/e/OS: An almost free software mobile OS - fully degoogled

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GNUbahn
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Joined: 02/18/2016

/e/OS is a degoogled mobile operating system based om AOSP (i.e. Androidish)

As is already being discussed in another thread e.foundation offers an apparently good solution of email, storage, online office suit, calendar etc. (basically email + nextcloud) ranging from gratis to cheap: https://trisquel.info/en/forum/free-email-providers-being-banned-gmail-alternatives#comment-163746

In this thread I would like to discuss the quality of the primary service from e.foundation, their mobile OS. Please read more about /e/OS on their site: https://e.foundation

e.foundation link to research which claims that in comparison with other AOSP based OS /e/OS leaks the least data. This is consistent with the claim of e.foundation that they only collect a very, very limited amount of data in order to update the OS etc. I don't have a deep knowledge on these matters, but the research seems reliable from my amateurish point of view.

I hope others with more knowledge than me will go through the research, such as: https://www.scss.tcd.ie/Doug.Leith/Android_privacy_report.pdf

One of my personal main concerns is updates. At the time of writing, /e/OS supports 190 devices but who maintain /e/OS for each of these? I can't find information about for how long devices will be supported, but if you buy a preinstalled Fairphone 3+ the FAQ tells you that "We aim to support with at least 3 years of software updates and security patches." It also states that "We publish software updates for our phones at least every 2 months. We sometimes even have updates every month." (https://esolutions.shop/shop/murena-fairphone-3-plus-fr/)

I don't think /e/OS can compete in security and privacy with OS like GrapheneOS but for a potential main stream OS it might be the best there is right now!?

/e/OS is not fully free software but as far as I can figure out the non-free software is 'only' some driver and *one* app (Maps)

BTW: They have a rating system for the privacy of apps. It is not very sophisticated and I feel uncertain it is is any use at all.

I hope some of you will join me in investigating whether this could be a useful alternative until more free, secure and private OS for the masses arrives.

PublicLewdness
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Joined: 03/15/2020

I have been using /e/ OS on a Teracube 2E for most of 2021 so far. My thoughts are that it is a lot better for privacy than Android but lacks the security features of Graphene OS. What it has over Graphene OS is that it works on so many devices where Graphene only supports certain Pixel models. Either one will be better for privacy over Android. I don't see /e/ as a long term solution for me but a stopgap while Mobian and PostmarketOS mature on my Pinephone. /e/ is daily driver ready for me so far with very few crashes and a couple issues with updates several months ago. Why I don't see it as a long term solution for me is two fold:

1. most of their updates consist of merging Lineage OS updates into /e/ which means they're depending on other projects for the bulk of their work (at least going by release notes)
2. Many of their devices lack mainline kernel support and will probably never get it

Overall though I recommend it over Android 1000% and have been happy with it so far in that it is doing exactly what I need right now. You could do far worse for mobile OS choice.

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

Are you using /e/ OS app store or only F-Droid? The main concern I heard about /e/ OS is that their app store includes non-free software. If using only F-Droid and no Google app, is there any advantage of /e/ OS as compared with LineageOS?

GNUbahn
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Joined: 02/18/2016

Several. One of them being that /e/OS does not send information to Google, LineageOS does: https://www.scss.tcd.ie/Doug.Leith/Android_privacy_report.pdf

Adrian Malacoda

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Joined: 12/26/2010

This report is misleading; they are not testing vanilla LineageOS, but rather LineageOS with opengapps. Of course an OS with Gapps is sending data to Google, but LineageOS does not come with Gapps; the report authors chose to install them on LineageOS, and then for some reason claimed LineageOS was responsible for sending data to Google.

> A. Hardware and Software Used
Mobile handsets: (i) Samsung Galaxy S9 (model SM-
G960F)/Android 10 (build QP1A.190711.020, One UI v2.0),
(ii) Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 (model M2003J15SG)/Android 10
(build QP1A.190711.020, MIUI Global 12.0.7 QJOMIXM),
(iii) Realme 6 Pro (model RMX2063)/Android 10 (build
RMX2063 11 A.38, realme UI v1.0), (iv) Huawei P10 Lite
(model MAR-LX1B)/Android 915 (build 9.1.0.372, EMUI
9.1.0), (v) Google Pixel 2/Android 10 (LineageOS build 17.1-
20210316, opengapps 10.0-nano-20210314), (vi) Google Pixel
2/Android 10 (eos build e-0.11-q-20200917). Rooted using
Magisk v20.4 and Magisk Manager v7.5.1.

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

On LineageOS it is necessary to install GApps to use the Google Play store, but this is not necessary with /e/OS (which uses the open-source MicroG re-implementation of Google Play Services and the Google Play app)

In my understanding, to use Google services on LineageOS, one needs to install microG. If microG is sufficient to install apps from the Google Play store, I don't see any difference between LineageOS and /e/OS on that point.

I am wondering whether these researchers did not simply fail to detect private data transmitted by the /e/OS device.

