Replicant (operating system)

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Replicant
Replicant logo
Developer Paul Kocialkowski[1]
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current
Source model Free software
Initial release Mid-2010; 8 years ago (2010)
Latest release 6.0 0003[2] (December 10, 2017; 4 months ago (2017-12-10)) [±]
Package manager APK
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux)
Userland Bionic C library,[3][4] mksh shell,[5] native core utilities with a few from NetBSD[6]
License Apache License 2.0, GNU GPLv2, and various other licenses
Official website www.replicant.us
Replicant 6.0 on the Galaxy Note II
An example of phone information in Replicant, including a brief hardware description

Replicant is a free and open-source operating system (OS) based on the Android mobile platform that aims to replace all proprietary Android components with free-software counterparts.[7] It is available for several smartphones and tablet computers.[8] It is written in the same programming languages as Android (as it is forked from it, though indirectly), while the modifications are mostly in the C language,[9] as the changes are mostly to the lower-level parts of the OS, such as the Linux kernel and drivers that use it.

The name Replicant is drawn from the fictional replicant androids in the Blade Runner movie.[7] Replicant is sponsored and supported by the Free Software Foundation.[7] [10]

History

The Replicant project started in mid-2010 with an effort to consolidate various initiatives attempting to produce a fully free-as-in-freedom Android derivative for the HTC Dream. The original team consisted of Bradley M. Kuhn, Aaron Williamson, Graziano Sorbaioli and Denis ‘GNUtoo’ Carikli.[11] The project quickly led to the writing of replacement code for the non-free parts that were required to make the HTC Dream functional. The first component to be replaced permitted audio to work without a proprietary library. Replicant originally provided its own FOSS application repository, which was later replaced by F-Droid.[12][13][self-published source][14][self-published source]

The Radio Interface Layer, software that handles communication with the modem, was replaced by free code, thus making the telephony part usable. A library handling the GPS was then adapted from free code that was originally written for another phone and permitted the HTC Dream to have GPS working with Replicant.[14][self-published source]

Early versions of Replicant were based on the Android Open Source Project code, while versions 2.2 (April 2011) and later used CyanogenMod as their base, in order to make supporting more devices easier.[15][16] [17] In a blog post on February 1, 2017, the Replicant project said the future versions of Replicant will be based on LineageOS, as the CyanogenMod project was discontinued.[18]

As development continued, many members of the original Replicant team retired from the project, making Denis "GNUtoo" Carikli the only remaining member from the original team still actively working on the project. In April 2011, Paul Kocialkowski decided to get involved with the project and gradually became the main Replicant developer, after successfully porting it to the Nexus S and Galaxy S devices.[1][19] [20]

In 2014, however, Replicant was criticized for lagging behind. "While CyanogenMod is up to 4.4.4, Replicant is still stuck on Android 4.2. CM runs on just about everything, but Replicant is only supported by a handful of devices ranging from two to four years old. Plus, while Replicant aims to replace the proprietary drivers, it doesn't actually have a complete stack of drivers for any device." [21] When others like Mozilla failed to develop a smartphone OS, Replicant continued. [22]

Replicant is sponsored and supported by the Free Software Foundation,[7] which also hosts Replicant's source code.[23] [24]

Releases

The following table lists major releases of Replicant:

Version Release date Based on Notes
Old version, no longer supported: 2.2[25] 26 April 2011 Android 2.2 "Froyo" N/A
Old version, no longer supported: 4.0[26] 15 November 2012 Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" Five updates have been released; the last one, 0005, was released on September 29, 2013.[27]
Older version, yet still supported: 4.2[28] 19 January 2014 CyanogenMod 10.1/Android 4.2.2 "Jelly Bean" Four updates have been released; the last one, 0004, was released on September 1, 2015.[29]
Current stable version: 6.0[30] 7 May 2017 LineageOS 13.0/Android 6.0.1 "Marshmallow" Three updates have been released; the most recent one, 0003, was released on December 10, 2017.[2]
Legend:
Old version
Older version, still supported
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release

