Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 20 Aug 2019, 09:42

This was originally posted on mobilegamedev.org.

It feels good to run my own site on my own server with an up-to-date version of SMF to type in. It clears the head. In much the same way, it feels good to use a freshly installed Linux desktop.

Android, despite being an allegedly open source platform, doesn't feel so good. This is due to all of the proprietary bundleware, OTA updates, and other shit you can't control unless you root your phone. Just like Windows.

But what's that? A glimmer of hope on the horizon! The libre mobile operating systems Plasma Mobile and Ubuntu Touch are blazing a trail for completely libre mobile handsets in the near future (if you don't count ARM's proprietary IP cores).

Some people, however, are stuck to their old ways. I found a long-running thread on the Plasma Mobile forums discussing what apps users can't live without. Let me quote the most recent post's list:

1. Adsense
2. Google Analytics
3. Wynk Music
4. MX Player
5. Hotstar
6. WhatsApp
7. Facebook
8. Messenger
9. Google Duo
10. Google Files Go
11. Google Pay


What's wrong with this picture? As far as I know, 100% of these apps are proprietary. If that's not enough, the top apps are AdSense and Google Analytics. This was posted on a forum for discussing a mobile platform that is supposed to be free of all of that shit.

I get it, the poster wants to make money, but Google's ad network is inflexible and tied to proprietary components of the Android platform. Is my desire to not have AdSense follow me wherever I go arbitrary or esoteric? I think not! My desires are valid.

Some people use the term "free software utopia" to describe a hypothetical world where no proprietary or user-hostile components are part of any computing system. We can get there.

No matter how invisible a proprietary component is, you still intuitively know it's there. In my future, the phone I bring to the beach makes no noise, does nothing unexpected, and acts as my companion when I need to send an email or use an app, no strings attached. I will know that there are no strings attached because I will at least skim every line of code and compile it myself on a completely libre system, for a completely libre system.

So, that was a rather long post to get a point across. If mobile electronics can't be just as benevolent as desktops, we will find ways to live without them. When you make apps, keep the point in mind.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby Lyberta » 20 Aug 2019, 17:37

There is Replicant and soon PinePhone and PineTab (and Librem 5 for those with infinite money).
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby Jastiv » 20 Aug 2019, 17:44

Basically the only apps I really use on the phone are the camera and the music player. Its good that it will have the maps, internet browsing, and hopefully email. I don't really need anything else except the cell phone capabilities and text. A couple ok games would be nice.
As far as what music I use, I just listen to stuff I composed for Wograld. I have like 67 songs so it is great for workouts.
When I read the rest of the list, the only other app I could understand was facebook. I don't personally need it on the phone, but I could understand why some people might feel the need to check facebook on their phones.
The only other one I worry about is the banking one. I need that for my bank. I guess I could switch banks to a bank that makes an app (preferably free software) for the phone.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 20 Aug 2019, 18:39

Banking software runs best through a web interface, so you can get a chromeless browser app on most platforms for that, and it tends to work ok. Music, web, email, all that stuff is built into every mobile os anyways, even the flip phones.

PinePhone doesn't look too hot to me. I know how much 64-bit ARM cores costs. Throw in the HD display they advertise and it's too rich for my blood. I can barely afford the lowest-end carrier-subsidized crap, yet even a $150 netbook can run all the free software systems without issue.

The point I was trying to get at with this post is that once libre mobile devices (with screens) become affordable and mass-marketed, there will still probably be a lot of people who cannot live without proprietary apps, just like all the Linux users on (non-Steambox) Steam. That's just how it is, and the philosophy of it is up to the users and developers, really.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby Jastiv » 20 Aug 2019, 20:58

The thing I like about the mobile banking software is the check cashing part, although I don't get that many checks now.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby drummyfish » 20 Aug 2019, 21:15

Nice to read this rant, I agree. This is what I meant when I said somewhere in the other thread that mobile isn't a valid computing platform (for those who value freedom). Once it becomes a valid platform, I will be interested in developing games and programs for it.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 20 Aug 2019, 21:50

I've never gotten the image app check thingy to work. It's nice in theory, but you need either a really powerful phone or a somewhat optimized app to use it. My bank is more "oldschool". Either that or they've only tested their software on the Google Pixel.

Once it becomes a valid platform, I will be interested in developing games and programs for it.

A computer in my phone? It's more likely than you think!

But yeah, I'm starting to get what you mean. Even for proprietary software, long-term reliability depends on an infrastructure that disposable proprietary crap cannot provide. Even if the SDK is licensed under Apache2, Google does everything in their power to ruin it for non-Google users. I mean, if you leave out Android Studio and the SDK Manager, it all falls apart. You can't just get a compiler. The KaiOS SDK is better in theory, but they have bugs on their end that prevent people from even downloading the software they document. It's pathetic.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby Julius » 20 Aug 2019, 22:23

I used to run Ubuntu Touch on my old Nexus4 for quite some time and I am looking forward to try it again: https://ubports.com/
Maybe I'll get the PinePhone, seems like a good price/value (the new PineBook Pro too btw.).
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby Lyberta » 21 Aug 2019, 05:41

fluffrabbit {l Wrote}:PinePhone doesn't look too hot to me. I know how much 64-bit ARM cores costs. Throw in the HD display they advertise and it's too rich for my blood. I can barely afford the lowest-end carrier-subsidized crap, yet even a $150 netbook can run all the free software systems without issue.


