May 16, 2022
i've not been using android or ios. i've been using something called calyx o.s and it's the most fascinating operating system

fun fact for the past week I’ve not been using google’s android or ios. I’ve been using something called calyx os.

and it’s the most fascinating operating system.

you’ve never heard of I’m going to show

  • why there’s a need of it
  • what is it?
  • how it’s better than android
  • how much of a threat it is to google?

what exactly is how it’s better than

normal android like some of the stuff.

it does is a complete game-changer

and then how much of a threat it is to google.

calyx os

why there’s a need of Calyx os

the one thing that we need to

establish for this to make any sense is

that android at its very core

is open source meaning that its code is completely public.

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

and because of that, there are no hidden

trackers or spyware google made it this way because

back when it started they had nothing

they were behind apple

in the race for a smartphone operating

smartphone market share 2011

system and so the way they encouraged

people to adopt android and develop for it

was by using the fact that it’s

completely free and open but

this is changing as android started to

explode in popularity.

google realized well hey this is great

but we’re not really benefiting from this

for as long as android remains open

source the code is everyone’s.

it doesn’t really belong to us what we

want is really to

channel this user base that we’ve built

up and push them towards closed source

Google products that

do make us money like our chrome browser.

so as the years have gone on google has one

by one been taking the core features of

android the calendar, the music app, the keyboard, the camera

and improving them but then making the

improved versions of these apps.

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

closed source instead of open they’ve

made it such that for you to use youtube

Gmail maps or even an app that just has google

services in its code like uber then you

have to consent to hand your data to

google play services.

whose code base and inner workings are

completely hidden we don’t know what

data is being collected

we just know that data is being

collected an average android phone

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

connects to google servers once every 4.5 minutes to send them info

about you some of it for your benefit to allow

your apps to work but some of it

probably not you’ve got to remember that

first and foremost google

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

is an advertising company so there’s the

the obvious implication that at least some

of this data will be used to just

squeeze more money out of users by laser

targeting them with just the right ads

at just the right time but there are

bigger implications because

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

we know that this data is not always

just kept within google.

there are plenty of governments around

the world who want to control and censor

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

their populations and google has been shown to have

willingly handed over user data

when asked for it by those governments

we’ve even had cases where innocent

people have been taken to court because

their google location data has shown

that they were near the scene of a crime

how did law enforcement get that data ?

Google gave it to them.

the point is 99 of android phones that

you can buy off the shelf right now

attracting us in ways that we don’t

fully know and this is why calyx os exists

what is it ?

what is it you know I mentioned that at its very core

if you stripped away all those extras

from google and your service providers

android is open source right well calyx uses that core

but instead of having google play

services as the layer that sits on top of that

it uses something called micro g which

you could think of it as a bit like a fake id

for your phone, it creates a random

anonymous unique identifier which allows

microG in calyx os

it to be registered as a certified google device

but one for which your activity can’t be traced back to you

so we can use google maps we can watch youtube videos

we can download apps without needing to

Sign into a single account

and using this os you get not one but two app stores

you have f droid which provides you with

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

100 open source applications

whose code is completely public

and so by their very nature

cannot steal your data but then also

the aurora store which is super

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

interesting it’s basically the play store

except when you download an app through

it instead of you going directly to

Google and requesting that app

it’s aurora who goes to google and gets

that app for you

so the only info about you that google

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

sees is a random email address that the

aurora store creates for you

the only thing it can’t do right now is

let you pay for apps I think they’re

working on that but what’s really cool

is that also unlike the play store

aurora tells you for every single app

how many and which trackers it comes with.

How it’s better than android

you’re starting to get the idea calyx

basically has most of the main perks of android

but I’ve barely touched on this yet you

will not believe the privacy features

for example, it has a built-in firewall

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

that allows you to restrict what level

of internet access

that you want each of your apps to have

let’s say for example that

I really want to use the closed source

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

google pixel camera app

because really the quality of google’s

open source android camera

It kind of sucks but at the same time I’m

worried about the faces of my friends

Calyx OS - The next big Android Competitor!

and family potentially being stored on a

server somewhere

well now i can still download the app

and then just use the firewall to cut

off its communications with google

fun fact doing this also removes ads and extends your battery life

because you’re limiting the number of processes that


are happening in the background

I’ve actually got the exact same phone here pixel 5

and this one’s running android and when

I tested the battery side by side

this isn’t a conclusive experiment but i

found that calyx lasted six percent longer

which is still significant plus it gives

you supreme control over app permissions

including visualization of how many

times each permission of your phone

has been accessed but on top of that it

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Has a permanently active free VPN

Calyx OS - The next big google Android Competitor!

