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Preface (for the uninitiated)

The date is April the Twenty-Fourth, in the year of my Lord, 2022. Common practice for adults and older teenagers is to use a smartphone either running an AOSP derivative (Google Android, LineageOS, etc), or iOS. Pine64 ships a line of devices which run GNU/Linux by default, a development platform disguised as a smartphone.

I now use the PinePhone as my daily driver

The headline says it all. Well, there is kind of a backstory:

Breaking Phone Screens

And if it breaks, you have to buy a new one. -Strong Bad, describing technology

Is this really how we should treat our devices? From the beginning of my experience with smartphones, I defied the establishment by replacing my screen not once, but twice. A replacement LCD made sense, not just "environmentally", but economically.

Eventually I upgraded phones, and got the OnePlus 3T with a beautiful OLED screen. I had broken my Nexus 5's screen for the third time, and this time I was determined to be more careful. A tempered glass screen protector is a must for these modern devices. My first break was over a year ago. I thought it would be a good idea to take my phone apart to clean some dust that was in it. I hadn't yet learned the lesson that OLEDs are as fragile as a potato chip, and I also made the mistake of doing this blind (i.e. not reading the ifixit guide first). One oopsie-woopsie later, I'm left with a completely non-functional screen. Youch. I balked at the price of a replacement screen assembly: Over $100? The phone was, at ~$400, already the most expensive I had bought. Instead of coughing out the dough, I spent a week without a smartphone. Really. Eventually, it was too difficult to manage, so I ordered the replacement screen¹.

The repair went... not that great. Due to bumps in the frame acquired over time, it didn't want to go back together right. I vowed to never replace that screen ever again.

The PinePhone and SXMO

Meanwhile, I got a PinePhone, thinking it might be good to have my own fallback device on hand. Eventually I got into SXMO (Simple X Mobile), which had recently added support for the current generation's display protocol. For several months I had been carrying both phones, and often patching SXMO to work better for some purposes.

(I've written on my work with SXMO on status updates on my gemini capsule)

Last week, my OnePlus 3T hit the pavement for the last time, and I put my sim card in the PinePhone. At least, I tried to. The 'micro to nano' sim adapter is tricky to insert: if you insert it in without the micro sim, then it will get stuck, and removing it might bend some of the pins². Being already an adept SXMO 'contribuser' (fixing things on master rather than running edge or stable), I developed a new attitude toward computer problems. Everything that goes wrong is a learning opportunity. "Now's my chance to learn about configuring software to work with pipewire-pulse!"

Configuring MMS was tricky. I had accidentally used the wrong Access Point Name when I configured my mobile network, which didn't prevent 4g from working, but it caused MMS messaging to fail. I had to manually launch mmsdtng with the --debug flag to even see what the error was. It's like all these disparate pieces were not made to work well together.

I won't get into the pain that is audio calls, because this isn't supposed to be a gripe post. This is fun! This is not all sunshine and roses. This is my journey.


  1. In the mean time, I borrowed a family member's old iPhone. See also "I used an iPhone for three days".
  2. This was all already clearly noted on the pine64 wiki, which I dutifully didn't read before trying.
  3. Life-pro-tip for any of you with broken android devices: If you've enabled USB debugging, you can use scrcpy to actually use an old broken-screened-device.

This article was originally published on gemini://gemini.zachdecook.com/capsule/2022-04-21-daily-driver.gmi.