Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux stack

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Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux stack

Postby kedaha » 2017-08-26 12:41

Hi everyone,
I don't know if anyone's noticed this announcement but it's made my day:
the-librem-5-from-purism-a-matrix-native-smartphone
The intention is to be a very usable and flexible phone for folks who value freedom, privacy and simplicity over the (relative) quagmire of iOS or Android – and of course jumping way ahead of where Apple or Google are in terms of integrating next-generation communications into the very heart of the device.

How about that?
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby pylkko » 2017-08-26 13:07

As crazy as it sounds, there is even a Debian mobile project attempting to bring Debian in a usable sense to phones. There was some kind of display at Debconf2017.
https://wiki.debian.org/Mobile

But, I wonder how Purism think that this is going to work. Especially since they want to develop the OS from scratch. Given that Ubuntu couldn't pull it off starting from AOSP, I really seriously doubt that this'll work. Work in the sense that they will be able to create an OS that is not seriously lacking in functionality, and that they are able to maintain
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby debiman » 2017-08-26 20:15

i applaud this.
i'm just going to suppose it will be gnu/linux based, so not "entirely from scratch".
personally, i'd love to see a linux operating system with a familiar package manager and at least some sort of precompiled repository.
right now i'm experiencing this with my pinebook, and it's amazing that there's a full repository out there for this architecture. wow.

but only open source drivers/architecture?
i think this means that the components will have to be chosen much more carefully, and most likely the end product will be pretty effing expensive.
i have looked at a few cases over the years - this stuff is already out there, but prices are higher than a brand new apple product, and the number of sold items is rather low, and thus the user base is small, with everything that entails...

personally, i'd concentrate on using a well known & supported foundation (raspberry pi?), and build something from that.
with 3d printers and everything, hell, you could even do it yourself.

as far as this article is concerned, i couldn't really find anyything that would resemble a spec sheet?
just a beautiful user interface?
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby pylkko » 2017-08-27 06:09

Yes, I meant that they were going to develop their phone stack from the beginning. All the projects that failed (Ubuntu Touch, Open MOko, the OpenSuste tablet et cetera) have been using Linux and AOSP or Mer. These guys, however, say:
we want to promote a pure and unified stack, not have a separate mobile OS with proprietary bits or a completely different middleware stack. We want to support the community efforts of GNOME (as well as KDE) and allow for any GNU+Linux to work out-of-the-box providing mainline improvements that work not just on mobile but across the device spectrum."
In practice, that will mean that the operating system will not be usable on any other device than their own device. Which has pretty much been the case with other previous custom ROM's anyway. ARM processors do not have anything like a BIOS that initializes the hardware and reports to to the kernel what hardware is present. In essence, every ARM ROM that is made is unique to one device, and often these devices are manufactured for less than a year. Even the manufacturers them selves have problems in making an Android clone in time.

But if the other projects have failed starting from almost ready OS's like AOSP, and these guys are going to build the stack from the start, and they are going to be basing the development on biddings... 99% of all the projects that have started with crowdfunding fail anyway. The odds sound pretty daunting. They probably can't make the parts for the phone themselves, meaning that they will be dependant on what hardware the suppliers will be willing to make in 2019 when the device is planned to launch. In 2020 they will need to rewrite the OS if 2019 hardware is no longer offered

That said, it truly sounds interesting, that is, if the device could truly run any linux distribution. No one has been able to do that yet
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby Danielsan » 2017-08-28 21:54

I would like to support this project, we need a floss mobile phone. I liked FirefoxOS it is a pity that is drowned in the nowhere. I believe the main culprit of these free mobile projects, all died, it is a lacking of a clear target.

