PostmarketOS Turns 600 Days Old

PostmarketOS began work on a real Linux distribution for Android phones just over 600 days ago. They recently blogged about the state of the project and ensured us that the project is definitely not dead.

PostmarketOS’ overarching goal remains a 10 year life-cycle for smartphones. We previously covered the project on Hackaday to give an introduction. Today, we’ll concern ourselves with the progress the PostmarketOS team has made.

The team admits that they’re stuck in the proof-of-concept phase, and need to break out of it. This has required foundational changes to the operating system to enable development across a wide variety of devices and processor architectures. There’s now a binary package repository powered by builds.sr.ht which will allow users to install packages for their specific device.

Other updates include fixing support for the Nexus 5 and Raspberry Pi Zero, creating support for open source hardware devices including the Pine A64-LTS and Purism Librem 5. PostmarketOS now boots on a total of 112 different devices.

We’re excited to see the PostmarketOS project making progress. With the widespread move to mobile devices, users lose control over their computing devices. PostmarketOS gives us the ability to run code that we can read and modify on these devices. It’s no small feat though. Supporting the wide variety of custom hardware in mobile devices requires a lot of effort.

While it may be a while before PostmarketOS is your daily driver, the project is well suited to building task-specific devices that require connectivity, a touch screen, and a battery. We bet a lot of Hackaday readers have a junk drawer phone that could become a project with the help of PostmarketOS.

17 thoughts on “PostmarketOS Turns 600 Days Old

  1. Great to see it rises. I tried it some time ago on my SGS2 and there was only Wayland demo screen on this and no power management. I wish there will by some form of power management (sleep mode, powering down onboard devices). There are plenty of old, cheap SGS2 (for example with broken screen) and it can beat Raspberry Pi or similar boards in terms of cpu power, power efficiency, portability etc (and connectivity if there will be working baseband without android)

      1. But seriously. They could have done better for long term support and hardware/software compatibility to choose just about any other OS as the basis. Linux as a platform for user software and variety of hardware is the reason why Google decided to build everything on top of a virtual machine – yet they inherited a lot of the dumb things like “how much free space do I have to install this new app… nobody knows!”

        1. Or, “I have 1 GB free on my device. Why can’t I upgrade a packet that claims to need 34 MB?”
          Or, “I have a 32 GB memory card, why can’t I just install the entire software there?”
          Or, “My file manager doesn’t know where my files are. In fact it, cannot.”

          On Symbian, if you had the application binary file (.EXE), you could just put it on an MC card and simply run it. Didn’t need an appstore or a central repository, or any sort of umbilical cord to the mother company. Hence why, these devices still actually work and can have new software if only someone wrote any.

  2. Wow, a great deal of work, and for good reason – I’d love to see a “10 year life-cycle for smartphones” – there’s no real reason (other than profits) it can’t be realised.

    BTW @Eric Evenchick, you can choose between “ensured that” and “assured us that”, but “ensured us that” is not English (at least not in England)

    1. I actually have a “dead” smartphone that would be a great candidate for that OS: The only reason it isn’t working is because it erased its own ROM (well, I was playing with it too, so I managed to put it in a strange state first) and the manufacturer doesn’t provide them. Landvo V1: cheap Chinese POS with great GPS reception, so I don’t exactly care if it can be used as a phone… Unfortunately, it is a cheap Chinese POS, so it’s very unlikely to ever be supported (and I’m a horrible dev, so I can’t exactly do it myself)

  3. What an admirable project. Android is a bit of an abomination–or at least Google Play Services, the proprietary blob which is needed to talk to the cellular modem. That shit needs to go. There needs to be a viable option besides Apple and Google. We’re stuck with a Sophie’s Choice illusion of competition in this industry. I hate phones the way they are, they could be so much more if they were standardized and easy to run different operating systems on like desktops are.

    Any idea if there’s support for the Gemini PDA?

    1. Do I NEED that cellular modem to even work at all?

      My wife says I do.

      But if I were only thinking of myself… I have WiFi at home and work. There is free WiFi at most businesses I frequent. I could always go VoIP and tell those wonderful folks at the cellphone company where to put their over-priced, non-neutral network services!

      Of course that means no more real-time traffic updates or streaming music/podcasts in the car. I would have to sync maps and cache music before I head out. That’s not so bad. I’m old enough to have lived through much worse!

      1. I did this for quite a while when I was in college. My main number is still VoIP too, I just use it over data. It’s better than nothing but misses out on emergency use like if your car dies and leaves you on the road. It also misses conveniences like “I’m outside” when picking someone up or “do we need milk?” while at the store.

      2. Some good points. Unfortunately my work is often remote, and I need to get those ultra-urgent FIX THIS NOW OR ELSE emails instantly wherever I am. Of course this is a problem which may best be solved with techniques beyond software and radios. Like getting a more reasonable job.

    2. You don’t need google play services to use cellular modem. If you install lineage os or similar, simply don’t flash a GApps zip. F-droid supplies enough functional programs, but you may not be able to use all your common/favorite apps without play services. Do you really need them tho?

  4. hmm, how is this different from lineageOS? Other than the claim of this one being a “real” Linux OS. Im on year #7 with my nexus 5 and i only switched to lineageOS last year. With what i use my phone for, i can see me getting another 5 years easy out of my phone. The only thing that keeps phones from being a 10 year product is the security updates, the reason that phones only last a couple years is a multifaceted problem. Some people will always want the new and flashy, youll never change that, but the big issue is that the companies that make these phones only give you security updates for 2-4 years (depending on manufacturer) and with those security updates come software bloat that not only will slow down your phone but increase battery consumption as well.

    1. I’m a fan of Lineage as well but it doesn’t completely mitigate software bloat. Android consumes more resources on every release (except the slimmed down Go edition which was made for low end devices). Google Play Services and the store have minimum OS version requirements. And finally app resource consumption keeps rising with hardware – devs don’t pay much attention to performance and will pick the easiest path (buttloads of libraries) as long as it works on their own devices. In a few more years your Nexus 5 may struggle to run regular apps because of lazily programmed animations and disk access.

      1. Also websites that are larger than the classic works of Russian literature just to display a 280-character tweet or a short-form news article for some godforsaken reason. But there’s not much to do for that besides install some scorched-earth script blockers.

  5. Most of my phones have meet some sort of hardware failure long before the 10 year life cycle they are aiming for. The Nexus 5 charge port circuitry shorted out and will now melt any usb cable you plug into it. The nexus 5x suffered from the dreaded boot loop error, I never could get it to work well unless its on dry ice. One day I might try to reflow but that is way down the list on things to do. The only phones floating in the drawer are old 2g prepaid android devices which only survived hardware death because I switched up to newer 3g then 4g phones. Out of the 3g/4g none has survived. I would not mind using some of those old phones in place of a Rpi in a project, but I just do not have that much free time to mess with it. I do not even need the modem, wifi would be good enough.

    I know my phones will probably die from hardware issues, so I just buy low end units now. In my day to day life the phone really has only to play music, read email, navigation, text, calls and sometimes be a camera. Its a glorified terminal renting time on the cloud.

    1. The dirty secret is that microUSB standard lifetime is 5,000 to 10,000 insertions and removals in the ideal case (not bending or twisting it). Since it typically has no other mechanical support than the solder on the board, it will crack sooner than later. That’s why the manufacturers were so keen on adopting it as a standard – built-in obsolescence by cartel.

      That, plus the new ROHS solders that develop tin whiskers, and you’ve got yourself phones that barely last the 3 year average consumer upgrade cycle.

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