Manjaro takes 1st place on Distrowatch

Yeah yeah, i'm late to the party, but i just now figured out that Manjaro Linux has captured the number one spot on Distrowatch, displacing Linux Mint. This happened some time within the last few months apparently.

If you're new to Linux, or want to remove the Windows virus, read on, else this could be about as interesting watching ice melt.

I find Manjaro's move to top dog status interesting considering it's based on Arch Linux which is notorious for being one of the more difficult flavors of Linux to install, configure and use. Manjaro however is specifically designed to be an easy-to-use Arch, complete with a capable graphical installer, package manager and software.

I started with Linux Mint a few years ago and i recommend it to anyone wanting to free themselves from the death grip of Microsoft. It's simple to install, feature rich and is probably one of the most polished and easiest to use distributions for newcomers. I became a bit frustrated with it because it's a 'point' release, meaning you have to re-install it when a new version hits the streets which, as i recall, was about every six months. Plus it's based on the LTS (long term support) version of Ubuntu which, in turn, is based on Debian. What that means is that the software in the Mint repository is often kinda old, forcing many to seek out lots of 'untrusted' PPAs, or figure out how to compile packages from source code.

Manjaro, on the other hand, is a rolling release, same as Arch, meaning you install it once and keep applying updates for ever more, in theory. Manjaro has it's own repository of considerable size, but one can also enable the AUR (Arch User Repository) which is also quite large (and can also get you in quite a bit of trouble).

Arch is pretty cutting edge and updates come fast and hard and can sometimes break the system. Manjaro receives a lot of updates too, many of which are quite large and affect somewhere around 100 packages at a shot, but the nice folks that work on the project alleviate some of the scariness by kicking the tires before turning packages loose.

I don't know that Manjaro is suitable for beginners, but it is definitely an attractive distribution. I've been using it for a few months and so far haven't had any major problems. If you're new to Linux and want to try it, just be sure to keep your data safe and learn first how to recover a busted system in the event something does explode, as has happened in the past.

A personal journey: From Windows to Linux to Windows to Linux to...

The first personal computer i purchased was infected with the Windows 95 virus. I'm sure i hadn't even heard about Linux at that point and, while we're at it, let's get something straight right off the bat: Linux is not an operating system! Linux is a part of Linux-based operating systems known as the kernel. And it's not "Linux" either, it's GNU/Linux. I'm a victim of these misunderstandings myself and, if there be no objections, i'm gonna go ahead and use the term 'Linux' as if i never knew the difference. Now where was i...

Anyone who has had the misfortune of running Windows 95 might agree that it was an unstable, bug-riddled piece of shit. The Windows 98 virus was much better, relatively speaking, but it was still full of annoyances. I have to say though that it was a pretty good gaming OS once you beat the thing into submission. The XP virus largely destroyed the gaming aspect of 98 when it was first released, but things improved a great deal through patches. I used a heavily tweaked version of XP for many years before migrating to a heavily tweaked version Windows 7 somewhere around 2011. Us weathered Windows users were smart enough to skip Vista as though it never existed.

By the way, did you know there are still people using 95 and 98 as their daily drivers apparently? I'm not sure what to think about that (actually i am, i just don't wanna dump on them out loud), but i wouldn't be surprised if they are safer with 9x than 10 these days since there's probably no one writing viruses for the damn things any longer.

Around the time i was using Windows 98, or rather around the time it was using me, as Richard Stallman might say, i started to become interested in the inner workings of Windows, mostly with regard to my digital privacy. The exceedingly bright chap i am (0.003% of the time), i quickly deduced that running a closed-source, proprietary operating system from a company well-worth hating was probably not conducive to maintaining an acceptable level of control over my digital do-dads. This revelation was further reinforced upon discovering the forum post, 'Microsoft's Really Hidden Files' by 'The Riddler' on I believe that domain was eventually hijacked by Microsoft at one point which i think is quite fitting, don't you? I think they should 'ing' it to '' and use that as their official domain.

