Preventing Samsung and Others Like Them From Benefiting From Purism's Work

Typically with any new technology developments and with software in particular, large commercial interests too often come along after most of the development work has been done, and capitalize on it. They put their own wrapper and brand name around code they didn’t write themselves and charge for it as if they developed it themselves. There are always to do this legally and they always find those ways. One example is how Intel put an open sourced version of Linux (an older version with a license that doesn’t require them to publish their code changes) in to the core of their CPU’s, to manage the use of and identify of the users of their chips (that’s all of us). Purism has to go to great efforts to disable that linux-based software under a handicap of not having access to the source code, even though that code is Linux-based. Another example is the whole Android and Apple operating systems. They’re all proprietary versions of Linux that are now licensed with at least some license limitations and typically many limitations to users. They use at least some locked and secret secret code and all the user sees is the logos of the ultra-large commercial proprietor who manufactures and sells several different models, each in the millions.

I can see that after Purism proves a strong market demand for the Librem 5 and a growing trend that isn’t going to stop, that we’re going to start seeing Samsung and Google Linux phones based on Linux and Gnome. Most of the operating system in those Samsung and LG phones will have been written by Purism employees and volunteer open source software developers. But you’ll see the spinning Samsung, LG, and Verizon logos when those phones boot up and on their desktops. They will have full convergent desktop environments when plugged in to a large monitor with GUIs that scale to fit any sized screen in the Gnome environment, courtesy of Purism who will get nothing from these other companies for it. Samsung, Google, Apple, and others won’t say anything about Gnome nor about Purism nor PureOS. The OS in their phones will be given a proprietary brand name, named after Samsung, LG, Google, or Apple. There will be a software store by each respective company that competes with Purism to create income for Apple, Google, LG, Samsung, and others. The money and noteriety will flow to the big guys who cash-in on Purism’s risk-taking and hard work as they are being forced by Purism to make some compromises with respect to user control of their own phones. I can see this as a form of retribution against Purism for pissing in their cheerios as Purism starts setting standards in the world that require through competition, that all phones should be free of advertising and snooping.

Would it be possible now (early in the game before it’s too late) for Purism to put something in to all of their code that is under a special license that requires any phone manufacturer who uses software developed by Purism, to go only on phones that are certified by the Free Software Foundation? Perhaps, a new license could be created that allows the Pinephone and a few other actual rightful contributors, to use Purism’s software in their products. That code could still be Published and used by hobbyists and the open source community. But we really need something that prevents the big boys from taking Purism’s work and risk, stripping out anything that let’s the user even know that Purism even exists, adding their own logos, and getting paid for the work that Purism did, both in notoriety and in hard cash. Any ideas here?

Another fear I have is that Samsung and others like them could create their own proprietary version of Linux which is basically a modified version of PureOS with no sign that it even is PureOS and that has GUIs that lock the users out of everything they want to lock the users out of. Sure, they’ll publish their source code to comply with the open source license. But then they’ll lock that operating system up very tightly behind multiple locked, secret stages of bootloaders and knox. So you’ll see how you could free the phone and maybe even install PureOS… if only the boot loader were not impenatratable.

Are you serious, or is this a joke? :thinking:


Conditionally free is not free.


Hmmm, interesting :thinking:

Intellectual property should be respected. If the work , the risk and sacrifice have been done for the benefit of all by one company, this maybe be a good idea to protect it from the huge concurrent company who may benefit from it for their own greed instead of promoting for the good reason…

I agree that if they cant kill a brand through market, acquiring their work and use their own brand to shadow the real company who created the product is indirectly intellectual appropriation.

I remember at work several years ago, when Windows 95A was the latest OS. We have a large network where I work. No one had ever heard of a remote desktop session then… except those of us who used Linux. I would use “rlogin” to log in to the remote Sun box or Linux PC. Then I would use Xhost to set the display back to the terminal I was at. This gave me a full remote desktop session. Windows had no equivalent until several years later and now that Microsoft operating system feature is very commonly used by everyone at large companies who have their own domains. When Purism creates anything of value that does not yet exist in the market, if it is not protected, some big company is going to take it and use it the same way that Microsoft does (did). This isn’t speculation. It’s fact.

