I have a PinePhone and I've been running Manjaro on it for a couple weeks. It's terrible and it's also the only phone I've been truly excited about, well ever.
I managed to watch some TV shows on it the other day! It's really cool stuff having a phone that's actually a proper little computer. The power management is terrible, the front camera doesn't have drivers, it's near impossible to do things that seem trivial (play an audiobook at 2x speed) without resorting to the command line. It often ends up in states that need a reboot. It's extremely rough around the edges but I can use it to post on HN while walking around Mountain View, so it's a huge step toward something real exciting.
That's exactly how I feel about mine. It runs PostmarketOS and I swapped out Phosh for SXMO which, despite being out of left field UI-wise, is way less janky and frustrating. It's still not within spitting distance of Android in terms of UX, let alone iOS, but it is the smartphone revolution we were all hoping for: hackable to the bone, runs all your favorite Linux software and only the software you want, open hardware (but for a few blobs) and hard kill switches for the camera, microphone, and radios. Great things will be built upon a platform like this.
Have you seen https://sr.ht/~mil/Sxmo/? It has eg. “Calls & Texting: (via dmenu scripts/mmcli) Compose texts in $EDITOR / vim-like editor, read texts in $PAGER, make calls (and audio-route) via dmenu script utilizing modemmanager”
Are you using Phosh? On Mobian, I found Phosh often freezing, especially when I'm downloading big files on my laptop (one of my main uses for my phone is as 4g hotspot).
When it happens, I found that I don't need a full reboot, I just have to ssh to the phone and run `sudo service phosh restart` - which is cool, because I don't have to reconfigure the hotspot or even just lose connection, that way.
It really is good, and it's constantly getting better. The pine64 kernel has a patch merged that supposedly fixes the bluetooth driver crashing on suspend (I haven't tried it yet.) Once you have that installed you can suspend the phone when its locked and the battery life is much better (Personally I have mine set up to suspend anyway and just tolerate the occasional panic.)
IMO: most of the weirdness comes from trying to replace CLI/X11 stuff with phosh. If you install a normal WM/DE like fluxbox or mate everything works like it would on a laptop.
Not to be glib, but can it make phone calls? Last I checked, neither the Librem 5 nor the PinePhone were useful as a daily driver.
Not that I use the phone itself that much, I mostly use text-based messaging, but I don't want to carry two separate devices with me everywhere. If it's just for in-house use, I'd rather choose a larger tablet than a tiny phone.
Last I checked they both can make calls now. Aside from perhaps lacking apps people want, you can probably get by with a Librem 5 depending on your needs - check youtube videos, people post them all the time particularly after updates.
This isn't a good thing, smartphones are cheap products, all we're doing with this device is making a toy that will gather dust after a few months. It's wasteful to ship a product like this where 90% of it doesn't work.
Your love of it probably comes from the familiar feeling you have from being abused by Linux distros on desktop - it's Stockholm syndrome.
I'm glad you are able to post to a message board on your phone, that's a huge step, yes, but this is sounding eerily familiar to the "huge steps" desktop linux distros have been making for decades.
> but this is sounding eerily familiar to the "huge steps" desktop linux distros have been making for decades.
Well, good. Destkop Linux has come a huge way. I was playing around with Linux as a kid, and it wasn't mature enough for my needs. Fast forward to 2020 and I've had my parents on Linux without issues, I've currently got my nieces on Linux with zero issues, even though they're using those computers for all of their remote learning during the pandemic, and even though I haven't been able to visit them in person to fix any issues. I run Linux on 100% of my personal computers and it works great.
I don't think Linux is for everyone, but we're at the point where it's crazy to say that Linux isn't functionally competitive with Mac/Windows for some people, particularly professionals or nontechnical people on managed computers.
I used to play with Linux for ideological reasons, now I use Linux because I want to get work done in a stable environment. I used to avoid recommending Linux to anyone who wasn't technical, now if I can set the computer up for them I only recommend Linux because I know that Linux won't break behind my back.
Whether that's because Linux has gotten way better or because Windows/Mac has gotten way worse and is way less stable than it used to be -- you can be the judge of that. A Linux smartphone that worked 80-90% as well as the Linux desktop would be usable as a daily driver for me. That's at the point where I would feel comfortable getting rid of my Android phone.
Both on Ubuntu, but Mint, etc... would probably be fine as well.
