GNU/Linux based phones – sic transit gloria mundi

So it’s looking like there’s going to be a real dearth of “real” GNU/Linux based phones from now on, with the Nokia N9 likely to be the last that I can see for some time. For a while it was looking quite promising with the whole Meego idea, but Nokia’s new CEO from Microsoft seems to have put paid to that with their colours now tied to the sinking mast of Windows Mobile. On the Meego handset list changes to how bugzilla items relating to the handset CE were announced, with the disappointing message that:

Handset UX isn’t fully maintained and currently there’s no activities for 1.3. N900 CE project is only who is maintaining / developing anything to Handset UX and when bugs are fixed in CE the fixes are also available to add to the MeeGo release.

There has been some activity from Nokia contributing back some work done on Meego (in general) for the N9, but basically it appears there’s no interest in Meego phones from anyone other than the N900 community. 🙁

That means that for now we’re stuck with either pseudo-open Android/Linux phones (which, I’ve got to say, haven’t really impressed me too much so far) and Apple’s iPhone which I dislike for its extreme walled garden approach (and I’ve even less idea about usability than Android).

I guess what I’m missing is the power of having a real Linux distro (a shell and utilities that you expect with it) on a phone. I’ve been really happy with my N900 – the fact that I can ssh to our HPC clusters and use X forwarding to fire apps back to it has been really useful at times (not to mention vendor provided root access) – and I was struck that the Meego handset UX has full bash and (amazingly) even strace installed by default. Something approaching a real computer.

But then again I’m a niche market that makes most niche markets look positively huge, but having tasted freedom with the OpenMoko and the N900 I’m hungry for more..

Great Terms & Conditions

Wonderful fake T&C’s for a fake password checker (well, intended to reinforce that you should never use them).. For example:

You may terminate your relationship to Estatis Inc. by burning all of your possessions and accomplishing applicable purification rites. In this event, you agree that an Estatis Inc. Retaliatory Creature shall be summoned to allow Estatis Inc. to retain full ownership of your soul. In the unforeseen event of you defeating the Estatis Inc. Retaliatory Creature, you shall be released from any obligations arising from your use of the Estatis Free Password Security Checker for the rest of your mortal life, notwithstanding any claims to your soul in Heaven, Hell, the Netherworld or any places with similar legal status. Additional information can be provided by your personal deity or deities (if any).

There’s some other fun stuff in there..

Microsoft Patents “Legal Intercept” of VoIP and other Network Protocols

In 2009 some bright sparks at Microsoft decided that they should patent how to legally intercept VoIP (explicitly SIP traffic in the patent) and other network protocols. The SIP attack basically boils down to tweaking the SDP packets to remove an option:

If SIP invite messages are intercepted on their way to the call server or in the call server then the “a=candidate” lines referring to a direct peer to peer voice connection may be removed from the SDP parameters. As a result, the terminating call VoIP entity is not offered local paths and will not respond with them in the answer SDP. This forces the call through the NAT and into the public network where it can be transparently recorded.

But of course this is a patent and so the broad principles are couched in heaps of legal mumbo-jumbo and so what is actually covered is impenetrable.

One interesting point, given recent developments, is:

For example, VoIP may include audio messages transmitted via gaming systems, instant messaging protocols that transmit audio, Skype and Skype-like applications, meeting software, video conferencing software, and the like.

This is long before they bought Skype, but I’m sure that won’t stop conspiracy theorists.. 🙂