Trying out /e/

So starting this morning, I’m trying out /e/ on my Google Nexus 5 phone. Haven’t tried much so far, but set up a few contacts, email – the provided mail program is a fork of k9 which is nice, and I took some screenshots:

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Trying out /e/ 1/2, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022
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Trying out /e/ 2/2, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

Of course the battery of my older phone isn’t as good as a new one, still have to see how long that will last between recharges. And the geolocation – see weather widget – is also not very precise, but that isn’t the phone’s fault, every other machine here which uses IP based geolocation based on the router’s address would show the same. The weather by the way is drawn from OpenWeatherMap, same as the weather widget in Gnome on Linux – very nice.

And yes, it looks like an iPhone, doesn’t it? But it’s an ePhone instead, with only free and open source software. So far I like it, even if it hasn’t (yet) all the bells & whistles of a modern Android, but let me explore more about it first…

As always, thanks for reading.

Update, from 13:49:

Not missing much so far… I’ve downloaded my own albums into the /Music folder on the phone, and the app shows them nicely:

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Music app on /e/OS showing my own albums, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

So far, this all looks like a fully functional mobile phone. Have to interrupt for now, so more later…

Update2, from 16:11:

Just sent Mitchie to work, taking only the Nexus instead of my Pixel phone. And I had installed OsmAnd for offline navigation:

https://osmand.net/

And what shall I say? That older phone with /e/OS connected to our Yaris Hybrid with Bluetooth, it played my music over the car stereo system and told me the route via OsmAnd, warning me about every pedestrian crossing (you can silence that if they’re too many). Perfect, and all of that without even inserting a SIM card into the device! Wonderful.

Again, thanks for reading – and more later.

An experiment in de-Googling

A week ago, we swapped some phones. Mitchie got a new one, Zuleikha got her Pixel 4a 5G, and Zuleikha’s 3a went to my brother Willi in Cologne after packing it like this:

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Google boxes, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

Which means that by now, I have the oldest phone in the household. Mine will still be supported until August next year, and by then I’d have to decide what other system to put on it. I wanted to test some, but not on my working phone – instead I grabbed for the much older Nexus 5 which we still have:

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A testbed for de-Googling, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

This isn’t supported even by LineageOS anymore, except if you’d install some unofficial custom ROM or even build one yourself. But that is currently a bit too much even for me, so I checked and found a supported environment in the e.foundation which looks like this:

So this afternoon I first charged that device, and when turning it on I first got a bist nostalgic, seeing that cute animated robot during the boot process, but anyway, it had to go. And now I have /e/OS on it:

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/e/OS on a Google Nexus 5 device, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

What you can also see in case that you know /e/OS is that I already installed two more apps, namely F-Droid and Zapp (and by now, also Firefox Focus).

So – it will be interesting to see how this goes with no Google services on board. The installed MicroG fakes some of them, so that you can still get notifications, or run Google Maps if you’d need that – but I’ll try to keep it safe and simple. Will be interesting… and who knows, maybe I’ll even prefer this newly found privacy? And there’s no reason to dump a perfectly fine phone which isn’t even 10 years old… and it has a screen of under 5 inches which is FullHD and beats the current iPhone SE, go figure…

Anyway, like always, thanks for reading.

Cookie from my phone’s camera

Yesterday I’ve been watching a video on my phone when Cookie decided that he wanted some closer proximity, so he came and laid down with/beside me:

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Cookie, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

This is straight from my phone’s camera, no editing whatsoever:

picture info like shown on Flickr

As always, thanks for viewing.

It all adds up

Or: your low latency is not my low latency

With makers of mobile phones and even notebook computers ditching the headphone sockets, more and more people have come to accept in-ears and headphones without cables, most of them using Bluetooth technology to transmit the audio to and from your phones, notebooks, computers, and so on.

And some people – like those playing games – noticed that it takes some time to get audio “streamed” to your wireless cans or in-ears, and that there can be lags between the picture they see, and the sound they hear.

But that’s not the worst. Even with “low latency” Bluetooth codecs – aptX speaks of 40ms – they still forget that there are people for whom this is much too much.

