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The Librem 5 Development Roadmap and Progress (puri.sm)
218 points by petethomas on Oct 4, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments

Like many, I strongly hope this succeeds. My biggest concern is that the lack of apps and app ecosystem will doom the project to either low market adoption and/or failure.

It would be fantastic if there were a way to run Android apps. Even if they need to be rebuilt for the platform, at least not requiring developers to re-write their app would be a huge start. Also getting support into things like React Native would be good. Most developers I know (including myself) are willing to build apps for different platforms, but aren't necessarily willing to make big code changes or do rewrites/ports that involve lots of effort. Whatever can be done to help make it easy for devs to get their apps running would likely be a good investment. Developers, developers, developers!

There's https://anbox.io/. I don't know, though, if there's any limitation that prevents using this on the Librem 5.

That definitely does look promising. On their website under "Convergent:"

> Anbox scales across different form factors similar like Android does. It works on a laptop and a mobile phone.

Additionally in the README.md on their Github page (https://github.com/anbox/anbox):

> Anbox ... can be used on mobile operating systems like Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS or Lune OS too.

So conceivably something like this could be a great start.

The support for android apps is in one of their stretched goal in their crowdfunding campaign : $10M... so, not really realist, given how the campaign is currently doing.

That being said, if we managed to run windows games on linux, I'm pretty sure we can find a way to run android apps without a VM.

On the plus side, it'll run Linux, which has a pretty darn good selection of "apps" and "app ecosystem" (package managers).

I know that's not quite the same thing, but it's not like they're inventing a new OS platform from scratch: apps developed for Linux will run on the phone, and apps developed for the phone will hopefully repay their developers' time by being compatible across many Linux devices, especially when/if other full-Linux phones become available.

(A caveat - I don't know how much of this is hardware-dependent, e.g. the CPU.)

If they stick with Qt, maybe they could share some apps with Sailfish. With some coordination, it should be possible to get a common repository "app store" that would also benefit the KDE Plasma Mobile project, and perhaps even Ubuntu Phone if Ubuntu would decide to restart development. Of course hardware support is always the limiting factor, but at least you wouldn't need a limiting phone-specific app ecosystem if a lot of Qt-based software would work on a wide range of devices.

I beleive the killer app on this kind of devices is WhatsApp, as most other stuff like Facebook or Instagram can be used through the browser before native apps are provided. But WhatsApp is so omnipresent that convincing them to make an app for your platform would really help. Maybe if Ubuntu Phone managed to get a native WhatsApp client, it would have held on.

Is WhatsApp really "omnipresent"? Maybe it's a regional thing. I know zero people that use it, or at least zero people that use it to talk to me. Everyone I know uses either Telegram or LINE or just plain old SMS.

Stuff like Facebook and Instagram can be used in browser but are missing basic features on their mobile web versions and constantly yell at you through popups to use to the app instead. Hopefully the popups at least don't occur on platforms that don't have the app available. Facebook for example recently removed Messenger from their mobile web version to make people install the app.

If this phone lands and has no whatsapp, I will buy one and switch definitively to Telegram.

Telegram is nice, works everywhere, the protocol is open, clean and relatively easy to implement.

I also will make the rest of the family switch to Telegram. I am sure that as long as they are able to write message to each other, they will be fine with it.

Quite frankly, the main advantage of Whatsapp over Telegram is that it is more widely adopted. But beside that, not much.

Biggest advantage in my eyes is actually proven end to end encryption based on the signal protocol.

Considering that the libre 5 will be the first matrix native phone, maybe get them to switch to matrix instead, which is actually open source in both clients and server and has encryption with an actual security assessment. still no stickers though...

> Quite frankly, the main advantage of Whatsapp over Telegram is that it is more widely adopted. But beside that, not much.

Thing is I (and I guess most people) don't want to do app evangelism, but just use the existing communication protocols my peers use. People in your network will have their own networks, and so on, and telling them to quit them networks or to add another app to their phone is going to annoy them.

If you read carefully (something I strongly advise you to do) you will find out that I was talking about my family: they trust my judgement and I can bring them very good reasons for what I propose.

Regarding my other contacts' networks: I certainly do not impose other people what app to use, but at the same time I have no interest in doing something (e.g.: running an app I honestly don't like) just because everybody is doing it.

