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Librem 5 Phone Funded (puri.sm)
364 points by mike-cardwell on Oct 9, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 171 comments

Really hope purism finds success with this. An open phone platform has been a long time coming, I hope they can learning from the missteps of ubuntu and firefox.

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.

> additional effort of keeping it well updated and working

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.

> Of course, that comes with the additional effort of keeping it well updated

Yeah, but you actually get the option, and you, the owner of the device, have the power to make it happen.

Crowd funded, then crowd sourced security updates? Really?

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chance of success, its like Linux on the desktop, but with the further complication of expecting people to pay $$$ for out of date hardware, with what will no doubt be terrible software, with no apps users actually want to use....

Define success.

Btw, Linux on desktop is used by many large tech companies...

Used by a significant portion of computer users, ie Windows Phone is not a successful platform, Android is, and if Microsoft can't make a successful phone platform, what chance does this go fund me campaign have.

'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.

I don't think your definition of success matches theirs. People have different values, some value openness above market share.


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 think it will match their version of success when they run out of money and are no longer able to support their users.

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?

The idea of giving the average user, or even the average power-user, a device which a) doesn't automatically and aggressively update, and b) is full of every single kind of mainstream radio is terrifying. Smartphones live in one of the most dangerous environments around for security - constantly connecting to third party networks on various protocols and technologies and intrinsically in close proximity to attackers - and not auto-updating puts the average user at risk.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the tone here, but you do realize that you just described the standard situation of smartphones, right?

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 "bought" mine. I'm not sure what their probability of success is, but if it's around 30% or so I'm fine with that. The world needs a viable alternative to the big 2 mobile OSs, and even if the market share is tiny the difference between having an alternative and not is huge.

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.

We have free mobile OSes, but what's much harder is hardware where they can run.

We really need a phone for hackers no matter how small the market is. I hope that's Librem this time after Neo, Ubuntu, FirefoxOS.

It's honestly very difficult to imagine how a small group, no matter how talented and driven, can possibly succeed where open source giants Canonical and Mozilla couldn't.

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.

If the goals are relatively modest (e.g. a low bar of selling ~10K handsets), and the project is well scoped (e.g. don't try to be a me-too Android & iOS alternative, but focus purely on secure communication & web browsing), and if it builds on the better bits of FOSS that came from previous projects (Maemo, Meego, Sailfish, FFOS, Ubuntu Touch, etc)... I think this one stands a chance. (disclaimer: I'm working on the Matrix side of it).

also, a really exciting thing here is proving that it is viable to build a FOSS-friendly hardware supply chain.

I am excited for the phone but I don't get having matrix as the messaging app. I don't see the value in matrix. Encryption is not on by default, which is unacceptable in a modern messaging app. It leaks metadata like a seive. None of my friends or co-workers on it. It isn't decentralized enough.

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.

Encryption is only not on by default because it is still in (late) beta. Obviously by the time the Librem5 ships this will be on by default.

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.

I'm a Matrix patreon supporter because I see it as one of the most important OSS projects currently and I have my entire extended family using it via a self-hosted server.

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.

Thanks for the PDF :)

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.

An easy way to describe Matrix is as a decentralised database of realtime conversations, which are signed and replicated over the participating servers. The main novelty over XMPP MUCs is that conversations are replicated equally over the servers so there's no single point of control - it's really more a decentralised than federated model. And yes, it has (beta) E2E crypto too - albeit trying to take the best aspects of Signal (the double ratchet) whilst also making it usable for sharing conversation history when desired between devices, and actually clearly tracking which devices are participating in the conversation. The "slow evolution" criticism of federation/decentralisation is empirically fairly bogus, as long as you structure the layers of the protocol so they can all evolve independently without cross-cutting concerns.

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.

Why not port signal?

Because OWS explicitly don't want third party clients. It's a controversial decision, but IMO they have good reasons for it. This said, if there's a client that works on Debian, it should work on the Librem (perhaps with some UX work). Currently on desktop, Signal is an Electron app.

