Shelter - take a break from work

2021.02.14 by Matthias Kirschner in #fsfe #tech #ilovefs #fya

On today's "I love Free Software Day" I would like to thank "PeterCXY" and others who contributed to shelter.

Until recently I have used two separate phones: one for the FSFE and one privately. The reason is that I prefer to have the ability to switch off the work phone when I do not want to be available for work but focus on my private life. After the FSFE phone did not get further security updates for a long time I was facing the decision: should I get a new phone for work -- but waste resources for the hardware -- or should I continue to use the old one with the known security issues?

Thanks to Torsten Grote, the FSFE volunteer who started the FSFE's Free Your Android campaign, I was made aware about another option: use shelter which is leveraging the work profile feature in Android. With this solution I have the latest security updates from my private phone and have the ability to easily switch off the work applications.

Screenshot of apps in work profile

You just clone installed apps into the work profile. If you do not also use them privately remove them from your personal profile afterwards. Once that is setup, you can disable notifications from all those apps by pausing the work profile.

Screenshot of paused work profile

This is just one of the use cases of shelter, you can also use it to

  1. Isolate apps, which you do not trust (e.g. if you are forced to use some proprietary apps on your phone) so they cannot access your data / files outside the profile

  2. Disable "background-heavy, tracking-heavy or seldom-used apps when you don't need them."

  3. Clone apps to use two accounts on one device. Something many people asked about for messenger apps which do not allow to setup more than one account (like most Matrix or XMPP clients) in one instance of the app.

If you want to read more about it and speak German, I can recommend the shelter tutorial by Moritz Tremmel, unfortunately I have not yet found something comparable in English yet.

So a big thank you to PeterCXY and others contributing to the Free Software app shelter! Please keep up your work for software freedom!

Shelter logo

Beside that thanks to countless other Free Software contributors who work on other components of that setup:

  • CalxyOS: for providing an operating system which you can also recommend to non-tech-savvy people, without being their point of support afterwards.
  • LineageOS: for providing builds to liberate your phones on many devices.
  • Replicant: for working hard to remove and replace proprietary components from Android phones.
  • F-Droid: for making it easy to install shelter as well as many other apps on liberated phones.
  • OpenMoko: for doing the pioneer work for Free Software on mobile phones
  • Librem phone, Pine Phone, Ubuntu Phone, and others who are working on non-android Free Software solutions for phones.
  • Finally: Torsten Grote and many other FSFE volunteers who helped people to liberate their phones with the FSFE's Free Your Android project.