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Plasma Mobile – Turns your phone into a fully open hacking device (plasma-mobile.org)
615 points by mintplant on Nov 2, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 268 comments

The power of things like this taking off is not what they are now, but what they can be. There are lots of real people with their own good reasons to not be tied to Google/Apple, and whats really impressive here is that unlike firefox OS, they are (in my opinion) doing this in a much better way.

As this catches on, it only helps improve linux hardware (ARM) support, telephony applications for linux, and the like. As well as being able to have (or make for others) a truly remarkable user interface and apps. This is a mobile computer, running linux, running a desktop environment (not webkit, or Java VM, or closed source code) that only limits what you can make by your skill and imagination.

Yes it looks pretty mediocre now, but that's because its waiting on you to get involved.

I used to have that. It was my Nokia n900. I was able to pull up live thumbnail previews of all apps running in the background, and this included live simultaneous previews of: youtube videos in a web browser, games, and Debian, without lag. Try doing that on today's technology. It had a wonderfully acurate resistive touch screen that was pressure senstive that was really good for drawing and coloring! The camera would start up immediately as soon as I opened the shutter, even while the screen is off and in a sleep state. My modern android device takes so much longer to even get the shutter ready.

I loved always having access to a physical keyboard and an actual root linux shell out of the box without any hacking. I loved that my n900 behaved more like a computer and less like "mobile" device.

Too bad Nokia decided to end support for the n900. Most of its developers and lots of its users abandoned ship, and now I only use it as a camera because the n900 is stuck in 2009, and the web in 2016 is so bloated and heavy that nothing- not even the web browser or the unupdated apps- are usable now.

You are not alone, I have two good friends that still have theirs too, and nothing will ever be good enough for them again. That phone spoiled them, and is the direction they wish phones went. Alas, they have gone the way of the masses instead, but you know if someone like a OnePlus came out with a modern powered phone, with a big battery (phone size doesn't matter to us), a physical keyboard, dual sim, expandable memory and an open source OS, there would be DOZENS of us that would snap it up. Dozens!

The most objective comparison of two cellphones ever made.

Huh, i completely missed that Nokia made a Symbian variant of their split keyboard design. I recall a relative of mine owned one of the featurephone models.

Things like this is what makes me feel that the mobile market came to a screeching halt somewhere around 2007, and has barely been picking up speed since.

Owwww, the E70! I loved that phone. Still have mine.

I loved Nokia's smartphones so much. E70, E61, N900... Those were the pinnacles of smartphoning for me. Their successors somehow manage to fall short in vital aspects every single time, it's beyond frustrating.

Best i can tell its because back then smartphones were for productivity first and foremost. These days they are for media consumption.

Have you looked into sailfish? No physical keyboard, AFAICT, but it's based on the successor to Maemo.

Also, look into the neo900 project and Pyra. Neo900 is trying to upgrade the n900, and Pyra is the successor to Pandora, which is a pocket computer in a semi-similar vein to the old nokias. Neither is finished, but they're worth a look.

Sailfish is cool, I used to use it on my Nexus 4. Its app support has never been quite as good as Maemo's, IMO.

The neo900 makes me sad, because it's basically my ideal phone, but the price is just too much for me. I know it's not their fault, the low production quantities will do that, but still. It's an updated n900, with a fully FOSS stack and an isolated baseband to boot... awesome.

Did you check out the Openmoko Forerunner GTA04? Golden delicious just started early production!

I would have bought a Jolla ~4 years ago if their UI components (Silica) were open source. They said then that they plan on Open Sourcing them but they still haven't.

Plasma Mobile and Tizen are my only hopes for getting a non-Android Open Source OS on my phone.

I've heard of sailfish before, but I had NO idea sailfish is somewhat maemo based. This really makes me want to reconsider the Jolla phone.

Sailfish is based on Meego, which was a merge of Maemo and another project. It was the OS that backed the N9, the last phone Nokia made before they went to MS.

> "and another project"

The other project was called Moblin. It was an Intel project.

It's a shame the N950 never got a proper release. The N9 got praised highly on release, but the N950 would've been the true successor to the N900.

Keep in mind, if you live in the US, that the Jolla is an EU phone, and doesn't support US 3G or 4G frequencies. I was stuck with a Jolla on 2G for a while. Recently I got a OnePlus X and installed Sailfish OS on that, and the experience has been much better.

Jolla was formed by devs that left Nokia after they abandoned Meego. I had an N9 and currently have the Jolla phone with Sailfish. They're very similar.

>nothing will ever be good enough for them again.

Reading this made me so sad. This is exactly how I feel. Nothing will ever be good enough again. :(

I would kill for a Nokia N950. A proper keyboard, and a true Linux operating system with the usual userspace software you would expect.

My raspberry pi 3, encased in a rainbow colored 3d printed case and with a 3.5" touch screen, is what took the place of my n900. It's a fraction of the cost of an n900, but with a standard rpi linux distribution and modern specs. Sure I can't make calls with my pi, but the sacrifice is well worth it for the nerd appeal of having a fully functional computer in your pcoket.

Raspberry Pi has one big flaw as a mobile device: it cannot sleep. If you disable peripherals etc you can get it down to ~100 mA or so when idling, which is still order of magnitude more than a real sleep mode.

Got some kind of build recipe for that? A mobile ssh station that doesn't suck would be worth my enternal soul to me. Or two of those!

I like xubuntu because it's minimalistic and not as bloated. It doesn't take a lot of effort to set up your favorite packages like a lamp server and the like after a basic install. My cheap touch screen is a little laggy, but when plugged into an HDMI monitor, the OS is as fast as a desktop computer. Be sure to buy the latest rpi though, because the original rpi1 is kind of slow and disappointing compared to the latest one with much nicer specs. With an external high-capacity battery and a USB wireless keyboard, it can even function as a laptop replacement if you're okay with using linux as your main OS.

Do you have an image of this? It Sounds like something I'd like!

Would you pay $3000?

Or maybe $2995?

There are certain devices like this, right? A similar thing happens with the HP-15C calculator, it was so sought after in eBay, etc., that HP even made a special edition a few years ago.

The Dragonbox Pyra is nearing completion and taking pre-orders right now.


Same here. Obviously you're 100% right in how little of a target demographic we are, but I'll never forget the sheer joy of finally saving up the money for the n900 and getting it.

As mentioned, it'd be a usable device on its own to this day. If newspaper sites hadn't become unusable without an adblocker, if I didn't need browser updates every nanosecond and if the latest memory-hogging web trend language wasn't, well, what it was. I'd still use it.

Now I own two mobile devices. A BlackBerry Passport. Great UI, physical keyboard, indestructible. Dead software ecosystem, horribly closed source, last of its kind and while there's a lot to love It's not hard to see why. Then there's a rooted HTC phone. Great choice of software (termux alone makes up for so much). Hate hate hate ssh'ing with a touchscreen. Typing generally. Terrible battery life. Seems like it'll die from one harsh drop.

If my social life would not force mobile messengers on me, I'd have gone back to 20€ dumbphones and text/voice only. Though I bet even those come with a horrible browser and the accompanying remotely exploitable holes now.

All in all? Wonderful project. I'm very much hoping for a third player in the mobile game.

Did you hear about the neo900? Would that be an option for you?

The Neo900 would have been excellent had it come out two years ago, as originally planned. However, the various delays keep pushing it back, although it still has the same hardware. It will end up quite underpowered like the N900 is now, combined with an older chipset that doesn't support things newer open phone OS's require (like Wayland).

Boy do I miss the N900... Mine is sitting on my desk like a museum piece gathering dust, and it makes me sad that no modern phone has come remotely close to it.

I used it as my main phone when travelling for years and it worked everywhere I needed it to when other phones wouldn't. I'd use it for getting unwacoughted access to WiFi when I was in a tough spot. I'd manage my servers with it. I'd use it to emit music through the radio on car trips and such (why is this no longer a thing?). I could even push my own programs on it without having to make a sacrifice to the phone gods. I'd also kill for a keyboard like that again.

But no, instead you have to get a hobbyist device or get one of the many shiny slabs running (poorly) one of three (and I mean, really, two) ecosystems.

Oh, man, I forgot it had that FM-Transmitter. That was so cool.

So many of us miss that phone.

Google made a huge mistake choosing to base Android on Java, IMHO. I know they did it because they felt it would be easier to get developers on board but it's the main reason Android is slow and memory hungry. OSes like Plasma prove that compiling binaries for ARM processors is not a big problem and that compiled code runs much faster. Java byte code may have the potential to run close to native speed but in practice it carries with it a lot of bloat.

You obviously aren't aware that since Android 5 there isn't any bytecode being interpreted.

