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back to article FSF passes collection plate for free Android clone Replicant

The Free Software Foundation has launched a new fundraising program aimed at getting Replicant, the free software version of Google's Android smartphone OS, running on more devices. Replicant – named after the androids in Ridley Scott's movie Blade Runner (but not the Philip K. Dick story upon which the film is based) – is a …

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Silver badge

So seems that it's effectively CyanogenMod with some functionality removed

I suppose that'll be of academic interest to a few people.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So seems that it's effectively CyanogenMod with some functionality removed

Such as proprietary, closed-source NSA-infested comms device driver stacks?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So seems that it's effectively CyanogenMod with some functionality removed

I was wondering this. Since they've forked Android because they don't like Google's "we'll release a version when we're done" model, that means they're doing one of 2 things:

1. The CyanogenMod model, where they take Google's release and add their own features, then merge in Google's updates when they release them - not really solving the problem of Google's private build cycle, or

2. They're building their OS along an entirely separate path to Google, meaning merging in Google's changes once they are released is going to be a nightmare and eventually separate the two OSs beyond recognition: i.e. if Replicant goes in one direction while Google privately go in another that Replicant doesn't know about until Google drop their source.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So seems that it's effectively CyanogenMod with some functionality removed

But what about the required licences from Microsoft, Apple and Nokia?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So seems that it's effectively CyanogenMod with some functionality removed

"NSA-infested comms device driver stacks"

You mean like was found in Open BSD?

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Coat

Re: So seems that it's effectively CyanogenMod with some functionality removed

It really doesnt matter how close to google they stay as long as they have needed and useful functionality. I have a 3.5" screen and wonder how anyone over 30 can read the screen. Maybe some different visuality is needed. The voice functionality is also sorely needed built in.

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Anonymous Coward

Agreeing with Jobs?

So does this mean the FSF is agreeing with Steve Jobs when he said that Android isn't free and open?

Mind you, Job's vow to crush / destroy Android now seems to have been unduly ambitious...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Agreeing with Jobs?

It's developed by a commercial company, why would it be free and open?

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Bronze badge

Free...

The insistence of some groups to redefine the word free keeps amusing me:

"not meet the FSF's criteria for software freedom.

Specifically, the Apache License does not require Google to release all of its source code"

freedom... require... yep.

Mind you, I do understand why those FSF guys make the distinction between free as in give it a way and their idealistic hippie-tinged idea of what 'free" should really mean... and it has helped keep e.g. Linux vibrantly alive but I'm not averse to some MIT or BSD licensed goodness...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Free...

The insistence of some groups to redefine the word free keeps amusing me

Maybe you should take "free" in a different context then: free from God knows what spying going on underneath the cover. I never bought the "free" of Android, as I never bought the "free" of Google either when it meant accepting their idea of privacy ("you have none" ) and contract ("we can share your content and IP with anyone we feel like"). At least Apple and Microsoft don't try to pretend it's free or somehow of great humanitarian value. I prefer a disease where I can see it.

Personally I would be interested in a phone like that so I'm certainly going to donate.

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Re: Free...

"The insistence of some groups to redefine the word free keeps amusing me:

"not meet the FSF's criteria for software freedom.

Specifically, the Apache License does not require Google to release all of its source code"

freedom... require... yep."

Haha - well put!

Thanks, by the way, I was beginning to think my definiton of the word 'free' was incorrect - who knew 'free' meant 'gpl' :-)

*bring on the downvotes, gpl worshippers*

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Trollface

Re: Free...

"Well put"

... actually no... total fucking bollocks. Free software doesn't "require" anything if you don't use it, so feel free not to use it.

It also doesn't require that developers suffer their free code being incorporated into proprietary products without being afforded the same courtesy of freedom by downstream devs.

It's about choices, duh. Free software gives you them.

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Re: Free...

As if you only replied to prove my point, where you write 'free' you actually mean 'gpl' - BSD/Apache/mozilla etc. are still 'free' whatever you think.

Anyway, taking that into consideration:

"... actually no... total fucking bollocks."

Errrrrm. Right back at you, because of:

"Free software doesn't "require" anything if you don't use it, so feel free not to use it."

What sort of argument is that? LOL.

*everything* (even MS software!) doesn't require anything if you don't use it!

I also don't own a BMW, so I believe I'm not required to do anything there either!