Anyway, my reading of that article eventually led to my being put in contact with a cop who, as i recall, had something to do with computers or computer forensics or maybe he was the 'computer guy' at work or whatever. It was a long time ago. I asked him several (and apparently one too many) questions about what kind of personal data Windows stores and how it stores it and how that data can be accessed and used by LE (that's "Law Enforcement" for you nooblets) to screw over us dweebs that paid for an OS which is designed to spy on us. Having thought i'd established an acceptable level of trust with the guy after several emails over the course of several days/weeks (it's called "social engineering" nowadays), i finally uncorked the question that was burning a hole in my brain capsule: Can LE access a Windows computer remotely without first installing a RAT (Remote Access Tool - think "Trojan")? His non-answer answer was, "What do you think?". At that point he apparently thought i didn't need to ask any more questions.

I don't think it was long after that when i started playing with Linux... or was it the other way around? I recall booting Mandrake, Red Hat, SUSE, Debian and maybe one or two others over the years and every attempt i made to adopt Linux as my primary OS quickly resulted in tragedy followed by regret followed by my prompt retreat back to my Windowed safe space.

Part of my Linux problem was that it worked quite differently and so i simply wasn't comfortable with it. Another problem was that every distribution had major bugs. Lots of major bugs. And they still do. All of them. I found Linux to be quite fragile compared to a well tweaked Windows XP or 7 and i still feel that way. I also found it to be too limiting, which i'm sure will shock the Linux fanboys. Often there weren't any good software counterparts to Windows stuff and many hardware drivers were garbage. If a driver worked, that's pretty much all it did. Most of the granular settings for coaxing the most out of your uber-expensive octa-core giga-capable quantum-tech hardware simply didn't exist.

Worse than the software and driver issues was the lack of stability. I remember booting a very mainstream distribution and changing some benign setting for whatever and *poof*, it never booted again. On one occasion i was playing around with another mainstream distribution when my drunk neighbor chainsawed my electric pole for firewood (lie) which caused the power to go out (semi-truth). This was before i knew what a backup power supply was. That OS never booted again either. What the bloody hell??? I rarely had these kinds of fundamental problems with Windows 98, much less with XP or 7, both of which were a full 3.307 orders of magnitude more robust than any Linux distro i had tried.

Though i was fine with Windows from a usability and stability angle, the fact that it was propitiatory, and the associated risks to my privacy that comes with that, never stopped eroding my mind and so i decided, come hell or high water, Windows 7 would be my last Microsoft OS, period! Then came Windows 10 but once again we savvy Microsoft-hating Windows users were smart enough to block the so-called "upgrade" that the monopolistic retards in Redmond wanted to infect us with. The in-your-face assault to personal privacy that 10 presents is unbelievable, as are the annoyances that come with it.

Even though i wasn't running 10, I was so damned disillusioned with Microsoft by this time that i dumped Windows, switched to Linux and deleted all my customized Windows installation images and license keys in order to make returning to that pit of despair as difficult and expensive as possible should i ever suffer a relapse in ethics. I was going to run Linux whether i liked it or not!

Linux has come a long way since i last went distro-hopping in the early 2000's, but i have to say that some of the same problems exist still, though to a lessor degree. And although the drivers cover a much wider array of hardware and work generally better, they can still be problematic and wimpy. Nowhere was i able to find a driver for my laptop camera, not that installing one would help much since i stuck tape over the thing. Stability is still an issue with Linux, however the problems aren't nearly as bad and it seems to be more tolerant of hard resets for example.

Is Linux Right For You?

Currently i run Linux Mint Manjaro Linux, but when i was running Mint, and even after a couple of major version releases and plenty of updates, on occasion my computer would boot or resume from standby to a black screen where the log-on screen was supposed to be and sometimes this required a hard reset. Really??? This is one of those most basic issues that should simply not exist.

And the software repositories! Why 'repositories' and not 'repository'? Why does nearly every major distribution of Linux seem to need its own software repository? In my mind this is a colossal waste of time, effort, resources and infrastructure. Why do package maintainers have to make changes to a program to get it to run on different distributions? Or another desktop environment? Is this not as ass-backwards as i think it is? This can be really frustrating for end users since the software package they want may not be readily available for the distribution or desktop environment they like.

