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renky

research free software supported wifi card phone usable ESP8089 ESP8266 ESP32?

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https://www.pine64.org/pinephone/

 

Free software is software you may use, share, modify and redistribute.

 

Replicant has decided to investigate if they can port a replicant version to the phone. Replicant has said, they know

of no phone better about free software. All modems on the market require non free software. Same about

the modem in the pinephone.

 

A downside of the pinephone is the wifi card, 8723cs, because it requires non free firmware software. On

pinephone's irc I was told, they went for the 8723cs because pinephone could find no viable free software supported sdio wifi

card.

 

Is it the case, there is no free software supported sdio wifi card for sale?

 

On pinephone's irc the ESP8089, ESP8266, ESP32 chips were mentioned. Are they computers like

the ardinos? If they are, I expect they are not usable in a phone, because of power consumption.

The chips were mentioned because it should not be inherently impossible to write free

software drivers and firmware for them. Do you know about forums for such matters? Thanks.

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27 minutes ago, renky said:

Replicant has said, they know of no phone better about free software. All modems on the market require non free software. Same about

the modem in the pinephone.

 

Agree. Here free software is again abused to make sales. Nothing new. Hardware sellers and some mainly commercial Linux distros do this all the time and people doesn't care or doesn't understand the difference.

 

27 minutes ago, renky said:

Is it the case, there is no free software supported sdio wifi card for sale?


Extremely rare. If you find some (old) ath9 card you can run it on open firmware while for GSM or BT radio, there is AFAIK no way.

 

The main difference between non-free phone and fake free phone is that (opensource) Android is going to be replaced with another (opensource) component Ubuntu Touch.

Is Android opensource? Technically yes, but ... https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/android-really-open-source-matter/

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abused to make sales.

 

If you are referring to replicant I do not agree.

https://www.replicant.us/freedom-privacy-security-issues.php

I tell people purism has been misleading, omitting and vague about free

software and their products. If pinephone gets on sale for the general

public and it gets marketed as a free software or open source

phone without detailing which devices on the phone require non free

software in order to run then I will tell people the company misleads

people.

 

Quote

ath9 card

 

thinkpenguin told me, the usb 9271 wifi card is still being manufactured. And it should be able

to fit in a phone.

https://im01.itaiwantrade.com/f367ea9c-58be-4e45-a1d2-732e219cb83e/DNUA-93F-100x100.png

According to pinephone's irc they had not considered the ar9271 usb option. One solution

might be to add a nano usb hub to a later pinephone mainboard. Pinephone's

irc said, there is no sdio slave controller for the ar9271.

 

 

 

 

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33 minutes ago, renky said:

If you are referring to replicant


Sorry for misunderstanding. I was referring to HW sellers and makers in general. Some are better in this, some worse but I am afraid that its a common marketing practice to forget about that detail. When Pine64 (and other similar boards) appeared on the marked, their low quality board support package (boot + kernel) came with many closed sections - basically chip makers SDK. We/community had to reverse engineer, wrote from scratch, fix bugs. Most of functions of the Linux kernel are free but not the drivers you already exposed. That is IMO too expensive to hack, make from scratch and will probably never be. This means such devices will always need a black box to function. (I hope not)

 

33 minutes ago, renky said:

I will tell people the company misleads people.


Its about how this device is presented to the public but if you look around ... Raspberry Pi. People don't care or have no idea what that means. Sadly.

 

42 minutes ago, renky said:

the usb 9271 wifi card is still being manufactured


That's good to know, but we would probably need something with AC radio in 2020. Probably they choose 8723cs also because of Bluetooth. A compromise.

 

Bottom up, there are no free phones.

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On 10/13/2019 at 1:34 AM, renky said:

A downside of the pinephone is the wifi card, 8723cs, because it requires non free firmware software. On

pinephone's irc I was told, they went for the 8723cs because pinephone could find no viable free software supported sdio wifi

card.

 

Is it the case, there is no free software supported sdio wifi card for sale?

 

On pinephone's irc the ESP8089, ESP8266, ESP32 chips were mentioned. Are they computers like

the ardinos? If they are, I expect they are not usable in a phone, because of power consumption.

The chips were mentioned because it should not be inherently impossible to write free

software drivers and firmware for them. Do you know about forums for such matters? Thanks.

 

Unfortunately - not really in a practical sense - there is the Marvell 8866 line of chips, and there is CSR for BT - but these are older chips, and now one is in to a two chip solution, which will complicate the board layout as one has two 2.4GHz radios that are not coordinated, and the different RF front ends.

