How to Buy a Phone When you are a GNU Geek

I'm ready to buy a phone, I just figured out that I almost need one. After years of living like a caveman (i.e. a free person), I decided I'm ready to spend more of my life looking at a screen.

As a person who avoids non-free software like most people avoid ebola, I figured I should see what phone would be compatible with Replicant. There aren't that many, but I did notice they mentioned the Samsung Galaxy S3 and it seems fairly recent and widely available.

Replicant logo

I went to my local equivalent of Craigslist to find a Galaxy S3. I saw a few, even one that's not too expensive. I check further, more time spent, other listings checked out. I was almost ready to do it.

Until a friend asked me "is it the i9300 or the I9300 ?". A bit startled, I again started searching and got lost in this spaghetti soup of i9300, I9300 and i9305.. Some with 4G support and others... I don't even know anymore. So now, which one should I get, is there any difference as far as compatibility goes ?

I don't want to end up spending loads of money on a useless device, after all, I'm not an Apple fan and I'm not that one guy that bought a Zune either.

I ask about this on Replicant's IRC channel, I'm sent a link to some page that tells me I could possibly need to do some "porting". This basically means it's not an easy task for most people, the page I was linked to is a long one, it had numerous links that needed to be followed, some links containing further links... .. You probably get the picture.

Don't get me wrong, I think that the Replicant team is doing it right, it's the devices that are messed up.

Cyanogen logo - Windows edition

What about Cyanogenmod ? The Replicant porting page speaks of this project, it could be another way to go. The thing is that Cyanogenmod is more about performance than it is about Freedom. Cyanogenmod is to Replicant is what Open Source is to Free Software. But okay, I'll still check it out, maybe this could be a transitional step, or even a fall back.. I click the big fat "Get Started" link which leads me to this very easy 5 step installer page.

It indeed looks very easy, and then I read at step 4 something about a Windows installer... Really ? No wait, really really ? I get stuck in WTF mode, so I had to ask about this on their IRC channel: "Does this mean I need Windows to follow this guide ?", to which I didn't even get a straightforward answer.

But, the short version is that yes, Cyanogenmod requires a Windows computer to be installed to a phone. Fuck Cyanogenmod. That's right, I said it, fuck Cyanogenmod.

While being in the "Fuck this shit" mode, I closed all concerned web tabs (about 8 thousand of them). And back to square 1, I can either get a phone that owns me or spend way too much time trying to figure out how to go about installing some OS that isn't much better than Android. Or I can remain a free person, but without GPS, maps, phone calls on the go and all the other privacy compromising apps and frustrations that come with modern mobile phones.

Conclusion: Fuck mobile phones, not because they aren't incredible and magical devices, because that they really are. Fuck mobile phones because the people who design and produce these machines do everything they can to turn a device of pure genius into a nightmare. The amount of unnecessary complications involved with these things is unbelievable. Between the privacy and security dodginess, the device ownership ambiguity, the built-in network restrictions and messed up to the core contracts, I can only conclude those working the mobile phone industry are among the shittiest people in the world, just behind Hitler of course, because everyone is better than Hitler.