I like the idea of managing my phone like I manage my computer; install whatever OS and software I want on it. Of course, that comes with the additional effort of keeping it well updated and working, and if this is a primary communication device that effort becomes more urgent. But hey, I think that's just what it takes to not be dependent on a corporation that takes my data/info in exchange for device support.
I don't know what you're talking about.
Almost every 5 years I get a new laptop, install Debian on it and it gets updated just fine forever.
And I customize it to the bone.
Yeah, but you actually get the option, and you, the owner of the device, have the power to make it happen.
I think it is a noble effort with zero chance of success, its like Linux on the desktop, but with the further complication of expecting people to pay $$$ for out of date hardware, with what will no doubt be terrible software, with no apps users actually want to use....
Btw, Linux on desktop is used by many large tech companies...
'Many large tech companies' is pretty insignificant when you look at the number of people who use desktop computers, and then even more insignificant when you look at the number of people who use phones, and is a very poor metric as it doesn't really consider people actually choosing to purchase the system when others are on offer.
There is just no value in their proposition to consumers... Have an expensive old phone, made by a company that can in no way support your purchase should the hardware fail...
And I don't believe for a second that it will be more secure than iOS or even Android. Small team, custom operating system, the user can install their own OS, sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Speaking of openness, and since you mentioned ios: apple recently unpublished a company's entire catalog of apps without any explanations. The word on the street is malware (well technically fraudulent adware) but do you think you will ever get apple to admit that?
I don't know about the case you mention. I do not think that Apple manage their developer community well, but most issues like the one you highlight are generally edge cases - users doing something that isn't clearly defined by Apple rules. What was the company and what did its apps specifically do? If it was fraudulent adware do you not agree that they should be removed?
It is clearly a minority of people that have smartphones that still receive security updates. All fancy force-upgrade mechanisms are useless if there are no updates to be installed.
I've been an iOS developer for years and made a comfortable living, but it bothers me on a deep and fundamental level that my primary communication and computing device is controlled by someone else, and the software I'm allowed to run and allowed to distribute is entirely decided by them. I'm willing to risk money if it helps our chances of having an alternative.
The only possibility I can imagine is that by leaning into a niche market, embracing low-volume but also the community that goes with it, rather than engaging in a quixotic quest to become a viable competitor to the established duopoly, Librem can become sustainable along the lines of niche laptop manufacturer System76. That doesn't seem entirely unreasonable, and it would be pretty cool.
They should just use briar. It hides metadata, it's encrypted, it's peer to peer. It's biggest downsides are no file transfer, no iOS client, no offline messaging.
Or better yet someone should develop an app based on one of the newer concepts like vuvuzela/alpenhorn or loopix.
You’re right that metadata isn’t protected serverside: so use servers you trust. In future the plan is to move to a hybrid p2p approach to fix this, but usability and features are more important given you can pick the servers to trust. https://matrix.org/~matthew/2016-12-22%20Matrix%20Balancing%... has more details on the tradeoff.
I’d be shocked if your friends and coworkers aren’t accessible via Matrix, given bridges through to Gitter, IRC, Slack etc. And if you want them to be native Matrix users, just invite them :)
In terms of “not decentralised enough”... the only bits which aren’t decentralised are the node which hosts your account, and (currently) the mapping DB of email/msisdn to matrix IDs. The latter is being fixed by the community currently; the former is harder but due to be worked on next year (hopefully solved by the time the Librem5 ships).
In terms of briar: it’s a great project, and perhaps it will surpass Matrix in time. But right now the battery and bandwidth requirements of running a full p2p stack on the client - as well as all the missing features you list, are a showstopper. It’s also not really set up as an open protocol/specification; just a library and app.
So, Matrix is probably the best bet for now. And we’re counting on evolving at the current rate or faster over the next year in the lead up to the Librem5 shipping.
Push notifications via GCM or APN all also centralized, correct?
What do you see as taking the place of GCM or APN on the Librem 5 phone? I currently use Riot on a device with neither (5 minute polling) and the experience as an instant messaging application isn't as good as an Android/iOS device.
