Is Linux Addictive (Specifically the Librem 5)

Hello to the forum. I’m obviously new, but have been knocking around and following the Librem 5. I really like the kill switches and the made in American version (read not china.) So far I’ve struggled with pulling the trigger because I’ve felt the phone couldn’t be daily driven by someone like me. I think that hurdle has been overcome, but I’m still struggling with the price tag (I hate spending money on phones.) I know mainstream technology is designed to be addictive. I struggle with this. Does Linux and specifically the Librem 5 have this same issue? I’m kind of thinking if it doesn’t then maybe it would be a reason to open the old checkbook and finally pull the trigger.

Thank you and God bless!


No, nothing addictive about it. It is a tool, not a toy.

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I think this might depend on the nature of the issue in your life. Sometimes I use “addictive technology” as a phrase to scapegoat my own laziness. If there was something I was supposed to do, but I procrastinated and three hours disappeared without me doing what I was supposed to, I might say, “It was the addictive technology’s fault! I didn’t get anything done because Goober1175 reached out to me asking about my free software project, and I was writing a reply!” Or, perhaps even more likely, “It was the addictive technology’s fault! I opened up the YouTube website to load a music video, and that linked to another video of a guy talking about the decline of my favorite technology, and that led to another issue about breaking news and politic issues, and now I didn’t get anything done for 3 hours!”

One time while I was procrastinating, I watched a YouTube video that said we should not put the blame for a problem onto something that will never change. Although YouTube is a questionable source for information, sometimes I think that specific quote might be quite reasonable advice. If 3 hours disappear from me having a conversation with Goober1175, or from me watching a series of videos unrelated to what I intended in advance to do with those 3 hours, it turns out that if I place the blame on myself for that decision – the decision to allow them to provide me cheesy procrastination entertainment – then it is much more likely that the circumstance might change in the future instead of being repeated. Because I might decide to change, but the nature of the YouTube system or of the user Goober1175 on a social system, is much less likely to change.

But, I also had an experience a few years ago when I was really struggling with too much YouTube usage in my life, and when I decided internally that I would not use the system for one week – like a form of detoxification – a family member called me up on a different system in a video call, and then screen shared themselves watching YouTube with me, even though that is not a normal behavior for them that had not frequently occurred outside of that week. So I have certainly flip-flopped between knowing that I need to solve my own problems, while also recognizing that there is something seriously wrong with the nature of technology today and how it affects human decisions and the interactions people have with other people – and in particular, I feel that the “something” was not as wrong when I was born on this planet. Some people might tell me I’m just getting old. In part, they would be right. Obviously, everyone is always getting older all the time. My retired old folks that I visit tell me that nothing has changed, and that it was always this way. Then, unlike who they used to be and all the many activities they used to do in their lives when I was young – boating, model building, social games, etc – they sit down with their iPads and scroll the feeds for hours, and the feeds remind them that nothing has changed, and so it is so.

I’ve been using my Librem 5 for about an entire year, although that doesn’t actually make me a good person and it doesn’t save me entirely from the problem of what’s going wrong in the world today. Because – and this is my speculation and bias speaking, so I could be wrong – I think that one of the problems we face today isn’t actually embedded in the technology devices in our hands, but rather the growth of extremely capable data learning models in server farms. And it turns out, those data models already know about you. If you smash your phone and don’t buy a Librem 5, and don’t buy any of them, and just live your life as an Amish person offline, these extremely capable learning models would collect new information to that end. And they would update their plans, and update their predictions and statistical weights and probabilities, and account for the fact, while meeting their goal function, that you were entirely offline. Depending on the goal that they were instructed to learn to achieve by the wealthy folks, they would still organize society’s information and how they regurgitate it in such manner that your new Amish self would be part of their calculations. If the goal function is to have 100% of humans using Facebook, but you are Amish, then perhaps they will orchestrate a sequence of situations that are likely to cause your death, by using the suggestions they offer to those people around you who you will encounter that are not Amish. If their goal is the election of a new political candidate, then perhaps they will ensure that the one person they still can push content to who you’re still willing to talk to – that person is going to have the most gut-wrenching, most motivating content, so that in the end you agree with the opinion prescribed for you to have – even though you became one who is offline.

