Blog article: Librem 5 First Impressions

I found the article on


People are obviously having a hard time discovering the links to the forum and documentation from that Purism homepage!


This may be the case, but if Purism wants the Librem 5 to be a phone usable by the masses, they absolutely must make some of the core functionality easier. Calling works!..well, maybe…if you manually configure the modem to use VoLTE calling…if you have the right cellular service…hopefully. The phone can be used as a desktop PC when you connect it to a USB-C dock…if you have the right dock, and if you jump through the hoops of switching the screen to display on the external monitor every single time you connect the L5 to the dock.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Librem 5 is an impressive pocket computer. I just think calling it a smartphone is not accurate, as it takes a lot of manual work to get phone functionality, and even then you may not have it. I want the Librem 5 to be my daily driver cell phone, but currently I can’t even consider it a phone.


You’re not wrong, but until that actually happens, it would be helpful if the links to current info/instructions were featured more prominently. :slight_smile:


I think this is a good point for multiple reasons, even though it is clear from the blog post that the owner isnt brand new to Linux.

I remember the increase in interest late last year around the time of the various social media bans of US politicians (and others) from what I would assume are people who might not even use Linux but want a privacy respecting phone.

Being able to direct those people quickly to the support documentation would alleviate potential buyers remorse, though to be fair I don’t recall the length of the manual that comes with the Librem 5 so perhaps this is somehat addressed?

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When I received mine, there was a small Quick Start guide, which also pointed the customer to, as I recall.

But most of the hashing out and explanation of pain points has occurred here in the forum.

…not least of which is that some recipients blog about it, make negative pronouncements, or post reviews without having learned how to do things or update the software. :wink:

But this gets back to @johnk’s point, above.


That may be worthy of a separate topic, as I don’t think that is everyone’s experience.

Oh, it displays immediately as an extended display, but due to the different resolutions you have to switch the external screen to be only on the display in order for it to work correctly. Based on what I’ve seen online, this seems to be normal in the Librem 5’s current state.

Anyway, I agree with your basic point:

More things need to “just work”.


Follow up post.


Liking to experiment and break is fine but … can someone teach this guy to backup and restore?

Can someone mention to him that, no, you can’t boot from uSD?

(However uSD could be the destination of a backup and hence the source of a restore. Even without compression, I have space on my uSD card for 15 or 16 backups of the eMMC drive. On the other hand, it may be faster to backup to a host computer and that’s what I do.)

In this case, Jumpdrive might have been usable just to revert the change that he made that broke his phone in the first place.

the battery has to be removed as part of the flashing process

As discussed in this forum, it’s complicated. Most of the time the battery does not have to be removed.

It needs the Thunderbird style autoconfig

Crikey, please, no.

OK, I get it, many basic computer users will want this but I don’t. So it would need to be an option i.e. choose Wizard if you need hand-holding, choose Advanced if you just want to enter the parameters yourself.

From memory, Thunderbird does allow you to tell it that you are going to do the configuration yourself (and could autoconfig please get out of the way).

There are two potential or actual problems with autoconfig.

  • It entrenches the advantage of the big players since, if any special hack coding or data is needed in the autoconfig, it is far more likely to be present for the big players than for the little players.
  • It probably doesn’t work at all for unusual configurations e.g. (?) using non-default ports.

Having had a year or more to play with Geary, I would like a super-advanced mode where it just creates the config directory and creates a config file with placeholders and comments, and then exits. You edit the config file with your text editor of choice. Job done.

Edit: Tag alleged author of blog: @etbe

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You have many excellent points, but

this is my favorite part.


OK handy to know that you can’t boot from uSD.

Backup and restore is good for when you have something to backup. When you are in the initial testing phase with no real data on it there’s no point in making a backup.

Maybe you can flash without removing the battery, but the documented process for flashing says to remove it. If I have to reflash many times I’ll experiment and try for easier methods.

