HarmonyOS & Purism


#1

Today Huawei announced its new OS called Harmony. It is supposed to be an alternative to Android and capable of running android and linux programs. Huawei also said it would be open-source.
They claim their micro-kernel has one-thousandth of the amount of lines of codes then the linux kernel. However one will not have root access.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/09/harmonyos-huawei-release/

https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/9/20798251/huawei-harmonyos-hongmengos-smartphones-internet-of-things-operating-system-android

The promises they make sound amazing. Of course we have yet to see how good it really will be. What do you think, is open-source software about to finally be successful in the mobile market with Purism & Huawei promoting it? Maybe Purism will be able to use some of the code to improve its own OS. Would you trust a Chinese OS when its open-source?


#2

I have no problem with a Chinese source. But you should not expect miracles from it. Not even Huawei does that, they still prioritize Android.
And that statement on code size says nothing. Well, micro kernels are small. Surprise.
Possibly, if you strip all drivers that are not needed on the L5, the Linux kernel is also a thousandth of its own size :wink:


#3

linux-from-scratch here i come … no root ? what ?


#4

Linux isn’t a great OS if you need energy efficiency or real time operation, so Harmony OS might solve some real technical problems. Many people believe that microkernels are inherently better. I’m skeptical, but I don’t know enough to really judge.

My worry is that this OS is being developed in secret and it relies totally on Huawei developers, so even if it does have a free software license and we can examine the source code and recompile it ourselves, we cannot rely on it’s continued development like we can rely on Linux. We know that an active community will continue developing Linux and we can trust that community. With Harmony OS, the whole project could die if Huawei changes its corporate strategy and stops funding it, because there are no outside developers and there is no community.

I also trust Linux to be more secure and have fewer bugs, because it has so many eyeballs and testers to spot problems. I suspect that Harmony OS won’t have a GPL license, so companies who use it won’t be pressured to release their code, so I doubt that Purism will want to use Harmony OS.


#5

Huawei is just a shiny face to the Chinese government’s consumer tech branch. Not a very technical way of putting it, I know, but that is what they are. Look at what their government is doing with their citizens - “Harmony” OS will surely comb your data and alert the authorities when one is not being a good comrade.


#6

let us harmonise with the government.


#7

HarmonyOS is greater security focused so privacy is questionable. No root access means it lacks user control?

However, I would be smiling the day HarmonyOS successed over Android and Apple but it doesn’t mean I would buy a Huawei.


#8

Without root access it is unclear that you could meaningfully do that.

The security and privacy of the platform as a whole depend on more than just the micro-kernel too. Are security and privacy even goals? Or are they anti-goals?

It makes sense for China to do something along these lines. It isn’t only we who do not trust Apple and Google. Huawei would need to do better than they have done with their network equipment. Perhaps the overriding goal is to replace Android as the core platform for all Chinese-made phones.

At worst, it is another interesting angle.


#9

There are two critical questions for Huawei:

  1. Will people who buy Harmony OS devices be able to unlock the bootloader and install their own versions of Harmony OS that they have modified and compiled? (By the way, being able to unlock the bootloader is usually to key to being able to obtain root access, because that is usually set in the bootloader.)
  2. The GPL 2.0 license forces manufacturers who use Linux to release their kernel, but they often release their code as a giant tarball which is hard for people to understand or modify. The question is will Huawei give people access to their git repository, so developers can see the commit history? Will Huawei publish detailed info on its Kirin processor so that the community can create open source firmware and drivers?

The actions of Huawei so far are not hopeful. Huawei only releases its Open Source code as tarballs and it isn’t very open about its Kirin processors and only releases what is required by Linux’s GPL 2.0 license. Most of its additions to Android have been proprietary code.

Huawei decided in 2018 to stop providing their customers with the codes to unlock the bootloaders on their phones, so they couldn’t install their own bootloader like TWRP and install their own modified versions of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) like LineageOS, Resurrection Remix, OmniROM, AOSP Advanced, etc. This history doesn’t inspire much confidence.


#10

No but then I wasn’t going to buy a Huawei phone anyway. :slight_smile:

(You are right about the root access. The entire boot sequence would need to be examined - if anyone wants a trusted phone and is thinking about using a Huawei.)