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Why does the Librem 5 phone cost that much? (puri.sm)
311 points by fghtr 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 249 comments



Sidenote: I got my Librem 5 in the mail yesterday! Below is a video of unboxing.

https://peertube.co.uk/videos/watch/55eece8c-2d6c-4da3-8c8c-...

This prototype version is definitely not ready for mass market due to (1) known overheating issue (so far I've observed it get quite warm sometimes, but not uncomfortably hot), (2) a bunch little software things to work on. But it's really exciting to be able to `ls` and `cd` and `ssh` on a phone, and know that the software updates are coming.

Purism's accomplishment already is pretty incredible on both a hardware and software level. For me, well worth the price. Congrats to them even if there is a ways to go yet.


PeerTube.co.uk admin here. Your video alerted me to the fact that my view stats aren't working properly - I've had over 1000 visits today, usual is less than 100. Most of those have your video as the entry point, but those numbers aren't reflected on your view count. Thanks for being the first video that's been popular enough to highlight this!


Yeah, but it stopped playing for me half way through the video, right when the number of peers dropped to 1.


That's interesting, thanks for the heads up. I'll do a bit of experimenting to see if I can replicate with some less popular videos which aren't likely to have a redundant copy anywhere.


At 4 peers, the video played smoothly for me. Does peertube allow a way for people to "pin" a video they like so that they can permanently seed it to others?


Sadly not. Seeding is entirely down to individual instances and their own redundancy policy.

I suspect the issue is that PeerTube is getting a NAT IP instead of properly determining its own external IP, which is causing problems streaming when it tries to get back to the origin. I'm pretty sure it's a simple enough fix, I just need to take a look at it in the light of day.


> But it's really exciting to be able to `ls` and `cd` and `ssh` on a phone, and know that the software updates are coming.

It's strange that SailfishOS has not caught more marketshare on the hacker/tech enthusiast community, because it's (almost) everything people wants about Purism : you lose a bit in the free software and open hardware side, but you win in terms of price (used phone + 50$ license), availability and usability (Right now, it's the only alternative to Android and iOS I can safely recommend).

If only Jolla devs had kept their promises of open-sourcing more of their code.


> If only Jolla devs had kept their promises of open-sourcing more of their code.

I think that's a big part of the answer to why it hasn't caught among techies. When I tried using it (shortly after release), there were numerous issues in their default apps that nobody could fix because they are proprietary and Jolla didn't seem to have the resources to handle all the bugs.

I'd wager that if it had been open source, the early adopters would have put some time in to fix a lot of the bugs.

In retrospect I'm pretty pissed at them for not being honest and upholding their promises. In my book they're basically con artists that just tried to get the Linux community's money by saying "open source" without actually meaning it.


This, along with Jolla's bankruptcy, is why I stopped using Sailfish as a former user. I didn't feel that I could depend on the platform sticking around.

I later switched to Ubuntu Touch because, despite Canonical picking up the project, the community had continued maintaining it. They could do that because it was freely licensed; nobody could do that for Sailfish.


What hardware are you running it on?


A OnePlus One, though I have both a PinePhone and Librem 5 preordered, and I'm looking forward to giving both of those a try. The OPO is nice, though I've had issues with the battery life.


I use a Sailfish phone, and Meego before that. I suppose a lot of geeks are exactly the sort of people that actually want to use all possible functionality of and software for their phone, "power users", and are most handicapped by an ideological device. Most of the Jolla and Nokia N9 users I know are not technical geeks but rather want to support a cause.


is it strange? when I read their website it seems like they're targeted at corporations. It takes a lot of scrolling to find 'Sailfish OS X' that I can install on one of 3 phones from a company that I never considered a solid phone manufacturer.


It was different five years ago, read GP in that light.


ah, ok. that explains a lot, because that's not the first time I've heard his sentiment but didn't get what people were talking about.

You seem to be forgetting LineageOS


> But it's really exciting to be able to `ls` and `cd` and `ssh` on a phone

Can't you do that on any other Android phone with terminal software installed?


Android has a tiny BusyBox clone (ToyBox IIRC) in the default installation that can be accessed over USB with the right commands. It isn't particularly useful for anything besides poking around, and definitely doesn't support SSH, but it does do ls and cd.


not properly. android is about as full-blown a linux environment as that plastic router on which your ISP left the telnet open.


Barely, although termux makes it a lot more reasonable. It's more a package management issue.


I can share to Termux from the YouTube app on my Pixel and download an entire playlist to my music folder - Ffmpeg handles any audio.

It's quicker than any of the YouTube downloader apps I've tried!

How it works: in ~/bin there's a termux-url-opener script that handles what you share:

"#!/bin/bash

case "$1" in

  *youtu*)

    echo "$1 is a YouTube URL,
      downloading"

    sh ~/shortcuts/dl_yt.sh $1

    ..."
(dl_yt just calls youtube-dl -x)

I love it and am still finding new uses for Termux. I've got neovim and all my dotfiles loaded, so in a pinch I can ssh into my phone to do some work.


Ah, nice to see I'm not the only one running youtube-dl on a phone via Termux.


Would it not be nicer to save a whole lot on bandwidth by using "youtube-dl -f bestaudio[ext=m4a]" instead of "youtube-dl -x"?


Good point! My command line looks like this:

youtube-dl -f bestaudio -x --no-progress -o "~/storage/music/YouTube/%(title)s.%(ext)s" "$1"

This generally gives me .opus files, which play OK but my player can't change the tags.


I installed Debian in a chroot on my HTC Desire Z in 2011, and proceeded to apt-get install exim on it to tinker.


You can run a full GNU/Linux distro, and apt-get install most stuff: https://f-droid.org/packages/tech.ula/


If one roots the device.

Modern Android has been locking down access to everything that isn't an NDK public API.


Nope, no root required.


So how does it work around the missing APIs not described here?

https://developer.android.com/ndk/guides/stable_apis

Given the changes started with Android 7 to block access to everything else?

In fact, https://wiki.termux.com/wiki/Differences_from_Linux


It runs stuff in a container (PRoot) with standard Linux libraries and FHS layout, then you ssh or VNC in locally. The emulation isn't perfect due to Android's security policies, but close enough.


Standard Android does not support chroot, nor standard Linux libraries, hence why termux needs to patch them.


Try installing OpenJDK without root.

Theres also https://github.com/t184256/nix-on-droid-bootstrap on fdroid for a good package manager


Not without the risk that the phone vendor, Google (or some Android hacker) is looking over your shoulder.


I mean, I like Purism, but that risks still exists with this phone. With any phone. The promise not to snoop is central to their business model and I have no reason to believe they would snoop, but certainly the capability is there.


As always, it boils down to trust. Which phone would you trust more for ssh-ing into your office computer? An Android phone filled with adware, which you don't even completely own? Or a phone that was designed for privacy and for which all important components are open source / open hardware?


Office computer? Definitely Android.

Google is like a feudal lord. In exchange for owning you, they'll protect you from everyone weaker than they are. Google doesn't want to break into your office computer as long as they can shovel ads down your throat. And their reputation for security is much higher than a small startup regardless of the startup's competence and intentions. See e.g. Project Zero or Chrome vulnerabilities vs Firefox.


> And their reputation for security is much higher than a small startup regardless of the startup's competence and intentions.

Not all security mind you, Android runs on ancient kernel and it won't be changing for a long time even though Google announced plans for moving to mainline linux.


Since everything is open, you could probably run your own builds and use your own update server. Or you can use their code as a starting point and port whatever Linux distribution you want to it, which is a lot easier than a locked down Android or iOS device. And since it's so easy to replace everything, they need to maintain the community's trust since everything is in the open.

