Another price increase? Change: Librem 5 fighting about if open source

To the best of my knowledge, that would be the primary closed source firmware blob (there might be a couple others lurking inside disk controllers or similar).

Which is actually something I forgot to mention, your hard drive has firmware. That firmware is closed source. It also doesn’t run on the host CPU, and doesn’t interfere with the RYF certification. It’s also user updateable.


but not the L5 firmware modem … as far as i know that is illegal to be made free-software … unless someone reverse-engineers it … what ? they would knock your door down ?

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To me restriction on loadable blobs makes perfect sense as to me it means I really get a hardware which must work out of the box. I don’t need to feed it with activation code, license agreement, bootstrapping procedure… just supply the power and it must work - according to the bus specification. That also means you can put on it whatever OS you can think of - which speaks the bus protocol - and it must work. So it’s just another dimension of freedom.
On the other hand I’d love this restriction to be spelled this way so that it maintains your freedom from the blobs while still giving the freedom to put the blobs (if you really wish doing so).

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Although I suspect a large portion of the cost is for the hardware, I’ve been wondering for awhile if they should fund the hardware and software separately. That would maybe keep the hardware costs a bit lower and allow people using a different device to still support the development of Phosh. And perhaps they could have an optional subscription to help with the continuing software development costs. I think it’s important to the phone’s long-term success that it is affordable for the average person and somewhat competitively priced. I believe we really do need more than one successful Linux phone for the ecosystem to thrive.

There are a number of advantages of this phone for me and reasons why the cost will always be higher than the Pinephone.

  • Higher specs as has already been mentioned.
  • Removable/replaceable modem and wifi cards.
  • The wifi card has the firmware built in which was an extra cost but means there is no need for a blob to be transferred from the OS to use it.
  • The screen uses the LM36922 to drive the LED backlight, hopefully meaning at the very least significantly reduced screen flicker when the brightness is lower than 100%. I’m not sure how this compares to the Pinephone but it’s important for me at least.
  • Much more convenient kill switches than the Pinephone. Aesthetically, I kind of prefer the kill switches being hidden under the back cover, however, I honestly can’t see myself using them much on the Pinephone because of how inconvenient it is to switch them. I think it’s awesome they both have them though.

The Librem 5 adheres as strictly as possible to the FSF philosophy which is great, but it does mean some trade-offs. A bit off topic and I think someone mentioned this before but I would like to see someone (maybe System 76?) create a Linux phone at the other end of the spectrum from Purism. Performance over FSF and privacy/security ideals. I think that would round off the Linux phone market nicely.


I don’t understand the RYF and FSF certifications requiring that the user can not audit nor modify some of the firmware code. This sounds like marketing doublespeak that might come from Google or Microsoft to justify their invasive practices. Either the code is auditable and user-changable or it isn’t. I can understand perhaps Purism maybe making compromises to make the device be possible by maybe accepting some blobs and building-in measures to keep them benign through hardware. I can understand government regulations. But I can’t understand RYF or FSF saying that ‘we need to lock you out’ for any reasons that are legal or ethical per their respective stated purposes for existing. Free means free, ‘not like free beer but more like freedom of speech’ (paraphrasing Richard Stallman). That pretty much defines all we need to know. The firmware is either free or not free. It’s an easy binary choice. Coming from either of these organizations, the justifiable reasons to lock anyone out have to be non-existant. Coming from Purism, perhaps a compromise justification could be appropriate.

It would then be a 0 but through their effort of locking it kind of out through hardware, they say they are 1. To quote a show I admire:

Mr. Robot : Tell me one thing, Elliot. Are you a one or a zero? That’s the question you have to ask yourself. Are you a yes or a no? Are you going to act or not?

Elliot : Yo… You’ve been staring at a computer screen way too long, homie. Life’s not that binary.

Edit: I remember being linked to a talk they did on stage about these blobs and you could see the frustration in their face when people were scrutinising them with questions so I think they won’t just try to do their best which means nothing but actually do a good job and just segregate through hardware. The whole purpose of the phone is to be a phone that is FOSS and if they do not even keep to that, what do they even represent? A ‘we tried’
Edit2: Maybe I just remember wrong but here is the video if you want to double check because my memory isn’t always persistent:
Edit3: 37:06 is a timeslot I found and I think there may be more.