"It also doesn't require that developers suffer theirfree code being incorporated into proprietary products without being afforded the same courtesy of freedom by downstream devs."

Apart from spreading the usual fud that (some) gpl people use against the bsd license, again, your comment is a total falicy - You can't negate a restriction as being free - in turn arguing that the non-restriction is less free.

As you are writing like a typical slashdot post, let me use the time honoured car analogy:

You buy a car. But only you are allowed to drive it.

I buy a car - anyone can drive it.

Despite you not having to require that other people can drive your car, it's obvious that my use of the car is more free - if i've been drinking my wife can drive me home. Yours can't.

Now, it's logical that the word 'require' is bogus in this context - it's just as bogus when you used it. People are free to use bsd software. There are more restrictions on using gpl software, so if you want to go down the 'more free, road, you lose.

Now, back to the FUD. There are numerous companies that use BSD software thaat provide code and servuces back to the project.

Yahoo offered HTTP_ACCEPT and DATA_ACCEPT filters, as well as servers. Apple, netflix, and many others do too - after all, getting a patch into the core means less ongoing maintenance for you.

Just read the facts before posting - despite the fact that the BSD philosophy is to get good stable software to be used everywhere (with no restrictions) you'll find the tired argument that companies only feed back code with the GPL is simply untrue

"It's about choices, duh. Free software gives you them."

Free software does give you choices.

GPL software gives you choices.

BSD software gives you more choices.

If I wanted to use GPL code in a project that was under NDA etc., then I'd be restricted. I could in some cases just use the GPL code in a seperate dynamic library, but it's still a restriction.

If you still don't get it, please look up 'free' / 'restriction' and 'require' in a dictionary.... DUUUUH

P.S. Have a nice day - I have friends that prefer the GPL and we get on ok - it just comes down to dufferent philosophies. It's when GPL people post FUD that it gets annoying. Especially as you are typically the first people to moan when MS posts FUD about Linux.

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Re: Free...

I'm not sure what your point was, if you had one. Who do you think has redefined "free" and what part of the redefinition do you object to?

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Linux

Apache license is approved by FSF

The Apache license is approved by the FSF:

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#apache2

The licensing concern is that Android includes non-Apache and non-free licensed sofware, specifically certain drivers and firmware blobs. And the parts that are licensed under the Apache license are regularly modified and released under a proprietary license by Android vendors.

By the way, Replicant contains a lot of the same Apache-licensed software. It is not a GPL-only campaign (although many FSF and GNU followers do prefer the GPL).

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Facepalm

Re: Free...

@Robert Long:

Errr, I was responding to the posts I was replying to, which were related to this in TFA:

"Android is developed as an open source project, but that doesn't make it "free" by the FSF's definition. Although some of Google's Android code is released under the Gnu General Public License (GPL), and is therefore free software, much if it is released under the Apache License – which, though an open source license, does not meet the FSF's criteria for software freedom."

Whilst my last post was admittedly quite a ramble, I'm sorry that it and the other posts in the thread confused you.

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Thumb Up

Re: Apache license is approved by FSF

@Andrew 3:

"The Apache license is approved by the FSF:

https://www.g

nu.org/licenses/license-list.html#apache2"

Fair enough. So I'll withdraw my comment related to them. However, I was going by this in the original article:

"Android is developed as an open source project, but that doesn't make it "free" by the FSF's definition. Although some of Google's Android code is released under the Gnu General Public License (GPL), and is therefore free software, much if it is released under the Apache License – which, though an open source license, does not meet the FSF's criteria for software freedom."

"The licensing concern is that Android includes non-Apache and non-free licensed sofware, specifically certain drivers and firmware blobs. And the parts that are licensed under the Apache license are regularly modified and released under a proprietary license by Android vendors.

By the way, Replicant contains a lot of the same Apache-licensed software. It is not a GPL-only campaign (although many FSF and GNU followers do prefer the GPL)."

Again, fair enough - it's just that wasn't how the original article portrayed the situation.

I too have a certain distrust about binary only blobs and proprietary software - I'm just not as rabid about it as some GPL folks. I'm sure many of them do use the nvidia drivers and the adobe flash player, though admittedly, presumably under protest.