The best part is that I don't really need to trust Purism, I can choose to trust the community instead to whistleblow if Purism breaks the community's trust. Their target demographic is exactly the type that will be watching over their shoulder to make sure nothing fishy is going on.


Exciting to see it's real. I was getting very worried about the controversy, but it's beginning to fade away.

I'm so fed up with software that tries to anticipate what I want. Computers running Linux do what you ask in spite of what you want, but phones running modern phone operating systems do what they think you want in spite of what you need. And that is deeply frustrating to power users.

I guess now I just need to decide when to jump into this.


I too am glad I didn't cancel my order. I'm sure my batch won't be out until probably late next year, but I do feel good about supporting a project like this.


Good to see that backers are starting to receive theirs. I know there was some previous controversy over them only shipping to Purism employees.


just to be pedantic, she didn't say she's not a purism employee


"But it's really exciting to be able to `ls` and `cd` and `ssh` on a phone..."

Can you boot to a shell without starting GNOME?


I wouldn't rule it out but I don't know how to. I guess you would need a keyboard connected via USB to be able to input in that scenario


Wouldn't you just disable the display server like any other Linux OS? I'm sure they're using systems, so it just just be:

> sudo systemctl disable phosh.service

Or something like that. I'm sure it would be pretty easy with a bit of fiddling. However, you're right that you'd probably need a keyboard plugged in because the default TTY probably doesn't have a soft keyboard.


I use a Logitech K780 bluetooth keyboard when working on my phone, I got it mostly because of the nice phone/tablet standing slot, so there is that option as well.


I’m pretty sure one of the community members got an onscreen keyboard working for this use case

"We had to design the hardware from scratch"

Er, no. You bought a bunch of silicon off the shelf, and you had to integrate it. Several orders of magnitude less work.

Fifteen developers, and two years? Not mentioned, but this means you didn't write the telephony stack either.

iMX8M bringup, driver development, software integration. This is real work, but it's a tiny fraction of what goes into making your own phone.

Hoping you sell enough of these that you manage to attract adversarial attention. Because how you deal with that will be the true test of your commitment...


From what I heard it was far more complex than just picking some parts from a catalogue. They had to find parts that could all run on open source drivers and I think they even had to convince some vendors to open source the drivers first. It also depends on what level you call from scratch. No one designs anything from scratch with your definition. All phones use 3rd party parts.


They are an SPC not aln LLC. Does anyone know what is the difference between a Washington SPCs and LLCs? Is it true that as mentioned here[0] that:

> I think the story is that Washington SPCs are LLCs in pretty much every aspect besides shareholder-board disputes.

and, why

> have they never made a Social Purpose Report available despite the fact that they've been an SPC for two and a half years?

from the bottom of the article[1]:

> It is also worth keeping in mind that Purism isn't actually incorporated as a typical LLC (Limited Liability Company). They are actually incorporated as a SPC (Social Purpose Corporation) in the state of Washington. The primary difference between an LLC and an SPC in Washington is that SPCs can do things that are in the best interests of their customers rather than always doing things that are in the best interests of their shareholders. It is also important to know that in Washington this status comes with some extra regulatory requirements ...

----

if formed as an SPC, shouldn't they be transparent in how they allocate budgets to internal projects (as proof that they do what is outlined in the Social Purpose Report (SPR))? It's a shame they don't produce a SPR which could be used to verify the claims about price in this post.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21371573

[1] https://jaylittle.com/post/view/2019/10/the-sad-saga-of-puri...


the failure to publish an SPR could result in law suits against purism. Fixing this wouldn't cost much and only be a net positive (for new financial backers). Failing to publish a report was probably not malicious (just laziness). Still it's negligent (IMHO). And if the rumor is true that they are having liquidity problems (as conjectured by the author of the blog post), then they do not deserve the trust given to them by their current financial backers on kickstarter or the tech community who evangelize them.

We urgently need alternatives and I do want Purism to succeed.



Great link.

"Quantities matter [in China] and getting only dozen or couple of hundred orders per month doesn't really help. That said, the Librems are heavily overpriced but that is because Purism seemingly never tried to get better deal and the South San Francisco partner abused this so that is why Purism Librems are double the price they should be. I believe that if we had more realistic prices, it would be much better for Purism not only financially but also more talking about it, more of it in wild which in turn means much more orders, more happy customers etc. The innovation is not really that hard in this space because big players don't try to really innovate as they have strong positions, so it wouldn't be that hard to be good or better then most of big players even, but quantity leverage is hard to pass by."


If the price were 20% less it would demand some more eyeballs.

When I saw the price I assumed they were trying to position a premium product. I think this is a little bit of a mistake given that in the market of handsets, Apple owns the "premium" devices, and maybe samsung counts as #2? Nobody is crossing that Rubicon.

$700 isn't really bad but I don't like the look of it. Maybe if they can make this thing for 6 or 7 years. People who are worried about this have been aware of Essential phones which aren't the same, but end users aren't shopping these Freedom characteristics.

I predict another few years of nobody batting an eye to these devices. Great shame.


>When I saw the price I assumed they were trying to position a premium product.

They are. They are building a product that let's you do anything you want on the device.

Honestly, the phone should be priced at a premium level because it will appeal to a demographic that will pay more for a phone that lets them break free from the closed ecosystems of Android/Apple. It also gives them extra cash to re-invest in the company and doesn't require them scaling their manufacturing just yet.


What can you do with the Librem that you can't with a Moto G?


Run a modern mainline kernel (and future mainline kernels) without losing compatibility with the drivers for most of the hardware.


At least at the moment Librem5 still requires non-upstreamed drivers: "The kernel will be the 5.3 mainline kernel with some additional drivers" [0]

They do at least appear to be actively developing those drivers publicly for eventual submission upstream, though: https://source.puri.sm/Librem5/linux-next/activity

[0] https://developer.puri.sm/Librem5/Software_Reference.html


Ok, but what does that let you do that you couldn't otherwise? Nobody buys a phone for the operating system, it's for the hardware and the software that runs on top of the OS.


Hi, I'm nobody.

I have no interest in Android or iOS. I have no interest in phones that make it difficult to run non-android systems on them. I have no interest in devices I have to break into in order to make them do what I want them to do.

Phones that I've been using for more than 10 years now make it easy to run Debian GNU/Linux on them, baremetal, straight out of Debian repositories. Those devices don't require me to run any proprietary binary blob on my system. Those devices are supported by community years after their manufacturers abandoned them, as mainlining makes that task actually manageable. That's the kind of phone I'm interested in and its OS plays a big part in it.


> I have no interest in devices I have to break into in order to make them do what I want them to do.

And that is?


Do you have time? The list is going to be really long.

Just two examples: removing Google apps from Android devices, installing non-store apps on iOS.

If you run a web search along the lines of "best apps for rooted Android" or "best apps for jailbroken iPhone" you will find many more examples of useful things that you can do with rooted/jailbroken devices.


But the Librem 5 isn't a rootable Android or iOS device, it's a Linux phone. What's an example of some killer Linux-only app that's needed on a phone?

Bash, apt-get, chmod, vim, grep, cat, crontab, python3, pip3, httpd, sqlite3, ps, ls, top, df, lsblk, ifconfig, iptables, perl, apt-cache, chown, nano...

Sounds like you're more interested in GNU stuff than Linux stuff. Most of that is available on Android probably because it's also running Linux.

