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Pushing forward Debian on mobile devices


TL;DR: Debian already runs on the PinePhone using a few patched/custom
packages. The DebianOnMobile[1] team and Mobian[2] project are meant to
gather contributors interested in improving Debian on mobile devices.


With the recent release of the PinePhone, and the Librem 5
mass-production to start soon, smartphones able to run Debian are
finally a reality. While the kernel and bootloader mostly work (although
not fully mainline yet), there are few mobile-friendly GUI apps, and
only a handful of them packaged for Debian.

In order to help bringing Debian to mobile devices, the DebianOnMobile
team is working on packaging this software. We have a group on Salsa[1],
and most of the packages in this group are now waiting in NEW.

We're currently focusing on getting Phosh and mobile-friendly GNOME apps
accepted into Debian, but people interested in packaging Plasma-mobile
or other mobile environments and apps are welcome to join too.

Discussions take place on the #mobile-debian:matrix.org Matrix
channel[3] at the moment. There's also the #debian-mobile channel on
IRC, but as it is used to discuss Android tools packaging, and we're
still a small team, we figured we would leave them alone for now ;)

Feel free to join us to discuss, comment, and maybe contribute?


Aside from that, and in order to provide ready-to-use images for the
PinePhone (and later on, the PineTab and Librem 5), I've also initiated
the Mobian project[2], with its own group on gitlab.com[4] and a package
archive[5] containing our custom packages, used as an overlay on top of
Debian testing.

The plan here is not to create a new distribution, but simply to be able
to use Debian on mobile devices without having to wait for every bit to
go upstream or be uploaded to Debian. Our goal, however, remains to get
our modifications upstream, and our packages into the main Debian archive.

Some of the Mobian packages are pretty specific though (the
metapackages, or `mobian-tweaks`, for example), meaning I'm unsure they
would belong in Debian, but I'm open to discussing it. Other packages
are patched to make them work better on a phone screen, and for those we
have to push upstreaming, making sure our modifications (most of those
come from Purism, actually) don't affect desktop users, which will take
some time.

That being said, my hope is that Mobian will merge into Debian
eventually, but there's still a lot to do beforehand. I am of course
ready to discuss how this could be done, and to what extent.

Finally, there may be other/better ways of improving Debian for running
on mobile devices, and any feedback is more than welcome!


[1] https://salsa.debian.org/DebianOnMobile-team
[2] https://mobian-project.org/
[3] https://matrix.to/#/#mobile-debian:matrix.org
[4] https://gitlab.com/mobian1
[5] http://repo.mobian-project.org/

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