Android on Freerunner from Koolu...

Brian Code brian.code at
Mon Dec 1 18:54:29 CET 2008

Greetings all,

I just wanted to give a quick update on the status of Android on the
Freerunner as supported by Koolu. Currently we are looking at licensing
issues with respect to the global market with particular reference to the
media codecs included in Android, but are still making great progress on an
image for distribution. Ironically, this puts us in a situation where it
will be easier for us to release actual source code, build tools and
instructions, before actual binary images. We will be announcing everything
tomorrow from a telecommunications conference in Brazil.

In the last two years of working with Koolu, I have had the opportunity of
being in direct tutelage of Jon "Maddog" Hall, which has helped shape my
views on open source. With his permission, I am posting the message below on
his behalf to insure that it made it to the community list.

Best regards,
Brian Code

Greetings to the list,

First of all, I might say the the role of "Chief Advocate" for Openmoko was
the idea of the conference organizers, not me.  I was happy to be either the
CTO of Koolu or the Executive Director of Linux International, but since I
was at the conference at the request of Openmoko, and since I was on a panel
representing the "openness" of their philosophy, the organizers wanted a
title that reflected that...

Secondly, Koolu does "work" with Openmoko in many ways, so I did not
"indicate" that we were working together.  We are working together.

Third, I am an "open source advocate", actually leaning toward "Free
Software".  But I am also a pragmatist, and there are some times when you
have to tread lightly with "openness" until you  find out what is going on.

So a short time ago Google released a massive amount of code called
"Android".  Since Koolu was not part of the Open Handset Alliance we could
only look at it from the outside like a lot of other people.  Recently an
issue was brought up regarding patent royalties due on various codecs inside
of the code.  Even though the code itself is under the Apache license, in
various jursidictions royalties have to be paid on the distribution of that
code due to patents that are infringed.

Sometimes a lot of these royalties are bunded with the hardware, so software
people do not really have to recognize them.

Some distributions of Linux get around this by writing code that allows for
these royalty-bearing segments to be dynamically linked separately from a
code build.  Ubuntu and Debian both do this
as distributions.

Unfortunately we found that while the royalty bearing code for Android was
in a separate source code directory, the code could not be built without
that royalty bearing code being included in the binaries.

This created the issue of Openmoko removing the binaries from their server.
In my opinion they did the right thing.  Rather than jeoprodise Android,
Openmoko and Google, they temporarily removed the offending code.  I say
"temporarily" because I feel that once the issue is completely understood
there will be a work-around that will allow open source developers to move

In the meantime our team of programmers is working on the issue.  We are
talking with the companies that originally wrote the code trying to
understand the exact use of it, and we are talking with the licensing
agencies to understand the implications.  I am encouraging the company that
first introduced the multimedia codecs to work with the Open Handset
Alliance to identify these areas and other potentially royalty-bearing areas
that might affect Android, and to make them more visible, so people can
understand and deal with them.

I can not speak entirely for the company of Koolu.  While I am the CTO, I am
not a major stockholder nor a director of the company.  I can tell you that
Andrew Greig, the CEO and Brian Code, the Technical Director both know,
understand and appreciate Open Source.  As far as I know it is the intention
of Koolu to contribute back the changes that we make to the Android code to
the community.  Koolu understands the leverage that is inherent in Open

Recently we made some announcements of timeframes for putting the code up on
the web.  Those were formulated before we knew about this royalty "issue",
but our intent is to proceed as fast as possible to meet those goals.

I hope this answers people's questions and issues around this.

Warmest regards,

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