Constructive criticism, open debate, grown up behaviour, and the dreaded FEL mode.
There is something I find rather ugly about the PinePhone - a huge effort has been made (and tremendous progress) by the open-source community, the software for PinePhone is developing at a genuinely impressive pace. The device itself, however (to the untrained eye) feels like something that's been thrown together in a rush and with a spec more concerned with margin and minimising the effort required to get *something* to market as soon as possible than producing the best product they can, or even just one that lives up to what I think the community that's worked and working so hard actually developing for it, or simply supporting deserves.

The PinePhone community is genuinely wonderful and seriously active. This one product receives such huge huge support from open source devs who have done a phenomenal job of adapting existing window managers in an attempt to retrospectively find a "one-size-fits-all" way to take stuff designed for a desktop and make it usable on a smartphone. When you get down to the gory details this is fucking hard - if somebody told me they were working on such a thing I would assume they were insane and possibly dangerous - the amazing thing is the OSs I've managed to try are seriously impressive and look legitimately like they're onto something.

It's captured the imagination and received die-hard faith and support in a way I've never seen before actually, and miraculously this is all for a phone that when it comes down to it *everybody* agrees is unusable as a mobile phone in any meaningful sense. And not because you can't get Spotify, because it cannot fulfil the extremely basic set of functions that we would expect of an Android (also Linux) phone that costs 1/4 the price and arrives in <1 week all year round, also from HK. The blame is consistently shifted to "the software has a long way to come" but I can't be the only one who just when trying to use the phone, feels this might not be the case.

If you look at the PinePhone and compare it with one of the million phones out there, and before people say "apples and oranges" - just try having a look for yourself, use a little common sense but try to get a feel for what sort of hardware goes into a budget mobile phone. Here's an example - excuse the ugly site but it's comprehensive (doesn't list the PinePhone itself sadly, but we can compare CPUs for example), here is the PinePhone (Pro) vs a £50 Alcatel 1's Mediatek - this is a trend you'll find repeated - perhaps somebody can find me a smartphone with a slower CPU than the PinePhone? I didn't.

When you look at it, the PinePhone isn't a smartphone in any traditional sense, and it's not that there aren't generic, well worn, off the peg, cheap ways to build smartphones - there are - but I think a calculated decision was made to forgo the risk and to simply produce what is, in effect, a very cheap RasperryPI with the most bog-standard, ubiquitous, old (call it a feature: compatible) components that would when put in a case would do most of the things a phone does, draw as little power as possible (at the expense of just about anything) so the thing can pass as a Phone and Pine64 can make a nice amount of money. 

While I find this sad, and short-sighted, it's not what gets me - in the end, you're a company and your responsibility is to make money, far be it from me to suggest you shouldn't make this your goal, and capitalise on opportunities when they present themselves.

No, it may seem silly, but what I find unforgivable can be perfectly illustrated by what appears at first to be a banal, routine, question:

FEL mode is an insanely useful mode, it is built into the SoC and is effectively recovery mode, if no media is bootable this is the mode the device enters so we can fix it. The Pinebook Pro interestingly has taken the time to do what is 100% standard and provided a way to enter FEL mode by holding a combination of buttons. The PinePhone has, in a way that if you ask me sums the whole thing up, not bothered to do this simple thing, and this means they have produced a device with a VERY unusual design choice: if your OS is unbootable on the eMMC, to do anything about it we have to boot a diff OS from the SD card, and then sort it out ourselves. The natural (and 100% standard on every device that uses this SoC) way to deal with is it have a straightforward way (hold a button, some combo, like the PBP, so this is not news to the team) to enter FEL mode which among many other useful things, allows us to expose the eMMC as a block device via USB and fix things. The fact that Jumpdrive had to be developed to do the same thing as a bog-standard, mature, essential mode built into the SoC (and is still fundamentally flawed because it assumes the Phone is working) speaks for itself. Seems a bit of a needless effort for the author all because Pine couldn't be bothered to copy+paste from the PBP.

So if you break your install on the eMMC to fix it you are going to need: an unmodified fully-functional working PinePhone with a working SD reader, an SD card with a copy of Jumpdrive on it or (and it's not talked about, probably because people would start to ask for it like I am) the img to tell BootROM to enter FEL. Doesn't sound so onerous, but this is making assumptions I don't expect of a phone touting itself as one designed for hackers and people likely to want a sensibly designed kit that doesn't add real limitations out of laziness and a desire to make a buck.

it's silly and even arbitrary, but to me, it says that the PinePhone (and I think this is not representative of how Pine used to do business) is exploiting the community as much as it's fostering it (which it undoubtedly is). They're a good company who captured people's imagination and finally brought one of the most serious issues mobile's have today into the public eye. This is admirable, and the fact that they've stood on the shoulders of giants and reap the rewards of unsung heroes like librem is what open source is all about, but I think it's sad that the people who have benefitted the most from the amazing work done by the community have felt okay about producing a device that sells their work short, and now another... I wasn't going to post this but they were fed up with me in the chat and when I read the PinePhone Pro was coming out, and then I read the specs... I felt might as well make the post, at the very least somebody might tell me how to enter the now mythical FEL mode 

It would not kill you to write proper documentation and ship your products in the way that every other company manages (getting them to people inside of 6 months).

Messages In This Thread
Constructive criticism, open debate, grown up behaviour, and the dreaded FEL mode. - by step - 11-21-2021, 12:59 AM

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