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).