Sailfish OS ‑ Command Line Interface & Customisation

This article has a parent article. It contains some preliminaries to the topics here.

Manual changes in system directories can be overwritten by updates. To avoid that, one should use Patchmanager patches to implement such changes.

Doing Things on the Command Line

MTP (the same protocol Android devices use) will expose the /home/defaultuser folder to the connecting computer, both to graphical and command line applications. But it hides some (system) files and folders from the connected system.

A more powerful way is to connect through a terminal via SSH:


Please be prepared that you might need to use the terminal app on the phone if you lock yourself out.

Don't be root for any of these commands/edits, except where specified!

Another option is to enable Developer mode & Remote connection, then ssh into the device or scp files to/from it via WLAN.
Example config section in ~/.ssh/config on the computer that wants to connect to the phone:

Host xa2 # make something up here HostName # Port XXX # your choice here User defaultuser IdentityFile /home/me/.ssh/name-of-id

The IP can be different - tell your router to give your phone always the same IP.
Now entering

$> ssh xa2

should be enough to make a connection. It asks for the password you entered when enabling developer mode & remote connections.

When this is working, I (along with 99% of all Linux users) highly recommend using an SSH key for connecting, for improved security against attacks. The procedure is exactly the same as on any other GNU/Linux system, see e.g. [here for a tutorial][awsk].

One should also disable password and root login completely: as root (devel-su), edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config on the phone and add/edit/uncomment at least these lines:

PermitRootLogin no # Port XXX # your choice here PasswordAuthentication no PubkeyAuthentication yes ChallengeResponseAuthentication no AllowUsers defaultuser

Remember to restrict access to ~/.ssh/ and the files in it, otherwise ssh won't let you use the keys and you might lock yourself out!

chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/*

Restart sshd on the phone:

devel-su systemctl restart sshd.service

You should now be able to connect with your key file, not using the local user's password anymore.

Also consider changing the default port 22 to something else by uncommenting the lines in both config files, and restarting sshd again.

The phone's shell and my beloved URxvt terminal emulator have difficulties communicating. I installed xterm on my computer and am using this to connect to the phone. Works perfectly.

Of course one can always use the terminal app directly on the phone. It gives full access to the system just like SSH.

Becoming root

devel-su asks for the user password and can be used for both single commands and to open a root shell.

Package management

PackageKit is a "high-level front end for a number of different package management systems." It's installed by default on SailfishOS. It uses the ZYpp package manager as a backend, which in turn uses rpm. Simply entering pkcon will list commands and options.


zypper is another package managament tool which, afaik, does not interfere with PackageKit because they use the same backend.
In other words, it can be used for everything pkcon does, and more:

Useful commands

  • Free form search for packages: pkcon search ..., zypper search --search-descriptions ...
  • Sometimes it happens: you uninstall some software, but it leaves behind dependencies that are not needed anymore.
    You can find these with zypper pa --unneeded.
  • In case you messed up un/installing something, the zypp history can be examined.
    E.g. all transactions for today:
    grep "^$(date '+%Y-%m-%d')" /var/log/zypp/history.
  • List all repositories: zypper repos
  • List all installed packages: zypper pa -i
  • Find the package that owns a file: rpm -qf /full/path/to/file


On your phone, you might want to install nano, a useful & ubiquitous CLI editor:
devel-su pkcon install nano

It does not come with a nanorc file; I recommend copying one from another machine and moving it to /etc/nanorc. That way settings apply to all users. Make sure to enable syntax highlighting by adding this line:
include "/usr/share/nano/*.nanorc"


By default, /bin/bash is symlinked to busybox:

$> ls -l $(which $0)
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root  18 Feb 13 2023  /bin/bash -> ../usr/bin/busybox

So even if you explicitely start bash, it starts busybox instead.

However, bash is already installed as /usr/bin/bash - we just need to remove one package:

$> devel-su pkcon remove busybox-symlinks-bash


To view & edit SQLITE databases directly on the phone. The sqlite3 executable is not installed, but the package sqlite is available. It does not show up in either Jolla or Openrepos appstores, but you can install it like this:

[root@Your_Phone]# pkcon install sqlite

TODO: quick tutorial and useful commands


SSHFS can mount part of a remote filesystem locally via ssh.

On SailfishOS this means that I can listen to music or watch video straight from that remote location - no more media servers! In fact I can access all files with both GUI and CLI applications.

Here's how:

First, try to get normal ssh working from your phone to a server, preferably passwordless with an authentication key. Once this works reliably:

  • Install sshfs-fuse-2 (OpenRepos/Storeman). Don't be alarmed by its age, it uses SailfishOS' very own ssh binary to make a secure connection!

  • formulate a suitable command or use a toggle script like this one:

    #!/bin/bash exec 2>&1 # dependency checks for dep in mount grep sshfs ssh fusermount; do command -V $dep >/dev/null || exit 1 done mountdir="/home/defaultuser/server" # just an example location="remote_user@domain_or_IP:/path/to/dir" port=XXX # preferably something other than 22! identity="/home/defaultuser/.ssh/your_server_s_key_file" sshfs_options="follow_symlinks,ServerAliveInterval=15,reconnect,\ IdentitiesOnly=yes,IdentityFile=$identity,port=$port,\ compression=yes,debug,sshfs_debug,loglevel=debug" if [[ $(mount|grep -o "$mountdir") == "$mountdir" ]] then echo "$mountdir is already mounted. Unmounting..." fusermount -u -z "$mountdir" exit 0 fi if sshfs -C -o "$sshfs_options" "$location" "$mountdir" & then echo "Mounted $location on $mountdir" echo "Run $0 again to terminate connection." exit 0 else echo "Mounting $location failed" fusermount -u -z "$mountdir" exit 1 fi

Executing the script the first time will mount, executing it another time will unmount. It's very chatty, if you need to use the terminal it was started in you might want to remove all three debug options.