I am not an expert on software and legal issues. But it seems to me that Purism should consider moving to a different license, perhaps one of their own creation. That license could continue with the same spirit and practical application as the GPL, while protecting the open source community when hardware lockouts threaten the practical application of the GPL. If Samsung, LG, Apple, and others want to use Purism’s software then, the software might at least be limited to today’s version (the state of the software right now) of everything the big boys might otherwise steal. By the time that competition really hits (probably at least a few years from now), most of Purism’s most valuable work would be safe behind a better license, all except the very oldest versions that exist now. Either the competition will not be able to catch-up or maybe they won’t even try to catch-up if catching-up isn’t easy. But if there is a lot of free profits just sitting on the table, you bet, the big boys will scoop them up. They would be foolish not to.

yes, I can imagine Samsung’s latest SOC, running their own version of a fully locked-up PureOS (marketed as a different product), but that selectively unlocks some of the snooping and advertising blocking features that Purism put in, while marketing that phone as a ‘secured’ phone. The question isn’t about whether or not that phone is ‘secure’. The question would be “secure from who”. As the hero of their own story, Samsung would maintain the backdoors and updates to make this a “superior product” that keeps everyone safe from hackers and even safe from yourself since the boot locker would prohibit the user from ever gaining root access.

Coming from Samsung, that phone could be far more powerful, and much smaller, weigh less, and have a longer battery life than anything from Purism. All they need to do to comply with the license is to publish their version of the operating system and then lock the boot loader tightly enough to keep everyone out.

Some of the world’s most prominent phone crackers admitted their own defeat at unlocking the boot loader on the Note 2 by saying it can’t be done. One guy figured it out and his exploit kit is mysteriously not available anywhere on the internet. Both he and his exploit kit disappeared from public attention shortly after he published his exploit kit. At the time, the Note 2 was the only phone that was trusted by the US government enough to allow some secret government documents to be saved to it. If Samsung really wants you to be locked out, you’ll stay locked out. Some people like being locked out and having someone else who takes care of them. Those who would trade their liberty for safety, deserve neither.

WOW, it’s not a joke! :scream:


Getting the major phone makers to adopt Linux is exactly what we want, as long as they are respecting user rights to software freedom, security and privacy. If you listen to Todd Weaver’s interviews, he talks a lot about trying to reform the tech industry, and getting the major phone makers to adopt Linux is an important part of that strategy.

Many of the major phone makers would love to escape Google’s control over their operations (and Microsoft forcing them to install its apps because they supposedly violate Microsoft’s patents).

Here is how I envision the adoption of mobile Linux happening. For the next couple years, companies like Purism, PINE64 and Planet Computers, will establish the market. Then, I can see FairPhone and maybe SHIFT offering a Linux phone, because of the environmental benefits of being able to offer long-term software updates. Then, a company like Sony or OnePlus which have a history of offering alternative OSes will start offering Linux as an option on their phones. Samsung has been chafing under Google’s restrictions for Android for years, so I can see Samsung also jumping on the Linux bandwagon, but I think it more likely that Samsung will modify Tizen to be able to run Qt or GTK apps or both, rather than adopting Phosh.

A lot of this depends on the anti-trust regulators, because Google can do all sorts of illegal things behind the scenes to pressure the phone makers to not offer Linux as a option, just like Microsoft did for decades with Linux. Companies like Lenovo/Motorola, LG, Sony, HTC, Xiaomi and B&K Electronics get no benefits from the data collection in Android, so unless Google starts offering them profit sharing deals on the advertising that comes from Android, they are likely to start offering Linux as an option on a few models, because there will be demand from consumers for phones that don’t spy on them and can offer long-term software updates.

