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The /e/ Google-free, pro-privacy Android clone is now available (zdnet.com)
158 points by CrankyBear 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments



Bromite author here (https://www.bromite.org ); I was contacted some time ago about the possibility to maintain a modified version of Bromite with a customised /e/ home page and list of search engines. Nothing particularly murky there, but after some Q/A I did not want to proceed with this type of cross-branding because fundamentally I do not want Bromite to be using or be affiliated with any cloud service and I concluded that /e/ invites users to swap Google for /e/ as a cloud services provider.

Now to the reason why I am commenting here: there is no GPL violation for the patches used in their /e/ browser but I find it a bit disappointing that nowhere it is mentioned that the browser is a complete Bromite build, minus the logo and renamed to '/e/ Browser'.

Most users are assuming that it is a Chromium fork developed by /e/ and will never reach the Bromite open source project, which is basically the way the project is kept alive.


Genuine question, I have avoided chromium like a plague, why should I choose this over Firefox with equivalent plugins ?


I haven't looked into the compiled code but the source repository still shows the Bromite logo and name: https://gitlab.e.foundation/e/apps/browser

The AUTHORS file also mentions being a fork of Bromite, but doesn't list any authors that aren't part of the project: https://gitlab.e.foundation/e/apps/browser/blob/master/AUTHO...

It looks like your patches have been changed to renamed Bromite to Browser in user-facing code though. Have you already asked them to add a reference to Bromite somewhere in the about screen? Maybe create a pull request to make it easier for them to accept your request if the devs themselves are lazy. They obviously won't rename the browser shortcut, but adding a reference in the "About browser" section shouldn't be too much to ask for.

Unrelated: I understand your position on cloud providers, but I think /e/ is different from MS or Google in that it's possible to swap out most of the integrations with your own servers (it's all a bunch of glued-together open source services, after all).

Without cloud integration, I doubt /e/ would reach any sort of mainstream of non-technical cult status at all. You'd be left with an app store on top of a build of LineageOS. It's the services delivered with the system that a) distinguish the project from LineageOS without GApps and b) provide basic usability many normal users would miss otherwise.


By the way, Bromite itself is mostly a curated, maintained and adapted (for Android) list of patches from other projects, plus a good chunk of patches developed by me for Bromite itself.

I keep correct attribution of all patches as much as possible and I would feel more accomplished if also the work of other patches' authors (countless hours) is correctly referenced through Bromite.


Yes, I am aware of the repository.

> Have you already asked them to add a reference to Bromite somewhere in the about screen?

I have not; I was expecting it, given the amount of modifications from Bromite patches (which is zero, as far as I understood).

> I think /e/ is different from MS or Google in that it's possible to swap out most of the integrations with your own servers (it's all a bunch of glued-together open source services, after all).

It's that "most" that corrupts the intent.

> Without cloud integration, I doubt /e/ would reach any sort of mainstream or non-technical cult status at all.

Sorry, I will avoid discussing this, it has all the clues to become an endless and inconclusive talk :)

In short: yes, I agree with you, and still do not care about "mainstream or non-technical cult status" at all.


> I have not; I was expecting it, given the amount of modifications from Bromite patches (which is zero, as far as I understood).

I won't lie, I would have expected the same if I were in your shoes. Thinking positively though, it's possible that the /e/ people don't care much about the attribution they themselves receive and don't realize what it means to others to be recognized for their personal hard work. Asking nicely might show them that other people in the open source community do care. The worst that can happen is that the people behind the project do indeed not care about you and are rude about it, but in that case nothing really changes anyway. Things can only improve from here, I'd say!

Based on the changes I've seen, they basically replaced all instances of "Bromite" and "Chrome" in the source code with "Browser". I don't see much /e/-specific code in there at all, aside from a project description and some links in the documentation. They did add a reference to the original project to the AUTHORS file, so I'd like to believe in a variation of Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by laziness.

> Sorry, I will avoid discussing this, it has all the clues to become an endless and inconclusive talk :) I completely agree :)


> They did add a reference to the original project to the AUTHORS file, so I'd like to believe in a variation of Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by laziness.

This would be all fine and agreeable if they had not contacted me first, see my first comment :) of course I can still do contact them pointing out the situation, but let me say that given the nice project manifesto (https://e.foundation/wp-content/uploads/e-manifesto.pdf ) and the large amount of open source projects being involved...there must be expectations of this type :)

I do not claim malice - but I feel like the exact bare minimum was done there, which is not that surprising given that I declined creating/maintaining the customised fork that then they created.


I use your browser as my daily driver and I just want to say thank you for your hard work.


You're welcome :)


Is there anything I could do to help support bromite as a project?