Oh, yeah, let's not forget the graphical environments; the Linux desktops. Linux is all about choice, so they say, but do we really need 20+ buggy desktop environments to choose from? I'd gladly sacrifice most of those for just a few bug-less desktops and i'd bet 99% of the entire Linux user base would do the same.

And why are there so many different distributions? There are somewhere around 300 different flavors of Linux at the moment, every one likely requiring significant resources in terms of developers, project managers, funding and infrastructure. Who the hell needs this many choices? And at what cost do all these choices come? How many of these distributions are a result of ego battles? How many are actually fundamentally different as opposed to simply having a different logo or set of icons or something rather trivial? Imagine how the development pace and quality of Linux-based operating systems might skyrocket if the talented people working with some of the more obscure distributions contributed to the more mainstream ones that the vast majority of us end users use. Here's some more "choices" you get with Linux:

  • you get to choose what distro you want and, in doing so, the average user has little choice but to use whatever software is in the repository for that distro
  • you get to choose the desktop you want to and, in doing so, you further neuter the selection of available software or end up installing mega-massive dependency packages you don't want
  • you get to choose that you want more security holes and truck loads more bugs than Windows according to this guy who writes, among a plethora of other problems:

    Critical bug reports filed against the Linux kernel often get zero attention and may linger for years before being noticed and resolved.

    and this guy who gives us the reason for the above:

    Linux Torvalds is famous for not caring much about security and very few implementations in the Linux kernel is developed with security in mind. That is why, in the world of the Linux kernel and Linux distributions, security is mostly something you have to "add on" or patch, which is the wrong approach to security.

  • if you decide to run a Long Term Support edition, you get to run often outdated, buggy and feature deprived software because that's pretty much all that will be available in your repository
  • you get to choose to spend hours scouring the web for solutions to trivial problems that shouldn't exist, then more time staring at a terminal running commands you don't understand but pray will work and often don't
  • you get to choose to have this window look like this and that window look like that because you hate consistency - think that setting a window or mouse cursor theme is system wide? HA!
  • you get to choose to run an OS that just feels a lot less robust than Windows, assuming you were very careful with how you configured the system and what software and updates you installed

So why did i choose Linux if i have so many gripes, you ask? Because i had no choice. I couldn't continue to run a proprietary operating system that i knew was spying on me and sending who knows what to who knows where for who knows why. Even with all the registry hacks and all the hosts file redirects and all the firewall rules and all the component removals and all the 3rd party cleaners and anti-spying tools, you simply can not trust an operating system for which the source code is unavailable, full stop.

And as far as the stability i enjoyed with Windows, i very well may be an exception to the rule as there are tons and tons of horror stories involving botched Microsoft updates that caused massive problems for many users and businesses. I attribute my ability to avoid such disasters to my software and updates selectivity.

This fun presentation, 'Windows is AWESOME!', by Bryan Lunduke, will provide many more answers as to why i made the switch. Mind you, Bryan gave this talk at a Linux conference...

For the average user Linux may well be as good as Windows from a usability perspective and it's not authored by a f'n evil company. It's not proprietary. It's workings aren't kept secret. It doesn't have back doors built in to it (so far as we know). Its licenses aren't restrictive. It isn't designed to spy on people and make them the product. Its objectives aren't based on greed and control. In a way, it's not what Linux is, it's what it isn't that makes it attractive to those who care about privacy and what organizations and values we want to support. There is indeed more to the free software ethic than free software; it's a life choice and some of us care about what kind of world we want to live in and what kind of world we leave for future generations.

Although my path to Linux hasn't been free of landmines, it has been worth the journey. It's very comforting to know that i can trust my operating system to not engage in nefarious behavior behind my back. It's nice to not have to create piles of firewall rules in an attempt to keep it and its software from phoning home. It's nice to not have to evaluate every single update, wondering if it will push some despicable garbage down my throat. It's nice to not have to deal with anti-virus software, which provides a false sense of security. It's comforting to know that Linux and the free software movement doesn't lend itself well to unethical software developers. It's also damned nice to distance myself from Billy 'The Asshole' Gates. And as for the problem of multiple software repositories, at least one can trust the software in those repositories and they do present a convenient one-stop-shop for most everything you need.