Musicians for example – some people claim that they can hear latencies of around 10ms (I can’t), and so we all set our audio interfaces to the lowest possible settings to achieve latencies of possibly 5ms or better – otherwise it would be hard to play in time with what you hear from others’ tracks coming from your DAW (digital audio workstation). We spend quite a lot of money to get interfaces like from RME or other professional vendors which can give you these low latencies – and then we should add 40ms for the Bluetooth cans only? No way.

Which is why musicians like Zuleikha or myself will always stay with cables, and only buy devices which offer a proper headphone jack. There’s no way around it. KISS principle anyone?

You probably don’t mind the lag if you’re listening to your phone while jogging. But we do – we simply have to. And we’re the ones you’re listening to (or so we hope, but I speak for all musicians here).

So please stop these claims of having ‘low latencies’ if you don’t even consider musicians.

Thanks.

Sustainability & privacy

The problems that we all have with our “smart” mobile phones are two-fold – first, their vendors decide on how long you can use them with their support, second, they spy on you, me, and us all.

I wrote about the first problem lately, with Zuleikha’s Google Pixel 3a being supported until recently. It still runs Android 12 which is newer than what the vast majority of people have on their phones (according to Google’s stats), but it won’t get the next version 13 or any further security updates, thus it will be increasingly insecure.

There are mostly two alternative operating systems to remedy that, namely LineageOS and /e/ which is also based on LineageOS (and both are based upon the Android Open Source Project, or short AOSP). The differences between these are mostly that LineageOS by itself doesn’t use Google services (if you don’t install them), and is a bit harder to install especially for beginners, while /e/ comes with microG services which mostly replace Google’s services (which spy on you). There’s also a fork of LineageOS with microG, keep that in mind as well.

About that ‘spying’ and privacy part: here are two videos in German which concentrate a bit more on that part, and less on the sustainability aspect, so the first one also mentions GrapheneOS and CalyxOS, two alternatives in regard of security rather than longevity:

Entgoogletes Android dank Calyx, /e/, Lineage, Graphene & Volla | Custom-ROMs im Test
Android ohne Spionage (CC2tv Folge 315)

So yes, both GrapheneOS and CalyxOS run fine – on Pixel devices as long as these are supported by Google. But if the sustainability *and* the security aspects are equally important to you (as they should be to us all), then have a look at /e/ and/or at LineageOS, with or without microG.

/e/ by the way has its ‘Bliss’ launcher which looks much more like iOS rather than Android, but that could be changed with a few (non-mouse- but finger-) clicks. The look of it really reminds me of the iPhone SE (2020) I had for a while from my former employer, while LineageOS has the same ‘MaterialU’ (or whatever the name is) design language that the AOSP and also Google’s own Pixel devices are using. So choose your poison here, can’t discuss about aesthetics…

And /e/ also supports a number of devices still older than the ones supported by LineageOS, like for instance Google’s Nexus 5 (made by LG which was wonderful). It will still run a fork of Android ‘Nougat’, but hopefully by now a bit more secure than the original one…

There are many more videos, also in English, which explain all the differences between these operating systems, just wanted to push some of my own relatives into the general directions with the two from above.

And as always, thanks for reading, and for viewing.

Starting a virtual phone

Zuleikha’s Google Pixel 3a was supported by Google until May of this year – read more about that on Android Authority for instance. She will get Mitchie’s 4a 5G next week, so on her 3a I will most probably install LineageOS – see here about that image for ‘sargo’ (Codename of her phone), and here about how to generally do this.

I’ve downloaded all the necessary tools and images already, and while I’ve been at it I also downloaded the Android SDK again which comes with an emulator for several phones, tablets, and so on. So here is a virtual Google Pixel 3a starting on my screen on Arch Linux:

virtual Google Pixel 3a, first boot steps…

We haven’t yet decided what to do with the device once it’s ready – most people do own at least one mobile phone already, and others who don’t probably don’t even want one (like me until I ‘inherited’ Mitchie’s Pixel 4a). But ok; it will be interesting to see how long a 3rd party free and open source provider like LineageOS can support older hardware like that – I guess until a newer kernel or firewall won’t be available for the hardware anymore (like what was the case with/for the older Nexus 5 and other devices)?

Anyway, it’s good to see (and know) that you don’t have to dump something just because Google (or Apple or Microsoft or your other ‘Enterpri$e’ vendor of choice) thinks you should… (and shove more money their way in the process…)

As always, thanks for reading.