Android is 100% native code since that version.

Even the changes in Android 7, although they use an intepreter written in Assembly, the code is JITed with profile information, both are cached and it gets ultimately fully compiled to native code when the device is charging.

Also in case you didn't notice, Apple is pushing for LLVM bitcode for their newer OS versions.

There is even a BOF on this weeek's LLVM meeting about how to make LLVM IR fully hardware neutral.

Unfortunately, despite all this Android is still a turd of an OS.

Just about every Android device I've used has been painful in some way or other and invariably I've ended up rooting it and installing a custom firmware, generally the most light-weight one I can find.

Unfortunately, despite these antics Android remains annoyingly prone to sluggishness, freezing, reboots and various other random problems.

Ultimately it seems that with Android you're either forced to use a stock ROM which imposes a heavy memory footprint due to all the "wonderful" tweaks Samsung/Sony/HTC/Xiaomi have made or drop down to a user-built AOSP-based variant that is inevitably plague by its own issues.

I'm horrified to think this kind of thing is the height of the mobile user experience.

That's weird; Android works pretty well for me these days. I have lots of problems with sluggishness, freezing, rebooting, etc. on my old HTC phone which had Gingerbread (I think), an ancient version of Android.

But on my Galaxy S4 and my current Galaxy S5 (which is updated to 6.0.1 I think), things work quite well.

It's not perfect of course: I'm using the regular Samsung/Sprint ROM which is absolutely loaded with crapware. I disabled all the crapware, but it's still there wasting a lot of valuable space out of my 16GB. It could be a little faster at times, like with the camera. But freezing and reboots just aren't a problem the way there were on old Android versions that I've used.

I do plan on trying out CyanogenMod sometime when I have some free time. But for now, the carrier-pushed version seems to work decently well. I don't have any giant complaints.

Those problems don't lie necessarily with the language, rather on the quality of work of everyone involved.

I have seen pretty sluggish, full of memory leaks and dangling pointers, C code written at enterprise level, by developers that couldn't care 1s about code quality.

The code is written in Java, but a technical note: it's actually compiled to bytecode for the Dalvik runtime (and later, the Android runtime).

Your points are still relevant, don't get me wrong, but the system isn't running Java bytecode specifically.

And of course Android Rutime does AOT compilation to native code and with Android 7 a tiered compilation Assembly/JIT/AOT with PGO.

Apparently you have no idea how Android works. There is no Java byte code running on Android devices. It doesn't even reach the device.

Google just used the Java language and APIs. But never it's byte code or VM.

I still want an N900 now. The web be damned: it could still browse HN.

Nowadays, the next best thing is the Pyra, but that still has't been released.

By the way, have you seen the neo900 project? It sounds like you would be interested, although it is also incomplete.

I spent $300+ (way too much!) for my n900 and I still think it was worth it. It was my replacement for my tmobile g1 phone.

The n900 is everything that I thought the g1 was going to be, but wasn't. In a way, it was my fault for blindly creating my own hype over a first generation product I knew nothing about. The g1 turned out to be my bad and disappointing foray into smart phones.

Also, yes I have heard of the neo900 project, but am sad that the project is so far from its goals. There will never be enough n900 users to meet a crowdfund. :(

I wouldn't be so sure. There are a lot of N900 users and fans.

Another interesting project which might fill my desire for a true mobile computer (if only I could afford it) is the Pyra, the more powerful successor to the Pandora. But at $~500-$~600, it may not be worth it, and it still hasn't actually released yet (although the company did make the Pandora, so they have a history of Getting Stuff Done).

If you're going on the cheap, you can always hack together a Raspberry Pi and a tiny screen, keyboard, and battery into something semi-workable, and use a phone for the rest.

I think the Pyra even has an (optional?) modem module you could potentially make calls with (using a Bluetooth headset rather than sidetalking-style ;-)):


Yeah, but it costs 100 euros extra.

> If you're going on the cheap, you can always hack together a Raspberry Pi and a tiny screen, keyboard, and battery into something semi-workable, and use a phone for the rest.

You can get a GSM board from Adafruit fairly cheaply, which would give you 3G data and voice/SMS on a Pi. You'd have to do your own wiring, but if you're building something like this that wouldn't be a problem. Throw a Ting SIM in there (or your other favorite carrier) and you're good to go.

Basically a mobile phone version of Bunnie's Novena laptop, though not quite as open source (at least not until Broadcom finishes opening up the RPi's processor).

Pyras are really really close to being released. I think max 10-12 weeks.

really? Nice. I really want one, but sadly cannot afford it right now. Not at that price. Let's hope they keep selling them.

I clung to my N900 for so long. I got it at launch in fall 2009, and I used it as my daily driver until early 2014, when I finally buckled and got a Nexus 5. By that point, my N900 was barely usable, but I was really dragging my feet on a replacement because I knew that any other OS would be a step backwards.

That's exactly what I got mine, and exactly when I retired mine because I didn't want it to flat out stop working. The USB port died and the SD card never worked to begin with. Once the circuitry for the wifi becomes inoperational (like what happened with my tmobile g1), then I consider the phone officially dead...

Yep, my USB port died too. I ended up getting an external charger and a handful of spare batteries. Did that for about a year or two before I got my Nexus 5. At least buying new batteries gave me back my battery life that had degraded to almost nothing over the years.

On top of that, over the years, the kickstand broke, the screen got scratched badly, my belt clip broke in multiple places, the SIM slot became really finicky, and even the plastic around the keyboard was starting to come out.

And a lot of the problem was performance: a 600 MHz OMAP3 was great in 2009, but by 2014 it was just too slow to handle modern websites, and the browser based on Firefox 3.5 (maybe 3.6?) couldn't even handle some newer websites. And to be honest, the RAM was low even for its time... only 256 MB, operated as a unionfs with the rootfs, plus some of the (very, very slow) eMMC was formatted as swap. Over time, most apps stopped working: I remember using Facebrick to access Facebook for a while, and it was nice, but eventually the author stopped updating it, and Facebook changed their API, so no more Facebrick. It got to the point where I'd only use the browser, terminal, camera, and dialer, because that's all that was useful.

About a year after getting my Nexus 5, I booted up my N900 to get some photos off it, and I found I had difficulty emailing them to myself because Gmail had changed their API and flagged my N900's connection attempts because they used the old API that was deprecated for security reasons. None of the emails went through, and when I got back to my desktop, Google took me to a page telling me it thought my account had been compromised.

Yep, also using an external charger to keep mine going.

My batteries are swelling. I suspect it's no longer safe really.


Well, It has the same battery has the Nokia Lumia 520. Just in case you're trying to find a new one, it'll be easier to find.

Cool, good to know. Cheers.

I've already disposed of two or three spare batteries. I have two chargers and 3 batteries that I rotate in a cycle. It's always cheap to order them off amazon or ebay.

Universal battery chargers are a life saver if you have multiple types of batteries to charge.

I think the n900 was a great device but you have a case of rose tinted nostalgia. Today's android phones can do everything you described and more and better. For example, my phone can go from deep sleep to perfectly focused photo snapped in half a second.

I'll give you the keyboard though. Nothing beats a full keyboard.

What's the difference in the hardware between your phone and the n900 though?

How much extra power do we have to cram into the device just to achieve the same performance?

It's not the same performance by any measure. But you're right that android seems to be needlessly inefficient.

That is something of an understatement by any measure.

Which part?

Sentence 2.

The best mobile computer I have ever used, I kicked myself when I dropped it on the floor and the screen broke. I ordered a compatible screen from ebay and changed it myself. It was so much fun opening up a terminal and ssh'ing into my workstation. Then Nokia had to go out of the way to ruin it for me.

I adored my Nokia N9 for similar reasons! The single best phone I've ever owned.

Why adored? Why not adore? I still have my N9 and I use it every day.

Well, at least it work well with HN. http://i.imgur.com/wg9r4DM.png :)

you're giving me nostalgia. I always dreamed that my n900 was going to be my futuristic bitcoin phone. I suspect that people started abandoning the n900 right around the time that our dreams were crushed in the great bitcoin crash of not so long ago.

You are not alone:


The trouble isn't the software. I'd gladly jump onto Ubuntu Touch and wanted to try out FireFox OS when it was still maintained, but the trouble is the hardware. I didn't want to buy a Nexus, which seems like the only device that's the first to be supported by any alt-OS.

Back in the late 90s/early 2000s, you could just run Linux on your x86. Sometimes half your hardware didn't work, but as long as you could get Ethernet and display you were in pretty good shape usually. The thing is, you could install it. You could try it.

With ARM, everything is so specialized. Looking at the forum posts for this thing, half of the threads are about porting to devices.