baked into it to make your internet

traffic untraceable

that said I’ve turned mine off because

the fact that it is a single server

based all the way in new york

does bottleneck my speed these are just

such thoughtful features

for example on calyx os when you go into

the dialer and call someone

by default instead of using a normal

voice call which can be snooped on

it will do a signal call to them which

is end-to-end encrypted

in fact, they’ve literally managed to

swap every single data gathering app

for a clean alternative that doesn’t

feel like a compromise

they swapped google chrome for chromium

Calyx OS - The next big google Android Competitor!

which is basically chrome but without

all the proprietary extras google maps

has gone in place of open street maps

even google drive is gone and instead in

its place you have seed vault

which can backup all your files both to

a local usb drive and

an open-source cloud solution called nextcloud but

this whole privacy thing it’s about more

than just privacy from google

it’s also just privacy from everyone else

for example, if you go into the dialer

Do you have a list of helplines

things like the number for domestic

abuse in your region or childline or suicide hotlines

and this software will know that when

you dial those numbers not to save them in your call log

in case someone in your own home tries to pry

they’ve even got I just think this is

such a wacky interesting feature

a panic button so if i hold down my

power button i can see emergency

services and the option to shut down as

usual but also this third option and i can

configure that button to do pretty much

wherever I want to be wanted to

you can make it hide your private messages

also, I can make it delete certain apps

iwe can even make it factory reset my phone

if I get into a really sticky situation

I spent the last two days trying to

fault this os but

I’m struggling like yes the default

the calyx user interface is

kind of grim but it’s got enough

customization controls that

you can pretty much recreate the look of

any other company’s home screen

how much of a threat it is to google

yes there are some google features that

you just can’t use this phone

without logging into your google account

even when you have micro g

like for example if I just want to plot

a route on google maps I can do that anonymously

but if I then want to quickly select from

my past routes then I am going to have

to log in because

Google needs to know which user I am but

this is kind of the whole appeal of an

an operating system like this

installing Alex once is not just going

to immediately make you disappear off

the grid-like you never existed

but it is going to give you that control

back it’s going to mean that

you can pick the level of privacy you

want based on the features you need

as opposed to just defaulting to sharing

everything this all seems a bit

too good to be true and so at this point

I started wondering who made this

why isn’t everyone using calyx instead of android

and should google be worried

about this after all it’s basically encouraging

people to use Google services

without google getting the full benefit

from that well to find out I jumped on a call with this

guy Nicholas Merrill

who’s the founder of the project and

kind of a badass

he used to run his own internet service

provider but one day the FBI came

knocking at his door

they said we want to see the data of

some of your customers

but he didn’t hand it to them and

instead of saying no

he sued them and won his argument was

that privacy is a basic human right

and in the exact same way that no one

should be allowed to break into your

home and read your diary

no one should be allowed to read your

private online data and that moment was

kind of the trigger as to

why he started the calyx institute which is

this not-for-profit company that he’s

the saying has one goal

to bring privacy to as many people as

possible it sounds like an incredibly noble mission

so why has no one heard of this well

I think the fundamental barrier here is

that yes this calyx institute

has a membership program that does

bring in some income

but because of how this entire calyx

the operating system is open source

it in itself is not really a sustainable business model

I’m told that right now the team behind this is just 11 people

and with a format like this, it’s really

tough to take that and scale-up

and make advertising campaigns and get

compatibility with all phones

right now this only works on google pixel devices

besides for the time being at least even

though Google and other companies do have

piles of data on us and even though

there does seem to be a growing

the population who would go to great lengths

to protect their privacy

for the vast majority, it’s still not

enough of an incentive

to go through even the minor effort of

installing something like this

there’s no hard evidence that for an

the average user in a democratic society

giving away their data causes them any

harm and so this entire pitch of trying to protect

that data doesn’t really carry any urgency

I’m the same and to be honest the only

the reason I can even do this

talk tech with you and make a living

from it is because of these trackers and

spyware that google uses

so it has its positives too oh while

you’re out there by the way if you are

enjoying this then a sub to the newsletters would be safe

what would be a game-changer though

something these guys are really pushing for

is to get a partnership with an oem a

a company like Xiaomi or oneplus

who makes phone hardware and who’d be

willing to pre-install calyx os

instead of android, it’s definitely

possible like this company actually did

recently just get calyx working

on a Xiaomi phone and I could see the appeal of it

let’s just say Xiaomi said yeah sure

we’ll use calyx on one of our models

then straight away without any effort on

their part they’ve already got their slogan sorted

keep your private stuff

private no probably not that slogan actually

but I guess what makes this really

tricky is that Xiaomi would then be

running the risk of getting on the wrong side of google

which given how much they rely on them

may not be the best idea it’s a tricky one

but do consider sharing this post with

someone who is more privacy-conscious

who knows maybe one day this will be the normal

to learn more about the

Linux operating system which

is actually in a way similar to this.

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