders of magnitudes smaller and less likely to be remotely modified than the modem). The modem still is the easiest way to get in on a phone.

Thanks for bringing up this topic with him! It feels like they don't really put the emphasis on security (but they seem to understand the stakes of free software).

Admittedly my own understanding of smartphone engineering is pretty much limited so I did not press him further on this, although I kept on thinking afterwards that surely the way to get any connection from the outside must be done through the modem unless I am missing something.

You're perfectly right.

When I asked whether Replicant support is in the plans for a future date, he replied with a definite yes and that the next iteration of Fairphone is coming out next summer. It looks like Fairphone would really like to have Replicant support but again they do not seem to understand why the modem/security issue is important.

I'm aware people asked Fairphone to port Replicant to their device and people asked as well on our side.
The truth is that it's a very bad device for privacy and free software, due to it using the Mediatek platform, so I don't feel like working on it for now. There is still no CyanogenMod port at all so the work would be quite consequent anyway. Bottom line is that I prefer to work on other devices that are better for privacy and security, such as phones (with good modem isolation) or Wi-Fi-only tablets with free bootloaders.

On a separate development, a new phone seems to be in the works called IndiePhone http://indiephone.eu/faq , that is also in talks with Fairphone on collaborating together; details are very vague at the moment and it will start crowdfunding at some point in late October/early November. The target is to have an "open" and "user data respecting" smartphone that is "beautifully designed", running on IndieOS (no details whether it's going to be a new OS along with the phone or it'll be based off on something existing).

I started to hear about this Indiephone and it looks quite good at first sight. I didn't look up the details about it yet (if any are available) but RMS put me in touch with some of the people behind it, so we'll start discussions about free software and privacy regarding this new device.

Thanks for the status report! It's so great to have community members such as you being able to attend conferences when we can't and bring back the relevant info about what's going on. It's really helpful!

RE: Fairphone and Indiephone updates - Added by George T over 5 years ago

hey, I'm glad to have been of help.

With regards to the Indiephone and the overall Ind.ie movement, it was a mixed bag for me with both positives and negatives. While on one hand it is certainly very good to have a core objective of user/personal data privacy, and to see FSF and EFF attend the conference and giving their feedback among other very interesting contributors, I felt uneasy with the total lack of critisism against Apple by Ind.ie(Aral Balkan who runs the project used to primarily work on Apple products/tech) while critism was heavy against FB, MS and especially against Google(EFF raised this point as well).

Also there was a lot of talk from Aral on being 'realistic' and 'pragmatic' with regards to how to get the user numbers/popularity in, which made me a bit uneasy and reminded me of 1996/7's 'Open Source' beginning of drifting away from Free Software; and judging from the talk between Aral and RMS, my impression was that he is coming from an Open Source 'practical background' and not Free Software, having the distinction between the 2 blurred if existent at all.

I am planning to send a detailed feedback to him when I have the time, and I hope I am wrong about the negative parts; after all its a new initiative trying to make its first steps.

gts

RE: Fairphone and Indiephone updates - Added by Paul Kocialkowski over 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing your impressions. I didn't write to Aral yet even though RMS put me in touch with him after I asked RMS if he remembered anything interesting from that conference (sadly, he told me he didn't have time to really learn details about the indiephone and just gave his talk). Let me know if anything interesting pops out so that I can discuss further details with Aral. In the meantime, I doubt it's going to be as good as Goldelico and the OpenPhoenux community (which despite its name, is really about free software), but we might still be able to get something interesting out of the Indiephone.

RE: Fairphone and Indiephone updates - Added by Aral Balkan over 5 years ago

Hey folks,

First off, sorry for the late reply; I only just stumbled on this thread.