If matrix moved toward pond style metadata protection I would make the effort to move my social graph on to it and probably support it financially.
As is, I don't see the value proposition of matrix. I am genuinely curious what it is. An update to xmpp?
Is it that it is going to be encrypted AND federated? Many popular apps now support default encryption so that isn't much of a selling point. Conversations is federated and is not getting traction the way signal has. Being federated has benefits but they are sort of theoretical and aren't high on most people's list of concerns. Further the value proposition of federated systems is attenuated by it's downsides (slow evolution).
Meanwhile people get killed based on metadata. Seems like a more urgent problem to tackle.
You're right that people get killed based on metadata, which is why it's in our sights in the longer term. But our focus is first on features that make the system actually compete effectively with its centralised counterparts (encrypted decentralised Slack or WhatsApp style use cases), otherwise in practice nobody's seriously going to use it. And secondarily on protecting metadata, especially given there's stuff like Ricochet & Briar that you can use today if you're doing something where you really need the metadata protection today.
And on Android and ChromeOS, it isn't exposed to user space, so kind of irrelevant and can be changed at any moment, e.g. Fuchsia.
The only place where Linux really made it, was replacing expensive proprietary UNIX servers with free (gratis) clone.
> And on Android and ChromeOS, it isn't exposed to user space, so kind of irrelevant
Sure, and I can run Windows applications on Wine, so Windows is kind of irrelevant. Don't be silly.
> The only place where Linux really made it, was replacing expensive proprietary UNIX servers with free (gratis) clone.
Except you're forgetting that these expensive UNIX servers were supposed to be replaced by Windows NT (later Windows Server) machines. So you'd have Windows at every level and could hire a point-and-grunt "sysadmin" to run it all at a much lower TCO. That's the grand vision that we've been spared.
And you forgot about the embedded market. Hell, my TV runs Linux and I didn't even know (my wife chose it) until I was poking about in the menus and found a copy of the GPL. And you also omitted Cloud Servers, where Linux is hugely dominant. Oh, and Supercomputing where 499 of the Top500 Supercomputer run Linux.
But yeah, apart from embedded, phones, tablets, laptops, servers, cloud servers and supercomputers...what has Linux ever done for us?
Talk to me in a couple of years, now that everyone is migrating to BSD style licenses, while trying to replace the whole stack (clang, Fuchsia, ...).
Had the *BSDs won against GNU/Linux, and I bet all proprietary UNIXes would still be around.
A TV running Linux is worthless if there isn't a way to update the firmware, how do update yours?
>Talk to me in a couple of years, now that everyone is migrating to BSD style licenses
Nonsense, Linux is more popular and more widely used than ever. You were saying the same things two years ago, right? I suppose you'll still be saying the same two years from now.
> Had the BSDs won against GNU/Linux*
The BSDs aren't against Linux (except in the minds of some overly zealous BSD fanboys). The popularity of Linux has increased the popularity of the BSDs. They've helped each other.
EDIT: Oh yes, Containers! How could I forget containers! Just add it to the list...
Ah the Pyrrhic victory, it is there but out of reach!
> Nonsense, Linux is more popular and more widely used than ever. You were saying the same things two years ago, right? I suppose you'll still be saying the same two years from now.
Yep, and if Google does release Fuchsia, lets see who is right.
A man can dream one day we'll have a phone with a baseband chip we can control, a RISC-V core we can program, no?
So it's perfectly feasible to have a small market device like this if the market price covers the cost of buying chipsets off the shelf, and assembling them.
How many people worked on Xerox Alto? They had to do everything from scratch, including bootstrapping their own tools and they had far worse computing capabilities/hardware available to them at the time.
For one thing, it looks like they are leaving much of the development up to the wider community. Gnome/Plasma will handle the UI for instance. Mozilla and Canonical tried to experiment to much with the interface and build too much of it from scratch. Even MS was to "innovative", the had all the parts in place to build a better android but they wanted to put tiles in.
In my case, the problem actually doubles, because I'm on Verizon. Verizon IS required to support any compatible device, but few niche developers are willing to submit their devices for certification. :/ I suspect there would be a significant value if someone could get a free software-based module submitted to https://opendevelopment.verizonwireless.com/design-and-build...
