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Revision as of 22:02, 15 October 2021 by S0p0st (talk | contribs) (tinydm log file location has changed or varies per device?)
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Default Phosh homescreen.
Default Phosh homescreen.
Name Phosh
Graphics stack Phoc on Wayland
Toolkit GTK3
In postmarketOS
Package postmarketos-ui-phosh
Status Available

Phosh is a phone shell based on the GNOME stack. It is developed by Purism for their own Linux smartphone, the Librem 5. With postmarketOS, it can be used on various other mobile devices too. We have shipped the PinePhone postmarketOS community edition with Phosh.

postmarketOS with Phosh on the Motorola Moto G 2015


Use the pre-built images from the downloads section of, or build your own image with pmbootstrap. If using the latter, Phosh can be installed by selecting it as the UI in pmbootstrap init.

On existing systems, it can be installed by installing the postmarketos-ui-phoshPMOS meta package or phosh if postmarketOS specific customization is not wanted.

When running pmbootstrap install you'll be prompted for a user password. Make sure to only use numeric characters [0-9] in this password as the Phosh lock screen uses this password as a PIN. On an existing Phosh install you can change your user password and PIN in the terminal with the standard passwd command.


First Boot

Note If you get stuck, head over to Matrix and IRC chats. Report issues.

As with all other interfaces in postmarketOS, the first boot takes longer than usual: the file system will be resized to use the entire device. The first start of Firefox also takes longer than the following starts.

After boot, you are asked for your PIN. For pre-built images, this is 147147.

Install updates and reboot

GNOME software with updates available

Unless you have just built your own postmarketOS image a few minutes before doing the installation, it is highly recommended to install updates and then reboot your device. To do that, open the "Software" app, tap the "Updates" button on the bottom right. Then tap "Update All". When the updates are finished, all listed packages will disappear and you will be left with a screen showing only a horizontal line.

Once all updates are installed, reboot so you are actually using the newly installed software and not still the old versions. To do that, tap the top bar between the clock and the battery icon, tap the power symbol and then "Restart".

After rebooting, update the "Software" app once again. If you are running the build that was shipped with the PinePhone, you will immediately see an update for mobile-config-firefox (apk-polkit#18). Install this one too, so Firefox is configured for mobile. This tiny update does not need a reboot.

Do not report issues unless you have made sure that you have rebooted into an up-to-date system.

SSL handshake failed notification

The notification 'Unable to download updates from "" ... SSL handshake failed' can be ignored. Just tap the "x" at the bottom, so it does not cover the "Update All" button anymore.

This message appears if you have just connected to Wi-Fi, and your device's date was not synced with the Internet yet (see the clock that is visible in the top bar). Then GNOME software will fail to download some software ratings via the secure HTTPS protocol, because it can't verify the server's certificates without knowing the date (as they could have expired). For our use case, this is all irrelevant: we don't need the software ratings right now, we want to do updates. Because these updates are signed with a different mechanism already, we don't use HTTPS, but instead the plain HTTP to download them. So we don't even need to have the date synced.

Enable SSH

It's highly recommended to enable and test SSH access to your phone, so you can control your phone from the terminal, transfer files and take part in development.

Contacts, SMS and calls

Unlock SIM card

If your SIM card needs a PIN, Phosh will display a SIM card icon with a question mark on top in the top bar. Open the top menu (tap between clock and battery icon), then tap the bigger SIM card icon again to type in the PIN.

If you see a "No WWAN Adapter Found" message, tap the toggle-icon on the top right. It should turn blue and a "SIM Locked" message screen should appear instead, with an "Unlock" button.

Manage contacts

Open the bottom menu, and open the "Contacts" app (blue book with @ sign). The "Contacts Setup" screen will appear. Select the "Local Address Book" (read below for more options) and "Done". An empty contact list appears.

Hit the + button on the left to add a contact. If you go to the bottom menu (tap the bottom arrow) and open the app again, the "New Contact" screen appears.

Fill out at least the name and phone number, then hit "Add" on the top right.

