For a few weeks now, I have been daily driving my (original) PinePhone to a certain extent, and I have compiled a brief list of scripts and tricks that might be helpful to others. Also, since I keep reflashing the operating system in it more often than I would like to, and it would be nice to a have a centralised place to store such stuff.
Vibration for notifications
When the phone is locked (e.g.: the screen is off), notifications do not emit any sound or vibration, but only the notification LED would blink. This trick below makes the phone (only) vibrate when a notification is received.
Include the following entry to a profile in
"event-name" : "message-missed-notification",
"type" : "VibraRumble",
"duration" : 1000
Disabling keypress vibration
Each keypress on
squeekboard will trigger a short vibration that I find particularly annoying. While modifying keypress vibration duration seems possible on the Tweaks application, assigning it to
0 changes nothing. Instead, one has to modify
/usr/share/feedbackd/themes/pine64,pinephone.json. Specifically, set a null
type to events
button-released, as shown belown:
"event-name" : "button-pressed",
"type" : ""
"event-name" : "button-released",
"type" : ""
Mobile-friendly Dino (XMPP)
Dino is a XMPP client written in Vala and GTK-3 for GNU/Linux. It should generally work great on desktop, but IMHO it needs a few tweaks just to make it better for mobile devices.
- Added a send button on the UI, so the Enter key is instead used to insert
- Do not pop down after selecting an emoji;
- Imported quote button from this Dino fork;
- Worked around issue with edit and quote buttons not appearing when selecting text;
- Reduced emoji chooser dimensions, so they can fit into the PinePhone screen. This eventually made it into upstream.
All these changes are grouped into the
pinephone branch of my mobile-friendly fork of Dino.
Ideally, the PinePhone performs best and most stable if not suspended. But, similarly to most mobile devices, the PinePhone saves most energy when suspended.
Unfortunately, no notifications can be received while the device is suspended, but only calls and SMS. This makes receiving notifications such as emails or XMPP messages impossible, unless the user wakes up the device regularly. I find this very distracting for users, so one must find a way to wake up the device at regular intervals, just enough time for the phone to receive any incoming notifications.
So I came up with a (rather complex) shell script that does that, while ensuring not to mess up with
systemd-level inhibitors that might be active at any moment (e.g.: when Lollypop plays music) or the screen is on, among other conditions. It is heavily based on this amazing project.
I try to contribute to upstream as much as possible, while keeping some local modifications for experimentation purposes. This is an exact copy of the script that is currently running on my phone.
The script needs some unused functions be removed, but should still work as is. Users should have special care with the configuration values at the top - most importantly:
As observed above, the script will sleep for a shorter amount of time if the device has been recently locked. This allows for quicker incoming notifications e.g.: if having a conversation over XMPP.
SLEEP_STEP defines how much suspend time should be increased next time, as long as the phone remains inactive.
According to own experience, the configuration values currently used by the script allow for a good balance between responsiveness and battery life. Ideally,
WAKE_SECS should be as low as possible, but that makes some applications (mostly Dino) to behave unexpectedly or even crash. However, if
WAKE_SECS cannot be decreased, increasing
SLEEP_MAX_SECS to very high values does not bring significant benefits, yet noticeably reduce responsiveness.
Working around modem crashes
The Quectel EG25 on the PinePhone (and the PinePhone Pro) is known to be buggy, often crashing without an automatic restart, leaving the user isolated from incoming calls or SMS. While there is an ongoing effort to solve this, fortunately most times this can be worked around by restarting
eg25-manager. This situation can be detected when the modem is no longer listed as a USB device, so this makes for a good opportunity to write a script.
According to own experience, this script is a lifesaver for me: the modem would crash at random, most often (for some reason) while on the go, causing me a lot of frustration. Until the bugs are eventually ironed out, I will heavily rely on this workaround.
Lightweight (sort of) web email client
I am a proud Tutanota user since a few years ago. Their support is very good so far, and they aim to be as transparent as possible to their users. Or at least it is better than the Big Tech alternatives. However, their Tutanota “desktop”, Electron-based application might not work on the PinePhone (I do not recall an
aarch64 release as of the time of this writing), and they do not support any third-party email clients.
However, GNOME Web allows to isolate a specific website as a “standalone application”. Moreover, it allows running such applications in the background, which is ideal for an email client in order to avoid having too many open windows. Cookies (which Tutanota does not use) and storage data are isolated from other web applications.
Some GNU/Linux distributions released for the PinePhone ship with customized versions of Firefox, designed for mobile. However, I am not big fan of Mozilla and their fishy business model, so LibreWolf is the best choice for me.
Unfortunately, I could not get hardware acceleration working on LibreWolf, so everything is CPU-rendered (according to
about:support), which is slow and inefficient. I still prefer it over Chromium-based alternatives, though, since I am not happy with Google (and therefore Chromium-based web browsers) already owning over 70% web browser market share.
Falkon is an interesting project by KDE based on Qt Webengine (Chromium-based, unfortunately) that is generally more responsive compared to LibreWolf. I am using it for websites that just run too slow on the latter.
The Tor project does not ship a port of Tor Browser for
aarch64. Fortunately, this project ships unofficial builds for
While these builds worked well for me for some months, one day they just stopped working, now all tabs crashing no matter the URL. I could not contact the maintainer and I do not know anyone else using these builds, but YMMV.
The PinePhone is not quite there as a daily driver for many (or even most) users out there: battery life is very poor, and it often crashes for no particular reason, forcing a reboot. I am not even sure whether GPS can be actually used yet. Dino is not designed with mobile in mind, and would often stop connecting to servers if suspended too often (or at the wrong time). Web browsers are slow and resource-intensive. GNOME Maps does not scale well to the display on the PinePhone.
Despite all of its issues, the PinePhone is one of the most interesting projects in the mobile GNU/Linux space, one that we need to fight against the Google/Apple duopoly. And it can only get better.
This article is also available on Gemini:
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