More GNU/Linux on Smartphones: 1. postmarketOS

While the Crowdfunder for the Librem 5 successfully finished, I want to shed some light on possible alternatives to it for people that want to run GNU/Linux on Smartphone hardware. First up: postmarketOS

postmarketOS (short pmOS) is a relatively new project. A little more than two months ago the projects founder ollieparanoid published a blog post titled: 100 days of postmarketOS, listing pretty amazing accomplishments in these first 100 days.

Target devices:
Instead of other attemps at getting GNU/Linux onto smartphones, pmOS aims to target multiple devices with small device specific parts and a set of software that then is interchangeable between multiple devices. It is based on Alpine Linux, a distrOnly recentlyibution designed for “power users who appreciate security, simplicity and resource efficiency”. Currently, 17 devices are supported (not counting QEMU targets) and in various states of support. The best supported devices currently is the good old Nokia N900, as it pmOS can stand on the shoulders of giants here with regard to mainline Linux support.

Approach:
There is not one interface, due to a modular approach of pmOS and in order to support devices that are less capable. Currently, supported interfaces (more a “will be” than an “are” statement as far as I good gather) include good old Hildon (known from Maemo) and Plasma Mobile.
So, to boil it down: Device agnostic, UI agnostic, open and friendly.

Purism Librem 5 Announced, Crowdfunding Started

Purism has now launched the campaign to crowdfund their smartphone, the Librem 5 I was writing about recently.
They ask for USD 1.5 Mio. Perks include a developer kit at USD 299 scheduled for June 2018, and (of course) the Librem 5 priced at USD 599, scheduled for January 2019.
The campaign will continue for 59 days, which (if I am not mistaken) makes October 23rd the last day of their campaign.
Note that the Crowdfunding happens on their own platform, they are not using Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

Zurück zur Tastatur.

Motorola Droid 4 und LG G2
Droid 4 trumps the LG G2

Im November 2013 habe ich mir zum bislang letzten Mal ein neues Smartphone gekauft. Es handelt sich um ein LG G2. Seitdem sind einige neue Geräte erschienen (ja, jetzt bald ist wieder Mobile World Congress, die Geräte-Schwemme hat schon erste Vorab-“Leaks” erfahren), aber auch wenn ich zuvor über Jahre ständig zu viel Geld für allerlei Smartphones ausgegeben habe, musste ich bald feststellen, dass das schnelle Wechseln plötzlich keinen Sinn mehr machte. Ja, das LG G3 ist schon ein bisschen besser, aber irgendwie nicht so richtig (wer braucht diese Display-Auflösung, und warum ist das Ding noch größer?). Samsung rühre ich aus Gründen (TouchWiz, Hardwaredesign) nicht an, HTC verbaute 4 Megapixel-Kameras und die Gehäuse sind im Vergleich zum verbauten Display zu groß.
Continue reading “Zurück zur Tastatur.”

Still using my Chromebook

While I am quite bored with most new tech announcements (especially smartphones), I realize that I still care most about small affordable laptops or convertibles. Tablets are great, I enjoy Apples iPad Air, but it has its limits, and so do Android tablets – limits in productivity. Of course it is entirely possible to do blogging or almost every other task that doesn’t require special business software on a tablet – but it just isn’t a great experience. Well, most likely it is just unwillingness to adjust – when you can choose between using an application that you know since almost forever, or a new app, that maybe is – at least for the advanced stuff – a little complicated and does not grow on you within minutes, then you might find yourself wanting the experience that you are used to. At least that’s the case with me.

As the headline says I am still using my Samsung ARM Chromebook with 3G. It is my main laptop now, which seems strange, given the fact that an iPad Air or the LG G2 most likely deliver better (benchmark) performance than this laptop. And then there is this OS – Chrome OS. Well, nah – I mostly boot into Arch Linux ARM running from a 32 GB SDHC card. I made it so that it is almost just as user friendly1 and has a broad set of applications I am used to2. While it is definitely not the fastest computer under the sun, it performs decent enough – the keyboard, the touchpad, the screen, the overall performance – nothing is really top notch, but it is more than good enough for me. BTW: The killer feature is, still, the following: No fan = no (constant) noise.

While it is great to be able to take the SDHC card out of the Chromebook, boot it into Chrome OS, launch guest mode and hand it over to a random person in order to provide that person with a way to access the internet, it feels decidedly hacky. And I like to have the robustness of Chrome OS at hand, which BTW evolved notably since mid 2013. But then the real question is: Would I purchase another (next gen) ARM Chromebook, like one of the announced and soon shipping “SAMSUNG Chromebook 2” with 8-core Exynos?

The answer is: It is unlikely. While – as mentioned above – most things work, getting an ARM-powered laptop set up to work a 100% fine with GNU/Linux seems almost impossible today. Rather essential stuff like standby is hit and miss, from time to time my Chromebook doesn’t wake up properly. Accelerated graphics (I am not talking about gaming, but much rather of video playback) or using a newer kernel: Painful to impossible. And as fanless Bay Trail netbooks/subnotebooks become available out there, that – depending how well the UEFI plays with Linux – are supposedly almost painless in that regard I would rather go for one of these if I had to upgrade.

