WhatsApp & Pinephone - What are the alternatives for collaborative comms?
#1
Question 
I have a problem I hope someone can help me solve.

I have a Pinephone and a client that I work with has asked if I can install a WhatsApp client on my phone in order to keep up with some group discussions there about a collaborative project. I've never used WhatsApp on any device, and after learning that it was bought by Facebook a few years back, I'm disinclined to use it.

I looked into the practicalities of setting up WhatsApp on Pinephone anyway, using an in-browser or stand-alone desktop client... and there's a major problem. You need to already have WhatsApp installed on an Android/Apple smartphone before your can set up a desktop client on a PC (or Pinephone).

Is it possible to establish a Whatsapp account without using an Android or Apple handset beforehand/simultaneously?

Is there anything that the WhatsApp platform offers that alternative platforms don't?

My preferred solution is to encourage the client to switch to an alternative collaborative chat/file sharing platform that is private and mobile friendly, but I'd need to convince a bunch of people to change platforms. What alternative(s) would you recommend?

Any advice will be warmly welcomed. Sleepy
For byte-sized tech and software tips check out my Danimations Digital Media tips channel on Youtube Big Grin
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#2
I guess you can install anbox + WhatsApp, but not sure if that would be a valid approach for registration as well... My 2 cents.

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#3
If you must use WhatsApp, but don't need to be up to date every minute, you could also set up a VM with Android on your desktop machine and install WhatsApp inside. I did that for a while and it worked. It's far from practical, but enough to check new messages once a day or so. WhatsApp in Anbox would be much more convenient, but I'm not sure about the current status there.

I'm very much for opposing privacy invading technology whereever you can if you want something to change. Very often it's a matter of lacking knowledge about background and alternatives, these apps are just used for their convenience and wide spread use while people would be open for alternatives if they were set up for them. So if you can convince your client to use another platform, I would suggest something like the Matrix protocol. It's widely used by now, you can have a nice UI that will be familiar if you have used tools like Slack before and it's not tied to a specific app, you can interface with it however you like. If you read up on it, I'm sure you will find a lot of compelling arguments.
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#4
(07-17-2021, 05:27 AM)kqlnut Wrote: If you must use WhatsApp, but don't need to be up to date every minute, you could also set up a VM with Android on your desktop machine and install WhatsApp inside. I did that for a while and it worked. It's far from practical, but enough to check new messages once a day or so. WhatsApp in Anbox would be much more convenient, but I'm not sure about the current status there.

I'm very much for opposing privacy invading technology whereever you can if you want something to change. Very often it's a matter of lacking knowledge about background and alternatives, these apps are just used for their convenience and wide spread use while people would be open for alternatives if they were set up for them. So if you can convince your client to use another platform, I would suggest something like the Matrix protocol. It's widely used by now, you can have a nice UI that will be familiar if you have used tools like Slack before and it's not tied to a specific app, you can interface with it however you like. If you read up on it, I'm sure you will find a lot of compelling arguments.

Thanks kqlnut... very helpful advice. Both ideas are worth me exploring.  Sleepy
For byte-sized tech and software tips check out my Danimations Digital Media tips channel on Youtube Big Grin
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#5
Companies trying to silo users into their own (proprietary) platforms is nothing new and has been going on since at least the old days of AOL Instant Messenger.

All the way back then, some smart people realized the solution was not yet another platform but an open and standardized protocol (like email, or the www itself).  The open instant messaging protocol they developed was initially called Jabber, is now known as XMPP, and is an IETF standard.

Therefore there are many F/LOSS implementations (servers as well as clients) on pretty much any platform you can imagine.

Remember: protocols, not platforms!

However, as someone who has been running their own XMPP server (Prosody) for years, I can tell you that the technology is not the problem.  Your average muppet will go wherever their friends are, and they care nothing about de-centralizaion, F/LOSS nor any of the other things we care about.  It took me literally years of arm twisting just to get my own extended family onto my server.  But maybe you have better luck.

There is a business case for self-hosted, private communications.  Less liability, etc.  Funny enough, one company I work for, I am aware they have set up their own XMPP server strictly for private usage (it's not federated).  Of course, you can do whatever you like, being that it's F/LOSS.  Maybe you can get somewhere with that approach.
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#6
XMPP runs very well on the pinephone (I'm using dino from guix but there are a dozen clients, finch works well if you want something in tmux.)
Most modern clients support a handful of encryption standards (OMEMO is similar to signal and has PFS.) There are plenty of XMPP clients even on iOS that support real time push notifications from what I hear. If your friends don't want to create accounts you can run a server yourself fairly easily (although not quite as easily as miniircd unfortunately.)
Most people here in the US just use MMS though and since no one else wants to put effort or thought into this that's what all my friends end up using.
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#7
(07-19-2021, 09:00 AM)swiley Wrote: XMPP runs very well on the pinephone...

Hmm, are you sure? My experience can not confirm that: https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=13482
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#8
(07-19-2021, 10:23 AM)acrux Wrote:
(07-19-2021, 09:00 AM)swiley Wrote: XMPP runs very well on the pinephone...

Hmm, are you sure? My experience can not confirm that: https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=13482

Ah, I forgot everyone is scaling their apps. I've found that's generally a bad idea and most apps will let you increase the font size which is really what you want anyway.
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#9
You can install WhatsApp inside Android Studio on a desktop or server. You need to be able to receive a text message with a verification code in order to create an account. That does not have to be the same device, so you can just use your PinePhone to receive the text message and type the code into the emulated WhatsApp on your desktop.

If you put the Android Studio AVD on a server, you can bridge it with Matrix and use e.g. Mirage on the PinePhone to access your WhatsApp chats. Alternatively, use WhatsApp Web or a VNC viewer to interact with WhatsApp directly and avoid the annoyingly complicated setup of the Matrix bridge.
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#10
I am also using Dino (as an XMPP client) on the PinePhone.

There is actually a feature/handy branch, which is exactly what it sounds like (they implemented libhandy, as Dino is apparently already a GTK program in the first place).  But that means you will need to compile it from source (for now).  Which is a slight pain, however OTOH it is also so cool that this is possible to even do this directly on the PinePhone (being that it is a regular GNU/Linux OS after all...)!

There is an issue thread about it at their Microsoft GitHub, in fact I gave my feedback on compiling on the phone in this post.  I seem to be successful in compiling things only about 50% of the time, lol, but this actually went relatively painless.  Oh yes, and disregard my comments about launching the compiled app, after some time (or a reboot maybe?) it started to "just work" like normal (in fact I guess I should report that back...).

There are a couple (lesser used) menus that you might need to work around by turning to landscape, but a good majority of the app (and all the "main" views) have been implemented in libhandy by now.  It is quite useable at this point already!
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