free PDA running JMP

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mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

After this recent thread I have decided to try to replace my smartphone with a PDA running JMP and only free software. I'm now trying to find on a good fully free device to use.

The Ben Nanonote looks ideal, but I can't actually find a source from which to buy one. The wiki says that as of 2015 only IDA Systems sells it, and it appears that now they don't sell it either.

The DragonBox Pyra looks like a good alternative. The GPU may or may not be nonfree. I can't find any recent information on that. However, since I don't plan to use the device for games I might be able to avoid using the GPU even if it is nonfree.

The Pandora, which is the predecessor to the Pyra is less expensive and sufficient for my needs, but I find it even more difficult to find information on any freedom issues.

I also found this tutorial on creating a mini computer using a Raspberry Pi, but if this is up-to-date then is sounds like the Raspberry Pi is nonfree.

Can anyone share knowledge about any of these devices or others that might work?

Also, obviously WiFi will be necessary for how I plan to use this. Is it likely that I should be okay with any device with a USB port for a ThinkPengiun WiFi adpater assuming I can install the driver?

happy_gnu
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Joined: 08/06/2017

You could also have a smartphone with Replicant and use it without a SIM card

GNUbahn
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Joined: 02/19/2016

It seems to me, that mason doesn't want to be tracked. To my knowledge, a SIM enabled device is by default actively asking to be tracked. For instance, you are able to call emergency services without a SIM card inserted.

happy_gnu
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Joined: 08/06/2017

I didn't know this.

In my country this doesn't work :/

But it is interesting.

mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

It also appears that all devices supported by Replicant require nonfree firmware to use WiFi, unless this list is out-of-date.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replicant_(operating_system)#Supported_devices

GNUbahn
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Joined: 02/19/2016

But you use a wifi-dongle working with free firmware.

SuperTramp83

I am a translator!

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Joined: 10/31/2014

This is not correct, senor GNUbahn. A phone without a sim card can indeed make emergency calls and in many countries this is law, but it certainly can not be tracked by it's IMEI alone. To track a phoon a sim must be inserted inside the phoon. In fact if no sim card is present in da phoon and you call say 911 and then after a few seconds end the call, the operator of the service will not be able to call you back.
IMEI is also how most thieves get caught, for they are ignorant on the matter, they know they have to remove the sim and most of them also knows they need to factory reset the phoon, but they ignore one simple matter, once any sim is connected to any cellular network it is sending it's phone number together with the IMEI number to the cell towers..
Consider also keeping your phoon in airplane mode all the time for added peace of mind..

Soon.to.be.Free
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Joined: 07/03/2016

>The Ben Nanonote looks ideal, but I can't actually find a source from which to buy one. The wiki says that as of 2015 only IDA Systems sells it, and it appears that now they don't sell it either.

Indeed- the domain has changed hands at some point, and the original owner appears to have gone out of business. Sigh... the Nanonote was so beautiful, and free to boot!

>The DragonBox Pyra looks like a good alternative. The GPU may or may not be nonfree. I can't find any recent information on that. However, since I don't plan to use the device for games I might be able to avoid using the GPU even if it is nonfree.
>The Pandora, which is the predecessor to the Pyra is less expensive and sufficient for my needs, but I find it even more difficult to find information on any freedom issues.

Both are addressed in https://trisquel.info/en/forum/some-info-open-pandora-pyra-pandora-game-console#comment-92758 ; the original source for the question on the Pyra was at https://pyra-handheld.com/boards/threads/how-close-does-the-pyras-design-come-to-respecting-your-freedom.76105/.

For the Pandora, do you know where units are for sale? I'd be interested in one myself if they're still around.

>I also found this tutorial on creating a mini computer using a Raspberry Pi, but if this is up-to-date then is sounds like the Raspberry Pi is nonfree.

Unfortunately, the Pi is still not freed- booting goes via the GPU first, for some reason, which requires loading the proprietary GPU blob. Work has been done on this (https://github.com/christinaa/rpi-open-firmware), but there's a little way to go before it's usable. I *do* hope somebody can complete it- it would be a wonderful thing to have.

>Can anyone share knowledge about any of these devices or others that might work?

As happy_gnu said, a Replicant device without a SIM card would also serve well. There's also the PocketChip, which seems rather similar to the Pandora freedom- and spec-wise.

