Switched to Lineage OS


Sven Vermeulen Sun 09 April 2017

I have been a long time user of Cyanogenmod, which discontinued its services end of 2016. Due to lack of (continuous) time, I was not able to switch over toward a different ROM. Also, I wasn't sure if LineageOS would remain the best choice for me or not. I wanted to review other ROMs for my Samsung Galaxy SIII (the i9300 model) phone.

Today, I made my choice and installed LineageOS.

The requirements list

When looking for new ROMs to use, I had a number of requirements, some must-have, others should-have or would-have (using the MoSCoW method.

First of all, I want the ROM to be installable through ClockworkMod 6.4.0.something. This is a mandatory requirement, because I don't want to venture out in installing a different recovery (like TWRP). Not that much that I'm scared from it, but it might require me to install stuff like Heimdal and update my SELinux policies on my system to allow it to run, and has the additional risk that things still fail.

I tried updating the recovery ROM in the past (a year or so ago) using the mobile application approaches themselves (which require root access, that my phone had at the time) but it continuously said that it failed and that I had to revert to the more traditional way of flashing the recovery.

Given that I know I need to upgrade within a day (and have other things planned today) I didn't want to loose too much time in upgrading the recovery first.

Second, the ROM had to allow OTA updates. With CyanogenMod, the OTA didn't fully work on my phone (it downloaded and verified the images correctly, but couldn't install it automatically - I had to reboot in recovery manually and install the ZIP), but it worked sufficiently for me to easily update the phone on a weekly basis. I wanted to keep this luxury, and who knows, move towards an end-to-end working OTA.

Furthermore, the ROM had to support Android 7.1. I want the latest Android to see how long this (nowadays aged) phone can handle things. Once the phone cannot get the latest Android anymore, I'll probably move towards a new phone. But as long as I don't have to, I'll put my money in other endeavours ;-)

Finally, the ROM must be in active development. One of the reasons I want the latest Android is also because I want to keep receiving the necessary security fixes. If a ROM doesn't actively follow the security patches and code, then it might become (too) vulnerable for comfort.

ROMs, ROMs everywhere (?)

First, I visited the Galaxy S3 discussion on the XDA-Developers site. This often contains enough material to find ROMs which have a somewhat active development base.

I was still positively surprised by the activity on this quite old phone (the i9300 was first released in May, 2012, making this phone almost 5 years old).

The Vanir mod seemed to imply that TWRP was required, but past articles on Vanir showed that CWM should also work. However, from the discussion I gathered that it is based on LineageOS. Not that that's bad, but it makes LineageOS the "preferred" ROM first (default installed software list, larger upstream community, etc.)

The Ressurrection Remix shows a very active discussion with good feedback from the developer(s). It is based on a number of other resources (including CyanogenMod), so seems to borrow and implement various other features. Although I got the slight impression that it would be a bit more filled with applications I might not want, I kept it on the short-list.

SLIMROM is based on AOSP (the Android Open Source Project). It doesn't seem to support OTA though, and its release history is currently still premature. However, I will keep an eye on this one for future reference.

After a while, I started looking for ROMs based on AOSP, as the majority of ROMs shown are based on LineageOS (abbreviated to LOS). Apparently, for the Samsung S3, LineageOS seems to be one of the most popular sources (and ROMs).

So I put my attention to LineageOS:

So, why not?

Using LineageOS without root

While deciding to use LineageOS or go through with additional ROM seeking, I stumbled upon the installation instructions that showed that the ROM can be installed without automatically enabling rooted Android access. I'm not sure if this was the case with Cyanogenmod (I've been running with a rooted Cyanogenmod for too long to remember) but it opened a possiblity for me...

Personally, I don't mind having a rooted phone, as long as it is the user who decides which applications can get root access and which can't. For me, the two applications that used root access was an open source ad blocker called AdAway and the Android shell (for troubleshooting purposes, such as killing the media server if it locked my camera).

But some applications seem to think that a rooted phone automatically means that the phone is open access and full of malware. It is hard to find any trustworthy, academical research on the actual secure state of rooted versus non-rooted devices. I believe that proper application vetting (don't install applications that aren't popular and long-existing, check the application vendors, etc.) and keeping your phone up-to-date is much more important than not rooting.

And although these applications happily function on old, unpatched Android 4.x devices they refuse to function on my (rooted) Android 7.1 phone. So, the ability to install LineageOS without root (rooting actually requires flashing an additional package) is a nice thing as I can start with a non-rooted device first, and switch back to a rooted device if I need it later.

With that, I decided to flash my phone with the latest LineageOS nightly for my phone.

Switching password manager

I tend to use such ROM switches (or, in case of CyanogenMod, major version upgrades) as a time to revisit the mobile application list, and reduce it to what I really used the last few months.

One of the changes I did on my mobile application list is switch the password application. I used to use Remember Passwords but it hasn't seen updates for quite some time, and the backup import failed last time I migrated to a higher CyanogenMod version (possibly Android version related). Because I don't want to synchronize the passwords or see the application have any Internet oriented activity, I now use Keepass2Android Offline.

This is for passwords which I don't auto-generate using SuperGenPass, my favorite password manager. I don't use the bookmarklet approach myself, but download and run it separately when generating passwords - or use a SuperGenPass mobile application.

First impressions

It is too soon to say if it is fully functional or not. Most standard functionality works OK (phone, SMS, camera) but it is only after a few days that specific issues can come up.

Only the first boot was very slow (probably because it was optimizing the application list in the background), the second boot was well below half a minute. I didn't count it, but it's fast enough for me.