While Android and iOS dominate the smartphone space these days, there are multiple projects underway to create free and open source, Linux-based operating systems. For the most part, developers have focused on making touch-friendly operating systems that resemble Android and iOS in some ways.
But Sxmo is a new project that makes a Linux smartphone feel more like a tiny desktop computer… that just happens to support touch-and-button navigation.
Developed for the Pinephone, Sxmo version 0.1.0 was released this week.
Sxmo is more of a user interface and set of programs than a full-fledged operating system. It’s based on Alpine Linux and postmarketOS.
But what Sxmo brings to the table are:
- X window manager
- Support for using Pinephone’s hardware buttons for navigation (launch a terminal, zoom, access menus, etc)
- Use swipe gestures to move between workspaces, move windows between workspaces, and adjust volume
- Onscreen keyboard that automatically adjusts the window management space
- Send text messages in a vim-like editor and make calls using a dmenu script
- Pre-installed applications include a Gopher client, GPS utility, and Firefox and Netsurf web browsers
Basically, it seems like the nerdiest possible smartphone operating system… albeit one that actually seems to support most basic smartphone functions. You can stream videos from YouTube, but you can also open up a terminal window or multiple windows to control your phone. Everything from front-size to camera functionality and display brightness can also be controlled using Sxmo tools.
Sxmo, by the way, stands for “Simple X Mobile,” and it follows Unix design philosophy and principles of suckless design.
You can find more details at the Sxmo website, read the user guide, or follow the install guide instructions to download and install the software on a Pinephone.
There are also a bunch of demo videos that show off the features of Sxmo.
The Pinephone is one of a handful of new smartphones beginning to ship that are designed to run free and open source software like Sxmo. At the moment, the only Pinephone available for purchase is the UBPorts Community Edition model that comes with Ubuntu Touch pre-installed, but like any Pinephone, you can easily load alternate OS onto the $150 smartphone — a total of 13 different operating systems are listed in the official PinePhone wiki (although some are more feature-complete than others).
Probably not the thing to install if you need reading glasses.
But using the volume rocker to select menu items and only using it to control volume when there’s sound playing or using a gesture to control it seems like not a bad idea, especially when using a lot of desktop applications that were scrunched down to phone size.
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