Librem 5 Evolution

I’m really leaning into buying a Librem 5. Not to replace my iPhone (for now) but to mess around with and try to daily drive with a no pressure need to find solutions to all of my problems / challenges doing so.

I thought I’d ask you current owners, from around a year ago, how has the Librem 5 software / experience improved?

Is there any direction or knowledge as to what might be better in one years time?

Just curious to see what progress has been like according to real world owners

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Crimson became more usable on the Librem 5, enough that it is still my daily driver since December 2023.

Phosh and its OSK:

Crimson:

Case:

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Just reading through this. Wow. It reminds me of 2008/2009 iOS updates - when there was rapid, major improvements across the board. I’m so happy this is the case.

I haven’t fully read through, just at the screenshots of your first link about Crimson. It’s the little things standing out to me full blown desktop drop down menus and a barebones (Linux style, NOT cheap non functional style) menus for settings.

I’ve lurked on these forums since 2019 but I’m convincing myself…

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GNOME Nightly Flatpaks is also news to be excited about, along with various Squeekboard development:

Potential Quectel EM060K-GL modem with worldwide support:

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I have been using Librem 5 as my phone for roughly 1 year.

We live in the era of ChatGPT. The technology corporations want us to believe that the future of computing is that the computers will think for us. It’s been a good 10,000 years for the advancement of our species, but we hit the end of the line. Now instead, you can buy an iPhone with a neural processing unit in the hopes that its neurons out-think you. Or you can buy a Copilot Surface Microsoft laptop, designed to take screenshots/video of you while you use the desktop, so that you can supply the recording to the AI and ask it to interpret what you were doing yesterday with its neuronal superior recall of what the technology was doing, and how it worked. Almost everybody is getting really upset about their political leaders, or the divide in their favorite hobby, but if you ask them why they’re truly upset none of it makes any sense. It’s almost as if they were upset because someone pre-determined to make them upset, learned how to get there, and the only thing that mattered to them was the outcome.

The way to train AI software is to declare the mathematical goal state, and allow the machine to learn how to achieve the state on its own. This eliminates the time consuming portion of software development where a human would input, “if this, then that” ruling. So, if my understanding of this process is correct, the idea that everybody in society was ruthlessly turned against each other and mad over nothing that made any sense would be entirely consistent with the idea that someone trained an AI to achieve a particular goal state, and it learned how to make the people feel this way, with reckless disregard for the fine details of what happened to get them there.

They say that deaf people have a much higher likelihood to develop Alzheimer’s and become senile. When I live as a Librem 5 user, I wonder if I lead myself in a similar direction. This is especially true of what the Librem 5 stands for, more than the device itself. If you use the non-free internet and the non-free software, those systems will happily barrage your mind with a thousand voices – some of them surely artificial – so that you can a constant input stream. If you instead only choose to engage with folks who use open protocols, or who choose freedomware over evil to the extent that they can learn how – often there are so many fewer people making this choice, that you are in a sense disconnected, perhaps like a deaf person in contrast to the evolving world of the non-free.

What is a phone? Why do I need this kind of device? When I came into this world, by the age of 7 there was a day I was given a device called GameBoy and I was told that this is mine. I still have it. It still functions. Inside it, I could go on digital adventures. Using connector cables, I went on digital adventures with friends. It has a hardware switch that turns the device on and off.

When I was handed an Android device 12 years later, the world was a different place. My digital life had been lived through computers with keyboards. “Smart phones” were a joke to me. I was not interested in a device that “kind of” did what I already knew how to do with a computer, but didn’t really totally succeed. Other people said I should have one, and that was how it came to be. I upgraded it to make the “HEY, LISTEN!” sound from the fairies in the old Zelda video games whenever it got a notification, because this was an accurate expression of how I felt about the device.

Of course, as my knowledge increased, I came to realize that:

  • Without making it expressly clear to me at first, the device recorded a history of every place it had every been and sent this history to an advertising company instead of keeping it local to the device
  • There was no way to gain “root” access to the device, save for a program (made in China?) to hack the device with some kind of exploit
  • Most files and folders on the device were inaccessible to the user. The folders that were accessible, in some cases, would upload their contents automatically to the servers of an advertising company for analysis, and post back results of their analysis at times as if it were cute

I could go on, but over time it became evident that these devices were designed expressly to abuse me. In society today, a lot of people would say that when I use that terminology I’m being political or pedantic about free software or something like that. But, I don’t really think so. If it walks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. If it treats me like this device is not mine then that is probably what its creators actually believe.

For all that I can tell, a Librem 5 despite all its faults, is expressly intended to be mine in the manner that makes sense to me, like what we see in a GameBoy. This morning I sent 3 texts with the Chatty app. One of them failed to send. I don’t care. I use a cell provider that gives me a backup line that I can check with a computer. I sent a screenshot of the 3 messages to the other person, to fill them in on what I meant to say.