If you want to learn about artificial intelligence and planning, when I was a wee lad in university, one of the course materials that I was instructed to read was, “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach,” and in this textbook there is an entire chapter developed to conceptually how to instruct your computational agent to mathematically derive a plan from a set of circumstances. You could choose to buy a book like that, and study that problem, if you feel that the plans made for you by those with superior mathematics do not match your own ability to plan for the future of your life.

But in contrast to that, if the problem you are having is that you desire to point to your spybrick and place the blame upon the spybrick instead of upon yourself for any mistakes in your life, then I can assure you that a Librem 5 or a rock can just as well be blamed for my life mistakes as a Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone. And it turns out, I have made many mistakes in my life, and even after using a Librem 5 as “my phone” for about one year (with a few moments of cheating here or there across the year, when I retrieved an old Android from its faraday cage)… even despite all of that, I still make plenty of mistakes. I’m writing to you at this moment from a Windows computer. That’s so embarrassing, I don’t even want to talk about the reason why.

But what I do find is that during the process of trying to use my Librem 5 for my various tasks, typically the situations where it would not succeed were the ones where it did not make sense for it to succeed, because the problems were external factors and not the Librem 5 itself. Sometimes it felt a bit like the world was pushing back, trying to hurt me and stop me from using the Librem 5. Looking for answers to these kind of questions brought me to Purism forums, where I learned that Firefox has an always-open connection to Google cloud, and that Firefox is funded mostly by Google for some reason. It was here I learned that GNOME and by extension Phosh on the Librem 5, if not reconfigured manually, might contact an Amazon server to send information about your location, wifi, modem, nearby cell towers, and other data, sometimes seemingly as frequently as every 5 seconds, at its discretion, and in ways that would compromise your anonymity when using a VPN. These issues are not present because of Purism’s efforts, but in spite of them. But on a Librem 5, I can ask the technology question if these claims are true. I can monitor the internet traffic, and see the packets going to Amazon every five seconds. I can disable the Linux service responsible for them, monitor traffic again, and see that I no longer see such packets. And if I don’t want to deal with it, I can just turn the hardware switches off.

I don’t have the money or the time to save the human race from the bad direction communication technology is going. But when I was using my phone over the last year – a phone that was made by people who in most cases at least tried to care about the general feeling a lot of people have that something went wrong with technology these days – this came like a breath of fresh air in the sense that it allowed me to see: yeah, yeah, something is wrong with the way technology is being done in society today. Now that I’m allowed to ask, I can see that it’s extremely stupid. But the bright people at Purism who brought this device into existence and got it running aren’t finished yet. In fact, they’re probably under attack by humans being used as pawns by algorithms seeking to maximize poorly chosen goal functions in our society, which in many cases are easier goals to achieve if people don’t have freedom-oriented technology. And they might not even know it. Maybe, here on this Windows computer, I might be the one being used against them! It’s a possibility. How should I know?

Sometimes I turn to Purism forums as an outlet to share my thoughts, like I might have otherwise done on some mainstream social media platform in years past. So, yeah, I can decide to procrastinate on my Purism devices similarly to other technology. But if I switch all my hardware switches off, and I go and write a little journal entry in a text file on my phone hard drive, unlike with Android there is a concept of hard drive and so I know where that file is in my journal entry – and I can create it using the handset, while it is totally offline, without telling anyone. Am I talking about something I really did? Am I talking about something I simply imagined doing? You don’t get to know, and nor do the AIs that will come back and parse these forums in the days following my post, because I didn’t tell you guys!

But, whether I did or did not, I still had the choice to use the Librem 5 handset instead of doing my daily tasks, in much the same way that an Android or iOS handset is something that the person holding it can choose whether to use. The difference, as far as I can tell, is actually the reverse relationship – that when the Librem 5’s modem and wifi chips’ power is cut by the hardware switch, we can be sure that the server farms far away can’t directly use me and what I was doing. They’ll never know what was or wasn’t in that journal entry; they can only infer – unless if I choose to tell them.

