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Pro1X with linux replacing phone and laptop


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Hello,

I am what we can call a power user on linux and do the vast majority of my work in a terminal (note with vim, email, rss…). I currently have my desktop computer at home, a laptop that I bring pretty much everywhere and my android phone. I am heavily interested in a phone with a keyboard and tend to hate android with every cells of my body. The question is, would the Pro X1 replace both phone and laptop in your opinion (or experience) ? Considering that :

  • I am a linux power user especially in the terminal
  • My laptop is an Acer Swift 3 with 4GB of RAM, an intel i3 and it was enough with my debian install
  • I use termux in my phone just to use vim
  • I am ready to bring a usb c hub, a battery and some cable instead of a laptop in my backpack
  • If I wanted to upgrade my laptop, I would have bought a frame.work laptop for its repairability (and sufficient linux support)
  • I wanted to get a Pyra but decided that it was to expensive and "niche", then a gdp win with linux but I wasn't sure about the "phone" part. Plus it would be too big I think

 

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Yes and no.

The Pro1 (and, by extrapolation, the future Pro1-X) can be set up as a quite OK always-carry-on GNU/Linux computer. I achieved that using rooted LineageOS + a custom-made Devuan chroot (see this thread for an entry point). Similar results can certainly be obtained using stock Android combined with a solution like Termux if you do not want to root, especially if a Un*x CLI is everything you really need. In fact, if you ordered your Pro1-X with UbuntuTouch you may (hopefully) be good to go pretty much out-of-the-box. None of these solutions breaks the "phone" functions in any way.

That being said, I do not believe any phone can truly replace a laptop. The Pro1's keyboard is not bad, but comparing it to a laptop keyboard is clearly overstretching things. Also, while the Pro1(-X)'s screen is large for a phone and has more than Full-HD pixel resolution, it is still tiny compared to even a typical laptop display -- smaller than my default xterm window size! Even pure terminal tasks would be very tyring for your eyes through a full work day -- let alone using graphical apps intended for desktop displays. 

My Pro1 works fine as a kind of "emergency" Linux-PC, when I happen to be far from my usual workstations. But to use it as a full replacement, I would need to bring so many peripherals with me (USB-dock, full-size keyboard, mouse, full-size-display) that carrying along my trusted (and much more powerful) X250 seems much easier after all ... 😉     

Edited by claude0001
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Right, Pro1 can be very handy to do real things like logging into a server and do what is necessary, which is very frustrating on any touch keyboards.

However, the one and only real and well-working Linux phone I used so far which also had a keyboard was N900.

Although Pro1-X will also come with Ubports, so some kind of a Linux ecosystem will exist, nowadays one have to have an Android phone because of other services, and as it is a very restricted system, it seems for me the very same well-working environment what N900 had is not working anymore if you don't want to bring another device which runs the rest of the applications you need.

I hope Anbox or a similar solution will work well for general use and also hope there will be SoC with full Linux kernel support made by its manufacturer, but we need to sleep a lot of nights till it may happen.

So yes, it works well for emergency situations, so you not necessarily have to bring a laptop with you, but working is more convenient on a real laptop simply because of its size.

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6 hours ago, VaZso said:

Although Pro1-X will also come with Ubports, so some kind of a Linux ecosystem will exist, nowadays one have to have an Android phone because of other services, and as it is a very restricted system, it seems for me the very same well-working environment what N900 had is not working anymore if you don't want to bring another device which runs the rest of the applications you need.

I too was a die-hard fan of the N900. 🙂

I am quite happy with my hybrid Lineage+Devuan system now, which provides almost everything my N900 could do, but you are right that there are limits (HW accelerated graphics, transparent FS access, ...) because of Android concepts standing in the way.

Note that UbuntuTouch comes with very similar limitations: It too is designed primarily as a phone OS and copys some of Andoid's concepts. E.g. apps are individually sandboxed, native "phone" apps and "desktop" Ubuntu software live in separate worlds, the latter running in libertine containers with no direct HW access (pretty much as in an Android chroot).

If you look for an OS similar in architecture to that of the N900, Sailfish is probably your best option, wich I definitely should try at some point. However, Android App support is problematic there, as there is no official support, and I do not know about status of porting to the Pro1-X.

