Trying to decide between the PinePhone and the Librem 5

Most of the articles in the tech press just refer to the Purism Librem 5 and the PINE64 PinePhone as upcoming Linux phones, but they don’t delve into their differences. These two phones were designed with very different goals, and the focus of the two companies behind them is quite different. Just looking at the list of specs for the two phones doesn’t tell the whole story. In order to help people decide which Linux phone they should buy, I made a list of what are the major reasons to buy the two phones.

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China is taking over the global smartphone market

Looking at Counterpoint Research’s estimates for smartphone shipments in Q3 of 2019, it is striking how many Chinese companies are at top of the list. Seven of the ten top companies are Chinese.

It gets confusing whether to call these manufacturers, companies or brands. Calling them manufacturers isn’t exactly correct because many smartphones are made by other OEMs and ODMs. Saying brands gets confusing, because Huawei includes the brand Honor, Xiaomi includes the brand Redmi, ZTE includes the brand nubia, and Motorola is a brand owned by Lenovo. TCL has a license from Nokia to use the Alcatel brand, and HMD Global also has a license from Nokia to use the Nokia brand. TECNO, itel and Infinix are all brands owned by Transsion Holdings, but Oppo, Vivo, Realmi and OnePlus are companies owned by BBK Electronics which is part of the BBK Group. Presumably Counterpoint’s estimates also include phones made by these companies for cellular network providers. Maybe it is better to say seven of top ten smartphone providers are Chinese, since even the market analysis firms can’t agree on what term to use to describe the entities that produce or subcontract the production of smartphones.
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Problemas serios en el informe preliminar de la OEA acerca de la elección boliviana

He leído las 13 páginas de los “Hallazgos Preliminares” de la OEA acerca de la elección del 20 de octubre en Bolivia. En la primera lectura creo que demuestra que hay muchas evidencias de fraude electoral. Sin embargo, yo veo varios problemas en el informe después de la segunda lectura del mismo.

El primer problema es que la OEA no es un organización adecuado para juzgar la evidencia electoral porque la OEA tiene un historial que apoya la posición de los EEUU y sus acciones en las elecciones de 2000 y 2010 en Haití demuestra que la OEA no es una organización fiable en cuestiones de análisis electoral. Se necesita un análisis por otro grupo que tenga un pasado de independencia política. Continue reading

Why we don’t own our mobile phones

It is an article of faith that when we buy a mobile phone, we are the owners of the device. Nonetheless, it is worth asking what does ownership really mean? We certainly can use the device to make phone calls, browse the internet, take photos and all the other advertised uses of the device.

The maker of the operating system, the manufacturer of the device and the cellular network provider decide what software comes preinstalled on the device and its default configuration. Most people are content to use a mobile phone straight out of the box with the preinstalled software. They may add more software that they find in a repository such as the Google Play Store or Apple Store, but they don’t question whether that preinstalled software should be on their phone and what settings they are allowed to change on their phone. Continue reading

Bolivians are divided in opinion, which will only complicate the painful path forward

Bolivia recently witnessed the dramatic end of Evo Morales’ presidency. From what I have been able to gather, I would guesstimate that roughly a fourth of Bolivians are convinced that Evo Morales was forced out of office by a coup d’etat. A larger percentage between a third and a half of Bolivians are convinced that Evo was forced to resign, because the MAS Party committed widespread election fraud.

I am struck by how passionately both sides believe that they were wronged. The MAS partisans believe that it was possible that the MAS improved its winning margin from 7% to 10% after the unofficial quick count stopped reporting results, because most of the late tallies were coming from rural areas which heavily favor the MAS. Many of the Masistas that I have talked to believe that it was just a few bad apples who committed election fraud, but not the result of a systematic campaign directed from the top of the party. MAS partisans are convinced that the Organization of American States is not a neutral party, and the US and its surrogates in Latin America have long conspired to overthrow Evo. If asked how they explain the finding of widespread election fraud by the OAS, they will say that the OAS took a few isolated incidents of fraud and projected that to have occurred everywhere in the country.
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Reflections about buying a new mobile phone

For several years I have been giving talks about the environmental impact of planned obsolescence in electronics and the need to avoid the endless upgrade cycles of modern electronics. I tell people that they should install Linux in their PCs and LineageOS in their phones to extend the lifespan of their devices, since the manufacturing phase of personal computers, tablets and mobile phones consumes roughly 80% of their total energy. I have tried to practice what I preach by buying used phones off eBay to avoid creating new electronics and to lower my carbon footprint.

The last new phone I bought was back in 2006. Since then, I have only bought used phones. Nonetheless, I decided last year to cause the manufacture of a new phone by crowdfunding the Purism Librem 5. I decided to increase my carbon footprint because I wanted to support the development of the first phone that would run on 100% free/open source software because the world desperately needs an alternative to the Android and iOS duopoly. I justified this decision, because Purism promised to make a phone that wasn’t designed around planned obsolescence. Continue reading

Conservatives have only themselves to blame for the Green New Deal

American conservatives are finally starting to acknowledge that climate change is a real problem, and not just some dastardly liberal plot to raise their taxes and control their lives. Even though the majority of Republican voters now say that they believe that climate change is happening and humans are the cause, they are still engaged in a type of denialism about the kinds of solutions which are required to tackle the problem. Continue reading