Wayland/X11, PyGTK/PyQt, usbip, being able to compile apps without dealing with Android's awful NDK, telephony scripting, itch.io's butler, PulseAudio streaming... and those are just the first things that came into my mind.

I have a secondary Android device just out of necessity, I am a power user with enough past experience (I was active in Openmoko community, made Debian chroot for Kindle Paperwhite, am still using Nokia N900 etc.) and no - I have no actual interest in Android. Stop-gaps like Debian chroots or layers on top of libhybris won't replace the real baremetal, mainline thing.


Most of that is available on rooted Android, which brings us back to what we were saying at the beginning of this subthread...

Do you have the same approach about all other linux-powered devices - cars, fridges, TVs etc?

It lets you continue safely using your phone after a year or two, because it won't be stuck on outdated software full of unpatched security vulnerabilities.


Apple offer that. I accept the preference and arguments for an open system etc and the distrust of a global corp., but the support lifespan of an iOS device has more recently been ~5 years.

> Nobody buys a phone for the operating system

I did. Pretty much because all the drivers are mainline(able). Even if purism went belly up today, I could continue to run up to date Linux on my librem 5 basically forever.


The baseband OS is still a binary blob that you don't really have any visibility into though, right?


It's a black box for sure, but it's not a 'binary blob'. That's an important distinction. There's no kernel module that tied to a specific kernel version. And even better the WWAN module is in an M.2 (?) socket, so it'd replaceable in the future as new tech comes out.


This internal expansion is a really cool feature. I'm not sure how much use I would make of it, but I really like this feature and I was surprised they were able to cram it in there. Nice one.

More info: https://liliputing.com/2019/08/librem-5-smartphone-will-have...


Clearly that statement is false because some people bought the phone because people bought it for the OS


They bought it for the OS because there's software they want to run on it. I'm just asking what that software is.


You're forgetting that developers exist.


Are you saying that it's a useful phone for developers or that there's a lot of opportunity because basically there's no mobile-first Linux software out there?


Both.

Get regular security updates.


> They are. They are building a product that let's you do anything you want on the device.

Completely orthogonal to “premium”


I mean it is essentially a premium feature in the current market of cheap locked down shit.


Isn't the most expensive phone you can buy also the most locked down phone you can buy, the iPhone 11?


Premium and expensive aren't the same thing, though often go hand in hand :)


They should have added significant storage and a top notch camera and actually made it a $1000 premium product.


> a top notch camera

The advances in camera tech these days are primarily software, which is not open source. We're talking dozens of person-years minimum to replicate what Apple, Google, Samsung, etc do in software.


also comments when it was discussed at the time: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21303770


This great Dev Kit design is available for everybody: https://kicad-pcb.org/made-with-kicad/librem_5_dev_kit/ Amazing piece of open source hardware. While I am not interested in cellphones, I might use for robotics project.


Here I must praise KiCad. It is one of the best pieces of FOSS software out there. It beats almost all other (commercial or non-commercial) software in PCB design, hands down.


> It beats almost all other (commercial or non-commercial) software in PCB design, hands down.

You need to get out more often. Look, I am a KiCAD supporter, too. But KiCAD is repeating the mistakes of commercial ECAD systems of the 1980’s. Am I glad it exists? Surely. But set your sights higher. KiCAD has much room for improvement.


Would you mind expanding on these mistakes?


This is entirely subjective, but I think the UI is needlessly unintuitive (but okay compared to other EDA tools), and the parts management seems not well thought out IMO. A similar feeling that e.g. LTSpice gives me: you can get into it, but parts feel arbitrary and other parts feel hacky, and ultimately you never really enjoy it.

My favourite open source EDA tool that IMO does it better is horizon EDA. https://horizon-eda.readthedocs.io/en/latest/feature-overvie...

I made quite a few working PCBs with that one already. Downsides are:

- the library is not that big yet (but adding parts is really easy, you can even use inheritance etc)

- won’t run on any old machine because of the OpenGL-version

- if you are not using windows you need to compile yourself

One of the things I really like besides the UI/UX (one button hotkeys!) is the library concept called “pool”, where every part is made up of modular pieces, which makes things reusable and consistent. If you’d like to change the resistor symbol for all resistors you just have to edit in one place, if you feel like making a opamp with eight channels, just duplicate the quad one and add four more opamp units. Their concept takes a moment to sink in, but is incredible flexible and is one of these “why didn’t we do it like that from the start”-ideas.


Fair question.

In the category of still stuck in the 1980's:

Handling of bus rippers, and hierarchical nets as they expand through topological hierarchy. Especially in regard to the flexibility of naming ripped sub-nets.

Restrictive topological hierarchy.

Lack of separation between attributes files and topology files. Inability to mate a single topology file with multiple different attribute files for different circumstances.

There are also features like buried components and complicated material stack-ups that commercial tools handle, but I really can't fault an open-source tool for not including things that are expensive to validate.

General complaints:

UI is cranky and not intuitive, especially w.r.t. part libraries.

Obtuse and restrictive footprint specifications. The sad thing here is that KiCAD went through a gut-and-redesign of the footprint specification format, and seemed to willfully ignore the RS-274X specification and willfully ignored the hard lessons that led us to the methodology of using RS-274X macros to define footprints. If I can write a trivial RS-274X aperture macro for my footprint, I should be able to specify that in a footprint and have it come out correctly in the Gerbers. HELLOOOO!!! Please read up on years-old industry best-practices before "improving" your system. (Admittedly, I haven't read the KiCAD footprint spec documents lately, maybe they have evolved.)

In the category of just plain broken:

I don't use KiCAD a whole lot, but not too long ago a client asked for design file deliverables in KiCAD format. I was annoyed that my Rev A boards came back with trivial issues that the design rule checker completely missed. Sorry, that is one piece that needs to be pretty damn solid for me to take the tool seriously. (I have also use GEDA and have plenty of complaints about it, also, but at least the PCB DRC has never led me astray.)


Some of the most annoying things for me in KiCAD are (or were, maybe some of them got fixed):

* Projects not standalone / portable across computers, which makes collaborating hard.

* Parts library management is not intuitive. Lots of confusing UI around library paths for example.

* Footprint assignment should be handled automatically or at least provide sensible suggestions instead of every footprint with the same amount of pads.

But there are two promising alternatives around: Horizon EDA, which the sibling post already mentioned, and LibrePCB (https://librepcb.org).

I personally only used LibrePCB for some project and it worked quite well, apart from some missing features, like missing design rule check. But the upcoming 0.1.3 release adds quite some of them.


It's sure the best thing for hobby users today. It firmly beats probably all of the sub $1000 "pro-sumer" or "maker" tools like eagle.

But as much as I like it, it's still years if not decades away from catching up to the big industry tools like Altium, Cadence, Mentor. They have $$$$$/seat pricing, but if you need them, you need them.


If that were case, it would be used everywhere. There is a reason I shell out several $k for Altium.


Your application domain is probably targeting a market of 10 customers you can obscenely overcharge, like a mainframe manufacturer circa 1976. There is nothing special about The area you work in that renders it immune to economic forces, if it's worth anything to society as a whole. The directional vector of technology encompassing a wider consumer market heads towards lower cost and openness, inevitably.

Same, compared to some other free alternatives (for example CircuitMaker) it's a complete blessing. I think I haven't seen a worse piece of software then CircuitMaker.


From what I have heard KiCad has significantly worse parts/footprint management than proprietary EDAs like Altium combined with Altium Vault.

How many layers does the mainboard have?


Would that allow a hobbyist to make their own version of the phone? If so, I could see that being a fun project.