Synchronization with an online account

For convenience, some people may choose to synchronize their contacts with an online account. In order to do that, close the "Contacts" app (otherwise "Settings" will not open). Then open "Settings" from the bottom menu. Select "Online Accounts" and then add a provider where contact synchronization is supported). After you have added your online account, you should be able to select it in the "Contacts" app.

Note that the online account providers also list services, which are known bad actors in regards of privacy (pmaports#725). From a privacy and anti-mass-surveillance point of view, the best solution is not using contact synchronization at all, or using a self-hosted solution (e.g. with Nextcloud).

Import contacts from a vcf file

The evolution program needs to communicate with various evolution user services, which is only possible when running commands with various DBUS_* environment variables set to the same value as in the Phosh environment. One way to accomplish this, is installing tmux (sudo apk add tmux), opening a terminal inside Phosh and running tmux, and then connecting via SSH and running tmux a to attach to the same session. You can verify the environment variables with env | less.

Once the environment is set up, run the following commands to import contacts from a contacts.vcf file:

$ sudo apk add evolution
$ scale-to-fit evolution
$ evolution -i contacts.vcf
$ sudo apk del evolution

Make a call

Either open the "Contacts" app and tap on the call icon next to an existing contact. Or open the "Calls" app, select "DialPad" at the bottom and type in the number (selecting existing contacts from within the "Calls" app is currently not possible: calls#88).

Previously called contacts / typed in numbers and received calls appear in "Recent" and can be called again from there. If you want to avoid typing in a number, consider calling the phone running Phosh from another phone. Then the number will appear in "Recent" as well and can be called back.

Write SMS

Add the target phone number as contact (as described above). Then open the "Chats" app (the one with two message bubbles), hit the "+" on the top right, select the contact and start typing your SMS.

Alternatively, write an SMS from another phone to your phone running Phosh to start a conversation.

Install software

The "Software" app doesn't show the applications available in postmarketOS and Alpine yet (pmaports#699). The best way to install new software is currently via SSH with Alpine's package keeper (apk, no relation to the Android app format). Use apk search to find software, and apk add to install it. Read apk -h for usage information.

To install the PDF reader Evince for example:

$ sudo apk add evince

Take a screenshot

Currently there is no way to take a screenshot directly from the user interface, however you can take a screenshot from the terminal!

First install grim using sudo apk add grim. Invoking grim results in a screenshot of the entire screen being saved into the current working directory.

If you need to delay the screenshot for e.g. 10 seconds you can do that as well: sleep 10 && grim.

If you need to invoke grim from an SSH session you need to first log in as the user account (su - user) and then invoke grim with a special environment variable: XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=/run/user/10000 grim.


If your phone is able to make photos on postmarketOS (if unsure, check the device wiki page), run the Megapixels app to take photos.

If it is not installed already, and it does not show up in the "software" app (pmaports#699), install it via SSH:

$ sudo apk add megapixels

It is also recommended to install eog and nemo to view and browse the images that were taken. Both can be opened from Megapixels once installed. New installations of postmarketOS with Phosh will come with all three apps installed by default.

External monitor

Note PinePhone: this appears to be broken for some users, see: pmaports#1009

Plug in a cable to your external monitor into your phone. Phosh should recognize the screen automatically and you should be able to use it. For the PinePhone, see this demo video.

Need a reminder of keyboard shortcuts to move applications between screens?


Install postmarketos-tweaks (via the Software app or apk add postmarketos-tweaks), to get a graphical application that allows various tweaks. For example:

  • Change the GTK theme to a dark one (dark mode)
  • Change icon themes
  • Change the time after which the phone suspends
  • Enable or disable all animations


Starting Phosh

If postmarketos-ui-phosh is installed, Phosh uses the GNOME login and session handling. A session is defined as the lifecycle of a user interaction with the system. Phosh will be automatically launched as a session using the login daemon elogind, the autologin credentials provider, and the tinydm display manager.