The manufactures have no incentive to standardize the platform. They customize to a device and it's better for them if you just throw it out in two years when they drop support.

A limited number of hobby devices now use the device tree configuration, but the ARM platform is far from being as standard as Intel or Power.

If the Ubuntu Edge had been funded, I think we'd be in a difference space with at least a handful of devices that had some standardization (if only to accommodate Canonical). As it stands, ARM fragmentation is a huge problem for hackers/devs.

Regarding drivers, they are probably present as linux kernel modules in original phone firmware. Cannot they be reused in a custom open firmware? Of course you might need a userspace components to control hardware too which is a problem.

Also SOC manufacturer usually has the drivers reference code but he might not publish it.

>Regarding drivers, they are probably present as linux kernel modules in original phone firmware. Cannot they be reused in a custom open firmware?

Generally not. Linux kernel modules generally can't be loaded by kernels with different versions, as the ABI constantly changes. It can be hard to use them even with the same version, if it was compiled differently. This is why they're always pushing for the drivers to be open-sourced and submitted to the kernel project for inclusion, because maintaining them separately is a giant PITA.

Phone makers don't bother because they don't care: they're not going to maintain the drivers very long anyway.

You might want to try sailfishOS on a fairphone which work ok for basic stuff

And sailfish OS's hardware support is based on libhybris, which basically relies on using Android drivers for phones

I never liked KDE looks nor ergonomics. Nor their attempts at grand projects (plasma makes me cringe everytime I see the word now). But I appreciate "simpler" open linux platform for smartphones. Wish them the best.

ps: I was actually looking into FDroid to free myself a little from Android locks, wishing for a simple linux + ssh + any signed code I wish.

Me too, then I tried Plasma 5.8 and I am delighted. It is by far the best DE I ever used - and yes, macOS included.

The polish it has is unbelievable.

Around KDE 5 first releases I had a thing for it. But I had what resembles javascript fatigue. The KDE world was too much of a moving target; also, but that's on me, I was fed up with DEs, except for the basics GUI (think OS2, Win3/95) I felt they provided no value over emacs, so that's what I ended up with wmii,emacs,chrome.

Well, the bar is pretty damn low in Unity (IMHO)... terribly inconsistent UI e.g. they seldom follow long set conventions on how field focus and basic keyboarding behavior should work in windows and dialogs. I find it very, very frustrating and am giving KDE plasma a shot.

This seems like a perfect response to my comment.

The question is: how? The website doesn't make it very clear to developers (after a fairly quick skim on my part, at least) as to how they can help with the initiative. I have a Nexus 6p, and it seems like my device isn't supported, but how can I maybe help with porting to a new device?

Yes, this is the pain point of things like this. It really will (most likely) take someone branching it off into a paid product to advance it faster (or) a very large amount of people getting involved. Traditionally these things grow slowly, but I am impressed at what they have so far.

What is FirefoxOS' way of doing things, and why is it (in your opinion) wrong?

Firefox OS used the android closed source driver vendor centric model and a html/js frontend.

It had most of the downsides of android (closed drivers, no updates after 6 months, buy a new device or get exploited, beholden to vendors, OEMs and telcos which invariably suck, central control over software distribution), and zero of the upsides (abysmal performance [even the dialer was a laggy mess], lack of software)

Except for the fact you might trust Mozilla more than google, it wasn't anymore meaningfully open than android, and suffered crippling drawbacks in comparison. Nobody except a few developers cared that you can write apps in html/js.

Why did the world abandon Maemo? I had a nokia n900, and I swear, it was the greatest phone I ever used. The UI was beautiful, and for 2009, its performance was stunning. I got so used to it and immersed in the "maemo" way of doing things, that when I "upgraded" to a "modern" android phone, I felt as though I had taken a step backwards, despite having hardware that's theoretically better!

Core parts were proprietary because "differentiation".

The leadership was caught in a innovators dilemma (Symbian was aging but had a massive install base, Maemo has future potential but could massacre their Symbian earnings in a transition), and the board in the end brought in a Trojan horse that made a deal with Microsoft.

Also, what you are currently seeing happening in desktop Linux land, wayland, systemd, etc etc etc, is because of lessons (X11 and sysvinit is crap) various devs "learned" while working on Maemo in some capacity or other.

yes they may not be the perfect fit in a power constrained mobile device (My N800 seemed to last me just as well as the Android devices i have around me right now though), but why the hell are we turning the whole DE stack into a mobile phone in response?!

> board in the end brought in a Trojan horse that made a deal with Microsoft.

And the lie keeps being repeated, it was the board that sold Nokia by having a contract that would grant Elop a huge bonus if he managed to do sell the company to someone else!


"According to changes implemented in 2010, Elop was entitled to immediate share price performance bonus in case of a “change of control” situation… such as selling of Nokia’s handset division."

So it was deliberate on part of the board, still made him look like a trojan horse from the outside as supposedly he was there to get the company back on track.

Only by those that don't care to read the news.

When this was known it was all over the place in European news.

Nokia went under, and the world outside of tech cares more about the shiny than the capabilities.

Actually, Nokia - under Elop's leadership - decided to go to Windows Phone platform for mobile phones, and discontinue Maemo. That WP thing didn't go so well.

However Nokia as a company did not go under; it is still very much there, particularly in telecom infra business.

It seems that very few people these days knows that all the big name European mobile brands (Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens) were also big name infrastructure brands. And that two of them still operate (Ericsson and Nokia, the latter having bought Siemens infrastructure division).

Nokia is the pacman of infra vendors: they acquired Siemens, then Motorola Networks (the infra part). Then recently they acquired ALU. ALU itself is the result of the acquisition by Alcatel of Lucent. And when Nortel went bankrupt, Alcatel also acquired part of the assets and employees. Sooo, lots of infrastructure vendors ended up in today Nokia. Maybe I even missed some ;)

Indeed; what remains of the old big infra vendors is now in Ericsson and Nokia. Then there are the Chinese ones: Huawei and ZTE. Probably others. But particularly Huawei is growing very fast in many markets - the Chinese government is basically giving the money away, so it's hard for others to make a profit, and Huawei takes market share. If you call it a "market" after such subsidies.

Some customers, particularly very many in the USA, are not so happy to have Huawei or ZTE core switches etc, but in emerging markets they are less worried about Chinese intelligence infiltrating them, and also in Europe there seems to be less protectionism and concerns about national security. So the Chinese are catching the global market, without the Americans noticing much.

As was Motorola in the USA


Some here used to work for that unit. :)


That explains a lot about you: although mostly your preference for strong typing. Working for a phone company will do that for you.


No, what explains that is that I used C for the first time in 1993, yet I was already coding since 1986.

So I was doing systems like level programming in Timex Basic, Turbo Basic, Turbo Pascal, Z80 and 80x86 on those in between years.

Also had friends using 68000, AMOS and GFA Basic on their Amigas.

Also I majored in systems level programming, with emphasis in compilers, which meant I have spent quite some time researching old programming environments, and still do. Better than reading newspapers sometimes.

So I learned that were better ways to do systems programming without having the compromises of C.

The big problem is that all the OEMs that can build you a phone are providing android support because this is what they get from SOC vendors and there is no business incentive to provide "pure linux" support.

Plasma sits on top of the Android HAL like Firefox OS did. Nothing different there. Go buy you QC license and see for how long you'll get blob updates.

You're totally wrong about the performance penalty of FxOS compared to Android on the same hardware, but I'm done arguing that with trollaways.

No idea why this is being downvoted. This matches what I heard about Plasma's mobile endeavors.

In 2012, at the Akademy (KDE conference) in Tallinn, I spoke with Plasma developers who were, at the time, working on a tablet called "Vivaldi", which was supposed to ship with Plasma Active (the KDE 4 version of Plasma Mobile) based on Mer (the community fork of Meego). And they really struggled with the hardware part: They carefully assembled a BOM of parts for which open-source drivers were available, ordered test devices, built the whole software stack. And when they were ready to start mass production, the manufacturer was like: "What, that chip? That's soooo last month. We have this new chip here, which is completely undocumented, but we have an Android driver for you." Last I heard, they never got an actual device shipped because of that mess.

I don't know if it's gotten any better since then, but I can easily imagine how that situation led them to base the new Plasma Mobile on the Android HAL.

I didn't find performance to be an issue on practice. My firefox phone was silky smooth on craptastic hardware. I wish android was that smooth.

If I understand correctly, this is a user environment. What OS does it run on? A Linux distro? Android?

I don't see that detail mentioned on the site. Perhaps people familiar with KDE and Plasma know, but I don't. Or perhaps I'm overlooking something obvious ...