The problem for the big phone makers is that the majority of their users are still tied to Google Web Services, so they have to continue selling the majority of their phones with Android and continue buying licenses from Google for GWS, but they will view mobile Linux as leverage to use in their negotiations with Google, so they will want to offer a few models with Linux so they can say to Google: “Look we got models X, Y and Z already running Linux. If you don’t give us good licensing terms for GWS and loosen the restrictions in your Android compatibility tests, then we can always switch to Linux.”

At some point, alternative web services like GlobalStreetMap will get good enough, and there will be enough apps for mobile Linux, that mainstream users start switching. Even if that doesn’t happen, just having 1% or 2% of phones using mobile Linux will still have an impact, because Google will be forced to curb its worst abuses, because it knows that phone makers have an alternative.

As for Purism, I don’t think that we have to worry, because Purism will have a lock on a certain niche of the phone market. Most companies jumping into the mobile Linux market, will make devices designed like the Volla Phone. Very few companies are going to make phones with hardware kill switches, because it requires 4-6 chips in place of one SoC, it requires a very large PCB, it is much less energy efficient so battery life is poor, it is expensive, and there are no good mobile processors without wireless communications to use (although the RK3588 might change that). Purism will have the market locked up for people who want smartcard readers, hardware kill switches, 100% free software, lifetime software updates and replaceable wireless communications.

In my opinion, the only mobile Linux interfaces that have good future prospects are Phosh and KDE Plasma Mobile, and Phosh has a lot of strategic advantages over Plasma Mobile (see my article), so it is the most likely Linux interface to be adopted by other phone makers. However, it needs to get Phosh, phoc, squeekboard, feedbackd, etc. to be hosted by an independent organization (such as the GNOME Foundation, FSF, Linux Foundation, etc.) so that competitors can use it without fear.

Getting Phosh adopted by other phone makers helps the Librem 5, because it helps to build the critical mass that attracts more users and app developers to the platform, which means thousands of new apps and more developers to help maintain the platform. The Librem 5 becomes a more attractive product when it has an app store with thousands of apps. Even if other phone makers don’t adopt Phosh, we still win because Phosh can still run Qt and web apps, that are created for many other Linux interfaces.


So are we saying that Purism might not care if one or more of the large players in the cell phone business adapts and re-labels the source code from PureOS, to turn it in to something that Purism doesn’t approve of on their own linux phones?

If they do that and then block root access and lock the boot loader on their own Linux phones, are we saying that Purism probably wouldn’t care?

Does Purism have any plan that would allow Purism to protect a new killer-app or new killer-feature that no one has seen before but that prism creates? What if someone compiles such an app created by Purism to run in Linux, to run in Android, or on Apple phones?

If Purism gives all of their intellectual property to GPL licenses, what does Purism own that gives them a competative edge in the market? I would like to see Purism be successful and for their competitors to not steal Purism’s innovation to use against Purism.

I have heard, and often repeat, the aphorism that behind every “next-gen” system is some open source Python code keeping it all together, if not powering it altogether. But seen through the lens of marketshare, RoI, and so on, the open source hustle will never make sense.

Because it was, and is, never about those things. It’s one of those Zen things, à mon avis. Influence. Interaction. Not control.


Yes but you still have to protect the candle from the wind, otherwise, the light vanish…


On the other hand, if Purism behaves exactly like others - aggresively protecting intellectual property by closing the source, locking hardware and so on - what would it have better to offer than them?


The idea could be to put the software under some license like GPL, but that also prevents any manufacturer from using it if their phone doesn’t come with full root access and an unlocked boot loader for the phone owner. The owner of any device that runs a Linux operating system should always have root access and the ability to change or to compile and reload the operating system which should stay free for users and open source volunteer programmers. Keep all of that free. But some day the norm for Linux in phones could be to restrict and lock everyone out as they do now with Android and Apple phones if Purism doesn’t stay financially healthy. If somehow the big players ever drive Purism out of business, all of Purism’s work might be found then only in locked-up phones. Also, it would be nice to see any other manufacturer pay a royalty to Purism if they benefit from selling a phone that runs software they didn’t otherwise pay for but that Purism paid to develop. It just seems wrong to see the incumbent industry leaders get anything for free when they’re not contributing to begin with. Let them follow not lead, and let them pay royalty fees like most businesses when they operate like most businesses. The big players enforce their licenses and everyone pays them license fees to resell their software.