Security

In March 2014, Replicant developers found and closed a vulnerability present in a wide range of Samsung Galaxy products that allowed the baseband processor to read and write the device's storage,[31] sometimes with normal user privileges and sometimes as the root user depending on device model. Replicant's lead developer Paul Kocialkowski claimed it was a backdoor,[31][32] but this was contested by Dan Rosenberg, a senior security researcher at Azimuth Security, who said there was "virtually no evidence for the ability to remotely execute this functionality".[33] There is some evidence of similar exploits of Apple hardware that did not involve operating system software, and the "methods detailed take direct advantage of Apple’s “firmware” or permanent software programmed onto the device, usually by the manufacturer." [34] The founder of Ubuntu previously expressed similar concerns. [35]

Development

On January 3, 2013, the project released Replicant 4.0 SDK as a fully libre replacement to Android SDK.[36] The Replicant SDK was released in response to Google updating the license for add-ons and binaries under a proprietary agreement.[37] Replicant's SDK was discontinued on April 28, 2017 in favour of the free SDK packaged by Debian. [38]

Hardware support

Supported devices

Scope of the Replicant project has been gradually expanded to include support for new devices, starting with the Nexus One, Nexus S and Galaxy S. As of January 2014, the following devices are supported, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth requiring proprietary firmware in order to work:[8]

Device Device Class Codename Replicant version 2D graphics 3D graphics Sound Telephony Mobile Data NFC GPS Sensors Camera Wi-Fi Bluetooth
Nexus S Smartphone crespo 4.2 Yes No Yes Yes Yes Proprietary[39]
free userspace
No Yes Yes Proprietary Proprietary
Samsung Galaxy S Smartphone galaxysmtd 4.2 Yes No Yes Yes Yes N/A No Yes Yes Proprietary Proprietary
Samsung Galaxy S2 Smartphone galaxys2 6.0 Yes (fast) No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Proprietary Proprietary
Samsung Galaxy Note (original) Smartphone n7000 4.2 Yes (slow) No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No Proprietary Proprietary
Galaxy Nexus Smartphone maguro 4.2 Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Proprietary Proprietary
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Tablet p3100 4.2 Yes (fast) No Yes Yes Yes N/A No Yes No Proprietary Proprietary
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) Tablet p5100 4.2 Yes (slow) No Yes Yes Yes N/A No Yes No Proprietary Proprietary
Samsung Galaxy S3 Smartphone i9300 6.0 Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes (back) / proprietary (front) Proprietary Proprietary
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Smartphone n7100 6.0 Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes (back) / proprietary (front) Proprietary Proprietary
Goldelico OpenPhoenux GTA04 Smartphone gta04 4.2 Yes No Yes Work in progress Work in progress N/A Yes Work in progress Work in progress Proprietary Proprietary

Likely additions

Additional target devices are evaluated, based on the suitability of their hardware platforms and required device drivers; as of January 2014, devices listed below are not yet supported, and porting Replicant to them is only in consideration.[40]

Device Codename Replicant Version
Nexus 10 manta 4.2

In November 2013, it was announced that Replicant could work on a Fairphone device and that the bootloaders may even be free software. The Fairphone team seemed "definitely interested" in helping to get Replicant ported to the device.[41] In December 2014, Fairphone admitted that it had failed to convince chipset vendor MediaTek to open up the source code for first-generation Fairphones.[42]

Rejected devices

Based on either the unsuitability of their hardware platforms or the lack of available free software drivers, porting Replicant to the devices listed below has been considered and rejected.[40]

Device Possibility Reason
Galaxy Tab 8.9 Unlikely Tegra slowness
Nexus 7 (all versions) Possible but unlikely Too many proprietary drivers[43]
Nexus 4 Very unlikely Too many proprietary drivers
Motorola Defy Impossible Kernel is signed