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16 hours ago, claude0001 said:

My Pro1 works fine as a kind of "emergency" Linux-PC, when I happen to be far from my usual workstations. But to use it as a full replacement, I would need to bring so many peripherals with me (USB-dock, full-size keyboard, mouse, full-size-display) that carrying along my trusted (and much more powerful) X250 seems much easier after all ... 😉     

I wouldn't be too bothered to bring a dock, keyboard (which is already tiny) and all, as it would replace my 1.5 kg laptop in my backpack (plus I don't need a mouse if I have a touchpad/tactile screen). The display would be my main concern. But to be honest, when I need a screen to work more seriously I will certainly have one to connect too (friend's house tv, university, work...). The pro x1 would also be more powerful than my laptop at least in term of ram (I don't know how amd64 and arm ships can compare), which was already enough for me.

13 hours ago, VaZso said:

Although Pro1-X will also come with Ubports, so some kind of a Linux ecosystem will exist, nowadays one have to have an Android phone because of other services, and as it is a very restricted system, it seems for me the very same well-working environment what N900 had is not working anymore if you don't want to bring another device which runs the rest of the applications you need.

I don't really want an "ecosystem". I usually just use syncthings to sync files and that's it. The only challenge for using linux instead of android is gsm network (which ubuntu touch seems to get right) and maybe gps navigation (I usually use OsmAnd), that's pretty much it. I also plan to migrate to Mobian as I like to go "Vanilla", I will see if it is a good idea if I get one 🙂

One thing that I hope with linux is that it will not be unusable or a security nightmare in few years like it is with phones not supported by manufacturer anymore. The solution of having a Gnu/Linux hosted on an Android isn't really the best for this case I think.

Maybe I am expecting to much, maybe a kind of raspberry laptop converter case could do the job, I am often too optimist ^^'

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22 minutes ago, ChillPC said:

I wouldn't be too bothered to bring a [...], keyboard [...]

Well, in that case there is really no need to go for a Pro1(X). The built-in keyboard is pretty much the defining feature of the device. If you're going to use a separate keyboard anyway, you'll find devices that are cheaper while having better mainline Linux support.

22 minutes ago, ChillPC said:

The only challenge for using linux instead of android is gsm network (which ubuntu touch seems to get right) and maybe gps navigation (I usually use OsmAnd), that's pretty much it.

Running GNU/Linux in a [ch,p]root of Android takes care of that. Networking is managed by Android and just works (tm) in the chroot system. For Termux, there are even extensions to use the Android location services from within GNU/Linux-programs. But, yes, UbuntuTouch can also be a solution (although GPS does not seem to work yet in the (835-) Pro1 port). In other news: I also like OsmAnd~! 🙂

22 minutes ago, ChillPC said:

I also plan to migrate to Mobian as I like to go "Vanilla"

As far as I can tell, mainline Linux support for the Pro1/Pro1X is still quite far down the road. I would not count on it. Again, I think there are better-suited devices if that is your plan ...

22 minutes ago, ChillPC said:

One thing that I hope with linux is that it will not be unusable or a security nightmare in few years like it is with phones not supported by manufacturer anymore.

Well, actually ... the Pro1 (the original 835 model, again) effectively isn't supported by the manufacturer anymore (last Android 9 update was over a year ago). But that is why we have Lineage ... 😄

Edited by claude0001
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Wow, thanks for the kick reply !

21 minutes ago, claude0001 said:

Well, in that case there is really no need to go for a Pro1(X). The built-in keyboard is pretty much the defining feature of the device. If you're going to use a separate keyboard anyway, you'll find devices that are cheaper while having better mainline Linux support.

The keyboard was only if I would be far from home knowing that a screen is available for my use in a indoor place (yes, really specific). The integrated keyboard for everyday outdoor (and indoor) is what get me hyped.

13 minutes ago, claude0001 said:

As far as I can tell, mainline Linux support for the Pro1/Pro1X is still quite far down the road. I would not count on it. Again, I think there are better-suited devices if that is your plan ...

A device with a keyboard running natively linux and having all gsm functionalities, I only found the pro 1(x) for that ^^' Also, Ubuntu Touch would be already enough for me. And Mobian isn't a mainline distro technically speaking.