I cannot do a mobile check deposit on my Librem 5 because the bank that I used for years only allows Android and iOS to run their proprietary code for taking a picture and sending the picture to their server. However, the Librem 5 can run desktop programs. We can compile C++ on there, or Java, and run programs that were not originally intended for mobile often with only a limited number of modifications. In my own case, I wrote an (as of yet unfinished) simulator of one of the old Warcraft strategy games using LibGDX game engine – and my Librem 5 can host the game as a server without rewriting the server code, providing a platform for nearby laptops to join into the game and connect together for the LAN play. On a simpler 2D game that I wrote, the Librem 5 can run the game and play through a turn based session spanning many hours and with many thousands of spaceships and little star particles rendering in the background in real time – all running while docked to a mouse/keyboard/monitor, so that I simply pretend this handset is a computer – and the gameplay was generally fine. Unfortunately my 3D code in the Warcraft simulator was written more poorly and is not sufficiently performant to run on the Librem 5, but I assume this may be my own fault. I’ve streamed bluetooth music from my Librem 5 into a room speaker system when visiting family who had one, and although the connection process involved some command line if I recall, the music generally connected up and played, with some minor blips and interruption. I also make extensive use of the audio jack to play music, and have a 500GB little microSD that I bought at a store down the street for storing some tunes on there. I use the desktop web browsers fit to the mobile form-factor, coupled with the mobile data hardware, to allow myself to check on work messages or other silly things requiring some online logins. I have a secret folder where I store all of the TOTP keys for all those annoying sites that ask for 2FA login, and I have a shell script for each site that will generate the 6 digit key needed by that site, runnable from my phone in a way that is based on simple text files I set up and is therefore easy for me to transfer to any other device or to a computer, if that is something that I should choose to do. The notion of “apps” on the homescreen are really just standard GNOME desktop entries, which can be as simple as a text file that declares an icon, a string name, and a script file to run when clicked. So, one of the “apps” on my homescreen is “App of Apps,” written by ChatGPT, which lets me browse for an icon, browse for a script, and enter a name in a text box, then click OK and the new “app” is generated. If I want to delete it, it’s in some standard location like ~/.local/share/applications where I can delete the text file declaring the app to exist, to make it stop existing. This process, and in particular the “App of Apps” that creates them, is a C++ program that ChatGPT sent me which I then compiled on the device itself, for the device itself, because the default PureOS install has a nifty terminal app where I can type g++ -o main main.cpp to compile a new program called main, and ./main to run the program, even if this program is a GTK application generated all in one file by ChatGPT to put buttons on my screen. This is not meant as an endorsement of ChatGPT; I’m sure if you spent a little time teaching yourself some GTK you could probably write such programs quickly yourself as well, if you wish to avoid the potentially creepy factor of LLMs which might or might not have been created at the expense of tortured workers in third world countries.

In general, for me, this phone blows a hole in our common reality of being told to accept that our “phones” own us instead of vice-versa, and I kind of love it, and it kind of makes me want to give Purism all my money as often as I can spare it. Not because it tells me to do so, like a Google phone’s notifications would do, but because of how good it feels to know that the folders and files that I mentioned being on my phone above really do exist, and that they are files, and that I have permission to know where they are, and permission to know the location of all other files on my phone, and do so many other things with it. I know that in the end, I will break my phone. And when I do, unlike the Google and Samsung phones that I had before it, there won’t be a backup unless I make one. Because no one is watching me, and I am on my own with the device – to use it in whatever way I choose to do.


The “made in China” version is on special at the moment (US$599) so maybe that is a compromise to get your foot on the first rung of the ladder to freedom.

I don’t know that phones themselves are addictive, more so specific apps that might run on them.


I suppose in that case, I am quite addicted to Firefox ESR, although I mostly just use it for Discourse.

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You definitely won’t get apps that try to be addictive. It’s not a commercialized platform like iOS or Android. You won’t have apps combined with ads, in-app payments or similar.

So the most reason you wake up the device and run an application is because you want to do it, not because you are tricked into doing it. Think of it more like a laptop in small form factor that has mobile network access and ability to make phone calls or send text via phone number.


I hate to go off topic, but since you mentioned it, are you saying that the Librem 5 is not completely free from sending data to unwanted companies? Or are you saying the opposite. If there is still a “leak”, how can it be fixed?

I could have misunderstood, and if so, I ask for clarification.


Yes. Of course it does not avoid the sending of data to the internet; it is running GNU/Linux, and in many cases these systems are accepting contributions from many people in the name of improved ease of use. The Librem 5 is different because it allows you to determine what is sending information out to the public internet and shut it down, not because it is absent any features from the moment you buy it.

The network traffic that I encountered was from GNOME in general, so it is on most standard “Linux distributions.” There is a service called “geoclue” that is intended to provide location services to some apps, so that they can pinpoint you on a map. In general, I have not been using my Librem 5 for GPS stuff, and I have not used the maps apps much, so it was not a problem for me if they didn’t work.

