I consider myself to be an avid GNU/Linux enthusiast, and have been so, ever since my roommate introduced me to it eight years or so ago. I have been using Linux as my daily driver for six or seven years now, and through the years, the beauty of free software (free as in free speech not as in free beer) still hasn’t lost its charm to me.
Since that first introduction, I got to learn more and more both about technical details and philosophical ideals of free software. In addition to my laptop which was running Linux for years now on, I had a smartphone, and the more I learned about free software, the more it bugged me that my phone was running an Operating System I had no control over. Even worse was the fact that, this OS came with “bloat software” in the form of social network clients and vendor specific applications which I had no use for, and which I couldn’t control, let alone uninstall. Moreover, after a short two year of ownership, my phone’s vendor stopped supporting it and pushing updates for it, thus making my device feel more and more sluggish as newer applications were optimized for the more recent versions of the OS.
The final blow hit me when I learned about the KRACK attack which broke the security of the WPA2 protocol, meaning that everything I did online through my phone’s WiFi was -as far as I was concerned- at risk. By that time my device hadn’t received a security updates for years and was doomed to ever remain vulnerable to this newly discovered hack. This pushed me to do some research on the subject of android alternatives, which in turn led me to LineageOS.
I will not go into much detail about LineageOS. A multitude of videos, articles and tutorials already exist and do a much better job than I could in one article. The official website itself is a great learning resource. Suffice to say that Lineage is probably one of the best places you can get started at if you are interested in Android alternatives, mainly thanks to its support of a wide range of devices and large and active community.
Since I first discovered it, I have been running LineageOS as my daily driver on the few phones I’ve owned, and I have been very satisfied with it. It offers a great deal of flexibility, giving you a choice ranging from a pure experience free from all google-tarnished bloatware, to that of going the full google route, if that is what you wish for. In my case I am a huge fan of the minimalism that it allows, and the high frequency of its update. Software updates are much more frequent from the LineageOS team, and as of this writing, Over The Air (OTA) updates are available every week!
Following that short (and hopefully convincing) sales pitch, I now have to let you know that it is not all rainbows and sunshine in the land of LineageOS. The main problem you might be facing when moving to the Lineage ROM1 is that it does not support every device under the sun. This is of course perfectly fine, especially when considering how big companies like Samsung, Sony, LG and others, don’t even guarantee support for all their devices for more than a couple Android releases. Personally, I find it a miracle that the Lineage team still manages to support as many devices as it currently does. However, the fact remains that your device might not be supported by Lineage.
In addition to the list of supported devices being limited, this list is in constant change over time, and devices once supported can end up being left behind in a few years’ time. This eventually ended up happening to my beloved smartphone, which lost support from Lineage a couple years after I had started using it as an alternative to Android. Luckily, by then I had moved to a more recent device which was on the supported devices list.
However, this lead me back to square one: How do you get a working and up-to-date Android image for your device when it is no longer supported?
I have been trying to answer this question for the last few weeks, mainly because for all intents and purposes, my original phone was still in good shape: The battery still had a good charge and the touch-screen was still very responsive. Its only fault was that it was only running an older release of Android and was running behind on security updates. If I could manage to get an up-to-date version of Android to run on it, it would make for a great secondary or backup phone. Additionally, I have other Android devices that were never supported by Lineage, had stopped receiving vendor updates a long time ago, and were in dire need of a fresh coat of new software.
In the upcoming installments of this series, I will try to answer the question posed here and to document my learning process. Stay tuned!