 

Some have mentioned the atheros 9271, which does support the ath9k+htc driver, but it's USB, power hungry, and not a single chip solution.

 

All of these chips are old - so from a logistics perspective, getting volume quantity commitments could be a problem - CSR doesn't exist anymore as a company (bought by Qualcomm), and Marvell has exited the WiFi business (sold to NXP) - and dealing with Qualcomm or NXP, bring some money and be prepared to spend a lot of it - buy a 150,000 chips, and you'll get our attention once the PO is received.

 

The RTL8723BS chipset is probably the optimal solution actually - some work has been done to free it up...

 

https://github.com/torvalds/linux/tree/master/drivers/net/wireless/realtek

 

That being said - since the LTE modem is already non-free - Quectel ECxx series is running licensed SW (Qualcomm, IIRC) that is not GPL - so one is either totally libre, or not - one cannot be kinda free, it's much like being kind of pregnant - it's either all-free or it is not.

 

In for a penny, and in for a pound - I would seriously consider the Mediatek MT6737, where LTE (CAT4), WiFi (A/B/G/N), BT (2.1EDR/3-HS/4BTLE) , GPS, FM, charging, audio, etc... it's all there... it's PTCRB approved, and dev boards already exist for the chipset - OrangePI IOT 4G

 

Performance there should be similar to Allwinner H5 for compute, which is good enough for most.

 

Android Oreo, Ubuntu Xenial (16.04LTS) is supported there...

 

https://www.mediatek.com/products/smartphones/mt6737

 

http://www.orangepi.org/Orange Pi 4G-IOT/

 

mediatek_block.thumb.png.66b2cd7b19e2fa0394c102d08b6ac362.png

 

Data sheet for the chipset is available at the link below.

 

https://www.smartpcba.com/uploadfiles/datasheet/MT6737_LTE_Smartphone_Application_Processor_Functional_Specification_V1.0.pdf

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3 hours ago, sfx2000 said:

In for a penny, and in for a pound - I would seriously consider the Mediatek MT6737, where LTE (CAT4), WiFi (A/B/G/N), BT (2.1EDR/3-HS/4BTLE) , GPS, FM, charging, audio, etc... it's all there... it's PTCRB approved, and dev boards already exist for the chipset - OrangePI IOT 4G

and did you ever look into the sourcecode for this SoC (e.g. bootloader and kernel). I clearly understand why nobody wants to deal with this.. Compared to a 'well understood' allwinner a64.. have fun to build up a community around such a dead chip (in terms of being outdated) somehow motivate them to rewrite and upstream this so that your "freephone" will not be a security nightmare in the future (not that mainline is bugfree, but at least there's an existing chance that they are found over time whereas in a rotten bsp kernel they're likely last forever). I'm quite sure that something like linux-sunxi doesn't happen that often (there was a time when Allwinner offered SoCs with a interesting set of features, for a cheap price and somehow enough sourcecode and documentation reached the needed people to mainline those SoCs - luckily for them, AW SoCs being well mainlined now with minor investments from their side).

 

3 hours ago, sfx2000 said:

so one is either totally libre, or not - one cannot be kinda free, it's much like being kind of pregnant - it's either all-free or it is not.

 

I'll mix you a cocktail of hormones and half of your body will think you're pregnant.  :ph34r: A bit more serious.. IMO that's a bit a stallman-ish point of view. I think there are several levels of free, and indeed things can be more or less free. But that's more a philosophical question.

 

On 10/13/2019 at 11:51 PM, Igor said:

Bottom up, there are no free phones.

 

or as a friend always says: "It is, what it is. Describe the result as best as you can and others must decide if they want to false advertise your results to gain attraction" (he's a pessimistic doing in science.. :P). For the Pinephone, they try at least to go a good job (e.g. datasheets for all used ICs are linked on the wiki), and they summarize what is used. It is what it is....

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Please don't misunderstand - I would absolutely love to see a librephone, and the pinephone folks have made a decent start.

 

But they will face significant challenges - doing a phone is much more than just making the board - the ecosystem of vendors, regulatory, carriers, it's incredibly hard to get into that realm without having solid funding and buy-in from the vendors and carriers.

 

For example, here in the US, getting FCC approval is a must, without it, not going to sell a phone here - and the 4 major carriers are going to want at least PTCRB certification - integrating an approved module (for example, the Quectel EC25 or u-blox toby-r203) can get one part of the way there, but usually there's more to it, than just FCC/PTCRB...