Unfortunately your computer runs more than one operating system and so installing Linux alone isn't a complete solution for the hardcore privacy and security geek. Motherboard firmware performs various tasks before the system is handed over to the user-facing OS and some of this stuff is a privacy and security nightmare. One example of this is the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) which is replacing the traditional Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). You can read more about this massive assault to your privacy and computer security in the articles 1.4 UEFI... The Microsoft Kill Switch and The Fight for a Secure Linux BIOS. You gotta start somewhere though and Linux is a massive step up in terms of privacy.

Windows 11 Must Be Stopped - A Veteran PC Repair Shop Owner's Dire Warning

If you decide to give Linux a spin, i'd recommend a distribution that makes switching to a GNU/Linux system as easy as possible and there are at least several of them. Though i've never used it, Feren OS (review here) is specifically designed to ease the transition from those "other" OS's to Linux and it has some very interesting and useful features for doing so. Linux Mint is another popular choice and is the one i chose when i first dropped Windows. Most any popular Linux distribution can be test driven before you install it by writing an image to a USB stick and booting it. You can run it this way as long as you like without affecting your Windows virus and if you later decide to install it, you can do so right from an icon on the desktop. There is no shortage of resources to help one get started with a Linux-based OS, one of them being the Linux for Starters: Your Guide to Linux website.

If you ever get bored with with your distribution of choice and begin to feel more daring, i might suggest Manjaro Linux which is a slightly more stable, user friendly fork of Arch. Like Arch, Manjaro is a rolling release meaning that, unlike most distributions, you don't have to reinstall it to receive core system updates, however rolling releases are generally less stable than a static release based on, for example, Debian.

In the end, Linux is miles from perfect, but it runs on virtually any hardware you can imagine, new or old, and it provides a degree of trust that is nonexistent with any other proprietary computer operating system. When you choose a liberally licensed, open-source operating system, you're making a choice which has benefits that extend well beyond the individual; you're choosing to support freedom for all.

Good luck. And if there's anything i can do to help, leave a comment.

Muzik Faktry: Processing music files on Linux


Apparently i'm an oddball because my music files usually contain only the artist, title and genre tags (and i only use 3 or 4 of the latter), along with some ReplayGain information. I'm not interested in embedding lyrics, images or whatever else people are sticking in their music these days. I like to aim for minimal, compact, error-free files that meet my medium-high quality standard and that's why we're here. If you're an audiophile geek with multiple ex-wives who spends weeks deciding which DAC will provide the truest sound, this might not be for you, but if you just like to listen to good sounding music while you prune your hedges, read on.

Typically i acquire specific songs from various artists rather than entire albums, mainly because i've yet to run across an album for which i like every song. The problem with this disjointed approach is that it results in consistency problems regarding tags, headers, volume levels, file names, etc.. Most maddening is when some aspiring government employee thinks that transcoding a 64 kbit/s MP3 to FLAC is somehow a good idea. With the exception of the latter, most issues are generally easy to fix using a few software tools.

Enter Muzik Faktry, a Bash shell script which is essentially a wrapper that handles various 3rd party tools and does so without relying on stuff i don't like relying on, such as Java, Wine, Mono or Electron.

Muzik Faktry is a menu driven script that runs in a terminal, but don't let that scare you half to death if you're not a terminal freak... get it? There are plenty of prompts to guide you along and it presents a unified interface for running several software tools which are available for Linux-based operating systems (because they suck less than Windows operating systems).

Muzik Faktry was formerly named MP3 Factory because i had originally been focused largely on producing high quality MP3s until i learned more about what a scrambled mess the MP3 format is. As a result i shifted my focus focus on the lossless formats which is far superior and much easier to work with. All of the tasks that Muzik Faktry performs are thus lossless, meaning there is no reduction in audio quality.

Muzik Faktry is intended primarily for transcoding (converting) uncompressed tracks or albums to the FLAC format and/or performing various operations on them before adding them to your collection, including comprehensive integrity checking. So comprehensive in fact, that when i first ran my MP3 music collection through it before i moved to lossless, the bloody thing flagged every single file as "JUNK"!

