Freedom-Respecting Gadget: Degoogling a Samsung Tablet

This is about buying a Samsung Android tablet and replacing the privacy-invading proprietary Google and Samsung software with privacy-respecting Freedom Software: “degoogling” for short.

Why? In “The Problem” section below, we take a look back at how much we're giving up when we accept Google's and Samsung's terms.

I would like ordinary people, with a little technical skill, to be able to do this. The process unfortunately is currently far too difficult, especially so on Samsung devices.

My goals:

The tablet I bought:

Yes, it's a few years old already. One of the benefits of Freedom Software is the community at large has the option to maintain up-to-date software on older devices, for as long as anyone considers it worth the effort. This is in contrast with the original maker's vested interest in stopping updates of their proprietary software after a small number of years. A nod to the right-to-repair and sustainability movements.

The Problem

Have you bought a tablet or phone recently? Perhaps even a Samsung?

IF We are buying a new or second-hand tablet,

THEN We might look at a Samsung Android device. They do make nice hardware!

BUT Oh! The set-up screens! — Screen after screen of, Yes, I agree to let Them scan my house for other devices and report back anything they find... Yes, I agree to let Them install or change or delete anything on “my” device... Yes, I agree to let Them scan all my contacts and data so they can make me feel happy by feeding it back to me in different ways, no, wait, they mean mining it for profit and trapping me in their systems. Yes, Agree To All because that's the easy option (and notice there's no “Agree to None” option).

Aaargh! No way, not me. Unfriendly system, Be Gone!

THEREFORE We want to turn it into a Freedom-Respecting Smart Phone or Tablet by “flashing” a Freedom Software operating system onto the device.

The New Software

I want to install an android-compatible, privacy-friendly, Freedom-Tech operating system. Nowadays I favour e-OS by Murena. e-OS is near main-stream user-friendly, with a nice blend of privacy by default along with a choice of optional (privacy-invading) google support for those that want it. e-OS is available on a wide range of phone hardware from cheap to premium, and you can either buy it or self-install it. If you're not wanting to develop tech skills in this area, buy it pre-installed.

Android-compatible Freedom Tech Operating Systems

Android as most people know it is a proprietary product, which contains inside it some open-source software (including some of Linux), leading to eternal confusion about whether “it” itself is open-source. No. Only the people who go looking for it get an open-source system built around the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). (That's us, yay!) Everyone who buys an Android device from the usual sort of phone maker is getting a heavily proprietary product that spies on them.

For this reason I often use long-winded descriptions like “android-compatible freedom-tech operating systems” to clearly differentiate these from proprietary Android.

Murena's “e-OS” is built around AOSP, using Freedom Tech to replace all the proprietary Google pieces, in a similar way to other android-compatibles such as LineageOS (a minimal android-compatible base OS) and LineageOS-for-MicroG (LineageOS plus F-Droid and some optional google support).

See my Freedom-Respecting Smart Phone post for other Freedom Tech alternatives you might consider.

Choosing a Well Supported Tablet

I bought this tablet after checking it was supported by e-OS and by LineageOS (and therefore also by LineageOS-for-MicroG).

What I didn't realise until too late is the installation instructions say I should download and run this, that and the other from various “random” (unofficial/unverified) sources — and it turns out those instructions are intended for running on MS Windows. Ugh.

There is a Freedom software alternative for this step: Heimdall. See Odin and Heimdall: Free Your Samsung Android.

I found this part of the procedure to be a deep rabbit-hole and spent a long time getting through it, reading a lot of dead-ends along the way.

For this reason I want to document what works, and also make it easier for others to do it, by attempting to automate this procedure in the Open Android Installer.

As the procedure is similar for many devices so working on the solution for my device should, I hope, also help others.

On Choosing a Well Supported Tablet, if you have limited time and experience for working through a complex installation procedure, then I would advise only choosing a Samsung phone or tablet in the following cases:

(Once it is running a Freedom Software OS, it is easier to upgrade or change it from that point.)


Installing is a challenge. The procedure is fraught with difficulties. Some people report that they “simply” followed the instructions and succeeded within an hour, while many others apparently spent days, encountered problems or gave up.

The starting point is the semi-official instructions published by the likes of LineageOS and e-OS. Note that these are basically the best efforts so far of volunteer groups, and are not necessarily accurate or complete, and far from foolproof.


After many hours of trial and research I got LineageOS installed, and some notes taken, several improvements implemented in my local copy of Open Android Installer, and a first couple of blog posts posted about parts of the procedure.

After reaching that stage, it was relatively easy to replace plain LineageOS with LineageOS-for-MicroG (both at version 21).

I also tried replacing it with e-OS (version T equivalent to 20) but that failed:

Installing update...
Comparing TZ version XF.5.1-01015-1 to XF.5.1-638149-3
ERROR: This package requires firmware from an Android 12 based stock ROM build. Please upgrade firmware and retry!
ERROR:   recovery: Error in /sideload/ (status 1)

The tablet was running Samsung Android version 12 before I started. Never mind that for now. I'll come back to e-OS later.

So, I can claim success on one score: my tablet is now running LineageOS-for-microG.

Oh! You wanted all the details of how I did it and what went wrong? I'm not planning to write that up in that form (it was messy), but rather to work out improvements and write them up. I'll post them here once I've got something.

Making it easier for others to do the same

Taking hours to achieve this feat just for myself does not make me feel good.

I want to make it feasible for people with just a little technical skill to install an alternative operating system. It really should not and need not be so hard.

I can:

In particular I want to do things that help whole classes of problems, across multiple devices and multiple operating systems, such as making the installers and instructions more automatic, more consistent, more foolproof, easier to diagnose.

To these ends, I have been keeping notes on what's missing, and have started making improvements to Open Android Installer.

#fossGadgets #android #degoogled #lineageOS #eOS

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