>Also, obviously WiFi will be necessary for how I plan to use this. Is it likely that I should be okay with any device with a USB port for a ThinkPengiun WiFi adpater assuming I can install the driver?

Yes- as long as the firmware/driver is installed, any wi-fi adapter will work.

mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

I thought I had found the Pandora for sale here, but not understanding German I did not realize at first that it is out of stock. It appears they are only selling the Pyra.

However, I feel better about the Pyra after reading the link you included. I'll take a look at the PocketChip too, as I'd rather not wait for the Pyra to be finished. I rely on an iPhone now and feel disgusting about it.

Hopefully someone will start manufacturing the Ben NanoNote again. It looks awesome.

kopolee11
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Joined: 06/05/2013

I haven't done this myself, but another option to consider is using a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Wi-Fi only version with Replicant. (https://redmine.replicant.us/projects/replicant/wiki/GalaxyTab270P31xx) It would not have a telephony modem to worry about, but to use Wi-Fi you would have to use a USB dongle.

The main problem is that it is only on Replicant 4.2, and I haven't heard anything about it migrating to 6.0.

mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

What exactly is the WiFi-only version and where can I find it? Does it literally have no modem, or is the modem somehow completely disabled with certainty?

GNUbahn
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Joined: 02/19/2016

kopolee11 is talking about a tabelt (7 inches), I am talking about a phone.

The tablet exists in a sim-card enabled version and a wifi-only version. In the latter there is no modem.

In the phone (S3 G4) there is a modem, but perhaps, as telephony doesn't work, this could mean that the modem doesn't function at all. IF that is the case, I suppose it could suit your needs (and my wishes). It should be examined further, though.

GNUbahn
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Joined: 02/19/2016

What about using a S3 4G? Since telephony doesn't work, would that mean that the modem is inactive? In that If so, you could have a wifi-only phone with a 100% free software!

Soon.to.be.Free
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Joined: 07/03/2016

Unfortunately, I'm not sure this works- though my knowledge is limited, and I could very well be wrong (I hope I am). The issue is that the modem is a separate computer- it loads independently of the main device, and has its own flash. As such, removing the ability to use telephony from the main processor has no bearing on the modem, which doesn't depend on the main chip for firmware.

In any case, even if I am wrong, the S3 has a proprietary bootloader.

mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

It sounds like until the Pyra is released my options are the PocketChip and the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 WiFi-only version.

The PocketChip's CHIP OS is apparently based on Debian. If like Debian it is "optionally free" but not FSF-free I am fine with that, but since freedom appears not to be an explicit goal for the creators of the CHIP I'm not sure that this is the case. Does anyone have any information on this?

The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is a little large but is probably just small enough for a mobile device. What are the disadvantages of Replicant 4.2 compared to 6.0? Since I only plan to use the device for JMP and a couple other things I don't necessarily need the latest versions of applications, so my concerns would be about security holes or major bugs.

Soon.to.be.Free
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Joined: 07/03/2016

I'm 99% sure chip OS is "optionally free" in the same sense as Debian- though it does (unlike) Debian default to shipping blobs. I'd imagine it isn't too hard to uninstall the ones which are executed by default.

For a general discussion of the issues, there's a mailing-list thread here discussing an effort to produce a libre-by-default OS for the device: http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/2017-May/013561.html.

kopolee11
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Joined: 06/05/2013

Again, I haven't run Replicant myself so I am probably not the best person to answer that. One such issue seems to be "Browsers using the webview framework (such as the browser shipped with Replicant and Lightning) are subject to various security flaws in Replicant 6.0. Replicant 4.2 did not receive security updates since its latest release in September 2015 and many serious security issues are not fixed." (https://www.replicant.us/freedom-privacy-security-issues.php)

However, it does look like Replicant 6.0 is planned on being ported to the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. "Thanks to device donations from the community, it will be possible to get Replicant 6.0 working on the GTA04, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and Galaxy Note. Please consider donating to Replicant to help development." (https://blog.replicant.us/2017/05/replicant-6-0-released/)

I'm also not sure how quickly Replicant 6.0 gets updates. Perhaps someone who has a Replicant device can give more info.

Last thought, it seems to me that a Replicant run Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Wifi device is as free as most non-librebooted laptops. Which seems pretty cool, if I'm not mistaken.

singpolyma
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Joined: 08/14/2017

I highly recommend the Pyra. If you can find a used OpenPandora that'll probably serve (or a used N900 if you can disable the radio).

