The Proprietarization of Android – Google Play Services and Apps

Android has a market share of ~70% for mobile devices which keeps growing. It is based on Linux and the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), so mostly Free Software. The problem is that every device you can buy is additionally stuffed full with proprietary software. These programs and apps are missing the essential four freedoms that all software should have. They serve all but your interests and are typically designed to spy on your every tap. For this reason, the Free Software Foundation Europe started the Free Your Android campaign in 2012 that shows people how they can install F-Droid … Continue reading

Briar – Next Step of The Crypto Messenger Evolution

Update: Há uma versão em português. Who still remembers ICQ, AIM and MSN? My first messenger was ICQ and I liked the fact that it was instant. In those days, I didn’t think much about security and was probably too young anyway. We can count ourselves lucky if those tools even used transport encryption. This means that our messages are encrypted on the way from our computer to the server, so nobody can see the content of the messages while they are in transit. Whoever has access to the server however can know the content since all messages get decrypted … Continue reading

First F-Droid Workshop to Happen Soon in Berlin

If you always wanted to learn how to include new apps into the F-Droid Free Software app repository for Android, then the first F-Droid Workshop is for you. There the F-Droid developers themselves will show you how to do it. When? Saturday the 3rd of August, 2PM – 5PM Where? IN-Berlin (OSM) Who? Daniel Martí and Torsten Grote (F-Droid developer) F-Droid is a project that aims to provide Free Software applications for Android via a repository system, much like most of the GNU/Linux distributions distribute packages. This differs very much from the Google Play approach since the client and server … Continue reading

Meine Einschätzung der NSA Mitarbeit an Android für ZEIT ONLINE

Gestern Abend erhielt ich eine E-Mail von einem ZEIT ONLINE Redakteur, der mich um eine Einschätzung zu der Mitarbeit der NSA an Android bat und fragte, ob es möglich sei, dass die NSA Hintertürchen eingebaut habe. Der Artikel dazu wurde mittlerweile veröffentlicht und zitiert mich teilweise. Aus Transparenzgründen und zur Steigerung der allgemeinen Medienkompetenz, gebe ich hier mal meine vollständige hastig zusammen getippte Einschätzung wieder: Prinzipiell ist es natürlich möglich, dass die NSA Hintertüren in den Code von Android eingebaut hat. Vor einiger Zeit gab es ja den Fall, dass das FBI Hintertüren in den OpenBSD Code eingebaut haben sollte. … Continue reading

CyanogenMod removes tracking opt-out, reverses decision, but still uses Google Analytics

The most successful and best managed version of Android CyanogenMod is gathering data from users for statistical purposes. The statistics are public and users have the chance to opt-out of being counted. On March 31st this changed. The founder of the CyanogenMod initiative Steve Kondik removed the opt-out feature from the source code (commit). He explained his reasons in the commit message: Not having an accurate count of how many people are using CM is painful. I am making an executive decision to remove the opt-out and always turn stats on. The data is anonymized and there is nothing evil … Continue reading

Android SDK is now proprietary, Replicant to the rescue

I just noticed that the Android SDK is now non-free software. If you go to https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html#download and click on one of the files, you are presented with lengthy “Terms and Conditions” which for example say: In order to use the SDK, you must first agree to this License Agreement. You may not use the SDK if you do not accept this License Agreement. This sentence alone already violates freedom 0, the freedom to use the program for any purpose without restrictions. Today, the truly Free Software version of Android called Replicant came to the rescue and released a free (as … Continue reading

Paying for Free Software

I would like to be able to pay for more Free Software. Usually people think the great thing about Free Software is that it is free as in free beer. They often neglect the fact that it is free as in free speech. This is probably because they rarely or never make use of this freedom. But since many freedoms benefit us only indirectly, it is still worth fighting for them. I don’t publish a newspaper, still I and society as a whole benefit clearly from having freedom of press. Software freedom is important to me and I refuse to … Continue reading

Updating Custom Versions of Android Easily

FSFE’s Phone Liberation Workshops (or Android Install Parties) are just taking off. People usually have to learn how to flash their devices because there’s no over the air update that easily updates the operating system. The Free Software initiative OTA Update Center is planning to change this. It will notify you of updates and allow you to apply the update with a click. No more manual flashing procedures necessary. Even though their source code is on github and the app was added to F-Droid, you can still not use it with most ROMs, because the ROM needs to support OTA … Continue reading

What I am missing in CyanogenMod 9

Since CyanogenMod 9 rc1 came out, I’ve been testing it extensively on my phone. I got used to the new look and appreciated the visual speed improvements. I also like the new data usage diagram and predictions. Furthermore, my phone uses a lot less battery power than on CM7. It had power for four and a half days without charging recently. But there are also some features I’m missing from CyanogenMod 9. In good Free Software fashion I created feature requests for them in CyanogenMod’s issue tracker. Here’s my list: Power Control Widget Not Configurable In CM7 multiple Power Control … Continue reading

Free Your Android Kampagne

In den letzten Monaten war ich sehr mit der Free Your Android Kampagne beschäftigt. Sie hat überraschend starken Widerhall in den Medien gefunden. Unter anderem bin ich von der TAZ interviewt worden. Da das Interview gekürzt abgedruckt wurde, veröffentliche ich hier mal den fehlenden Teil, der sich unmittelbar am Ende anschließt: Bei Android nehmen Netzbetreiber eine wichtige Rolle ein – diesen erlaubt Google beispielsweise, bestimmte Anwendungen zu sperren oder Standardprogramme vorzuinstallieren, die man nicht so leicht los wird. Spielt hier auch die Frage der Netzneutralität hinein? Auch wenn direkte Eingriffe in den Datenverkehr einen schwerwiegenderen Verstoß darstellen, so verletzt ein … Continue reading