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Linux Phone News - March 6, 2024

Hello there again, and thanks for joining in for our beginning of March edition of the Linux Phone news! It's been a few weeks since our last roundup, and we have a few exciting updates to share with you from around the world of free software phones and mobile Linux, with exciting update news from the LineageOS Team, to a breakdown of the recent Plasma Mobile 6 release, there are a few things to discuss on the docket today.

So, without further ado, grab your coffee and sit back in your favorite armchair - it's time for the Linux Phone news roundup!

LineageOS 21 Has Landed!

If, like me, your main free software mobile device is an AOSP device, you'll be pleased to know that LineageOS has recently dropped their new update - LineageOS 21, which is based on Android 14.

As discussed in the blog post linked above, there is a good deal of new features, bug fixes, and more to get through in this update, so let's break down some of the main changes you are going to find in this release:

The LinageOS download portal has also seen some welcome improvements, including the addition of a dark mode, downloads of additional images, and the ability to verify the integrity of downloaded files. There has also been a good deal of expansion done to the LineageOS Wiki, including filtering by device attribute, device overviews now showing variants of devices, and pagination of installation instructions, which should help ensure less users accidentally skip sections and messing up their installation procedures.

As you can see, there is quite a bit to enjoy for you in this new update, so be sure to update your device if you use LineageOS! You can grab the update for your device by heading to this link and selecting the appropriate file for your device.

As a user of LineageOS, I was pleasantly surprised to find this update on the LineageOS blog not long ago and have updated my images on my Essential PH-1 and Moto z3 Play devices (I use vanilla LineageOS with no Google applications or services installed), so I will do a write-up of my experience with this new update sometime soon!

If you want further details on some of the changes to LineageOS 21 we discussed in this update, please check the blog post linked in the beginning of this section from the LineageOS Team! We barely scratched the surface of what the team discussed in that update, so if you are a user of LineageOS, you will certainly want to read it to know all about what you should expect when you are ready to update your device!

Plasma Mobile 6 Hits the Scene

If I have any fellow Plasma fans reading this update, you will be happy to know that the mobile variant of Plasma, Plasma Mobile, has recently seen its welcome update to Plasma 6 along with its desktop counterpart.

There is quite a bit new on the roster to discuss when it comes to this update, so let's dive in and see what the biggest new features and improvements are to the mobile desktop environment:

As this goes hand-in-hand with the recent Plasma 6 Megarelease, there is quite a bit to cover on this update to Plasma Mobile, and as usual, we covered the key points. Please see this post from the Plasma Mobile Team for a deeper exploration on the new features and improvements in this update, and if you use Plasma Mobile on your own Linux phone, make sure you keep your eyes out for Plasma Mobile 6 images to begin appearing for your mobile distro! You can also see some screenshots of the new release at the post linked above.

Like the new update to LineageOS, I also plan on doing a more thorough and in-depth "review" of Plasma Mobile 6 after I have had some time to mess about with it on my PinePhone.

Mobian Sees Preliminary Port to Google Pixel 3a Devices

If you are a fan of the Mobian mobile Linux distribution like me, then this might be some news you might like to see. User erebrion on Lemmy has been working on their own port of Mobian to the Google Pixel 3a and Google Pixel 3a XL devices. An impressive amount of functionality is already working, with a good deal of noted functionality not working yet or is a work in progress.

According to erebrion in this Lemmy post, "most parts work", noting that Bluetooth is having errors, audio out is working, but no microphone input yet, claiming that graphics, charging, wifi and LTE, and low-power consumption standby mode are all working on the device at the time of posting. The OP is going to continue to work on it until they can get it to be their daily driver.