 

Then there is the whole licensing bit - the Contract Manufacturer has one licence, but the OEM also has to have the appropriate licenses, as that is treated separately - example here would be the iPhone - where foxconn buys the chips, makes the device for Apple, so they have their own agreement with Qualcomm (and Intel), but Apple has to have yet another.

 

And it just goes on and on from there.

 

Even a basic low-end android device, taking it from scratch to production, this can easily be a $5M investment, seriously... people with deep pockets have tried and have only found limited success (Andy Rubin, the Essential Phone, or Jim Jannard with the Hydrogen One from RED) - not because they were bad products (both examples I mentioned are actually good phones), but that's the ecosystem, and the barriers to entry, which are quite high.

 

There's an adage in the business - how to make a small fortune in mobile phones, start with a big one.

 

If it were me - first decide how "free" the device will be - knowing that the LTE baseband is definitely not free, and coupled to a close source ecosystem, and I would say the same for viable WiFi/BT/GPS as well - I would say, that problem is solved by going to someone like Qualcomm or Mediatek, and work with an OEM or CM that is already present, and has all the licensing and business relationships already in place. Then look at what is already done - AOSP is open, and folks make product around it all the time - it's not full android, but enough, and in the PRC, there are 100's of millions of handsets built on AOSP that are not using GMS.

 

If I were the Pinephone folks - for HW, look at the Shenzen CM ecosystem - there are plenty of companies that can build a device around a known good chipset (like the one I mentioned above, the MediaTek MT6737), maybe even partner up with players in the SBC community here - they're in the ecosystem, and know the ropes, and have the means to design and build the basic hardware - and they can do it cheaper than a bunch of guys chatting on an IRC channel that think they can do it a different way.

 

https://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?page_id=3107

 

Going back to the comment about A64/R18 - they're ok chips, and most here are familiar enough with them, and good "upstream" support from the linux-sunxi community - challenge here is they don't have any experience with a 3G/4G baseband needed for an LTE handset. The MediaTek chipset I mentioned, performance is going to be similar, and as it has the integrated wireless interfaces, that problem has been solved. Going with an ODM that has experience with the MT chips, they've solved the bootloader issues, and they have the business relationships with MediaTek to sort out the hardware board issues.

 

This would then allow the PinePhone folks to look upwards in the SW stack and make some decisions on the userland software and development environment support to take thing from a great idea to a working and functional product.

 

I offer this advice freely, and wish the team success at realizing their vision of a free and open handset.

 

I have spent many years in the cellphone OEM/ODM space, so I know what works, and more importantly, what does not.

 

best

 

sfx

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either totally libre, or not

 

For my part I think as free as it gets is an option which should be taken. It builds knowledge such

that if hardware able to run entirely on free software gets on the market then it will

likely  be easier to prepare the software which we want.

 

Quote

atheros 9271, which does support the ath9k+htc driver, but it's USB, power hungry

 

You cannot software wise tweak the wifi card to use less power? Shorter range for smaller power

consumption?

 

I wrote bunnie if he new about a free software wifi card suitable for a phone? He did not.

This was his answer.

solution to the closed firmware problem has been to firewall the wifi chip behind a controller. Basically, we consider everything inside the wifi chip to be insecure. It's conceptually the same assumption as saying the access point is insecure, but with a perimeter slightly closer to the phone. This does mean we are burning extra hardware on a dedicated firewall CPU to manage the wifi chip. It's not the ideal solution,

 

Fyi. A replicant manager wrote, that maybe the display of the pinephone requires non

free software to work. People on pinephone's irc did not know what he was

referring to. If it requires non free software then a pinephone replicant port is not

an option. Apparently replicant will get a pinephone and then will have

to test the phone.

 

About the listed hardware in posts here. Pinephone says, people can join

in how the phone is going to be build.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 11/2/2019 at 8:21 AM, renky said:

You cannot software wise tweak the wifi card to use less power? Shorter range for smaller power

consumption?

 

The power issue is due to the USB PHY, not the radio.

 

AR9271, which is a great chip, also has it's own CPU, running it's own closed source firmware from EEPROM, this run on a Tensilica Xtesna 2.1 microcontroller...

 

Don't forget - the AllWinner SOC also has a hidden core for power management, and it runs it's own firmware - the AR100 - some folks have reverse engineered the blob there, but I've not seen a working example yet...