My pocketCHIP is great -- the specs are on the low side, and the screen resolution is quite low -- I've already sent patches upstream for some apps I use to make them fit better on it. You can also upgrade the screen on the pocketCHIP with some skills. The batter is about as advertised: 5 hours. Which is fine, but not amazing. Wifi needs a binary firmware, and works ok but also not amazing -- could use an RYF USB dongle replacement.

mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

Thanks. Are you using the default OS on your PocketChip? I don't mind carrying a charger and I have a USB WiFi adapter, so that seems like a good inexpensive option to use until the Pyra is released. Is WiFi the only nonfree component?

Soon.to.be.Free
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Joined: 07/03/2016

And the GPU- although that's not really of interest outside graphics-intensive applications.

mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

I plan to use this primarily for JMP and email, so that shouldn't be a problem. What would be the best way to disable the GPU? Deleting the firmware? Would that cause other problems?

Soon.to.be.Free
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Joined: 07/03/2016

I'm almost certain it would disable the GPU without causing other problems. On the other hand, that's just a (somewhat informed) guess based on what I've read about the Pandora; it's not yet confirmed.

Alexander Stephen Thomas Ross
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Joined: 09/18/2012

i have a ben nano note. love it to bits. for my needs i really needed
usb host though. i used my nano note for notes and music mainly. There
was a india shop still selling the last stock. Try asking on the
freenode.org #qi-hardware irc channel. the nano note devs hang out on
there. :)
my scripts i made for it: https://gitlab.com/NanoNote-Scripts/

so i now have a zipit which but for the wifi firmware other wise runs
free software only to my knowladge. kernel problem has blobs in it but
then depends on what modules you compile i guess. its a old little thing
but hinv on the #zipit freenode irc channel has a hole stock of them to
sell and i have a goodie pack of bits to go with them to sell. I have my
zipit attached to a diy addon pack with usb hub, 128gb cheap usb stick,
larger battery, gps, etc.
http://mozzwald.com/zipitz2

gta04 phones 2rd or new batch are another option. could do with more dev
time though. is usable with a 10Ah usb power bank to keep ya running for
the day. that or play with the more power efficient kernel build* which
i have yet to do and idk if i will get around to. so i have wondered
about selling on my gta04 if theres someone with more energy to help
improve the software for it or to just use it more. if people are
interested msg me and ill have a think about it. I do like it other
wise. been running replicant on it.
* http://projects.goldelico.com/p/gta04-kernel/

pocket chip i think comes with yucky non-free bootloader due to them not
knowing about the reversed engineered free one, i think, i forget the
"reason".

mozzwald from #zipit was working on a diy handheld computer using eoma68
computer card :D as a little personal project.
https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68/micro-desktop
http://mozzwald.com/

also got a samsung phone running replicant. works well, power saving is
very good. upgraded to Rep6 but can get non-free wifi working again. got
non-free bluetooth working. need a usb otg host hub with external
battery for free usb wifi. the galaxy note phones have more power for
usb ort/host. so i think there ok.

mason
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Joined: 07/07/2017

> pocket chip i think comes with yucky non-free bootloader

Can it be replaced?

Alexander Stephen Thomas Ross
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Joined: 09/18/2012

On 14/08/17 18:54, masonhock [at] gmail [dot] com wrote:
>> pocket chip i think comes with yucky non-free bootloader
>
> Can it be replaced?
i think so, there is a free one. they didn’t use it :(. i forget the
details. there where posts about it on arm-netbook the rhombus-tech
eoma86 mailing list:
http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/
http://rhombus-tech.net/

Soon.to.be.Free
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Joined: 07/03/2016

To elaborate, the particular post appears to be here: http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/2017-July/014340.html. It also suggests Debian Stretch runs fine on the PocketChip (although would need to be flashed to NAND to become the default OS)- so it definitely runs fine without proprietary blobs.

Thanks for pointing that out too, Alexander- I was under the impression that the u-boot used was just the standard, and so free. Frankly, it's quite unfortunate that the only freeable portable PDA form-factor currently for sale seems to be the PocketChip: NTC don't seem to show more than the absolute minimum of commitment to their 'open source' claims, to the point where they recommend some in-browser flashing tool for the Chip where free software alternatives have existed for *4 years*.

If somebody could manufacture the NanoNote (possibly with some slight spec improvements) again, I would be the first to buy it. *Sigh*