16 minutes ago, claude0001 said:

Well, actually ... the Pro1 (the original 835 model, again) effectively isn't supported by the manufacturer anymore (last Android 9 update was over a year ago). But that is why we have Lineage ... 😄

Yeah it is not, but if a version of the linux kernel is working with the device, next should be too I think. And all the application layer should follow too as it would only be dependent of the architecture of the cpu, no? Any old laptop will run linux nicely and the main difference is that phone use an arm ship. Post market os succeed to do that. And yes there is Lineage, but some device are no longer supported by the community because of a lack of interest ^^'

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17 hours ago, ChillPC said:

A device with a keyboard running natively linux and having all gsm functionalities, I only found the pro 1(x) for that ^^' Also, Ubuntu Touch would be already enough for me. And Mobian isn't a mainline distro technically speaking.

"Mainline" refers to using the upstream Linux kernel with open-source drivers. That's what I think Mobian does.

To this date (and to my knowledge), there is no OS for the Pro1 that uses upstream Linux. All available systems use the vendor-supplied Linux kernel of Android 9  ("4.4.153-perf+") with the proprietary (and closed-source) device drivers. That includes UbuntuTouch and SailfishOS! The latter actually run a slimmed-down version of Android 9 in a container and access the hardware via Android compatibility layers (libhybris). I suspect the situation will be quite similar for the Pro1-X.

Again: If running upstream Linux is important to you, the Pro1(X) may not be the device you want.

17 hours ago, ChillPC said:

but if a version of the linux kernel is working with the device, next should be too I think.

You are right in principle. The problem is that we do not have the device drivers open-sourced. As you certainly know, Linux has no stable driver interface by design. That's why we cannot easily compile our random favorite kernel and simply plug-in the vendor-supplied binary blobs (even if that was legal, of which I am not sure).

Fun fact: With the N900, we have been camping on Kernel 2.6.28 for more than 12 years because some drivers could never be open-sourced by Nokia. 🤣

17 hours ago, ChillPC said:

Any old laptop will run linux nicely and the main difference is that phone use an arm ship

Maybe you are too optimistic indeed. 🙂

I am no expert, but I think the problem with phones is that there is no standard system architecture like for x86 PCs. That's why OS's need to be specifically adapted to every new SoC, even if the CPU stays the same.

Edited by claude0001
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Oh dear, how I hate the locked phone world... Thanks a lot for all the information, it will maybe not replace my laptop, but I will at least have a nice degoogled phone ^^

I looked for the astro slide too but the lack of linux support got me off (no support to Ubuntu Touch or Mobian, just a mention of linux).

Hope that the pro1x will be worth!

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  • 8 months later...

I would say this, with the pro1 I find i dont need to bring my laptop with me anymore and only keep the laptop to be able to work from different rooms at home. The pro1 for me when traveling meets the minimum of what i need, in terms of maintaining ssh access if necessary, or emails and docs. I keep jumping between the idea of having a separate phone for phone pursposes since I might be in the middle of something on the phone and need to take a call and sometimes it distracts from the work. But then I realize that headphones or bluetooth ear pieces suffice and allow me to keep working while on a call.

Having used SailfishOS i do prefer that OS over Lineage for a number of reasons, one can sync more easily by default to nextcloud etc. Its terminal is more developed and ssh access is just there. The android hack works to a limit but we will see if the pro1x gets full support, but even then that is when the separate phone from pro1 as a minilaptop I think is the future for me especially when the pro1x arrives (screen busted on the pro1 I have currently).

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I am not objective, but I recommend the video in this thread: Desktop Linux on Pro1 without sacrificing telephony: LXC containers in SailfishOS (video) (and check also other videos from the same profile on Youtube, there is a shorter one and a couple others showing Debian in action within SFOS).

If HDMI-out was working on Sailfish, I'd say it could be used as a pocket laptop (which I already use it as) and a kind of NUC onto which you'd plug a display and full keyboard. The community has been working towards that goal, but no idea when/if this will be done.

Linux + HDMI-out can already be achieved with other OSes like Mobian (and one day postmarketOS too I believe), and perhaps even Android with Termux, but so far Sailfish with LXC is the best experience I've had with running desktop Linux on that phone.

The N900 was mentioned above, but to me the Pro1 with LXC and Debian (or Arch, it has been done too, albeit the installation is not automated and the person who did it had to go through many trials and errors) surpassed it already.

I still use the Pro1 as shown in the videos from the above thread, every day. I even decided not to take my laptop with me for a one-week (vacation) trip and was happy about that choice, despite the trip being one during which I usually take a computer with me because I stay at someone's place.

