Another delay in the delivery of the Librem 5


#62

I have worked on board development and I currently work in a software company. A 7 month delay is pretty common in this industry and it really hard to predict how long a project like this will take. Purism is a young company and it had to hire a lot of new people to undertake this project. What it has managed to accomplish so far is quite remarkable in my opinion.

Almost all the phone makers just buy a standard Snapdragon or MediaTek SoC with cellular modem which is designed for cell phones (or they are behemoths like Apple, Samsung or Huawei which modify the standard ARM design). They add a skin to Android and develop a few proprietary apps and call it a day. It is much easier to meet deadlines when you develop phones that way, rather trying to create forge a new platform like Purism with special hardware.

Think of the technical challenges that Purism is trying to tackle:

  1. Use a new SoC which isn’t designed for cell phones. They found bugs in the i.MX 8M Quad’s power management.
  2. Separate the CPU from the cellular modem. Nobody else in the industry (except Apple) does this.
  3. Use an M.2 connector for the cellular modem, making it future upgradeable. Nobody else in the industry does this.
  4. Make hardware kill switches. This requires specialized board design and separation of components, which makes everything more difficult. Nobody else does this.
  5. Create new open source libraries in the Linux stack to handle mobile devices.
  6. Create a new open source GUI built on Wayland and GTK+ for mobile devices.
  7. Set up a new app store.
  8. Create the most essential apps to make the phone functional. Most other companies add a skin and create some apps to add on top of Android, which is MUCH easier.
  9. Work with other communities (UB Ports, KDE Plasma, Lineage OS) to help port their phone to their software stack.
  10. Work with Redpine Signal to get a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip that doesn’t require proprietary binary blobs to work. The current Atheros chip in the Librem 13/15 requires proprietary firmware blobs to support 802.11ac and the Bluetooth doesn’t have an open source driver. See: https://puri.sm/posts/librem5-2018-09-hardware-report/
  11. Create code for the M4 core to train the DDR PHY in the i.MX 8M Quad to use DDR4 so it doesn’t require proprietary blobs. See: https://puri.sm/posts/librem5-solving-the-first-fsf-ryf-hurdle/

Look at the number of things that Purism is trying to do, which no other company does, and it is doing it with very limited funds and a tiny staff. I give Purism a ton of credit for tackling such a monumental task.

Honestly, I expect version 1 of the Librem 5 to be barely functional, because I know how hard it is to do hardware/software development. I think of this as an investment in the future to create a viable alternative to Android and iOS. Version 1 of Android wasn’t that great, and expect the same for Pure OS on the Librem 5, but it is paving the way for others to follow. Once Purism creates the platform, more apps will be created and the underlying libraries will be improved over time. You have to take the long view of what Purism is trying to do, and expect a lot of hiccups along the way.


#63

@amosbatto

While I agree with your post I want to make a minor correction. Purism is not working with LineageOS to port the phone there. In Todd’s latest interview in late-night-linux the interviewer asked specifically about this and received a clear no. Purism seem to not be interested in anything android related.

As a consumer I am more interested in a LinageOS+Fdroid+microG libre device rather than a PureOS libre device because the latter cuts me off from needed functionality. On the other hand I understand that Purism are trying to create an open source ethical ecosytem and I applaud them for that. I kind of expect though that if purism delivers a mainline kernel supported phone that porting it to LineageOS will be easy enough for people that somebody in the community will do it.


#64

It’s better to do something right than to do it fast.


#65

I’ve heard from multiple sources that Apple has separated the baseband from the CPU but a citation would be nice.


#66

Take a look at the components directly.

https://www.techinsights.com/about-techinsights/overview/blog/apple-iphone-xs-teardown

Now, I don’t know how the baseband chip communicates with the CPU, but since they dual-source their modems from both Intel and Qualcomm (though I don’t ever expect to see the latter in one of their devices again due to their rather public falling out), I don’t expect them to use any kind of shared memory subsystem (this requires a good degree of integration on both parts) and as such would end up using USB just like us.

They obviously don’t have a killswitch for the modem, but right now iThings are the best modern smartphones you can get with decent modem isolation.


#67

iPhones are an Apple product. Apple does not make publicly available it’s firmware and iOS source-code. Apple also didn’t make public it’s design process like purism did here https://puri.sm/posts/how-we-designed-the-librem-5-dev-kit-with-100-free-software/

so why would it matter if the modem is isolated ? it is still a black-box. a well-designed black-box but a black-box nontheless.


#68

As much as I have no intention of supporting apple and I don’t personally trust them. The basic logic of why it would matter if the modem is isolated on their hardware, especially as compared with other vendors that currently have products you can possess, comes down to trust; if you trust apple to be looking out for your best interests then the modem isolation could matter.

Again I don’t personally believe that to be the case, and you couldn’t audit it, but I’d also point out that a large portion of people aren’t going to be able to audit 100% of the librem 5 not because of lack of access but because of a lack of knowledge. As such, most people are going to trust purism and the community to have their best interests in mind but are in fact having to trust.

