This is a guest post by Dorota, developer on Purism’s mobile team. Read more
PureOS, a Free Software Foundation endorsed GNU distribution, is what Purism pre-installs on all Librem laptops (in addition to it being freely available for the public to run on their own compatible hardware or virtual machines). It comes with a GNOME desktop environment by default, and of course, since we love free ethical software, users can use KDE that is also available within PureOS. This is the future we will continue to advance across all our devices: a PureOS GNOME-first strategy, with other Desktop Environments (DEs), such as KDE, available and supported by Purism.
At Purism we want a unified default desktop environment, and considering that we have chosen GNOME to be the default on laptops, we hope to extend GNOME to also be the default on phones. The ability for users to switch is also very powerful, and having a strong, usable, and supported alternative—that is, KDE/Plasma—for the Librem 5 offers the best of the “unified default” world and the “usable user choice” worlds.
Symbiotic GNOME and KDE partnerships
Purism has partnered with both GNOME and KDE for the Librem 5; what this means simply is that users running PureOS on their Librem 5 will get the choice of a GNOME environment or a KDE/Plasma environment, and the user could always switch between the two, like what is already the case on computers running PureOS. Will there be other partnerships in the future? We imagine so, since we will be happy to support any and all ethical OSes, GNU distributions, and want to make sure that the future is bright for a non-Android-non-iOS world.
While the initial GNOME and KDE partnerships mean uplifting diversity at the top level (and greater choice for users), each have a slightly different developmental and support roadmap. The reason for this is pragmatic, since KDE is very far along with their “Plasma” mobile desktop environment, while GNOME is farther behind currently. Investing time and efforts to advance the status of mobile GNOME/GTK+, aligns with our longer-term goals of a unified default desktop environment for PureOS, offering a convenient default for users. Diversity is why we are supporting and developing both GNOME/GTK+ and KDE/Plasma.
- KDE: Purism is investing in hardware design, development kits, and supporting the KDE/Plasma community, and will be sharing all early documentation, hardware designs, and kernel development progress with the core KDE/Plasma developers and community.
- GNOME: Purism is investing the same in hardware design, development kits, and supporting the GNOME/GTK+ community as we are with the KDE/Plasma community. In addition, Purism is needing to lead some of the development within the GNOME community, since there is not a large community around an upstream-first GNOME/GTK+ for mobile yet.
Choice is good, redundancy is good, but those are ideal when there is minimal additional investment required to accomplish technological parity. Since Purism uses GNOME as the default desktop environment within PureOS on our laptops, we figured we are going to invest some direct development efforts in GNOME/GTK+ for mobile to stay consistent across our default platforms. Adding KDE as a second desktop environment is directly aligned with our beliefs, and we are very excited to support KDE/Plasma on our Librem 5 phone as well as within PureOS for all our hardware. We will support additional efforts, if they align with our strict beliefs.
Why not just use KDE/Plasma and call it a day?
If we were doing short-term planning it would be easy to “just use Plasma” for the Librem 5, but that would undermine our long-term vision of having a consistent look/feel across all our devices, where GNOME/GTK+ is already the default and what we’ve invested in. Supporting both communities, while advancing GNOME/GTK+ on mobile to allow it to catch up, aligns perfectly with our short-term goals (offering Plasma on our Librem 5 hardware for early adopters who prefer this option), while meeting our long-term vision (offering a unified GNOME stack as our primary technological stack across all our hardware). It is also a good way to give back to a project that needs our help.
Why not just push GNOME and GTK+ and forward?
Because having an amazingly built Plasma offering available early to test and ship to users is a superb plan in many ways—not just for redundancy, but also because KDE/Plasma also aligns so well with our beliefs. The product readiness across these two desktop environments are so different it is not easy to compare side-by-side.
Empowering both communities is possible
Overall, Purism is investing the same amount across hardware, boot loader, kernel, drivers and UI/UX. These are shared resources. The deviation boils down to:
- GTK+ and the GNOME “shell” development, that Purism is planning to be directly invested in, in close collaboration with upstream
- Community support: by being involved in both communities, we are effectively doubling our efforts on supporting those communities, but that is a small cost for the greater benefit of users.
Supporting both KDE/Plasma and GNOME means we will continue to build, support, and release software that works well for users across Purism hardware and within PureOS. Purism fully acknowledges that each platform is in different release states, and will be working with each community in the areas required—be that software development, hardware development kits donated, community outreach, conference sponsorship, speaking engagements, and offering product for key personnel.
Update/P.S.: for the GNOME side of things, we are in close collaboration with upstream GNOME, and have followed GNOME Shell maintainers’ recommendations to have a simpler, Wayland-only shell (“phosh”) developed. You can learn more about it in our 2018 March 3rd technical report, in the “Compositor and Shell” section. So rest assured, those decisions have been taken with the “blessing” of upstream, based on purely technical grounds.
Let’s recap recent progress with a summary of where we stand and where we’re going next on the “operations” front.
We have begun production of the two new revisions of Librem laptops. As we narrowed down on component choices and successfully raised additional funds, we have now made great steps towards our “zero outstanding orders” milestone and our goal of creating our first inventory to ship future orders from.