Thanks for explaining all the work your team is doing to create this innovative privacy phone, truly groundbreaking, I eagerly anticipate mine arriving in March. Meanwhile Hewlett Packard, with $5bn in net income and 50k employees, is advertising their latest innovation on my YouTube feed: a physical switch connected to the camera.


I love how their values-based pitch allows them to miss operational deadlines and still maintain their user appeal

When android devices have a major public video permission hole, everyone exhales and mentally checks out. When purism is late, it sucks but it's not the same

Pre-sale customers are along for the ride. If the lesson for other startups is 'if you're really innovating, your users will be there when you're ready', I think that's a really good outcome.


"Trust in closed non-auditable complex computer systems is something everyone has learned the hard way we should not have. The news is full each day of zero day bugs and exploits throughout the stack–from applications to operating systems and even down to the very silicon the whole stuff runs on."

If only. I suspect that only tech enthusiasts are aware of these issues. In the meantime, non-technical people only give you weird disbelieving looks when you mention this to them, and then continue ignoring it.


> In the meantime, non-technical people only give you weird disbelieving looks when you mention this to them, and then continue ignoring it.

It’s psychological. People can’t believe things which would make it too hard for them to stay the person they currently are. It’s almost impossible for anyone to do anything but ignore and repress such information. If you ask them later about it, they probably would deny even hearing it or having the conversation, because they wouldn’t actually remember it.

Ask anyone who tried to convince a sweeping societal change based on logical arguments. See what happened to Ignaz Semmelweis. You simply can’t convince people of hard things with logic.


How many crackpots have there been there for each Ignaz Semmelweiss, though? Ignoring weird people pays off if it saves having having to spend time on their far-out theories, even if Ignaz was right as well as weird.

I personally think security has been spoiled by unrealistic advice. "Use PGP" is the worst, but it's not alone. A few years ago a mass-market device (tens of millions sold) asked me to enter my password three times within two minutes in order to carry out one single operation, and it demanded that the password be secure enough that I needed two kinds of mode-shift to enter it on that device's keyboard. Who takes that vendor's ideas about security seriously after experiencing shit like that?


Crackpots can be filtered out using logic, though. But people don’t do that; people filter based on how hard it would be to change in the proposed way.

People might say that they want security, but when some logical person takes this literally and respond “Use PGP”, they might be logically correct (since as bad as it may be, there might not be any secure alternative to PGP), this advice will always be ignored because what people want is not actually security. What people want is to feel secure while not changing anything about what they are doing or how they are doing it.


> Crackpots can be filtered out using logic, though. But people don’t do that;

For an excellent argument of why most people shouldn't do that, I recommend the essay "epistemic learned helplessness": https://web.archive.org/web/20180406150429/https://squid314....

The gist is that most people are so bad at evaluating logical arguments that they are more likely to be swayed by false arguments rather than correct ones, so the winning strategy is to simply ignore everything that sounds strange.



If the headache of dealing with PGP is greater than the headache of dealing with a hacker and dodging google targeted ads, it's not remotely illogical to choose the latter.


In some cases, the logical choice and the actual choice may coincide. But people still aren’t, and never will be, logical.


They just do the naive cost-benefit analysis: everyone uses it, successful people use these things, yet no bad things happen to them, why should I really care?


And that behavior is rational. If I have 1 in 1 million chance of dying from a loose brick in a building falling on my head, the rational thing is to completely disregard this risk and live my life as usual, especially if I live in a city.


Unless it’s planes or terrorism. Why is that?


What? Everybody who had 2 functioning neurons left told (and continues to tell) everybody after each and every fucking "terror" attack, that ... it doesn't really matter, it's a so minuscule amount of violence and death compared to big systemic things (car crashes, obesity, air/noise/attention pollution, mental health problems, domestic abuse, natural aging associated "problems" like dementia and dying, real foreign policy - barriers to trade, corruption, oppressive regimes, concentration camps).

Of course. Of course. Certain powers milked (and continues to milk) flashy terror attacks for political gains.


Even if it is planes or terrorism.


Belief it's an accident vs belief it's human agency. Perhaps.


TV propaganda?


What you constantly hear is what you will think about. As long as people watch TV constantly, TV will control people’s minds.


Totally. A lot of people leave the back door to their house unlocked too. Where risk is low, the amount of resources people expend to mitigate that risk is also low, and generally should be.


We're herd animals. We're safe if we stick with the herd.


Have you ever assumed it's not some weird psychological effect but rather that people aren't interested enough in technology? It's like trying to preach GPL to the average programmer; who cares really?


For real, basically going straight to "their weak human-lizard brains can't handle the weight of reality bearing down on them" seems borderline comically presumptuous.


Who said anything about “their” or “them”? I spoke about people, and I meant everybody, including myself. We, human beings, can’t make logical decisions. The most we can hope for is to stop ourselves from making illogical ones, by forcing ourselves to logically rationalize our decisions after the fact. However, rationalizations are tricky things, and almost anything can be rationalized to seem reasonable. But it’s the best we have.


I just want a phone that functions without me thinking about it. I don't care about much else, I don't want to care. Yes I know security or freedom or whatever but I have a higher risk of dying in an airplane to be honest.

What does the Purism give me? None of my existing apps work with it.

Spending zero brain cells on which computer junk to buy and getting on with my life is the most rational choice imo.


Your comment is a perfect example of what rationalization looks like. You’re exactly like all humans (including me); closed to logical argument, because you don’t want to have to care about it, since it would be hard work to change. You just want to get on with your life, just like everybody else (including me). Note: I’m not saying that this is wrong; everybody does it, and we can’t change it, so calling it “wrong” would be pointless. It’s not my intention to disparage you.

But you would probably benefit by recognizing that nothing about this is logical. There are some logical arguments why one ought to use (for instance) the Librem 5 phone as a phone and forgo the additional features present on mainstream smartphones. But you (or me) can’t be open to those logical arguments unless we’re already ready to change; i.e. when we already (irrationally) want to find a reason to do it. Then, logical arguments can be effective. But not otherwise.


I have reasonable logical arguments for not wanting a Purism phone: namely, it's an expensive piece of plastic that doesn't run my apps, which I would like to run on a phone that I buy, and the problems it supposedly solves are problems I do not have. Your disdain for "mainstream apps" seems to forget that I buy a phone not because it exists, but because it's a tool I use to get through my job and my day.

Trying to go "the obvious logical conclusion is this Purism phone, but your irrational monkey brain is too idiotic to see that (no offense intended)" is somewhere between ridiculous and insufferable. If you want to evangelize Linux, you're doing it wrong.


> Trying to go "the obvious logical conclusion is this Purism phone, but your irrational monkey brain is too idiotic to see that (no offense intended)" is somewhere between ridiculous and insufferable.

No, that is not what I am doing. Read my previous comments if you don’t believe me. I am actually (in this thread, at least) not arguing about whether you should get a Purism phone or not. I am arguing that whatever you or I decide (yes, even if we do decide to get a Purism phone) our decision will not be logical. Even though there might be logical reasons for one or the other decision, those logical reasons are not the actual reasons for the decision. We and everybody else make decisions by irrationally picking one option which feels right and rationalizing it after the fact using whatever logic we can torture enough to support our decision.


> I just want a phone that functions without me thinking about it.

Me too, which is why I'm interested in the Librem 5 (and the Pinephone).

I don't have the energy to constantly be fighting my phone's attempts to trick me into surrendering all my data to various corporations.