EDIT: Wikipedia says that Plasma is a desktop environment, not an OS, and that "Plasma Mobile is a Plasma variant for smartphones".


The content on the page does a very poor job of explaining what it is and why we should care. It's only until I saw the KDE developers at the bottom that I realised it's a graphical desktop environment but for your mobile phone. It's FOSS so it's hackable, as in you have access to the source code and development is done in the open and contributions are encouraged. The target developer phone seems to be the LG Nexus 5. I guess it's running some Debian-based OS as apt-get is its package manager.

Yea, the Plasma Mobile home page doesn't really make a strong pitch towards a potential user.

For mobile developers, the biggest difference is that they'd be using the Qt framework instead of the Android framework.

So the pitch at least for mobile developers, should be why it's a more pleasant and better (and more productive) experience to develop mobile apps with Qt vs the Android frameworks.

I'm not how much better Qt is going to be since I haven't used it. But I've been a long-time desktop Linux KDE user, and one of the biggest gripes I have with KDE is that its quite unstable and buggy compared to Mac and Windows.

KDE 4 became almost very-stable with 4.13+, but the early version of KDE 4 were horribly unstable. With Plasma 5, from what I hear, things got worse again.

This is the biggest problem, I think. To the people who have actually used KDE on deskotp Linux for a long time, how many of you have enough confidence in the stability and reliability of a mobile Qt/KDE environment to use it everyday?

To answer your question, I'm a user of KDE since its 3.x days. KDE 4 was as bad as they say it was - buggy, terrible theming and impaired customizability. The stability did improve in its later versions though.

I switched to Plasma 5 about a year ago, when the first stable version landed on Arch linux. It's been a daily driver since. Initial versions had lots of bugs in them - persistently high CPU usage. Sometimes the desktop hung for no fault of the user. Proper resumption after standby/resume was a lottery. On the plus side, the Breeze theme was a breath of fresh air compared to the older Oxygen theme.

Since version 5.6 was released things have improved and keep getting better with every new version. There are still occasional cockups with Intel graphics drivers leading to high CPU usage. The problem though seems to stem from the Qt libraries. Some GTK 3.x apps don't show proper widgets (blame Gnome devs for not having consistent themes for 3.x versions). I did give other DE's a go - Gnome 3.xx, Cinnamon, XFCE etc., but always ended up switching back. Plasma offered the best mix of customizability, performance and aesthetic appeal for me.

Actually I don't see much benefits from using Qt. C++ is pretty old language that doesn't have a GC and its syntax for me is worse than Java's.

Qt developers are nowadays pushing for JavaScript instead.

Qt5 programming model is that C++ Widgets are legacy and you are supposed to do the UI in QML, a JavaScript dialect, while coding in C++ the business logic or the hardware interaction of new widgets you might create.

> Qt developers are nowadays pushing for JavaScript instead.

Uh. I've used JavaScript in a production environment, and I really really don't like it. It feels like a massive step backwards to me, when there's so many good languages out there. I wish developers would stop pushing for JavaScript everywhere.

Having to use it in the browser is horrible enough. Please don't write servers and other back-end code as well in it now. I personally wouldn't even use it for web front-end--- I would rather use a language like Elm, that cleanly compiles to JavaScript.

C++ has gotten a lot better with C++11/14/17. It's almost like a new language now. I agree the syntax is not the nicest. But not having a GC is not really that big of a problem. I honestly (literally) never have memory-related problems while writing C++ because I either use smart pointers, or always allocate/free objects in the constructor & destructor. I rarely even find myself calling 'new' because everything gets allocated by the STL containers. There certainly is more effort involved in this, vs. using a language with GC, but that's the (small) price in effort you pay for far more efficient memory usage and no arbitrary GC freezes.

> ...and its syntax for me is worse than Java's

Both C++ and Java have been improving their syntax in recent years. I'd recommend reintroducing yourself to the latest version of either.

But the header files are still there, aren't they? One still has to write a method name and arguments twice.

You're talking C++, clearly. First, you could write things header-only and avoid repeating yourself if that's your concern. Much of boost is written this way. There are advantages and disadvantages to that, but it's less code.

Second, there are experimental modules systems available that avoid many of the disadvantages of header-only code. If things go well, modules will be standard in C++20.

There are certainly things I would improve about the syntax of Java and C++, but both are improving quickly in that regard.

KDE3 is the best desktop environment I've ever used, and rock solid. I'd be confident in a KDE3-based mobile environment. But post-KDE4? No.

The project is about running KDE in a linux container on Cyanogenmod which is a modified build of open source Android OS.

But for some reason they use marketing language to make it look like they have invented some new mobile OS.

By the way, it doesn't look very secure:

- first, you have to unlock the bootloader. It means you can install custom firmware but anyone having physical access to your phone can do it too.

- Google did a lot to make Android more secure. For example, every application is run under a separate user account to protect it from other (potentially malicious) applications. Applications' privileges are restricted. KDE doesn't have such features.

So if you like KDE or want to run or maybe write KDE applications this project will help you. But you'll have to forget about security and I guess the project is in early development stage now so there can be bugs and something might not work.

No, I'm lost as well. What the hell is this thing? What the hell is a hacking device?

Basically, Ubuntu Touch with Plasma instead of Unity.

I assume you use it to hack streetlights and steam pipes like in Watch Dogs.

Totally need to change that phrasing. I swear I thought it's a Kali Linux on Android sort of thing!

Looks like Ubuntu Touch: https://plasma-mobile.org/oneplus-one/

I think it's a full OS. Look at the forums and they talk about porting. I don't think it runs on Android, but has a Linux base that has to be ported to different arm platforms.

Their own Linux distro?

It's based off Kubuntu. It does use Android drivers and libhybris when it has no access to native drivers.

    *> it does use android drivers*
...Wait a minute, that sounds like something I can do, too!

I'm a LFS[0] kind of guy. I'm also just as opposed to proprietary driver blobs as the next guy...

But, for the purpose of getting more use out of my existing phone... I guess I can just root the thing and copy some kernel modules off, eh? Nice.

0: http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/


* https://wiki.merproject.org/wiki/Adaptations/libhybris

* https://sailfishos.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SailfishOS...

Lot's of that is rather generic. Plasma Mobile is using the same libhybris to interface glibc system with blobs built for bionic (Android) libc.

Thanks! Is it documented somewhere?

* https://plasma-mobile.org/technology/

* https://plasma-mobile.org/nexus-5/

In the second link you can see a reference to KDE Neon, which is development distro based on Kubuntu.

See also: https://neon.kde.org

Thanks for responding. I'm still having trouble finding the information:

> * https://plasma-mobile.org/technology/

This page doesn't mention the OS, afaict.

> * https://plasma-mobile.org/nexus-5/

This page seems to describe installing Plasma Mobile on top of Cyanogenmod, a fork of Android. Neon is mentioned only under "OLD INSTRUCTIONS AND ERRATA (no longer needed)".

Old instructions show what it is. The base is the same.

See for example: https://kubuntu.org/news/kubuntu-team-launches-plasma-mobile...

Thanks for responding to all my questions. fyi: The dev chimed in later in this discussion:


It turns out it runs Neon, in a container, on top of Cyanogenmod.

Minimal Cyanongenmod base refers to the kernel and some blob drivers, there is nothing else there from CM. So it's actually normal glibc Linux, which uses some hardware drivers for Android through libhybris.

You can read more about the approach here:

* https://mer-project.blogspot.ca/2013/04/wayland-utilizing-an...

* https://mer-project.blogspot.ca/2013/04/wayland-utilizing-an...

It's gnu/linux with wayland/KDE for the GUI.

In case anyone reads this later: The dev chimed in later in this discussion:


It turns out it runs Neon, in a container, on top of Cyanogenmod. They formerly used Ubuntu Touch, but no longer.

Just like desktop KDE, the UI doesn't appeal to me. I find it too flashy and kind of "in your face".

My favorite mobile OS so far has been Meego that ran on N9. That device was mind blowing and that OS. Amazing. It had such a simple, yet useful UI. Multi-tasking was better than what even Android has now. I hope Jolla doesn't die like that and we see a lot more devices come out running Sailfish.

I know this is a completely subjective matter but I'm really surprised you'd use the word flashy and in your face as a description, I really like it, but boring and dull could fit better as a criticism IMO, specially with older versions, I'm really curious about your choice of words, this is what it looks like to me:


You'd say that is flashy? Just curious :)

Of course, it's totally subjective. It's not boring a dull to me. I find Gnome to be boring and dull (and I like that). I also was talking more about KDE shell than the apps but the apps are somewhat similar :)

I mean checkout this: https://www.kde.org/announcements/4.3/images/kde430-desktop_...