The daemon actually managing the sessions is elogind which is the login daemon used with GNOME environments not integrated with the desktop system daemon systemd (Phosh on PostmarketOS currently does not use systemd). elogind is responsible for restarting the session if it crashes, and terminating all active sessions when the system powers off. Each user session occurs at a seat. Usually there will be just one seat: the session interacting with the screen. However if you also use a console (such as a serial port) this also becomes a seat.

On the way up the elogind session interacting with the main screen seat will proceed to start the display manager tinydm (TinyDM website) using autologin to provide the default user with Wayland as the display server. On PostmarketOS the default user will be user ID 10000 which is what the installation scripts have set up.

Tinydm in turn will launch Phosh by executing /usr/bin/phosh which in turn will produce the passcode screen so you can proceed to log into your phone.

It can also be launched manually by running dbus-run-session /usr/bin/phosh.

Screen Scaling

Manual Scaling

The Phosh screen may be scaled lower for better compatibility with existing applications. Change the scale by modifying the scale factor variable found in /usr/share/phosh/phoc.ini, which has a default value of 2.

Screen scaling may also be performed on-demand from the command line or by making an application by following the Purism Easy Librem 5 App Development: Scale the Screen blog post. Those instructions work well for devices running Phosh even if written for a Librem5 running PureOS (Debian-based OS). Keep in mind some commands will need to be modified to work on postmarketOS.

Automatic Scaling

Via scale-to-fit it is possible to scale selected applications so they fit the screen:

$ scale-to-fit $APPID true

$APPID may be determined as follows

$ WAYLAND_DEBUG=1 $COMMAND 2>&1 | grep 'xdg_toplevel@[0-9]\+\.set_app_id'

where $COMMAND is the application's executable name. For further reference, look at LINMOB's article about scaling.


If you have trouble configuring everything with the graphical dialogs or just want to use the terminal, read along.

Unlock your SIM card with the PIN: mmcli -i 0 --pin=12345

Configure your APN for mobile data (example for mobile vikings in Belgium): mmcli -m 0 --simple-connect=',user=web,password=web,pin=1111'



Phosh uses feedbackd for haptics, the source repo is hosted on Purism's GitLab, device specific configuration files are hosted in the feedbackd-device-themes repo.

Feedbackd supports devices using the EV_FF (force feedback event) via the Linux input API, the pm8xxx-vibrator driver is a good example implementation of this.

Supported devices

Currently, feedbackd supports the Librem 5, PinePhone and most recently OnePlus 6/6T (and soon the PocoPhone F1). However it should be possible to get any MSM8996+ device working (and MSM8916), as long as the hardware is supported by the mainline driver.

For more details see Haptics.


Firefox looks weird

Firefox should look like this (on the right) after installing all updates. If the address bar is cut off, you don't have mobile-config-firefox installed. Make sure you have installed all updates, rebooted, and checked for updates again (as described in install updates and reboot above).

If you would like to contribute to mobile-config-firefox, see the related project page.

Reading the log

Phosh related applications are logging to ~/.cache/tinydm.log or ~/.local/state/tinydm.log. It's recommended to only share the relevant piece of the log file, read through it and redact personal information (your phone number!) before sharing. Login via SSH, then read the file:

$ su - user
$ tail -F ~/.cache/tinydm.log

Inspecting sessions

It is possible to manipulate the elogind user sessions as root using loginctl. For example:

  • sudo loginctl list-sessions will list the ongoing sessions, and on a normal phone or tablet you should have a one session called c1 connected to seat0.
  • sudo loginctl seat-status seat0 will display the graphics, input and sound devices that seat0 for session c1 is connected to. This is a good way to verify that your graphics (both GPU and display controller), input, and sound devices are correctly set up.
  • sudo loginctl unlock-session c1 will unlock the screen lock from the command line, if the screen happened to lock on you. (This does not apply to the login screen though, you still have to log in properly.)
  • sudo loginctl terminate-session c1 will terminate the session and bring you back to the login screen. You will see a new cN session spawning (such as c3) since the session number increment by one for every new session.

See also the official documentation at

See also