The Librem 5 has a home directory of folders and files. I can put any files in this directory that I want, with any name. And I have. Sometimes, I pick stupid names or put files in the “wrong” places. But no matter where I put them, they are never uploaded to an advertising company for analysis.

When I press the call button to call people, it almost always works. I made a few calls the past few weeks, and they all worked. I received an incoming call, and my friend didn’t turn off their loud music and I couldn’t hear the call. It might’ve been the music, or it might’ve been a Librem 5 bug. I do not know. I don’t care.

I don’t want to be abused anymore. Android stays in a faraday cage to block radio signals. I get to sleep at night.

What is a phone? The Librem 5 reminds me that I would rather use a laptop if I want a mobile device, in most cases. I might enjoy switching to a laptop with a SIM card, but I guess at this point society does not permit the construction or sale of SIM-compatible modems that only run freedomware, or something like that. It seems like so many people got abused that the system of free society is probably on its last legs, similar to how the tech companies are pushing to end the value of human minds and have those on their last legs too.

But I enjoy to try. I’ve managed to configure a system where I can continue to do my job despite being a Librem 5 user. I didn’t do this by convincing my employer to write software specifically for a Librem 5. I did this by navigating how to do everything needed of me for work using a laptop/PC.

I found myself talking to someone new at a table at a social event. He was talking about society today and phones, and how phones like his were made in foreign countries in buildings with suicide nets to catch the employees when they try to suicide on the job – since being the people who make the iPhones and the Androids is the kind of job that makes humans suicidal, I guess.

I whipped out my Librem 5 USA and said, actually, nobody committed suicide while making my phone because it was made in United States.

I think he didn’t expect that. I guess most people assume that in order to get a phone, somewhere along the way, somebody needs to have a building with a suicide net. He started asking where it was from.

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My 2 cents: I have one since November 2022 and have used it as a daily driver since. The progress has been remarkable. Ever since the suspend feature landed, it is pretty good as a phone. However, progress has stalled in recent months, due to some reorganizations behind the scenes. I still look forward to every kernel update, because I know that makes things more stable.

If you come from an iPhone, you’re going to have to lower your expectations, though :sweat_smile: But when the L5 works and you think about the freedom from exploitation it provides, it is pretty great. I’m not going back any time soon to another platform. If you’re also a person that likes their freedom, can muster the patience when there’s a bump in the road, then I would totally recommend it.

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Even though it’s not what you asked … one improvement over the journey is the availability of a better WiFi card. (New phones just come with the new card, but some adventurous souls have upgraded the card in place.)

It is difficult to get a handle on software changes because it has so far mostly been slow and steady.

I don’t think anyone can reliably predict the future for you but I am heartened by the experience with desktop / laptop Linux. In the time that I have been using it, things have changed from patchy hardware support and clunky operation to a straightforward mainstream experience (without the spying) that is suitable for anyone (i.e. not requiring IT experience / extensive use of shell commands).

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I’ve used the L5 as a daily driver off and on as I’ve weaned services off of my iPhone. In my view, one of the biggest contributions to the platform are the non-Purism contributors (no disrespect to Purism but the value of open source is everyone) Here’s the major wins and limitations in my life and their evolution.

Firefox mobile improvements were greatly upgraded by Emma’s work here.
Epiphany seems to crash less often (possibly anecdotal alone)
Geary Flatpak works well (thanks to zash1958 for sharing that one)

Overall - I have most of what I need: Gnome Authenticator works (migrating from Authy was more awful than it needed to be), Geary works, Firefox works. One of the best parts of the Librem5 is that many times, one doesn’t need to wait for Purism for improvements. There’s lots of updates going out. It seems like once a week, there’s a patch to apply. So there’s work being done. It’s just that we have the power of the community and amazing developers and power users like the one listed above but not alone!

I really, really wish that Signal worked better but that’s a tough one. Signal doesn’t particularly play well with platforms not run by the duopoly we all know and “love”. And since I do use PGP, I also wish I had an email client that works with PGP. Geary doesn’t do that and Evolution doesn’t really have a good mobile mode. It wasn’t designed for that. But even with hits like that, I’m really happy with my L5 and am really close to moving to it near-full time. Signal plays a dominant role in my life so that is a blocking factor to 100% adoption.

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Signal does not want to work with alternative clients. So, those rogue alternative clients break every time Signal makes a breaking change. And then you have to wait for the client to catch up. I do not envy the maintainers of those apps. I suppose that’s why Purism (and others) have chosen Matrix. Which should be the way forward instead of another walled garden.

But yes, I also use Signal (Flare on L5, signal-cli on desktop), because Matrix seems to be an even harder sell to people on the duopoly.

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