This would be a longish piece so please bear and play with tea, coffee, beer or anything stronger that you desire while reading below 🙂
I had bought an Android phone, a Samsung J5 just before going to debconf 2016. It was more for being in-trend rather than really using it. The one which I shared is the upgraded version (recentish) the one I have is 2 GB for which I had paid around double of what the list price was. The only reason I bought the model is that it had ‘removable battery’ at the price point I was willing to pay. I did see that Samsung has the same ham-handed issues with audio as previous Nokia devices use to, the speakers and microphone probably the cheapest you can get on the market. Nokia was same too, at least on the lower-end of the market, while Oppo has loud ringtones and loud music, perfect for those who are a bit hard of hearing (as yours truly is).
I had been pleasantly surprised by the quality of photos Samsung J5 was churning even though I’m less than average shooter, never been really into it so was a sort of wake-up call for where camera sensor technology is advancing. And of course with newer phones the kind of detail it can capture is mesmerizing to say the least, although wide-angle shots still would take some time to get right I guess.
If memory serves me right, sometime back Laura Arjona Reina (who handles part of debian-publicity and part of debian-women among other responsibilities) shared a blog post on p.d.o. where she had shared the troubles she had while exporting data from the phone. While she shared that and I lack the time or the energy to try and find it ( the entry is really bookmarkable, at least that specific blog post).
What was interesting though that I had gone few years ago to Bangalore, there is an organization which I like and admire CIS great for researchers. Anyways they had done a project getting between 10-20 phones from the market made of Chinese origin (almost all mobiles sold in India, the fabrication of CPU and APU etc. are done in China/Taiwan and then assembled here). Here what is done at the most is assembly which for all political purposes is called ‘manufacturing’ . All the mobiles kept quite a bit of info. on the device even after you wiped them clean/put some other ROM on them. The CIS site is more than a bit cluttered otherwise would have shared the direct link. I do hope to send an e-mail to CIS and hopefully they will respond with the report and will share that here as and when. It would be interesting to know if after people flash a custom rom if the status quo is the same as it was before. I do suspect it would be the former as flashing ROMs on phones is still a bit of specialized subject at least here in India with even an average phone costing a month or two’s salary or more and the idea of bricking the phone scares most people (including yours truly).
Anyways, for a long time I was on bed and had the phone. I used 2 games from the android marketplace which both mum and I enjoy and enjoyed. Those are Real jigsaw and Jigsaw puzzle HD . The permissions dialog which Real jigsaw among other games has is horrible and part of me freaks that all such apps. have unrestricted access to my storage area. Ideally, what Android should have done is either partition or give functionality to the user to have private space for their photos and whatever media they have and the rest of the area is like a public park. If anybody has any thoughts on partitioning on Android phone would like to hear that.
One game though which really hooked mumma and me is ‘The Island Experiment‘ . It reminded me of my younger days when gaming addiction was not treated as a disease but thankfully now is . I would call myself somewhat of a ‘functional addict’ as in do my every day things, work etc. but do dream about the game as to what it will show me next. A part of it is the game is web-based (which means it needs constant internet connection) and web access is somewhat pricey, although with Reliance Jio an upcoming data network operator having bundles of money and promising the moon, network issues at least on low-bandwidth game which I and mum are playing hopefully will not have any issues. I haven’t used tshark or any such tool to analyze the traffic but I guess it probably just sends short messages of number of clicks in a time period and things like that, all the rest (I guess) is happening on the mobile itself. I know at sometime I probably will try to put a custom rom on it but which one is the question as there are so many and also which is most compatible with my device. It seems I would have to do lot of homework before I can make any choices.
Couple of months back, a friend of mine Akshat who has been using Android for few years enabled Developer Options which I didn’t know about till he shared that info. with me. I do hope people do check Akshat’s repo. as he has made/has quite a few useful scripts, especially if you are into digital photography. I have shared with him gimp scripting few days back so along with imagemagick you might see him doing some rough scripts in it. Of course, if people use it and give feedback he might clean the scripts a bit so it gives useful error messages and gives statement like ‘gimp is not installed on your system, please install it or ask for specific version’ but as it works in free software it is somewhat directly proportional to the number of users, bugs and users behind it.
A good example of what I mean is youtube-dl . I filed 873853 where I shared the upstream ticket. Apparently YouTube again changed few days back and while upstream has fixed it, the youtube-dl maintainer probably needs to find time and get the new version up. Apparently the issues lies in –
[$] dpkg -L youtube-dl | grep youtube.py
Hopefully somebody does the needful.
The reason I shared about Developer Options in Android is that few days back I noticed that the phone wonks off and has unpredictable behaviour such as not letting me browse the web, do additions or deletions using the google play store and alike . Things came to a head when few days back I saw a fibre-optic splicing operation being carried by some workers near my home by the state operator which elated me and wanted to shoot the video for it but the battery died/there was no power even though I hadn’t used it much. I have deliberately shared the hindi version which tells how that knowledge is now coming to the masses. I had seen fibre-optic splicing more than a decade and a half back at some net conference where it was going to be in your neighbourhood soonish, hopefully it will happen soon 🙂
I had my suspicions for quite sometime all the issues with the phone were not due to proper charging. During course of my investigation, found out that in Developer Options there is an option called USB Configuration and changing that from the default MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) (which is basically used to put or take movies, music or any file from the phone to the computer or vice-versa improved much better behaviour on my android phone. But this caused an unexpected side-effect, I got pretty aggressive polling of the phone by the computer even after saying I do not want to share the phone details with the computer. This I filed as 874216 . The phone and I am guessing most Samsung phones today come with an adaptor with a USB male socket which goes in to the phone’s usb port. There is the classical port for electricity but like most people heavily rely on usb charging even for deep fully powered down phone for full charging.
One interesting project which I saw which came in Debian some days back is dummydroid. I did file a bug about it . I do hope that either the maintainer gives some more documentation. I am sure many people might use and add to the resource if the documentation was/is there. I did take a look at the package and the profile seems to be like an xml pair kind of database. Having more profiles shouldn’t be hard if we knew what info. needs to be added and how do we find that info.
Lastly, I am slowly transferring all the above knowledge to my mum as well, although in small doses. She, just like me has and had problems coming from resistive touchscreen to capacitive touchscreen. You can call me wrong but resistive touchscreen seemed to be superior and not as error-prone or liable to commit mistakes as is possible in capacitive touchscreens. There may be a setting to higher/lower the threshold for touching which I have not been able to find as of yet.
Hope somebody finds something useful in there. I do hope that Debian does become a replacement to be used on such mobiles but then they would have to duplicate/also have some sort of mainstream content with editors to help people find stuff, something that Debian is not so good at currently. Also I’m not sure Synaptic is good fit as a mobile store.