The Watchers Are Watching

“For brands, following someone’s precise movements is key to understanding the “customer journey” — every step of the process from seeing an ad to buying a product. It’s the Holy Grail of advertising, one marketer said, the complete picture that connects all of our interests and online activity with our real-world actions.

Once they have the complete customer journey, companies know a lot about what we want, what we buy and what made us buy it. Other groups have begun to find ways to use it too. Political campaigns could analyze the interests and demographics of rally attendees and use that information to shape their messages to try to manipulate particular groups. Governments around the world could have a new tool to identify protestors.”

-Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel, “Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy.” The New York Times. December 19, 2019.

What could possibly go wrong?

Public Service Announcement: TV KILL

Step 1. Buy or own a phone with a built-in infrared transmitter.

My preferred choice, at the moment, is a Samsung Galaxy S5, which has a removable battery, support for the newest version of Android (Pie) via LineageOS, and can be bought from eBay for <$100.

Step 2. Install TV Kill.

The app sequentially goes through the off codes of all major TV models. It even has a mode to keep cycling repeatedly through the codes until you stop it.

Enjoy the silence, and you’re welcome.

Put Your Phone in Do Not Disturb Mode Forever | The Outline

“My phone never buzzes or beeps — unless someone calls me more than twice in a row, which is a setting I turned on in case of emergency — and the screen never flashes some distracting reminder of all the other nonsense I could be giving my attention. Even when my phone is open or in use, all the alerts stay neatly tucked away in the pulldown menu.”

—Paris Martineau. “Put Your Phone in Do Not Disturb Mode Forever.” The Outline. August 28, 2018.

Signs You Have A Bad Relationship With Your Mobile Device

“Signs you might be experiencing problematic use, Lembke says, include these:

  • Interacting with the device keeps you up late or otherwise interferes with your sleep.
  • It reduces the time you have to be with friends or family.
  • It interferes with your ability to finish work or homework.
  • It causes you to be rude, even subconsciously. “For instance,” Lembke asks, “are you in the middle of having a conversation with someone and just dropping down and scrolling through your phone?” That’s a bad sign.
  • It’s squelching your creativity. “I think that’s really what people don’t realize with their smartphone usage,” Lembke says. “It can really deprive you of a kind of seamless flow of creative thought that generates from your own brain.”

—Michealeen Doucleff and Allison Aubrey. “Smartphone Dehox: How To Power Down In A Wired World.” NPR: Morning Edition. February 12, 2018.

The solution? The Sabbath. Sometimes the oldest technologies are the best.

Installing LineageOS on a Samsung Device

Updated: February 2020 using a Samsung S5 Qualcomm device.

LineageOS is an alternative operating system for your phone. It’s what Android looks like before the device manufacturers and phone carriers start adding software. Installing it is also an interesting exercise in how taking more control of technology often means taking more responsibility and risk.

Note: Installing alternative operating systems like LineageOS on your phone is a great way to learn more about how it works. You are going to make mistakes. You may brick your phone. If you are interested in attempting it, use an outdated phone you already have on the LineageOS list or get one from eBay to learn on (A Samsung S5 can be purchased for <$65). It’s okay to mess up, just don’t attempt it on a device that is important to you until you know what you are doing.

Installing LineageOS on your phone is relatively painless. The major difficulty is being careful about installing the right files for your device.

Note: If you are on Windows, Odin sounds easier to use than Heimdall. I didn’t use it, so I do not know if this is true. It is also software with unclear origins. User beware!

Download TWRP, LineageOS & OpenGAPPS

First, download TWRP (most recent file ending with *.img), LineageOS (nightly for the device) & OpenGAPPS (ARM, same version as LineageOS, pico) for your device. Follow the instructions on LineageOs and either put them on the root directory of your phone’s sdcard or keep them in your Download directory and sideload them.

To transfer to your sdcard, enable developer mode for your device (in my case, going to Settings, About Device, and tapping on Build Number 7 times) then select USB Debugging in developer options. You will then be able to connect your phone to your computer, agree to connect on your phone and use any file utility to transfer the three files transfer rather than ADB, the android debug bridge. ADB can be used to sideload files. more on that later.

USB Debugging needs to be enabled for the next step.

Install Heimdall

Install Heimdall: Try an apt-get install.

$ sudo apt-get install heimdall-flash

Then, check your version. Update: As of February 2020, Ubuntu installs v.1.4.2, which works as intended.

$ heimdall version

If you get v.1.4.1 (or if you cannot get Heimdall to work), try compiling from source. Previously, I could only got it to work by installing from source. Now, the repository files from Ubuntu work normally.

Install Heimdall From Source (if necessary)

$ sudo apt-get install build-essential cmake zlib1g-dev qt5-default libusb-1.0-0-dev libgl1-mesa-glx libgl1-mesa-dev 
$ mkdir ~/bin
$ cd bin
$ git clone https://gitlab.com/Benjamin-Dobell/Heimdall
$ mkdir -p Heimdall/build
$ cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
$ make
$ sudo cp bin/* /usr/local/bin 

If this doesn’t work or you don’t use linux, official instructions for your operating system can be found at the Heimdall site.

Install TWRP

$ heimdall-frontend

Turn off your device. Boot into download mode, on my device (SAMSUNG) download mode was started by holding down Volume Down, Home and Power. Then connect to your computer using the USB cable.SAMSUNG) download mode was started by holding down Volume Down, Home and Power. Then connect to your computer using the USB cable.

  1. Go to Utilities tab in the Heimdall frontend.
  2. Detect Device.
  3. You will see Download PIT, which stands for Partitions Information Tables. Go to Save As, indicate a location on your computer, then click Download.
  4. Go to Flash tab.
  5. In PIT category, click Browse and select PIT file you downloaded from device in step 3.
  6. Click Add button.
  7. For partition name select where you want to flash it. BE CAREFUL! If you flash it on wrong partition you can perma-brick device. For most devices, the recovery partition is RECOVERY.
  8. Go Browse for file and select twrp.img file you downloaded in step 1. In Session, check No Reboot.
  9. Click Start.
  10. When complete, disconnect device from the USB cable, pull the battery and immediately restart into recovery. On my device, you can boot into recovery by holding down Volume Up, Home and Power. If you don’t, your phone will likely write over the TWRP file you have flashed, and it will look like nothing has happened.

Install LineageOS

From here, it was straight-forward per the instructions on the LineageOS Installation Instructions for my device.

  1. Backup your device, so you can recover in the event you bork it.
  2. Wipe the Cache, System and Data partitions.
  3. Install LineageOS.zip first, then OpenGAPPS.zip (optional, but if OpenGAPPS is not there many apps might not work as expected, or at all) second.

Different devices require different instructions. For a Samsung Note 4 (non-official LineageOS ROM), LineageOS and OpenGAPPS could be installed from an sdcard. A Samsung S5 required sideloading the operating system using adb. Your best bet is to follow the official instructions.

When done, TWRP will ask you to reboot. If you side loaded the software, you’ll need to restart your device manually.

That’s it. Good luck!