While installing a disgusted operating system is arguably the most technical – but arguably the most rewarding – part of our experience, now it’s about reinstalling our familiar phone environment and learn how to do without Google.
Life outside of Google, a difficult transition
Logically, the / e / system does not offer any Google application by default. No Gmail, Google Maps or Gdrive. In / e /, the search engine is actually a metasearch engine, that is, an anonymous relay to a multitude of search engines that the user can select. It thus protects requests from advertising microtargeting. Magic Earth replaces Google Maps and the e.cloud account (based on Nextcloud) offers many online services instead of those of Google (1 GB of storage riquiqui offered when opening an account …), such as email or office automation tools. If you don’t come from a world that is too googleized, / e / is easy to use and the tools offered, although a little young, are quite interesting. Thus, you can synchronize the photos taken with your smartphone with the online storage space.
In our case, the situation is more delicate since in writing we work with the professional Google suite … and we will have to continue with our hard work …
Repatriation operation and first sprain …
If the creation of an e.cloud account is not mandatory – unlike Google on Android – it makes it easier to use your phone. Following the account creation formalities, it is then necessary to recover our precious data (contacts, emails, calendars, etc.) here and there, but mainly at Google. In our case, there is no assistant or software to make our job easier. The repatriation of data from Google accounts will be done manually.
For the contacts, nothing very complicated since it suffices to export the information in .vcf format and import the contacts into the directory of the e.cloud account. A quick and easy operation. Note however that if the groups are imported correctly, it is not possible to manage them. A problem that has been known for a long time, but has not been resolved. Be careful, if like us, you continue to work with Google, be aware that the data will not be synchronized with your Gmail accounts and that it will be necessary to update separately. For the diaries, we thought the matter was quickly settled by sharing the links of the diaries. However, not everything went as planned and the connections did not develop.
First hiccups, therefore, and after a few hours of research, we must resign ourselves to registering Google accounts on the phone to recover our data more easily (and with the flexibility of synchronization between accounts). There may be a solution, but it is far from obvious. Schizophrenia is waiting for us: we are therefore trying to oust Google while setting up an account on the phone… Not easy!
Find your favorite applications
Designer of / e / OS, Gaël Duval has already had a more or less painful experience with alternative OS on computers, in particular with a Linux distribution called Mandrake. He therefore knows that to be adopted, an operating system, however attractive it may be, must allow its users to run the apps they know and use every day without having to relearn everything. We immediately think of some of our everyday companions who have become Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and other banking or communication apps. While there are many deep changes, on the surface users need to quickly find their young.
Other app stores
The / e / OS system offers a download center which, like the Google PlayStore, allows you to find and install your favorite applications. Soberly called Apps, this store now lists more than 60,000 programs. It also gives a rating to the applications according to their level of confidentiality determined by Exodus Privacy. However, if you can’t find what you are looking for in this app store, you can also install Aurora, a kind of Google Play clone that connects anonymously and allows you to install virtually any missing apps.
Which browser? Vivaldi, of course!
On the web side, we install Vivaldi for Android via the app store as our default browser. A reconnection to the Vivaldi account allows you to instantly find all our favorites and notes, convenient. For passwords, everything is entrusted to Bitwarden. Here again, the whole is quickly operational in a few clicks. No VPN installation yet, but most are also available (ProtonVPN, Mullvad…) in the app store. To access home resources (NAS, computer, etc.) in a secure manner, the Tailscale application works perfectly. On all these points, the installations and the use are very fluid. Finally, we are taking advantage of the migration to / e / to switch from Google Authenticator to Aegis Authenticator, free and open source, to manage strong authentication.
Vivaldi, an innovative web browser developed on the open source Chromium engine, and launched by the former CEO of Opera.
