is Pinephone free software + hardware?

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muhammed
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Iscritto: 04/13/2013

I don't see a RYF certification. Does anyone know the shortcomings, or likely shortcomings, if any? Is this practical/convenient as a primary phone?

https://www.pine64.org/pinephone/

https://www.notebookcheck.net/PinePhone-Convergence-Package-turns-the-inexpensive-smartphone-into-a-Linux-desktop-PC.481759.0.html

Jorah Dawson
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Iscritto: 12/13/2020

The chip RTL8723CS that provides wifi and bluetooth needs non-free firwmare.

So we have almost the same problem than using a Replicant device...

muhammed
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Iscritto: 04/13/2013

I saw that the Pine Phone has hardware switches ... could I just switch off the Wifi and Bluetooth? Could I remove the drivers for those devices? Do you happen to know whether there are instructions for doing this stuff?

Jorah Dawson
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Iscritto: 12/13/2020

It depends on the OS (UBPorts, Mobian...) Some of them could have those firmwares embedded into a non-free linux kernel.

On the other hand, switching off wifi and bluetooth could help, as far as privacy and security are concern.

PublicLewdness
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Iscritto: 03/15/2020

>Is this practical/convenient as a primary phone?

Yes and no. It has amazing potential but much of the software is in a beta state. It has a removable battery; a half dozen different distros available and multiple desktop environments; it allows you to test out distros by installing them to micro SD first; it has parts available oln the Pine Store. Alas I think if people go in expecting it to be as daily driver ready as Android will be disappointed. The biggest issue remaining in my eyes are many apps don't scale for mobile screens yet.

Avron
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Iscritto: 08/18/2020

>Is this practical/convenient as a primary phone?

I got one a few days ago, it is using mobian. I could not test it enough yet and maybe I need to find the right settings but when leaving it not plugged on power, I can usually not wake it up without power off and on again. Also, when the screen is off, I am unable to know whether the phone is on or off.

Same observation, many apps don't scale for mobile screen. You can change the display to 100% but then everything is microscopic (the other option is 200%, then text is readable). Also, some apps don't react properly to touch.

For me, it is now a new toy to play with, I'll see if I can eventualy make it a primary phone but I suspect it will take a lot of time, I am more relying on LineageOS now.

muhammed
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Iscritto: 04/13/2013

Do the main cell phone apps fit to mobile phone screen? Like the email app, telephone app, text message app? How about the web browser?

I see that the website says "Estimated dispatch in late April 2021" - was this your experience? Or did you buy before that message went up?

My current cell phone isn't charging past a few percent and I feel that it's on its last legs. I need to get a phone for work and this may be an opportunity to get a free-as-possible phone.

Avron
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Iscritto: 08/18/2020

I looked at their site regularly, there was a message that they had some Mobian edition left because of cancelled orders and I ordered one, it came in less than a week to France.

The message was already up, so I really got one of these cancelled orders.

I had to reinstall mobian because the phone went off during the first ugrade I don't know why (it was fully charged). However reinstalling is super easy if you can write to an SD card (you put a kind of recovery thing that allows to boot and connect to the PC from which you can copy the install image to the phone, then remove the SD and boot).

Note that the phone looks fragile, body and screen and I took the SIM card away two or three times in total and I am already scared that it is more and more difficult to take the SIM card out.

I just put a SIM card in it, pressed the power button, there is a green led on but the screen remains dark. I pressed power until the led went off, then tried power on again, this time it worked.

"Web" is a browser that seems ok even though reaction to move screen takes at least 0.25s. Firefox is much faster. I can zoom n with two fingers and zoom out but nly until 100% size, reaching 90% is possible only via menu. Preference menu is not scaled at all, everything is reachable though provided you have the same menu on your computer to see where to search for the otion you are looking for.

The camera seems usable but saving a picture takes 5 seconds and I failed to make a picture of text clear enough so that the text is easily readable.

I sent an SMS to another phone, it worked, then put the screen off and replied from the other phone, the phone made a sound about 3 minutes later and a bit later the led is blue and blinking slowly, but it remains so even after I have read the mesage and I can't stop it.

In the notification menu in the settings, I managed to set an option to display an incoming message in the menu that opens when touching the top of the screen, then it is visible there and after I touched there to open it, the led went off. Note that the menu for notification options of one ap is not resized properly so I thought I need to touch the text of each option and it actually does nothing but after I changed the screen orientation (it is manual) I found that there are switches in the right that were out of the screen before.

I haven't tried email yet, will do later and report.

Overall, it seems usable for rather basic usage in spite of a number of difficulties. However, I notice the battery indicator went from 100% to 62% just by doing what I did (took less than 1h) but it seems fixed at 62% now, so perhaps no too accurate.

With respect to software freedom, I am not sure the pinephone is any better than LineageOS. My main motivation to try the pinephone is that with Android (LineageOS actually) I have the feeling that I never know what I am doing (for instance, it has a weird way of handling files inside apps which are not really files acessible with a file manager or a terminal) while the pinephone looks like a very familiar system.

muhammed
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Iscritto: 04/13/2013

Thank you for that detailed description Avron!

It's a little discouraging that the phone isn't as functional as mainstream phones, or at least not more functional than it is. I had a replicant phone a few years ago (a fellow trisquel member helped me free my Galaxy S3) and from what I remember that one worked a little better. I'm going to think about this for a bit since I have to rely on a cell phone for work and so need something reliable/convenient.