Too much going on. Too much transparency, too much eye candy as if everything is made of glass. Plus the unnecessary widgets to hold desktop icons. I'm no expert in UI/UX design but as a user I find it unpleasant.

That screenshot is almost entirely text. It doesn't give a sense of the actual KDE ui.

Actually it's almost entirely white space, which does give a sense of the actual KDE ui.

Better? http://i.imgur.com/3FHVKNC.png still the same in my opinion.

.. on the other hand Gnome2 used to be pretty great. It didn't look pretty and took quite some effort to make it look good with themes and icon sets but it was a highly usable, easy to use and yet powerful desktop. I hate the direction Gnome3 is going in. Every Gnome3 app feels like designed for iPad instead of keyboard+mouse. iPad apps and Gnome3 apps basically have same UI philosophy. I can't even begin to explain how wrong that is. Even Apple has not "dumbed down" their dekstop apps to make them iPad like.

Just other day I was trying latest Ubuntu on a pen drive and I couldn't believe that renaming a directory now open a modal dialog that asks you for the new name of the directory. WTH? What was wrong with the inline directory naming? It was perfect and everyone else does it. It's such a basic thing to understand. You rename an item and edit it's name inline. You see all the time what you are remaning. As soon as you rename it, you see the change take effect immediately and see the new item take new place if sorting changes. Instead we now have a modal dialog that that asks for the new name. I also couldn't find any "create new file" in right click. What was wrong with that? IRRC, the search button also does open a dialog elsewhere.

Then come GnomeShell. That thing has 4 different types of controls on 4 edges of the screen. Every edge has a different control. Left has dock, top has a panel, right has workspace switcher and bottom has yet another panel which hosts different indicators than the top panel. I think bottom one handles 3rd party app indicators. Why do I as a user have to remember which different positions for different indicators? If I open something from top left corner (launcher) and want to switch workspace, I'll to drag my mouse all the way from top left corner to the right edge. I just don't get it.

I do actually really like Unity7. It's simple, clean and yet powerful. All indicators are in 1 place, switcher is simply inside dock and has amazing keyboard accessibility. I hope Unity8 doesn't ruin it with it's focus on mobile.


I don't hate Gnome. I love Gnome and has great respect and gratitude for it's developers. They are some of the best developers I know. It's just that the recent UX decisions have made it unusable for me and it kills me to think about how amazing and simple Gnome could have been.

Have you tried MATE, such as with Ubuntu MATE? I prefer Xfce, but MATE is a great fork and update of GNOME 2.

No, I've not. Do they keep it fairly updated or is it just old Gnome2 maintained? What would be great for me is Unity7 + Gnome2 apps ported to GTK3 without turning them into iPad apps but looks like that will get even harder with Unity8 :(

They are updating it, but keeping the original style as much as possible. The forked apps, like the file manager (caja), archive manager (engrampa), text editor (pluma) etc. still have menubars and so on, but, for example, it is using dconf/gsettings and MATE in Ubuntu MATE 16.10 is all GTK+3.

They've also integrated features for setting panel layouts, and there is one ("Mutiny") that mimics Unity. They're even working on a HUD-like feature.

Wow!! That's great news. I'll try it out for sure. Thanks.

I never had a Meego phone, or a Nokia at all. But I still want an N900: Physical keyboard, a hackable Linux base, and a system that's not very powerful, but usually powerful enough. And that was in '09.

It may be underpowered now, but that physical keyboard still makes my envious: I could almost maybe write code on something like that.

  > It may be underpowered now, but that physical
  > keyboard still makes my envious: I could almost
  > maybe write code on something like that.
I had one. That's what I thought. I was wrong.

It was slower than swype & variants for normal (mail, sms, etc) writing.

The physical keyboard had the benefit of providing relatively easy access to 'dev' keys - esc, ctrl, special characters. But it was so teeny that even as a proficient user (it was my primary phone for 3-4 years) the experience was arduous.

Years later I bought a tablet + BT keyboard (a Logitech one with the hard clam shell that became the stand) and that experience is much preferred. Would work well with a phone too, if you're happy with a small screen. Not pocket sized, certainly, but the keyboard is actually usable.

I don't think I could have used it to write code, though I never tried very hard coz it was so frustrating. Practice would have helped.

But I could and did use it to write and edit long-form prose.

It's way better than a touch-screen for shelling in and fixing server issues when you're stuck at a party away from keyboard.

Actual code writing tends to mean using lots of symbols though, and while the N900 keyboard was better than a touch screen, both make you want to rip open your skull and put the wires in directly in frustration.

I miss that keyboard.

When I had that keyboard, the best email-interface was still Mutt over a terminal. You could use Vim! Type without looking! It was ace.

That phone had the best microphone out of any I've ever owned by a clear mile too. Certainly the only one that could stand up to being used in the band practice-room without just distorting to hell coz of the volume.

I still use it for that, for video-recording band-practise, cos nothing else ever came close. The USB port broke and now can only transfer files with WI-FI and have to use an external battery charger, and all my batteries are swelling slightly and really ought to be retired.

But I don't have anything else that will actually work for it.

I'm typing this post on an android right now. I can barely go a few words without mistyping something.

It's almost enough to make me miss my first phone, which was rubbish as a smartphone, but actually did have a real keyboard.

I am finding Flesky much better than any of the swyping keyboards.

I installed it mostly so I could customize the backdrop, but I stayed because those few added gestures make prose input so much more efficient.

Still entirely awful and terrible for writing code though.

Delete the stupid Gif-Keyboard plugin, add in the "OMW" one for common-phrases-shortcuts (then build lots of templates), add the copy/paste bar, and the numbers row.

I like the fireworks-noises plugin too, audible feedback is helpful[1], but wish it sounded more like Ziggy off of Quantum Leap.

They appear to have ignored my suggestions on their forums to make it sound that way, and can't see a way to make my own plugin.

[1] - A feature of my S7 that nobody I've ever noticed talk about online is the ability to control the volume so easily just by putting your thumb over the speaker as you hold the phone. The fireworks noises are basically muted that way if you're trying to type in public ;)

I don't relate; I'm a super fast typist on my N900. I do still hate that pipes and angle brackets aren't on the keyboard, and wish they had just designed it with a fourth row. I've done a lot of server work through it; anything that wasn't worth going back to my desk. Pulling the N900 out and ssh'ing in is a 5-10 second prospect. I can't stand on-screen keyboards, but I think part of that is that most phones are capacitive and if one press doesn't register, it throws your whole rhythm off. Of course some huge physical keyboard would be better.

I've definitely coded bash on it, many times.

...And this is why I might buy a BlackBerry. Because while BB phones are Android now, they still have real keyboards.


I miss that keyboard.

I've actually had a phone with a physical keyboard. And IMHO, it's way better than any digital keyboard I've ever used: I could consistantly type exactly the characters I wanted. And fast, too.

To be fair though, Nokia (and its Meego department) had close relationships with the KDE developer community due to Qt and if I recall correctly, even chose some libraries from KDE applications (like KOffice/Calligra) to use in their mobile apps.

Yeah, at the tail end of the Maemo timeline Nokia bought Trolltech, the Norwegian company responsible for Qt.

Earlier versions of Maemo had been using GTK.

The intro of the Qt based Maemo 5 on the N900 effectively drove a wedge into the community, in particular as Nokia gave away N900s at the unveiling.

At the same time Nokia and Intel could not agree on the structure of Meego, with Intel first going deb (same as Maemo) but then switching to rpm with Moblin2.

In the end the whole mess was handed over to the Linux Foundation as both parties lost interest (Intel started Moblin in large part to light a fire under Microsoft to support mobile Atom).

QT and other KDE tech is pretty solid. No complains there. It's just that I can't bring myself to use their software because of the UI/UX. All they do is make things blue, transparent and big. I don't know what their fixation with desktop widgets is. No one uses that after a point. They get old real fast. A good shell should be invisible. It should let apps take the center stage but still keep everything readily available. I find KDE to be overly complex without making things easier. A lot of people will probably not like it but I find Unity to be an amazing desktop shell. It's completely gets out of your way and still gives you so much power. My only issue with Unity7 is that it sometimes gets a bit slow on relatively older hardware.

Is meego like maemo? I used to have a Nokia n900, and that thing was the greatest phone I ever had! It's amazing at multitasking, and it feels like having an actual desktop in your pocket.

Meego was a merger of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo, so yes. Sailfish is the modern descendant.

Best i can tell it is complicated.

Sailfish is based of Mer, A community reimplementation of Maemo without the proprietary Nokia bits (power management being a key part), that was started before the merger. But adopted various Meego elements afterwards.

