[gta02-core] OT: N900

Werner Almesberger werner at openmoko.org
Sat Aug 22 11:44:49 CEST 2009

Christopher Friedt wrote:
> I would just as quickly assume that the gsm firmware is binary-only.

Yup, me too. I don't think anyone is in a hurry to liberate their
GSM firmware. I also don't know when the relevant patents expire.
GSM per se is old but some things are fairly recent, e.g., GPRS
was introduced in 1997, so that's still tainted technology.

> The 3D is definitely binary, but binary is better than nothing.

Binary is evil, particularly when it reaches into the kernel. For
a kernel developer, the presence of binary kernel modules basically
means that you can't usefully work on that system.

> TI has a pretty decent track-record for playing well with the Open
> Source community, so support for the binary-only drivers

That doesn't help. How are you supposed to develop and test those
changes that may affect their binary interfaces if you can't
rebuild all the code ? It's a chicken and egg problem.

But usually it's not even you who triggers the problems. They may
already exist in the gazillion of changes that are in the latest
kernel. All you want to do is pull the latest kernel and build it,
so that you can work on the current codebase. But now that upsets
your binary modules. Oops, game over.

The only sensible approach is to simply ignore all functionality
that requires closed-source kernel drivers. (User space drivers tend
to be less of a problem, but if they're too familiar with kernel
internals, they can also become troublesome.)

The drawback of this is of course that you still get to pay for it,
i.e., R&D, material and manufacturing, other technical disadvantages
(maybe higher power consumption, maybe the lack of an
open-and-better-than-nothing engine), royalties the manufacturer has
to pay, and you may even end up having to pay some royalties yourself.

> I guess since it's not one of the 'next-gen' SoC's with integrated
> baseband, that there would be the baseband processor, RF modem,  and
> whatever other components they need.

Hmm, they were referring to the OMAP per se, comparing it to some
chips from the Samsung 24xx family. But agreed, without further
details, this is all hearsay.

- Werner

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