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AOSP Maintainer Quits 221

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-for-all-the-hard-work dept.
In a post on Google+, Jean-Baptiste Quéru, long-time maintainer of the Android Open Source Project, has said he'll no longer be working on it. "There's no point being the maintainer of an Operating System that can't boot to the home screen on its flagship device for lack of GPU support, especially when I'm getting the blame for something that I don't have authority to fix myself and that I had anticipated and escalated more than 6 months ahead." Quéru is referring to the recently-released Nexus 7 revision, for which Google has not provided factory images of Android 4.3. This seems to be because GPU maker Qualcomm is refusing to release the blobs necessary to boot the device.
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AOSP Maintainer Quits

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @02:59PM (#44501763)
    The best way to solve this problem is for Google to announce that they will not to use any parts that don't include open source drivers. The blobs will be released real quick.
    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:01PM (#44501783)

      That is exactly what google should do.
      If your drivers are not in the mainline kernel, your parts do not go into nexus devices.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Why?

        Why would google do that?

        Google doesn't give a damm about open source really. They care about profits.

        Customers don't give a damm about open source either. Just a tiny tiny % of geeks care.

        They are not going to screw over profits and customers for a tiny tiny % of users... that's just stupid.

        • by spire3661 (1038968) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:37PM (#44502155) Journal
          People dont give a shit how a structurally sound a bridge is constructed either, only a tiny tiny % of its users do.. Just because only a few know enough to care doesnt change the argument. Very often it is the unpopular ideas that are correct.
          • by Zalbik (308903)

            People dont give a shit how a structurally sound a bridge is constructed either, only a tiny tiny % of its users do

            Bullshit. I don't know anyone who doesn't care whether a bridge is structurally sound. I know a number of users that assume the bridges they drive over are structurally sound however.

            And WTF does this have to do with anything anyway?
            Companies that build bridges care whether those bridges are structurally sound, as they can face litigation and huge damages if the are not.

            I'm guessing Google d

          • by mjwx (966435)

            People dont give a shit how a structurally sound a bridge is constructed either, only a tiny tiny % of its users do.. Just because only a few know enough to care doesnt change the argument. Very often it is the unpopular ideas that are correct.

            This.

            People dont give a shit how safe a bridge is until it collapses, then they care a lot. People dont give a shit until it affects them, but by then it's too late.

            People are dicks like that.

            So it really is up to that tiny, tiny % of geeks or structural engineers to effect change.

          • by Dog-Cow (21281)

            You are a retarded piece of shit. Anyone who travels over a bridge cares how sound it is. The exception would be children and the like who simply don't know enough to care.

          • if I'm expected to use a bridge I expect it to be structurally sound! THAT DOES NOT MEAN I need to know what kind of fucking cement it's made with!

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Customers don't give a damm about open source either. Just a tiny tiny % of geeks care.

          Customers do give a damn about the availability of apps, though. You can get Angry Birds on any platform, thus it's not a selling point; but the presence of niche applications is, and those are too low-profit for companies to bother. That leaves geeks as suppliers, and as you said: a % of geeks care about open source.

          Unlike desktop, mobile actually has real competition, so can Google afford to give up an advantage just b

          • by 21mhz (443080)

            That leaves geeks as suppliers, and as you said: a % of geeks care about open source.

            Do you have any evidence to confirm that open source geeks write any significant share of applications on the Play Store?

        • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

          Customers don't give a damn if there is an API. Just a tiny tiny % of geeks care. But that tiny tiny % are developers. And customers like what developers create.

          Customers don't know how the magic black boxes work. But they sure benefit from the magic created when those who do know can do their thing.

          Also - for a company who "doesn't give a damn about open source", they sure do a lot of it.

        • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @08:14PM (#44504777)

          Given the existence of the Google Summer of Code projects, the ongoing publication by Google of Java patches, and the contribution of Google employees to fascinating projects on github.com, quite a large percentage of Google employees both use and publish open source and freeware. Numerous business partners and collaborators work with it extensively, especially when they see me publishing my patches or updated code and see that they benefit from my ongoing involvement. And they are willing to pay my company more because our projects are available, as source, so that work can be evolved or continued even if one of our developers changes employment.

          I've certainly helped engineers try to reverse engineer software without source 10 years later, and it is _barbaric_. The last time, I fortunately found that the developer had actually cannibalized software I'd written decades ago to build the application. It was a reminder of why a GPL can be so much more powerful than an Apache or BSD license: the developer had not chosen to publish their modifications to their clients, for various legal and workflow reasons.