But, my understanding of “geoclue” is that someone concluded that in order to compete with the major corporations for determining user location in an accurate way, instead of using the GPS satellites (which is a one-way receiver, such that your device determines where you are using the 3 nearest satellites without sending back to them) it was determined by the developers/contributors of “geoclue” that the location system would be more accurate if it had a component to use the internet (instead of GPS) and to “ask” a server running in the AWS cloud where you are, or something like that. I have not read through the full source code of “geoclue,” but I was informed by @irvinewade that if you do not like the internet behavior, and only want it to determine user location using the one-way incoming GPS satellites, then there is a config change that can be made to the default values.

But, for example, I found the Librem 14 to have the same problem, since the “geoclue” service is a dependency of GNOME on Debian and is inherited into PureOS by default. Most other distros would probably have the same issue. If we use “tcpdump” or “wireshark” programs to do network traffic monitoring, from what I could tell, sometimes but not always the “geoclue” service will determine that its location information for you is not entirely accurate, and that it should go into a state of submitting everything about your device that might be useful to some AWS node someone set up, which in turn tells you “more accurately” where you are. And sometimes it appeared to submit this information rather frequently, but other times not at all. It’s possible that the “location service” option became enabled on one of my GNOME settings, although I am a little bit skeptical of that and would have assumed that I would have clicked for it to be off by default. It may be the case that “geoclue” queries this information all the time, but only provides the information to local apps if you enable the “location services” in the GNOME Settings. At some point, I don’t care. I would rather to kill “geoclue” and not have the device seeking to gain this information – at least on my non-cellular machines like the Librem 14 – and then on the Librem 5 the “geoclue” is still technically installed I think, but I did the config change suggested by @irvinewade here on these forums so that it uses GPS instead of “wifi” mode, wherein “wifi” mode is referring to whatever the AWS node thing was supposed to be.

Edit: There were a few posts when I first noticed the traffic and looked around these forums for it, where @irvinewade was suggesting that if you use a VPN, most Linux distros that have “geoclue” running are going to send through your VPN to this AWS node information such as your wifi’s name, and in the case of a modem device like the L5 the nearest cell tower, and other various things, which would effectively tell the world governments your unique identity paired with the outside VPN IP and expose the ability for them to determine who was using that VPN IP at that time if they wanted. It seems bad for security in this way. But at the moment, “geoclue” is enabled by default, along with this feature that tries to provide more accurate user location.

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Purism Electronics are very addictives.

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“Is Linux Addictive…”

Only insomuch as freedom to compute the way you want without being tracked and trafficked is addictive. :slight_smile:

“(Specifically the Librem 5)”

That would be entirely up to you. Use it as you think appropriate.

EDIT: On my home network, Pi-hole indicates that my Librem 5 has connected to the following over the last 7 days:


P.S. Mainly just turning on and updating, backing up, connecting to WiFi and mobile network; not really spending time in any apps.

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7 posts were split to a new topic: Mozilla Location Services

I need my linux fix, man! Where’s my *nix dealer?

I’m getting the shakes, gotta try sudo. Ahhhghhh…

(Just wait til the “rush” hits you… )

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Good afternoon!

Thank you for all of the replies.

@Dlonk I am fully guilty of procrastinating. The big driver of my question was what I’ve read about companies designing products and software with the intent to trigger a dopamine hit in the brain. The intent is to use brain chemistry to make it more likely the user will continue to use. This article touches on it: Technology Designed for Addiction | Psychology Today I’ve even read that colors (greens and blues) and the little whrily load cursors are designed to draw us in.

I do accept that some of this is due to a lack of user (my) willpower. I’m just wondering if Linux and the Librem 5 would help, hurt, or be indifferent in this issue.

It sounds like there is less commercial emphasis which sound encouraging.

It probably won’t help with getting caught internet browsing though which is probably my biggest issue.

I do need to work the old willpower muscle. Self control is important.

@irvinewade Thank you for pointing the sale out. I hate giving money to China if I can avoid it. I also struggle with spending money.

God bless,

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You may benefit from my permission-based intention framework:

I suppose it’s addictive in the same way that breathing fresh air is addictive. Once you tasted a breath of fresh air you most likely don’t want to go back to breathing heavily polluted air again.