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Big Brother

Pushing Water Uphill

Whilst I fully admire this group's efforts, I feel its going to be a loosing battle. Whilst device OEMs and chip makers continue to only issue binary blobs or NDA restricted API information, making hardware work sufficiently well to make it usable and appealing to more than a tiny set of users is an unlikely scenario. And in the realm of smartphones, when the S3 is 'relatively' old-hat, you're constantly having to code to support relevant devices.

Its such a shame that the general public arn't aware or don't care that their devices are wrapped up in secret code and as such there isn't a market for a truely hardware and software open phone, and I can't see this changing any time soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pushing Water Uphill

> Its such a shame that the general public arn't aware or don't care that their devices are wrapped up in secret code and as such there isn't a market for a truely hardware and software open phone, and I can't see this changing any time soon

Why should they care? The general masses want "a phone", they don't want, care about, or really even need the right to tinker with it. Just because one highly paranoid part of the world has "trust issues" with anything they can't compile themselves doesn't mean the rest need to fit that world view.

Hell, you'll all be complaining that your washing machine contains "proprietary code" next and doing an OpenColdpoint firmware release.

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Bronze badge

Re: Pushing Water Uphill @AC 10:17

Do you really want the NSA to know what your washing machine knows about you?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pushing Water Uphill @AC 10:17

Do you really want the NSA to know what your washing machine knows about you?

That I wear my pants inside out to get an extra days wear out of them?

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Re: Pushing Water Uphill @AC 10:17

"That I wear my pants inside out to get an extra days wear out of them?"

Save water - use recursion !

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Joke

Re: Pushing Water Uphill @AC 10:17

"Conserve Air — Breathe Less"

(Seen on an actual sign from the Star Wars spoof Spaceballs.)

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Mushroom

Re: Pushing Water Uphill

Agree. It seems a noble idea, but also doomed to be terminally frustrating--as tech may well move faster than development of a (useful, non-niche) FOSSilised version of Android can. To say nothing of what caltrops der Google can throw in the way of such a project. In a way, the near-manic general drive to have linux (or similar) run on everything with a processor is a potential gotcha for linux: it spreads apparently limited resources ever-thinner on the ground. Choose your battles well.

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Bronze badge

Re: Pushing Water Uphill @AC 10:17

"Conserve Air — Breathe Less"

Reduces carbon emissions too!

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Radio stack?

My understanding is that for regulatory reasons, open source code for the radio processor is basically impossible (because the regulators require it to be tamper-proof). Is this still true? Or are they planning on ignoring this and focusing on the applications processor only?

(As, I assume, they're also ignoring the closed-source proprietary blobs embedded in the wifi controller, the Bluetooth controller, the GPS, the SD card, the power controller, and probably half a dozen other independent microcontrollers in the device.)

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Gold badge

Re: Radio stack?

Further complications arise from hardware that has contractual obligations not to ship with open source drivers. nVidia is an example of this; they use the same GPUs for the general public as are provided to the military and thus are not allowed by contract to supply an open source driver for those models.

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Re: Radio stack?

Makes me wonder what would happen if somehow nVidia got ANOTHER federal contract (of equal importance to their DoD contract—perhaps a NASA contract) that REQUIRES open-sourcing, placing nVidia in a contractual clash.

(Doubt it would happen. nVidia would probably be automatically excluded from any such contract due to their DoD contract—it's hard to trump a defense contract in terms of priority.)

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If these guys desparatly need $600

to buy the phone they need to port too, this whole process is doomed. You cannot run a project of this complexity if you are scrabbling for scraps like that, not if you want to hit deadlines this side of the next decade.

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A few corrections

Happy to see an otherwise accurate article, but I did want to point out that the issue has nothing to do with the Apache License, which *is* considered free by the Free Software Foundation, and version 2.0 of which is even recommended for some situations by the FSF. See http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#apache2.

The issue is that many drivers and applications on a typical Android device are outright proprietary. They are not distributed under Apache, or the GPL. They are not free because they are distributed in binary-only form and with a license that says you may not redistribute them at all.

I hope you can correct the article to remove the incorrect statement. While we do generally promote copyleft licenses like the GPL over lax permissive ones like Apache, this campaign has absolutely nothing to do with any objection to the Apache 2.0 License used by much of Android.

Also, we do accept wire transfers in other currencies. :)

Thanks!

John Sullivan

Executive Director, FSF

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