All over the interwebs this morning there's scuttlebutt about some mysterious rootkit in the T-Mobile G2.  Is the sky falling? Will this be the most locked down phone since the Motorola Droid X (which, by the way, has been "software" cracked)? 

Let's discuss a little bit after the break.

Like most new desktop PCs, it appears that the G2 has a fail-safe partition that will restore the system files upon reboot if they are corrupted.  If you root the G2 and start monkeying around, a reboot takes you back to square one, because you've corrupted the system.  Yes, the G2 has already been rooted.  It was rooted before it was officially released.  The goal now it getting the root to work around the fail safe partition scheme and stick after a reboot.  Of course, there was this BBQ in Texas over the weekend, so the people who usually work on this sort of thing haven't been able to yet -- all this is speculation.  What I can tell you, is there is no rootkit in the G2.  That's simply the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.  This new fail-safe partitioning system will most likely fall, just like every other new partitioning system has, and there is no e-fuse and nothing appears to be encrypted. Your teeth won't fall out, little kittens won't be offed, and life (and hacking) shall go on.

And if it doesn't, and the G2 turns out to be locked town, you can take it back if you care about open hardware.  I know I will. (But, again, I'm more than willing to put money on it totally accessible.)

But here is where things get interesting.  The New America Foundation is the blog that "broke" this story -- even though the thread and folks they reference at XDA-Developers are in agreement that they're full of it.  But hey, hits are hits right?  I have to question their agenda, especially when I see that the chairman of their board is none other than Eric Schmidt.  Yes, the same Eric Schmidt who happens to be CEO of Google.  Is this his way to jab back at manufacturers and carriers that are bastardizing Android?  Or just a coincidence?  Either way, it's far more interesting than the rootkit nonsense.  [New America Foundation]

 
There are 23 comments

mikejs78 says:

Jerry -

Since when has the Droid X been cracked? The bootloader is still locked down preventing custom Kernels.

You're right. I've edited it to make it a bit clearer that the OS has been cracked, and not the hardware.

Jonneh says:

Eric? Really? Wow..that is interesting indeed..

I hope you're right. Why refer to a chip patent in the America foundation article? Just saying....

stoneworrior says:

Ruh-roh, Raggy! Not good when guys (Who are supposed to be) on the same side start lobbing hand grenades in their neighbors fighting holes.

TheBronze says:

Also interesting is that I poked around xda this morning after seeing this story on giz and couldn't find anything about it...

kevlars9 says:

Jerry, I really hope that you are right. Not that I have a g2,I have a evo. It just wouldn't look good for the future HTC devices.

Bulgaro says:

The only thing this article did, was throw more speculation into the mix, by making assumptions that the original piece was a sort of Jab at htc from Google. I guess it is about the hits, isn't it.

"Is this his way to jab back at manufacturers and carriers that are bastardizing Android? Or just a coincidence? Either way, it's far more interesting than the rootkit nonsense."

Notice the word coincidence. And if I were linkbaiting, the title would be all pretty for search engines with Mr. Schmidt's name in it.

Everyone's a critic.........

Bulgaro says:

Of course everyones a critic. I'm sure you are well aware of this, putting your work out there and not expecting criticism(?!) Or am I reading it wrong?
And phrasing something as a question, doesn't make it less of an assumption, now does it.

Fair enough -- apologies for assuming you were the run-of-the-mill troll :) Honestly, the reason I brought up Schmidt is because nobody else has. I think the reader needs to know exactly who (even by proxy) is responsible for the origination of this rumor, that will probably never die.

Bulgaro says:

No apology needed, but thanks nevertheless. I agree that the Schmidt angle is far more interesting, than the rootkits one. I would like to see your progress on that angle. And thank you also for an open dialog.

kubernetes says:

That photo you posted is a fake.

? That's really my hand, holding my G2 :) Yeah, yanked the fake down as soon as Soyars admitted he was trollin'

jocelyn says:

that partition makes sense, but not on this particular device. TMobile and Google and HTC know the market for the G2- excuse the terminology, but hackers and geeks. If the partition proves to be inaccessible, it ruins the purpose for those who have it or want to get it. the G2 will be a complete flop.

there's gotta be a way.. I have faith! but I question the reasoning behind it in the first place.

not to mention it started an uproar over the actual internal memory chip- partition or not, the software has a lot to do with it as well.

hfm says:

You final conspiracy theory makes no sense, as the G2 is about the farthest phone there is from "bastardization of Android". It's so close to stock it's not even funny.

mrw333 says:

It is always fascinating when techies venture out of their realm and likewise when the non-technical attempt to fathom technology. I'm afraid that's what we have here.

The New America Foundation is a policy think tank whose agenda includes a wide range of issues, including advocating for an open internet. Obviously, the nuances of smart phones, software and OS's are not their strong suit. However, the basic complaint about manufacturers or service providers putting obstacles in the way of users accessing and using the internet with a device and system of their choosing seems valid.

This post properly recommends that we remain calm while the specifics of the G2's situation are properly analyzed and assessed. Where it seems to miss the mark a bit is the reference to Mr. Schmidt. I'm pretty sure he had nothing directly to do with the New America post and, if anything, its aggressive position on openness in wireless seems to be at odds with the recently announced Google-Verizon policy statement on network neutrality (something that Mr. Schmidt clearly did have a hand in). This part of the story is far more interesting than what gyrations the xda developers wizards will have to undertake to free up the G2.

Bulgaro says:

Interesting take

There's something here, but I can't put my finger on it. Have a look at the profiles of the authors of the rootkit piece @ New America. While it may be policy group, these four (and why did four writers collaborate on such a small issue?) all have very technical backgrounds and aren't likely to mistake either a hardware or software partition lock as a rootkit.

mrw333 says:

Who knows? These particular writers may have put their own technical misdirect on things, but I think that's a side issue. New America Foundation has a very strong open internet position and I believe that the post was directed at what they perceive as manufacturers and service providers preventing users from accessing it wirelessly with the OS, software and hardware of their own choice. Even if they stretched the point regarding the underlying technology, are they wrong on the main point?

gerardo says:

I would say watch out manufacturers. We geeks, nerds, tech guys or something in between may not be a loott for your company to care about us as customers, however you remembrer most of us are the ones who recommend purchases not only to our friends and families, but to companies also......
Give us access to our toysssss!!!

freaknastyb says:

whats the world coming to when u cant customize your toy... thats like saying i cant put 20" wheels on my YUGO.. i bought it, i should be allowed to do whatever the hell i want to it!!

mobilityguy says:

Someone please explain to me why the carriers shouldn't think that they retain a bit of "ownership" of these phones when they charge $300 less than true retail cost. Do you think they're being charitable, or that they expect they can make up the difference by removing useful free features and selling them back to you, or by forcing you to run apps you don't want so they can charge someone else for the traffic and advertising revenue, or by cutting a phone's support after a few months because they want the revenue from your next purchase?

If consumers in the United States had accepted Google's model of selling phones for a higher price without carrier restrictions, there would be a way to push back against the carriers' perceived right to lock down our phones any way they want. But that ship has sailed, and it's not likely to return anytime soon.

For the foreseeable future, the carriers own the channel, and they can do anything they please with the product, because our only alternative is to track down a used Nexus One.

Google tried, and the carriers won the round. We'll all pay for it with restrictions on our phones from now on.