Greetings everyone. I thought I would just write up a quick post on some current status and tips and information around running Fedora on pine64 pinephones.

First, let me talk about scaling. One of the problems putting a desktop OS into a small screen on a phone is scaling. Phosh (a librem started gnome-shell replacement for small screens) and Phoc (a mutter/window manager replacement that works with Phosh do there best with this issue. There’s a setting to try and resize all windows from all applications, and a way to do it on a case by case basis, however many applications are just not friendly to small screens. They refuse to shrink below a point, or they cut off valuable parts. I guess this might be something thats best solved upstream at the toolkit level, but it’s a hard problem. By default Phosh sets 200% scaling on the pinephone as well. It all depends on how small a screen/type you can handle, but lowering that gets more applications usable. You can do so via: ‘wlr-randr –output DSI-1 –scale 1.25’ for 125% for example. This also makes it harder to press buttons, so beware. 🙂

Next some great news. The latest round of uboot updates in Fedora Rawhide get my 3GB pinephone booting from a stock rawhide workstation image. Things boot, the display comes up, gnome comes up (and is really difficult to use, see above scaling issue). There’s no net, no modem, no camera, etc, but the display and the base boot chain all works great. Many thanks to Peter Robinson for getting those patches in!

A short note about flatpaks: I installed some flatpaks from flathub, and they work just dandy. The Fedora flatpak registry should soon also be advertising all it’s flatpaks for aarch64 as well. This is a great step for us down the road when we start working on a ostree version.

On the remix front, more things are getting reviewed and added to Fedora repos. chatty (sms/mms/matrix/jabber) client just finished review. There’s only a few more things on the list, but then the big one: The kernel patches. Hopefully we can find some folks to help us upstream things so we can get a vanilla fedora kernel usable. Even just getting in the patches for wifi or modem would be a great help (allowing you to ssh in and apply updates).

I’m still not using mine as a daily driver yet, there’s stil some important things not there that I need:

  • MMS handling (in progress via a mmsd and chatty, but not there yet). For those in EU, in the US all group chats and anything with media uses MMS (at least on my carrier)
  • The camera now works, but it’s still really not good at all. I’m hoping for improvements.
  • There’s so far no good otp app packaged up. Will have to look at them and package up the best one.
  • Lots of small stuff thats nice, but not urgent: the torch mode, auto rotation, docking detection

But a number of things are looking better:

  • Sound works fine along with bluetooth and gpodder, so podcasts are good. (Side note: if you set the dip switch for serial console, it messes up the audio, you need to reset it back to get working audio. 😉
  • epiphany works pretty well here as a web browser. Resizes nicely and is pretty fast.
  • neochat seems the best of the matrix clients here (but chatty is adding matrix support, so will be interesting to see that)
  • newsflash works pretty great for rss reading (although you have to actually read each article to mark it as read. The android tt-rss reader I am using on my android phone lets you just scroll by things to mark them read.
  • gnome-maps seems to work fine, except no GPS. There’s some AGPS upload song and dance I haven’t looked into yet. Hopefully that can get automated so it works out of the box.
  • tootle works fine for mastodon.
  • cawbird works ok if I don’t give up twitter entirely.

Finally a few hardware related notes:

  • In case you missed out on any of the community edition pinephones, the “Beta edition” should be open for preorders on March 24th: https://www.pine64.org/2021/03/19/beta-edition-pre-orders/ This is the same hardware as the later community editions (1.2) at the same price. 🙂
  • There should be in a few months a keyboard for the pinephone. It will be a big honking battery case, so in addition to a hardware keyboard you will get a large battery too. Even though battery life has been pretty good having that extra battery will be very nice. I definitely plan to get one.
  • Finally, and I can’t stress how much I still find this cool and amusing: The modem on the phonephone is a armv7 SOC. You can even run linux on it (The postmarketos folks are making a distribution for it). So wild to see a armv7 processor to just run the modem. How far we have come.

If you’re interested in the pinephone (or any other linux mobility projects), come join us on #fedora-phone on freenode or matrix or telegram.