Openmoko's downfall (was changing IMEI)

Michael Spacefalcon msokolov at ivan.Harhan.ORG
Thu Feb 20 20:38:35 CET 2014

openmoko at (Christoph Pulster) wrote:

> I remember adverts of Openmoko in capitals "100% FREE mobile".
> that this was a false promise comes evident afterwards.

I wonder how many people forked over their $$$ for those expensive
Openmoko phones primarily in the hope that the bloody NDA would get
broken by someone in a year or two, and were utterly disappointed when
that didn't happen.  I am convinced that the number is quite large,
and the only thing that made me stand out is that I *voiced* this
sentiment openly, without beating around the bush.

I am also convinced that the *real* reason why "Openmoko = failure" in
the general public's perception is precisely because of that NDA and
no one having broken it during the years when it mattered the most.

The Freerunner became truly free only on 2013-10-13, some 5y (or is it
6y?) after its introduction and 4y after cessation of production, at
exactly 04:08:54 CEST, the date of this announcement:

Prior to that announcement, i.e., at 04:08:53 CEST and for the 6y of
Om community history prior to that, the Unfree-runner was a proprietary
phone no different from anything out of Motorola, Samsung or Apple.

But I'm afraid that the liberation came a little too late: I keep
hearing the number "15k units made and sold" being tossed around, but
of those 15k units, after we subtract those which were cannibalized
for plastic parts to stuff nasty Qualcomm modems into and those which
got repurposed for some non-telephony uses, I suspect that the
remaining ones are probably buried some place deep, forgotten by their
owners who gave up on them when a few years passed after Om's
disbanding, and yet no free GSM firmware emerged.

Oh, and to add a little feminine perspective on the matter, when I
told the Openmoko story ("100% FREE mobile phone! - oh, oops, no, not
the cellphone part") to my lady, her reaction was "it would be like me
saying I am only half-pregnant!"

I would argue that Om's biggest mistake, the one that led to their
downfall, was the silly "half-pregnant" attempt to do it legally.  It
should have been done as a 100% explicitly-illegal black market
operation instead.  Hiring law-abiding Germans to run the show was the
#1 mistake - the operation should have been run by the Chinese/Taiwanese
instead.  Contrary to what has been said, they did NOT "have" to sign
the NDAs as they did - surely if the show were run by Chinese/Taiwanese
without a single German on staff, they could have simply used the warez
floating around that giant country.  (As just one data point, the
TSM30 source - *full source* - was published in 2004, at least 2y
before Om came onto the scene.)  The Calypso etc chips are easily
sourceable on the grey market: some "legit" company buys 100k chipsets
from TI, makes 90k phones, the remaining 10k chipsets sell on the grey
market w/o unnecessary questions.  The physical production of phones
should have been done in some unmarked basement without any "legit"
company attached, so there would be no one to sue, and the distribution
(sales) should have been done through the same channels used to market
and sell alternative medicine products like cocaine and heroin.

But oh well, history is what it is.

> the knowledge about NDA restrictions of GSM components is still today  
> only in some geek's mind.

Huh?  I'm afraid I don't follow what you are saying here.  The GSM
mini-Wikileaks collection at <> now has
*everything* related to Calypso and other related chipsets from TI,
probably more than Om ever had.  The documentation for the actual
hardware components has been on my FTP site since the fall of 2011
(downloaded from where it had been available to those who can
navigate in Chinese for much longer), and we now have TI's TCS211 fw
deliverable semi-src no different from the one Om had, if we make the
reasonable assumption that all of TI's chipset customers got identical
or near-identical fw starting point deliverables.

We even have an equivalent TI deliverable (hw docs + fw semi-src) for
their LoCosto chipset (one of Calypso's successors), and while I have
no desire to use LoCosto instead of Calypso (LoCosto has some freedom-
reducing "improvements"), the LoCosto semi-src is something like 95%
real C source (unlike the TCS211/Calypso/Leonardo one on which the
current leo2moko port is based), hence I plan on using chunks of code
from the LoCosto source to replace some of the binary-only libs in the
TCS211 version.

So the liberation part of the FreeCalypso project is now 100% done;
what remains now is the (quite hard) purely technical work of
reintegrating all of the pieces back together to build the fw using
gcc without any Weendoze tools or blobs.

> As long as there are big players like government and companys, a 100%  
> open mobile will never happen. Never.

Of course it will never happen legally, but so what?  We can build it
illegally instead.  Building an explicitly-illegal phone (as in
physical hardware) is the ultimate goal of the FreeCalypso project,
and when I do build this hw, it will be sold only via online black
market sites: BMR, new Silk Road, or whatever happens to be the
preferred similar site du jour.  Just imagine the convenience of
having everything in one place: you put a totally free phone (one
explicitly designed to be as illegal as possible, the joy of
lawbreaking), some alternative medicines and an AK47 to defend
yourself with in your shopping basket, then proceed to checkout.  Of
course only BTC accepted for payment, the official currency of black
markets worldwide.  Shipping to anywhere in the world, including all
of the "bad" countries.

Hasta la Victoria, Siempre!

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