Edited by matf
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7 hours ago, matf said:

I am not objective, but I recommend [...]

I had seen that video before and agree that it is impressive. The ability to use XWayland on Sailfish makes it definitely more responsive than my XRDP-based solution on LineageOS, where the remote desktop connection does add some graphics overhead.

HDMI-out works on Android (9), but only mirrors the phone screen, so it does not really give you that "convergence" feeling. I can achieve the latter by using a remote (e.g. Windows-) PC to log into my Pro1. Then the PC displays my Devuan desktop while the phone screen is free for using Android apps in parallel. As the RDP decoding is then done by the PC, performance is even better than when using Microsofts crappy RDP app on the Pro1 itself ... 😄

I love the concept of SailfishOS which is much closer to a "desktop" GNU/Linux system and reminds me of Maemo5. Sadly, it seemed to have had some problems of late (GPS, LTE), and generally suffers from bad native software support (last time I tried, the built-in web browser was just catastrophic). I therefore doubt that I will ever switch with my Pro1. Having all that evil Android app ecosystem at hand does have some practical advantages ...

Edited by claude0001
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12 minutes ago, raymo said:

what about PinePhone 64 and his additionnal keyboard

The PinePhone is much better suited for running upstream Linux and GNU/Linux distributions targeting phones. As such, it is a very interesting project. I was close to ordering it several times, and do not know how long I will still be able to resist ... 🙂

However, its specs are quite low compared to the Pro1 or Pro1X. When it comes to CPU, RAM, or display resolution, the PinePhone's usefulness as a "laptop replacement" may thus be limited, despite its more GNU/Linux-friendly architecture.

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1 hour ago, claude0001 said:

The PinePhone is much better suited for running upstream Linux and GNU/Linux distributions targeting phones. As such, it is a very interesting project.

I have a PinePhone (not Pro version) and also have keyboard accessory.
Sometimes I have played with it but I do not have much free time for experimenting.

However, the phone's display could be better (its resolution) and hardware is basically a bit slow...
I think it may not be the CPU which had limit for me but also transfer speed of flash could be better.

OS support is slowly improving but I could reach a state in two distributions where phone stopped booting by simple upgrades, however, maybe it was not a good idea using apt instead of GUI interface.

The keyboard also looks to be interesting but it has fewer keys than Pro1 and it covers the full screen when it is closed...
...so practically it becomes a computer.

My biggest problem is still with the modem itself (at least when I have looked its progress).
The modem also runs a Linux kernel and its stock firmware had a very bad power management resulting in a hot phone and high power consumption, also first PinePhone OSes did not always shut down the OS of modem causing the battery to drain.
Now it was improved, current modem firmware is better and PinePhone OSes are properly shutting down modem.
...however, there is still a lot of room for improvements in modem's firmware and community has started to build a new firmware for modem which has proper power management but it is still in progress (at least when I have last checked, it was not close to be a replacement of stock firmware).

So it is an interesting project and PinePhone Pro has stronger hardware but it still needs some work.
On the other hand, Pro1 is a complete phone with a good keyboard and much complete software, but without native Linux support...

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16 hours ago, claude0001 said:

I had seen that video before and agree that it is impressive. The ability to use XWayland on Sailfish makes it definitely more responsive than my XRDP-based solution on LineageOS, where the remote desktop connection does add some graphics overhead.

HDMI-out works on Android (9), but only mirrors the phone screen, so it does not really give you that "convergence" feeling. I can achieve the latter by using a remote (e.g. Windows-) PC to log into my Pro1. Then the PC displays my Devuan desktop while the phone screen is free for using Android apps in parallel. As the RDP decoding is then done by the PC, performance is even better than when using Microsofts crappy RDP app on the Pro1 itself ... 😄

I love the concept of SailfishOS which is much closer to a "desktop" GNU/Linux system and reminds me of Maemo5. Sadly, it seemed to have had some problems of late (GPS, LTE), and generally suffers from bad native software support (last time I tried, the built-in web browser was just catastrophic). I therefore doubt that I will ever switch with my Pro1. Having all that evil Android app ecosystem at hand does have some practical advantages ...