We're still talking about phones, right? Putting aside the hypothesis that humans are incapable of logical decisions(?), I feel that you're drawing some fundamental psychological truth when there's much more realistic factors that are don't rely on assuming we are unable to fight our monkey brains to change our nature.

For most people on the street, this phone:

* Doesn't have a bunch of things you're used to in a smartphone

* Has stuff that you don't understand the value of

* From some company you've never heard of

* For $700

That's not some post facto breakdown. I commend their efforts, truly, sincerely, but to be blunt, they made a phone for Ed Snowden.


Those are all true facts, but if someone wants a smart non-Apple/Android phone for whatever reason, there are equally convincing logical reasons for why, for that person, your listed facts are irrelevant and why other facts would be more compelling. Note that I’m not arguing that you are wrong; I make the same argument to a person on the other side who would be listing facts about why getting a Librem 5 phone is the best thing ever, and those would all be true facts, too.

Your facts are the most compelling for you, since you’ve decided not to get a Librem 5 phone. If it were otherwise, you would have listed different facts.

Facts do not make people change their opinion.


There's a plethora of statistical methods you can apply when pondering a purchase. At least, the same methods used to give said product the specific price. For instance, modern CPUs and GPUs are laughably overpriced for the amount of improvements each generation receives compared to the 80s and 90s. Rational choice: buy second hand.


Why is buying an iPhone or Pixel not logical? They work great and they are affordable (if you keep it 3 years they will cost you about $1 / day for the hardware).

If you want to run software that is only on Android or iOS, then buying a Linux phone would be illogical, no?


> Why is buying an iPhone or Pixel not logical?

You seem to misunderstand me. No decision we make is made logically – not a decision to buy a Librem 5, nor a decision to buy an iPhone or an Android-based phone. There may be one or several logical reasons for one or the other decision, but this is at most a tiny factor.


All this because the phone has some extra Linux or something. Framing buying a phone with a different operating system as an irrational decision made by feeble trapped brains is what gives Linux zealots a bad name.


> Framing buying a phone with a different operating system as an irrational decision made by feeble trapped brains

Who did that? Certainly not me. I framed all decisions to be akin to that, not any particular one. We are all “feeble trapped brains” making irrational decisions, all the time. Yes, me too.


> make it too hard for them to stay the person they currently are

Why do you think people's identity is tied to the auditability of complex computer systems?


> Why do you think people's identity is tied to the auditability of complex computer systems?

I don’t think that. I think people tie their identity to all sorts of things, including the obvious Apple and Android fans, but more importantly “user of mainstream apps”. Many people think they can’t be who they are (a.k.a. “can’t live”) without normal mainstream phone apps.

People don’t have to tie their identity to this, but many do.


I guess it's similar to being fully aware of one's mortality. You can't live in that reality without suffering quite a bit.


Yes, I see what you mean, and I agree that it’s a good analogy. But factually, the absolute version of that statement is wrong. You can, in fact, live with your own mortality without suffering. The process of arriving to that state of mind might require some suffering, though.

I didn’t put you in a prison, Evey. I just showed you the bars.

[…]

You were in a cell, Evey. They offered you a choice between the death of your principles and the death of your body. You said you’d rather die. You faced the fear of your own death, and you were calm and still. Try to feel now what you felt then…

I… felt… like… an angel…

— V for Vendetta, issue 7, 1989


> I suspect that only tech enthusiasts are aware of these issues. In the meantime, non-technical people only give you weird disbelieving looks when you mention this to them, and then continue ignoring it.

I didn't realize how true this was until just last week. My partner was having a conversation with her friends (non-techies) about phones. One person mentioned that they are skeptical about whether Android is secure because it is open source. And that's why they stuck with their iPhone.


Most of the things that they say have caused the high cost are sunk costs in design.

Given that the design is open, it should be possible for another company, who doesn't have these sunk costs, to deliver the same phone for less.

Does this mean that they have the price wrong? Can selling open designs ever recoup such design costs?


I don't think they've released their full hardware schematic, right? I imagine they're waiting until they at least hit full production, and perhaps get closer to the next rev.

That being said, Pine64 has been able to make a similar device for far less also using their own design, so I'm a little skeptical that hardware design was such a large part of the price. I'm guessing the bulk of it was getting the SoC up and going since Pine64 had similar products that likely make it simpler to design a phone SoC.


You don't by the phone just for the actual device. You buy it mainly to support the start of actually open source phones. If you wanted a cheap phone you could just by a second hand android phone for dirt cheap


Of course. This is the basic open source model, only better. You get support from the folks who made the design.


It would all make sense to me, if they wouldn't charge $800 and $1000 for 24" and 30" monitors (with keyboard and mouse) respectively. Are they designing the monitors from ground up as well?

Business around privacy is a thing going on for at least a decade. However, we often forget that our data flow is controlled, monitored, and stored by those who we try to protect our data from.


Remember these were and are offered as part of a fundraising effort to be able to develop the phones. So I think those prices are targeted at people who want to make a serious donation to the cause as well as getting the hardware.


Indeed. After reading the blog entry, I feel like buying a Librem 5 even though I don't want a large phone (am on an old small dumb phone that lasts 3 weeks on a charge).

We've seen so many NIH (on the software side) phones over the years, and then finally this. It bodes well for the future.


A bit OT, but I didn't know Librem made laptops - does anyone here have any experience with them, especially the 13" model?


I use a librem 13v3 as my main computer.

I like it because the hardware is all well-supported under linux. I run a fairly stripped-down Debian. I am no linux wizard, and I was able to make everything I needed functional. Bluetooth required a non-free firmware package.

Additionally, I got to support a company working toward more-open, more-free hardware. I would love for movement in that direction to be more common, so I put my money where my mouth is. If you don't care about that, you could get a laptop of equivalent performance, or better, for less money.

I don't know much about hardware performance or what the latest-and-greatest is. I don't play games or do anything that performance intensive locally. It is more than performant enough for my needs. The battery life seems good, but I've never timed it. I have an M.2 SSD in it.

The trackpad and keyboard are both relatively nice. The trackpad is a clicky pad, like the one on a macbook. I have it configured to use the "clickfinger" click method of libinput and two-finger-scrolling. The keyboard is backlit and has decent travel (not nearly as good as the old thinkpad keyboards, though).

There are hardware kill switches. One for wifi and bluetooth, and one for the camera and microphone. I generally just leave the camera/microphone off, and the wifi/bluetooth on. The switches protrude a bit so it is possible to accidentally move them.

The screen is a matte 1920x1080 IPS panel. I hate glossy screens because I like to use my laptop outside, so this is perfect for me.

It has a decent complement of ports. No ethernet port, though.


I got the Librem 15" laptop about a year and a half ago. I am happy with it. I ran QubesOS for a couple of moths and NixOS since with no issues.


They're expensive for what they are, but I want one anyway. The only reason I haven't so far is because they only have US keyboards. If I'm going to spend that much on a laptop, I want my £ key!


It should not be too hard to add your own keyboard layout. Many are available already (but not UK): https://forums.puri.sm/t/translations-and-virtual-touch-keyb...


Can't you just map that in software?


I don't want to. I want a laptop with a physical £ key. Like my Macbook and my Thinkpads have.

I do not own one but from what I gather their laptops are great.

I have also seen many review claiming the track pad is great and even one say it is as good as a macbook track pad.

However, one problem with them is that they are not refreshed often and use older Intel ships (currently 7th gen).

One of the thing I suspect prevents them from refreshing the laptops is they do not have enough resources (people) to do some while developing the librem 5.


They have been using an exploit that allows you to wipe out the Intel backdoor. Maybe that prevents them from updating.


