Older blog entries for LaForge (starting at number 182)

Update on the GSM network at the CCC Camp 2011

During the past weeks, I've been trying very hard to get to a technical solution for the setup regarding the private GSM network that we intend to operate at the CCC Camp 2011. Unfortunately, despite puting in way too much time that I don't have, no really good solution appeared. There were times when I was wondering if it would happen at all - mainly due to the lack of properly integrated / tested RF related issues like PA, LNA, duplexer, combiner, etc.

But it seems just in time Dieter came to the rescue. So now we have pretty much figured out the equipment and settled on a configuration. We'll have 2 Nokia Metrosite BTS with a total of 5 TRX, each running at 5W using borrowed equipment.

During the next 10 days, all the parts like antennas, cabling, plugs, adapters and the BTS units themselves should arrive at my place. Let's hope there are no serious fuck-ups that cause something to not arrive in time.

So all in all, there's a 99% chance we will have a functional GSM network. The Nokia A-bis support in OpenBSC will be brand new, so there might be some glitches here and there. But then, that's part of the fun. I'm already very curious to see what kind of coverage we get. I guess if we do things right, it should reach well into Finowfurt itself, and not just barely cover the camp grounds like we had at HAR 2009.

Syndicated 2011-07-22 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

US government closing data centers and give up their independence

Sometimes I really think I must be dreaming. Who in their right mind would propose something like closing something like 800 government-owned data centers and outsourcing all the data to the cloud/>?

As a government, you

  • make yourself dependent from a private company to supply essential infrastructure
  • introduce single points of failure (technically, administratively)
    previously, you had 800 data centers, maybe each of them not as reliable as the advertisements of the cloud provider - but it is unlikely that all of them go down at the same time
  • give up control over who physically owns and has access to the data
    In fact, you will have a hard time even finding anyone at all who can tell you where your data is physically located. Maybe even out of the country?

Now you can argue that all those things can be put down in contracts as service level agreements (SLAs). That's true, but as we say around here: Paper is patient, meaning no paper is going to help you after data has been copied or was lost, and if you suddenly fail to provide basic services of the public administration.

The distributed nature of self-hosting your data and applications has key advantages in terms of security and reliability. Why would somebody give that up without a broad discussion? And we're not talking about some private company where nobody but their shareholders care if they loose data or go out of business. We're talking about the public administration here.

People seem to have lost perspective on the overall advantages of a heterogeneous, distributed setup.

Syndicated 2011-07-21 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

On the recent THC release on the Vodafone femtocell

I am mainly posting this to prevent any more people mailing me about this release. There's nothing really spectacular here.

Starting from 2009 on, the usual suspects (aka OpenBSC developers) have been looking at various 3G femtocells, including the Vodafone one (I have 10 of them here). Aside from that Alcatel-Lucent design that Vodafone uses, we've also looked at the Cisco/AT+T/ip.access design, as well as the Ubiquisys/SFR one. With some effort you can root all of them, and you can then make sure they don't connect to the respective operator but to an IP address of your choosing.

The protocols are vendor-dependent. The Vodafone femtocell uses a version of RANAP (the protocol between RNC and MSC in UMTS) behind an 8 byte proprietary header. As RANAP is specified in the 3GPP, it was pretty easy to build a small piece of code that interacts with the unit.

Ubiquisys (used by SFR) uses the UMA protocols, and the Cisco/ip.access/AT+T design uses a proprietary ip.access protocol called URSL (sort-of a "progression" of the 2G RSL to UMTS).

Supporting them from OpenBSC is not easy. While the call control and SMS transfer protocols of 3G are identical to GSM, everything below doesn't really bear much resemblance. I would guess it would take at least a man-month to get basic signalling, call + SMS support working, if not more.

Given the fact that the femtocells all speak their vendor-proprietary dialects, and given that they often come with license terms that only permit the use of their firmware in combination with their gateway located at the operator network, we never thought it is a high priority item for us to work on.