This. Free Software doesn't need to be ubiquitous or even dominant. Most end-users don't want Free Software right now. As long as the Librem 5 becomes feasible, we can worry about market share later.

When I looked back when Linux was something only enthusiasts used back 15 years ago, it does seem like so too. We never thought one day Linux would be dominant and people would go through great lengths to deal with GNU software, Firefox or OpenOffice. We counted Firefox market share when it was 1%, then 5% then 10%. Time changes and if a project actually is good, I believe the general attitude will change.

It is anything but dominant on the desktop space, that ship has long gone.

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.

The desktop ship certainly has sailed - it's lost the home market as people use phones and tablets now.

> 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?

Linux was only adopted by being a gratis UNIX clone, with licenses that forced people to contribute back.

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?

I've no idea where you're going with the TV thing; it's a TV. It was just an example of how Linux is everywhere. It has as much worth as any other TV. The firmware updates are via Internet or OTA, like, you know, a TV.

>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...

> I've no idea where you're going with the TV thing; it's a TV. It was just an example of how Linux is everywhere. It has as much worth as any other TV. The firmware updates are via Internet or OTA, like, you know, a TV.

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.

Yep, but it doesn't matter what it technically is, the underlying principle is the same. We'd have a more secure, more understandable, more open system that replaces the proprietary ones. I have my Chromebook which runs Linux and GNU software. I have my cell phone which runs Linux and I can rebuild whatever part I desire. I have my server which runs Linux.

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?

Surely, but as history proves since OpenMoko, that dream requires the buy-in of an OEM willing to keep the ship going, even when there is no wind to push the sails.

Isn't market share part of making the phone feasible? Economies of scale and all that.

The costs of developing and commercializing the components in smartphones are borne by the Android, automotive, and other high performance embedded markets. They just need to make it viable enough to assemble the components and put them in an enclosure.

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.

Yes. However, we need to have a modest definition of "success".

A "success" for this group might look something like "5k devices sold", compared to a "success" for Canonical or Mozilla being larger, like "5+% of the market" or something similar.

Every year it gets easier. Barring bizarre regulatory hurdles it seems almost inevitable. With carriers like freedompop coming onto the scene, its starting to get pretty easy to pop a speaker, a mic, and a sim-slot onto a raspi and having a "phone".

>It's honestly very difficult to imagine how a small group, no matter how talented and driven, can possibly succeed where open source giants Canonical and Mozilla couldn't.

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.

> It's honestly very difficult to imagine how a small group, no matter how talented and driven, can possibly succeed where open source giants Canonical and Mozilla couldn't.

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.

Success in this case means having a choice to buy such device and run a free OS on it.

"The choice to buy such device" seems to be the hard part for every previous attempt at an open source OS. Almost all of them have been "buy a Nexus/OnePlus/etc. and flash it yourself" or have had limited models that are nearly impossible to get a hold of.

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...

> "The choice to buy such device" seems to be the hard part for every previous attempt

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.

T-Mobile is extremely adept at misleading advertising and it has left a very bad taste in my mouth. Beyond that, I have Verizon and AT&T towers at work, so it would be silly to not get one of them.

I think out of these three, T-Mobile is the best. Your own example demonstrates it. Anyway, it was always the only sensible option for users of N900, N9 and so on.

On the contrary, my example, that I have AT&T and Verizon towers at work, is that T-Mobile has less coverage.

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.

Verizon and AT&T were anti-net neutrality long before T-Mobile were. I'm not defending what they are doing wrong. Just pointing out, that you if you want to have your own unlocked device, they are the best option.

Respectfully, success isn't about technical ability alone in the mobile, timing is a big factor.

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.

> 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.

How does that explain the failure of FirefoxOS?

PWA's weren't ready 2 years ago when FirefoxOS was being pushed, they're probably still not ready but there is major progress. It's mostly about scale and ecosystem now, development of well designed touch-friendly web components, iOS implementing Service Workers as is currently underway, and so on. That's not to say they can or will replace native apps, but there will be a growing overlap.