Yes, it is illegal, but if not free-software and therefore I’m not allowed (not free) to update/upgrade my (future) non-free modem firmware, is this somewhat weird? And, we must be talking here about BroadMobi 4G module BM818 M.2 or any other similar (like Neoway 4G module N720 Mini PCIe) that are based on Qualcomm MDM9607 chip**:

Or eventually, download and upgrade particular Linux modem with approved (and current) firmware that is allowed as part of non-free Linux Sources, through some Purism-customer-only logon download-site or reachable just through official regional (USA or EU, etc.) OTA update images, from BroadMobi or Thales Group or some method like LVFS from, other method not known to me, as I’m not an expert.

My above food for thought was based on:

**Quectel EC20 4G module internal structure. Here is link, for example, to available EC20 firmware revisions. And if not having/using Windows PC is there another way to update modem firmware? Still, similar method might be promising, see EC20 link, under tab Files.

That’s a non sequitur. You aren’t likely to update the firmware on your hard drive to an open source version. You’re likely to update it to a newer vendor-supplied version (to fix power management or longevity issues). Similarly, the L5 modem vendor might come out with new firmware, which might improve idle power usage, fix security issues, or otherwise improve the modem’s behavior. Some of us might like to be able to use that updated firmware without needing a hot-air station.

As for not being able to make it free software legally… That’s not exactly true. It would only require the agreement of Broadcom and several other hostile-to-open-source large companies, and possibly the permission of the FCC and other hostile-to-freedom government agencies. Not likely to happen anytime soon, but remember, Microsoft itself released the source code for an ancient version of DOS, so stranger things have happened.


maybe but that’s a really fringe example … if only it were that obvious on how to do it …

a funny thought: i’ve set-up a linux box recently for a neighbour and i’ve used a WD blue 512GB m2 SATA 3 SSD and slapped ubuntu 20.04 LTS RC on it because of the newer APU from AMD under x470 platform. so MESA it is … pft. :shushing_face:

the thing is, no samsung drive has shown the temperature reading inside the GNOME-disks front-end for NVME (as that’s all i’ve used from samsung so far) … but now i’m thinking it’s because WD uses an FPGA microcontroler on the board and that’s what caused it to be loved by the Linux-kernel … maybe it’s just me but does only SATA act this way or is it ok for NVME as well ?

What would happen if a silicon manufacturer approached Purism and said this? “Give us your wish list for a cell phone SOC. Include every feature you want. We’ll build it and publish everything necessary for the open source community to make full use of all available features”. Would anything else stand in the way? Eventually, someone is going to steal Apple and Google’s lunch.

It’s pretty rare to update firmware in a device that’s been around a while. Usually, the manufacturer gets to where they’re reasonably happy with the firmware for the product, then moves on. When it’s new, it’s pretty common for there to be firmware updates, as people find serious bugs (for example, the Radeon VII shipped without UEFI support).

Since the L5 modem is old, it’s not likely to be an issue in practice.

I don’t know what Gnome-disks uses to pull temperatures. I use nvme smart-log $device | grep temperature | sed "s_.*: __" to extract the temperature (which can go into an X widget or similar (I use a curses display)).

As for why you have hardware monitoring easily with the WD drives. It might be that it’s SATA… WD also actually cares about Linux, as their drives get used in lots of high end Linux servers, so it may be that they actually bothered to provide drivers for reading statistics through the unified interface… I know nvme support is still in progress on Linux. atop only recently added support, for example.

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and what’s even funnier is that sata ssd drives don’t normally get hot at ALL so it’s just something that stuck to my mind due to the fact that it simply WAS there to be gawk-ed at :slight_smile:

Above confirms this video:

Slides (.pdf):

Really, I find the discussion sparked by user1 quite interesting and not negative.
The usual discussion here have been either lead by hyperpositive fanboys or by trolls, complaining that their favorite spy-app wasn’t on the list of promised apps.

It just so happens that I worked both in hardware developement and with high-end RF-equipment, used by real phone companies.
The results are not promising at all. They are highly worrying, just a bit less worrying than they were at the beginning of the year. The hardware is inferior and people lie to themselves by hoping on software improvements. Typical behaviour of software engineers who are used to taking well developed hardware as a matter of fact and thus overestimate what software is capable of.
Against my better judgement I did invest into this project, just to be dragged into a never-ending chain of disappointment, regarding purisms communications. During “developement” they just kept publishing typical marketing stuff and a few crums of insight into software developement. Each and every piece of information on hardware developement was highly worrying. It looked like some amateurs in their garage were developing this. Although admittedly most amateur equipment far outshines what purism presented.
I was flabberghasted as to why on earth they would insist on developing their own crummy os, instead of using an existing, tried and proven one. Why, oh why, do the opensource people insist on forking and forking and forking until each and every neckbeard developer has its own fork so they dont have to compromise with anybody. It would have done so much good to concentrate the effort in an existing mobile OS. But then it suddenly got clear why they wanted that: Why did they never openly say that they were not developing the hardware themselves? Aparantly they outsourced it to some obsure chinese company.

