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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Root!


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#1 kitcostantino



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Posted 09 March 2015 - 08:34 AM

Perhaps upon reading that, you call to mind Thomas Jefferson pulling out his Android to thwart impeding forces. I actually like that idea, but I know that the time in which John Locke wrote the contributing phrase was much different than today. It was a time of change and also a time when people realized their full potential to make a difference. In the spirit of our Founding Fathers, and in an exercise of my own Personal Liberties, I have started a petition to require cell phone carriers to allow bootloader unlock on any Android device that is not under contract or subsidy. Many of you will know immediately what this means, and the exponential benefits of such a law. Many of you will flip to the next activity complacently believing this does not affect you. If you do not understand, I wish to enlighten you as to how this affects each and every Android user in the world. Signing the petition takes only a few moments of your time and adds to the greater good of our technology and innovation as a Nation. 

So what exactly does this “Bootloader Unlock” thing mean? 
Well, that is a great question. Most simply put, according to Motorla’s website, “bootloader is a little bit of code that tells your device's operating system how to boot up”. That does not mean much to the average user, I am sure. What it means in my own words is it is a piece of code that dictates what I can and cannot do, in terms of software modification, to my own personal Android device. On my wireless provider whom I will call Big Red, their requirement is that OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers, or simply phone makers) lock this bit of code to prevent modification by the end-user or customer. I am certain, to those that do not wish to modify their devices, this sounds like a good fail-safe to avoid breaking their devices. I am also certain that to those like myself, those who have the experience and knowledge to do things like flash custom firmware or software and modify our devices to suit our own personal taste and needs, this is a huge roadblock and an impediment on what we can do with our own personal property and how it can be improved. In order to modify system files as the user sees fit, a thing called Root is required. Root is, most simply privileged access to a phones file system. A locked bootloader means that in order to gain “Root” access, a security exploit must be found and exploited in order to modify system files. These exploits are literally holes that must be (and typically are) patched in software updates sent out by the service providers or manufacturers to protect the end-user. While the efforts of the security experts are always going to be required to keep us safe and updated, I personally do not want to rely on someone to hack the software so it can be modified. This should be an inherent ability of any user who does not have a subsidy or contract obligation. I also feel that any device that can be updated by the user allows the people who develop for Android to Innovate and push our technology farther forward. When manufacturers are required to lock down a device, ultimately, the user is the one who loses. My first Android device, the Droid 1 or A55 ran an under-volted overclocked kernel (simply another piece of code that tells a device how to boot and how to run its processor among other things) that ran 1.7ghz on it’s ~600mhz processor. I used that phone at least twice as long as I would have if it hadn’t been bootloader unlocked. Also, on the note of the OG Droid, I can say that this was the phone that helped Verizon to compete with the Iphone, bolstering the customer base and creating mass knowledge of the Andoid platform. This was done with a bootloader-unlocked device. It seems that once the market was realized, bootloader locking became the normative. The Droid line has been bootloader-locked ever since. There are several examples of the same hardware being sold, under different names, with the bootloader-unlockable right out of the box. The most recent example of this is the Motorola xt1250, or Moto Maxx (US CDMA). The international version of the same phone, the xt1225 is also bootloader-unlockable. All three are known as the Quark. They are identical in hardware aside from exteriors. Big Red required their version to have the bootloader locked. There is no way to have it unlocked for now. 

So Why Would I Want to Sign This Petition? 
Honestly, you may not care about Android at all. You could conceivably have never been interested, and care less. However, the technology available to you today is available because of innovations and advancements that have been made across a wide technological array of development. Android is no different. Love that Halo or Heads Up inspired feature ____ manufacturer just put on your new phone? People who develop are to be thanked. The possibilities are endless for what can be done and applied across many platforms. The future of mobile technology can be greatly advanced by creating open access for all who are inclined. 

Okay, I admit it. It is really, really unlikely our politicians actually act upon this petition, even if 100,000 signatures are reached. As much as I like to think our law should “fix” things that are wrong, I can agree with one of my favorite developers from back in the day when he said [government typically does not, and should not interfere with private business.] I can agree with that on the same grounds by which I feel we should be granted bootloader unlock on…if and only, if, no one’s rights are infringed upon. I feel it is all of our right to do what we please with our own personal property. There was a great analogy given on XDA Developers forum in the bounty thread where this all started. 
In essence, it said the carrier provides the highway, the OEM provides the device, but it is the carrier’s highway, so if the carrier requires the OEM to lock it down so be it. Personally, I feel that if the carrier has a highway, it is a toll-road, as I pay for my service. I purchase my vehicle outright, so if I want to modify it, and I pay for my vehicle, making no obligation to said toll operator, it is not within their range of rights to tell me I cannot modify my vehicle in the way I see fit. Thank you for your time. –kitcostantino @ medicbeard on twitter #unlockthedroids

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I ask for no donations, nor anything else. Simply share this if you feel so compelled. Really, it hurts nothing even if you don’t.

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