BTW, it was the Sailfish IRC channel that spawn the supposed Poettering death threat. It was actually a bad joke about using kickstarter to fund an assassin after the Sailfish teams latest late night session of fixing breakages that a updated systemd caused. yes, Sailfish use systemd. And they were also a early adopter, if not instigator, of Wayland.

God, what were they thinking?

The one and only feature I want integrated into systemd is the ability to execute a command to punch Lennart in the face. If they did that, I might use it for a week.

I'm still using my N950 with Meego. Very nice device and OS. My other phone runs Ubuntu Mobile which is also very nice.

Judging from the video, the state of Plasma Mobile is very impressive.

It looks like it's running wayland, so you can probably just run X11 (with fvwm or whatever).


Main plasma mobile developer here, I wanted to reply some questions that surfaced in comments and give a bit of overview on current state and where we need help. We initially based it on Ubuntu Touch, and later on started using our own stack based on Cyanogenmod, more information on it at : http://blog.bshah.in/2016/05/02/plasma-mobile-new-base-syste...

So basically currently Plasma Mobile is made of,

  - KDE Frameworks
  - kwin_wayland
  - Plasma workspace
  - Plasma phone shell
  - Various Applications
And to run Plasma Mobile stack on mobile devices, we have

  - Minimal Cyanongenmod base
  - LXC userspace tools for android
  - Neon rootfs with Plasma Mobile
Q: Why not use Mer and/or Ubuntu Touch A: This question is mostly answered in the blog post I linked above, Mer is using RPM .spec based packaging and we don't have resources and as well people who have expertise in RPM packaging, about Ubuntu Touch, we initially based our stack on top of Ubuntu Touch, however later we ended up diverging on various levels, for example libhybris, Qt etc. and it was impossible to keep using Ubuntu Touch stack

Q: Why we are using libhybris and not freedreno?

A: Short answer: In theory, we can use freedreno.

Long answer: kwin_wayland supports DRM backend, and freedreno provides the DRM on android devices, however we don't have access to device which supports freedreno easily. For instance I attempted to get mainline kernel working on Nexus 5 device and also submitted some device tree source files to Linux kernel tree, and will be available in kernel 4.9 release.. But sadly I was not able to finish this project

Q: Why not other devices?

A: Currently we don't have access to multiple devices, however we will be happy to help the community members to "port" or in other words, make Plasma mobile run on their devices.

Q: Where we need help?

A: You can help on pretty much everything.. Some things that come to mind, are

  - Porting to other devices
  - Various Plasma on Wayland todo items
  - More applications for Plasma mobile
  - Work on base system
That said, if you have any questions feel free to reach me at bshah@kde.org, or to Plasma team at plasma-devel@kde.org mailing list.

Edit: edited for line breaks

You should really add this info in one (preferably starting) page within your website, because it's not very informative now. Anyway, it's always nice to see some alternatives in mobile OS world, thank you and keep it up.

> kwin_wayland supports DRM backend, and freedreno provides the DRM on android devices, however we don't have access to device which supports freedreno easily. For instance I attempted to get mainline kernel working on Nexus 5 device and also submitted some device tree source files to Linux kernel tree, and will be available in kernel 4.9 release.. But sadly I was not able to finish this project

Thanks! So were you able to get a usable result on Nexus 5? Sounds like it's the best candidate for this task. Do you plan to continue that effort, or there are some blockers that you couldn't resolve? I'm running Sailfish on Nexus 5 now, which uses libhybris and CM kernel with Qualcomm blobs, but I'm interested in more open alternative, and without driver blobs as well.

> Thanks! So were you able to get a usable result on Nexus 5? Sounds like it's the best candidate for this task. Do you plan to continue that effort, or there are some blockers that you couldn't resolve?

Not really there are not much important blocker to get DRM working, however main thing is I don't really have free time to continue that effort.

I don't have a spare device now, but if I'll get one, I'll be interested in looking into it if I'll have time. Did you document your efforts anywhere?

Any good links to how to build apps for this? All I'm really looking for in a phone is an easy way to build my own apps.

Also, when you say DRM, do you mean digital rights management? Why do we want that?

Whoa very cool! Happy to see a new, free phone OS. I'm currently switching to Replicant and moving away from the Apple/Google controlled phone world.

I'm surprised LuneOS never comes up on these threads...it's slow moving, but the team has always been focused on quality and had steady monthly releases for 2yrs now...



Why did you choose Replicant over CopperheadOS? I've been looking at different ROMs like these and Replicant seems to only maintain pretty old devices which steered me away, plus the fact that it's still on KitKat.

I actually haven't heard of CopperheadOS before but I chose Replicant because it's a project backed by the Free Software Foundation. I thought I'd give it a try since I'm slowly moving over to the FOSS world for everything and I wanted to support them. :) I actually bought a phone from Tehnoetic with Replicant already installed. Should be here any day!

This seems to be the main problem with android alternatives.

I have a Huawei Honor, but can't find any Android alternatives for it.

In order to get the android alternative on there, someone has to do the work to get it on there in the first place. If no one has done it for your device, then that job falls to you. Which is why most of these target Nexus devices, because those are the easiest to do the work for (or it's already done).

What has to be done for this?

Is this hardcore hacking action stuff or can this be done by the average CS-major/Developer?

Interface seems gratuitously large except the status bar and clock and whatnot. In all the shots of the home screen (?) the on-screen navigation buttons seem to cover the labels of the app icons... sometimes. The "Muon" app has a smaller icon so the label sits higher... looks not so great.

However, it seems they're trying to appeal to the more Libre folks - anti-all-current-smartphone-OS-vendors and their watchful eyes - who are generally developer types -- at least as far as I know. And those types of people are usually willing to give in the UX department.

I'd love to see this (and any alternative smartphone OS) project succeed, but it's got a fair amount of growing to do before that happens in my opinion.

I would love to someday have Linux running on my phone and just be able to do whatever the heck I want with it with simple APIs for interacting with sensors and cellular voice/sms/data just working. Like Arch Linux for your smartphone. That would be so fun to hack on I think.

I hope that you are right and this turns into that, but its also an opportunity for someone to branch it off into a commercial product. Some people don't want a pocket computer, they want a groomed and simple to use OS with user experience in mind, that "just works".

I like the larger feel. As my eyes find it harder and harder to read small things as I age, having an interface that defaults to objects I can comfortably see and manipulate is a good thing.

They'd have to try really hard to have a worse UX than Android. (Semi-)Seriously.

I've been using Linux on desktop for years and love how flexible and open it is. I use maybe 1% of its capabilities and it's amazing.

I'd love to be able to have a working, stable and open mobile system. I don't want to be locked in into Google because i don't trust them (or anybody else) enough.

Android is great but i miss linux-like feeling of possibilities. But it can be due to my lack of technical skills. Maybe if i rooted the phone it'd be good enough now?

Anyway, i hope they succeed.

> Android is great but i miss linux-like feeling of possibilities.

One way to take a step in this direction without root is with Termux and its addons (android 5+ only). It's made me much more content on android, although it'll only be truly comfortable if you plug in a keyboard or your phone has a physical keyboard.



What is it with using scroll hijacking on flashy product pages? If I can't use the page normally, I won't use it.

This. I hate to readjust my usual scrolling habit just because they think their unique scrolling friction is better.

FF 49 on Linux here - and everything scrolls as expected. No hijacking.

FF ESR - scrolls normally for me.

The intro video is very...interesting. They have this fast paced, upbeat music while they very slowly do things on the phone, like make phone calls. It felt like they thought we should be impressed it can make phone calls.

> they thought we should be impressed it can make phone calls.

Oh, but you should be impressed. For how long could OpenMoko not make phone calls?

Open-source phone OSs have a habit of neglecting actual phone functionality. So I think it's great that they highlight it.

I preordered my Neo Freerunner and it was able to make phone calls since day zero.

Of course, Neo1973 was a different story, as it pretty much wasn't supposed to be fully working on day zero ;)

I had a friend how got a Freerunner, but he returned it after a few weeks because "no matter how awesome it is, I need something that can actually make phone calls". So it certainly didn't work for him on day zero.

Can't second that ;). While my Freerunner was indeed able to do phone calls on day zero, it also turned in hands-free talking automagically without any possibility to turn it off. This was a lot "fun" especially in public places. So maybe we are talking about the definition of "making phone calls" here.

I then flashed a fully featured Debian on it which was able to do everything except making phone calls. I was so excited about that while all my non-techie friends were like "Well, lucky you but now you have a so called Smartphone which isn't even a phone."