PublicLewdness
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Iscritto: 03/15/2020

>It's a little discouraging that the phone isn't as functional as mainstream phones, or at least not more functional than it is. I had a replicant phone a few years ago (a fellow trisquel member helped me free my Galaxy S3) and from what I remember that one worked a little better. I'm going to think about this for a bit since I have to rely on a cell phone for work and so need something reliable/convenient.

The Pine64 team is very up front about the progress of the phone. If you go to the store to buy it it is literally called the "beta edition". Also this is on the store page:

"Beta Limited Edition PinePhones are aimed solely at early adopters. More specifically, only intend for these units to find their way into the hands of users with extensive Linux experience."

Mainstream phones are funded by billion dollar companies and don't offer the privacy/security options that the Pinephone has.

muhammed
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Iscritto: 04/13/2013

I didn't mean my comment as a criticism. It did sound like a criticism though - my bad. I support the Pine64 team's efforts and, the morning after I posted my "I am discouraged" comment, I purchased a Pine Phone.

nadebula.1984
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Iscritto: 05/01/2018

arm platforms (cell phone, tablet, etc.) are far from free/libre, almost everything requires non-free firmware, including GPU, WLAN, modem, bluetooth, camera, touch screen, etc..

lanun
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Iscritto: 04/01/2021

Is there any existing GSM-based system that could be RYF certified?

Jorah Dawson
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Iscritto: 12/13/2020

> Is there any existing GSM-based system that could be RYF certified?

OsmocomBB:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmocom#OsmocomBB

lanun
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Iscritto: 04/01/2021

Thanks for the reference.

It is my understanding that the RYF certification applies to a combination of hardware and firmware.

Can we expect a mobile phone or a baseband adapter to ship with OsmocomBB in the foreseeable future?

https://osmocom.org/projects/baseband
https://ryf.fsf.org

Magic Banana

I am a member!

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

Here are the criteria to get the RYF certification: https://ryf.fsf.org/about/criteria

lanun
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Iscritto: 04/01/2021

Yes, clearly RYF is for hardware.

However, I am not sure how to interpret this in respect to baseband chips: "Qualifying hardware products include: computers, components for computers, devices that contain a reprogrammable computer, and devices meant to communicate digitally with a computer."

There is an Arduino GSM shield based on a module made by these people, though: https://www.quectel.com/product-category/2g-modules.
Here is what they say about their code: https://www.quectel.com/quectel-open-source.

koszkonutek
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Iscritto: 03/19/2020

I've never heard about Quectel b4 but I don't think it actually provides complete free firmware for its GSM chips. Many companies provide their modified Linux source just to comply with the GPL. The rest of the firmware (especially the part responsible for digital signal processing) can easily be nonfree. It seems to be the case here (although I haven't investigated much).

Getting a libre GSM chip anytime soon is very unlikely due to various obstacles (including legal ones) see this thread for more info: https://trisquel.info/en/forum/about-getting-free-software-4g-or-5g-chip

Purism is nevertheless trying to RYF certify its Librem phone by putting the nonfree modem firmware on a ROM so that it can be considered equivalent to hardware - which I don't think will work, not to mention the other blob Librem requires for booting. At the same time Pine is trying to free as many parts of Pinephone's GSM modem as possible (with over hundred of blobs still remaining AFAIK) but for legal reasons leaves the digital signal processing code untouched[1].

Pinephone still seems to be the phone closest to 100% free. Why? Because it has a fully free bootloader and fully free graphics acceleration.

Other important phone features are good "modem isolation" (which means nonfree modem firmware is unable to directly access the memory of your main operating system) and existence of hardware switches for parts that run nonfree firmware. I recall that Pinephone and Librem both have good modem isolation. Some old replicant-supported phone also had it, unlike newer ones. Correct me if I am wrong in one of these statements. Pinephone also has hardware switches - idk about other phones.

Given the problems with GSM modems I think it would be best to ditch this kind of communication and just use a VOIP-only phone (i.e. one without modem). For that we would need wifi to access the internet and this is the biggest problem because from what I heard - Atheros wifi chips that have free firmware are not suitable for such small embedded devices (for power comsumption reasons perhaps?).

Pine has some effort towards freeing one wifi chip[2], so perhaps one day it will succeed and come up with a phone capable of serving as a 100% free VOIP-only phone. But even if - it will be a long time.

Also, from what I see being posted on this forum, GNU/Linux mobile distros need a lot more time to become a viable alternative to Android. Getting Replicant to support devices like Pinephone and Librem (or are they supported already?) would be no worse freedom-wise from running a GNU/Linux and it would also give the conveniences Android provides + a wide range of apps to choose from. An effort towards having more up-to-date Replicant releases and creating an FSDG-compliant version of F-Droid would IMHO be more beneficial to software freedom than the approach PINE64, Purism and UBPorts take.

[1] https://www.pine64.org/2021/02/15/february-update-show-and-tell/
[2] https://www.pine64.org/2020/10/28/nutcracker-challenge-blob-free-wifi-ble/

lanun
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Iscritto: 04/01/2021

Thanks for the info. I gave up long ago on using mobile devices outside emergency situations and basic functions (clock, alarm, shopping list and small notes to self), but I still check from time to time in case something changed. At some point I might need a lightweight device to display small-scale maps, but I can always use printed maps instead, and escape tracking, or a standalone GPS based map reader. The more I think about it, the more it sounds unwise to use one easily compromised device for so many functions.

> I don't think it actually provides complete free firmware for its GSM chips. Many companies provide their modified Linux source

That seems to be a correct assumption, the files they provide through ftp consist of exactly three kernels: 3-18.20, 3-18.44 and 3-10.49.

Jorah Dawson
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Iscritto: 12/13/2020

Unfortunately, no. It's only for old 2g (gsm).