- Last month, we ordered a batch of supplies to begin production of the new Librem 13 “v2” units. We have also tested and evaluated three prototype units, the latest of which we will use to extend our coreboot work.
- Two weeks ago, we also ordered parts for the new Librem 15 “v3” units. So far we have evaluated one prototype unit for this new batch (which will also be used for our coreboot work), and will evaluate a second one soon.
- We are currently working to leverage investment to make the Librem 11 batch order happen sooner and create an inventory directly; we will let you know of any progress on that front. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience. And please spread the word about the Librem 11 to those around you looking for a nice security-oriented and freedom-respecting convertible tablet with stylus support (especially interesting for visual artists who want to use the plethora of free creative tools such as MyPaint, Krita, Inkscape, GIMP, etc.)! The more people know about it, the sooner we should be able to put it into production.
Revised products specifications
For the upcoming Librem 13 v2 and the Librem 15 v3, we evaluated various prototypes, including different cases and keyboard models, alongside various possible CPU, GPU, RAM and storage combinations. With the newer motherboards, we aimed to keep the same flexibility in terms of storage: one M.2 slot and one standard SATA slot. As usual, the RAM and SSDs are all user-replaceable, not soldered.
The Librem 13 gets a whole slew of improvements for version 2:
- A newer i5 processor, using the 14 nanometers lithography of the Skylake generation, bringing additional performance and power savings over previous generations
- A backlit keyboard (the most often requested feature)
- Newer Intel graphics as part of the Skylake chipset
- DDR4 memory
- One USB 3.0 “type C” connector
- A much better trackpad (sourced from Elantech instead of BYD), which works better out of the box. It supports vertical and horizontal two-finger scrolling, allows changing workspaces with a simple four-finger swipe gesture, has smoother scrolling, and various multitouch gestures (dependent on applications support).
Those who have ordered the Librem 15 also get the free update to Skylake, newer graphics, DDR4, and improved trackpad. The Librem 15 already had a backlit keyboard and USB-C.
As you can see, when you pre-order a Purism device, you don’t need to worry about the specs becoming outdated by the time of production & delivery. For all our products, we strike a balance as per our manufacturing & sourcing approach, yet strive to stay close to the latest technology out there. We aim to please our supporters by bundling these updates at no additional cost whenever possible.
Upgrading from the Broadwell microarchitecture for this round, we chose to go with Skylake (rather than Kabylake) in order to service orders more quickly without bringing on delays in supplies or testing. To provide the best user experience, we prefer to test more thoroughly before moving on to a new chipset (for instance, we’ll be able to provide coreboot support more quickly with Skylake as part of our current roadmap). We expect to upgrade the chipsets/microachitecture again for the next production run (planned for the second half of 2017 once we complete this batch), which will involve a revised motherboard design, as we will also be adding new hardware features in prevision of full support for Heads.
The power of the Dark Side comes as a duo
We chose to keep the same overall chassis, although the location of Librem 15’s killswitches will be different this time (all on the hinge cover, like the Librem 13).
A notable aesthetic improvement for the Librem 15 v3 is that it will be anodized black just like the Librem 13. The temptation of the Dark Side was strong! Here you can see an anodized aluminium extrusion sample of the Librem 15 v3, next to an existing Librem 13 v1:
As we are beginning to have quite a bit of hardware revisions and models to keep track of, the laptops will now also feature some subtle branding underneath the backplate for model identification and to show the appropriate certification marks (we are FCC and CE certified). The publicly visible parts such as the screen bezel, palmrests, or the back of the screen lid, all remain unbranded.
Better power connectors
We are now sourcing power supplies with L-shaped coaxial connectors, so they keep a low profile when plugged into the side of your Librem:
This is particularly useful if you like to sit cross-legged with your laptop on a sofa, for example! (or for those who like to meditate with a computer on their lap)
We are well on our way to provide a great new set of laptops this summer. We should be receiving the final components around the end of May, at which point we will do the final assembly and shipping throughout June. We will then be able to celebrate having cleared all the existing Librem 13 and 15 orders (including the recent big spike in orders). After that point, we will be able to ship within days and weeks (not months), which will be a huge relief for everybody looking to buy a Librem “in a pinch”. We hope you’re as excited as we are about that!
As always, thank you for your support, and feel free to contact us with your thoughts and encouragements, or to spread the good news around you!
Edit: post updated to reflect the processor models available as of June 2017. For the time being, the Librem 13 will still feature an i5 processor instead of the i7, albeit with the newer Skylake chipset.
Thank you all for supporting Purism, with ordering hardware, donations, volunteering, downloading PureOS, using our products, and of course the kind words. We are excited to finally approach the transition from “build-to-order” (where users have tended to wait months for Librem products) to shipping from inventory, where new users will be waiting merely days for Librem products. This is the most important step we’re taking yet.
To do this, we are leveraging past sales revenue to get investment and a larger line-of-credit, so we can place an even larger order for all the supplies, hardware, and component parts needed to build and house inventory.
