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

Naqiao naqiao at naqiao.hk
Fri Jul 31 03:26:04 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  

Yes of course, I take it as positive feedback.

> 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,  

You are right, I just forgot it when writing my last message, that is because I
have 4 computers at home just for me and 2 dedicated servers...

> 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.

The point is that not all users have the same "weight" and "value" when it comes
to control and watch them through their phones, for example, a relevant attorney
or politician may be much more "interesting" to track than somebody with a very
simple and predictable life.

On the other hand there is a relationship between financial level and being able
to stop using mobile phones, basically the better your financial position the
easier you can find a way to give up on mobile phones (if you really want to).

So although millions of people can not and will not stop using their mobile
phones, the others who could do it, if they want, are still very relevant.

> 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.

Of course it takes some effort and changes at several levels, it's basically to
swim against the current, but the question is if it can be worthwhile or not.

I think it depends on personal circumstances, you may have a job where you are
forced to have a mobile phone, and it may happen most of your social acquaintances
just expect you to have it and be online on several apps, so you are too tied to

But on the other hand you can have a job where you can afford to be available
just at office hours in your office, and not always; people wanting something
from you can call you to your office, to your home or send you an email, and
that's all, if you and/or your work are enough valuable for them they will adapt
to it, in fact it can be a way to have others value more yourself and what you

Imagine for example you need a good attorney, it may give you more confidence one
who runs their own mail/SIP servers and have no mobile phone than one who uses a
gmail account and calls you using skype from his/her mobile phone; the same is
valid for many professions where the final results are what really matter.

I think much is a problem of ignorance by the general public, for example I live
in a very rural area working from home, and all local people here think that if
you don't have a smartphone is either because you have no money to buy it or no
intelligence for using it, they don't understand the point behind "privacy
concerns" or "binary blobs" and they don't have the basic knowledge to learn it.

> 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  

Obviously all this cost money, and not just that, time is also money and doing
things different regarding IT often implies investing much more time than you
would like, that's also an additional cost.

The question is if on the whole the effort is worthwhile for you or not, I think
for some people may be, for others don't.

> 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.

Well, regarding Android emulation, I think the technical requirements are
similar of those needed to run a modern web browser, it may depend much on the
version of Android, the truth is I barely use it.

There are also SIP hardware phones that you just plug them to your router by
ethernet, I think there are also wifi ones, but of course everything costs time
and money.

> 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.

Of course many people have enough problems to worry about and can't afford to
invest time, money and effort on complicating even more their lives by giving 
up their mobile phones, I don't blame them.

The question is how many could be willing to do so and able to do it, if they 
are just a few thousands they are irrelevant, but if they are a few millions,
specially of the high incomes socially relevant ones, then it may make a
big difference which would benefit everybody.

It could even bring a new way of thinking, where having an expensive mobile phone
is not a sign of status anymore, but being able to afford not having one at all,
and that in turn could cause a "snow ball" effect where more and more people give 
up their mobile phones just to show that they too can afford it.

> 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  
> promising.

I really like and value those kind of projects and can see the huge effort that
there is behind them, and I think they will benefit much of a new scenario where
more and more people give up on current mobile phones because of privacy concerns.

It may sound contradictory at first but it isn't, because by giving up their
phones (temporarily until "better" ones are available), pressure would be mounting
on phone makers, which in turn may decide to support those projects or make
themselves similar ones to convince people that they can get mobile phones with more
freedom and privacy than before and so bring things back to "their desired normal".

Basically I think the problem is a power balance one, where the phone makers and
people dictating "phone policies" have all the power, and users have almost none
apart from giving up their phones, so if a relevant enough number do that, the
power balance will get better for mostly everybody, be it regular users or Free
Software developers.

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

Thank you for your feedback, it was good to mature the idea ;-)

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