FirefoxOS lacked official support from key apps (eg. Whatsapp), and then lacked support from Mozilla leadership.

With today's PWAs it would be a wonderful OS.

I keep seeing webapps failing since Nokia introduced Web Runtime for Symbian.....

Chrome OS has proven the viability of an HTML5-based 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.

Only in the US school system, because it isn't used anywhere else.

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.

I dunno about Canonical, but i suspect Mozilla would have had better luck had their aimed their products towards other markets than they did.

Canonical and Mozilla are too busy virtue signaling and selling their users out for profit.

You will never be able to build an acceptable phone with the Raspberry Pi's SoC. It just doesn't have the required power management functionality.

Why? The RPi isn't anywhere close to open hardware? Might as well use a devkit straight out of China...

> "The RPi isn't anywhere close to open hardware?"

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.

That looks like third-party reverse engineering. Which is commendable, but it's not the default state.

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.

Sure, it's not the default state, but the origin of the open source firmware and drivers doesn't matter, it's the end result that matters. If you can get functional, open source drivers for a platform, it doesn't matter who wrote them.

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.

> the origin of the open source firmware and drivers doesn't matter, it's the end result that matters

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/

> "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.

"Yet" is key. You can't say the RPi is the most open platform if it's predicated on some future condition.

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

> "Perhaps we should say "RPi is one of the least-closed platforms." "

I said "most open". You said "least closed". In my opinion that's the same thing, just with a different spin.

None of the RPi boards have been released as open source hardware, neither schematics nor layouts. One cannot even buy the chips from Broadcom. This is a practical problem if trying to base a phone of it.

EDIT, example of boards that have do sources available: https://www.olimex.com/Products/OLinuXino/A20/open-source-ha...

> "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".

Do we? I mean, a netbook isn't that big, and it doesn't have the added requirement of always needing to work as a primary communications device.

I think what they mean is "We really need a [primary communications device] for hackers." A netbook isn't suitable for that.

But again, do we? Is that an absolute need?

We don't "need" computing devices at all, so I'm not sure what you are getting at. However, I would argue we "need" a system that is hackable and tries to keep the user's best interests in mind. Look at the power Linux has given us on the desktop/server side of things. I'd argue that a lot of improved security and innovation has come because of that, so lets do it on mobile as well.

I know I personally have a lot of "needs" that aren't being met by the current smart-phone options.

I haven't had a phone mostly because I refuse to have any non-free software controlling my life. I don't want to be tracked, manipulated, or have a computer attached to me at all times with a second, hidden computer inside that can do things I don't want it to do nor can even know about.

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.

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to the actual release. It's quite hard and risky however, and if anything, previous failed projects are an indication of how volatile all this is (like hardware partners pulling support in the middle of the development cycle and so on).

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?

Th most interesting thing for me about i.MX is not 4K video or Vulkan. Quite the opposite. It is the chip powering my Kobo and, I suspect, Kindles.

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.

Good graphics stack is quite important too. I suppose they can crowdfund missing OpenGL and Vulkan support for etnaviv. I'd support such effort.

I've always wondered why open phone hardware is universally terrible in terms of capability and performance.

Because no one made good ones open? ARM based SoC manufacturers have historically abysmal record of opening anything up.

It's a pity AMD and Intel didn't break into making good mobile CPUs and GPUs.

This crowdfunding campaign started on August 24. It was at $750000 after a month on September 26, needed ten more days to reach a million on October 4, and then somehow raised the remaining $500000 in five more days? This seems weird. They didn't have that much press over this last week.

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.)

My interpretation is between some concrete evidence of actually being able to build this (https://puri.sm/posts/librem5-roadmap-to-imx8 and https://matrix.org/blog/2017/09/28/experiments-with-matrix-o...) and then hitting the $1M mark (https://puri.sm/posts/librem-5-campaign-surges-past-one-mill...), the campaign finally got critical mass. These stories seemed to get pretty major press (e.g. top of HN).

