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

Zenaan Harkness zen at freedbms.net
Fri Jul 31 10:34:55 CEST 2020

On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 09:51:16AM +0200, rhn wrote:
> Regarding both emails, I think there's a shared concept that we have, but it's never explicitly stated, making it really hard to argue for it.
> The value of having an explicit goal is that it can be talked about: different aspects are visible when spelled out, as well as tradeoffs, and people talk past each other less when they have the same idea in front of them.
> We seem to understand that "smartphone" is worrisome, and "laptop" is better. But each of those is made of a large number of technologies. What differences really matter? Let me pose a few questions that can hopefully help find the important aspects.
> 1. Would a phone without a mobile modem be free of the control issues?
> 2. Would a phone where the modem can't access RAM be free of the control issues?
> 3. Would a phone without Android?
> 4. Would a phone without binary blobs?
> 5. Would a phone with a mobile modem but one that can't be carried outside of home?
> 6. Would a phone with a mobile modem but using a SIP account?
> 7. Would a laptop with a modem have the same issues?
> 8. Would a laptop with un-emulated Android have the same issues?
> All in all, both a phone and a laptop are computers, and I don't really see much difference between them, apart from size (and how close the modem is to CPU, although that's not universal). Using the words as a catch-all can be useful, but it obscures the actual important things that people care about.
> Maybe another way to consider it is to imagine a tablet, given that they come from both camps, and saying what's good/bad about it.

Yes computers exist and many people use them.

Including me.

I wish to use the computers which are in my possession, to put them to some useful purpose/ use, in my life.

I would like to do this in a way where I maximise the control that I have, over each device in my possession.

I also see value in working towards making this "personal control" principle, widely accessible "in action" for others in my community, especially those who value freedom ("if my neighbour is bound, it may not be long until I am bound").

Put another way, the more freedom that people in my community _actually experience_ on a daily basis, the healthier our community is.

> On Thu, 30 Jul 2020 12:54:34 +0000
> 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.

There are indeed very real problems with some technologies (tracking, invasion of our right to privacy, binary blobs which facilitate these problems and worse, etc), and some of these problems we can fix to some degree, such as writing and deploying floss software to replace unfree software of all forms (including e.g. binary blobs).

Some problems we can only solve with better tech, such as using a freedom-respecting phone where e.g. the GPS can be physically turned off when desired, and where the software respects the user's choices ragarding GPS data.

Some problems are inherent in certain technology, such as mobile phone towers providing entwork access, exist in a fixed location, and therefore if you use that network, your entry point to that network is known to those who operate that network.

> > 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".

There are of course situations where not using anything that might track you, may be life saving (e.g. reporters in 'hostile' locations).

There are other situations where a phone's GPS tracking may save your life (e.g. lost, possibly when kidnapped, etc.).

Wisdom lies in how a user actually uses any particular tech tool, and how much control they actually have over the tool in their possession.

Each tech, is a tool.

Tools may be used for good, or for evil.  A hammer may be usd to murder someone, and it may be used to fix a roof.

Some tools that are sold to us, and that perhaps the majority of people purchase unwittingly, are designed to compromise our control over that tool, and to compromise our freedom to exercise one or more of our human rights, such as our right to privacy of communication, or our right to freely travel anonymously on "public ways" (this is inherent in a communty, and without this, we compromise the whole community, e.g. for just one example, more people living in fear of one another arises from a lack of privacy).

Let's create a world where we maximise our control over all the tools we use, and where all tools/tech we use, is designed to maximise our capacity to live our fundamental human rights.

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