OT: android phone backup NOT to google cloud question

Polytropon freebsd at edvax.de
Wed May 15 23:21:24 UTC 2019

On Wed, 15 May 2019 09:22:49 -0500, Valeri Galtsev wrote:
> I wonder if someone of Android smartphone owners backs up their device 
> and user/application data NOT to google cloud.

This is possible, but problematic. Allow me to explain
(see sidenote below):

A classic Android smartphone has three areas of storage.

Area 3 is the micro-SD card you can remove. Put it into
a micro-SD->SD-> adapter, make a 1:1 copy or just copy
the files. Done.

Area 2 is the application storage within the smartphone.
It is poosible to make it accessible to FreeBSD by
connecting the smartphone with a USB cable. Allow the
device to represent that area as USB direct access storage
(usually happens interactively when you connect it), and
then mount the /dev/da* device that appears. In many cases,
two devices will appear - one for area 2 and one for the
already mentioned area 3.

With the Android developer tools - port android-tools-adb
("Android debug bridge command line tool") -, you have access
to a program called "adb". You can use it to interface with
area 2 storage and copy files (and whole subtrees) with it.
This makes it possible to get photos, messages, data stored
by apps, and so on.

However, the problematic part begins here.

Area 1 is the "internal" storage where you have your contacts,
phone numbers, SMSs, and all that stuff. The data that I have
called "area 2" is actually just a part, a subdirectory of
area 1. Access to the root directory is not easily possible
even with adb as long as the phone hasn't been "rooted".
This means you cannot "cd .." from area 2.

Still there is an app called "Total Commander" which you can
use to move information from area 1 to area 2, and then copy
it from there. I haven't tested that myself, as I don't own
a smartphone, I'm too stupid for that. The only thing I did
once for a client was to use "adb" to copy files from area 2
storage, which worked without problems.

(Sidenote: This differentiation is explained primarily for
reference purposes.)

> I just had to get new smartphone, and discovered that short of rooting 
> device or unlocking bootloader and flashing one of "un-googled" android 
> builds I can not find the way to back up everything. To my storage, NOT 
> TO GOOGLE CLOUD that is. adb lets me back up system and applications 
> (and data on add-on flash card), but not application data stored in 
> internal storage (say, off-line maps downloaded by offline map application).

Is that kind of data also part of area 1? Never thought about

So maybe the "Total Commander" is a solution for you?

I once read there are programs provided for "Windows" and maybe
for Linux where you can access Android storage, but I'm not sure
this isn't just some GUI for "adb" which implies the limitations
you're already observing. Would that be something you can use,
maybe with "wine"?

I can fully understand that you don't want to use Google's cloud
storage, because it's just someone else's computer. On the other
hand, Google already has all your data. ;-)

There probably is an option to run an app on the smartphone which
exposes a FTP server that maps to its storage, but I assume this
also comes with the limitation mentioned above. Closed source apps
that allow you to upload to a non-Google location will probably
exist, but again, it's a matter of trust if you're willing to
involve another party here.

> <rant>
> I knew when buying android ("gogloid") I'm not becoming an owner of the 
> device. I also know that after flashing one of "un-googled" systems 
> (waiving off the warranty on that device) I will not get rid of all 
> google code.

That is correct. You could have "rooted" the phone to at least
tear down the wall between area 1 and 2, though.

> There is proprietary chunk of it the android kernel... Plus 
> proprietary drivers ("blobs" is the word android people use if I'm not 
> mistaken).

There's even more proprietary code in the baseband processor
which runs even when your smartphone is turned off, and there
is no way to replace it with something else. This is even more

> I also have seen google "appliances" on several "big" (say, 
> class B) networks, not registered in DNS, carrying non-routable 
> ("private address space") IP addresses, which are resolved as google by 
> DNS servers provided to DHCP clients inside these networks... So, no, I 
> have no illusion about getting away from almighty big brother.

If you care, just pay attention what you feed BB with. ;-)

> I just want my data backed up to my device, accessible to me and usable 
> for recovery without need of network access, and existence of some third 
> party servers on the network.

You _do_ recognize that you're trying to do something that is
not intended and not desired by the manufacturer, provider, and
owner (!) of "your" device, don't you? :-)

> I know, Apple iDevices are a bit better data wise, and Apple has [quite] 
> a bit better reputation, though these are still Apple devices, not yours ;-)
> </rant>

I was finally able to copy photos and videos from an iPad that
is connected via USB cable. No 3rd party service, no cloud, no
"just register here", no "buy that app", and no "Windows" involved.
Just FreeBSD. :-)

Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...

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