Well, they could say that it's expensive but at least you get to really own the phone, not the other way around. Technical wording works best with technical people.


Has anybody received them? Last time I checked, deliveries were suspiciously late.


This post from yesterday claims that they have actually started shipping them now:

https://puri.sm/posts/librem-5-birch-shipping-announcement/


Got mine yesterday, posted a top-level comment. It's definitely at a prototype stage, but the hardware seems awesome and high-quality, looking forward to more apps being developed!



Am I reading this correctly? This is a $700 phone that doesn't have a working camera and can't make phone calls?


Not yet. In comparison with other phones, this one will be getting better with time, not worse.

I'm glad they put out this article - I've been thinking about picking one of these up, but the price surprised me. I wonder if the same reasoning holds true for their laptops? They're really nice, but the $1400 starting price is pretty steep considering the specs.

Side note: this is the strangest font I've seen in a long time. Why is the lower-case "t" smaller than every other letter? It almost looks like one of those fonts designed for dyslexic readers, but with no variations in the width of the letter strokes, I don't think that's the case. Anyone know if it was just a really strange choice, or if it serves some greater purpose?


This blogpost propagates what I'd like to describe as an urban legend about baseband processors and main memory. The story originates from old times where even fancy phones allowed the baseband to write everywhere in main memory. The myth then becomes that you need the baseband physically separated from your main application processor.

But the world's moved on since those reports were made. It's FUD: https://www.reddit.com/r/CopperheadOS/comments/6wtul0/on_sen...


the claims on this link to the CopperheadOS reddit post dismisses the importance of baseband security which is pretty insane.

The baseband is permanently attached to a public network. Not having control over whether that connection actually is up is a huge security hole. The entire baseband software stack runs in supervisor mode. There are no non-executable pages, there's no stack protection.

EDIT-1: Qualcomm baseband chips have location tracking baked in. Even with a clean OS and no tracking apps, the baseband does it. The tracking data is commercially available: https://web.archive.org/web/20180514003056/https://www.qualc...


It's not FUD. It's about different threat models.

General design failures/bugs from assumed acting-in-good-faith silicon/sw designers vs not-acting-in-good-faith silicon/sw designers.

Assuming the radio's are the primary threat to privacy then I'd prefer a design from a privacy activist company who explicityly designs the hw so that the less trustable parts are forced behind physcial and defined interface "firewalls".


No, it is FUD. Their threat model is explicit:

> Complex parts like the cellular modem or the WiFi can access the very same RAM that is used at runtime to store your most private data, but at the same time they are controlled by binary-only firmware that no one except the manufacturer of that chip has access to.

For the cellular modem, in your run-of-the-mill iPhone or Android phone nowadays, it is simply false that the cellular modem can access arbitrary data in RAM. Can't tell you about WiFi, but I expect a similar situation.

There's a lot of room for improvement in secure smartphone architectures, but the "baseband can read your photos" trope is simply false.


I don’t know much about the responsibilities of the baseband but it seems that there are other attack vectors. Can it read storage? What about unencrypted content going over the network?


Of course the network hardware can see unencrypted network traffic. That's unfixable, except of course by encrypting everything.


only there is no process isolation so no strong guarantee that secrets aren't leaked. no control over baseband makes the whole environment in which (other privacy protecting) apps are running extremely hostile from a security pov.


That's not really correct either.

Modern Android/Qualcomm phones have pretty sophisticated security architectures that do indeed isolate the baseband, partly because exploiting baseband bugs was such a common source of phone unlocks in the past. If an app is using SSL then the baseband can't read what's happening.


I think we are talking at cross purposes.

If the chips are tightly integrated propriatary black boxes like on most hw then from my POV its _physcially_ possible for them to read anything regardless of what the designers/industry say because I do not trust them.

You trust your sources that say "..simply false that the cellular modem can access arbitrary data in RAM". I don't. Even if you claim to have personally designed, fabbed and shipped that silicon I still have no practical reason to trust.


I know very little about the topic so bearing that in mind:

We're already in a world were we can't quite trust our CPUs, so why trusting baseband chips?

If it does make the design more complicated, it may also reduce the potential attack surface.


We can't fully trust the correctness of modern complicated CPU designs, leading to problems like <insert all speculative bypasses that have affected Intel CPUs the past 2 years>. But despite their complexity, CPUs and the CPU part of a smartphone SoC are usually extremely well understood (relatively speaking). The reason is that you actually need to run your software on these CPUs, so they need to be understood rather well. With better understanding comes better trust.

On the other hand, the baseband processor is mostly unknown, black box hardware, running unknown black box software, that completely controls the transmission of cellular data. Of course it would be horrible if there was no separation between the CPU and baseband. You shouldn't trust that setup. But as it turns out, separation does exist!


> But as it turns out, separation does exist!

The article you linked to says: "There can be an IOMMU with very tight restrictions providing proper isolation or a setup where the IOMMU is effectively not doing anything and permits access to all of the memory. Determining that requires real research."

So it sounds more like separation might or might not exist and you're not likely to find out if it does on your particular device.


> If it does make the design more complicated, it may also reduce the potential attack surface.

an increase in complexity would rule out reduction of attack surface. in fact attack surface would be guaranteed to increase


Well, that isn't generally true if the complexity is actually a security boundary. After all, all security designs are based on layers -- it's hard to add a layer of security without adding complexity.

As a counter-example -- removing all of Linux's privilege checking would make the code a lot less complicated, but the attack surface would increase a million-fold. In this case, the Librem 5's separation of the baseband such that communication is done over USB (a protocol which doesn't have DMA) is a security improvement over giving the baseband DMA access.


USB protocols are often times handled in SW, some in Linux kernel, some in userspace. So if someone discovers RCE over USB in Linux USB stack, modem will have direct memory access, or even RCE on the main CPU with kernel privileges.

I have no experience with PCIe so maybe it's harder with USB to abuse the host system, than with PCIe these days.

You can think of USB as being similar to using a TCP/IP protocol between multiple machines capable of executing code, and having to execute code to handle higher level protocols, like HTTP or whatnot. If there's a code execution bug anywhere, the USB capable device will be able to exploit it.

And by default, there's a code-execution bug on all normally configured Linux machines. If you'll not create a USB "firewall", modem can just create a virtual keyboard and kernel will happily accept all input from it, for example. So modem can just type whatever it wants to your shell. It will be obvious, but, it's still device->host RCE.


We're not in disagreement (I never claimed or even implied that USB is bug-free) -- but in order to get an RCE or DMA-like access you first need to exploit the USB stack. PCIe gives you that kind of access for free by design (almost -- there is IOMMU these days but there is little evidence that it is nearly as secure as hardware vendors claim, and you'd need to have phone hardware which supports it).


> Well, that isn't generally true if the complexity is actually a security boundary.

if the security boundary is baked into the code or the design of the system, and also assuming it doesn't introduce more bugs, then I agree[1]. Security controls that get introduced on top do risk an increase in attack surface. An additional interface is by definition a an additional "surface", the question is if it can be attacked.

[1] you could still argue that more lines of code always means more bugs (but let's assume it's very close to bullet-proof)


If the alternative to adding an additional interface is to just give DMA access to the device, I'm not sure I see the downside to using the additional interface. Even if the interface ends up being completely broken, at the very least there was something to break before you get DMA / RCE access. What possible interface breakage could trump free and unrestricted DMA access?


Aren't the baseband components typically separated because they are a different regulatory domain?

My understanding is that integators buy the baseband module (with FCC and other licenses) and add it to their device so as to not incur the patent fees and oversight required by developing the radio device into every regional handset.


