Leaving Apple and Google : my “eelo odyssey” – Introduction

In 1998, I created Mandrake Linux, because I was both a Linux fan and didn’t like Windows on the desktop. It’s been a long time, and I’m very happy I’ve been one of the actors who contributed to make the Linux desktop possible, even though it didn’t completely succeed. Since then, the smartphone has emerged. And it’s now a “companion of life” for many of us. On my side, I’ve been using Apple iPhones exclusively, since 2007. The main reason behind this choice is that I like iOS. It covers my needs, it looks great and elegant, and I find it very intuitive to use.

Also, over the past years, I moved from my (Mandrake/Mandriva and then Ulteo) Linux desktop to MacOS. There has been a professionnal reason for that, since I often need XCode for building iOS applications. But also, it’s very convenient to use in conjunction with other Apple devices. I can get my text messages on MacOS, I can answer a call hand-free, I have my notes synced accross my devices.

But talking with friends this year, I realized that I had become lazy and that my data privacy had vanished.

Not only I wasn’t using Linux as my main operating system and using a proprietary OS on my smartphone. But I was using Google more and more. Search of course, but also Google Mail, Google drive and Google docs. And Google Maps.

I’M DEFINITELY NOT HAPPY WITH THAT SITUATION.

I’m not happy of this situation because iOS is proprietary and I prefer Open Source Software. And Apple is getting crazy, with their latest products. Too expensive, not really exciting. It also has some design issues in my opinion. It has become a social act to buy an iPhone: “see, I can buy it”. Buying an iPhone has become a snob attitude and I hate that.

Also I’m not happy because Google has become too big and is tracking us by catching a lot of information about what we do. They want to know us as much as possible to sell advertizing.

Like millions others, I’VE BECOME A PRODUCT OF GOOGLE.

Last, I think that, in the long run, Apple, Google, Facebook etc. business models are harmful for our economical and social environments.

So I want to stop that. People are free to do what they want. They can choose to be volunteery slaves. But I do not want this situation for me anymore.

Reconquer my privacy

I want to reconquer my privacy. My data is MY data. And I want to use Open Source software as much as possible.

At the same time, what exists at the moment doesn’t exactly fit my needs:  of course I don’t want to use stock Android. It’s Google everywhere and its default user interface is bad (my taste).

Also, I’d like to find good online tools such as office, email services etc. that don’t belong to Google.

And I’d like to have the same confort that I have with iOS and MacOS with synchronized services.

I know about a few initiatives, in particular “PureOS” is very interesting and appealing if you want a 100% pure-Free Software. But that is definitely not something I would use daily, at least not in its current state. I need something I could even recommend to my parents or my children. Something appealing, with guarantees for more privacy. Something that we could build in a reasonable amount of time, something that will get better and better over time.

So let’s build something new! “eelo”

My decision is taken: I’m going to build something new that will be open source (as much as possible) and very attractive. At least for me, but probably it could be attractive for a few others as well.

I’ve played with LineageOS for a few months and I think it’s the way to go. You can recompile it, improve it, fork it… and that’s what I’m going to do.

Some nice web services also seem to be viable alternatives to Google apps, so I’m going to explore that and possibly aggregate that into a single service. And offer guarantees to users of this new project.

This is an odyssey, this is a non-profit project

I call the project “eelo” because eels are small fish that can hide into the sea. That’s perfect for my quest of more privacy.

I want eelo to be a non-profit project “in the public interest”. I think operating systems and web services should be a common resource: as I explained a few year ago, this is infrastructure, like phone networks, rail tracks, roads…

Non-profit doesn’t mean nothing will be for sale. Probably some eelo smartphone will be for sale, and some premium services will be available for corporates. But profit won’t be the first focus of eelo.

Eelo will be for users first, for everyone who cares about their data privacy, for everyone who wants to use exciting products, for everyone who wants to join an exciting new project.

So… starting from now, I will periodically post my progresses to release an appealing alternative for the mobile and for web services.

Next time, I’ll show how LineageOS can be hacked, rebuilt and improved for eelo!

If you are interested in that odyssey, as a potential user or contributor, you can register at the eelo.io website (it’s quite empty at the moment).

— Gaël (follow me on Twitter / on Mastodon)

15 Replies to “Leaving Apple and Google : my “eelo odyssey” – Introduction”

  1. Belle initiative ! J’ai été un utilisateur de Mandrake Linux dès la première version et effectivement, je pense que vous êtes quelqu’un qui a vraiment fait prendre aux distributions (GNU) Linux un cap qui a fait ce qu’elles sont devenues aujourd’hui, Ubuntu en tête.
    J’ai été l’un des premier à suivre Ulteo me disant que là où vous mettriez votre nez, on allait voir des choses intéressantes. Ce fut le cas mais je n’ai pas eu l’occasion d’utiliser cette solution, si ce n’est la toute première démo du bureau déportée dans le cloud.
    Je pense vraiement que Google et les GAFA posent aujourd’hui un réel problème et que des alternatives, bien qu’elles existent, ne sont soit pas assez accessibles, soit pas assez connues, soit qu’elles sont trop limités dans leurs fonctionnalités. Vous êtes bien la personne qu’il faut pour relever le défi que vous vous vous fixez.
    J’espère que eelo sera un succès, en attendant, je vous souhaite beaucoup de courage ! Merci pour ce que vous faites.