Should I know anyone who want to use Google services and apps (in spite of me advising not to do so), I don't see why I should recommend using /e/OS rather than LineageOS.

Adrian Malacoda

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Joined: 12/26/2010

> In my understanding, to use Google services on LineageOS, one needs to install microG. If microG is sufficient to install apps from the Google Play store, I don't see any difference between LineageOS and /e/OS on that point.

microG is perfectly usable on LineageOS. There's nothing special about /e/ OS that would make it work better than on LineageOS. I don't understand why the report authors thought they needed opengapps on LineageOS when microG works fine, yet they allow microG to be used on /e/ OS.

Additionally, you don't actually need Google Play services (the actual ones or microG) to use Google Play store, since Aurora Store is a perfectly functional client. Of course, this is completely irrelevant from a freedom perspective since the vast majority of apps on Google Play store are non-free.

Legimet
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Joined: 12/10/2013

Speaking of maps, I don't know of any good replacement for Google Maps right now. I think OpenStreetMap excels in some areas - I use OsmAnd when I go hiking, and I think the crowdsourced nature of OSM works well for this use case. But the search and navigation capability is terrible, and I still rely on Google Maps for this reason.

GNUbahn
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Joined: 02/18/2016

SORRY: I should have made it clear that we are NOT talking about Google Maps but one build on Magic Earth.

It is not free/open source sw but the developers of /e/OS consider it good enough and they claim to believe that the source code will eventually be released.

I asked at Magic Earth why their app is gratis to use. They answer that hey sell some related products (API things?) and that they cooperate with a company/organisation responsible for e.g. ambulance logistics in Germany.

Adrian Malacoda

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Joined: 12/26/2010

/e/ OS is bad because it includes non-free software, and its app store purports to tell you which non-free apps are "good." That being said, /e/ is probably "close enough" to being free that you can just replace the non-free junk and use F-Droid instead of their app store.

PublicLewdness
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Joined: 03/15/2020

"/e/ OS is bad because it includes non-free software, and its app store purports to tell you which non-free apps are "good." That being said, /e/ is probably "close enough" to being free that you can just replace the non-free junk and use F-Droid instead of their app store."

With Smartphones these days you have two options from a freedom standpoint: bad and non functional. It's more about picking the best bad option over picking an option that doesn't really function as a smartphone. Even Replicant can't get around having to use closed source hardware and firmware, on top of most of their mainatined devices running three year old software which is a security risk in itself.

lanun
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Joined: 04/01/2021

True, although you forgot to mention the obvious option of doing without such a tracking device altogether.

I think by now the masses should have started to seriously consider getting rid of their many addictions, including this one.

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

Some people view a phone without WhatsApp as "non-functional". I view a phone with LineageOS without microG and with apps only installed from F-Droid as perfectly functional (as long as you are not using the Chinese language). This is a matter of expectations.

Even Replicant can't get around having to use closed source hardware and firmware, on top of most of their mainatined devices running three year old software which is a security risk in itself.

I'd like to clarify a few things on Replicant and share my own experience:
- Replicant's web site main page says that the last version is 6.0 0003 but there is 6.0 0004rc5 which is from May 2021. That version is at least as stable as 6.0 0003
- the only closed source hardware my phone is using are the bootloader and the modem (2G/3G only, no wifi, no bluetooth)
- I use the following features without any problem (besides my device being a bit slow to react): phone calls, K9-mail, Conversations, Calendar/Contacts synchronization using CaldaV/CardDav (DAVx app), Seafile (access my file server), KeePassDX (mostly for 2nd factor authentication), MAXS (send/receive SMS via XMPP on my computer), Tusky (Mastodon client)
- calls work fine with the phone close to the ear or away with the loudspeaker on, with a headset is it not feasible because the remote party hears a high pitch tone (could be my device problem rather than Replicant, I don't know)
- I use OpenCamera to take pictures, it sometimes just works and sometimes you see that although you touched the place to take the picture it does not take it (no surprise later, you know immediately). When it does not work I always manage to make it work but it can take me a minute, so if you want to be able to take pictures quickly, this is not the right device.
- The following things I tried are not usable: Organic Maps (too slow), Jami (crashes), Tor browser (slow and crashes), scanning QR code in Conversations (does nothing)
- I do not use the web browser because in fact, I am not sure that security patches were all applied

Given my usage, it is fine as a daily driver. I sometimes also use a phone with LineageOS for Organic Maps and OSMand. I also have a non-free Chinese dictionnary on it (I could not find any decent replacement, I downloaded it from the website of the company that makes it). I don't use it for anything else.

Adrian Malacoda

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Joined: 12/26/2010

To be clear, I'm talking specifically about non-free userland software (i.e. "apps"). I know Replicant is the only fully-libre Android OS and it is severely lacking, which is why I do not use it. It's still possible to have a functional LineageOS device with a fully-libre userland even if you need proprietary blobs underneath.

lanun
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Joined: 04/01/2021

@Adrian Malacoda:

Surely nothing in your post goes against the community guidelines. Someone must have pressed the wrong button, again.