Jay Little - Software Obsessionist
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How Proprietary Tech Was Used to Summarily Execute Huawei

5/21/2019 12:36:02 PM

So for this month's blog post, I've decided to tackle a bit of tech drama that has been brewing for awhile. In case you didn't know, the Chinese telecom/tech company Huawei has been repeatedly accused by the US government of spying on their customers at the behest of the Chinese government. No supporting evidence has been released to the public. Despite this lack of evidence, this week the Trump Administration has banned Huawei from doing business with any US based entity using an executive order.

What difference does this make? Well for starters this order has forced a variety of US based companies to cut ties with Huawei over the past few days. Google, Qualcomm, Intel and Broadcom have all now cut ties with Huawei and the consequences of that are likely to be quite dire, at least in the short term. I should probably make something clear: The inherent lack of accountability and utter ineptitude that allows the Trump Administration to make these kinds of moves isn't actually the primary purpose of this post. Instead I'm going to focus on how the existence of proprietary hardware and software supply chains such as those provided by Google, Qualcomm, Intel and Broadcom have created an environment which allows for this type of summary execution to occur.

The reality is that when it comes to Free and Open Source hardware and software, it is virtually impossible to cut anybody off from anything because no specific entity exerts that much control over it (assuming the ecosystem is healthy). For better or worse, I believe that represents an inherently superior situation to the one in which we currently exist. As it stands right now, a single signed executive order from a US President (whether it is legitimate or not) is enough to effectively destroy a company with a hundred billion dollars of revenue a year. Yet there are technologies that Huawei has not been cut off from. They haven't been cut off from free and open source tech stacks such as Linux, RISC-V or even AOSP (Android Open Source Project). Specifically regarding Google, the only thing Huawei has been cut off from are the proprietary components of their Android ecosystems. As an Android user who has lived without those components for years now, I can definitively state that nobody actually needs any of that shit. In fact most people will likely be better off without it.

Situations like this are one reason why my love for free and open source platforms has grown with each passing year. Building a global hundred billion dollar business on the backs of existing proprietary supply chains may seem like a good idea, but ultimately it puts you into a very precarious position. In the specific case of Huawei, I don't honestly know whether or not they can be trusted, but until actual evidence is presented which tells me otherwise, I'm personally content to do business with them. However thanks to the actions of the Trump Administation, I no longer have that option. I actually had a Huawei Honor 5x phone a few years back and it honestly was the most power efficient phone I have ever owned. With a Lineage OS ROM sans Google Play Services, that device could go anywhere from four to seven days between charges. Even my current Essential Phone tops out at four days and that's with very little screen on time.

All of this also serves to remind me why I've spent so much time looking forward to the Purism Librem 5 smart phone. I've grown tired of Google related drama and I'm sick and tired of bending over backwards so that I can have a passable experience with Android that doesn't involve compromising my privacy. If you are at all interested in being treated like a customer rather than a vein of information to be mined, I highly recommend that you give it a look.

The bottom line here is that I believe that the less proprietary tech there is in my life, the easier it is to live and build permanent solutions to the problems I face. I can only hope that Huawei will take the opportunity afforded to them by this dire state of affairs and come to the same conclusion. I would even go so far as to say that should they reach that conclusion, the possible upsides for all of us could be limitless. For now though, I'll take it one day at a time and hope for the best while preparing for the worst as I am apt to do.

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