Yes, it is very hard, and I hope they'll succeed this time.
> In my case, the problem actually doubles, because I'm on Verizon.
Can you ditch Verizon for T-Mobile? They are more flexible.
They also started the entire anti-net neutral trend with throttling video, zero rating content from specific providers, etc. Which the others carriers were unfortunately all too willing to copy.
It is hard to see from either a technical or ethical standpoint how T-Mobile is better.
Palm's webOS is an html/js based mobile phone OS that predated the JS based excitement.
For example, if there was a device that focused on running progressive web apps well, there would be a market today than compared to the past when horsepower wasn't at the level it is at now.
The flip side is also being able to run these sorts of operating systems on more devices.
I use my phone more and more for computer replacement tasks on Android. Would be neat to be able to run the odd android app in a container, etc.
How does that explain the failure of FirefoxOS?
With today's PWAs it would be a wonderful OS.
In Mozilla's case it was an inability to define a market more than the technology stack. I had a Flame. While the OS started a little rough around the edges, by Firefox OS 2.5 it was perfectly usable as a daily driver with modest specs by 2017 standards.
Even here, most people buy Chromebooks to replace ChromeOS with an usable version of GNU/Linux, just like we used to do with Windows 95/98 back in the day.
The RPi is the one of the most open of all the SBC (Single Board Computers) currently on the market:
What that says about other SBC, I'll leave up to you to decide.
Straight from the rpi-open-firmware repo:
> Does it boot Linux? Yes, with some conditions. You can boot a very minimal version of Linux without the firmware and get it to work with UART and eMMC. Support for USB, DMA, and Ethernet are in the works.
The default firmware and Raspbian environment involve many non-free blobs.
In the case of the open-source VC4 drivers (GPU driver), these are being written by a Broadcom employee (in his spare time). Broadcom are the company behind the SoC that is at the core of the RPi. So you have a person with access to technical documentation from the company that makes the device writing the drivers. Regardless of whether they get paid or not, the drivers are of high quality, they've even made it into mainline Linux, so they work out of the box. There's very few SBC that have similar levels of open source support for their GPUs.
As for the firmware, yes it does need more work to be a true replacement for the standard one. However, it's a fixed target, and there are people willing to put in the work, so it's only a matter of time before it improves further. That said, I'm sure more assistance would be welcome.
Unfortunately, the current end result seems to be a Linux that doesn't even have support for USB or ethernet.
There are so many SBCs these days it's hard to enumerate all of them, but this board looks more open than RPi. I think it uses Vivante/Etnaviv graphics. http://www.imx6rex.com/open-rex/
That's over 5x the price for the cheapest model (iMX6 OpenRex SBC Basic, €199 in quantity 1, http://www.voipac.com/#category3 ), at that price you'd be better off getting an x86 board.
> "Unfortunately, the current end result seems to be a Linux that doesn't even have support for USB or ethernet."
You forgot a word at the end of that statement... " yet". Furthermore, expensive outliers like the OpenRex aside, it's still currently more open than its main competition.
That said, I shouldn't be so critical. The state of free graphics drivers on ARM SBCs is pretty abysmal and any improvement is a good thing. Mostly I object to the assertion "RPi is a free and open platform," but rereading your original post you didn't actually say that. Perhaps we should say "RPi is one of the least-closed platforms." It will be great to see the FOSS VC4 drivers mainlined into the Linux kernel.
Survey of FOSS ARM graphics drivers https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTQ3MTM
Hardware that can run the Lima free graphics driver: https://limadriver.org/Hardware/
Hardware that can use the Etnaviv free graphics driver: https://github.com/etnaviv/etna_viv#socs-with-vivante-gpu
I said "most open". You said "least closed". In my opinion that's the same thing, just with a different spin.
EDIT, example of boards that have do sources available: https://www.olimex.com/Products/OLinuXino/A20/open-source-ha...
There's no usable open source driver for Mali GPUs (the Lima project got the closest, but it's stalled: https://limadriver.org/ ), so the A20 does not have "sources available".