I get an error in fdroid trying to add the repo.

Error getting fdroid index file - > No mirrors available.


Yes, there have been some issues reliability with the host; they should be solved now, see also: https://github.com/bromite/bromite/issues/378


Update: Fixed

--

Note -- HN included the ) and ; in your link, so clicking it doesn't work properly.

I appreciate your cause and it'd help if it was easier to check it out


Thanks, fixed that by adding a space.


Just logged in to say thank you for maintaining my favorite browser bromite. :)


The name of the operating system is actually "/e/"??? That's terrible..


I have to agree, the first thing that pop in my head is the /e/ board from 4chan which is for ecchi


I’m reluctant to google; what’s that mean?


hentai - pornographic manga and anime.

"ecchi" is Japanese for the English letter "H", standing for "hentai", which means perverted or strange.


Specifically /e/ is the board for softcore images of that nature, while /h/ (hentai) is for hardcore images (and /d/ is, well...)


... Females with large phalluses.


Yeah, my first thought was, "what is 4chan's electronics board like?" There are definitely no electronics within the first 5 pages.


Is it pronounced slashy-slash?


This is one of the worst names possible, I'm astounded this made it into a finished product.


Tomorrow: “We’ve heard the community’s concerns, and are happy to announce that in order to address them we are rebranding the /e/ project.

Introducing PedOS!”


It's more googlable and gets the project free PR. What's not to like?


This will get dismissed as a low-effort comment, and in a sense it is, but it's necessary. Names matter a lot!


I don't really see the benefit in this. You can install LineageOS without gapps and MicroG already distributes a fork of LineageOS that includes MicroG. If you want full control of your device you will likely be better off going with something like Librem 5 from Purism.


/e/ is LineageOS + MicroG already. Seems like a LineageOS downstream distro with bunch of defaults and some Cloud stuff (can be self-hosted) and an Appstore other than FDroid. Oh and they’ll sell you preflashed phones.

So basically AOSP for less technical people interested in privacy. Seems harmless so far.


The cloud integrations feel suspect. "Ditch Google! Use us instead! You can trust us!"


The alternate app store with a focus on privacy could be a big plus, depending on how broad of a selection it ends up providing. Neither Google Play nor Amazon Appstore respect your privacy at all. F-Droid is great for open source software, but has some big holes (Signal is an obvious one), and side-loading isn't the best option for security reasons (no automatic updates). I have no problem with proprietary software, or with paying for it, if I had reasonable guarantees that it wasn't spyware, and didn't require installing spyware to obtain and stay up-to-date.


Why is MicroG's fork better than this one?

Edit: getting downvoted so for clarity this is the part of your comment I'm referring to: MicroG already distributes a fork of LineageOS that includes MicroG


MicroG isn't a fork for starters.


They have LineageOS builds with MicroG integrated that are technically a fork, mostly because they add permission API to spoof Google apps, that got rejected upstream. Also they ship with two location backends (Mozilla and Nominatim), though disabled by default, and FDroid comes preinstalled as a system app.

https://lineage.microg.org/


I didn't say MicroG was a fork.


There is also https://grapheneos.org but I haven't tried it myself yet; I have spoken with the author a few times and it looks like an interesting project.


The advantage here is that they sell phones.

It is very difficult to install Lineage OS, as it is completely unclear which phone one should buy to install it. There isn't a single viable answer online for the question: "Which phone should I buy for Lineage OS". I am dead serious!

The support is up to individuals able to produce ROMs, so for example a Galaxy A5 is supported, while A6 and A7 used to be, but are no longer (!) supported. So if you bought an A7 for Lineage OS, you are out of luck now.

Of course it is also difficult to install Lineage OS itself. For most of us, it is probably at least possible. But there is no chance rest of the 95% of the world will ever do this. Indeed, I would also feel at least anxious to attempt it (alas, for my current phone no Lineage OS is available).

So this is great. You can buy a Samsung phone and get it preinstalled with a good distro. I am not aware this is possible otherwise, let alone for less than 300 euro.

Everyone who doesn't understand why this is better than "just install Lineage OS with microG" has some serious disconnect going on.

I am fairly incompetent with computers, but I don't think I could fork my own Lineage OS for my phone of choice. Therefore, having something preinstalled and actually supported is a serious selling point for me!

Edit: Additionally, they will offer a service for you to send in your phone to flash it. I really like this!


> There isn't a single viable answer online for the question: "Which phone should I buy for Lineage OS". I am dead serious!

Check out https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/


Yeah but that site had mentioned phones officially supported, and then no longer.

It doesn't answer the question which of these phones is a viable one to get now to have Lineage support. Clearly, its not better to get a newer one, it is best to get the one with most support. Which one that is, I do not know.