What you also have to consider, is that their output power of 20dBm is even less than the 200mW of typical small-scale GSM BTS, and that they typically only support the operation of 4 concurrent phones. Nothing that you would be able to run e.g. a conference telephony network on.

Furthermore, due to the wide channels (5MHz), it is very likely that all available sprectrum has been auctioned off/licensed to commercial operators, so it's almost impossible to get something like a test license. In GSM with 200kHz channels, there's often still a guard band or some unallocated channel that can be used.

If you really want to have some free software + femtocell based 3G network, go ahead and do it. The option existed for years now, ever since femtocells started shipping to the market. All of them are some form of embedded Linux systems. Rooting them isn't really different from rooting a Linux based WiFi router / DSL modem. So what's that new about the THC release? That a vendor of Linux embedded devices chose a trivial password? If you're surprised by that, I guess you haven't taken apart many embedded devices then.

Syndicated 2011-07-14 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

SIM-unlocking the Openmoko phones?

I think it's quite funny that SIM-unlicking vendors like RebelSIM actually advertise that their products are compatible with Openmoko, as you can see in this PDF file.

What's funny about this? Well, Openmoko phones have never been sold with any form of SIM or Operator locking. The entire idea was to have a phone that is under the control of the user, not the operator...

Syndicated 2011-07-06 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

SIMtrace v1.0 prototypes are working out of the box

After the debacle with various wrong footprints in the v0.9, I'm very happy to announce that the SIMtrace v1.0 hardware is working fine. All footprints correct, schematics correct, layout/Gerber correct. All we had to do is solder the components, attach it to USB, flash the firmware and use it.

Here's a picture of the board (sorry, my soldering is not very clean):

Early next week we will be ordering a batch of 100 units from the SMT house we have chosen.

Syndicated 2011-07-02 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

Unbelievable statements in GPL related case in the Supreme Court of Mauritius

I've recently received some documents regarding a court case at the Supreme Court of Mauritius.

The plaintiff is a company called Linux Solutions Ltd. in Mauritius. It seems to be covering an alleged breach of an NDA between a contracted freelancing developer and a company in Mauritius. That contractor (the defendant) has apparently published some of the work he had done while contracting for the plaintiff.

While none of that seems to be clearly connected with the GPL, what is extremely disturbing is the sworn affidavit / oath by one of the executives of the plaintiff. It says things like:

5. Licenses of open-source software like "Linux" and "Asterisk" have no copyright restrictions which in effect puts no restrictions on their use or distribution. As a consequence, any work which is derived from the open source software as conceptualized, created, installed and managed, by the Applicant becomes the ownership of the Applicant.

6. In the light of the above, therefore, the applications, configuration files and features so developed by the Applicant are the sole property of the Applicant, make up the knowledge base of the Applicant, make the basis of its business operations, and are highly confident in nature. The applications, configurations and features have been built and acquired by the Applicant through important capital investments and manpower over a period of time.

So let me phrase this more clearly: Somebody, under oath is stating at the Supreme Court, that GPL-Licensed software (which the Linux kernel definitely is), has no copyright restrictions? And that any derived work is the sole property of whoever created the derivative? What kind of pot are they smoking in Mauritius?

If there's anyone in the Free Software legal community interested in filing some kind of legal document to the Supreme Court of Mauritius to clarify this issue, feel free to contact me for more details on the case. No matter whether the defendant has broken some NDA, I think it's unacceptable to see such ridiculous claims being made at a Supreme Court.

In case you don't believe it, here are some scanned samples:

Syndicated 2011-06-27 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

AVM trying to spread FUD about the Cybits case

Unsurprisingly, AVM is now trying to claim their legal action is not related to any GPL violation. This couldn't be further from the truth.

In both the court hearings (in two independent cases), AVM has repeatedly declined to make a clear statement that the modification and installation of modified version of the GPL-Licensed parts (like Linux) is acceptable to them.