      • by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:35PM (#44502143)

        Except Google will find itself without a Nexus device to sell. Especially since Google has started toning down their Nexus line and starting offering "Google Edition" phones which are stock Android phones.

        Because you think companies like Samsung, HTC, LG, etc care that the drivers are open or not? They sign the NDAs and get access to partial source code they need to create their devices.

        As for using obsolete fabs and such - it's still expensive. Masks still cost around $100,000 each, and you need 10 or more of them still for a modern chip, so a tapeout run still costs a couple of million dollars.

        FPGAs can be used, but when I used them, the dev systems used FPGAs cost $30K each, and the entire system ran at 10MHz. Oh, and you needed 4 FPGAs to simulate a subset of the chip. (That said, if you have 10 hours or so, Android DOES boot...).

        The big problem still is the 3D stuff - all highly patented - implementing an open core will basically violate piles of patents, including many dating all the way back to when companies like S3 existed.

        Of course, you can run Android in pure 2D mode, as 2D graphics are mostly patent free, but performance stinks. At the very least, a plain old framebuffer with no hardware acceleration can be implemented using open and free drivers.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Uhhh...and why EXACTLY would Google do that, especially when doing so would cripple their devices as NOBODY is making a top tier GPU that isn't patented up the ying yang and I would argue that even making one is impossible thanks to patents?

        In this case frankly there is nothing anybody can do, there is NO top tier mobile GPU being produced that isn't patented and cross licensed up the ying yang, from texture compression on up is ALL patented 6 ways to Sunday and all of Google's money can't fix that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Nerdfest (867930)

          Patents do not preclude open source, and really, they work with it quite nicely. To get a patent, you need to publish your ideas rather than rely on trade secrets. Really, copyright law applies more to the source code, but it is still protected.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Sigh...interesting? Really? Does nobody here know how this stuff works? okay let me break it down, you see NOBODY makes a GPU by themselves, NOBODY, its ALL cross licensed, again going back to S3 texture compression and going up through the modern like tesselation, its ALL controlled by one of a half dozen or so GPU makers and they ALL require an NDA.

            NOW do you understand why those patents preclude FOSS? Because if I own a patent on X and the ONLY WAY I will let you use X is to sign an NDA you can't then FO

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tlhIngan (30335)

        That is exactly what google should do.
        If your drivers are not in the mainline kernel, your parts do not go into nexus devices.

        Two results:

        1) Nexus devices run like crap because open drivers suck and are unable to use hardware.

        2) Nexus are the most open devices, but damn does battery life suck.

        The first is because you don't need the GPU, but Android performance stinks without acceleration. And the stuff open-source has access too tends to be fairly limited. so performance is never as good as it can be.

        The se

        • Then you have a completely open stack, save the phone firmware (not a problem for tablets).

          Without cellular data firmware, which I assume to be as closed as phone firmware, how does a tablet connect to the Internet while its user is riding a bus? The only workaround I can think of is an external hotspot device such as a MiFi.

          • by MiG82au (2594721)
            I push one button on the drop down menu of my phone to set up a wifi hotspot for my tablet.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Google should do that. However they won't because they're Google.

    • by kllrnohj (2626947)

      Then nobody would ship on Nexus and everyone else would carry on as normal. Google doesn't move many devices, they aren't a major player here.

      Also open source drivers is not going to happen, but that's not even what's being asked for. Qualcomm isn't allowing Google to redistribute the *binary blobs*

    • Then they should use intel parts.

    • by smash (1351)
      Go for it. I'm sure the tiny precent of android devices google sell will just get tinier. Samsung will quite happily fill the gap Google leave with any supplier they give that ultimatum to.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @02:59PM (#44501767) Homepage

    Lest anyone forget, or for lack of never knowing, that this reason is likely only the tip of the iceberg.

    It's not to discount it as a significant factor, but anyone who's quit from a position knows it's not just one thing, usually, there are several - lack of pay/low pay, poor work structure, poor work environment, demeaning personalities, etc.

    Getting endless gripes and complaints about lack of support for something as popular and 'open' as the Nexus 7 when they've got no ability to fix the situation - but should, by Google's own marketing claims - has got to be pretty disheartening on its own, but I'm certain it's not the only thing.

    • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:19PM (#44501987) Journal
      "The task is not possible" can be a pretty compelling argument for giving it up.
      • It can also be one hell of a motivator to prove someone wrong.
        • by symbolset (646467) *
          When someone else says "the task is not possible" that is a challenge. When you yourself find the task is not possible it is time to try something else.
          • by CAIMLAS (41445)

            When you're trying to do x (develop), and people keep asking you to do y (aka make a political/legal change), it's highly frustrating and disillusioning because you've got no time for x anymore. "You don't want me to develop? Fine, fuck you, do it yourself."

            • by symbolset (646467) *
              I do the impossible every day. That is actually the scope of my "special projects" mission. But I am not disposed to tell you how I do it.
    • It sounds like obnoxious people were blaming him for the problem, which is completely beyond his control. Walking away seems like a good decision. It's up to Google to fix this.
    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:28PM (#44502089)

      It's also worth noting that this was his full-time day job at Google (possibly more than full-time, if it went as this kind of project often goes). That's sometimes a good situation, because you're getting paid rather than putting in unpaid nights/weekends on the project. But sometime it can actually be worse, and more stressful, because it's your real job and you have to work on it daily. At least if you get burned out on a volunteer open source project, you can ignore it for a bit, step back from the mailing list and bug tracker for a little while things settle down, and then come back to it later with some fresh energy. But if it's your actual day job that is harder to do, unless you have an exceptionally flexible boss.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:07PM (#44501849)
    Up until this news, I was seriously considering buying one.
    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:09PM (#44501867)

      Join the club. I guess I will have to stick with the original one a little longer.

      I would pay extra for a device with all the drivers in the mainline kernel. So far that seems impossible in the tablet/phone area.

      • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:22PM (#44502013)

        Agreed. I'd be willing to pay considerably more, and would consider it a major point of sale feature. It would mean I wouldn't be at the mercy of the device maker for firmware updates, at the very least. (A vanilla build of android from source is practically garanteed to work if all device drivers are in mainline kernel. If push came to shove, I could roll my own damned update.)

        At this point I seriously wonder why there aren't people clamoring to produce fully open hardware SoC solutions for this market. Even lower powered devices on obsolete fab processes would be very desirable given the lockouts presented by the major players. A shiny toy is worthless if you can't actually use it.

        The only thing I can come up with for why this hasn't happened is the employment of thermonuclear patent portfolios. Again, refusal to hold a patent bomb would further influence my purchase choice. Combined, i'd be willing to pay over 200$ more. (But I must have BOTH features. Mainline support, and peace of mind for not supporting the patent madness.)

        Seriously. Show me a device that does both of those things, and can actually fit in a pocket, and I will buy it.

        • If "fit in a pocket" is in your criteria, then the Nexus 7 isn't for you; you want a phone form-factor. However, if you're looking for the perfect tablet form factor, then 7" is the right size to fit in your hand without danger of dropping it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by uvajed_ekil (914487)
            Some of us don't have tiny girly pockets, in which case the Nexus 7 is indeed borderline pocket-sized.
          • by c++0xFF (1758032)

            My Nexus 7 fits perfectly fine in my pockets, thank you. Even with a case.

            Not that I'm going to roam around town 24x7 that way, of course. But I can slip it into my back pocket when I need to chase after my toddler. It also fits into my suit coat pocket -- a bit heavy, of course, but convenient for business purposes.

            7" tablets are "pocket-able," but not "pocket-sized." And that's perfect for me.

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              You must be a big dude... I'm 6'3", and in my pair of Dickies jeans (not even remotely "skinny" jeans), the tablet sticks about 1/3 of the way out of the back pockets and about 1/5 of the way out of the front. In the front pocket, it is a very tight fit. In either event, there is not going to be much sitting! I've definitely "slipped it in my back pocket when I need to chase after my toddler", but to call it pocket-able is a bit much.

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:17PM (#44501959) Journal

    Quitting AOSP doesn't solve the problem. It makes it worse.

    What we can do, is start a campaign of "name and shame", that starts asking key questions of Qualcomm spokesdrones, why?

    And here is the real bits that should concern people, I rather doubt there is anything all that special about the blobs of code needed, or even the underlying hardware. Further, given the Copyright and Patents that SHOULD be protecting the "intellectual property" of Qualcomm, there is NOT A SINGLE REASON to release the code.