A couple of points:

  • I never worked at Apple although I am a designer, yes :)
  • The reason I choose not to focus on Apple is because Apple’s business model is still different to Google’s. Where Apple still primarily sells products at a price that makes them happy, Google’s business model is based squarely on monetising peoples’ data. Yes, they’re both closed silos and that’s bad. But I choose to spend my limited energies concentrating on educating the public about the greater of the two evils (as I see it).
  • The reason I asked RMS to the summit was specifically because we are closer to Free Software than we are to Open Source. RMS was personally responsible for opening my eyes to a number of the reasons why this is the case. Regardless, we are not Free Software or Open Source because we are a movement set up in 2014 to deal with the problems of 2014 (surveillance) not a movement set up 30 years ago or 20 years ago respectively. That said, I have the utmost respect for the FSF and FOSS in general. We are simply the next iteration — an iteration that needs to be able to create consumer products that can compete on user experience. The battle for our fundamental freedoms and democracy is being played out in the consumer market and we need organisational structures that can deal with the challenge of creating beautiful consumer alternatives that do not spy on people.

Hope that gives you a little bit of background on where we are coming from. My recent RSA talk should hopefully shed further light on my motivations and goals: http://thelink.is/free-is-a-lie

Looking forward to playing with Replicant soon and hopefully to having your support as we release more details of exactly what it is we are working on :)

(In the meanwhile, please do keep an eye on https://ind.ie) :)

Here’s to freedom! :)

RE: Fairphone and Indiephone updates - Added by George T over 5 years ago

Hi Aral,

first I have to give an apology for wrongly stating you used to be an Apple employee (which I have now amended in the previous post), I was fairly certain you mentioned so during one of your interventions in the summit but I stand corrected by your feedback here.

Having said the above, I am not sure the greater of two evils approach works(i.e. better fight off Google than Apple) as even if one is to accept a proposition that Google is a bigger problem than Apple:

- the lesser of two evils still doesn't make the lesser evil right, it shouldn't serve as a reason to make 0 mentions of it, especially in an initiative of this type(i.e. you're setting up and promoting a new freedom respecting smartphone device in the market and make no mention of iPhone in the summit but give plenty of heat towards the other major player?), while at the same time there was mentioning of Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook complementary to the heavy Google critisism.

- the problem is not really Company X(e.g. Google) but the policies followed(business model). So if you want to talk about the lesser of two evils, it should not be about Company X vs Company Y, but rather about Practice X vs Practice Y.

- while I am not set on defending Google, and I certainly agree there are things with them to be greatly concerned about I got to state the obvious; once you go Apple, you go all the way in, on the device level, wait for the approved version to be able to do this and that, no way out; with Android OS you have a small amount of freedom of movement that lets you swing in other ways should you want to, in fact one of these ways is how Replicant was made possible. Heck, this is how Fairphone has an OS to run on, and I would be very surprised(pleasantly if a new free software friendly OS) if the OS of the Indiephone you are working on won't be based off an Android fork.

You say that you have the utmost respect for FSF and FOSS but that you are not Free Software, but what does this mean? To me it sounds like you want to take the community to back you up but will not necessarily commit on the free software principles. Instead the new, improved alternative is what? Great UX design to get the user numbers in and data ownership? Is this really an alternative solution? I am all for great UX and great design, absolutely, but not at the expense of overlooking the more crucial aspects first(notably the 4 freedoms). And what good is data ownership if you can't control how the software is using your data? In fact how would you even really know you own/control your own data if you don't use free software?

Yes the free software movement was set up 30something years ago as you mention, but this does not make it antiquated. Given that we live in the Snowden era it makes it prophetic; if you want to be the next iteration as you mention, you can only build on top of free software, not replace it or bypass it.

Btw as ind.ie places a lot of attention on UX, if there is to be a further summit it would be nice to also see some GNOME people invited (probably not Icaza) for one rather than just Ubuntu from the GNU/Linux world, or at least offer some credit to them, as they are the ones who went to great effort in the late 90s and ever since, to create a beautiful interface alternative that is also free software(i.e. offering a free software alternative to KDE that already existed at the time and used to depend on non free software licenced libraries, and was also forced later on to move on to a free software licence given Gnome's success).

gts

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