Anecdata: I only chose to back it after they reached the 1mm mark.

Fair enough. Though now that the campaign has really achieved critical mass, is fully funded, and further people could buy in ostensibly without any risk... it has stagnated at 107% and not moved in at least 24 hours.

I suspect that at first people held back, fearing that the project would be limited to the i.MX6 CPU, wouldn't get a critical mass, etc.

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 ...

They got more publicity from Gnome and KDE backing the project.

Yeah, that plus the fact that the campaign is just running on their own site (rather than a third-party crowdfund site like kickstarter, fig, crowdsupply or indiegogo) means that we're kind of relying on their word as to how much support they have really received.

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.

I was (pleasantly) surprised by the fairly sudden jump too. I was an early backer and have been following the progress of the campaign and it looked like they were just going to make it last I checked, didn't expect to see it fully funded so early.

Seems like really low funding for what they're aiming for

Yeah, I'm somewhat worried about this as well as 1.5 million is not a lot considering that they actually have to ship phones in the end and can't just pour it all into R&D. I'm assuming that they'll be using mostly commodity hardware (i.MX 8M SoC plus Alibaba-tier chassis, lcd, capacitive layer, etc.) but even then they still have to put everything together and create a deliverable product with reasonably workable software, although I expect that they plan on leaning heavily on the KDE/GNOME/Debian communities. Probably going to flip a coin later this week to determine whether I'm going to back this or not.

$1.5m, and seemingly a team of somewhere between 18 and 27 people, they're going to need more funding. If they're paying $5k/person/mo (assume for now this includes things like taxes and overhead), that's one year's worth of money. On top of this, they have to cover things like FCC certifications, fees for getting manufacturing rolling and all the other fun stuff that comes with shipping physical product.

$1.5m does seem like a low target for a crowdfunded smartphone, but it's worth bearing in mind that the salaries of those involved will not be propped up solely by a single device. Purism already sell a range of laptops:


Wow, their laptops look great. Not cheap, but fairly priced. I hope they will still offer updated versions when I have to replace my XPS.

I'm not sure what their plans are, but a good punt would be do the form factor Wi-Fi only and use an external, optional COTS hotspot as their 'baseband.' I think their goals would be met, and they could realize some power/cost savings (with the lower cost Wi-Fi-only SKU).

A good punt would be to not build a phone?

Yeah and the project plan for PureOS >II looks interesting too. Lets do everything, at the same time!

Nevertheless, I wish them luck and hope they succeed.

Interesting. Does this mean that I can use my phone to install all apps that I can on my laptop? Similar to how Ubuntu phone was in principle.

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.

> "Does this mean that I can use my phone to install all apps that I can on my laptop?"

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):


It's super early here, so it's likely they don't know a lot for sure. It's not like they have a working reference phone even yet, they're playing with a system board and getting touch working according to the last post.

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.

You could try Termux on Android. It's kind of like that but not quite.

This is an admirable effort, but unless tens of thousands of units are put into production it will be very difficult to get the attention of even the smallest Chinese OEMs. It appears they've pre-sold less than 2000 units. I wonder if it would be more fruitful to work from an existing phone with solid build quality and simplifying the process of jailbreaking it and installing FOSS on it.

Separating the CPU and the baseband is going to be a challenge when building this device and impossible on any other device. But, if you want a libre phone then you must because the baseband will be a black box that's unavoidable.

Jailbreaking and installing FOSS like Jolla is doing with Sailfish on Xperia X right this week, with some help from Sony Open Devices.

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?

Jolla/Sailfish is not FOSS, and they have no plans to be so in the future either.

It's still the closest option we have to "desktop linux stack running on a phone". Wayland, Qt, BTRFS, systemd, glibc...

The major thing which isn't FOSS are the UI components, other than that it's the default apps, the home screen etc. And they are planning to open-source more, they effectively went bankrupt a few years back and the new investors were reluctant.