[deleted]


Early owners had to opt-in into getting early revisions to get them.

I wouldn't be interested in an AOSP-based phone at all. I have used Openmoko Neo Freerunner in the past, I'm using Nokia N900 now and I have absolutely no intention to leave the GNU/Linux land on my phone.


I don’t think a $700 phone is terribly expensive. I mean, yes, it is, but as long as they stay below iPhone pricing I don’t see how anyone can complain.


The Librem is $700 and, at launch, doesn't include basic functionality like calendars, calculators and notes.

Sure I'm comparing apples to lemons here, but the first iPhone was $500, twelve years ago, and much more functional.


> The Librem […] doesn't include basic functionality like calendars, calculators and notes.

From what I can see, this is untrue:

Calculator: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esYJSNZrQWc

Notes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34XhhVlmYTU and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEzRgjHaIZo

It would surprise me if there wasn’t a calendaring program in there, too


I'm getting the information directly from the Librem 5 product page[0]:

"Upon initial shipment of the Librem 5 in 2019, it will offer the essentials: phone functionality, email, messaging, voice, camera, browsing. Your user experience will improve as we incrementally add commonly requested applications and features (such as calendaring, notes, calculator, PDF viewer, etc.) while keeping performance in mind."

[0] https://puri.sm/products/librem-5/


I think I recognize this text from when I read it early on; I would assume that this was written before the relevant Gnome programs (Calculator, Xournal, GEdit, etc.) had been ported to run sensibly on the Librem 5. They should probably update it.


It also cant make phone calls: "audio is not routed (no voice heard or sent)" https://puri.sm/posts/librem-5-birch-shipping-announcement/


You're comparing apples to gnomes.


Also, "initial shipment" is a bit odd since everything before batch Evergreen (next year) could be considered a "preview release" since they're still finalizing some of the hardware. The iPhone didn't release in batches, it was a complete product on launch.

We'll see what makes the cut by the time Evergreen rolls out.


Yes, the first iPhone was $500 12 years ago. And today, through the miracle of the free market an iPhone will only cost you... $599 with trade in.

adjusts glasses, shuffles papers

Gotta be missing some pages here...


To be fair, the iPhone 11 is well over two orders of magnitude more powerful than the iPhone 1.

Not bad for another $99.


That $500 was the pay in on the contract, not the price of the phone.


Doesn't it run Gnome and X/Wayland?


It's 2x the average phone price, so it's excluding the majority of the market.

https://www.vox.com/2018/1/23/16923832/global-smartphone-pri...


It's 2x other phones with superior specs, like a Moto G7. It's 3x other phones with similar specs.


The real cost in my view is not the price of the phone, it’s in the clunkiness. It’s really thick and looks from the outside like a device from 2005 compared to current phones from Apple and Samsung. I have a hard time believing they will sell enough of them to cover the development cost.


I think if you're worried about how it looks and not how it works, then you're not in their target market ;)


I would argue the weight factors into this. With Pinephone around the corner, which may very well end up being able to benefit from the work in GNOME (and I do appreciate that part), it seems like Purism might be at risk of that same small, niche market picking up and going over to Pinephone because it offers a better experience _in some ways_.

Of course I am supporting both of these projects because my income apparently doesn't matter to me, but I think it's still worth considering that a heavy, chunky phone may be somewhat of a detriment when their target base is already pretty small.

Mostly I worry about perfect being the enemy of good, and that Purism will end up going out of business before they can make a v2 which truly surpasses expectations. The existing Librem 5 is definitely a cool step in the right direction, but living long enough to fulfill their ultimate goal (having everyone be able to run and want to use ethical, open, and free as in freedom devices) is also important.


I'm writing this on one of their laptops. Because, as you say, my income apparently doesn't matter to me and I really want them to succeed. It's actually a good laptop, though, and I love having a native Linux machine (and the styling - I'm a sucker for plain matt black stuff).

It feels like early Apple over again. That dancing on the edge between business pragmatism and perfectionism. I can easily see them becoming the "new Apple" in a few years' time. I hope so.


Unless you plan not to pay taxes on it. For me it would be $860 phone. Comparable phones, like Lenovo K9 for example, cost $125-$150 around here, taxes incl.


Naive question, but with a commercial product like the i.MX8M from NXP Semiconductors, is there really not enough in it for them to develop Linux support for their product, rather than leaving it to other parties? Presumably some OS supported things like the i.MX8M’s accelerometer from the launch date, or are these chips shipped to OEMs on the basis that the low level functions work, but all OS support has to be created by someone else?


From what I understand they would give you a bunch of binary blobs or either have a fork of the Linux kernel with a lot of patches to get the device working.

So they may support a single old version because the effort of upstreaming the support would be expensive.

The blog post says that the Librem paid 15 developers full time for 2 years on the project.

That's a huge expense and most of all the customers of the SoC won't be demanding upstream support.

Of course also what happens is that you get into a rabbit hole of patching your fork until it becomes a huge task to reintegrate.


For some reason, every hardware company, without exception, it terrible at software development. They just can’t do it right. It’s probably a cultural difference, somehow, with the developent style and/or NDA requirements possibly having their impact.


I'm not really a hardware guy (just a hobbyist), but I've worked with a few. As far as I can tell it's typically a mix of things, largely related to managing unique difficulties of hardware bringup and treating software development as part of the hardware product development cycle instead of really having its own planning/management authority. For example:

- Doing a hard fork of the software stack for every product family/generation/platform, because it's assumed up front that hardware differences/bugs and changes in product definition will require non-portable changes throughout the stack (e.g. things like GUI element sizes and line lengths are often hardcoded to fit the layout to a particular screen, various GPIO pins/buttons/LEDs/connectors change identity/significance, hardware gains/loses capabilities needed for a feature so UI elements related to that feature need to be added/removed/altered)

- Expecting the vast majority of development effort to be on shipping new products because already-shipping products are "in the can" and the big deals have already been closed

- Management belief that hardware is hard and software is easy (which is arguably sometimes rational from the perspective of managing product-dooming risks)

- Upstream vendors wasting developers' time with shenanigans around stuff like documentation (oh, you wanted the real manual that actually says what the registers do?) and firmware (some vendors apparently forget to mention that there is firmware until you ask your SE/FAE why something isn't working)

- Uncertainty around whether a given problem ought to be fixed in hardware or software


Apple too?


Lately, Apple does kinda suck at software development.

I spent days hunting down issues in the launch iOS 13 simulator that turned out not to happen on real hardware (and had never happened worth the iOS 13 launch).

Their UX is on a downward trend for several years now, IMO.

Historically I've heard Apple described as a software company that uses hardware to achieve competitive advantage.

Apple sucking is relative, obviously - their stuff is still better than most other products, but it's not add good as it used to be, IMO.

I wonder if the iPhone's success has transformed them into more of a hardware company?


Name a good piece of software of similar power


What software are you talking about? If it is the whole OS then it is a matter of user's preference and telling Mac user that PC is better and the other way around is the best way to heat air without any useful outcome.


> Historically I've heard Apple described as a software company that uses hardware to achieve competitive advantage.

I’ve always heard it as the exact opposite, hardware company that uses software to achieve competitive advantage. If you look at what they actually “sell”, the version I’ve heard makes much more sense.


Yes, Apple Music UX consistently worsens, and new multitasking gestures on the iPad (that are modeled after the iPhone X) are much less convenient than before. The amazing part though is the overall UI smoothness (except on app startup) that is unheard of in the desktop world.


