Upgrade Pixel XL to LineageOS 17.1 (Android 10)

LineageOS recently pushed official 17.1 images for my phone, the Pixel XL (marlin). I’d been stalling a little bit in the upgrade as the only path is a manual and I was concerned I was going to lose all of my application state.

I finally took the plunge, in part I was keen to move to the new Android 10 features – and LineageOS has also stopped their 16.0 builds, and this means you won’t get new security patch levels.

It turns out that while you need to take some manual steps, the upgrade path was very smooth. Still, here are the steps I took:

(1) Backup

  • I already make use of SimpleSSHD to support nightly SSH based backups.
  • Export settings from various apps: k9mail, feedme, etc. that are not backed by cloud services.
  • Run SMS Backup+ to archive all my SMS to my gmail account.

Usually I run TWRP recovery, but LineageOS has moved to their own recovery. Unfortunately the LineageOS recovery doesn’t support Nandroid backups. You can however still use adb backup.

To perform an adb backup, have the phone running as normal. Enable both developer options, and then allow adb (debugging) and adb root access. To do the backup we need to let adb connect, and have root access to access the files.

On your desktop machine:

Your phone will prompt you for confirmation of the backup process. Once it starts to run, it’ll take a while (mine was 8GB over USB2).

Additionally I manually copied the backup files (exported settings) I had made.

(2) Download the ROM

Grab the 17.1 marlin ROM from LineageOS. I also run the Google stuff, so also go to OpenGApps to get that. I initially picked ‘stock’ because I though, hey the Pixel is as Google a phone as you might get. The list of stock apps is pretty close to what I have installed anyways – despite the fact that my current gapps is the nano version.

Once I upgrade my phone to a later version of the hardware, I’ll probably stick with the Pixel line. LineageOS isn’t officially supported on the more recent hardware, but the delta between LineageOS and Google stock has become pretty slim too. I may finally give up on custom firmware and run stock, we’ll have to see.

[If you read on, you’ll note that I ended up falling back to the nano gapps build.  Oh well]

(3) Check hashes of all downloads

Always check the hashes. I’ve personally had bad downloads. You don’t want a bad file to cause you additional grief, it’s easy to check.

(4) Upgrade

We can follow the LineageOS upgrade wiki to do the install.

My device did reboot to a blank screen, but once I started the next command – I got a visual progress display. It is possible I just didn’t wait long enough, but either way things started up just fine.

If you are as I am, intending to install the Google apps, then you want to avoid booting into normal mode.

On the phone in recovery once it has finished the sideload

  • Click Advanced
  • Reboot to Recovery
  • Once recovery start again..
  • Click Apply Update
  • Apply from ADB

Now we sideload gapps:

Note: It does appear that I got a new recovery as part of the lineage install.

Here is where I ran into trouble with the stock version of gapps. While the source file did match the md5sum, the phone install was giving me a signature verification failure – at 47%.

oh oh.. 1st try to install the (md5sum verified) gapps.. and I get a signature verification failure.. but at 47% progress.. hmm. It turns out that other people have had exactly this problem.

The 47% appears to be a side effect of the sideload process. I banged my head on this a few times, until I carefully read what was actually being reported on the phone screen when the verification failed.

Not enough system space to install the stock gapps. Sigh, how many times have I struggled with getting a computer to do something when the problem was that I didn’t carefully read the error message.

Downloading and installing the nano version worked fine, but my notes say that I still saw the signature verification failure (this may be due to the gapps approach to building the bundle).

(5) Reboot

And wait, and wait, and wait.. The first boot is always exciting and takes enough extra time you start to worry something is wrong.

And.. it’s alive! All my apps/data are still “ok”. This is unexpected, I had prepared myself to do a full rebuild of things, but it seems that this upgrade path allows my applications and their state to persist.

There were some minor configuration difference (launcher UI settings reset.. to 5×5 instead of 5×6 which I prefer). This was easy to fix and my layout was fully restored.

A bunch of permission checks popping up too, still overall a mostly painless upgrade to Android 10. Lots of settings persisted, like my mobile data per app preferences. Ringtones and sounds were busted, because the LineageOS sounds have been replaced by the Pixel ones.

(6) Epilogue

It’s been over a week, and no big surprises (which is good).