But fortunately I don’t have to. And so I am sticking to my XE303C12H01DE.

(More on laptops soon.)

  1. thanks to using XFCE with NetworkManager and Modem Manager []
  2. Starting from Firefox, including LibreOffice, Gimp, Inkscape and even great stuff like LyX for LaTeX. []

Chromebook, Crouton (Ubuntu) and printing with the EPSON WF-3540

I like my Chromebook, but if I feel like doing something that feels a little like actual work, I prefer to have a flavour of GNU/Linux. Therefore I installed a local chroot using Crouton – which brings me into a world of LXDE, Libreoffice and Firefox.

All of this works pretty well, but sometimes I feel like printing a document in order to do actual proof reading1. This always worked as I have a modern Epson AiO solution that is supported by Google Cloud Print, but I had to change back and forth: Make a pdf, go to Chrome OS, open the PDF, print it. That is not too bad, but it isn’t to convenient. So I tried to install the printer on Linux.
Continue reading “Chromebook, Crouton (Ubuntu) and printing with the EPSON WF-3540”

  1. Call me old-fashioned, but I am better at that on paper than on the screen. []

Ubuntu Edge

Marc Shuttleworth, der Mann hinter Ubuntu, hat ein neues Projekt vorgestellt: Ein eigenes Ubuntu-Smartphone. Und zwar High End, mit Crowdfunding.

Die ganze Sache ist zwar sehr interessant, aber auch echt teuer – ich kann nicht mal eben US$ 830,00 in den Topf werfen um dafür im Mai 2014 ein neues Smartphone zu erhalten. Den Konvergenzgedanken schätze ich aber dennoch. Für Motorolas Lapdock-Ansatz mag es noch etwas zu früh gewesen sein1 – aber das ARM Chromebook reicht (auch mit einer leichten Variante von Ubuntu (ich nutze LXDE als Benutzeroberfläche) für Alltagstasks überall hin. Da das Ubuntu Edge mit 4GB definitiv ausreichend Arbeitspeicher haben wird, und zudem mit dem besten Chip ausgestattet werden soll, der bei der Fertigstellung des Designs verfügbar ist, kann man davon ausgehen, dass die 830$ tatsächlich mehr als nur ein Smartphone kaufen. Wenn es denn dazu kommt: 32 Millionen Dollar per Crowdfunding zu erzielen ist nämlich noch niemandem gelunden. Aber es sieht gut aus.

Mehr:

  • Ein erstes Hands-On Video
  • Jason Hiner bei cnet.com mit Gedanken zu drei Aspekten des Ubuntu One
    1. erschwerend kam gegen Ende hinzu, das Android nicht wirklich Spaß macht, wenn man es mit einem Trackpad bedient []

    My first days with a Chromebook

    The evening before my final exams1 I bought a Samsung Chromebook, to be precise the 303C12 A012. It was one of these eBay bids which you do when you are nervous and try to get your mind of things – 210€ for a Chromebook, which retails for 299€ in Germany3 is what I consider quite a deal. But that’s not so important.

    What do I think of the device? It is a great little laptop. Keyboard, Display and Touchpad seem better to me than the ones of my Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E320, which wasn’t exactly super expensive either, but still, this is impressive. Then there is the software, which is beautiful, but not too feature rich. Chromebook still lacks a few apps for me, but it is pretty much ok, and I knew before that it would be difficult to do the switch. And then, there is always the option to Crouton and have “a real OS” like Ubuntu.

    What is disappointing though is the following:

    • that Google Docs isn’t enabling offline mode per default on your Chromebook
    • that offline GMail is strangely broken on my unstable dev-version of ChromeOS ;)
    • that I couldn’t find a way yet to get a decent frontend for Feedly (I strongly dislike their website), which is for now my feed reader of choice (and which is great via Reeder on my iPad)4
    • that I couldn’t figure out yet how to use Evernote offline
    • that I couldn’t figure out yet how to use WordPress offline

    Maybe I will upgrade to the 3G version, but even with Germanys 2nd best mobile network, Vodafone, you face some offline time here and there. So many of the problems described may remain.

    Still, it’s a good first impression with plenty more to figure out and even more to try out.

    1. which btw went really well []
    2. the non-3G one []
    3. which btw is grotesquely high compared to the US pricing… []
    4. I use the iPhone version with FullForce on my jailbroken iPad2. []

    Computex 2013: And the winner is: Intel

    There is not much to write about this years Computex, as almost every news has spread a thousand times throughout the web. This is thus more a personal note: Intel have finally managed to win quite a few smartphone and tablet designs, and at the same time they have managed to really lower the consumption of their performance platform with “Haswell”. Finally, thin, light, powerful and long lasting mobile computing solutions are possible. Thumbs up!

    Jolla. (The smartphone, finally.)

    Jolla, that group of ex-Nokia employees working on an ex-Nokia smartphone OS (MeeGo, which is now “Mer” – and on the foundations of Mer Jolla built their “Sailfish OS”), have finally announced their first piece of hardware1, which will ship “at the end of this year”.2 It’s nothing too funky, hardware wise, but Jolla is about software, anyway.

    Here’s a first Hands On with engadget:

    1. Engadget have the specs []
    2. You can pre-order it now! []