Wrong, boss. The IME kernel is Minix, not Linux. There are two links between Linux and Minux. First, is that Minix was substantially written by Linux-founder Linus Torvalds’ mentor. Second is that Minix provided the initial host system for compiling the first version of the Linux kernel (before it’s release, and before it could self-host). Minix is a fairly generic micro-kernel, more similar to Mach than Linux. The Linux kernel has always been GPL-2 only (not GPL-2+).

As an aside, you may be thinking of IBM Power 9, which uses the Linux kernel as its bootloader. The source code for that bootloader is available from IBM, and features additions which are desirable upstream are offered upstream.


Take a look at who are the main contributors to the Linux kernel used by PureOS before getting into such thoughts…


The very essence of engineering is copying. And when copying the lazy bastards are leaving out a lot of unnecessary details that some smart guy has spent years on creating. Possibly the lazy engineer is also adding some features from other systems thereby creating a more useful product.

It is not getting a lot of money that drives the development but laziness. Thus the possibility to copy other peoples work is important.

I still think that those who really did the work should be rewarded but I do not know how. The patent system is pure stupidity and hindering development. It is a modern version of the medieval guilds.


@StevenR has a point about licenses. If he does not have a point, then please explain why Apple chose to use BSD and not Linux? Did BSD had so much better code that was far superior to Linux? No way.

Apple gets the money and the BSD community gets nothing if not disintegrate. I remember those years that the big part of developers abandoned BSD for this steal. I also remember pathetic messages in BSD forums begging Apple to at least donate a set of icons to BSD, with Apple saying No, No, No.

Think again.


Apple gets the money and the BSD community gets nothing

Apple makes loads of money from a fork… The open source community adds to the strength of previous giants and progresses faster (Linux became the dominant OS). Many companies make (some big) money from product with embedded open source code. The focus is shifting from code protection to new/better features. This is more or less equivalent to standardization (at least in metric and ISO countries :smiley:)


I’m not so sure that preventing people from using your work is ever a good strategy. Besides, the market that Purism is in is very much about reputation, trust, verifyability, not so much “competitive edge”. These are impossible to just copy.


I think its important to know who your allies are and are not, when it comes to sharing your Engineering work. I am an Engineer at a large company. Within the company between different business units, we operate very much under a system of socialism and the open sharing of all information. My business unit gives our Engineering information to other business units with no expectation of asking for anything from them in return. When I want to maximize the effectiveness of my Engineering efforts I often access information from other business units within the company. The company itself always wins this way. But outside of the company, we build strong measures to prevent the use of the company’s intellectual property by others.

If Microsoft and Samsung and Apple want to share their source code (valuable source code) in ways that allow anyone to use it freely, then they should be able to use information developed by the open source community to make profits for themselves. But that is not how they operate. The open source community itself seems more like one company that shares its own information internally within itself. But Microsoft and Google and others are competitors with different interests. Why share with someone who doesn’t share in return, and who just wants to take what they can from you, to claim it and its associated profits for themselves? In the software licensing arena, it looks like there is a balanced equilibrium between free and proprietary software. But I have to wonder if the hardware/software combination are set up with adequate licenses to protect the interests of everyone involved. The decision deny root access and to lock a boot loader to run a phone manufacturer’s own version of otherwise free software (not so free) completely locked away from user access of critical features is just one example of not playing nice with others. When they operate that way, they steal from the software developers, many of who worked for free in exchange for an ideal that ends up being betrayed.

Purism looks to me like a company that could by exploited and bypassed by other commercial interests if it doesn’t take measures to protect itself. But it’s not the user/developers who they need to worry about. Most open source code developers are a part of what might be compared to ‘company internal’ operations. So Purism’s software should always be free… except for use by the big commercial interests who don’t play nice with others.

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