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Articles tagged 'diy'


A call for libre phone development

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Some years ago I bought the third telephone of my life. It's an archaic looking "feature-phone" which I want to last as long as possible. I'm not planning to buy anything more.

In fact, I always wanted sustainable phones. The first one was a sturdy Nokia that followed me everywhere for 10 years (and once waited faithfully for me in a mud pool for hours). The second one was a ZTE Open with Firefox OS installed, because I wanted something customizable, tinkerable, and as much free and open source as possible. Unfortunately, as you may know, the project was canceled and all I was left with was an incomplete, outdated and buggy OS written in Javascript. The only alternatives for a somewhat sustainable and open phone were projects like Fairphone, which seems to go in the right direction.

But I don't want an expensive 500€ smartphone. I don't want an easily breakable touchscreen, and I'm convinced there's a way to refurbish all the cheap Chinese "feature-phones" to make something usable and fast without all the fuss of a multiple Gigabytes operating system on it. I'm not planning to watch Youtube videos on my phone, only send good old SMS, so the idea of buying a cheap feature phone, and see what I could do about it started to sprout in my mind.

I bought a cheap 10€ phone with a digit keyboard, and kept it in a drawer as an emergency tool for about two years. Then the emergency came in: the screen of my Firefox OS phone broke, and typing on it became an exhausting experience, to say the least. So I switched to the Chinese phone, and although it has a decent hardware, the software stack is completely out of place. What can we do about it?

Maybe we can live in a world where phones are used to place calls and send messages? Maybe we can live in a world where landfills are not stuffed with computer systems thousand times more powerful than what made us go to the moon, but still considered "old" because they cannot run the latest version of Snapchat? I'd like to live in that world, so I started a journey of retro-engineering to discover if I could make this dumb phone my phone.

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