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On 10/13/2019 at 1:34 AM, renky said:

A downside of the pinephone is the wifi card, 8723cs, because it requires non free firmware software. On

pinephone's irc I was told, they went for the 8723cs because pinephone could find no viable free software supported sdio wifi

card.

 

Is it the case, there is no free software supported sdio wifi card for sale?

 

Check Redpine - they might have something available that one could use...

 

https://www.redpinesignals.com/

 

 

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On 10/27/2019 at 10:57 PM, sfx2000 said:

If I were the Pinephone folks - for HW, look at the Shenzen CM ecosystem - there are plenty of companies that can build a device around a known good chipset (like the one I mentioned above, the MediaTek MT6737), maybe even partner up with players in the SBC community here - they're in the ecosystem, and know the ropes, and have the means to design and build the basic hardware - and they can do it cheaper than a bunch of guys chatting on an IRC channel that think they can do it a different way.

these guys chatting on IRC manage to somehow be really competitive in prices for the SBCs they already released. Good look to find "cheap" developers who are willing to deal with a mt6737 to get the code needed to support it upstream. linux-sunxi is somehow a curiosity... there are people which did a lot of the heavy lifting and "the party is still going" more stuff gets mainlined even for the rusty sunxi chips (e.g. encoding/decoding stuff). The only "mobile" chip from mediatek which got a bit of upstream support is the MT6797 aka X20 but even there it's not much. Not even mentioned that you then have to deal with other stuff like lk for boot of those thingies (from all the BSPs I saw, mobile mtk chips use, as most android mobile stuff, little kernel for boot).

Then it comes to the, stick to the stuff you're good at. For Pinefolks, they've a proven record in designing hardware around rockchip and allwinner chips, they're familiar with the A64 with multiple boards around it so I guess they get competitive prices when sourcing parts (SoC, pmic, RAM whatever else is needed) to design 'another' board around this SoC (in fact it's just another A64 board with a special formfactor with some additional stuff like a 4g modem soldered directly). Whereas nobody expect Xunlong (from the SBC boardmaker guys) ever did a MT6737 based board. If you offer the same "as every cheap android phone" (means a smelly outdated kernel) then there's no need to call your board somehow libre IMO. For me Libre means that I'm free to load on it whatever I want to load on it. If somehow in the future pine64 is no more, or all the current OSes they try to support with this device go down the drain I can compile a kernel, glue it to whatever the next super high "mobile linux distribution" rootfs and hack around to get the 4g modem working and I still have a working device (I'll still have a upstream kernel at hand and every fancy new linux mobile distribution should be able to deal with a upstream kernel - whereas they might drop my smelly as hell BSP kernel long time ago). Cause it doesn't really matter if pine64 exists or not, the information how to deal with allwinner SoCs is spread around so that you get the missing information.

As Xunlong (with the OPI 2g/4g IoT), bananapi (with various boards) and likely others too had to learn the hard way, it's hard to form a community around your SBC if the SoC used isn't already well known in the mafia (aka community :ph34r::lol:). The 2g-IoT never took off (we purged all the code supporting it, Andreas Fäber from open Suse more or less stopped his attempts to support it upstream), the 4g-IoTdidn't even made it into the buildscript (mostly cause nobody here tried to deal with little kernel for booting - it's a way harder to deal with it than with u-boot cause lack of documentation and decent examples from others how to deal with it). Even the MT7623n (BPi R2) which has a good upstream support (even with upstream u-boot support) is mostly a 1.2 man show (@frank-w managing to keep a patched upstream kernel alive counting for 1, and me counting for the other .2 dealing with getting into the buildscript here - but except a few support questions here and there, the board is mostly "dead" - I've not seen someone else working on it, except @Igor mostly as part of his usual maintainer work dealing with stuff nobody wants to deal with). Sinovoips realtek boards somehow get a bit of attention cause they're found in multiple NAS/TV boxes, kudos to @Staars @chewitt @danman et al, I know the pain of dealing with barely documented stuff - it's not that much fun for a long long time until you get something out of it. These guys try hard (!= tryhards) to glue wings to those SoCs with steady success.

I guess, for a project like pine64 it would be an overkill to get familiar with a new platform ("mediatek mobile", which has currently close to no upstream support from the SoC maker upstream - their "router boards" have), funding kerneldevs to get this thing upstream and calm the community cause "nothing" works with upstream kernel in the beginnings. People tend to be nasty when things aren't working perfectly at start, except RPi folks they celebrate every new iteration no matter what works and what doesn't work properly in the beginnings. Maybe @TLLim wants to explain their decision whenever I don't see much of a reason to do so.

