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Gadgets

PinePhone: Community Edition (CE) Review

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Reviews
Gadgets

Following hot on the heels of my Pinebook Pro review come my impressions of the PinePhone: Community Edition (CE); a phone made by the same company, Pine64. This particular edition of the PinePhone is an updated version of their 1.1 Braveheart Edition phone, while still carrying the same $150 price tag.

Why did I decide to buy this even though I’ve already got one? Well, this new CE PinePhone has some enhancements to the printed circuit board (PCB). I wanted to see if, after buying this, I can use it as my day-to-day driver.

I ordered both the PBP and the PinePhone on the same day. Both devices suffered from delivery delay due to the COVID-19 crisis, so I upgraded my PinePhone shipping from Ascendia to DHL. I then got the phone in the mail a week after my PBP (the PBP already had DHL shipping). In all the shipping costed $30…a bit uglier than I expected, but if anything it’s probably because of the pandemic we’re in.

Before I go on ahead with my review, you may want to first skim through my original Braveheart Edition review from four months ago, as I will be skipping some of the details of the unit I’m reviewing here, since it is almost exactly the same, at least in terms of hardware.

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BQ Aquaris X2 & Aquaris X2 Pro Android 10 update rolls out

Filed under
OS
Android
Ubuntu
Gadgets

For those who do not know, BQ is a Spanish consumer electronics and software company, which claims to have developed the world’s first Ubuntu OS powered smartphone, the BQ Aquaris E4.5.

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Mobian OS For PinePhone Aims To Bring Debian Linux To Mobile Devices

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OS
Debian
Gadgets

Debian GNU/Linux is one of the oldest Linux-based operating systems known for its rock-solid stability and large community support. The most popular Linux distros like Ubuntu or Tails are based on Debian Linux.

However, you cannot install pure Debian directly on your smartphones or tablets. You need hardware-specific customizations to run it smoothly on different devices.

Surprisingly, Debian exists for smartphones either as PureOS or Ubuntu Touch mobile operating system. Now here comes another Debian-based mobile operating system, Mobian, which aims to bring the full power of Debian to mobile devices.

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Home Assistant, the Python IoT Hub

Filed under
OSS
Gadgets

The Internet of Things (IoT) push continues to expand as tens of thousands of different internet-enabled devices from light bulbs to dishwashers reach consumers' homes. Home Assistant is an open-source project to make the most of all of those devices, potentially with no data being shared with third parties.

Generally speaking, IoT devices are most useful when operating in coordination with each other. While decentralized systems are possible, keeping all of these devices coordinated in the effort to make a "smart house" generally uses a centralized server (or "smart hub") — a reality not lost on Apple, Amazon, and Google among others, who all provide various solutions to the problem.

For the privacy and security minded however, those solutions are problematic because they send private data to centralized servers for processing simply to turn on your lights. That these solutions are also closed-source black boxes does not help matters. Home Assistant is an Apache-licensed project to address this problem, started by Paulus Schoutsen, to provide a private centralized hub for automation and communication between a home's various IoT devices. Schoutsen is also founder of Nabu Casa, Inc., which provides commercial backing for the project. The platform is popular and active, approaching its 600th release from nearly 2,000 contributors to its core on GitHub. Integrations between various IoT platforms and Home Assistant are provided by its 1,600 available components written by the various contributors.

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Looking for an Android Phone with Long Term Support? Fairphone 2 Gets Android 9 Five Years After Launch

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Android
Gadgets

When you use a laptop or computer with Windows or Linux, you’re pretty much assured to get regular security updates. That’s partially why I prefer to do things like online banking on my computer rather than a phone, despite banks pushing for mobile apps.

Why? Because most mobile phones get limited support. I selected an Android One phone, namely Xiaomi Mi A2, because I would get updates for at least 18 months. When you think about it it’s quite pathetic, but that’s about the best Android has to offer. It’s quite better on Apple side with updates for 4 to 5 years for iPhones, while Google Pixel phones are said to get updates for about 3+ years. How you deliver updates also matter, as I recently heard Samsung users complain about frequent updates, while they had somehow no such complaint about their iPhone.

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Nostalgia struck! Aquaris E4.5 & Ubuntu Touch again

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Ubuntu
Gadgets

I'm happy with my little experiment, even if it serves no higher purpose. Now, on my M10 tablet, I won't repeat the exercise. It's a fairly capable device, and there, Android 6 does a pretty good job - a marked improvement over Android 5 that was on Aquaris E4.5. Indeed, Android has significantly improved over time. But on the phone, OTA-12 works quite well, and offers a fast if limited experience. But for novelty sake, I'm going to take this as far as it goes, either the UBports project or the lifespan of the device.