Even though I didn’t see any reasonable probability of this iteration of the project ever producing a fully usable phone, i kept my money really long on purism. Both because it wouldnt hurt me to lose the money and because I was hoping that this project, however crummy it would turn out, might still ignite a new tiny spark in the linux-phone, which has been a rotting corpse being defibrilated for almost a decade.
At the same time I find the arguments of most of the wealthy people in here unbearably arogant. The phone is extremely overpriced and expecting people to pay 900 to 1100 money units for an idea and a barely usable brick of hardware is quite optimistic. But reproaching people who cant afford to blow such considerable sums through the chimney, by reminding them that they dont pay for a phone, but for an idea, is dispicable and literal poison for the project and the community.
Same goes for reproaching people for not being able to grasp the immmensity of this undertaking. It’s not the responsibility of the customer to understand the complexities of a product.

I like to get enthusiastic about stuff like the librem 5 more than the next guy, but people should gain a little bit perspective on the real-life situations of most (non-tech) people, who got duped into investing their hard-earned savings, believing it would be like buying an iphone with less features, but more privacy.
I’m afraid that by the intransparancy, unreliability, overpromissing and underdelivering and thus disappointing, the librem 5 will prove to be a dagger in the heart of the above mentioned corpse of the linux phone idea.

That bein said: cudos to purism for their refund policy. At some point I decided that enough is enough and demanded my money back. And they actually refunded everything quickly and without any problems at all.


It didn’t feel to me that the hardware would be so expensive, so I set out to disprove you.

Turns out I can’t. I used the schematic of the mainboard to look for the main parts (curse them for not bothering to release a BOM), and guessed the rest. Couldn’t find the emmc, so i picked another random one of mouser and priced it at 22 € in quantities of 1000. The ram seems unbelievably expensive at around 30 € a pop in quantities of 1000. Couldn’t be bothered to search for the wifi module so i guessed it at 20 €. Guessed the LCD at 50 €. Came to a total of around 200 € for all the parts. That’s mouser public prices at low quantities. They probably bought in quantities of at least 10k if not more, so I guess you could knock off another 20 to 50 € off that price. But then again, you’d still have to pay for the batteries and the casing, which should be around that price-range, too. So I guess 200 € as the price for the hardware is a pretty good guess! The radio does come on top of that, though.

The two board design with the fancy connectors and the second cpu make it “unnecessarily” expensive. But really the root to the high price is that they are forced to relinquish socs.

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I wish I could have given more than one heart. Absolutely spot on, although the fan bois won’t like it.
I would personally like to get a refund as well due to the current economic situation but purism has stated they are no longer giving out refunds until the Evergreen batch ships in August (if that actually happens).

no, there is a phone already and dogwood is beeing prepared, altough i suspect as more people get their hands on the phone it’s limitations will become more apparent … but an idea ? what’s wrong with that ? the current market is already asfixiated by the “PERFECT” running proprietary hw and software implementations that most people rely on for the daily grind …

no one reproached anything to anyone. in fact there’s been quite a few recommendations in FAVOR of the PinePhone here …

For what it is, I expect it to be incompatible with practically any software but what I do expect is that the apps specifically made for the phone at least run well and typing actually works properly excluding the browser where they deserve some leeway. Another worry is does it fit in the average pocket? I don’t mind a phone being ugly but I do need to be able to be convienent to carry, hold rotate etc.

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The Librem 5 is not based on Nitrogen8M, though there are common items in the specifications for the two products. I believe early hardware prototyping for the Librem 5 was done using Nitrogen6_MAX development boards, so I can see why there might be some confusion.


Partly reflects my feeling, too. It’s far better to underpromise and overdeliver. At the point where I “preordered” L5 (ages ago), the official website almost looked like it’s a done deal. I see that the same is true now. Just see the product description:
– the phone was MADE with you in mind … (made, really? maybe you wanted to say DESIGNED?)
then all the points where they are talking about the phone as it is existing – yes, I know some people will complain that some (variants) of the phone exist, but sorry, nothing mass-produced and usable enough.

Despite this, I never considered a refund, lets see how this pans out. I invested in openmoko long time ago and was sorely disappointed (due to major hardware flaws). So far, Purism is still rather unique.

In that other grumbling thread (about the missing shipping email), Kyle Ranking gave a decent overview of the issues they face. I wish this was more prominent in their marketing.

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