[Tinkerphones] "We don't control our lives" - smartphones - tinkerphones - debian on smartphones

D. Guthrie dguthrie at posteo.net
Thu Jul 30 15:31:03 CEST 2020

In my opinion, you've made a couple of assumptions which aren’t practical.  
This isn’t a criticism of your enthusiasm and technical knowledge, but my  
personal experience and the reality for many folks I know. Like so many  
things in this world of ours, things that seem technically simple can be  
practically very difficult, which is not ideal but I am resigned to this  
being a fact of life.

Firstly, there is an implicit assumption that people have a computer. This  
is certainly not borne out by reality; many people do not own a computer,  
or it is shared between their family, or they are old, or children, or not  
able to use one. So even if they could
redirect SIP calls to their computer, it may not be practical as they may  
not have constant access to it (hence missing the whole point of being able  
to receive calls). Then it may not be a portable computer, so they can’t  
take it to work or when they’re out and about which is a big problem. I  
speak to university students all the time who are shocked that some of  
their fellow students might not have access to a computer.

Secondly, even if they have a computer, mobile phones (and smartphones) are  
essential for one’s job and not provided by the employer - think Deliveroo,  
Uber, etc where you pick up jobs from the mobile phone app. Many people  
also need a smartphone to search for jobs when they inevitably get laid off  
by their employer. Of course, they also get calls/texts/messages via apps  
from family and friends.
Thirdly, even if it’s technically easy, many people simply won’t be able to  
afford to use a SIP service, which can be significantly more expensive than  
their mobile phone use - pay as you go mobile phone SIMs are inexpensive  
and the reality for many people. €3/month is much more than I spend on my  
mobile phone, for instance. Of course there are caveats, the actual cost  
overall can be higher especially for mobile data usage, but circumstances  
mean that contract mobile phone services either are not available at all or  
are much too expensive initially or overall.

In my experience, I cannot do something like this myself in a few days. I  
don’t own a computer powerful enough to run any Android emulators, nor do I  
have time to set it up, and nor do I have a portable computer at the moment  
(it broke and I am not willing to spend money on it at the moment). I am  
certainly not technically incompitent either.

I think that ‘crazy’ is definitely not the right word, but certainly given  
the above, in my experience it is certainly difficult for people who  
require their mobile phone not to see it that way.
In the meantime, I’m excited about the future of PostmarketOS and  
maemo-leste. The latter is reviving the absolutely awesome and very usable  
Maemo OS (I miss my N900) and adapting it to work on modern Debian (well,  
Devuan, but anyway), with a view to support devices that can work with  
modern technologies like ofono, and modern Linux kernel etc. It’s truly  
impressive what they’ve accomplished so far. This, I think is most  

I hope that is something to think about. Thanks a lot for sharing your setup!

Naqiao <naqiao at naqiao.hk> wrote:

> The idea of being able to run Debian on a phone is nice, but I think it  
> misses
> the main point of the problem, this is, that mobile networks and phones are
> basically designed to control people, it's a political issue more than a
> technical one.
> I think the way to go is just stop using them, at least for a while: "no  
> phone"
> can be better than a "bad phone".
> It may sound crazy at first, but technically is much easier than most  
> people
> imagine, you can do it yourself in a few days:
> - Get some virtual SIP numbers, both mobile and land-line, according to  
> your needs.
> - Redirect the SMS to your email and voice calls to your SIP account.
> - Get Android emulator configured on your desktop/laptop computers, for the
>   occasional app not available for PC.
> - Switch off your mobile phone and forget about it.
> That's all, it just works, if enough people do that phone makers and  
> politicians
> will begin to change their policies, it's just a matter of how many  
> people will
> stop using their phones.
> You may think very few people will stop using them, but I'm not so sure,  
> there
> are many people that would like to stop using their mobile phones for very
> different reasons if they had a good, socially acceptable, reason/excuse  
> to do so.
> The fact is that trying to make a current smartphone "free and non  
> controlling"
> is a lost battle, you can get better than average, but still very far  
> from real
> freedom, it's an asymmetric "war" where a few weak people try to defeat a  
> few
> very powerful ones, and the outcome is clear.
> But the other way around, stop using mobile phones until makers provide the
> means to use them in a free and non-controlling way, is much more easy to  
> do and
> more likely to be successful, eventually they will prefer to lose some  
> control
> over people and devices than to lose too many users, it's just a matter of
> numbers.
> In the near future it could well become fashionable to stop using mobile  
> phones,
> if you look around you, there are much more crazy "fashionable" things  
> happening
> all the time, and anyway you look at it most people could live without a  
> mobile
> phone, it's just a matter of changing your way of life and/or thinking ;-)
> On Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 02:12:30AM +1000, Zenaan Harkness wrote:
>> With respect to "smart" phones, it can be reasonably claimed that we  
>> don't control our lives.
>> At the hardware level, the baseband (radio) computer in almost all cases  
>> has access to RAM, thus access to your passwords and keys for any open  
>> wallet or encrypted filesystem, etc.
>> Notwithstanding, we owe it to ourselves to run an operating system which  
>> at least does not deny to us, our right to install and run any software  
>> of our choosing.
>> The average Android and iOS Apple phone, is a strict walled garden into  
>> which only authorised software may be installed.
>> Software "Apps" which are not authorised (or have been banned) by either  
>> Google or Apple respectively, are not available in the respective "Play  
>> Store".
>> This is abhorrent, a centralisation of power, a blatant censorship  
>> vector, financially burdensome to those of meagre means, and  
>> fundamentally unethical in principle wrt the suppression of the basic  
>> rights of the end user (refer to Richard Stallman's GNU General Public  
>> License for details of fundamental human rights in relation to software/  
>> apps/ computing).
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