Release date :
Operating system :
Android, Linux, Windows 32 bits – XP/Vista/7/8/10, Windows 64 bits – XP/Vista/7/8/10, macOS
WhatsApp, it will be necessary to do without it
WhatsApp is one of the most used messaging apps in the world. It is therefore easily installed, but recovering the history requires connection to an account … Gmail. We try, but this one does not work. Without the ability to load our saves, the app loses some of its appeal. No messaging (or SMS) application is offered as an alternative. We note a synchronization with DeltaChat (conversation via emails) in the e.cloud account, but the app is not installed by default. This overhaul of communication tools allows us to switch to Signal which also becomes our default SMS software at the same time, and it works quite well. Goodbye WhatsApp, then. The hardest part remains to make all our contacts listen to reason to switch to another application.
GPS: interesting alternatives to Google Maps
Another feature widely used on smarphone, GPS must be convincing. The absence of Google Maps then makes it possible to discover some possibilities which are not without interest.
Citymapper pedestrian side
Available for certain large cities (Paris, Lyon, Lille, Nantes, Marseille…), Citymapper is rather convincing with a lot of information, in particular on the means of transport. Used during the visit to Bordeaux, the application proved to be efficient and precise; a good point for city dwellers. That said, Citymapper will not replace an auto GPS, for example. We tried Maps installed by default (actually Magic Earth) which uses OpenStreetMap data. Finally, the GPS is doing well. It is, however, slower than Waze or Google Maps, but the directions are generally plentiful and reliable. We also installed Here WeGo, a free mapping software, formerly owned by Nokia and bought by an automotive consortium including BMW and Audi, among others, which is also proving to be a good alternative. Only horribly synthetic voices are to be avoided.
Car: the delicate connection
While GPS software (pedestrian, car, etc.) is readily available, connection to a vehicle is more problematic. Indeed with our summer car (a Seat Ateca), it was not possible to connect the smartphone to the on-board system. Connection in MirrorLink mode ended in failure and smartphone support is therefore essential. Here we come to the limits of the system. Indeed, if the automobile brands allow themselves agreements with Google or Apple to operate in concert, the other players do not seem to have their place.
Photo / video application: a lack of optimization
The smartphone is the new camera, and on this point there is no further debate. It performs its functions perfectly, from a digital notepad to polished video productions to must-have family memories. By default, / e / OS delivers Camera, a photo app derived fromOpenCamera. If this software is quite complete, it is sorely lacking in responsiveness and, above all, does not exploit the possibilities offered by the Note 8T camera module. Exit therefore the macro or ultra-wide-angle module that we detailed in the test. It is also impossible to use 48 Mpx mode, OpenCamera is limited to 12 Mpx shots (from the 48 Mpx sensor). The results are honorable, but behind compared to the “official” Miui app with a fairly dense rendering and a little too much emphasis. In low light, the differences are less obvious, but Miui delivers a more homogeneous image, less grainy and with better colorimetry.
The ideal would obviously be to be able to reuse Xiaomi’s photo application on / e /. However, the operation is ultimately far from obvious, as it is not possible to simply “copy and paste” the application from one system to another. It would be too simple, too easy, without charm … By digging through different forums, we discover that a fork (new software created from an existing source code) of Xiaomi’s photo application does exist: ANXCamera. Alas, if we managed to install the application after a few manipulations which, again, make you sweat (with great blows of Magisk and other TWRP for insiders), it unfortunately does not work (or not yet) and our screen remained desperately black. Frustrating. We also tried to install the Google photo application (!), Without success either. Finally, we will have to tame OpenCamera or another app available in the application store.
After a few weeks of use, we can say that our Redmi Note 8T is performing quite satisfactorily and we have not encountered any fatal bugs. However, the use turns out to be a little less fluid than with the original system and it seems that the autonomy is less important (we will perform a test to verify). The main problem for the moment remains the transition from a universe very dependent on Google to / e / OS. If the gateways exist, they are still difficult to set up. We still have a few areas to explore in the use of / e /, notably banking applications. See you soon for the third episode.
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