I used the following site lately to choose a phone. I found it much easier to understand than the device list of LineageOS.

https://piotr-yuxuan.github.io/choose-a-new-phone/

Still, individual research still required e.g. to find out that the fancy 48 MP camera mode is not supported in LineageOS.


“Google-free” in that the name is impossible to google? /s

I had not heard of Qwant before this. How does it compare to other privacy-focused search engines e.g. Duck Duck Go?


For search queries in French, DDG is a total no go for me while Qwant has decent results. But then, anything technical or in English I find myself automatically adding the &g suffix to search on Google.

They were based on Bing, but it changed years ago now and have their own crawlers.


Last time I read about it it wasn't very promising. If I remember correctly their code is proprietary and last time I checked it was just aggregating results from other search engines.


Isn't this exactly what DDG does? Closed-source, aggregating/proxying other search engines like Yandex.


If I remember correctly, they did so in the early days - but should be using their own crawlers now.


One thing that I like about DuckDuckGo is that you can browse results with arrow keys and enter. No simple way to load the next page, sadly. If you have it set as the search engine in Firefox, you can get mouseless search with ctrl+t and f6 if needed.

This is not to say that Qwant is horrible because of not having this (I just ran a couple of test queries and the results seem decent), just it would be nice if different "indie" search engines allowed navigation with keyboard.


> you can get mouseless search with ctrl+t and f6

You can get "very mouseless" with vim vixen add-on


I use it in China whenever my VPN is down. It's not blocked, yet.

On an unrelated note, hackernews has been blocked for at least a month or two. Probably due to lots of HK protest submissions in recent months.


To be honest, '/e/' is also not that easy to search for.


When I use DDG, I get results nearly as good as Google. I tried qwant; nowhere near as good. It is used mostly by those who resent the dominance and techical superiority of American tech companies, because it is based in france.


> It is used mostly by those who resent the dominance and techical superiority of American tech companies, because it is based in france.

Or maybe because they are subject, as an European company, to GDPR?


Isn't Google subject to GDPR despite being based in the US practically?

And isn't Google technically a EU company since they use the double irish with a dutch sandwich tax scheme?


The gdpr applies to Google's operations in europe.


If you want google-free android with some privacy defaults you can build/sign yourself with a simple make command, see: https://github.com/hashbang/os


Nice, but works only on Pixel phones.


Seeing a lot of critical comments here. I get it, this isn't perfect, but let's not forget that this is part of a growing movement towards something better. That is to be commended.

Don't let perfect be an enemy of good.


Me and my friends had a good laugh over this. You'd think that at the very least someone, at some point would've recognized "/e/" as following the grammar of 4chan board names, right? People are still at least vaguely aware of /b/ (and nowadays, /pol/), right...?

EDIT: Maybe they just googled it and assumed the name was free after finding nothing....


WARNING:

If you buy one of the S7/S9 preloaded models, the camera quality is likely to be quite poor, especially under low light. This is the state of affairs under microG (/lineage), as Samsung ROMs use a proprietary camera library that doesn't carry over. Source: My main phone is an herolte (S7), as the Exynos variants are one of the few phones with separate baseband and application processors.

This should be prominently mentioned on the product page, as it's just going to cause disappointment, regret, and ultimately backlash. Really they should choose an additional model with good camera support to refurbish, and offer the choice as an explicit tradeoff (better quality photos vs better baseband security).

(And if I am completely wrong here because they've somehow fixed or sidestepped this, please correct me. It just doesn't seem likely)


I applaud the effort but I'm buying a Librem because I can google Librem.



>1 (foot / e) / foot = 0.367879441

Thanks Google, that's exactly what I was looking for.


Just what we need, a new system with the name of /e/ which will make information and discussion of it unsearchable on the web. WTF.

I thought only Google did that, name things and projects for common dictionary words. You'd expect a search company to know better.


I've been using this for over a year on multiple phones. The amount of negative feedback here based on zero experience reads like corporate fud.


I see no reason reason to expect that this will fail to capture enough market share to justify maintaining it, and then stop providing updates, leaving its users with an insecure and unmaintained fork that offers no compelling benefit over it's better-maintained alternatives.

None at all.


I'd like to know what their support model is. Will phones pre-loaded with /e/ continue to receive security/version updates? Since this is a fork of LineageOS, I'm guessing they don't get automatic updates from upstream.


Finally!! Ditch google to dirt.. and go with alternatives! Google is evil and privacy abuser!


what's wrong with cyanogenmod?


For one thing, it hasn't been called "Cyanogenmod" for about three years?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LineageOS


To rephrase the question for pedants: What's wrong with LineageOS née Cyanogenmod?




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