The script may not be a complete solution for processing your music since it offers only rudimentary tagging functions, nor is it a complete replacement for comprehensive audio analysis tools, however it has served my needs quite well without having to employ any additional tools.

Muzik Faktry was developed and tested on Manjaro Linux or, as i affectionately call it, Arch for dummies, however it should run on any flavor of Linux that includes a Bash compatible shell and for which the dependent packages are available.

The majority of documentation for Muzik Faktry is located on the code repository over at Codeberg so i won't bother repeating it here, however i do want to expand on the spectral analysis of music files a bit.

Spectral Analysis

Spectral analysis of music files, while somewhat time consuming, can be an important determining factor regarding the quality of the audio. I'm using mostly MP3's in the following examples, but this information can be applied to lossless formats as well which is all that Muzik Faktry is designed to work with.

One of the things to look for in these images is the frequency cutoff point, meaning the highest frequency the audio attains. Using the MP3 format as an example, the highest frequency that can be encoded is limited by the bit rate, however there is more to consider. Pictures are worth stuff they say, so let's give that a shot...

Here's what the frequency spectrum looks like for a random FLAC music file that indicated a bitrate of 872 kbit/s. The keen observer you are, you'll notice that the frequency cutoff is close to 21000 Hz, or 21 kHz, which is slightly higher than the highest frequency which the average young human is capable of hearing (~20 kHz). The file size here is a whopping 26,924,696 bytes.

Frequency spectrum for FLAC sample 872kbps

Next i transcoded the 872 kbit/s FLAC file to a 320 kbit/s CBR MP3 (not something i would normally do). The file size dropped to 9,882,876 bytes, less than half of what it was. You'll notice the frequency cutoff point has dropped to around 20000 Hz, or 20 kHz, so while certainly lost the higher frequencies, we didn't lose anything that anybody without extremely good hearing and who is listening in a very quiet environment with a very decent sound system is likely to notice. We also saved a hell of a lot of disk space which may be worthwhile if you need to cram as many songs as possible onto that microscopic SD card that you struggle to plug in to your fondleslab.

Frequency spectrum for MP3 sample 320kbps

Next i converted the 872 kbit/s FLAC to a 128 kbit/s MP3. This time the quality loss is significant to the point where many people with decent hearing in a quiet listening environment and a decent sound system would probably notice. If you're listening to music while operating a jackhammer however, then a 128 kbit/s might be just dandy. Here the frequency cutoff is around 16000 Hz, or 16 kHz, and the file size is 3,953,289 bytes, again half of what it was.

Frequency spectrum for MP3 sample 128kbps

Now it's time to 'do as stoopid does'; i took the 128 kbit/s MP3 and upsampled it to a 320 kbit/s MP3 because "more quality", however the only thing i actually accomplished was to fatten the file size, which has now more than doubled to 9,882,876 bytes, the same size of the 320 kbit/s MP3 that was converted from FLAC earlier. The quality is, at best, no better than the 128 kbit/s file and the frequency cutoff point hasn't changed. The lesson here is that you cannot add quality to an audio file that doesn't have it in the first place!

Frequency spectrum for MP3 sample 320kbps

So now we know that files with a high bit rate and a low frequency cutoff point are upsampled junk, right? Well, no. Not necessarily.

When encoding an MP3, audio data is sacrificed in order to reduce the file size, however the way that a good encoder (LAME) does this is to discard sound that the ear would probably never hear anyway, thus everything above a given frequency as well as everything below a given frequency is discarded right off the bat, but there's allot more to it than that. The bit rate is a primary factor regarding sound quality and frequency cut-off with the LAME encoder and as the bit rate is decreased, so too is the maximum frequency that the audio is able to attain. We know that the average young human with really good hearing can hear frequencies up to about 20 kHz, but as we age that threshold drops. Below is the approximate maximum frequency that can be attained at a given bit rate for a LAME encoded MP3. Keep this in mind when viewing spectrogram images of your audio files:

64  kbit/s = ~11 kHz frequency cut-off
128 kbit/s = ~16 kHz frequency cut-off
192 kbit/s = ~19 kHz frequency cut-off
320 kbit/s = ~20 kHz frequency cut-off

But again, the frequency cut-off point is not in itself a determining factor of audio quality. While the cut-off points above are useful for Rock and Pop type genres with a variety of instruments and vocals, they may be meaningless for songs which are not composed with so much diversity. For example, a 'perfect' quality audio recording of a flute, a vocal, or a piano, may have a frequency cut-off point that is well below 20 kHz.