You can't sell a phone and expecting that is sold just because it is free or open, at least not when you are fighting against the giant like Apple and Google and others. You must target your niche, like nerds, geeks and floss lovers. These alternatives must go down to a compromise and at least wrap the most diffuse apps (I mean whatsapp, FB, Skype, blah... blah...) most of these service are available trough browser, then you can wrap them like a web application instead of being native, that helps at least to shut up the detractors that always use this topic against.
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby pylkko » 2017-09-07 11:20

So in the first days they have managed to get 200K USD. However, their goal is 1,5M and there is less than 50 days left.

With Ubuntu Touch there were some problems, and to me it appears that these people will have the same problems. For example, they (librem and ubuntu) decided to not offer any easy way to use already existing Android applications. For the most part this was ok, since they could develop their own mail client, browser, and so on. However, users complained about not having standard smart phone applications (things like WhatsAp). Librem states that many apps will be available as html5 pages in a container browser. This was also true of Ubuntu Touch but most of those apps worked poorly, did not integrate with the hardware well, did not offer system notifications and the web interfaces were clumsy to use on the phone. They said that you can use X apps on the phone, which turned out to not work like that and it also turned out that most users do not want to use legacy x apps on a phone at all.

Most smart phones can also wake up from low lever sleep or have stuff running on some processor or core when the device is off. So you can set an alarm clock and turn the phone off. In Ubuntu touch the clock app was just a linux process, so when the phone was switched off, so was the alarm clock. How convenient.

It was also kind of ironic that they claimed that their phone would be faster given that the programs are not run in java virtual machine containers (Dalvik) but bare metal. Sounded nice in theory, but in practice the apps were really slow, some taking several seconds to start because they lacked all the optimizations that android has.

There are all these problems that sound simple but are actually not.

I hope these guys have some kind of success and that they can provide some kind of environent were the phone can live for longer than the short lifespan of android phones. I certainly personalyl would be willing to not have the latest hardware (dual cameras and what ever else) if for that cost I could have some kind of normal operating system/hardware that has LTS.
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby debiman » 2017-09-08 05:24

^ i'm certain the software designers are aware of these things and there won't be another ubuntu phone.

i think i read on their site that installing "many linux distributions" will be possible?

however - WhatsApp - is what most people's expectations hinge on. Tell them you can't use that, they'll drop it like a hot potato. Sheeple, offering their necks to be shaved.
but - those people actually aware of crowdfunding projects probably don't belong in that category.

anyhow, i'm still missing the info on the hardware, what they're actually building there.
that would allow us to ascertain what OS one can install, how well it would run etc.
if someone would kindly point me to that page? i can't believe they left that out on purpose, so it must be my eyes...
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby pylkko » 2017-09-10 05:33

^ i'm certain the software designers are aware of these things and there won't be another ubuntu phone.
Ok, fair enough. But you realize that there are very few, if any, smart phone applications in distributions like Debian or Fedora? Someone is going to need to write them all from scratch. Developers are not going to be very interested in the platform if there are but a hand full of tech savvy users and no way to get income either. Sure, some projects will work with volunteers, others will have maverick devs that want to make a portfolio early career and maybe some already existing large projects will make mobilized versions of their linux software. But no matter what happens the selection will likely be really poor. WhatsApp will not be available for this device ever, that's for sure as they don't allow any third party apps at all and they will close your account. They will for sure also not make a linux natve app themselves, as they refused when Canonical asked them. You probably will not be able to use any DRM kind of content (netflix and that).

They did have a hardware page. However the hardware was not set yet.


5″ touchscreen
i.MX6/i.MX8 CPU
Vivante GPU (Etnaviv free software accelerated driver)
Separate mobile baseband
3GB LPDDR3 RAM
32GB eMMC
MicroSD slot
Front and back camera
Headphone and Microphone Jack (some elite smartphones don’t have this feature)
WiFi 802.11
Bluetooth 4
USB Type-C
Sensors: GPS, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Ambient Light and Proximity
Hardware kill switches for Camera, Microphone, Baseband, WiFi/Bluetooth


i.MX6 (1 Ghz) was released in 2011 and 8 (1.2 Ghz) in 2013 so not excatly high performance. My 250 USD phone from 2014 has a 2.2 Ghz (Cortex-A17)