We have raised this question in front of court and out of court, and AVM was not willing to make such a declaration. If they had, I don't think I would have had much reason to join the lawsuit on the side of the defendant.

I have no connection to Cybits (the defendant). There has never been any business or other relationship to them, and they have not been involved in funding my legal expenses. To be honest, I don't even care about child filtering software in general, no matter from which vendor.

But I do care about the GPL, and the freedoms it grants. The GPL is intended to allow any third party to modify, recompile, re-install and run modified versions of the respective GPL licensed program. Any court order / verdict / judgement that tries to undermine this freedom is a substantial danger to the Free Software movement - and as such I will do what I can to prevent it.

AVM has stated in front of the court that AVM releases the source code compliant with the GPL, anyone can download, compile and use it - just not on OUR hardware. There you can clearly see their attitude: They see the FritzBox as their hardware. Last time I checked, the unit is not rented by AVM, but is legally sold to the customer. It is his decision to do with it what he wants. Under the terms of the GPL, it is his decision to install whatever software on the hardware, including modified versions of the GPL licensed Linux kernel.

Just imagine a world, where you buy a Laptop from HP, with Windows pre-installed. Now further imagine that there is a third-party software vendor (e.g. Canonical with its Ubuntu). Now imagine that HP was suing Canonical for offering different software that runs on their hardware. This is the kind of analogy that you need to think about.

I don't think AVM is truly understanding the daemons they are calling here. If they actually manage to get a finally awarded judgement that deprives third parties of their rights under the GPL, AVM will have violated the GPL, specifically clause 6: You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein. And what would that mean? That the GPLv2 is revoked and AVM looses the right to use the GPLv2 licensed software they use in the product.

Syndicated 2011-06-24 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

First working prototypes of Osmocom SIMtrace design

Last winter I was working on some hardware and software that can be used to trace the communication between a SIM card and a phone and called it Osmocom SIMtrace. At that time, I was simply recycling an old OLIMEX development board for the AT91SAM7S micro-controller.

But since the firmware for the micro-controller, the host software as well as the wireshark plug-in has been written now, it would be a shame if I was they only user of the project. Therefore, Kevin Redon and I have spent some time in polishing and improving the design, as well as generate some actual prototypes.

Unfortunately a number of mistakes were made (both on the design side but also wrong component pin-outs) so there was a need for significant re-working.

Nonetheless, we now have some 5 functional prototypes, a picture can be seen in the Osmocom Wiki, where you can also find the schematics

We're now having a second version of the PCB built, this time hopefully with correct footprints for all parts. Once that is verified at the end of next week, we will give "go" for the production of a small batch (100 units).

Interested developers will be able to obtain the resulting hardware from mid-August onwards. We also expect to be offering them at the Radio Village of the 2011 CCC Camp.

Tracing the SIMPhone protocol can be useful in a variety of cases:

  • Observing the behavior of operator-issued SIM cards in terms of which SIM Application Toolkit or Proactive SIM features they use.
  • Debugging aid while developing and interoperability testing of your own SIM toolkit applets
  • Prototyping and development of SAT blocker or other SIM card firewalls which restrict the security or privacy threats originating from untrusted operator SIMs or potentially compromised SIM cards.

Syndicated 2011-06-22 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

Court hearing in the AVM / Cybits / GPL case

Today was the court hearing at the Berlin district court in the case that I blogged about yesterday.