Having the ability to create the first 2 or 3 waves of prototypes is nothing small. iPhone 1-3 needed improvement, similar to the galaxy note.

Maybe there's a Oneplus angle here where they can start small and lean with a partner.

I trust they did their research but separating the baseband from the CPU will be a major, major PITA.

Can you explain why?

Read this thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6722515

Baseband typically uses DMA to interact with the main system.

If Microsoft would support this from a distance - thru open source and maybe some financing - this would be their best play in the mobile space. They would achieve way more than Windows Mobile ever did.

Ms doesn't enter markets where they have no control (OSS or closed ecosystems).

Jan 2019 seems a bit aggressive. If they do manage to pull it off thought, even for a later date, I will be definitely placing an order as soon as possible.

Why don't they base their OS on Replicant?

It's FOSS, Linux-based, has apps and is Mobike-optimized.

I don't know about you, but I want to get as far away from the whole Android ecosystem as possible. I don't want "Linux-based." I want fully fledged GNU/Linux in my pocket. I want to take advantage of GNOME/KDE's convergence interfaces. I want to develop real Unix software and port it to a phone without rewriting it for cocoa touch or Android's java API.

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.

I imagine they cannot afford to do their own radio chip. And that's already enough to track you.

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.

Seems a good phone for those that use Smartphones and have concerns about privacy issues.

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.

There's also plans to port KDE's mobile stack (including PIM suite) to the librem's operating system, providing at least one fairly comprehensive set of software.

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.

Anbox.io is in its infancy - run Android apps in an LXC container.

These are great news. We are lucky to have purism bring FOSS and privacy to the masses in a pretty package.

Anybody aware of the exact specifications? For camera, screen resolution, battery?

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).

There aren't any specs. This project is to design and build a privacy-oriented phone; it's not at the point where anything is settled on yet (afaik).

Looking through their website I'm curious why what they're aiming for can't be accomplished with the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) or a fork of it, rather than trying to build yet another smartphone ecosystem from scratch?

AOSP still relies on a bunch of hacked together BSPs with nasty binary blobs and never-ever-gonna-get-mainlined device specific kernel patches.

Random BSPs don't matter considering they're releasing their own hardware, and can support that as much or as little as they want on top of AOSP.

They could release open-source and mainlined versions of that stuff then. I guess they wouldn't because they probably consider Android incompatible with their other goals.

The work they're doing is effectively that. There's nothing stopping Android from running on top of the kernel work they're doing. Think of their work as developing an open source BSP.

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.

Replicant then: https://www.replicant.us/

A huge point of their approach is the hardware.

I'd love to have a BlackBerry-style phone with a keyboard and all main features are shell-based and implemented in a POSIX-like manner (with an optional GUI on top). But I think this will never happen.

Why hasn't neo900 [0] been successful so far in comparison with the Lbrem 5? Are there any drawbacks in the former?

[0] https://neo900.org

To be honest, the communication of the neo900 project is not that good. They only made two updates during the entire year of 2017 and even those don't say much about what exactly they have been doing all this time.

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.

> Separate mobile baseband Ok, how do we know the hardware/software there pushes the goals of security and privacy? I2S hooked up? (that would scare me on a design with the stated goals, but it makes it really nice for getting good acoustics with your mechanicals) Simply pushing app processor encrypted data over the bearer?

> i.MX 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.

Is there any special reason why they choose Matrix instead of XMPP?

It feels like over the past few years most of the XMPP crowd has shifted to Matrix.

XMPP failed to get BOSH out the door quickly enough to maintain traction.

matrix about xmpp:

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.

source: https://matrix.org/docs/guides/faq.html#what-is-the-differen...

Good luck to them, but getting the funding is only a third of the battle. Now it remains to see if they can build something that a substantial amount of people will want to use.

That's what's preventing me from buying in this early. I would love to have a phone that's open and runs actual Linux but $600 is a lot of money for a product that doesn't exist yet and has a tentative ship date more than a year out.