 

On 11/2/2019 at 4:21 PM, renky said:

Fyi. A replicant manager wrote, that maybe the display of the pinephone requires non

free software to work. People on pinephone's irc did not know what he was

referring to. If it requires non free software then a pinephone replicant port is not

an option. Apparently replicant will get a pinephone and then will have

to test the phone.

looking a bit around on their site for maintained devices:

all of them have "freedom issues" down to the bootloader. I'd prefer a proprietary display driver (in case this is really true) than a closed bootloader on a proprietary hardware (personal opinion, I've no idea how these guys define freedom, but arm chips tend to have some lowlevel CPUs in the SoC to deal with a bunch of stuff AR100 for allwinner, Videocore for broadcom - okay.. there it is 'slightly different' it controls everything except the stuff it allows you to deal with :ph34r:). So if the 4g modem is directly connected to the SoC you've basically no idea what these parts of the SoC is doing all the time. And a port can still be possible even when they don't support it. The nice part about "open source" you can fork it adjust it to your hardware and there you go, a free not officially supported version of whatever piece of software you forked for your needs. The same happens to Armbian even when "we" not always like it, or Raspbian (for sure they don't like it :D) and a bunch of other projects with releases their sourcecode under a common free software license - as long as you follow the license terms you're free to do whatever you want with it, even when the original writer of that piece of code doesn't like it (not sure if RPi folks like that gpiomem works on the rk3288, or their RPi cam v2.1 with a cryptographic chip on it to avoid cheaper RPi compatible imx219 cameras for the RPi also "works" on the tinkerboard - well they may like it cause they sold at least two of them more, @TonyMac32 and I had to buy one to test it - likely we would never bought one for a RPi :D).

 

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On 11/6/2019 at 6:59 AM, sfx2000 said:

AR9271, which is a great chip, also has it's own CPU, running it's own closed source firmware from EEPROM, this run on a Tensilica Xtesna 2.1 microcontroller...

 

Don't forget - the AllWinner SOC also has a hidden core for power management, and it runs it's own firmware - the AR100 - some folks have reverse engineered the blob there

 

It this similar to the ec on a libreboot computer? I agree it is unacceptable if we do not get access

to the source code. But by fsf's respect your freedom definition it does not matter because

the device cannot receive updates or it cannot get on the internet.

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looking a bit around on their site for maintained devices:

    all of them have "freedom issues"

 

 

 

Yes, they believe they have selected the best available hardware regarding what can get achieved free

software wise. Replicant itself is free software.

 

   

Quote

proprietary display driver

 

 

Newest piece of information is, the replicant person got it wrong. The display on the pinephone

does not require non free software to run.

 

   

Quote

arm chips tend to have some lowlevel CPUs in the SoC to deal with a bunch of stuff AR100 for allwinner, Videocore for broadcom

 

 

Similar to the ec on a libreboot computer?

 

   

Quote

4g modem is directly connected to the SoC you've basically no idea what these parts of the SoC is doing all the time.

 

 

The modem on the pinephone has an usb connection to the main cpu. Replicant wants to apply usb

guard knowing it might have no effect.

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On 11/21/2019 at 6:40 AM, renky said:

Can you be more specific or are you suggesting I write and ask redpinesignals?

 

Contact them - they have both host and embedded solutions, and they seem to be more open than others...

 

For power suitable chips - other options are Marvell, Broadcom/Cypress, and Qualcomm/Atheros, and we know they're fairly closed with current chipsets.

 

SDIO is going to be preferred over USB/UART for both power and performance in a handset device

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Agree with OP ! Maybe the community will be able to discuss the parts of a future pinephone 2.

For a free modem I have a very small hope for the future...

Guys, do you think that its so impossible for the comunity to make a modem ? Maybe with a risc ? 

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On 12/5/2019 at 4:28 PM, Jack953 said:

Agree with OP ! Maybe the community will be able to discuss the parts of a future pinephone 2.

For a free modem I have a very small hope for the future...

Guys, do you think that its so impossible for the comunity to make a modem ? Maybe with a risc ? 

 

It's really hard to do in a power efficient manner - there are SDR's that can do all the right waveforms, the signalling, etc, but most of this is on an FPGA - the UMTS and LTE protocols are fairly complex, much more so that 802.11 wifi, and we know how hard that can be.

 

It's also a massive minefield of patents, which makes GPL are very real challenge.

 

Osmocom.org has made the most progress towards a free modem - https://osmocom.org/

 

 

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