I personally wouldn't run Ubuntu for myself, I think it falls into some of the same traps as desktops like Windows where I don't really have complete insight into what packages are running. I run Arch & Manjaro on my own computers. But I'm not the target demographic for distros like Ubuntu.
The big things when I'm setting up a computer for someone else are:
- the distro should be popular enough that software/advice is available for it.
- it should run some kind of user friendly desktop environment (Gnome, etc...)
- it should be stable enough that it's not going to randomly break for them (so I put people on Ubuntu LTS releases, none of these people need the latest and greatest versions of every software package). I do not want their computer to break when I'm not around.
Aside from that, I don't think the distro matters too much, and I think there are a lot of distros that fulfill the above criteria. The big strength of Linux for less technical people is that you need one technical person to set it up once, and then you don't really need to touch it afterwards.
Anecdotal, but over the past few years I've debugged more random Windows issues for people than Linux issues (where random in this case means "I woke up today and my computer didn't work"). I've been hearing multiple issues from people where their Windows laptops just have graphics drivers that stop working one day, or where the HDMI port suddenly doesn't output anything. If I'm handling support for someone else, I basically never want to get a call like that, and I never want to try and debug it remotely.
So Linux means that those calls mostly just go away. I only need to worry about their hardware once. I think my nieces have had maybe one driver issue since I installed their computers -- and they're actively installing proprietary software like Zoom for their schoolwork. My parents never install anything, so a Linux install for them is basically just set it and forget it.
Not the parent but anyway: my completely tech-illiterare parents have been using Antergos (which is based on Arch, and with Cinnamon) now for several years without any issues. They use only browser and email most of the time, but it's nice to have a always up to date system even though it does not matter to them.
I consider user friendliness mostly just a buzzword in linux world these days. Almost everything works out of the box and if not you still need specific knowledge and/or help (and willingness to google error messages) to solve the issue no matter what distro you choose. If you have some special hardware or needs then some distros are better and easier to use but that's another story.
Antergos is what I recommend these days to beginners since it's easy and simultaneously offers most (all) of the benefits of Arch. Modern rolling release distros in general are nothing to be scared of.
The whole point of this device is that more people will have access to a real working system and they can improve the software ecosystem. This is how these devices can move from "toys" into real alternatives to Google and Apple products.
It's pretty astounding to me how much progress that Pine64 has made in the last year.
I just got my Pinebook Pro last week (and typing this comment on it), and funny enough, I've been more productive on it for side projects than I have been for months.
I kinda wanted a PineTab, and so am a little sad to hear about the LCD delays, but their commentary and rationale on the delays and LCD QA is a type of transparency that I haven't heard in quite some time and it just builds hype for me.
At least for me with my Pinebook Pro, it feels a little bit like a typewriter does to me for writing -- it's perfectly capable, and powerful enough for all of my dev work and side projects aside from heavier stuff or any ML, but still limited enough and dedicated enough an environment that I find myself getting more done sitting out in the back yard or on the couch than I would sitting w/ my laptop regularly
I'd say the fact that 1) it's very lightweight/portable and 2) a bit more constrained in terms of hardware. I can't open 50 tabs and watch YouTube in the background. Additionally, I have some side projects on ARM code that, previously, I had to cross-compile on my desktop. Native development is a small boost, but not massive in comparison to the smaller hardware.
I could get the same "constrained hardware" effect by just hacking an older 2015 laptop, but the laptop is essentially a 2015 CPU with 2019 parts, so if I were to hack an older laptop to upgrade it'd likely be ~$200 since I wouldn't have the advantage of purchasing + assembling parts in bulk to reduce cost (also, my older laptop doesn't have a GPU).
Aside from cost, something a hacked older laptop wouldn't have (unless I rip out the CPU from its motherboard, which I wouldn't be willing to do) is the pretty amazing case and how light it is. The lightweightedness and good feel of the case makes it extremely portable for me.
Some might argue that "constrained hardware" is a con, but to me that's like saying using a headless system is a con. If you don't need/want it, why use it? Additionally, it's not like you're paying an extra/similar amount for lesser hardware -- it falls far below the typical market $/perf curve.
I was disappointed, too, but they added an update in a comment:
> Right, the Pinecil is coming along; Ben Brown who’s porting his firmware to the RISC-V chip ran into some problems with the prototype we sent him (our fault), so a new unit is on its way to him now. Once he confirms that everything is working as intended we’ll file a production request with the factory. I too am waiting for it with anticipation and hope that it won’t be much longer before we get it in the store.