  2. You mentioned PureOS from the Librem company but not the Librem5 smarthphone, which is focused on privacy and security https://puri.sm/shop/librem-5/.
    It won’t exist for at least 2 more years, but that could be an interesting starting point.
    But maybe it doesn’t fit in the “non-profit” part of your idea.

    You mentioned lineageOS, but it’s still a custom version of Android. So even if it’s open source, it’s still managed by Google.

    A fork is possible, though. Do you have a plan on that ?

    Another topic is the radio OS that controlled the radio and the phone. Android just run on “top” of it, so it’s still possible to get your private data from this radio OS, even if your Android is clean. Maybe too soon to speak about it, but for privacy, it’s an important topic.

  3. Sure, that’s an interesting point!
    I want to say two things that I will develop in my next posts:
    – eelo is meant as an alternative for as many people as possible, so it won’t be 100% perfect on priacy aspects at first release, but it will be better and better at each iteration.
    – regarding forking AOSP, LineageOS+ is already a fork, but we can handle a full fork only if eelo is able to catch a critical mass in term of contributors and financial means
    – as for non-profit, it doesn’t mean eelo won’t have some business to support the project. But it will never be the goal of eelo to make profits for investors or shareholders and will become a Foundation if we manage a certain size
    Again,I’ll to develop all those points in my next posts and content that will be available at https://eelo.io

  4. Great initiative Gael. I’m not a tech guy, and I have a question in tat sense : is it a tech project (meaning a project for the techs?)? I would like to change my habits, but I don’t want to spend hours learning how to set up a complex system. I want it straight forward… Just to know.
    Nevertheless, I’m interested in it as a user!

  5. Hey Samuel, thank you for your comment.
    The purpose of eelo will be to provide quality and privacy-enabled smartphones and web services to any of us, tech or non-tech.
    With a great UI, something desirable like an iPhone, but more respectful (and less expensive!)
    On the other hand, first iterations are likely to be somewhat geeky ^^

  6. Sounds like a interesting project, I will definitely follow the progress. Do you know Nextcloud? I think this could be a interesting component. It provides a 100% Free Software replacement for many Google services, such as file sync across device, instant upload of your pictures/videos, notes, news reader, calendar and contact sync, video/audio calls, collaborative editing of office documents and many more.

  7. Great project. microG is a way to minimize google’s presence in Android. Maybe you can include that in your LineageOS fork.
    Having it work on existing hardware would be a great step to get traction quickly. For cloud services, syncthing seems the way to go – open source.

  8. I am in agreement with your aims but if Shuttleworth could not manage to do it with Unity, even after the enormous success of the Ubuntu project, it looks like a very hard ask. Why not just revive Unity? It is already half done, and is a perfect opportunity for the right team and potentially world changing. There are already plenty of Unix OS’s but without a way to move onto handhelds they are stranded assets without critical mass. You risk re-inventing the wheel, again. There are a least 3 other teams that I am aware of doing basically the same thing. Competing with mega corporations is no small thing. Even M$oft gave up on it.

  9. Bonjour Gael,

    Projet très intéressant. Des éléments semblant importants de ton propos est le courriel et le stockage souvent exploité par Google, Microsoft, Yahoo etc. Ces services sont gratuit pour les “utilisateurs produits”. A moins de faire payer les utilisateurs, je ne vois pas de modèle économique permettant de les remplacer. As-tu une idée.

  10. @Noel Sure, it’s an odyssey, but I think most projects didn’t get a single point of failure: the lack of applications. It was the same for Linux on the desktop, we fighted for years to try having Windows apps to run on Linux, because users want apps. Therefore on eelo you will get common apps. We are not reinventing the wheel, we’re putting together the best possible alternative, into a global and consistent ecosystem.

  11. @Benoit j’ai un point de vue assez radical sur ce point: le stockage des données aujourd’hui c’est un coût qui tend vers 0. Donc on va le proposer pour un prix qui tend vers 0, et qui sera probablement 0 (jusqu’à un certain point)

  12. To me what I would like to have an Android where you could have full control, where you could manage the root user and be able to configure all the folders in the system, also in which you could have different types of users with more and fewer privileges or permissions , just like in computers.

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