Good morning (UGT) all! I’d also like to share my 2cc, as I think are are a certain number of arguments that have been omitted here. First though, I’d like to share to the Mudita team how awesome I think their work is. You guys did an awesome job trying to build really cool technology, and that’s something I deeply appreciate.
Now, firstly, I think most of the classical reasons to support making MuditaOS free software have already been quoted. Most tie back to values that Mudita has already shown with hardware: ethically sourced, and with privacy and user respect at the core. Both the privacy, security and bug-fixing advantages have already been discussed. Therefore, the rest of my arguments will focus elsewhere.
My second point is that having read the forum, blog, and product presentation, there seem to be at least two different communities here. The first is people just looking for a high-quality wise phone. All they expect to do with it is calling and SMS; an e-ink screen and SMS threading are probably the two features that will bring them over, and that’s done. The second community we see more in this thread is the low-tech part of the hacker community. We don’t want a smartphone because it tracks us, the hardware is impossible to repair, etc… Those users are usually harder to please as to the feature set they want: each individual want this or that functionality this way or that, and they’re ready to pay for it in money and hacking time. Half the apps on my “smart” phone are self-coded. None of them require the internet other than for an occasional sync. This is where making MuditaOS free software would actually have, IMHO, a strong initial revenue advantage: you would immediately be a favorite of this community. Most people I know from this environment have been looking for an open-source wise phone for years now, with no success. Look at how many of the above posts say: if I can read the code, it’s an instant buy. I second that. I personally know a dozen people who second that. Recurse…
My third point is about what exactly would happen if that were the case. Community management has been mentioned above, but most people arguing against or even for seem to imply this would mean having some kind of app store, or that it would make the software somehow less safe. Why would that be the case? What most of us want is just the ability to obtain the code and flash the result. Mudita has no need to manage or accept mergebacks. If it appears that most people are running a custom version with this special feature independantly added, they can integrate it. Or not! Same for “apps”, or any part of the OS really. Making it FOSS would not enable competition, as the hardware is closed. It would not downgrade security, as people can stay safe with signed updates, or custom compile. It would not require necessarily more work, as how much the company decides to integrate work from the community - and hence the amount of work required, and saved by having others code - is completetly up to them. As a side note, why Github ? FOSS simply requires you to give us a copy of the code to download. If you want to make the developpment process public, then yes use a public git repo tool like cgit. If you want to enable forking and mergebacks from the community, then use a community developpment tool like gitea, gitlab, github… But it’s definitely not a requirement. And an app store seems like a horrible idea to me. If I want another feature, I’ll patch the sources before compiling and flashing them.
This brings me to a slight sidetrack about Signal. Firstly, most people don’t seem to realize that signal doesn’t encrypt SMSs, it actually sends it’s own messages over IP to a propriatary centralized server. So without internet access, it doesn’t work, and it’s in no way private, as they collect all the metadata of your comms, which is what matters anyway. If you want true privacy, use an E2E decentralized communication protocol like Matrix; and if you want to do that without an internet access, well tough luck because GSM is just too old. The addition of a signal client in MuditaOS would be a downside for me, and I’d probably try to compile a version without it. When we communicate, even be it using a pen & paper later, we leave tracks. Those are unavoidable, and securing the phone infrastructure can certainly not be done by one device: the whole thing needs to be rebuilt. I’d rather we stick with well-known, debuggable, audited standards instead of centralizing for one custom solution.
Back to the main point of making this FOSS, I’d also like to mention that whatever you guys decide, your software will be broken. No iPhone has resisted jailbreaking. No Android custom overlay has resisted rooting. If you close sources, people will RE them. If you don’t provide a tool to flash the OS, people will write it. It will be leaked. But, if you enable the community, they will give back: it’s win-win. If you lock us in, we won’t: it’s win for us, and loose for you. A simple example: your app provides the ability to sync to “Google/Apple calendar & contacts”. What you probably mean is that you have cal/cardDAV support. Now, if I want to sync with my own server, and I dislike GUIs and want to use a CLI client ? Either I have the sources and I can get coding and be all happy, or I don’t, and I’ll spend some time sniffing the USB traffic and then get coding. But in one case you’ve made me happy and I’ll sing your praises to all my network and share the tool and maybe it’s going to be good enough that you can integrate it. In the other, I’m going to use the device as long as it works, then go somewhere else, and tell my friends not to buy. Etc… And just to be clear because writing doesn’t allow for tone: I’m really not trying to be threatening or anything! I love you guys. These are just facts I’ve observed from spending a long time with people who like to make their tech work just like they want. You were unhappy with the current phones, so are we. Your base product is almost perfect with regard to what we need, and it cannot be better than that as all individuals are different. But giving us the power to make it exactly as we do want it, that makes it perfect. And makes you heroes, and unique on the market. It shows you care about your users, and value your community, accepting that you cannot possibly cater to it’s whole diversity, but that you can enable it.
This leads to the final part of this post: users have a common base expectation for features wich you provide: phone, messaging, calendaring…
But there are many, many things that an offline phone can still do to make your life easier without taking up your attention. And the very people who want those specific feature matrix are ready to code it! What a shame it would be to not harness that (in fact, the problem of diversity of the requested feature matrix an resulting workload has popped up in several other threads around here). Here are a few examples of what I’d like to see in my phone software wise (because HW-wise, the e-ink display is just the killer feature), and would code if given a chance, either as a job, or for me in my free time:
- Proper PIM with calendar and contact sync from multiple sources. This only available when plugged in to a laptop is fine.
- Event displaying/reminders. My phone can be wise/offline and still remind me of where my next meeting is, or that it’s auntie foobar’s birthday.
- Voice notes.
- Custom ringtones and vibration patterns (morse code!) based on contacts. I love the idea of whitelisting contacts in do not disturb mode, it’s one of the reasons I keep my “smart” phone. But I also like knowing if it’s family, my SO, or an unknown numer calling without even looking at my device.
- Presenting your contact card as a QR code. It avoids printing paper cards, and if you’re social enough and meet new people regularly, it’s a life saver.
- Completely disabling the bluetooth stack. Security-wise, it is such a mess that I BIOS disable it everywhere, and remove the code for it in-kernel.
To conclude, software-wise, you guys have provided the basic survival minimum, and that’s exactly what we want to buy. But after that, it’s all about individual customization, and along all the other previously mentioned advantages and arguments (the ethical argument is actually much more important to me, but it’s been gone through relatively thoroughly above), giving us the power to customaize is an absolute selling feature.
P.S.: Please announce your definitive decision before closing pre-orders: it would be such a shame to not get the 20% because we’re waiting for an anwer
P.P.S.: If as your next device, you guys want to make an e-ink wall calendar with regular caldav sync over wifi, you’ll probably find it a big success!