HexDSL

Pine Thoughts

by HexDSL on 2021-03-24

More good than bad.

As you may know, from a recent video. Good guy ArchToasty (ToastyLinux) mailed me a Pine Phone for experimentation and lols. I’ll obviously be making a few videos going forward but while I was organising my thoughts I figured I would tap out a little literary preview for you fine humans.

I know I’m late to the Pine party, feel free to skip this post as lots of other people will have said more, in better ways than I.

Expectations.

It’s obvious but I think it needs to be said that expectations for this product need to be managed. This is a newer project, first generation hardware and hobbyist software. It’s not going to outright replace my Pixel 2. I’m coming at this with the expectation that it will be an interesting thing to play with and while I would like to use it as a main or at least secondary device I don’t expect that I could. I will however have this in mind as a general goal as I “mess” with it.

First glance.

The phone has the look of an Android device from a couple of years ago, little thicker and a little more plastic than you expect from a recent device. The screen is a little lower quality than I’m used to, again adding to the overall aesthetic of an older android device. On the bottom there’s a USB-C port though, that ruins the “classical” illusion.

I wish pine had have leaned into the industrial design and not tried to make something reminiscent of “everything else” because they had an opportunity to make something actually different to every other phone manufacturer.

It has an LED. I like LED indicators. My Pixel 3 doesn’t have an LED. I give it ten points for LED inclusion. Not that I’m actually scoring anything. Just over excited about LEDs.

Size is good, feels nice in hand. Robust. Chunky. Over all, I’m happy with the hand feel.

Learning.

The phones battery is totally dead and it doesn’t seem to like most my chargers. The high end USB charging hub I have in my bedroom seems to do it but only with my chunky Nintendo cable. Interesting. Thats what I use to charge my Switch when those late night Splatoon sessions drain it. This phone is hungry.

First thing I needed to do was figure out how to actually load an OS on to this thing. I did some reading on the Pine website and it seems that all I need to do is flash this “jump” image to an SD card and boot it up. The “jump” thing makes the phones internal memory appear like any other USB storage device on my computer. From there I just have to flash an OS, remove the SD card and boot the phone.

That worked.

Got Manjaro Phosh image on there, I’ll run this for a day or so and get a feel for it before moving onto Plasma. My general thought are that Manjaro seems to be one of the more “working” OS images for the phone and I know my way around an Arch system so it’s a good enough place to start. I have to start somewhere. End goal is probably a ‘proper’ arch install on there but first I want to test a bunch of things.

Not putting my sim card into this at the moment, ill just run it on wifi for a bit. I only have one actual phone number and need that for life things.

Turns out the phone doesn’t boot with an SD card in there, I would guess that its about boot sequence, I must have to do something to work around it trying to boot SD before eMMC. Wonder if that’s what one of the jumper switches on the back is for.

Phosh is fine, feels like an android or iOS knick off. It works okay but doesn’t make my eyes sparkle with joy. It’s a little laggy and over animated and seems to have no “home screen” for a default state. Not sure I like it. As planned I’ll run it for a few days, see what battery life is like

Random thought - Running actual FireFox (ARM) is cool as fuck, I love that.

Second Impressions.

Okay it’s been a day and a half of messing and playing. I hate Phosh. It looks like the videos I say of Android when it was in alpha. Got very little nice to say about it over all. I hope Plasma is a better offering.

I know Pine wanted to make a phone, plane and simple but I think most people who buy this would have wanted a tiny low power laptop. So a phone with a physical keyboard would have filled that void better than the phone they created. Just a thought, I guess.

The wait between launching an application and it actually appearing is a little startling, i think Phosh needs a “please wait” screen so I know at least that my tap went though. I don’t mind waiting second but its the “did I launch that?” feeling that bothers me. Again, things I hope that Plasma has.

Not much more hat I can comment on at this point. I need to load plasma on and play with it for a few days before I can compare them. I also don’t know yet how much of my thoughts are hardware related or software related.

I’ll report back in a few days.

Please email me any comments

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