Dropped it as a daily driver after two weeks or so to leave it on my desk for a long time until someone on the Freerunner mailing list asked if someone is willing to sell theirs. 20 people offered theirs for free so I couldn't get rid of mine. Gave it to an Open Device Lab then, they still own it but never listed it in their device list.

But somehow I don't regret buying it in the first place.

I think I will remix it with the Google Pixel ad music and style and see if it helps. like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBM5W12JYmQ

I ended up watching it at double speed (thanks youtube) but it still felt about 1.5 minutes too long.

Because it's what you use a phone for?

Yeah, and that's why we shouldn't be impressed that it can make a phone call. That's expected. But on the intro video for a new phone OS they're 'unveiling' I want to see what's new / different about it. I assume it can make calls.

It's an improvement on Openmoko. I remember the first time some freetard tried to show me Openmoko at a trade show, and before he could successfully make a phone call he had to pop up an xterm, run alsamixer, and fix everything. It was hilarious.

I believe Openmoko used GTK+. Maybe Qt was what the project needed all along.

Openmoko used GTK+ in their first two distro iterations, then Qtopia on X11 with E17-based WM, and then went fully EFL.

And since 2008, when I got my Neo Freerunner, I didn't have many issues with phone functionality unless I broke it myself (which I kept doing, as I loved to tinker with that phone) - and I've been using Freerunner for years until I replaced it with N900. The worst issue I experienced that wasn't my fault was that in GTK-based Om2007.2 messaging app slowed down awfully once it got thousands of SMS in its history, with evolution-server hogging the CPU for many seconds on most actions. Didn't happen on next OS iterations.

There was also buzz issue on early devices, but that was easily fixable.

How do they justify calling it "fully open" when it uses libHybris to support binary blobs for Android just to get graphics and other essentials working?

yeah. anything that interacts with the radio hardware is going to interact with a crappy vendor RTOS, aka 'radio OS'.

Running linux on my phone is cool, but getting away from binary blobs would be priceless.

More here: http://www.osnews.com/story/27416/The_second_operating_syste...

Your landing page's first call-to-action has gotten caught up in the cascade!

If the anchor text ("VIDEO INTRO") isn't hovered while its parent `div` is, the result is black text on black bg.

Well, there weren't any major updates from them lately (the intro video is from Jul 25, 2015). I'm waiting for some handset device which can run it properly with Wayland on native GPU drivers and Mesa, without any libhybris and Android graphics blobs.

Freedreno[1] kind of was progressing to enable that, but I'm not sure if there is any handset around which would be usable in native form given there some other drivers involved besides the GPU. Did anyone try that with Google Pixels?

[1]. https://github.com/freedreno/freedreno/wiki

I like this announcement and still root for any alternative phone platform. The thing is - which device would I buy?

Plasma Mobile supports the Nexus 5 and (maybe) the OnePlus One right now. CopperheadOS doesn't support either of those. I was unable to get a reliable source for supported devices for Ubuntu Phone (best I found was [1], not even sure if that's related) and so far I don't believe that the supported devices for THAT platform intersect with the other two.

Searching for sailfishOS device support only comes up with Jolla phones. It seems as if not only is the market lacking alternative systems, it's also near impossible to try out the ones that do exist. Buying a device for some experimental OS is something I have done (Flame for FxOs - still sad that it died, owned a Palm Pre), but cumbersome and expensive.

1: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Touch/Devices

Plasma Mobile is more meant to be a standardization platform to make phone OSes than the be all end all one in and of itself.

Copperhead is just a liberated Android for the most part, it just replaces Replicant.

Since Jolla develops sailfishOS, and the OS itself is mostly proprietary, it should be no surprise there isn't a hobbyist community supporting it on Android phones.

Plasma Mobile and Firefox OS were both in a class that could feasibly eventually sell phones with it stock. Its the same problem as the desktop Linux ecosystem - as long as you have to actually install the OS yourself, the market is nonexistent compared to the preinstalled market. You need units in stores in peoples faces before you can start making meaningful inroads into market adoption.

> Copperhead is just a liberated Android for the most part, it just replaces Replicant.

"Liberated" to the extent that it removes Google stuff such as Play Services, yes. However CopperheadOS is not completely libre. They do include non-free 3D drivers, for instance.

I agree that Copperhead largely appeals to the same group of people, and it's much more actively developed.

I understand that, and I certainly understand that these (any?) projects shouldn't cater to me (I'm not representative of the market at large).

What I'm hoping for is some sort of 'reference device' (i.e. the Flame for FxOs) that is supported across platforms. It doesn't matter if it's ~older~ (Nexus 4?), just a way to compare platforms against each other: Run Ubuntu Phone, Plasma Mobile and CM on the same device (not at the same time ofc), check out if your use cases are supported/the platform can do what you need. Keep whatever is best, retry in 6 month. That'd be awesome.

https://plasma-mobile.org/nexus-5/ kind of hard to find but here's how one can actually use it. Any info on the network side of things?

Was just researching that myself. In America at least, looks like everybody except Verizon. But what I could find looks to be 2-3 years old:


hardware specs: http://www.gsmarena.com/lg_nexus_5-5705.php

Video was fun with time being 13:37, Linus giving the finger, etc... but the actual UX seems gross and over-sized (albeit not quite as bad as FireFox OS).

I'm sure they will have at least a couple dozen of installs.

UX is very obviously on super early stages.

However Plasma 5 still has its fair share of UX issues here and there so I'm crossing fingers the KDE design community gets its hands on this.

> Plasma Mobile is developed by one of the most reputable and longest-standing software development organisations in the world.

But you don't want to clearly tell us who it is?

The KDE logo is literally in the hero image several centimeters tall. The footer directly says "KDE Developers" and the copyright notice is "© 2015-16 KDE e.V.". Plasma has been a major KDE brand for a few years.


Their main-project is the KDE Plasma desktop environment, which is a GUI with accompanying applications for desktop Linux.

Probably the most famous thing outside of the Linux-world that they are responsible for is KHTML, which is what WebKit (and therefore also Blink) is based on.


I think the title is misleading. This project is about installing KDE on a smartphone over Cyanogenmod (which is a modified build of Android).

I am totally against Google and its restrictions and tracking proprietary code in Android but this project looks more like an attempt to get user base to sell them some paid services later.

Do you really need KDE to make your phone "hackable"?

Google did a lot to polish Android code and released it under an open license. I doubt that project is able to invest a comparable amount of work.

Having the same interface on desktop and mobile devices is not going to work well.

UPD: their installer installs a firmware (like twrp) that makes your phone unprotected from reflashing and stealing your data or installing a backdoor if someone gets physical access to the phone. They do not warn about it.

We do require device to be unlocked, how different is it from installing twrp? At this point installer is not finalized and that wouldn't be part of released product.

> I am totally against Google and its restrictions and tracking proprietary code in Android but this project looks more like an attempt to get user base to sell them some paid services later.

KDE e.V. is a non-profit, so I don't think they could legally even do that...

Ack, please kill/remove the scroll jacking. Not good.

Marvelous. Kudos to all who contributed to this project!

I'm now very expecting the KDE tablet.

Last I heard it got cancelled: https://lwn.net/Articles/606100/

I was really hoping for a mobile equivalent to Kali Linux here based on the term "hacking device" in the title. :sadparrot:

I have to admit I was thinking this was the more classic "penetrate networks" use of the term "hacking" as opposed to the modern "creatively overcoming limitations" usage. Took a moments of browsing to offset the confusion.

Kali is just a Linux distro. Most/all tools in Kali are available in other distros, and not just the 'hacking' distros. In other words, you can still run Metasploit and suchlike on something like Plasma Mobile.

What is the best way to install kali or wifite on android galaxy note 3 ?

Well, this thing can run Ubuntu Touch apps, and it may even be able to run Sailfish and Nemo apps later on...

Ubuntu Touch is the big one though, I'd love to see more devices compatible with it. Some industrious fellow out there is probably willing to port most of the python crap in Kali to something more useful, agile, portable, and compatible with Ubuntu Touch, if something like that isn't already going on.

It's good to see some new projects. But I guess I'm just in the camp where my phone is something I don't want to mess around with. Love tinkering with things, been piecing together computers since I was a kid. But when it comes to phone, I want it to just work without my intervention. I don't care if there is zero control.

"Fully open hacking device" - I expected something like a Backtrack / Kali Linux ROM for Anddroid

Okay, let's summarize: There is a need, but this may not be its satisfaction. A pity that it made it to front page entry 1 already before really working on user needs.

E.g. if you make a video, don't make it 6 minutes long, don't use such kind of annoying background music, don't advertise that you can call someone. It's like advertising a computer by showing that it can connect with a USB mouse. Show us the dev environment for apps, and how far your API can look into the system. Show us the operating system and its features, e.g. by showing that someone manipulates the list of processes in screenlock widgets or something. Show us the people who do cool stuff with it that they couldn't do in a walled garden environment.