This was a nice port to learn about, as while I don't personally own a Pixel 3a device, it is always nice to see mobile Linux making its way to more devices. It should also be noted that if you have a Pixel 3a device and are looking for other options for running mobile Linux on it, Ubuntu Touch is considered fully optimized on the device. With regards to this specific port of Mobian, I wish the OP all the best in their port and I hope to see it functioning well for Pixel 3a owners who opt to use Mobian on those devices.

postmarketOS Adds systemd

Love it or hate it, systemd has officially made its way into postmarketOS.

Noting that while working closer with developers from KDE and GNOME communities that the collaborators were having issue with the postmarketOS team's OpenRC-based stack, which has been for awhile using systemd polyfills on top of OpenRC. After some consideration of the idea, in the interest of being easy to use for everyone, the postmarketOS team is bringing in systemd, with a nod to some of the features it will bring:

Anyone who is concerned about what init system their device is running might be thinking right now...

Wait, does this mean they're getting rid of the other init systems, such as OpenRC, s6, runit, and dinit?

This is certainly a valid question to ask, given postmarketOS' tight relationship with Alpine Linux and has always been known for using init systems alternative to systemd. However, the postmarketOS Team stresses in the post that users will always be able to use the init system of their choosing by using pmbootstrap.

If you want to explore further into the reasoning behind postmarketOS moving its default init system over to systemd, consider checking out this post from the team, which contains all the details you need to know about the switch.

Nintendo Lawsuit Shuts Down Popular Open-Source Switch Emulator, Yuzu

This isn't directly Linux phone news, but it is news about a widely-known piece of free and open-source software in the game emulation scene, and it could affect users of another kind of mobile Linux: Linux-based gaming consoles such as the Steam Deck.

In a new turn of events this last week, Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Tropic Haze, LLC, the company behind the free and open-source software program, Yuzu, which was a Switch emulator.

While emulation itself is usually a protected act, it seems like the bulk of what Nintendo was going after here was how a good bit of Yuzu was monetized, and of course, the ever-present spectre of piracy - there was an active Patreon funding the project, with members being said to have been donating up to $30,000 USD per month. With all the exposure around Yuzu being able to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in high resolution on desktop a week or so before it even came out on Nintendo's own hardware in 2023, that's sure to be a big part of this.

It is alleged by Nintendo that Yuzu was used to faciliate piracy, and while Yuzu had a guide on how to dump firmware keys from your Switch and run your own games, the fear that most people on the piracy side of the discussion brought up the most was that users were probably downloading pre-made ROMs from the internet. While this is entirely possible, there is no way to know how many people were using the software with their own games and hardware or who was simply pirating. This story is also quite notable in the sense that, while Nintendo has always had issues with emulation of their games (even getting Dolphin kicked off of Steam last year), this is the first time that I'm aware of that the company has taken emulator devs to court.

While Yuzu (and its cousin project, the 3DS emulator, Citra) is now officially out of commission, you aren't out of luck if you are wanting to emulate your Switch games on your desktop. You can still use Ryujinx, another free software emulator, or you can rest assured that a fork of Yuzu will rear its head in the future, as you can already find mirrors of its code hosted in repositories online. I won't link them here, as I don't want to give free targets to potential ninja lawyers lurking this site, but you can find them if you search for them enough online.

The lawsuit settled outside of court, with the Yuzu devs agreeing to pay Nintendo $2.4 million in "monetary relief". All of the official code repositories for the emulator and associated projects were removed from GitHub, and a statement was posted to the Yuzu website, which you can read here if you're interested.

Linux Phone App Highlight

Just like we did in the last roundup, I am going to try to highlight mobile applications in the free and open source mobile software space that I think people might like or think will come in handy for them. With that being said, here are my picks for highlights for this roundup:

As usual, if you have some Linux phone (or FOSS mobile apps in general) applications you would like to ensure get mentioned here, or if you are building such an app yourself, feel free to get in touch with us by contacting us at our email address or shouting us out on the Fediverse or Twitter/X!

Well, it's about that time once again - that wraps up this early March edition of your Linux Phone news. Thanks for stopping by and catching up, and I look forward to seeing you on the next one!