In all honesty, if someone has something to tell me or I have something to tell someone, we will surely find a way to communicate. Keep in mind that, at least for now, all mobile phones can make phone calls and send text messages (at least to negotiate other means of communication).

I wonder if we'll see Plasma support.

Highly probable : https://dot.kde.org/2017/09/14/plasma-mobile-and-purisms-lib...

Although, it's obviously not done yet.

So impressed with Purism's hard work and ethics. I'm so glad it looks like this will reach it's funding goal.

I'm very surprised that the phone will have an open GPU. I've been looking for a laptop replacement for ages that has an open CPU and GPU. While I can avoid Intel like the plague and go straight for an ARM CPU, the GPU always tends to be a closed source binary blog.

If Purism can crack this and get a full open source phone, I hope they build a lightweight laptop using the same sort of specs. This could mean avoiding the whole ME cleaner requirement for their Librem laptop range, removing the spyware [1] from all Intel chips.

1. https://libreboot.org/faq.html#intel

Any of the Qualcomm DragonBoards will perform considerably better than any i.MX8 chipset board AFAIK. Freedreno (Qualcomm Adreno driver in Mesa) is a lot farther along than Etnaviv for the time being. There's also v4l2-based hardware video decode in upstream kernels for (supported) Qualcomm chipsets.

If you want a non-Intel desktop, you could also look to any of the high-performance AArch64 or Power boards with PCIe slots in them, and slot Radeon in.

I would rather support a chip maker with open hardware, even if currently not the most performant, than one which does nothing and relies on a crowd of volunteers to make it work.

> If Purism can crack this and get a full open source phone, I hope they build a lightweight laptop using the same sort of specs.

The chip they're using is from the i.MX line with Vivante GPU. The reason this chip has open source drivers is because of the etnaviv project, which was funded by bunnie and the backers for his Novena project. So in a sense, the laptop you want already exists and in fact came first. It's just a little pricey and kind of rough around the edges.

> go straight for an ARM CPU

Are there actually open ARM CPUs? My very vague understanding was that ARM claims that their ISA cannot be implemented without infringing some patents on some instruction encoding tricks they hold.

Yeah you're right. Basically my concern is having backdoors written into driver firmware that can not be removed. For example Intel's ME [1], AMD's PSP [2], Samsung's BL1 bootloader, etc. For me personally I don't mind using hardware that has patents and copyright, so long as when I buy it I'm free to do what I want with it without undue surveillance from corporations or government.

So yes, I guess the hardware isn't open, but all the software/firmware on can be (for example the RK3288 [3]) (of course with the exception of the GPU).

1. https://libreboot.org/faq.html#intelme

2. https://libreboot.org/faq.html#amd

3. https://libreboot.org/docs/hardware/c201.html

Man, if they can make a straightforward phone with a reasonably sized screen for people with normal hands (like my beloved Motorola Atrix HD from 2012!), and do it with only upstream kernels and free drivers and infrastructure, I'm in.

I love the idea of running Arch Linux on my phone, it would vastly simplify the harsh divide between my workstation and my smartphone. There's also a distinct possibility of running OpenBSD on my phone in the future, which is where I'm increasingly going.

The thing could probably run Android applications anyway, if it really needs to. There are projects out there that let you do this on desktop Linux today.

That's a lot of hoops for them to jump through, and I wish they succeed. At what point do you say "this is at least a step forward and I'll buy their stuff even though it might not be perfect"?

I hope they succeed too. I tried to buy a laptop from them and it was a terrible experience from order to refund (and months waiting). Despite that I'm still rooting for them.

> There's also a distinct possibility of running OpenBSD on my phone in the future

How would this happen? Is OpenBSD working on it? Is someone porting OpenBSD to the Librem 5?

If there's enough information to have Linux on it, porting OpenBSD to it involves less intensive reverse engineering. The Mesa drivers run in userspace, so if a compatible OpenBSD KMS driver for the Vivante is made, you can run the same userspace graphics stack.

i.MX6 support was added in September 2013. I don't think there's i.MX8 support yet, but it's probably not a herculean task to get it running.

For those interested in pledging, here's a quick link: https://puri.sm/shop/librem-5/

We just passed the $1M mark!

Yes, please show the Ubuntu guy that he was wrong to abandon his mobile OS.