Ha, I've tried that on SFOS too to cope with the lack of video out, but (1) performance was bad, and (2) I thought it beat the point anyway since a computer is needed (even if it can be a low cost one such as an SBC, in that case I'm probably better off booting Linux from it directly). Interesting to hear that performance was better in your case with a different setup.

As for the native ecosystem, there are indeed both pros and cons with SailfishOS. Having many GNU/Linux tools and a terminal with full access to the system out of the box is great for instance, but indeed it's hard to find the same diversity of applications as on Android. Most of the time there is an app, but not for things that are too specific or tied to a particular company. We have a great GPS app with offline support, but getting a GPS fix is now very long due to the Mozilla thingie that can't be used anymore (a limitation at the OS level, not in the app). For Android applications, tinkerers have found ways to use the proprietary Android compatibility on the community port (but this is illegal since this part is proprietary and sold with SFOS licences), and now there's also Waydroid which is free and open source. They both have limitations, but they just work in most cases for simple apps, Apps requiring specific hardware access (BT, camera) or bank apps can be a little more difficult, but that really depends. In any case, I'll be honest, I now use native apps only for calls and texts, and all the rest I do in my Debian container. Not everyone would want to use their Pro1 that way, but for me there's no way back. 

13 hours ago, raymo said:

I'm surely a noob here without a lot of knowledge, but what about PinePhone 64 and his additionnal keyboard ? but maybe I misunderstand the linux phone concept here.

I have the Pinephone (not Pro) and the keyboard, and it's a great tool for tinkering and making progress on the whole Mobile Linux front (including mainline), but it doesn't cut it for me. I believe the SailfishOS port is good on the Pinephone too, but Linux distributions like postmarketOS and others which give the real full-fledged Linux experience are still rougher around the edges than SailfishOS (though they evolve faster too).

Performance wise, it's also not as good as the Pro1. The Pinephone keyboard is in my opinion vastly inferior: too small for fast and accurate 10-finger typing (I type much faster on the Pro1 and do no typos), too large for thumb typiing, keys have a long travel course but sometimes get stuck, modifiers are not replicated (which makes it hard to use with thumbs), some layout choices are frustrating (arrows, and some other characters in weird places), it's much bulkier for a smaller screen size (and even without the keyboard, the Pinephone is actually wider and taller than the Pro1, and not much thinner), and the contact between the keyboard case and the phone is very finicky on my unit which makes it really hard to use. Don't get me wrong, I love my Pinephone and I am glad I bought the keyboard, but I'd throw 10 of them for a Pro1 and for what I do with my Pro1 and Debian LXC.

Edited by matf
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2 hours ago, matf said:

I've tried that on SFOS too to cope with the lack of video out, but (1) performance was bad,

Probably depends on what you compare to. Intuitively, it seems clear to me that rendering on a remote client must have better performance compared to running the client on the localhost.

Anyway, most of the time, I use my Devuan chroot remotely via SSH. While LineageOS has its own SSH server, I agree that its CLI is much too crippled for daily use. I thus configured Devuan's SSH server to listen to the default port 22 of the Pro1, while relocating LineageOS's SSHD to port 222. That way, the latter can still be used for specific (root access) tasks to LineageOS, but "normal" SSH logins take me directly to the Devuan CLI.

2 hours ago, matf said:

tinkerers have found ways to use the proprietary Android compatibility on the community port

I had heard of that, and it may work in some use cases. Overall, I think the Android compatibility layer has harmed SailfishOS more than help it. Regarding the web-browser, too many user requests have been answered by "well, just install Android Firefox". That cannot be the solution for what is (today) one of the most important applicatons of an operating system.

Edited by claude0001
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Ok guys big thanks, this clarify lots of things for me. 👍
So I would just continue using the Archlinux container, who cover all my need at this moment.
Big hug to SDRausty who created the install script in termux.

The GUI isn't perfect maybe as I use Xserver XSDL apk.
I spend a lot of time to configure xfce using pro1's native resolution and the touchscreen mouse is sometime a bit wonky, easily compensated by the pro1's keyboard In my opinion. 
But I can use the archlinux CLI without limitation in termux, and it's very practical when dealing with openoffice, weird file extension that cannot be recognized by Android 11 and some programming tools, 

What bothers me, people are always waiting until you are full in programming stuffs to make a phone call  😂

Not bad at all for my use.

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  • EskeRahn changed the title to Pro1X with linux replacing phone and laptop

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