> A pity that it made it to front page entry 1 already before really working on user needs.

The old free software dilemma: Do you wait until your product is polished, thus cutting yourself off all possible publicity? Or will you be vocal about your development efforts, and stand the complaints about rough edges, in order to attract helping hands?

This is not a question of an unfair world and you must decide either one of the choices you give. You can do both, if you can communicate well. Communication is a skill, like programming, that can be learned. And especially if you communicate with the masses it is less about understanding people and more about understanding patterns. Totally possible for developers to learn.

E.g. both your messages target different people. Why inform users about your work in progress product instead of developers who may help you? And is this page really the best way to generate helping hands or is this more a user ad?

Sadly, my recurring problem is that as a Verizon customer, I have exactly zero options outside the big two and an obsolete version of the third. (I'm carrying a Lumia 929, presently.) Nobody bothers developing third party OS offerings that work on Verizon networks.

T-Mobile is flexible and allows using any compatible LTE handset. They don't care what OS you use on it.

T-Mobile works nowhere, and is the only carrier which is actively countering net neutrality.

Verizon is also required to allow using any compatible LTE handset, and they aren't allowed to care what OS you use on it. The problem is that nobody is developing them.

> T-Mobile works nowhere, and is the only carrier which is actively countering net neutrality.

It works way better than a few years ago, and for the reference, almost all mobile providers, including Verizon[1] and AT&T[2] (not sure about Sprint) are violating Net Neutrality by giving preferential treatment to their own services.

[1]. https://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Verizon-Begins-Zero-Rati...

[2]. https://www.dslreports.com/shownews/ATT-Not-Worried-About-Re...

Neither of those are pleasant, but neither is as bad as T-Mobile, who's primary marketing campaign is about what apps do and don't count towards data caps.

They've also been promoting sleazy marketing strategies like claiming to have "no contract", while stabbing people by cancelling people's device payment plans if they cancel service. I mean, they have only gotten worse since their primary marketing appeal was an attractive woman in a skin-tight leather suit.

> Neither of those are pleasant, but neither is as bad as T-Mobile

They aren't any better, if not worse, because in contrast to T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon are asking for money from other services if they want be exempt from caps. In my view they are all bad when Net Neutrality is concerned. It can be fixed only with better law which ban zero rating, and as well bans caps as a method of fleecing users.

Data caps/tiers/metering is basically the only fair way to provide data service. "Unlimited" is inherently flawed as a product concept.

> Data caps/tiers/metering is basically the only fair way to provide data service. "Unlimited" is inherently flawed as a product concept.

It was proven time and again that data caps are driven by greed, not by necessity. That's clear in wireline networks where congestion isn't a problem at all, and can be as well demonstrated in mobile ones, where spectrum limit can be an issue. Caps don't prevent network congestion in mobile networks. I.e. don't pretend it's a network management tool, it's not. It's just money gouging tool. So it has nothing to do with fairness.

ISPs already have tiers for bandwidth. There is no need to use caps as well.

Nonsense. If you believe the whole "driven by greed" drivel, you have never looked at how a business operates in your life. It's no more or less greedy than raising prices for everyone (which would otherwise happen). The difference is, data caps are a tax on the top 1% of users, rather than a tax on everyone.

Not true. Data caps apply to everyone, not to 1% of users. And they are driven by greed, not by expenses or technical necessity, because ISPs themselves don't spend more because of more traffic. And those who have that greed will find any way to fleece their users. Raising prices for everyone without need is exactly greed, but happens when competition isn't enough to put them in place. In other words it's a sick result of lack of competition. And trying to pretend it's about some "fairness", means supporting crooks and thinking being a crook is fair.

Again, it's clear you do not understand how any of this works. It has nothing to do with technical necessity, or even expenses of delivering a specific user's service. Your focus on that indicates you have no understanding of the market. An explanation of business economics is beyond the scope of what I can fit in a reasonable comment.

This is a simplified example of how tiered pricing works in a business sense I wrote up a few weeks ago to explain it: https://plus.google.com/+JakeWeisz/posts/8dSeCHrzZpo

> It has nothing to do with technical necessity, or even expenses of delivering a specific user's service.

Exactly my point. Therefore it's driven by greed, and is an indication of monopoly abuse. To repeat what I said. ISPs already have tired plans for _bandwidth_, and those who are heavier users can pay more for more bandwidth, which has technical necessity behind it. There is completely no need in caps.

See https://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Senator-Wyden-ATT-Merger...

> Your focus on that indicates you have no understanding of the market.

I understand it. The only reason this garbage like caps and violation of Net Neutrality happens is lack of competition, and crooks taking advantage of that fact in the context of insufficient regulations to prevent them.

No, it's not "driven by greed", it's "driven by basic math". There's nothing abusive about asking people using your service to pay more than the people who use it the least. And it has nothing to do with "monopoly abuse", we have four (five-ish) national carriers as well as plenty of regional offerings. Mobile providers are the least monopolistic telecoms in the industry right now.

The idea of paying for network speed is a poor one: It means the network is intentionally crippling their product when they can provide better, and they're under no obligation to even guarantee the speed you pay for. Paying for network speed is not good for the consumer.

Paying for usage is the ideal situation, because the provider and the customer have aligned interests. It's in the best interest of the provider to provide the fastest, highest quality service, so that users can consume the most data. And consumers get the best possible product, without being intentionally gimped or throttled.

> No, it's not "driven by greed", it's "driven by basic math".

Stop the demagoguery please. Calling greed "math" doesn't change it being greed.

> Paying for usage is the ideal situation

You sound like an ISP shill. Are you one? Paying for usage is horrendous, because ISPs who own media services disadvantage competing media services, by excluding their own from caps. This should be forbidden not just by Net Neutraility, but simply by antitrust law. But I suppose you think monopoly is ideal situation too, right? And you'd claim there is nothing wrong with "asking to pay more" because people have no choice but to use the abusive monopolist if they want service, and it's not greed but "basic math". Yeah, right.

Arguing with shills is pointless though, so I finished here. Everything was said above already anyway.

It literally has nothing to do with greed. I explained this, my link provided an example. But you seem hung up on T-Mobile's borderline fraudulent advertising scheme.

I have no business in the ISP space, accusing someone of being a shill because you disagree with them basically renders you useless in a discussion, and speaks to your inability to look at the argument objectively.

Whats stopping you from not being a Verizon customer? Their rates (and AT&T) are awful compared to Sprint / T-Mobile, which are then awful compared to specialized MVNOs that target your use case.

Drastically superior service, and the fact that we have... ten... or so lines on it, and I'm the only one bothered by the phone selection.

Sprint and T-Mobile are _terrible_, and no amount of savings is worth suffering through their networks. Oh, and there's the little matter of T-Mobile leading the charge against net neutrality.

This looks interesting. Flashing it on my old Nexus 5 to try it out.

Hopefully I don't send up swallowing these words, but I've gotta say that they appear to have made it extremely easy to install this. Running two fastboot commands, cloning a repo, and running a shell script is pretty easy, and making it easy goes a long way towards making it approachable.

EDIT: Install script is broken on macOS. I fixed it and got it flashed. It's dreadfully slow. :( I'd consider stability and performance my top two priorities. I already largely hate mobile devices, so the poor performance is really frustrating. I still need to play around with it to see what the other capabilities are like.

On desktop my preferred environments are Xfce and i3, but I wonder why GNOME isn't pushing in this same direction as Plasma Mobile and Unity. (Unless they are and I'm not aware?) It seems like out of all the main DEs, GNOME3 is the nearest to being suited for mobile and touch screens, perhaps more so than Unity (IMO). A google search turns up a few initiatives/blog posts throughout the years that speak of bringing GNOME to mobile, but nothing seems to have come of any of them as far as I can tell.

It feels like we've seen this before. Is there any reason to expect this to be something I'll actually be able to use? I'm not able to use Firefox OS or Ubuntu on my phone now.

What is the current state of the art for driving monitors via mini-USB? Are there generic HDMI/DVI dongles? It would be awesome I'd I could just boot into Linux and plugin a monitor, Bluetooth KB & mouse and start coding. I'm not confident enough to use Plasma as my daily driver, but fortunately it supports multirom (for my phone) so I will be able to dual-boot into Android for day-to-day usage.

Off topic but I've used every touch interface that exists in the consumer market and I'd give my soul for a real keyboard. I'd pay 1200 for a real keyboard with a modern mobile OS. Touch keyboards suck... we've all gotten used to them and better with them but they still suck.


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