Reverse or Creation?

Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at
Thu Mar 6 09:43:39 UTC 2014


Am 06.03.2014 um 08:48 schrieb dimonik, dimonik:

> Thus, currently we have a lot of weak points:
> 1) Boot loader
> 2) Baseband processor
> 3) BLOB drivers
> all this remains out of our control on every device we use!
> Than, let me ask - wouldn't it be better to design a NEW system from scratch instead of spending years on reverse-engineering of what manufacturers are selling?
> There are a cool stuff to work with, like DE2-115 development board, with which one may design & debug some OpenRISC system + some existing OS.
> And there is no real need in BIG SW like Linux, look at Oberon Project ( - it is well designed, has a lot of features and very minimal & compact.
> Personally i chose not to spend time on reverse stuff. Concentrated all my power on research for new design.

We did face the same issue many yers ago. between 2000 and 2006 it was common practice to take commercial systems (PDAs, Sharp Zaurus, XDAs etc.) and port OpenZaurus or other Linux systems to them. XDA-developers also has its origins there.

After a while it turned out that it is a permanent struggle for becoming feature complete, before the original device is no longer available. So the usefulness for mankind is questionable.

Therefore in 2006 the Openmoko initiative was started. The aim was to develop a completely open platform where free and open software runs from the scratch. In 2008 they had to stop operations because of the economical downturn. In 2010 we presented the GTA04 device, an upgrade. And in 2013 the Neo900 project was born out of the GTA04 activities. And the new Pyra-handheld also follows this philosophy and origins.

All these projects have in common that they aim at a free and open platform and provide good documentation as far as possible.

We of course still face limits - and that has not changed since 2006. It is sometimes a compromise to choose a chip (CPU) that has its max. performance only with BLOB drivers and NDAs or alternatively choose a very outdated system (lacking behind standards by years and risking that chips go to end of life over night). 

This situation is very common is for WiFi and 3D acceleration and has not really changed over the years. For UMTS there is only one way: use M2M modules that have an USB/AT command interface. Then you don't need BLOBs at all.

All this is the reason why we also work to port Replicant to the GTA04 platform.


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