[Arm-netbook] The Unplanned Obsolescence of the First Fairphone Device « Paul Boddie's Free Software-related blog

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton lkcl at lkcl.net
Fri Jan 9 22:11:31 GMT 2015

On Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 5:54 PM, Paul Boddie <paul at boddie.org.uk> wrote:
> Joining the discussion late and breaking the threading... ;-)

 join the looong club, it's not entirely um without precedent here ...

> P.S. I just realised that this could have been another complete article. Sorry
> to make it a long message for this list! :-)

 we liike long messages :)

> P.P.S. For those who haven't read it yet, Bunnie's MediaTek reverse-
> engineering article [4] below is long but interesting reading. You've got to
> admire Bunnie's determination!

 yehhhh, been there - at some point you just have to take a step back
and ask yourself, "is this *really* worth it?  what could i better
achieve - what goal could i set - that has a higher bang-per-buck
ratio for my effort-to-result" and you start to advocate the same
things as libv, such as "for goodness sake stay away from powervr".

 no the problem with mediatek is that they are actually *really low
cost*.  price-wise they truly have the market.

 and in the phone market, it is made even worse by the fact that FCC
certification is *directly* incompatible with the goals of the FSF for
these "hybrid" SoCs, where there is access to the GSM/3G/LTE radio
from the memory of the main SoC.  remember: each variant of the
firmware-hardware combination requires re-certification.  that's $USD
50,000 *each time you upgrade the OS!*.

back in 2004 someone reverse-engineered one of the low-cost HTC
smartphones which has a hybrid SoC with its GSM/3G baseband sharing
the same memory as the SoC.  it was discovered that you could change
the power output of the GSM Transmitter simply by changing the
contents of a memory address.  from WinCE!  it wasn't even protected,
so even a standard WinCE application or virus could do it!  and that's
just damn dangerous.... *but* it's low-cost.

so for FSF Endorsebility you need to have a *separate* 3G/GSM/LTE
chipset - entirely separate - which means it now needs USB2
connectivity (to the main SoC), but the firmware is complex these days
(AT command set for a start) so you need a general-purpose SoC *in the
Radio Chipset*, and you also need quite a bit of RAM (separate RAM
ICs), *and* you need NAND/NOR Flash to store the firmware: all that
means extra cost.

so you now have an additional $USD 12 for a GSM/EDGE phone and an
additional $USD 30 or so for a 3G one in the BOM if you want to go the
properly ethical upgradeable route, because you can, if you do that,
use any general-purpose SoC available on the market: allwinner, TI,
Freescale - anything.


> [1] http://blogs.fsfe.org/pboddie/?p=168
> [2] http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/08/nokia-ceo-stephen-elop-rallies-troops-
> in-brutally-honest-burnin/
> [3] http://blogs.fsfe.org/pboddie/?p=835
> [4] http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4297
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