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blosxom


Contact/Impressum

       
Sat, 30 Oct 2010
u-boot + Linux kernel port to Mediatek MT6235 baseband processor under way

I am really excited about some recent work by Marcin on starting a u-boot and Linux kernel port to the Mediatek MT6235 baseband processor.

Among GSM baseband processors, the MT6235 is a very unusual device. Unlike classic GSM baseband chips, it is not based on an MMU-less ARM7TDMI/ARM7EJS but on an ARM926EJS core. This is a full-blown ARMv5 core on which a standard Linux kernel could run.

The reason for the MT6235 to contain such an 'advanced' ARM core is simple: Mediatek is producing chipsets and reference designs for very inexpensive but feature-rich phones. Instead of going to a full-blown (and expensive) smart-phone design with separate ARM cores for the baseband and application processor, they simply make the base-band processor a bit stronger than needed for the GSM stack, and run the entire rich UI on the same cpu, including TCP/IP stack, touch-screen, web browser, e-mail client, H.264 playback / camera recording, etc.

The original firmware on the Mediatek chipsets is a Nucleus-kernel based software stack which is completely proprietary.

Now the mid-term vision for us is to have a Linux port to the MT6235, and run the OsmocomBB Layer1 (and possibly Layer2) code inside the kernel, while the Layer3 and a user interface program is running as application programs in userspace.

This would allow us to do a very rich user interface (imagine network monitoring modes, protocol tracing, manual cell selection, etc.) while still having to care only about one processor in the system. Furthermore, there are millions of MT6235 based devices, so there will be no shortage of inexpensive hardware to run this code on.

The MT6235 also has a built-in SD/MMC controller (for storing e.g. protocol traces that you take from the GSM network) and it has a fast, dual-mode USB2 high-speed USB controller for connecting it with a PC

Sure, porting our Layer1 to a completely different baseband chipset will be a lot of work, and I don't really have any idea how long it will take us. But I think the vision of such a powerful device (and finally bringing OsmocomBB and the Linux kernel together) should prove a very attractive motivational factor.

This also means: Even if you have no clue about the GSM protocols, you can now start to contribute to OsmocomBB: A lot of Linux kernel drivers for e.g. SD/MMC, USB, frame-buffer, SPI, I2C, PWM and other integrated controllers of the MT6235 need to be written.

Like all Mediatek data sheets, the MT6235 data sheet describing all those peripherals can be found on various places on the Web, including (but not limited to) Chinese developer forums.

It also seems there is at least one MT6235 based phone where JTAG and serial console have been identified (Sciphone Dream G2), which should make debugging and bootstrapping convenient.

[ /gsm/osmocom-bb | permanent link ]

Wed, 27 Oct 2010
The ELCE 2010 keynote by Ari Rauch (Texas Instruments / OMAP)

I've just attended the ELCE 2010 keynote by Ari Rauch, where he was talking about how much TI OMAP is committed to Linux. This doesn't really come as a big surprise to me. The OMAP SoCs are used mostly as Application Processors for smart phones. As TI is not a supplier of APs for Apple, Symbian and Windows Mobile are dead, this really only leaves Linux-based operating systems like Android, Meego, LiMo & co.

One of his main points was we have to be pragmatic, i.e. the customer requirements for performance etc. are key. If there is an open way to fulfill them: fine. If not: fine, too.

The only real question that was asked after the keynote was the usual question of whether there will be any Free/Open graphics drivers for the Imagination GPU thats inside their OMAP3/OMAP4 SoCs. I already predicted the response: We have to be pragmatic about it. TI is trying to convince Imagination to open up, but they are afraid of doing so and don't see what this would gain them.

He further added the statement if there is a competitive more open GPU, they will look into using it.

The other bad taste I got from this keynote is the frequent mention of the industry embracing innovation provided by the FOSS community. Embracing was the very term that Microsoft always used when they started to create their custom versions/dialects of HTML, Kerberos and other standards.

The think that seemed to be missing is any awareness for the sharing attitude: I.e. the industry using the innovations that the community creates, but giving back an equal amount, or at least opening up in response. This cannot be a one-way road where the industry simply taps into the creative potential of the community, to create closed products and profit from stuff they have simply scraped off the community backyard.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

ST-Ericsson glues gstreamer into Android - and makes it proprietary

It is always surprising what kind of things the industry is coming up with ;)

Here at ELCE, ST-Ericsson has just presented how they replaced OpenCore with gstreamer as the supplier/provider of multimedia encoding/decoding to the Android software stack.

This is definitely an interesting technical solution - probably one that makes sense if you have existing gstreamer modules/drivers.