The whole Privacy stuff is great. I always liked Privacy Guard in LineageOS and now that similar function added to Android itself, I’m ok with letting that go. I’m a bit disappointed with the stock sounds available, I may just need to go add the old LineageOS sounds as user sounds so I can get the ones I’m used to.

Moar Speed: Faster Internet

When we upgraded to cable internet, we had 30/5 service. At the time this was a nice upgrade from the fastest DSL we could get at our house.

In general, that was plenty. There were of course occasions when Netflix would load slowly, but this was almost always something you could attribute to the internet being poor as a whole vs. the lack of speed. Even web conferences with video were pretty good.

During COVID19 lockdown and many more people working from home, we’ve managed so far with 30/5 – but there have been some issues. Pulling bits down was always pretty ok, but pushing them up was sometimes a challenge. The different web meeting software is quite different in how it handles poor connections. Zoom is one of the better ones, Jitsi tends to really eat up the bits and WebEx is somewhere in the middle.

Teksavvy offers a no-cost upgrade (or downgrade) path for your cable plan. It was a very simple to switch my service speed via the self service portal, which created a change request ticket. They said 48hrs, but the work was done very quickly (within the hour).

I’m getting pretty solid speed tests. My old go-to dslreports has been pretty cranky lately, giving me plenty of time out errors when trying to test. I have started to look at fast.com as an alternative. Still dslreports is one of the few that gives you a bufferbloat rating, something that is important if you want VOIP or any sort of interactive activity to go smoothly.

If you haven’t read up about bufferbloat, it’s worth learning a little about. The short story is that you want to make sure that your home networking equipment (router, etc) has some form of QoS to help make sure that not only are you getting ‘fast’ internet, but responsive internet. It will make all the difference, at any speed. There are certainly people out there with 150Mbps internet who have terrible lag, that’s not a happy place and it’s something you can fix with a little bit of learning – and the right hardware.

In any case – the ~$10 price increase has doubled performance of our internet connection (75/10 plan). This still means we are lagging behind the average, but it’s pretty good. Before I go chasing more ISP speed, I’ll be looking more closely at network / wifi infrastructure I have set up.

Hello FreshRSS

Well, it was time for a new RSS feed reader – and FreshRSS was the best choice for me. The kind folk at linuxserver.io maintain a container for it, and it fits nicely into my nginx setup.

Moving to a new tool for anything will have an adjustment period, it would be nice if the user experience was identical – but there is also something to be said about trying new things. Different isn’t always bad, change can be for the better.

Setting it up on a basic linux install looks simple, but I would suggest that adopting a container version is even easier. FreshRSS bootstraps and has a guided setup for first run (first connect on the web). You can even pick a sqlite database and avoid any database setup. It supports OPML import, which many other RSS feed readers support as well – so getting your feeds in or out of FreshRSS is easy.

My initial kick the tires install, I use the no-database required sqlite configuration. This worked well, but as I already run MySQL for my wordpress installs, why not use the same data store?

This is very easy – and the MySQL is also running in a container. The linux install covers how to setup your database, but as I’m using a container version I need to make one change to the setup – because ‘localhost’ isn’t the source of the network traffic to the container. (this is the use of ‘%’ instead of ‘localhost’ as shown below)

While allowing access from any host is a bit security scary, the container is already isolated to a private network so I’ve got layers of protection already.

During the web first run setup you have to then configure the database appropriately.

That’s probably the most complicated part of the setup. Now it’s just a matter of creating a user, and importing the OPML of my feeds and away I go.

Of course the new FreshRSS is going to ‘discover’ loads of new unread articles I’ve already read – and also for feeds I’ve been ignoring, not load enough unread articles. Oh well. So for a short while I run both – marking large chunks of articles as read in the new system, and burning down ones that were missed by the new system in the old one. It’s a one time hit and it gives me a chance to tweak some of the user setup configuration.

I’m only a day or so into using FreshRSS – but I’m adapting quickly to the differences. I will shout out to the Android app FeedMe which supports FreshRSS very nicely, once you enable the mobile API.

I will say that the themes are quite nice, I’m still getting use to the layout differences between it and the previous reader I was using. No regrets in making the switch to FreshRSS.