It will probably be a niche product but, regardless, I'm super happy we have an alternative to the current duopoly.

Well, we don't yet. But I do wish them the best of luck in creating one.

How to fund a good user interface and ecosystem when even Microsoft failed at that (see other article also on the top today)

They don't have to fund that. The idea is to make use of the work of the open-source community. The main contribution, software-wise will be pushing forward Matrix, pushing forward open drivers, and designing a platform that makes it easier for others to build apps.

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:


Windows Phone had a good use interface, many people (including me) prefer it to the horror that is Android UI. Lack of an app ecosystem was probably Windows Phone's biggest problem. I think a possible solution to that for Purism (I was an early backer of this campaign) is to focus on web apps. I know I'm not alone in being thoroughly sick of everything about apps and app stores.

If they have even partial support for QT and GTK they can just use existing desktop apps. Clunky, but it helps.

>Windows Phone had a good use interface, many people (including me) prefer it to the horror that is Android UI

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.

The tiles worked just fine on an actual touch device - it's not really any different than what any of the Android mobile devices I have features.

It was hot garbage for a desktop/laptop OS, and even more insane for the server OS.

I wonder why none of the feature phone OSes have been open sourced? Is it because they only work on the one device they were installed on? Cricket and all the other feature phones before smartphones had tons of Operating Systems, maybe that would give people a head start?

Somewhat related, does anyone know of a solution to run https://signal.org and nothing else? 5 out of 7 days I don't really need a smart phone, I only need the signal app.

Working to break my smart phone addiction.

If you're just looking for something to help with self-control, start by setting up parental controls on your phone. Having to tap in a lengthy passphrase to access apps not on your approved list breaks the instant feedback that feeds phone addiction.

You could run a tablet data plan sim (data only) in a mobile phone.

maybe build one w/ raspberry pi?

Is the cell radio firmware also going to be open source? And if not why are they making claims of user privacy when they cannot guarantee the capabilities of some binary blob they have no control over?

By decoupling the baseband from the CPU so that it can't directly access the OS's memory+busses and securing communication on the wire (defaulting to secure messaging over Matrix, and using SSL everywhere) so that it can't be sniffed in transit by the modem.

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

Legally speaking you are not allowed to run one

Great... yet annother Open OS phone/computer. Not like that's been done before to "great acclaim". Anybody remember Jolla, the SailfishOS, and the Jolla Tablet?

> A fully standards-based freedom-oriented system, based on Debian and many other upstream projects, has never been done before–we will be the first to seriously attempt this

What about OpenMoko?

I hope it works better than the blackphone. I could barely use it for a year before the basic functionalities like battery life were impractacle.

Great news!

I‘m wondering in what parts the Librem 5 will be more open than a Nexus running CopperheadOS.

> "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.

The operating system too. CopperheadOS uses a noncommercial license, so it's not open source or free software.

Does anyone know what they mean by support now and pay later

It means you select the amount of money and they deduct it from your account once the crowdfunding is done.

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.

Would be much much easier if they built the OS for current hardware.. I don't understand why they need to build their own

A phone that runs on the mainline kernel is the key part of this project, the software is secondary.

please point out sufficiently open hardware

Will it have a GPS?

The page says yes, it is included in the list of sensors.

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.

To the moon!

> CPU separate from Baseband

How separate?

Doesn't matter. They'll be a gov't backdoor in either the hardware or the software so you might as well get an android phone and load copperhead os on it as it will have the same result.

The Librem laptops come with hardware killswitches. The aim is to do the same with the Librem 5. Kind of hard for governments to spy on you using a microphone, camera, etc... without electricity.

Kinda hard to use the phone too, without electricity.

With the proposed design for the Librem 5, you can turn off the individual features of the phone without turning off the phone. So for example, you can turn off the camera (with a hardware switch, which is not something that can be overridden remotely) whilst still being able to browse the web. As far as I know there are no other modern phones with that feature.

It is annoying that they cannot be more committed to open hardware. (I'm not saying they should be).

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.

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