Posted on January 7, 2016
Tags: rant, android

It seems like every time I go to use the camera app on my Android phone the user interface has changed. Well maybe not every time, but I think it’s been 4 different camera user interfaces in the last 2 years.

This is somewhat annoying because there are times when I want to take a photo without having to relearn where all the controls are.

Often the user interface is different but not better, or even worse. For example, adding the finger swipe action to view previous photos.

Today, I used the camera and found it was blocked by a series of little “tutorial” screens containing instructions on how to use the camera how that it’s been changed.

I remember times when this happened with the GNOME Desktop Environment. GNOME went through at least two big changes (versions 2 and 3) which were opposed by a bitter chorus of complainers. I thought they had no right to complain rudely because GNOME is a free software project which they are free to join and help improve. They were also free to keep using the old version, or use another free desktop environment.

The difference here is that signifcant parts of Android are no longer open source software. Google did a bait&switch on us. The initial version of Android was mainly open source. This got hardware vendors interested and sucked the oxygen out of other free software phone projects. Then when everyone was hooked and Android was a viable contender with lots of users, they stopped developing the open source apps and started on their proprietary versions.

So Google change the apps however they like, new version is pushed to phones automatically, and users have to put up with it. At some point I won’t need to worry about this any more. Google will deem my particular phone too old to bother supporting and updating. This could be as soon as a year away, according to their update policy. Whether security holes are fixed after this depends on Google’s goodwill. Nobody else is in a position to fix them because Android is mostly proprietary.

At this point, if not sooner, maybe quite soon, I will be flashing the CyanogenMod firmware. At least this option is available to me. The Cyanogen mob get the dregs of Android users whose phones and tablets are no longer supported by the vendor. They take the open source dumps of Android and fill in the gaps with their own or other people’s open source apps.

CyanogenMod keep old phones running and secure so they don’t need to be chucked in the bin.