Ambiences can be quickly created from images/photos, but I find this process a little lacking: images are resized in a way that can reduce their quality, and I do not have enough control over the colours used.
The default ambiences are stored in /usr/share/ambience. They are simple folders with a configuration file (*.ambience), a background image and optionally also sounds.
Everything is straigthforward. You can create your own ambiences from scratch, however they need to be stored in /usr/share/ambience, I have not found a way to store them anywhere under /home/defaultuser.

Here's an example:

$> ls /usr/share/ambience/white-on-black/*
$> cat /usr/share/ambience/white-on-black/white-on-black.ambience
    "displayName"               : "White on Black",
    "wallpaper"                 : "black.png",
    "highlightColor"            : "#ffffff",
    "secondaryHighlightColor"   : "#dddddd",
    "primaryColor"              : "#ffffff",
    "secondaryColor"            : "#aaaaaa",
    "ringerVolume"              : 100,
    "colorScheme"               : "lightondark",
    "favorite"                  : true,
    "timestamp"                 : "2021-09-19T10:00:00",
    "version"                   : 3

The image should be the height of your phone's screen, and square. In my case: 1920x1920px.

You will need to be root (devel-su) to create & edit these files & folders.
There's also an option to create a package directly on your phone, but I haven't gone to such lengths.

When ready, restart the ambience daemon: systemctl --user restart ambienced.

Also have a look at the other .ambience files:


Pulseaudio is the sound server that makes sure all the different sound sources and outputs are muted, paused, resumed properly. It's also used on dektop Linux.

Disable High Volume Warning

Disclaimer: be aware that doing this you remove a safety feature and could damage your hearing. Use at your own risk.

It's the same idiotic warning one used to get on Android phones when listening on headphones (or anything plugged into the audio jack). It blocks raising the volume above a certain level until some sort of OK button is tapped. Listening to audio while cycling, this gets very annoying, because it kicks in seemingly randomly once or twice a day.

To get rid of it, you can install Patchmanager 3.0 (now in CHUM) and look for "Volume Warning" in the Web catalog, install the patch, then Apply. There are several patches. At least one of them should still work, despite being listed as incompatible (no worries, if it really isn't, it simply won't patch). All of them use the same method: In the Lipstick UI, they mark the high volume warning dialog as checked. This means that the volume still gets reduced periodically, you just don't have to tap OK to go higher.

This does not satisfy me; maybe pulseaudio can be told to not do it at all?

Edit /etc/pulse/mainvolume-listening-time-notifier.conf (also see "SSH" and "Becoming root" from the main article). Replace

mode-list = lineout,hs


#mode-list = lineout,hs
mode-list = 

And reboot (or restart pulseaudio?).


It appears to be completely gone after that, I never get reminded, and the volume never drops by itself.

Collection of Notes

I found this pastebin (archive) with a gdb of pulseaduio. It shows me which module loads the config file in question and what it does with it:

D: [pulseaudio] module-meego-mainvolume.c: Read long listening time notifier config from /etc/pulse/mainvolume-listening-time-notifier.conf
D: [pulseaudio] conf-parser.c: Parsing configuration file '/etc/pulse/mainvolume-listening-time-notifier.conf'
D: [pulseaudio] module-meego-mainvolume.c: Notifier conf role-list add: "x-maemo"
D: [pulseaudio] module-meego-mainvolume.c: Notifier conf mode-list add: "lineout"
D: [pulseaudio] module-meego-mainvolume.c: Notifier conf mode-list add: "hs"
D: [pulseaudio] listening-watchdog.c: Restore counter value 0 minutes (0 seconds)
D: [pulseaudio] module-meego-mainvolume.c: Long listening time notifier setup done.

Not that I understand very much, but I wonder what will happen if i simply remove/rename that file. A search for listening-watchdog finds a file in ~/.config/pulse with a .simple extension. It is not plain text, I have no idea what to do with it.
There is some documentation about [pulseaudio modules][pam].

It is possible to install gdb, as well as alsa-utils:

pkcon install gdb alsa-utils

Alsamixer is unusable but I can get some information through aplay, amixer etc.

Flat volumes

Just like on my desktop, pulseaudio is very opinionated about adjusting volumes relatively to the master volume, which has sometimes undesired results (esp. after a phone call).

To disable this, I will try to edit /etc/pulse/daemon.conf.d/50-sfos.daemon.conf and replace flat-volumes = yes with flat-volumes = no.


And reboot (or restart pulseaudio?).

Internet sharing over USB

Requires installing and activating an extra package via command line. After that, the "Internet sharing" option will appear next time you connect to a computer via USB cable.


  • Connect your Sailfish device to a WLAN network or to a mobile network (“Settings > System > Mobile network”), i.e., enable mobile data.

  • You will need Developer mode for installing USB tethering.

  • In a (remote) shell, enter:

    pkcon refresh
    pkcon install usb-moded-connection-sharing-android-connman-config
    systemctl restart usb-moded


Tools for interacting with mce (Mode Control Entity).

#> zypper install mce-tools

Provides the command line tool mcetool which allows to set and read various - well, modes on your phone.
Try mcetool -h.
E.g.: disable lock screen animation:

$> mcetool --set-lockscreen-animation=disabled