I am one of those people, even with access to the schematics of the hardware and all of the source code I will understand less than 10% of what I’m looking at and in turn will be trusting purism and the community to have my best interests in mind. I do think that my 10% plus a bunch of other people in my position’s % of knowledge will add up to 100% but do we all agree on what our best interests are and in turn are looking out for each other the same way? I have no way to know and in turn have to trust.

Trusting a black box you can’t see inside vs trusting a clear box that you don’t understand what’s inside isn’t much different in my opinion. Yes there are differences but when it comes to how much those differences matter, it’s at least partially subjective.

With all of that said, part of what TungstenFilament stated was “but right now” which implies the context of what one can currently possess as opposed to what is coming. Hopefully that answers why it would matter to some people.


#69

with a clear box it’s not only about trust it’s also about the possibility to reach inside and probe as you’ve said. as such it is not only about the differences in manufacturing and design - it is ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE BEAST ITSELF !

take your time purism ! we all deserve it !


#70

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that you go and get an apple phone. I’ve never actually used one, not even to play around with it (my current device is a Samsung Galaxy S5 running LineageOS - which doesn’t have modem isolation, but since I rarely ever switch the thing on and I’m not going to be using it for much longer, I’m not worried).

If you want a device which a) is a smartphone, b) has modem isolation, c) has a full Free software stack, d) lets you tinker with the system (which follows naturally from point c) and e) is available right now, then you get a Samsung Galaxy S3 and put Replicant on it.

If you absolutely have to have something right now with decent modem isolation, don’t care about software freedom and all of its associated perks such as tinkering, and which probably has good security (we obviously don’t know for certain, but we can try to infer their intentions from their stance on various law enforcement requests and their hardware and OS update history), then it’s Apple for you.

If your main interest is in being able to effectively run Wireshark on the mobile network’s traffic (either out of curiosity or wanting to spot various nasty things which may be done to oneself over the cellular network), then you want an Android device with a Qualcomm chip, root permissions in the OS and an installed copy of SnoopSnitch. Modem isolation is only possible for fairly old devices (eg. Samsung Galaxy S4), pretty much everything since then has it all integrated for convenience and power saving purposes.

Finally, if you want something more modern which ticks all the boxes, then you wait a few months and get a Librem 5. Which is, quite obviously, the best option.


#71

Just to be clear: For 99% of the customers out there, this statement is true no matter which hardware they buy. FLOSS makes the number of people you can potentially trust higher, but that is it.

It is a nice pro when considering Purism and their products but it’s not the main one I think for most of their potential market space. The biggest draw for Purism products to the average customer is that they are designed to be repairable and last for as long as people repair them. This is the main thing we as customers have lost today, and we desperately need it back.

This phone champions that and it’s worth waiting for and I hope Purism kicks the industry in the teeth with it!


#72

No, the raise in price was just for people purchasing after a certain date (which was put off a few times, as I mentioned).


#73

In my opinion, the reward for waiting is having the first secure mobile phone that works well. I would rather they get it right while I wait. I was a little bummed when they pushed it to 3rd quarter but it isn’t like I have any other options. Everytime my Google Android has an update, it seems like most of the updates aren’t about security but rather minor bug fixes and mostly about invading more of my privacy.

I can’t wait until I can toss this Android phone in the trash or give it to someone that doesn’t care about security. I will happily wait for Purism to get this done right. No rush.


#74

You could try to install lineageOS on your current smartphone. Then you can be clear of google until your (and mine) librem5 arrive.


#75

The problem of Lineage OS is that it supports just a very few phones out of the box, so when you’re a noob on Android (like me, I’m decent on Linux but I don’t understand most of what happens on a Android device when I do know what most things does on my Linux systems) you just have to be lucky to get support on your device (or else you fall in the limbo of the forever-alpha stage or stick to the bloated stock rom).


#76

Building LineageOS from source is a lot of fun work :stuck_out_tongue:


#77

As a semi pro breaker of all things electronic. I would have to say its a matter of dumb luck this last year ive broken 1 s5 active, s7 active, an iphone 7 in that fancy “life” proof rubber case and 1 Black phone (good riddance) i dislike them all equally based on intrusive platform but for durability ive had my s7 drop from 30 feet to pavers and it worked fine for months then dropped from my lap getting out of car and its broken. iphone 7 same drop cracked glass in lifeproof case. They should make a “fml” case.


#78

I think all the phones you listed are built with “exclusive” materials and small borders around the screen. My s3 is all plastic, has numerous dents, the silver color on the side that was supposed to make it look expensive is mostly gone.
Sure, I possibly had more luck, maybe dropped it less, but the main problem is that new phones become more fragile every year…


#79

I accidently cracked the LCD glass of my LG V20 from a small drop despite having another glass screen protector on it :frowning:


#80

The harder you make the screen the less likely it will scratch but the more likely it will shatter. There has been such a hard push toward hardness we’ve shot past the balance of scratch resistant and shatter resistant. This is why really old phone screens scratch easily, new screens shatter, and kind of old screens seem to be liked by so many.


#81

In the two years I use it, my Fairphonen never broke. If it would, I could replace the display myself. - I hope this will be possible