I know I personally have a lot of "needs" that aren't being met by the current smart-phone options.
I'm excited about Librem, if it is what I think it will be: a phone I can completely trust.
I'm also extremely surprised that it got funded. 1.5e6 USD is not a modest goal given how stingy we usually are about freedom-respecting projects.
It would be great to have a device running Linux with native Wayland, and LTE modem separated from the CPU for better security. I just hope they'll go with i.MX 8M so it will be 64-bit.
How is etnaviv for it though? I also wonder what's the level of OpenGL support in it. I suppose Vulkan support isn't even started?
An e-ink phone with a 3 day battery life! But being a hacker phone, as long as performance isn't too shabby when docked to a regular 3D accelerated LED monitor with Wayland desktop would be a nice balance.
It's a pity AMD and Intel didn't break into making good mobile CPUs and GPUs.
I wonder if they had investors all along and only pretended to crowdfund.
(I'm not saying this is a scam or anything. I participated.)
As the funding threshold neared, confidence grew, and more people signed up.
It might also just have taken people a week or two to decide to commit a bunch of money to a 15-months away delivery ...
My hope is that this is a successful campaign and that a good product is delivered, but the pre-order / crowdfund situation, at best, has an appearance of sketchiness.
Nevertheless, I wish them luck and hope they succeed.
Can I apt-get install something in this (assuming debian/ubuntu installed) or have it's own app store?
Really interesting, but so many questions unanswered about what I can do with the phone once I buy it.
Yes. Any Linux app that runs on ARM. Most desktop apps don't have a UI that works well on mobile, and some apps are pretty much a no-go just because of performance, but aside from that you're free to install the software you want.
> "Can I apt-get install something in this (assuming debian/ubuntu installed) or have it's own app store?"
Yes, you'll be able to use package managers. The proposed phone aims to support multiple distros, including Debian and Ubuntu if you want to use apt-get. The flagship OS for the device is Pure OS, which currently uses GNOME Software as its app store (I'm guessing they might extend it with the option to install commercial software before launch):
I pitched in $20 to support them, but buying a phone I might not get that I wouldn't be able to use for at least a year that may or may not meet my needs at that time was a bit of a stretch for me. Willing to bet there are many others in the same boat there.
Still, it would be nice to have some hope do be able to do it without relying on manufacturers' goodwill... If ARM gets sufficiently commoditised so it's cheap (both time and money) enough for smaller players to create hardware, surely there must be enough open-source and/or privacy-oriented folks around to come up with a profitable product?
Maybe there's a Oneplus angle here where they can start small and lean with a partner.
Baseband typically uses DMA to interact with the main system.
It's FOSS, Linux-based, has apps and is Mobike-optimized.
There is so much great software available for GNU/Linux that we have the potential to tap into, and many of them can be made to work on a 5" touchscreen with a little bit of elbow grease. Firefox OS and Ubuntu phones failed because they ignored the giant stack of software sitting right in front of us. Purism would do well to leverage the software we already have and love, rather than wasting time designing new application models and distribution channels which nobody asked for in the first place.
There's been a hole in my heart since the day the Nokia n900 was discontinued. I've got my fingers crossed on this one.
Android does not seem to be the problem.
When going with custom OS if this phone gets any traction then I'm pretty sure some helpful OS contributor from three-letter-agency will add something from his heart, because by running it you are already signaling that you are an interesting target.
In term of applications, is a phone focused in a particular ecosystem: Matrix for encrypted communications and HTML5 Apps. Maybe it will suffer from the same pain as Ubuntu Phone? No native Apps being developed by major Companies? Maybe is a tradeoff that users can live with.
Your bank probably won't ever have an app running on it though, you're right. I think most mobile apps that people use elsewise have decent enough PWAs that it won't be such an issue as long as PWAs are well supported at the UI layer.
I love the concept but being an average smartphone user I'm sure many people, like me, would like to know more about the basic things that we use everyday (camera for example).
It looks like much of the UI work is being punted to whatever phone ui the KDE and Gnome projects churn out.
