Free Software for devices,

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Ignacio.Agullo
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Joined: 09/29/2009

Seven months ago in the Trisquel Users forum I publish the post "The Free Software Foundation Giving Guide 2021 is out! Also, laptops, smartphones, GPS and Purism". That post is locked up now. I have half a dozen updates on the topic, so in order to publish them I am coming up with this new thread. Six updates: three ammeds and three additions.

Ammend: In the original post, user Lef points out that the topic "should be moved to General Free Software Talk", and it is right of course, so this time I am posting at General Free Software Talk.

Ammend: In the original post, I write that no vendors are selling devices with Replicant, but actually Technoethical is: https://tehnoetic.com/

Ammend: In the original post, I write that Replicant devices cannot use NFC, but according to Replicant documentation, they can - it's just that I can't bring my Replicant phone to use it.

Addition: I have been learning everything that I could about Free Software for devices. Replicant, in spite of supporting only old devices (eight years old at least) is active and has published a new release as recently as June 3, and I have been experiencing it. They are even working on Replicant 11, a Free version of Android 11.

Addition: With all that I learnt about Free Software for devices, I wrote the article "Replicant versus PureOS. Caring for freedom and privacy while using smartphones": http://www.grafotema.com/agullo/articulos/pureos_versus_replicant.html

Addition: With all that I learnt about Replicant, Android, F-Droid and Free Software apps, I wrote the article "Replicant versus Android. Equipping smartphones with Free Software": http://www.grafotema.com/agullo/articulos/replicant_versus_android/replicant_versus_android.html

Kind regards,
Ignacio Agulló.

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

Thank you for your article.

With respect to Technoethical, they still have not sent the Replicant device I ordered and paid in August 2021. I tried to contact them multiple times, they never replied. Since then, I installed Replicant myself on a S3 which is now my main mobile device (installation was easy, most difficult was to get the suitable device).

On your report:
- there is a recommended list of applications at https://directory.fsf.org/wiki/Collection:Replicant

- QR & Barcode scanner: the app shows icons to scan and limits where to place the QR code but it is all black, it does not actually see anything with the camera. I have allowed it to use the camera though.

- Camera: I am not sure what you mean exactly by "blocked". I mainly use OpenCamera (from the list above), my experience is that, rather often, when trying to take a picture, no picture is taken. I sometimes just give up or reboot, usually it works after reboot but it may only work once. So I cannot rely on the camera to take pictures.

- instant messaging: I am using conversations (XMPP). I have difficulties convincing people to use it but I must say, it is highly reliable. The only issue is that I am also unable to scan QR codes for OMEMO signatures (same as QR & Barcode scanner, screen is black).

- map: I actually have only tried Organic maps. However, it is so slow that it is unusable (it takes several minutes to display a map, and any move takes the same time again). For maps, I use another device running LineageOS (it has no personal data, only maps, there is no SIM card, I keep wifi and bluetooth off).

Besides, I am using some other apps not listed:
- K9-mail
- Seafile
- DAVx
- KeyPassDX
- MAXS
- Simple Gallery

EDIT: I also have one annoying problem: if I use a headset for a voice call, the remote party hears a disturbing high pitch tone, so I can't use a headset. I don't know whether it is a hardware or software issue, I got another device but I have not tried yet with it.

Ignacio.Agullo
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Joined: 09/29/2009

Thanks for your answer, avron.

By doing the study as a comparison of Replicant versus Android, I expect to be it useful not only for Replicant users, but also for Android users who are willing to use Free Software from the F-Droid app store.

Respecting Technoethical, it is unfortunate that the only store selling smarphones with Replicant did such a bad job for you.