Nothing really new happened there. AVM still has a number of claims that I consider extremely dangerous to Free Software in the embedded market:

  • collective/aggregate work
    They claim to have some rights on the collective work of their own proprietary components and the GPL licensed components. While that may or may not be true, they also argue that based on such rights, they can legally prevent anyone from installing modified versions of those GPL licensed components onto the device. To me, that would clearly be a further restriction under the GPL, and thus violate the terns of the License.
  • using rmmod on proprietary kernel module is a modification under copyright law
    This is where it starts to get really ridiculous. Both the module unload feature inside the kernel as well as the rmmod command itself are licensed under GPL. Their sole intended purpose is to unload modules from the Linux kernel. AVM now claims that the defendant is violating AVMs copyright because he unloads a proprietary AVM kernel module. Not only is it legally extremely questionable to have binary-only kernel modules at all... but then trying to tell other people they cannot unload such code is outrageous. AVM seems to not understand that they have _sold_ the device to the user. He can stop and unload any program on the device. The device is not owned by or rented by AVM.
  • copying code from NAND flash to RAM requires explicit permission from the copyright holder
    Once again, we have a situation where the user has bought the AVM product. He has obtained a license to the software programs. Under German copyright law there is even no requirement to have a license for 'normal use of the program' as long as the program was obtained lawfully. The CPU on the AVM device (like any CPU in any computer) can only execute code that's accessible to the memory/data bus. Code in NAND flash can never be executed directly, it always has to be copied into RAM before it can be executed. The claim that this operation requires separate permission by the copyright holder is wrong. The copying happens as part of the 'normal use of the program'.

AVM has filed several other claims against Cybits based on trademark and competition law. They go as far as to debating whether a certain LED on the product malfunctions after the user has installed the Cybits software on the product ;). I don't really want to go into details here, but I think it's mainly arguing for the sake of the argument. AVM wants to keep and extend its monopolistic power over those devices, even after they have been sold. That's where the real anti-competitiveness here is... If you look at popular alternative firmware projects like OpenWRT, you will find many vendors and literally hundreds of supported devices. None of them is from AVM. Isn't that striking, considering that AVM is told to have > 60% market share in Germany?

The court has heard arguments from all sides and is now adjourned. All parties are now again going to submit lengthy piles of paper to the court. Within those originating from my lawyers and myself, we will definitely once again outline our position. AVM can do whatever it wants, but it cannot use legal means to disallow the legitimate and intended modification + use of modified versions of GPL licensed code on their devices.

The implications of such a legal win for AVM go way beyond AVM or the DSL router business. They go all over the embedded market, and include NAS devices, Android smartphones, e-book readers, etc. Just think about the implications for OpenWRT, Cyanogenmod, Openinkpot and all the other firmware modification and 'homebrew' projects out there.

Syndicated 2011-06-21 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

German dsl-router vendor AVM seeks to remove the GPLs freedoms

Today, there has been a joint press release of gpl-violations.org and the Free Software Foundation Europe on a legal battle that has been ongoing for quite some time:

The German maker of popular dsl-routers (AVM) is using legal means to try to halt a third party company (Cybits) from modifying the GPL licensed components (like the Linux kernel) of AVM-branded routers. Furthermore, it seeks to ask courts to halt Cybits from distributing software by which end users can modify that GPL licensed software.

This is outrageous! AVM does not own the copyright to that GPL-licensed software. How can they seek to prevent anyone from exercising their right to modify the code and run modified versions of it? This is one of the most fundamental freedoms that Free Software grants its users.

In the last lawsuits (preliminary proceedings) that AVM has brought about, I have intervened on behalf of Cybits. At that time, the court was impressed and has restricted a previously-granted preliminary injunction against Cybits to not include any claims regarding the Free Software portions of the product.

But meanwhile, AVM has filed for the main/regular proceedings. Tomorrow (June 21st, 11am), there will be the first hearing at the district court (Landgericht Berlin, Room 2709, Littenstr. 12-17, Berlin).

I have applied to be a side intervener in those main proceedings, too. Given that the previous court accepted this, I assume it will be accepted in the district court, too.

Normally I wouldn't care much if two companies are taking it to court. But this case is not about Cybits or AVM. This case is about the fundamental question of whether a device maker using Linux and other GPL licensed software has the right to use legal means to prevent third parties from exercising their fundamental rights granted under the GPL.

For more information about the case and background information, please check out this background page at FSFE.

Syndicated 2011-06-20 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog

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