What the hell, Google?11/25/2009
Imagine my dismay at what it took to gain root access to my Android phone. I started here and wound up here and had to use fscking Windows software here but this had some Linux instructions and grabbed a newer SPL here and finally managed to load a build here only to find the whole reason I'd started this debacle was purposefully broken here and complained about by -- wait for it -- a Google employee.
I love my Android and I'm generally a Google fan. I've got my Wave account, Google Voice is awesome and I'm not sure if I could find my way home anymore without Maps. But what would I do if I got home if I couldn't fire up Chrome and head for Google News or connect on GTalk, anyhow? Maybe I'd have to get some work done, I don't know.
My Rogers HTC Magic has seemingly been abandoned at version 1.5. There are rumors of updates every now and again, but since newer apps have already rolled out for 2.0, it's woefully behind. The minor SMS fix was months delayed, there's been no 1.6 update, so I can just imagine when I would have gotten 2.0. But it's Open Source and I should be able to roll my own my hardware, right?
I once installed Debian over a modem with a fistful of floppy disks, so I'm no stranger to difficult installs. That's not the problem. This was caused purposefully by large corporations attempting to prevent me from using my own device. (Although, I suppose they could have tried harder and I'm thankful they didn't.)
Less stupid, this way
Both the iPhone and Android have already made too many concessions to the Unix security model for root access to be meaningful. You can install all the software you want with no special privileges. Yet, piracy is still a problem , and one doesn't need root access to be vulnerable .
Carriers need to adopt the Rackspace model. They weren't the first but they came to mind, and so that's what I'm calling it. When you purchase Rackspace servers you get admin rights. But you also get support. They will patch servers for you. They do this to protect their customers and their network, just the way the carriers should.
Many phones are capable of over the air updates already. They can and should be pushing a small, well-tested patches to vulnerable phones in order to protect the network for everybody, but leave users in control of their own hardware. There's no reason somebody should have to jailbreak their iPhone to install a theme.
With all this jailbreaking and modding, mobile networks are already moving this direction anyhow. Continued attempts at control backlash just as predictably as DRM did for the music industry. It would be best to prepare for this before the smart phone market grows unwieldy large. The RIAA side of the fight is not the way to win, especially for what amounts to a hobby revenue- wise for Google.
Work with the mod community to provide a federated patching facility for everybody. Allow those that want to control our hardware (because people will figure out a way, anyhow). Worry less about piracy and more about making purchasing and customer contact suck less for the developer. Don't wander into strange rooms .