The target price for PinePhone is 150$ and something like 120$ for PineTab. I already bought a gamepad for them so I'm gonna use them as gaming devices.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 21 Aug 2019, 08:54

Yeah, but I can get an Android phone for $20. Phones are expected to break, while desktops are expected to last a little longer. I haven't upgraded my desktop in close to 5 years for lack of funds.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby drummyfish » 21 Aug 2019, 12:20

Personally I am planning to buy MAKERphone. It is a dumbphone with buttons, which I prefer, and it is based on Arduino, which makes it very similar to my favorite gaming consoles such as Arduboy and Gamebuino META -- there are already tons of libre games for these, and I think it won't be difficult to port them. I can program that thing with C, on bare metal level with no bloat, just as the open consoles, and that is what I am aiming for.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 21 Aug 2019, 12:47

Arduino Uno or ARM?
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby drummyfish » 21 Aug 2019, 20:31

Arduino UNO, https://www.circuitmess.com/makerphone/. Are you interested? Preorder price is also $150, but for this I would be willing to pay the price.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 21 Aug 2019, 21:45

That's really under-powered. Now I see what you mean by "dumb phone".
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby drummyfish » 21 Aug 2019, 23:59

fluffrabbit {l Wrote}:That's really under-powered. Now I see what you mean by "dumb phone".


You mean in terms of performance/capabilities? Yes, in comparison with today's smartphones it definitely is. That is a good thing though, it means the unimportant stuff doesn't fit there. Try to program a game for Arduboy and you'll probably never want to go back to PC. It's an extremely rewarding experience, as you're able to actually finish and release your game, in a week, and it simply runs. It's not just that it's retro and nostalgia and all that, but it's a return to the golden age of computing, games and programming without all the Java frameworks, GPUs, and all that hell. Seriously just try it out, it will set you free :)
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 22 Aug 2019, 10:54

The Uno uses an 8-bit AVR chip, but apparently it runs small3dlib. Doesn't that limit you to environments of 256 integer units? How do you do 3D with that limited precision and still have an environment that is large enough to explore?
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby drummyfish » 22 Aug 2019, 14:37

No, my 3d lib worked on GamebuinoMETA and Pokitto, which run on 32bit ARM and are a little more powerful, I haven't tested it on Arduboy, I purposely dropped Arduboy support to not be limited too much, though I managed to run my raycastlib on Arduboy! UNO can emulate 32bit math, but it's a little slower. Though the problem with Arduboy is typically memory (ROM and RAM), CPU performance is surprisingly nice.

Someone else managed to do a shaded 3D demo on Arduboy:

https://community.arduboy.com/t/solid-3 ... ering/2753

There are complete pseudo 3D games, usually made with raycasting or some vector technique, e.g. this:

Image

or Starduino:

Image
Last edited by drummyfish on 22 Aug 2019, 15:35, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 22 Aug 2019, 14:41

32-bit int emulation would solve the problem. That imagery looks amazing (relatively speaking).
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby Lyberta » 23 Aug 2019, 05:10

fluffrabbit {l Wrote}:Yeah, but I can get an Android phone for $20. Phones are expected to break, while desktops are expected to last a little longer.


Not sure. I had my Siemens S65 from 2005 to 2014 and I still regret dumping it for a smartphone.

Right now I have 50$ dumbphone because I was dissatisfied with my 10$ dumbphone.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 23 Aug 2019, 14:43

Smartphones are more fragile.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby Julius » 23 Aug 2019, 17:18

fluffrabbit {l Wrote}:Smartphones are more fragile.


Honestly, I never get how people seem to break their smartphones all the time. In my experience they are extremely durable if you take a little bit care of them. If it wasn't for software obsolesce, lithium battery issues and specific design issues that lead to hardware failure (N900 usb port and Nexus4 overheating :x ), they would easily last as long or even longer than PCs.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 24 Aug 2019, 00:09

When you sit on soft plastic in hot weather, it tends to crush. Imagine what it does to the touch screen after repeated sittings/crushings. Flip phones are far more durable, and that's actually a selling point for "the next billion" who live in the swamps of Indochina and might leave the device laying around to get stepped on or submerged in liquid. These things happen all the time.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby drummyfish » 24 Aug 2019, 12:14

Smartphones really are s***, they are an example of technology that brings more trouble to people than they help, which wasn't the case with older phones. Yes, you can be careful and not break the phone, but that extra mental burden on the user to consciously think about not breaking the phone is bad, the human serves the phone in this aspect, not the other way around. Same with short lived battery, you have to constantly think about charging your phone. And buying a new phone every year etc. Not even talking about abusive software of course.
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Re: Think outside the box! [cross-post]

Postby fluffrabbit » 24 Aug 2019, 14:20

That is an interesting point. I do feel like my phone is the least utilitarian piece of electronics I own. I do have to take care of other things, but these other things I can reap rewards from. The phone is resistant to my software, heats up with only moderate use, and can't be put to work doing the things that I do on desktop. Maybe that will change in the future.
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