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Open Linux developer phone opens up more

Mar 5, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

Trolltech has loosened key licensing restrictions on its user-modifiable Linux-based mobile phone for open source software developers. Users of the Greenphone will no longer be restricted to running Qtopia software on the device, nor to using the device only in its supplied… hardware/software configuration.

Trolltech made the changes following a LinuxDevices news item calling attention to a concern articulated in a recent LinuxLookup review of the Greephone. The review suggested that the Greenphone's Device User License Agreement could stop open source developers from using the device to experiment with alternative software stacks, among other interesting potential use cases.

A Trolltech representative called the points raised by reviewer Jon Buset “interesting” and “valid,” and said the company decided to change the wording of the license in order to avoid a negative reaction in the open source developer community. “The Trolls are new to the hardware licensing business, and very much appreciate this kind of input,” the spokesperson said.

Trolltech's community manager, Knut Yrvin, explained that the recently removed restrictions in the license were originally meant to apply to closed source components of the Greenphone, while open source components would have been exempted by another clause in the license reading, “You are not authorized to modify or to create derivative work on the Device, except as permitted in a separate license agreement that accompanies the Software's source code.”

Yrvin said, “Qtopia is GPL-ed in the Community edition of Greenphone. Combining other free software solutions on the Greenphone is explicitly allowed. For example, the site shows how to put Python on the Greenphone. The Python license is compatible with the GPL, according to the Free Software Foundation. Trolltech endorses such initiatives.”

Yrvin noted that Greenphone does contain some proprietary components, including its “secure execution environment” (SXE) package manager and its communications stack. Open source users can use the iPKG package manager instead, he suggested, but are stuck with the closed communication stack due to a perception of enhanced security. He said, “When it comes to the GSM stuff, it will be proprietary solutions as long as regulators, operators, and chip manufactures keeps things non-free.”

More details about the Greenphone can be found in Buset's review and in our earlier hands-on review of the device.

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