Another thing to look for in the spectrogram is signs of clipping. Clipping is the result of the gain (volume) having been raised too high and this can lead to really nasty distortion when listening to the song. This is not uncommon given the loudness war we've been subjected to, as well as poor encoding practices. Here's a frequency spectrum of Acoustic Alchemy - Clear Air For Miles.mp3 (320 kbit/s CBR 44.1 KHz). There are no significant signs of clipping:

Frequency spectrum: Acoustic Alchemy - Clear Air For Miles MP3

Using MP3gain i then increased the gain by 10 dB and this was the result:

Frequency spectrum: Acoustic Alchemy – Clear Air For Miles MP3 (clipping)

What you'll notice is that a lot of the green and blue stuff now reaches the upper frequency cutoff point and this is indicative of clipping. Also see the Clipping or distortion section of the article Understanding Spectrograms.

Another bit of information worth considering is an answer to a question posted on Stack Exchange, How to tell if a high-res flac file has been upsampled from a CD-quality file?. Following is an excerpt:

Here are a few things to look for in a spectral analysis

  1. Each format has it's own rolloff: CD drops like a rock at 20 kHz and MP3 drops steeply at 16 kHz. If you have a 96 kHz file with these sharp drop offs, it's likely been up-sampled.
  2. Inspect the content above 20 kHz. If there is random "noise like" features in there, it's probably genuine. If it has very little content and/or the content looks like a low-pass filtered mirror image of the content below 20 kHz, it's been up-sampled.
  3. You can look at correlation at high frequencies. For a genuine recording this will mostly be uncorrelated. If there is significant correlation, it's a potential sign of "joint stereo coding" which could hint at lossy compression.
  4. Look at the recording date: If it's been made before 1990 it's almost guaranteed to be up-sampled. There never was a digital studio master and the best they can do is to sample a tape master.

So how do you use all this information? Well, this is where it gets tricky because a file that was encoded using a high bit rate, yet doesn't approach 20 kHz, is not necessarily junk. Given the wide variety of sounds in most Rock, Pop and some other genres of music we might listen to however, such songs will often approach or exceed 20 kHz as long as a lossless or high quality lossy encoding method was used.

Over time you'll develop a sense of what the frequency spectrum should look like given the bit rate and the different sounds present in the recording. Ultimately what matters however is whether you're happy with what you hear, not the fancy colors on a graph.

See also: Spectral Analysis (archive) and this post on Reddit, How to determine the true quality of an audio file.

bug reports

You can drop a comment below without having to create an account, or open an issue on the code repository.

suggested software

Muzik Faktry does not use the following programs, however i readily recommend them.

Kwave Sound Editor (pkg. name: kwave): Kwave for the KDE desktop is a nice and simple sound editor that i used while developing Muzik Faktry. If you need more power, try Audacity or ardour.

Sonic Visualiser (pkg. name: sonic-visualizer): An excellent tool to analyze audio in different ways.


Cool Android Apps

A handful of cool and useful free, mostly open source Android apps...

I like to fool around with my electronic devices to learn about them and my Android powered smartphones are always victims of my curiosity. Upon entering the smartphone world, i soon found myself installing custom ROMs, tweaking various things and looking for apps to replace the functionality of all of the Google apps which i remove (i hate Google for a number of reasons).

Since neither the Google Play Store nor the Google Services Framework exist on my devices, i began looking for alternative repositories and i quickly discovered F-Droid which is a great resource for (mostly) free, open source, ad-free Android apps that are compiled from source by the F-Droid team. Compiling from source is important because it guarantees that the compiled app contains nothing more than what is in the publicly available source code.

