We don't own our own technology: the devices and data that we think of as "ours" are
actually trapped by the applications that act as gatekeepers over them.
Apps wrap and trap our data items and can make it hard to access them. And you don't
even know if they're safe: opaque files on your device may indicate your stuff is there
somewhere, but you always need this app for this data, that app for that data. And
there's no way to tie your stuff across apps.
Take the smartwatch. You may have an app for to-do lists, an alarm app, one for logging
fitness data, maybe a calendar or notes app. You can only achieve anything on your watch
if you have the corresponding app. And there's no way to connect an alarm to the event
you're getting up for, or a to-do list for tracking your workout schedule to the fitness
data it generates. You can't book a gym appointment with your trainer that has a link to
the workout schedule. All your data is jealously guarded by its wrap'n'trap app.
OnexOS is a start towards giving us back sovereignty over our own technology. It's
currently at the early prototype or proof-of-concept stage.
Low cost watches with OnexOS installed
The first step in breaking free of the Apple and Google "walled garden" app-trap
ecosystems is to simply buy a lower cost smartwatch without their operating system
on-board. For the price of a week's coffees, you can buy a perfectly good example such
Which has a large, bright colourful touch screen. It's actually possible to type on a
smartwatch at reasonable speeds with a screen that size (don't forget how we used to
type SMS on a 0-9 phone keyboard!) There are also Open Hardware devices like this, with
more open operating systems.
The next step in freeing you from the app trap is to simply dump the apps! OnexOS is "A
smartwatch OS with no Apps".
OnexOS the OS with no apps, just links between stuff
You can't have an app-wrap-trap if there are no apps! So OnexOS starts there. Without
apps, there is only your data - like a directory and file viewer in Windows, etc. But
instead of "files" and "directories", all data in OnexOS are called "objects".
So a todo list is an object, as is each individual todo. A list of notes and each note
are all objects. Same with event objects inside a list called a calendar object, or a
list of alarm objects.
As you navigate through these lists of objects in the OnexOS interface, things will
look and feel familiar. To see your todo list, first go to the "home" object, which is
itself a list of everything else, and select the todo list object, then select an
individual todo object. Hit "home" or the back button to go back up again.
Whether it's a list of todos or a calendar list of events, all lists look and
interact in the same way: you can add new items, move items, edit items and delete them.
But it doesn't stop there, because a key innovation in OnexOS is the link. Every
object can be referred to by a "handle" called a link. In fact, every list object is
simply a sequence of links to its members. This gives you endless flexibility in how you
manage your stuff.
You can grab a link to any object and put it in any other. You can even grab the link of
a todo and drop it into your notes list, or drop that todo directly into a single
calendar event that needs a list of jobs. Make your own work list of a todo item, a
note, an event and a relevant message. Put that at the top of your home list for quick
access. You can even have a message pointing to a note that points back to the message,
why not? Try doing that between a chat app and a notes app!
All your objects in OnexOS are always visible to you and hosted on your own device. You
own your own stuff. You decide what links to what, even have lists and links across
quite different types. You no longer have to do what the todo list programmer lets you
do, or the calendar programmer. Just mash everything up any way you like - it's your
data after all!
Objects are internally animated
But, if there are no apps, just data, how do you get the same functionality that apps
used to provide? Normally our inert data is "animated" by its corresponding app. And how
does a clock, stopwatch, calculator or alarm work at all?
OnexOS objects are "live" or internally-animated - they can have internally-driven
autonomous behaviours and can interact with us and with each other.
So your watch object shows the current time and date, but its internal behaviour updates
it every second. You would probably drop a link to the watch object at the top of the
"home" list as you want it up on the screen most of the time. You can have as many watch
objects as you like, actually, perhaps for different timezones or presentation styles.
An alarm object lets you set the time and day and has a behaviour to alert you when the
time is passed. Similarly, a calendar event "knows internally" when it's due.
A calculator object knows internally that when you type "2+3*4" into it, it should set
its "result" property to "14". Again, create a new calculator object in a new list for
every calculation you want, so they are all to hand - you don't need to clear the
current calculation to do another.
Maybe a todo list may keep track of the number of remaining jobs not marked done, with
an internal behaviour that sets this number as its listed todos are updated.
We don't need the concept of an "app": links between live objects with internal
behaviours get us all we need and much more.
OnexOS: freedom and empowerment
So, with this innovation of an app-free smartwatch operating system, we can regain full
control and sovereignty over both our devices and our data. No apps, just all of our own
live objects, linked together how we like. The vision of this OnexOS proof-of-concept is
of a world without app traps, giving us freedom from Big Tech and empowerment over our
OnexOS is still under
development. If you want to get involved as an early adopter and tester, get in touch!
Duncan Cragg, 2023. Contact me