On the app list:

I see that the FSF provides a list with the F-Droid app and 24 other apps for Replicant, while I provide a list with F-Droid and 16 other apps for Replicant. Both lists have:
-LibreOffice Viewer
-Privacy Browser
-VLC

As for the differences, the FSF list provides apps for:
-Camera and video camera (2 in 1), Email client & news aggregator, Microphone recorder. I disregarded apps for these functions because Replicant and Android already come with apps for them.
-Anonymous P2P, App locker, BitTorrent client, Diagramming software, Multimedia communication, Online storage, Raster graphics editor, Text editor, VPN client. Good for the FSF to have selected so many apps, however it seems unrealistic to me to use apps for some of these functions on a eight-year-old smartphone.

On the other hand, my list provides apps for File managing, Hardware checking, Image viewing, Audio player, Scanning barcodes and QR codes, Maps, Planetarium, Terminal, Wi-Fi, Call recording. I think those apps to be *much* more of common use.

More apps tested on Replicant:
-Cool Reader: It works OK but in the end I went with Librera Reader because of reading more file formats.
-LibreOffice & OpenOffice document reader: It works OK but in the end I went with LibreOffice Viewer because of reading more file formats.
-MuPDF: I couldn't get it to work on Replicant.
-QR Scanner (Privacy Friendly): It works OK on Android but I couldn't get it to work on Replicant. The problem encountered is the same that you describe for "QR & Barcode scanner" - it is probably the same app.
-Screencam: It works OK on Android but I cannot get it to work in Replicant, much the same as the Screen Recorder app that comes with Replicant.
-Termux: F-Droid offers it all right for my Android smartphone, but not for my Replicant smartphone.
-Text Fairy: It works quite OK on Android, but for some reason it works really badly in Replicant.

Apps no longer on F-Droid: I cannot find Firefox, IceCat or Orfox at F-Droid. Certainly Firefox and IceCat were there in past, but they no longer are. If you want Firefox you need to install FFupdate and from there select amongst up to ten different browsers, including Firefox, Brave, Iceraven or Ungoogled Chromium but no IceCat.

Camera: 'Blocked' is the word I came up with for 'It crashes, and from that point on it will not work again'.
The Camera issue is documented in the Usage Notes from Replicant Wiki:
UsageNotes - Replicant
https://redmine.replicant.us/projects/replicant/wiki/UsageNotes
According to the Usage Notes this is a driver problem, so you will encounter it no matter what Camera app you use. Whatever issue you have with OpenCamera, it will be best solved by deleting the data than by rebooting the smartphone.
I must add, I already knew this issue since my very first contact with Replicant in November, 2013.

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

I tried OSMAnd on my Replicant phone, I don't have the same problems like with Organic Maps, i.e. although it is not super-fast, it is easily usable, that is a very nice discovery.

I like paper maps but it is difficult to find them in pocket book format, so the map on the phone is very nice to have.

I agree that usage comparison with Android is useful. I have seen your article about Librem 5, I don't have a Librem 5 but I have a Pinephone. It is a nice device but the battery life is not even 6h with low usage and I failed to find a usable XMPP client on it (in addition, it seems data can't wake up the phone).

Thanks for mentioning FFUpdater, I was not aware of this.

So far, I have installed Icecat from F-Droid archive repository, but it is a 2-year old version. In addition, LibreJS is not installed by default, I had to add it.

I am not sure whether it is better to install Firefox using FFUpdater with extensions like LibreJS, JShelter and NoScript or the old Icecat version.

About communication apps, I tried Jami but the video won't work, it is not uncommon not to receive messages or calls and the battery won't last a day. With Conversation (but I suppose blabber.im or Quicksy should be the same), I always receive messages (I am not using calls) and the battery still lasts several days, so it is very nice.

EDIT: I see that FFUpdater is suggesting to use Fennec F-Droid instead of Firefox. The description of Fennec F-Droid is saying that Firefox includes proprietary things that were removed in Fennec F-Droid, so perhaps this is better. This still mentions that Fennec F-Droid "still connects to various Mozilla and Google services that can track users", while I would expect that the old Icecat got rid of this.