Before you get started installing apps from F-Droid you will need to enable the installation of apps from unknown sources if you haven't already done so. I'm sure some might see this as a major no-no, to which i would reply that, out of 27 repositories tested in a 2017 independent study, including the Google Play Store, F-Droid was the only one in which no instances of malware were found. While the number of instances of malware in the Play Store was low, understand that the privacy aspect of those apps was not considered and this is perhaps the greatest concern with Play Store apps. Also see:

If you still have concerns about using the F-Droid app repository, i suggest reading Android Markets: How safe are alternative sources?.

F-Droid does not require you to create an account to access their repository and once the F-Droid client app is installed, which makes it super easy to browse their repo, it will notify you when an update is available for any app which was installed using it. The selection of apps isn't exactly massive at the moment but it is probably adequate for most people and it is constantly growing. They also have an active community forum where members can suggest new apps. Other places to look for apps are GitHub, XDA Developers, AndroidCentral and the Google developers websites.

Following are some of my favorite apps for Android devices. Keep in mind that if you download these apps without using the F-Droid client, you may not be made aware of updates. It is therefore recommended to install the F-Droid client app first and install your apps using it.

F-DroidThe F-Droid client app provides easy device access to the F-Droid repositories for open source Android apps. Unless you want to install the compiled apk files directly, which i don't recommend because you will not be informed of updates, you will need the F-Droid client. F-Droid @ F-Droid.


AdAway AdAway is a compact and effective ad blocker which uses less resources than AdBlock+ because it leverages the hosts file, however this requires you have root privileges. Updating the host file can be done manually or automatically. AdAway @ F-Droid.


AFWall+AFWall+ provides a GUI to easily manipulate the Linux iptables firewall. AFWall+ comes packaged with the iptables and BusyBox binaries and requires root privileges to run. Note that there is a donate version which unlocks a few extra features, such as logging. If you don't wish to get the donate key at the Google Play Store, contact the AFWall+ developer to see what options he may offer. AFWall+ @ F-Droid.


Amaze file browserAmaze is a really nice file manager with an intuitive and attractive interface. It includes an FTP server which allows you to browse the file system over your network. Root privileges will be required if you want to browse the entire file system. Amaze is pretty powerful, but If you need something even more powerful, try Ghost Commander below. Amaze @ F-Droid.


Barcode ScannerBarcode Scanner supports many barcode types as well as QR codes and it seems to be pretty good at what it does. Barcode Scanner @ F-Droid.


BubbleBubble is a simple, handy app for leveling things and measuring angles in different ways. Bubble @ F-Droid.


Simple CalendarCalendar is part of a suite of open source apps by Simple Mobile Tools. Calendar works offline without having to share your data with a 3rd party. It provides what you would expect from a typical calendar app and does so in a visually pleasing way. There are plenty of settings to customize the interface to your liking. Simple Calendar @ F-Droid.


Call RecorderCall Recorder simply records both incoming and outgoing calls and offers several options for doing so, though an option to selectively record calls via a simple choice when a call is placed or received is not one of them unfortunately. The developer tells us that most phones will not support call recording, so don't blame Call Recorder if it bombs. I would also venture a guess that it may not work on devices that are running an OEM version of Android. Call Recorder @ F-Droid.


DrawDraw is part of a suite of open source apps by Simple Mobile Tools. Draw is a bare-bones app that lets you draw stuff. I find it useful when i have a spur of the moment design idea and no paper. Draw @ F-Droid.


ForecastieForecastie is a simple weather forecast app that works off-line and pulls weather information from OpenWeatherMap. It provides a fairly detailed forecast in text form for the current day, as well as an extended forecast. Forecastie does not display a radar weather map, so if you want that functionality you might try wX below. Forecastie @ F-Droid.


Ghost CommanderGhost Commander is a powerful, feature packed and polished file manager for Android, however you will need root access to take full advantage of. It can be extended even further with plugins. If you don't need all the functionality that Ghost Commander provides, try Amaze above. Ghost Commander @ F-Droid.


KeePassDroidKeePassDroid is a great little password manager for storing all your passwords, log-on credentials or private text snippets. It is compatible with the KeePass Password Safe database files. One caveat that should be mentioned here is that the base-band OS (radio firmware) on all smartphones is proprietary and apparently has low-level access to the keyboard, so i wouldn't suggest storing any super important passwords on any device that has a cellular modem, Android or otherwise, especially if you are a journalist or activist. KeePassDroid @ F-Droid.