    Even if the Lawyers want to be involved, how about writing a waver for AOSP so they can include the blobs needed, or the APIs to code themselves what is needed (probably showing up the crappy programmers at Qualcomm) etc etc etc.

    There are plenty of ways around this issue, but if Qualcomm won't play nice, then it is time to start playing hardball. Believe me, a very loud "name and shame" Campaign would work. Here is just a one suggestion.

    1) Android Apps detect if the device is running a Qualcomm chip (of any kind) and simply puts a blurb up that says "Your device is using Qualcomm Chips. Qualcomm doesn't fully support Android Open Source Projects, so please consider as part of your next Android Phone/Device one that doesn't use Qualcomm chips. Thank you.

    • What we can do, is start a campaign of "name and shame", that starts asking key questions of Qualcomm spokesdrones, why?

      That has worked so well with NVidia.......

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      There are plenty of ways around this issue, but if Qualcomm won't play nice, then it is time to start playing hardball. Believe me, a very loud "name and shame" Campaign would work.

      Why bother? If openness is so advantageous then people will buy open devices for their advantages and companies will realise they need to fall in line, so better to spend your time actually doing something with the existing open devices to prove your point.

      Instead of trying to bully and shame those corporations (which won't work anyway) how about showing them why what you want is so good, in the end 'it's open' isn't an argument or a feature, it's just a means to a tangible benefit that you cannot get on cl

    • "Would rate ZERO STARS if that was an option! App works, but pesters constantly about koala communist chippies or something. Super SUPER duper annoying. Use SomeOtherApp+ Free instead."

  • Replicant (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:17PM (#44501961)

    Just a reminder that the Replicant [replicant.us] project is trying to make a completely free and open source version of the Android software stack, including the parts that interface with the hardware.

  • By the Way... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:28PM (#44502087)

    The GPU in Intel's upcoming Baytrail tablet SoC already has 100% GPL mainline Linux drivers in at least the 3.10 kernel... just sayin'

  • and realize that your geeky wet dream of fully open source OS on mobile phones is just that -- a dream.

    Samsung, practically the only true major player behind Android, sells more phones to the dumb sheep than Apple does. They don't care about geeks a bit.

  • One odd thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @03:46PM (#44502241) Journal

    I'm not surprised that Qualcomm are being dicks about driver source(though I would assume that they have some haha-nominally-GPL-compliant shim for interacting with the Linux kernel, like Nvidia does); but the lack of a factory image seems very weird indeed.

    Do they somehow think that anybody who wants to steal their precious secrets (and has the resources to actually be a threat), is going to be stopped by the need to buy a $200 consumer electronics widget and crack it open? If the device is shipping, the driver binaries and firmware blobs are shipping with it, in millions of units. They aren't going to stay secret long against anybody who cares.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      I would assume that they have some haha-nominally-GPL-compliant shim for interacting with the Linux kernel

      They do, and they've tried pushing it upstream. It was rightfully rejected because without the closed source blob that Qualcomm controls tightly it's useless.

  • by carou (88501) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @04:03PM (#44502443) Homepage Journal

    Is there an upper limit to the number of times we can sarcastically quote "Open Always Wins!" after news articles like this one, before it stops being funny?
    I know we haven't reached it yet, I'm just asking for information.

    • by treeves (963993)

      I think it's related to GIMPS. No, not the open source image editing software; the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, i.e no limit.

  • I guess it's time for the old piracy groups to step up and steal the factory images that the production house is flashing onto those devices.

  • by frinkster (149158) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @04:39PM (#44502873)

    Read between the lines.

    Queru is gone. Rubin is gone. The Chromecast, whose original and main purpose was to get Android devices connected to external displays, ran Android in prototype builds but was released with Chrome OS. Look who runs the Android group now... The head of the Chrome OS group, who is still the head of the Chrome OS group.

    I'd give it no more than 2 years before the Nexus & Motorola products are released with Chrome OS and Android is 3rd-party device only with all Google services removed.

    Face it, Google just isn't getting what they wanted out of the platform.

    • by Applekid (993327) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @04:50PM (#44502975)

      Face it, Google just isn't getting what they wanted out of the platform.

      Or they got exactly what they wanted: market penetration. The majority of happy Android users will have no problem upgrading to a closed Chrome Mobile as long as they get keep their apps (which will then be emulated in an Android VM, a VM within a VM if you will). And Google dropping old, smelly, and open Android means they won't keep their apps on future Android devices.