The community-supported continuation of the Ubuntu Phone effort - UBports Ubuntu Touch - is a commendable project. Given its resources, it manages to deliver a fairly robust and fun product, with OTA-12 as its latest incarnation. Solid, usable - to an extent, but also secure, updated and with solid privacy. If you need a basic smartphone, this is a solution that offers a reasonable compromise. I've never really expected to be using Ubuntu Touch again, but now I'm glad I did this, if only to see how far one's passion can stretch. But on a serious, emotionless note, really, if you don't need much, if you're not hooked into social media, and if your hardware supports the OTA-12 image, you might want to give this a try. If anything, it's more mature than it ever was, and in the privacy-focused world, it makes perfect sense.

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Three years of postmarketOS

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Gadgets

We have over 200 booting devices now. Yes, booting is the operative word, with most of these ports you get more of a Raspberry Pi alternative than a functional phone experience with postmarketOS. Therefore, we started to categorize the devices. All existing device ports have been moved to the testing category, and can be moved to community or main depending on which features are working and how well maintained a port is. Only community and main devices will be cherry-picked to the stable branch.

Currently the only device in the main category is the QEMU virtual device. It doesn't have any special hardware like a modem or GPS, so it was easy to make it comply with the requirements for main. Once some minor changes are done to the PinePhone port, it can be moved from community to main as well.

There are also some devices pending to be moved into community from testing, like the Nokia N900, Xiaomi Redmi 4X, Motorola Moto G4 Play, Samsung Galaxy A3, Samsung Galaxy A5, Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Value Edition and Wileyfox Swift. This is mostly possible, because they run a mainline Linux kernel already, or in case of the MSM8916, are currently being mainlined. The MSM8974 devices are also candidates, such as the Nexus 5, Fairphone 2, OnePlus One and the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Earlier concepts of a channel-agnostic pmdevices repository were scrapped. This would allow using the same device packages with both the edge and stable channels, but at the price of making the device packages more complicated. Instead of doing that, we will treat the device specific packages like other packages and cherry-pick only the rather risk-free patches to the stable branch.

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4 Most Affordable Drawing Tablets for Linux Users

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Gadgets

The drawing tablets on this list should work out of the box on Linux in most cases. However, if you find that you need to install drivers to get your device working, do check out DIGImend. They do a good job providing Linux drivers and instructions for a wide variety of drawing tablets.

In this list, we covered 4 excellent budget drawing tablets that have good Linux support, though there are plenty more great drawing tablets that work on the Linux platform. What drawing tablet do you use on your Linux system? Sound off in the comment section!

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Open source project to build RPi powered smart delivery boxes to avoid Covid-19 contact

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Gadgets

Techbase has launched a #CoronaIoT project that plans to build a wireless-enabled, open source Smart Delivery Box for contactless package delivery based on the Raspberry Pi and ESP32.

Embedded Linux has already begun to play a role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in products such as open source ventilators and fever-ID equipment. Even beyond products aimed at coronavirus-related applications, the embedded tech product pipeline has continued apace, although a looming global recession will likely have an impact. Meanwhile, as explored in this recent Wind River Covid-19 survey, tech vendors and their customers are evaluating different strategies for adapting to the times, including taking advantage of this transitional period to accelerate digital transformation.

A new #CoronaIoT project recently launched by Techbase envisions one such transformation. The Polish embedded firm aims to use open source embedded hardware and software to address various Covid-19 related Internet-of-Things applications. The initial project is a Smart Delivery Box that would reduce the need for contact between package delivery personnel and customers. Techbase is seeking ideas and participation from the open source and industrial communities.

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Also: Swissbit Secure Boot for Raspberry Pi Relies on MicroSD Card and optional USB Stick

Pineloader Is a Brand-New Multi Bootloader for Your Favorite Linux Phone

Filed under
Linux
Gadgets

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: the world of Linux phones is evolving so fast that it’s probably just a matter of years until it finally becomes an alternative to Android and iOS.

And while that’s hard to imagine right now, Linux on mobile phones is gaining more and more traction, with fresh projects enabling new capabilities that aren’t otherwise possible on the other mobile platforms.

More recently, the PinePhone has received a new bootloader that allows multiple Linux operating systems to boot on the device. In other words, the so-called Pineloader is a multi bootloader that essentially allows users to choose what operating system they want to run when starting the PinePhone.

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