GO! Super happy to see the progress in this project. I was one of the early backers (as soon as I saw the news link). Keep at it everyone. Doesn't matter what Google announces or Apple... keep at it. This is going great places. =)

Agreed! I can't wait to receive my development kit next year, and phone a few months after! I have but one regret: that I don't have more money to throw at this campaign.

One of the organizations endorsing them is in need of funds also. https://matrix.org/blog/2017/07/07/a-call-to-arms-supporting...

not for long, hopefully :)

Thank you for using liberapay by the way

When it comes to used SoC, booting GNU/Linux on it isn't really groundbreaking. I'm much more interested in i.mx6/i.mx8m's power consumption and heat generation. Those chips are often targeted for and used in automobile industry, with bulkier power supply and good cooling, so putting them in a phone might pose some big challenges.

Nevertheless, as a guy who used to be active part of Openmoko, OpenPhoenux and Neo900 communities, I wish them luck!

For those of us who just want Linux on the phone, but don't know much about hardware and low level stuff: What can we expect?

How powerful are these going to be? I guess asking how they compare to current phones performance-wise is not the point of this phone, but it would be nice to know where this stands.

Also, if it's not too early to make predictions, how long will the thing last battery-wise? Iirc the laptop situation in Linux had some stuff like powertop which helps, but it's still tricky.

What smartphone SoC has open drivers? If they can make a workable smartphone which runs on the mainline kernel, that seems like dramatic progress.

It's not hard to boot plenty of SoCs on mainline kernel, plenty of open devices use TI OMAPs, for instance, that's pretty well supported. What's hard is to provide proper GPU acceleration, support for all included hardware and power management tailored for particular device. Seems like i.mx6/8 are good with the first one (sadly, OMAP sucks there), that's nice. However, regarding the rest - you don't expect that Librem 5 will be really usable as a phone on mainline Linux on launch and some time (possibly years) after launch, do you?

GTA04 project has had (and still has) a massive aspiration to upstream all the kernel changes and drivers, but they're still not done after many years (although close), because a lot of things that actually make the mobile device usable are device specific hacks that rarely are accepted upstream. Now it boots on upstream kernel (or not, it changes from release to release), but if you really want to use it as a phone, you still have to use Goldelico kernel. Which is of course completely open, just not mainline. Earlier, with Neo Freerunner, the situation was similar, aside of the fact that amount of non-upstreamable hacks were much higher and there was no stuff like device tree back then, so nobody made any serious progress on upstreaming.

Also, booting is one thing. Getting everything in shape to be usable as a every-day device with small battery is another. The road from "booting on mainline" to "workable smartphone on mainline" isn't doable in a year or two, when you also have to design and produce the device during that time.

However, that's not a big issue at all. Mainline eventually will get better and better, and if you have active community and try to minimize the deviation from mainline, rebasing isn't that hard. What can be an issue is power and thermal requirements of used chipset. I don't know about any mobile device that has used it before (but that's doesn't mean it doesn't exist), and I've already seen projects rejecting them as "not for mobile", that's why I'm eagerly waiting for more info about this SoC's performance.

Thanks for the answer, I'm intrigued by what you're saying about the hardware being unsuitable for mobile, surely these are fairly standard components? The range of CPU's they're discussing use off the peg A72 Cortex cores designed by ARM, mixed with some lower power cores in various configurations, using big.Little. All mobile chips massively over-run their thermal capacity, and have to throttle after some minutes running at full power. Work on keeping within the thermal envelope, managing the array of cores and parceling out tasks, seems more to do with software than hardware, and work which has to be done anyway for Linux to be able to function in that environment, and also to be a relatively generalizable problem. That seems to be why you'd support a project like this.

Why do you need device specific hacks, and what about the hardware is inappropriate? Genuinely interested to know.

> What's hard is to provide proper GPU acceleration

I'm still looking for a non-commercial BeagleBone Black image that includes the TI HW accelerated GPU drivers.

The imx6 and imx8 are for the automobile industry but not the imx8m . Librem really wanted to use the M for the reason it used less power ,that's what they said anyway. I believe they will use the quad core A53 variant


Awesome, and I just discovered Puri.sm now accepts Monero as payment.

I'll be placing my order in a few hours using Monero (this changed my mind from "maybe" to "definitely"), but I have a question:

In the hopefully-unlikely case that the goal isn't met, how will you refund people who paid with either Bitcoin or Monero?