What really makes me wonder though, is their licensing. To make sure only ST-Ericsson customers can use it, they have implemented a glue layer library that ties into android, and this library is binary-only licensed and distributed under terms that permit to use it together with their hardware.

Isn't it strange? Now the Android software stack is Free Software, and gstreamer is Free Software. But ST-Ericsson needs to put some proprietary blob in the middle. Of course, legally they are allowed to do it: Android is Apache-style licensed and gstreamer is LGPL. But from a moral/ethical/technical point of view, it still is blasphemy to me.

UPDATE: The license is actually a 'standard' proprietary license. There seem to be technical reasons that tie this code to the specific SoC of ST-Ericsson. Nonetheless, I keep my original criticism: It has a bad aftertaste if you combine two FOSS programs by a proprietary layer in between

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Tue, 26 Oct 2010
GPL compliance workshop on December 2nd in Taipei, Taiwan

The OSSF at Academia Sinica in Taiwan has kindly organized a full-day GPL compliance workshop on December 2nd in Taipei, Taiwan.

Armijn Hemel and myself will be presenting on a variety of topics regarding GPL compliance, both from an administrative/organizational as well as a technical compliance engineering point of view.

I think this is an excellent opportunity to get in touch with product managers and engineers in Taiwan's computing and particularly embedded industry. We definitely still need more awareness in that industry, as the majority of the products in a variety of IT markets are predominantly designed in Taiwan.

So the better the know-how is there, the less GPL violations we will find further down the supply chain and finally in the retail-stores around the world.

Many thanks to the OSSF at Academia Sinica, and specifically Florence Ko and Lucien Lin for making this workshop possible [and giving me a reason to come to Taipei again ;) ]

[ /linux/gpl-violations | permanent link ]

Sun, 17 Oct 2010
The 7th netfilter workshop is coming up

The 7th Netfilter Workshop is just coming up next week in Seville, Spain. Once again it will be hosted at the ETS Ingeneria Informatica of the University of Seville.

I'd like to personally thank Pablo Neira for organizing and hosting the event again in Seville.

As most readers of this blog will know, my current relationship to netfilter/iptables is somewhat dormant. I haven't been writing any code for probably something like five years ago, when I was seriously distracted with stuff like OpenPCD, OpenPICC, OpenBeacon and later the Openmoko project.

Nonetheless, it is always great to learn what Patrick, Pablo, Martin, Jozsef, Yasuyuki and the others have been up to. With a slight chance I may actually still have some advice/ideas or other input I can contribute.

[ /linux/netfilter | permanent link ]

Tue, 12 Oct 2010
GPL violation reports in HTC G2 Android phone

There have been various reports and blog posts about HTC again committing copyright infringement by not fulfilling the GPLv2 license conditions in their latest Android phone, the G2.

While at this point I haven't studied the situation enough in order to confirm or deny any actual violations, let me state this: The number of GPL Violation reports/allegations that we receive at gpl-violations.org on HTC by far outnumber the reports that we have ever received about any other case or company.

In addition, HTC seems to have had a long trail of problems with GPL compliance in their devices. Ever since they have started to ship Android devices containing the Linux kernel, licensed under GPLv2+, we have received those reports.

The reason I have never taken any legal action is merely a result of the fact that HTC seems to first introduce their new devices in the US, then at some point release the corresponding source code before shipping those devices into Europe and Germany. So by the time the devices are sold over here, the legal issues appear to have been resolved before.

Nonetheless, I think it is outrageous for a company of this size and significance in the market to consistently commit copyright violation (or at least walk borderline with it) and thus mistreat the very copyright holders that have created the operating system kernel they use in their devices. The linux kernel developers and the Free Software community as a whole deserve fair treatment.

Also, the competitors of HTC deserve fair treatment: Samsung, e.g. is very forthcoming with their Android phone source code releases. If I was them and would see HTC to fail to comply with the GPL, I would consider filing a unfair competition lawsuit...

[ /linux/gpl-violations | permanent link ]

Sat, 09 Oct 2010
FOSS.in/2010 CfP is closing

I just want to point out: If you haven't yet submitted a proposal for FOSS.in/2010, the FOSS.in/2010 Call for Participation is closing in less than 48 hours!

This means you still have a chance to submit a talk, workout or BoF on your personal FOSS, hacking or otherwise technology related work and actively participate in the event.

FOSS.in is an excellent chance to spread the word about what technical work you have been doing, and to motivate others to participate and join your projects. It's a great opportunity to reach out to the Indian FOSS community, meet old friends and make new ones. Don't miss it :)

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]