Personally, I'm waiting for the next batch of PineTabs. I've been wanting to create a programmable digital picture frame (with touch screen) for some time now, and the hardware costs are pretty high for all of the raspberry pi projects out there vs the $79 for the PineTab. The Amazon Fire 7 is cheaper ($50), but I'd rather build on top of vanilla Linux than try to replace the Amazon OS to strip out Android.
I'm currently using Arch Linux ARM (Alarm), but most/all of these things should (or should soon) be working on Mobian (Debian Port), PostmarketOS (PmOS), UBPorts (Ubuntu Touch):
- Calls/SMS are working and fairly reliable, although I haven't used them a huge amount
- There is some suspend/power saving stuff implemented, and while I haven't had to take it on the go with me for very long (due to quarantine), I think the battery should at least last a full day now, but I think there's definitely room for improvement
- Camera should be working on all distros, and there's recently been developments to get 1080p photos, and a 30 FPS "preview" (viewfinder?). These improvements should be on all the distros soon, but IIRC they're only on PmOS and UBPorts right now
- Firefox is working pretty well for web browsing. PmOS has a mobile configuration for it  (that's also shipped with Alarm now), that fixes/improves some of the UI, adds pinch zoom support, etc. Aside from the occasional crash, I've found it to be pretty fast and reliable (at least compared to when I last tried Gnome Web). The downside is that it's still not fully optimized for touch/mobile compared to other options. Will be interested to see if Mozilla/someone else add some kind of mobile interface to desktop Firefox.
- Tested yesterday and bluetooth headphones are working pretty well. Had some issues pairing in the UI, so I had to use SSH and bluetoothctl, but after that everything was pretty smooth. pavucontrol also seems to be working ok if you need something that's missing from the Phosh settings app.
- Fractal and Nheko work pretty well for Matrix, but I'm going to try compiling Mirage  soon, it's been pretty great on desktop, and apparently the UI supports mobile.
This is a rough and very incomplete list, but feel free to ask if there's anything specific I missed.
Maybe it's worth making clear for grandparent that "working" definitely does not mean "as good as Android/iOS" - but indeed, just "being usable" (and I'm pretty sure many people will decide it's "not usable" given how much it's not "as good"). You have to make sacrifices to use it as your main phone (it won't be as great an experience; on the other hand, your phone won't spy on you).
Regarding battery, I found the suspend gains to not be that useful for me. I don't know if it's just me, but you give me a GNU/linux phone and I go wild on what I do with it.
It runs webservices, so my data is accessible to all my devices without needing to use a "cloud" service (that is, it's accessible without leaving my local network and I own my data). And the phone is also my modem and router for all those devices. A consequence of that is that I definitely don't want it to go to suspend 5 minutes after I stop using its keyboard :)
Maybe I'm a outlier there, but if users want their GNU/linux phone to do anything more than simply answering to inputs, suspend won't help. We need to make softwares that consume less power, which I would think never was really a consideration of GNU/linux desktop GUI apps, so there's some work we have to do there (and many cool challenges!). I would also argue that whatever the reason is, we need to make software that consume less power anyway.
I have Mobian installed, and I don't have a spare SIM card to try calling and SMS. (I have tried postmarketOS and kde neon, and neither was good enough)
Functionally, everything else works: WIFI, apps, suspend, camera, music, etc.
I wouldn't use this as my primary phone, though, as it still crashed on me a few times. Many programs cannot adapt to the screen size effectively; buttons, menus are sometimes not possible to see.
It's not unusable, but not ideal if you want a robust primary phone.
Another drawback (if used as a main phone) is that it's really slow. In fact, it's possibly the slowest device --- with regard to user interaction --- that I have used in years, which is okay for a pinephone, as it is intended as a testing device.
I agree on the slowness of the device. The Pinephone has been a huge disappointment for me in that regard. But I think that says more about the bloatedness of software in 2020 than the Allwinner A64 CPU in the Pinephone. Why does the old Nokia N900, with less RAM and a 2009-era processor, feel so snappy and responsive while still providing an interface that still seems modern today, but Phosh on the Pinephone has ragged scrolling and opening any new window takes forever?
I wonder what it would take to install Maemo/Meego or even matchbox and gpe. I never had a Nokia tablet, but I had a Zaurus SL5500 and it ran gpe usably. Matchbox also does a good job resizing apps to the full screen.
I have run Mobian and Phosh on Pinephone and while clean it was slow, clumsy to switch apps, and did not size most apps properly.