Regarding refunds: I funded the Librem 5 using Bitcoin, but the transaction didn't go through in time. I contacted them via mail, gave them a Bitcoin address, and got refunded. Unlike some other vendors I have dealt with in the past, they actually understand Bitcoin. So I'm optimistic this will work.

I'm super excited to get a real linux phone. The Ubuntu phone is the only smart-phone I've had that I didn't hate. I really hope this takes off.

Too bad still closed source wireless: lte/3g/gsm modem, wifi firmware, bluetooth firmware, etc. If limit the support just to LTE, it would be much easier to port an existing LTE FOSS implementations. WiFi is a different beast, but easier to implement anyway, than LTE and Co.

What are the LTE FOSS implementations available? I could not find anything that seems usable.

Looking forward to this very much. The only downer: $599 for a phone is a lot of money. I understand that they have to cover many expenses. However, I hope they'll also offer phones for poorer people. In the end, privacy should not be a luxury.

If you need something cheaper and sooner, get a Nexus 5X and install Copperhead OS on it.

Please note the puri.sm team is looking for people to join their team and assist with things like UX/PureOS/Kernel stuff. Not affiliated, I justed recently learned about Librem 5 and got all excited and saw it on their website.

In this update they now consider it highly likely that the phone will get the i.mx8 CPU.

Releasing the $599 Librem 5 phone with the outdated i.mx6 CPU (quad core Cortex A9, ARMv7-A from 2011, like the Samsung Galaxy S3) would be a disaster.

EU should fund this, besides complaining about Google/Apple monopolies and US companied not paying EU tax

curious why not just go with Tizen as their baseline .... what else besides Android or iOS is polished enough w/an app ecosystem to have a fighting chance of survival?

I so want this project to succeed.

Tizen isn't fully open source, makes you beholden to Samsung, which has little reason to fully commit since their entire business operates on Android phones, etc.

Thanks - I was under the impression it is entirely open source - except maybe for proprietary blobs/drivers (in my mind, that's open source enough I suppose). Better Samsung than Google if you ask me... Canonical/Ubuntu tried something like this and failed miserably. I'm not sure how this is going to be different ... without some major backing down the line. Starting things and prototyping things is fine and dandy... but making this a viable competitor to the established players... that's a whole different ball game.

It depends what you call viable. Who's your market? How many do you need to sell to break even? If you're Microsoft or Amazon, you need your mobile product to take market share from Google and Apple, but if you can make a profit making a couple thousand phones for some people who want to buy them, that may be a perfectly successful business model.

In my case, I want my phone to make calls, send texts, and browse the web. It'd be nice if it had some apps, but I probably don't need more than a dozen or two. If you don't need a giant rival ecosystem as your definition of success, it's much easier to succeed on a smaller scale.

As proven by Windows Phone, WebOS, FirefoxOS, Jolla, Blackberry,....

Most of the failures sold to a general consumer market though, mobile Linux should be able to survive just like desktop Linux, catering to an enthusiastic niche. Also, mobile Linux has the advantage that a lot of apps already use open source stacks, between F-Droid and PWA's there is plenty of an app ecosystem to keep things ticking over, for an audience that doesn't mind tweaking things.

F-Droid is a steaming pile though, compared to the high caliber software in most distro's repos. Linphone, Firefox and many other apps are months or years out of date, with known, active vulnerabilities.

Their goal is not to compete with Android and iOS but to cater to those who value an alternative, and understand the compromises they will have to make.

If the hardware is good enough and open, a lot can happen. They will need very good integration with PWA because this will likely be the best source of apps.

They just rebooted the SDK once more by going .NET Core with Xamarin.Forms.

> Canonical/Ubuntu tried something like this and failed miserably

I would argue the use of the word "tried". Canonical really just dipped their toe into the waters to test it out and backed out immediately. Look at threads about the Ubuntu phone, and the one complaint everyone had about it was "I still can't order one". They just didn't have any in stock for a large part of it's lifetime. Furthermore, the OS was not production quality, it was still very much beta (note that I say this despite Ubuntu Touch being my favorite phone I've ever had).

So a phone that they rarely had in stock, with beta software quality is absolutely going to fail. I think that if they actually "tried", they would have been at least more successful, if not actually successful.

that was painful to read

If you are refering to the page: yea, it was, but it was the source.

If you are refering to the content: the negligence of samsumg is appalling.

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