EDIT2: Be careful that LibreJS is not installed by default in IceCatMobile from F-Droid archive. It needs to be installed manually. For some extensions (I installed LibreJS, NoScript, JShelter and Ublock origin, I can't remember for which ones), the "Add to Firefox" button was greyed out but I clicked on the "Download" link and upon download, I had a pop-up proposing to install the extension and it worked.

Lef
Lef
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Joined: 11/20/2021

One issue I see with Replicant is that carriers, at least in the United States, are becoming more locked down. They're shutting down all devices that aren't capable of 4g, and others are increasing their blacklist. For instance T-Mobile recently pushed out an update that has made it difficult for several "older" (like, 5 years old) LG phones from connecting, seemingly by accident as well.

At this point I question if Replicant is "too little too late," particularly with Mobian, Ubports, or postmarketos. Perhaps the solution was to simply port GNU all along. Or maybe this is all hopeless, the carriers have the white/blacklist, who will stop them if tomorrow they ban all the libre-ish OS'?

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

>carriers, at least in the United States, are [...] shutting down all devices that aren't capable of 4g

This is rather likely to happen everywhere eventually.

>At this point I question if Replicant is "too little too late," particularly with Mobian, Ubports, or postmarketos. Perhaps the solution was to simply port GNU all along.

Most GNU/Linux apps don't take into account display on a screen of the size of a smartphone.

For XMPP, there is a supposedly proper application, chatty, but I fail to make OMEMO work on it (unable to decipher anything, no control of OMEMO fingerprints). I had found out that Gajim, with the option of separate windows for chat, was usable. Guess what: Gajim project is now proud of a new UI design where that option is removed and now, it has become totally unusable on the Pinephone.

In addition, battery life is something generally ignored by computer applications and I doubt this is going to change soon.

So "port GNU all along" is not simple at all actually.

Jorah Dawson
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Joined: 12/13/2020

As for browsers, consider installing Mull instead of old Fennec/Icecat:
https://trisquel.info/es/forum/new-privacy-browser-f-droid-mull

Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

Can you install LibreLS, Jshelter and Haketilo on Mull?

I created a Mozilla account to create a personal collection of add-ons with LibreJS and Jshelter but when I enable developer options and I want to refer to it, I can't fill in the User ID field, I can only fill in the collection name, and then I can't access the selected add-ons.

This happens exactly the same with Fennec F-Droid and Mull, while the old IceCatMobile allows installing any extension from the .xpi file.

Jorah Dawson
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Joined: 12/13/2020

Yes, it works.

1.png 2.png
Avron
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Joined: 08/18/2020

Ok but how did you add LibreJS?

In the add-on menu, LibreJS is not available. I found that it is possible to create a "personal collection" of add-ons on Mozilla website, so I created one where I have put LibreJS. In Mull, I clicked 5 times on the logo to enable developer options, then I have the menu to select a personal collection. This requires an ID and a collection name. However, for the ID, it seems to be only numeric, but I only entered an email address, I have no numeric ID, so I don't know what to put there. If I put nothing and the collection name, when Mull is restarted, if I go to the add-ons menu, it says there is nothing.

Or did you use another method?

EDIT: I found the solution: the "User ID" is in fact the numerical value in the URL of the collection as shown on https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2020/09/29/expanded-extension-support-in-firefox-for-android-nightly/.

Then, I can add LibreJS.

However, for a rather simple page like Libreboot home page, in portrait mode, Mull shows nothing, just black and in landscape mode, the text seems to take the whole screen width but the 20% portion on the right is fully black. So this app is clearly unusable on my S3 with Replicant. So I'll stick with IceCatMobile.

Jorah Dawson
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Joined: 12/13/2020

Oh, you're right.

Note II with Replicant, armv7 Mull apk, libreboot.org shows a black page.

With aarch64 apk version, e.g running LineageOs, libreboot.org loads fine.

Maybe a bug? idk.

Anyway, I even recommend it. Other webs seem to load correctly.