Music PlayerMusic Player is yet another open source app from Simple Mobile Tools. It has all the basic functionality you'd expect, including the ability to manage playlists. Like all of the Simple Mobile Tools apps, Music Player has a clean and pleasing interface that is easy to use. Music Player @ F-Droid.


Offline CalendarOffline Calendar is a companion for the default calendar app that allows it to work offline without having to rely upon a third party to store (spy on) your personal data, however since your calendar data is stored locally, no syncing is possible. Offline Calendar @ F-Droid.


Omni NotesOmni Notes is a really nice app for creating different kinds of notes, including checklists, text, image and audio notes. I use this app a lot for managing to-do lists. One nice feature it has that several others lack is the ability to re-order checklist items by drag-and-drop which is great if you want to sort stuff by priority. Omni Notes @ F-Droid.


Open CameraOpen Camera is a powerful, feature rich camera app for those that don't like the default camera. It supports front and rear cameras, image stabilization, manual controls, many different resolutions, auto-focus and much more. That said, the developer cannot possibly support every feature of every camera and so it may not be a good fit for some camera hardware. Open camera @ F-Droid.


OS MonitorOS Monitor is a handy app which allows you to monitor various aspects of the Android OS including network connections and running processes, as well as being able to view and export system logs. OS Monitor @ F-Droid.


OsmAndOsmAnd is a very powerful map and navigation application similar to Google Maps, however it uses Open Street Maps by default instead of the proprietary Google Maps, though it is capable of using maps from other sources. With all this power comes a ton of configuration options and it can be extended even further with plug-ins, so expect to fool around with it for a while in order to make efficient use of it. Its features include GPS voice guided navigation, GPS status, favorites, POI display, adding audio and video clips to locations and much more. It also works offline so you don't need a data connection to use it. There is both a free and donate version of OsmAnd and it appears that the version currently published on F-Droid is the fully featured one. OsmAnd @ F-Droid.


Privacy BrowserPrivacy Browser, as the name implies, is a privacy oriented web browser that is also focused on security. This slick browser makes it very easy to allow or disallow web storage, JavaScript and cookies on a per-site basis as well of many other options. Privacy Browser @ F-Droid.


Sensor ReadoutSensor Readout can access many of your devices sensors, some of which you may not know it had, and output the raw data in a scalable graph form. It's an interesting little app that may not have much use for most people, but i think the acceleration data could be useful to those who want to minimize vibration in machines like a multi-rotor aircraft or just about anything else that vibrates too much. Sensor Readout @ F-Droid.


UnitsUnits is a very powerful calculator and unit conversion app for converting from one unit of measure to another, such as from inches to centimeters. If you would rather something simpler, but still comprehensive, try Unit Converter Ultimate below. Units @ F-Droid.


Unit Converter UltimateUnit Converter Ultimate is another nice conversion app with lots of predefined conversion formats. Though it lacks a calculator and the powerful syntax of Units, it is still quite comprehensive. Unit Converter Ultimate @ F-Droid.


wXwX may be the most comprehensive (and complex) weather app for Android on this side of the Milky Way. Trust me when i tell you it is not for the faint of heart as there are so many screens, widgets and options (hundreds?) it's overwhelming. Although wX is obviously oriented toward very serious weather geeks (think meteorologists, storm chasers), i like it because it has the ability to display several kinds of animated radar maps and it doesn't spy on you. The developer seems like a great guy too. wX @ F-Droid.


Auroa Store Aurora Store is a Google Play Store alternative that can list, download, install and update apps from the Play Store without having to create a Play Store account. From the official description, "[...] using Aurora you can download apps, update existing apps, search for apps, get details about app tracker & adware and much more. You can also Spoof your Device Information, Language and Region to get access to the apps that are not yet available or restricted in your Country or Device.". You should probably only use this if, like me, you do not have the Play Store (GAPPS) installed and the app you want is not available on F-Droid and you realize the privacy and security risks of downloading apps from the Play Store. Aurora Store @ F-Droid.