Autonomía digital y tecnológica

Código e ideas para una internet distribuida

Linkoteca. teléfonos linux

Last summer in the first swings of the global pandemic, sitting at home finally able to tackle some of my electronics projects now that I wasn’t wasting three hours a day commuting to a cubicle farm, I found myself ordering a new smartphone. Not the latest Samsung or Apple offering with their boring, predictable UIs, though. This was the Linux-only PinePhone, which lacks the standard Android interface plastered over an otherwise deeply hidden Linux kernel.

As a bit of a digital privacy nut, the lack of Google software on this phone seemed intriguing as well, and although there were plenty of warnings that this was a phone still in its development stages it seemed like I might be able to overcome any obstacles and actually use the device for daily use. What followed, though, was a challenging year of poking, prodding, and tinkering before it got to the point where it can finally replace an average Android smartphone and its Google-based spyware with something that suits my privacy-centered requirements, even if I do admittedly have to sacrifice some functionality.

The definition of online privacy has been expanded to include many more elements beyond the basic definition. With today’s advanced Internet technology, having “privacy” is no longer simple. In fact, it is about being able to have much more control over the information that others can access about you and your activities. Many people are concerned about the security of their phones. While it may seem like common sense, many individuals do not realize how easy it can be for a person to take advantage of technology when they have the ability to secure their online privacy by using Linux secure phones.

Fairphone and e Foundation are teaming up and taking the rare step of selling a non-Google Android phone to the public. The Fairphone 3, a midrange smartphone originally released in September 2019, can now come pre-loaded with the /e/ OS, a fork of Android that replaces the usual suite of Google apps and services with open source options and /e/’s cloud services. The goal of the two companies is to produce a «privacy conscious and sustainable phone.»

The new OS option, the oddly named (and impossible to Google) /e/ OS, was founded by Gaël Duval, the creator of Mandrake Linux. /e/ seems a lot like a real Linux distribution, in that it first tries to gather existing open source projects into a cohesive OS, then does whatever work is needed to fill in the gaps that exist. /e/ is based on Lineage OS, the Android community’s foundational open source operating system. Lineage (which was built out of the ashes of CyanogenMod) takes Google’s open source Android repo (AOSP) and cleans it up for individual devices, making sure all the hardware works on each device while adding a few extra features.

A major challenge for anyone trying to fork Android is keeping up with both the breakneck pace of Google’s Android development and the impossible amount of devices out there. Any users of /e/ should know they’ll most likely be on an old version of Android for the majority of the time. The LineageOS builds that /e/ is based on only hit Android 10 earlier this month, something like seven months after Google’s final release. Naturally, /e/ is still on Android 9, a 20-month-old OS.

/e/ OS is the brainchild of Gaël Duval, one of the developers that created Mandrake Linux, which is now known as Mandriva Linux. Formerly Eelo, /e/ is a privacy-minded mobile operating system. Based on LineageOS, which is in turn based on the late CyanogenMod, /e/ is an Android derivative and maintains app compatibility.

However, because of the un-Googling of the operating system, which any Android savvy users will understand is a large task, many apps that rely on Google’s services are left unusable. To remedy this issue, /e/ employs the MicroG package. It’s an open source subset of Google’s services that respects privacy. This allows many apps to work, but far from all.

Le téléphone est maintenant capable de se réveiller de la veille profonde (deep sleep) en cas d’appel ou de texto. On peut ainsi paramétrer la mise en veille pour augmenter la durée de la batterie sans craindre de rater un appel important. Ça allonge grandement l’autonomie, grâce à ça et d’autres améliorations l’appareil tient en moyenne un jour et demi, voire deux jours selon l’utilisation ; hourra !

Attention la fonction réveil de gnome-clocks ne sais pas faire sortir le téléphone de veille. On ne peut donc pas encore se réveiller avec le PinePhone, du moins pas sans bidouiller un peu, par exemple avec un script ou en installant l’application Wake Mobile (je n’ai pas testé).

Calls est encore pas mal perfectible. Exemple, lors d’un appel entrant, il affiche uniquement le numéro même si celui-ci est connu dans les contacts, avoir le nom serait plus pratique. Il m’est arrivé aussi que la sonnerie continue de jouer après avoir décroché ; c’est rigolo… ou pas, selon la situation.

Prendre une photo, pour le moment ça cafouille sévère, le résultat laisse à désirer mais ça s’améliore à chaque mise à jour de Megapixels.

L’autonomie est hautement perfectible, il faut le charger tous les jours, voire deux fois par jour selon l’utilisation. J’espère que les développeurs parviendront à mieux optimiser la consommation d’énergie dans un futur pas trop lointain.