Thunderbird config works well for unusual ports etc. I have the following URL configured which gives it all it needs. Thunderbird does have support for it’s own private database of big ISPs that lack such autoconfig URLs, but that doesn’t entrench big players as anyone can setup an autoconfig URL. Thunderbird allows overriding the autoconfig settings but annoyingly doesn’t appear to allow you to take the autoconfig settings and modify them unless you save the account settings first.

I’ve already started looking at the code for Geary, any features I get in Debian will appear in PureOS sooner or later. :wink:

Also another thing Geary lacks is the ability to not synchronise some folders. I’ve got some folders of thousands of messages that I never look at on mobile devices and I’d rather not waste the time and bandwidth of getting the list of messages.

Thanks for tagging me so I can respond.

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I thought you raised the issue that your phone was using full partition encryption and then you reflashed and, as a result, your disk was no longer encrypted. I was just pointing out that imaging the disk for backup is the best way to get your disk back to the exact state that it was - without having to think about anything. Same encryption. Same passphrase for encryption. Same configuration for everything else. Same packages installed.

I do understand that you were sanguine about losing everything because there was basically nothing to lose.

Defaulting to reflashing as encrypted - while a good default anyway(!) - doesn’t fully solve this problem. It just reverses it i.e. someone who deliberately chose not to use encryption and who then chose to reflash with the default would get a nasty surprise.

One thing is for sure. It is super-painful to change from encrypted to unencrypted or vice versa (is slow and requires offline cryptsetup reencrypt). So everyone should get it right first time.

Anyway, if you are a tinkerer, I do urge you to try Jumpdrive, which apart from allowing you to do backup and restore, may allow you to fix things without a reflash.

Cool. I’ve never stumbled across that bit of information. (As you would gather, I don’t autoconfig.)

My #1 gripe is the lack of POP support.

You actually can (as long as the bootloader is intact), just not with the currently shipped version of u-boot, as that’s a pretty recent development.

You can also always boot from a PC via USB, regardless of bootloader’s state or version, which is how both Jumpdrive and flashing process work.

Indeed, that’s what it says. It’s this way mostly because there’s no visible feedback that you’ve successfully entered the USB downloader mode, so this more complex process allows to take a lot of possible edge cases out of the way. Normally all you need to enter USB download mode is to hold Vol+ while the phone boots.


I think that the default for reflashing should match the default for shipping, which means encrypted. A default reflash should get back to what you got out of the box with the latest security updates.

Anyone who received the same box as me and wanted it without disk encryption would have to reflash for it so should know what they are doing.

I’ll try Jumpdrive, thanks for the suggestion.

Lack of POP support is a feature not a bug IMHO. Given a choice I’d remove POP from every server I run, it doesn’t do any good and allows users to choose configurations that cause me support issues.

dos: thanks for the information about booting.

:slight_smile: OK, but let’s say the Librem 5 customer is using POP on a server that the customer does not control (like the customer’s ISP) - so removing POP is not an option.

Also, for a privacy-focused phone, storing email locally rather than in the cloud may be preferable. I mean sure if you control the server (control a tiny piece of the cloud), there is less difference between POP and IMAP but let’s say that you don’t control the server.

Maybe the script should just ask you if you don’t specify a variant explicitly on the command line.

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Are there any servers that support POP but not IMAP? For a privacy focused device would you want to use email with a server that doesn’t support IMAP? Such a server probably wouldn’t be up to date with security patches etc.

If the reflash tool made it mandatory to specify whether disk encryption was desired or not then that would be fine by me. Anything other than having 2 things with different defaults for the same option would be OK IMHO.

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Definitely yes but I looked at two of my ISPs and one hosting company that I used to use and they all offer both. However if you want to store your email on their server - putting aside the privacy and security issues with that - you have to put up with their storage limits, or pay extra. So there’s a lot to be said for downloading email and storing locally.

If you need shared access from anywhere via multiple devices then IMAP may well be the best solution.

Discussion on Hacker News:

@amosbatto I think you might be interested in that discussion, there is a lot about security.

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