Did you try an X11 DE without compositing? Wayland based stuff (like phosh) is almost unusably slow for me, but on mate and fluxbox everything is very fast (firefox scrolls at ~15FPS instead of ~2 for example.)
I would say that Ubtunu Touch and Sailfish are the best distros right now, probably on par with very early Android in terms of usability. There are still major issues such as mms being broken, extremely poor battery life in some distros, an embarrassingly bad camera. On top of this, the performance just isn't there yet in most distros, sailfish is the only one with acceptable performance IMO. I wouldn't rely on it for a daily.
I was an early Firefox phone user and for six months happily put up with these types of annoyances with the hope that they would improve. I only stopped using it once it became clear things had stagnated.
If this achieves sufficient penetration to get past the stagnation valley of doom, I'll jump on the bandwagon again with the same hopes. Unfortunately I don't have work as much time as I used to back then though :(
I’d swap to a pine phone in an instant, once it is a viable alternative, at least for the bare bones stuff. I appreciate it’s a chicken-and-egg problem! But until I can use it, reliably, all day long, to check messages, call etc I would need a closed-source phone with me anyway... which sort of defies the purpose of having a pine phone too.
Yeah, I've been keeping an eye on USB4 and WiFi 6E - and avoiding new devices for the time being - for this exact reason. My dream setup involves a litany of dumb displays in different form factors - VR, tablet, desktop, or whatever else - that I can power from one primary device, rather than buying a slew of discrete systems that'll be compromised on spec in order to accommodate larger screens etc.  But the I/O for that won't quite be there until sometime next year.
Add to the mix GKIs; AOSP's recent ability to boot from mainline; and the ensuing implication that all of these new adaptive shells being developed rn for the PinePhone could be reused on an Android device ; and the thought of 2021 has me salivating.
 Mostly, anyway. Some stuff would still be purpose-built, but realistically the main limiting factor for my phone as a daily driver at this point is the form factor.
 Assuming bootloader unlock, at least until we see how DSUs play out.
fwiw, I've been using RDP quite productively on my anemic Thinkpad to remote into my desktop computer which is spec'd for deep learning tasks. The latency is great on my local network, and fine over ZeroTier.
How involved of a setup is RDP if most of your systems aren't Windows? I haven't fallen far down the rabbit hole of remote device management, outside of some basic familiarity with SSH. (One particular use case I've been itching to try, but have no idea where to start, is using one system as a secondary display for another. Can an RDP session do this, or is it limited strictly to mirroring?)
Incidentally ZeroTier is new to me, and an interesting rabbit hole in itself (along with the BSL, which is also a first-time read) since I'm in a similar spot with VPNs.
> If I could find the same tablet-laptop format, with ubuntu support, that would be perfect, well until Android gets proper desktop support.
Fedora runs quite well on lots of 2-in-1 pc's (e.g. tablet form factor plus detachable keyboard) these days. I've not really tried Ubuntu, but the hardware tends to be a lot fiddlier than typical laptops or desktops and Fedora has better support for it than Debian-derived distros in my experience. And the GNOME desktop from Fedora works quite well as a "pro" tablet environment.
Are you dual booting perhaps? I had this issue on my desktop where linux would display the proper time, but windows would be an hour off no matter what I did. It turns out linux wrote the time it got over NTP to the hardware clock as UTC(the correct way). Windows would then read the hw clock but interpret it as UTC+1(my timezone). Here the relevant archwiki entry: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/System_time#UTC_in_Wind...
Note that pinephone's kill switches are not as useful as librem 5's ones, because you can't easily switch them on the go. The switches are inside the phone, so you have to open it, and they're so tiny that you need a toothpicker or a needle to switch them.
It should be noted, however, that the Pinephone's cover is designed to be easily removed. And I have had no problem flipping the kill switches with my house keys that I am always carrying with me anyway.
No word on the ARM deal and how they might be affected. They likely don't want to ruffle feathers before the dust is even settled, but I must wonder what is going through their heads. Hopefully they are looking into what it would take to put together a RISC-V SBC.
They use Rockchip and Allwinner chips in their devices. Neither supplier has a perpetual license on the ARM ISA, and both suppliers use ARM Cortex-A CPU designs. Furthermore the Pinephone, Pinebook Pro, Rock64, and RockPro64 boards use Mali graphics.
The deal could have a significant effect on who they end up sourcing SoCs from, and what IP is on those SoCs.