But that's all besides the point. If they can manage to create a hardware basis that can be used and manage to have significantly longer support than other devices, then that will be what many want. Kind of like the Debian of smart phones, something reliable that has at least 5 years support (but might not have the latest shiny stuff).
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby debiman » 2017-09-10 10:20

pylkko wrote:But you realize that there are very few, if any, smart phone applications in distributions like Debian or Fedora? Someone is going to need to write them all from scratch.
yes.
but when you think about it, it's not that much. a dialer, an sms app...
most other apps are - well, the same across devices.
only the ui is different, but with pinch-zoom it should be possible to use. a pita, yes, but imagine what you would get:
a real linux distro with all the software packages.
things actually work and you don't have to deal with xda-developer script kiddies when you want something non-standard. and the long support (why 5 years? assuming you can replace an EOL distro with a newer version? endless!) and a community known for supporting old hardware (and lightweight apps available)...
well, i dream a little.
not saying the librem phone is all this, but it would be cool...
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby pylkko » 2017-09-10 12:47

So what Linux desktop had pinch zoom or even zoom? What touch compatible virtual keyboard even has arrow keys or a tabulator, things often used in these apps.

Can you name even one Linux program that would allow you to do something that can't be done on Android for example?
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby Head_on_a_Stick » 2017-09-10 18:55

debiman wrote:imagine what you would get:
a real linux distro

...which is much less secure than even a vanilla Android OS image, let alone one of the more specialised versions — why take the risk?

The Linux developers have only recently started taking security issues seriously and are lagging behind in that respect.

Your precious GNU/Linux box would be pwned in an instant if it tried to run the sort of dross that can be found in the Google Play Store :roll:
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby debiman » 2017-09-12 05:51

^ yes but i wasn't suggesting that. at all. software packages, i meant gnu/linux.
considering that, it would be just as in/secure as any other linux install.
a dialer, mobile broadband software, sms software, all that exists for gnu/linux. has existed for years.
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2017-09-12 17:23

I think it's either a scam or someone is being very, very and unrealistically ambitious.
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby debiman » 2017-09-14 17:37

^ they already did a laptop.
i don't think it's all that unrealistic.

c'mon guys, what's with the pessimism?
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Re: Librem 5 smartphone with FOSS Debian-based GNU/Linux sta

Postby pylkko » 2017-09-14 20:01

debiman wrote:^ they already did a laptop.
i don't think it's all that unrealistic.

c'mon guys, what's with the pessimism?

How about:

  1. On a laptop you can make use of one operating system image for all laptops that share the same processor architecture but on mobile phones you cannot? Because of the ARM, but also because of the differences otherwise. So, doing it with a laptop is a piece of cake.
  2. Phones use more sensors, external devices and other such things that rarely have generic firmware, but rather only manufacturer/device specific stuff. A phone without these things will be quite simple.
  3. Traditional linux distributions are designed from the start to work with desktop/server computers, and therefore the user interfaces barely work at all with touch displays.
  4. Many other "linux desktop on mobile" projects have failed hard.
  5. Because nobody has been able to argue what real benefit would come from using distributions like Fedora and Debian on a phone...
  6. 1.5M USD is very little for developing a phone, an OS...
  7. They will not get even the 1.5M they want

If you want free and open source then why not run twrp recovery + AOSP based ROM and Fdroid app store/repository? AOSP is free to the point that it qualifies as free by the FSF's standards. You can do this on many phones with normal modern hardware. Ok, so the phone modem firmware is closed proprietary, but AFAIK there is nothing that you can do about that, besides not use LTE. And this is a problem that Purism will not be able to avoid (unless they create their own hardware and make it different for every country/region/legislation - not gonna happen).

I think that ultimately what for me turns the verdict to a "no" is that the benefit appears to be nonexistent, but the price is high.
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