I just looked back at this and hang my head in shame at all the typos.


Isn’t Apple more of a product design company than hardware company?

But yes, they do seem to straddle the divide somewhat, and they have wavered to one side or the other in the past. But is does seem that even Apple can’t go against the stream; they either seem to do bad hardware and good software or vice versa at any given time.


What is the difference in your opinion?

Notable exception, most of the time.


I asked myself that very question often, but the reality is that only customers that take a small number of those chips (<1.000.000) care about mainline support.

For the first tier customers they get a custom solution developed for them, and have access to all the specs under the NDA, but since that is the case, they cannot develop stuff for mainline and just produce blobs.


The i.MX8M as I understand is a chip for car navigation/entertainment systems. I wonder whether the shift towards OTA updates will encourage manufacturers to care about mainline support. Think about all the models and versions that a car company has, they’re going to have to be maintained for a decade or more, and doing that with fractured code bases and kernel patches sounds like an immense pain.


Car manufacturers seem weirdly unmoved by immense pain in software development.


I love the software part in the article. Basic GTK apps just need a few changes and they start working seamless on both Desktop and smaller displays.


You can definitely make a cookie cutter 65nm SoC under $1m.

SoC has a gigantic cost advantage over discrete parts, let alone PCIE cards.

The only showstopper is the 4G radio. There are no IP vendors for it at all, and that is very much a result of things antitrust regulators should've been taking care of.


> and that we would never make it with GNOME. Well, here we are, we are shipping with GNOME / GTK+

What's the reason not to use Plasma Mobile though? I'd prefer investment of effort into that.


I cant speak for them, but Gnome is far ahead on UI polish and general tidiness. I keep checking in on Plasma Mobile every few months and how nobody has fixed the god awful interface proportions yet is beyond me.

I see the same problems on desktop Plasma, wildly inconsistent padding, UI elements not lining up and bits of the interface crushed and cramped, while 100px below you have gigantic elements.

If you're going to take a swing at doing a FOSS phone right, you really need to avoid the wonky programmer art or you are not going to convince the average user that its any better or more polished than previous failed attempts.


In desktop case, Plasma is ahead of Gnome in features and functionality. Not sure what you refer to in regards to padding, but Gnome has its own UI issues like lack of server side decorations for SDL windows and such, due to Mutter being very limited.

Can't say about Plasma Mobile though, but that's the point why investing effort into that would be useful. The base is more promising than Gnome one.


> Not sure what you refer to in regards to padding

I can't find a good introduction on the topic at the moment, so I'll just quote Microsoft's succinct answer: "Alignment makes your UI look neat, organized, and balanced and can also be used to establish visual hierarchy and relationships."

They also have a nice illustration: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp/design/layout/a...

This kind of thing matters for usability. KDE has always been ahead in technical features, but GNOME has for a long time been way ahead in paying attention to basic principles of visual design.


Look-n-feel issues sound very subjective to me. And I don't like common Gnome's attitude of "We know better than you what's good for you, because that's what some new theory dictates, so we'll make it hard for you to do it differently". MS suffers from exactly the same mindset.

Personally, I never had problems with KDE design. If anything, I prefer it to Gnome's. Plus KDE is so customizable, that if you don't like something, you can find a way to change that.


Its only $699, why are they calling it expensive? I paid $1100 for unlocked iphone.


Because the specs are much lower. You can buy an Android phone with the same or better specs for $50.


I need bitcoin to purchase the phone


They take Monero, so you can try https://LocalMonero.co

or if there isn't anyone you want to buy from, you can try LocalBitcoin and then convert.


Great idea but man what a missed missed opportunity on the naming? I do not want to but a phone called librem.


How about you make a cheaper product without software bloat? I don't think a smartphone requires 3GB ram to work. Those smartphones are not high end, but they have incredible specs and yet I don't see any logic that justifies them.

There should be a market for electronics that goes against planned obsolescence. Build a device that runs a good enough OS, with low specs, that doesn't require fast hardware, make it sturdy and last at least 3 years, and I would buy it.

I refuse to spit more than $200 for any of those devices. People say "but I used it everyday, it is my main computer", well with all due respect you are addicted to your phone.

The smartphone industry is bizarre. Of course you can accuse Apple and google ecosystems, but still.


Excuse my comment if I’m incorrect, but did you read the article?

“How about you make a cheaper product without software bloat” To me this was very clearly answered with we broke new ground building the right system from the ground up and that was expensive.

And we used our existing OS as the base and we’ve achieved true mobile <> PC converance.

Give the article a full read and please consider editing this comment.

The reason for the cost was literally what was covered in the article.


I doesn't warrant 3GB of ram, sorry.


But RAM is dirt cheap, so why not?


3GB ram will greatly increase the size of the SOC, and ram increase power usage

You should check out the Pinephone then: https://www.pine64.org/pinephone/


> I refuse to spit more than $200 for any of those devices. People say "but I used it everyday, it is my main computer", well with all due respect you are addicted to your phone.

Well, that's an entirely arbitrary line in the sand you've drawn there. It's an entertainment platform. Am I addicted because I pay extra for a high quality TV, stereo, or gaming computer? What if it was spending extra money on a jigsaw for my woodworking hobby?


"Stop liking things I don't like!"


You need fairly powerful hardware to browse the web these days, which is an important use case.

Non-smart phones in the old days had to use either WAP (a simplified version of XHTML) which you probably won't find much content available on today, or a thin client for a server-side browser (e.g. Opera Mini) which is not great for privacy/security.


Phones generally run with zero swap space, due to concerns about endurance of the inbuilt eMMC storage. This applies to both Android and iOS, btw. Given that constraint, 3GB is not "high-end"; it's just about enough unless you want applications to OOM all the time.


This is an amazing effort, but I think...

> Well, here we are, we are shipping with GNOME / GTK+

...this point is I think quite unfortunate. I tried to write a GTK+ program a few years ago and it was completely impossible. Using GNOME / GTK+ will surely limit its attractiveness of a development platform. It's too bad they couldn't have done something based on Qt instead.

EDIT: Rather than downvoting, why don't you post your contrary experience with GTK+?


I can see why GTK would be a good choice, it has lots of bindings, and gnomes style guide is pretty well suited to enjoyable phone sized experience.

My experience with GTK has been fine its been far from impossible to use - with python, rust, and C. At least on linux, but that is the context of the issue.

Plasma mobile exists and apps will use QT so we can see how both turn out.


I think you're being downvoted due to the broad, unsubstantiated, statement that it's impossible to write code with gtk. It's obvious that gtk is a very successful platform. If you want to make such an extraordinary claim, the burden of proof is on you. It requires more than "I tried to write an app a few years ago"


Thank you for the explanation. It's not so much that I don't understand why I'm being downvoted, or even complain about it per se; it's just that it's not terribly informative, either for me, or to anyone reading.

Strictly speaking, everything I wrote was about my own personal opinions and experience. I did try writing an app; I did find trying to figure out was was going on impossible (and switching to web development much more fruitful). So it's natural for me to think that lots of people will have similar experiences, and that if they do, it will limit the growth of the platform.

I knew that what I wrote might be controversial, and I'm willing to take my downvotes like a man. But I'd rather be shown other perspectives.


I have several gtk apps in progress for the phone. If you tried a few years ago then i understand the sentiment. It could still be much better, especially when it comes to documentation. That said it’s pretty easy to get a basic app started and even ready to distribute with the gnome builder ide. It has a wysiwig for ui and project templates for all the most popular supported languages. The flatpak support is great too. The people working on it must be machines with the pace they are making improvements.



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