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "People - Replicant". Redmine.replicant.us. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  2. ^ a b Carikli, Denis (30 December 2017). "Third Replicant 6.0 release". Replicant. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  3. ^ "Replicant". replicant.us. 
  4. ^ "android/platform/bionic/". 
  5. ^ "android/platform/external/mksh/". 
  6. ^ "android/platform/system/core/toolbox/". 
  7. ^ a b c d McAllister, Neil (26 July 2013). "FSF passes collection plate for free Android clone Replicant". The Register. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Replicant Status". redmine.replicant.us. Retrieved 2015-03-28. 
  9. ^ "Replicant Developer's Guide". Replicant Wiki. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  10. ^ Sharwood, Simon (23 January 2017). "Stallman's Free Software Foundation says we need a free phone OS". The Register. Retrieved 12 February 2018. 
  11. ^ "Replicant: distribution Android 100% libre". LinuxFr.org. September 20, 2010. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  12. ^ Puttergill, Rowan (3 October 2011). "Replicant: Making Android truly free". Memeburn. Burn Media. 
  13. ^ Currie, Andrew (24 August 2011). "F-Droid, the Android app store for freedom beards. | Open attitude". Open attitude. (Blog). Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  14. ^ a b Par aKa (10 October 2011). "Le projet Replicant ou Android totalement libre présenté par PaulK". Framablog. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  15. ^ Manuel Jose (July 2013). "A Fully Free Android based Mobile OS? FSF is Aiming for the Skies with Replicant Project". techdrivein.com. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  16. ^ Rohan Pearce (March 10, 2012). "Replicant developer interview - Building a truly free Android". techworld.com. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  17. ^ Daniel Fuller (August 10, 2016). "Replicant FOSS Android Project Hits Marshmallow". androidheadlines.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  18. ^ "Replicant 6.0 development updates | Replicant". blog.replicant.us. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  19. ^ "Replicant developer interview - Building a truly free Android - Interview - Techworld.com". Features.techworld.com. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  20. ^ Klint Finley (October 30, 2013). "The Quest to Build a Truly Free Version of Android". wired.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  21. ^ Ron Amadeo (July 29, 2014). "The great Ars experiment—free and open source software on a smartphone?!". arstechnica.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  22. ^ Klint Finley (December 9, 2015). "Mozilla Is Giving Up on Its OS for Smartphones". wired.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  23. ^ Kocialkowski, Paul (July 1, 2015). "Replicant source code hosting and RMLL 2015". Replicant. 
  24. ^ John Gold (January 17, 2017). "Free Software Foundation shakes up its list of priority projects". networkworld.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  25. ^ "Replicant 2.2 SDK Available". Replicant. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  26. ^ Kocialkowski, Paul (16 November 2012). "Replicant 4.0 0001 images release". Replicant. Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  27. ^ Kocialkowski, Paul (1 October 2013). "Replicant 4.0 0005 images release". Replicant. Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  28. ^ Kocialkowski, Paul (22 January 2014). "Replicant 4.2 kicks out!". Replicant. Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  29. ^ Kocialkowski, Paul (2 September 2015). "Replicant 4.2 0004 images release". Replicant. Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  30. ^ Wiedmeyer, Wolfgang (13 May 2017). "Replicant 6.0 released". Replicant. Retrieved 20 November 2017. 
  31. ^ a b Kocialkowski, Paul (12 March 2014). "Replicant developers find and close Samsung Galaxy backdoor". FSF's blog. Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  32. ^ Paul Kocialkowski. "Samsung Galaxy Back-door". Replicant Wiki. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  33. ^ Goodin, Dan (14 March 2016). ""Virtually no evidence" for claim of remote backdoor in Samsung phones". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved 4 September 2016. 
  34. ^ Jack Crosbie (March 23, 2017). "Wikileaks: The CIA Has Been Spying on Apple Users for Years". inverse.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  35. ^ Lucian Constantin (March 18, 2014). "Proprietary firmware poses a security threat, Ubuntu founder says". pcworld.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  36. ^ "Replicant 4.0 SDK release | Replicant project". Replicant.us. January 3, 2013. Archived from the original on September 8, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  37. ^ "What's up with the Android SDK? - Paul Kocialkowski's coding blog". Code.paulk.fr. January 5, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  38. ^ "There won't be a Replicant 6.0 SDK because there is already something better". Replicant.us. April 28, 2017. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  39. ^ "Nexus S (I902x)". free userspace, proprietary loaded firmware 
  40. ^ a b "Targets Evaluation". Replicant. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  41. ^ About the Fairphone, in the official Replicant blog.
  42. ^ Our approach to software and ongoing support for the first Fairphones, in the official Fairphone blog.
  43. ^ "Nexus 7 2013? - Replicant". replicant.us. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Richard Stallman. "Is Android really free software?".  – An article on Android, also citing Replicant.
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