An Android userland will likely ship in parallel or shortly after. The bits AOSP handles are by and large boring and don't need to be futzed with.
I'm not implying that they have been fooling around with the money but it gives me the impression that they are not good at planning things and communicating with people.
Love the i.MX 6/8 APs, but I would recommend prototyping/de-risking the power budget up front.
100% open source warms my heart. Would love to see if this could be built.
XMPP failed to get BOSH out the door quickly enough to maintain traction.
What is the difference between Matrix and XMPP?
The Matrix team used XMPP (Openfire, ejabberd, spectrum, asmack, XMPPFramework) for IM before starting to experiment with open HTTP APIs as an alternative in around 2012. The main issues with XMPP that drove us in this direction as of 2012 were:
- Not particularly web-friendly - you can’t easily speak XMPP from a web browser. N.B. Nowadays you have options like XMPP-FTW and Stanza.io that help loads with letting browsers talk XMPP
- Single logical server per MUC is a single point of control and availability. MUCs can be distributed over multiple physical servers, but they still sit behind a single logical JID and domain. FMUC improves this with a similar approach to Matrix, but as of Oct 2015 there are no open source implementations. The MIX XMPP extension also aims to address this limitation.
- History synchronisation is very much a second class citizen feature
- Bridging to other protocols and defragmenting existing communication apps and networks is very much a second class citizen feature
- Stanzas aren’t framed or reliably delivered without extensions. See wiki.xmpp.org for an XMPP take on this
- Multiple device support is limited. Carbons and MAM aim to resolve this
- Baseline feature set is so minimal that fragmentation of features between clients and servers is common, especially as interoperability profiles for features have fallen behind (as of July 2015)
- No strong identity system (i.e. no standard E2E PKI, unless you count X.509 certs, which are questionable)
- Not particularly well designed for mobile use cases: push; bandwidth-efficient transports. Since the time of writing a Push XEP has appeared, and wiki.xmpp.org states that XMPP is usable over a 9600bps + 30s latency link.
This said, the whole area of XMPP vs Matrix is quite subjective. Rather than fighting over which open interoperable communication standard works the best, we should just collaborate and bridge everything together. The more federation and interoperability the better.
We think of Matrix and XMPP as being quite different; at its core Matrix can be thought of as an eventually consistent global JSON db with an HTTP API and pubsub semantics - whilst XMPP can be thought of as a message passing protocol. You can use them both to build chat systems; you can use them both to build pubsub systems; each comes with different tradeoffs. Matrix has a deliberately extensive ‘kitchen sink’ baseline of functionality; XMPP has a deliberately minimal baseline set of functionality. If XMPP does what you need it to do, then we’re genuinely happy for you :) Meanwhile, rather than competing, an XMPP Bridge like Skaverat’s xmpptrix beta or jfred’s matrix-xmpp-bridge or Matrix.org’s own purple-matrix has potential to let both environments coexist and make the most of each other’s benefits.
Plasma Mobile is one example of an existing open-source project that aligns with their goals:
Ubuntu Touch (now maintained by UBports) is another good option:
You were definitely in the minority. The one common link between Windows 8, 8.1 and Windows Phone was that hideous and universally rejected tile interface abomination. It was so vile and user hostile that Microsoft had to eventually hide it behind a button in Windows 10.
It was hot garbage for a desktop/laptop OS, and even more insane for the server OS.
Working to break my smart phone addiction.
I'm guessing that what this ends up looking like is a USB modem talking to the OS with pppd or a similar model that also enables voice calls over LTE
What about OpenMoko?
I‘m wondering in what parts the Librem 5 will be more open than a Nexus running CopperheadOS.
The device drivers for one. I'm not aware of any Nexus device with open-source device drivers.
Before they've reached their goal, it was an "all-or-nothing" campaign, so the backers wouldn't lose any money if the goal was not reached.
Whether they can deliver what they promise (I imagine GPS will not be the stumbling block here) is not certain of course, so I can't say "Yes - it will have GPS" with certainty.
I appreciate that they probably can't commit to it at this stage, but the fact that their laptops are not does not inspire confidence that the noises they make about trying will come to fruition.