Liberate Your Device!
Even though Android is mostly Free Software, devices usually come with proprietary software and services that prevent people from using them in an independent and autonomous way. Liberate your Android device: learn how to regain control of your data, with a free operating system and free apps!
The Operating Systems
An operating system is a collection of software that enables you to use your phone and run other applications on it. Even though Android is mostly free, many phones ship with proprietary components and add-ons. Some phones also have a locked boot loader which prevents you from booting and installing other operating systems. If you want to buy an Android phone, make sure that the boot loader can be unlocked. On some devices it can only be unlocked with clever hacks and their manufacturers tend to declare your warranty void when you unlock their device's boot loader. But, given European Directive 1999/44/CE, just the fact that you modified or changed the software of your device, is not a sufficient reason to void your statutory warranty. See Carlo Piana's blog for more information. There are also companies that ship their devices with an unlocked bootloader or provide you with the means to unlock it. Besides that, it is a good idea to check if there are free versions of Android supporting the device.
CyanogenMod is the most popular aftermarket distribution for Android. It runs on many phones and offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors. It also ships without Google applications and gives you more freedom over your device. CyanogenMod is Free Software developed by an active community. In order to run on so many devices, it makes use of non-free device drivers and firmware which are fetched from a device and are included in the ROM.
In order to install CyanogenMod, your device's boot loader needs to be unlocked. The Wiki of CyanogenMod contains detailed instructions on how to install it.
After the installation, your phone will be freed from all those pre-installed proprietary applications and there will be no need to connect your phone with a Google account. With the exception of some non-free device drivers, your phone should run only Free Software. If you know about non-free software applications added to CyanogenMod, please let us know about it!
We collected some information about how you can help to ensure that CyanogenMod stays free and how to identify and remove non-free parts.
For most people, the Google Play Store (formerly known as the Android market) is the only or the main source for their applications. It doesn't even tell you whether an app is Free Software or not, let alone its license. Unfortunately, most apps from this or other markets are proprietary. Even if you install a Free Software app, there is no reason to trust the downloaded binary. Using the Google Market also requires a Google account. It is recommended to not use this market at all.
The F-Droid initiative was started to change the sad Free Software app situation in the Android world. It builds a repository of easily-installable Free Software for the Android platform. There is an Android client application that makes it easy to browse Free Software applications, install them onto your device, and keep track of updates. When available it includes information about how to donate money to the authors of the app.
The F-Droid repository contains details of multiple versions of each application. You can also easily create and add own repositories. But since the initiative is very active, developing in a decentralised fashion and open to collaboration, creating own repositories is not really necessary. Its goal is to include all useful Free Software Android applications and to keep up with their updates.
We collected some information about how you can help out F-Droid.
Synchronising Your Data
When you run only Free Software and when you do not rely on non-free network services like the ones Google offers, it might look like you lose the convenience of synchronising your contacts, your calender and other data with your other devices. Fortunately, there is plenty of Free Software that does this job as well:
- ACal synchronises your Android addressbook and calendar to CalDAV/CardDAV servers like ownCloud.
- kolab-android synchronizes your Android addressbook and calendar to Kolab/IMAP folders.
- The Funambol Sync client uses SyncML to synchronize your calendar and addressbook with various applications.
- SSH Daemon dropbear is pre-installed on CyanogenMod and can be used to e.g. run rsync.