This larger order is expected to be placed in January, and we intend it to include: the Librem 13 v2, the Librem 15 v2, and the Librem 11 v1. There is typically an 8 week lead time for fabrication, which means placing our bulk inventory orders in January will allow us to fulfill the remaining preorders and backorders in March, and ship-from-inventory beginning in April of 2017.
This is a very exciting transition for Purism to grow to meet the demand of users worldwide, and we could not have done this without your support, so thank you again.
The New York Times points out that this latest security breach “shows how companies throughout the technology supply chain can compromise privacy, with or without the knowledge of manufacturers or customers.”
Let’s examine the problem and see what can be done about it. It’s not too late to stand up for your rights.
The Fundamental Problem
All phones and tablets on the market today suffer from the same problem: the code that operates those devices are a mystery to the users. In this specific case Google’s Android, but the same problem exists with Apple devices and Windows devices, where the operating system, software-updated firmware, and most software that runs on those devices do not have the source code available to verify that there are no backdoors sending your private data to unwanted third parties.
What this means is there is absolutely no way, for a user of Android, iOS, OSX, Windows, or any operating system that does not release all the source code, to guarantee he/she is not being illegally spied upon for nefarious reasons, corporate surveillance, government spying, and/or private data mining.
The tracking built into mobile devices is at every level imaginable. We need to create a better, digital rights respecting future for computing.
The Future of Computing
If we, as users, continue to morally and financially support Android, iOS, OSX, Windows or any other operating system that strip away the digital rights of users, we continue to advance a future where:
- users are controlled for profit;
- private data is mined for advertising revenue;
- governments spy on people;
- corporations capitalize on every user interaction;
- security breaches involve staggering amounts of personal data, with enormous consequences for individuals—even worse than what we’ve been seeing in recent years.
Every time you purchase a device from hardware companies that pre-install Android, iOS, OSX, Windows, and other nonfree operating systems, you are contributing to the erosion of your rights. Buying an HTC device benefits HTC, Google, the carrier, and all software companies that preinstall their privacy-stripping binaries. Similarly, buying Apple benefits Apple, the carrier, and all software apps preinstalled or even later installed.
- Use a free software operating system, where the source code is released.
- Use hardware that allows you to run a completely freed operating system, where there is no mystery binaries, no private data delivered anywhere, and most importantly that you control.
- Support companies and organizations like Purism, and know that every penny of a purchase goes to benefit the future of computing and the digital rights for users. Make informed purchasing decisions and support hardware manufacturers that push Free Software’s agenda all the way through the supply chain.
The Upcoming Purism Phone and services infrastructure
Subscribe to our newsletter (simply send an email to email@example.com to subscribe automatically) or follow us (see website footer for social links), then you will be notified when Purism launches the first freedom, security, and privacy respecting phone.
1. Thank You!
First off we wanted to say “Thank You!” to all of you for helping build Purism to what it is today, we have a lot more we want to do, and with your continued support we can change the world for the better.
2. This Newsletter List
We are now combining all our lists from our Resellers, Sales, Petitions, Email, Forums, etc. into this single newsletter list we will utilize to keep you informed. We tried very hard to only include those who have opted-in to receive these newsletters, if you wish to unsubscribe just email: firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be instructed how to unsubscribe.
3. Continuing to Ship!
We have been shipping the Librem 13 Laptops, the Librem 15 1080p Laptops, and will continue to ship through the order queue. We are evaluating the first 5 Librem 15 4k Laptops and will provide ship dates for those orders once we confirm them. In related news, we will be seeking larger investment so we can ship from stock for future orders.
5. The Librem 11
A workstation that converts to a laptop, that also converts into a tablet. This is the dream machine for a lot of users. Help support it!
6. Intel “Me-Less” Petition
During our last meeting with Intel, we discussed getting a petition to show Intel how much interest there is to have Intel create an “ME-less” CPU in the future. Please sign it!
7. Supply Chain Investment
We want to show our thanks for your support! We’ve deeply value your support of our business over the years and wouldn’t be here without it. Therefore, we want to share our success with you and show thanks for your support.
All of us at Purism, are excited to announce our recent partnership with Kickfurther, a crowdfinancing platform to obtain financing for our recent growth as a company. Be a part of our success and earn money while doing so. We’re offering our fans the opportunity to earn 12% in 6.5 months for contributing and supporting us! Our business goes up on the Kickfurther site on Jun 9, 2016 at 5PM EST but we’re granting early access from the above link.
We’d much prefer paying interest to backers than we would to banks.
Signup through https://kickfurther.com/s/2qbt4zz8ls to instantly receive $5!
8. Equity Investment (Coming Soon)…
We are in the growth stage, looking to place much larger orders to begin shipping from stock, which means we must begin to seek investment. We will be sharing this investment opportunity with all our backers, if you qualify to invest we would love to have you on board! More information will be coming soon.
9. A Librem Phone is Coming
We are begining the stages to create a phone, your continued support with our existing products ensure we can create a phone designed to respect users’ rights to privacy, security, and freedom.
Thank you for your continued support!
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