      If I could go back in time and tell myself 5 years younger that Google, not Microsoft, was going to lead the next wave of Embrace Extend Extinguish, I'd have laughed in my own face.

      • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @09:27PM (#44505217) Homepage

        Face it, Google just isn't getting what they wanted out of the platform.

        Or they got exactly what they wanted: market penetration. The majority of happy Android users will have no problem upgrading to a closed Chrome Mobile as long as they get keep their apps (which will then be emulated in an Android VM, a VM within a VM if you will). And Google dropping old, smelly, and open Android means they won't keep their apps on future Android devices.

        ChromeOS isn't closed - well, no more than Android is. ChromeOS is actually based on Gentoo, believe it or not, so if anything the foundation is even more open.

        However, in general everything in ChromeOS is web-based, and web-based apps in general don't have touchscreen UIs. I'm not sure that we'll ever see full Android-ChromeOS convergence. If we do, the result will be a platform that is actually much closer to the traditional Linux distro.

        • Face it, Google just isn't getting what they wanted out of the platform.

          Or they got exactly what they wanted: market penetration. The majority of happy Android users will have no problem upgrading to a closed Chrome Mobile as long as they get keep their apps (which will then be emulated in an Android VM, a VM within a VM if you will). And Google dropping old, smelly, and open Android means they won't keep their apps on future Android devices.

          ChromeOS isn't closed - well, no more than Android is. ChromeOS is actually based on Gentoo, believe it or not, so if anything the foundation is even more open.

          However, in general everything in ChromeOS is web-based, and web-based apps in general don't have touchscreen UIs. I'm not sure that we'll ever see full Android-ChromeOS convergence. If we do, the result will be a platform that is actually much closer to the traditional Linux distro.

          Wait, what? The chromebook pixel [google.com] is fully touchscreen enabled, and ChromeOS fully supports touchscreen, including all of Google's native apps. Tell me this is some attempt at a bad joke?

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            ChromeOS isn't closed - well, no more than Android is. ChromeOS is actually based on Gentoo, believe it or not, so if anything the foundation is even more open.

            However, in general everything in ChromeOS is web-based, and web-based apps in general don't have touchscreen UIs. I'm not sure that we'll ever see full Android-ChromeOS convergence. If we do, the result will be a platform that is actually much closer to the traditional Linux distro.

            Wait, what? The chromebook pixel [google.com] is fully touchscreen enabled, and ChromeOS fully supports touchscreen, including all of Google's native apps. Tell me this is some attempt at a bad joke?

            I didn't say that ChromeOS wasn't touch-screen enabled, only that web-based apps in general don't have touchscreen UIs. Google's native apps supporting touchscreen was actually news to me, but when I'm browsing websites on Android from time to time I still run into sites that depend on mouseover for something, and that doesn't work with touchscreen (though it would work fine with the trackpad/ball if your device has one and the OS supplies a cursor).

            I'm not really saying it can't be done, just that so far

  • by hackus (159037) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @07:26PM (#44504449) Homepage

    Looking at the submissions lately for AOSP and finding out just how pissed off I am about recent events including this one, which just made my day.

    Something to consider while you dine this evening:

    1) Increasingly Handsets and anything that shows video is being locked out.
    2) This post is just one example, but I can cite others if you can't google about the whole sickening GPU/DSP issues in the industry which just keep getting worse with everything that is LINUX.
    3) The convergence in my mind, that it just so happens that governments are ape shit over knowing everything you do. Further, if I may point out, the huge contracts cellular providers are getting behind the scenes to make this happen from DARPA.

    Which to me, makes me wonder if the idea of knowing exactly how the video and camera hardware work is something by design, is not something your local friendly cellular provider wants you to know.

    Think of the hardware GPU/DSP on your phone as partitioned as sorta "that room" you never go into while working at your local friendly Time Warner NOC for example.

    I mean, wouldn't it just be dandy if the DSP/GPU hardware is BLOB'ed and secret so that the NSA/CIA can turn it on any time, preferable in a manner other software on the phone knows nothing about.

    Think about that next time you AOSP a compile and include those nice little BLOB's.

    -Hack

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Well, suddenly I feel vindicated for buying a rockchip-based USB stick. At least I'll have a path to Linux, as the OSS Mali driver is already good enough to run Q3, and there is already a Linux kernel for RK3188 (although I couldn't get it to build an actual kernel image, it did build objects...)

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