Posted On: Thursday - July 9th 2020 7:58PM MST
In Topics:   Artificial Stupidity  The Future  iEspionage
Maybe it's just me, but has it been a while since the good people of the open-source GNU world have been influencing the software world? The big project to write an open-source operating system originally compatible but separate from unix (GNU's Not Unix is what it stands for, recursively, a geek joke), became a whole world of software that was available to be used and modified by anyone.
I don't remember the original gnu animal that must have appeared on the cover of a book, but the aardvarks, llamas, horses, and owls that appear(ed*) on the O'Reilly series of books have got to bring back good memories to anyone who is not some kind of Bill Gates/Windows freak.
This open-source software deal was something that I initially frowned upon ever-so-slightly, as a Libertarian: "What is this, software Socialism?" However, seeing the monopoly that Microsoft had arranged for themselves and how much more geek-friendly the unix world was, changed my mind about this. After all, business could still be done and plenty of money made, WITH the software.
The GNU world was truly an all-American ideal back in the day, say the year 2000, no matter that people from around the world could participate. The volunteerism by 100's of thousands (I'm guessing) programmers and developers and the creation of all these software tools that were beyond the reach of monopolies and government was a splendid idea. Particularly important was that government or other nefarious organizations could not use espionage or sabotage to screw with users of the software. If you weren't the type who could look deep into the code yourself to know what was at the bottom of it, you could pay someone to check it out. More likely, were someone to bring up a concern, a hundred geeks would get involved and argue it out. These people are (were) nothing if not honest about their work - they had to be with it all visible - and proud to be flouting any government involvement.
I had a thought a month back about what happened to the GNU/open-source world. Is it still something like it once was? With the programming world even in the US being taken over by H-1B .Indians and Chinese coders, is there any volunteerism still around? I'm not involved at all, so I wouldn't know.
Well, just a day or two after I thought about this, someone in a comment thread on unz mentioned the open-source smart phones, such as this Pine Phone here:
I guess I really don't keep up, as I wasn't thinking "phones", but it'd be great if one could trust the software on these things, with iEspionage being so easy to accomplish nowadays. One (OK, thousands) could look for back doors build-in for the NSA or the Chinese Government. It's also nice that one can get away from Apple's control-freak mentality. Samsung's got Google involved in all their shit, too.
What about the hardware, though? See, back when the open-source software was run on the PC's, those PC's were simple enough that I don't think there was much anyone could do to spy on you. More importantly, before 1997 or so, most were not networked, so what happened on your computer stayed on your computer, if that's what you wanted.
Now, with the tremendous power in those chips on the smart phones, one can't help but wonder if it's even possible to stop an entity from building an undetectable back door for spying. These devices are communication devices in so many ways now, so you know they have ways of sending that all back home. Can the software even know what the hardware (or firmware) is up to?
I'd still not be so confident that open-source phones are truly under our control. From the Pine Phone site, on a page about the timetable for shipping these phones, I read this:
Finally I wish to briefly discuss future PinePhone production-runs. We will actively monitor and evaluate software development progress over the Chinese New Year period. This period is quite vital to furthering progress as partner-project developers will shortly have an entire dedicated audience of contributors and testers to work with. Admittedly we expect a lot of progress to be made in the coming two months thanks to community contributions. We have previously stated that larger scale production of PinePhones is scheduled for March 2020, ...OK, I see. A lot of development is going on in China, so it sounds like this is just going to be the same-old/same-old security-wise. Too bad. I was not really knowledgeable enough to be a participant, but I sure miss the GNU world of 2 decades ago.
* Holy Alpaca, they've got 1248 animals! Shouldn't it be limited to 1024 or something?