Linux noob looking for community love!

Apologies for this rather long-winded first post!

I heartily support Purism’s mission, and was excited to read reports that their laptops were novice-user-friendly straight out of the box. So, I purchased a Librem 15v3 in late December 2018. It was shipped in mid-January, but got stuck in customs for over a month, and then got stuck in transport for another month and a half. I finally received it mid-April.

It is a beautiful machine. My first exposure to Linux was in the late ‘90s on my roommate’s bulky desktop system. I only used it for email. Since then, I’ve worked extensively on Mac (audio/video production and graphics), and Windows (writing and internet related). So, I’m very well versed with GUI, but much less so with command line operations. I’ve learned a bunch in the past month already though, getting familiarized with the basics so that I could confidently move on to software acquisition.

I live in a remote rural area and therefore do not have access to wifi at home. I must go into town for internet access, and the connections can be excruciatingly slow and spotty (think: late ’90s dial-up modem). So, imagine my dismay when I got my Librem online for the first time on Saturday night and attempted to download GIMP from the software store only to receive a message (after a portion had downloaded and over half an hour had elapsed) that a url was “not ‘yet’ available”. I tried VLC, Inkscape, and a few other smaller packages too to no avail. Uh oh.

A quick check in the Purism forum told me this wasn’t an isolated incident, and a post by @tez gave me hope. I found instructions to run sudo apt update or sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade or sudo apt-get full-upgrade or sudo apt-get dist-upgrade.

I was able to complete sudo apt update in about 15-20 minutes, but only got 35% of 900+mb downloaded of sudo apt-get upgrade in 2+ hours. At that point, it was the wifi cafe’s closing time. So, I hit CTRL-C as was also advised on the forum. Hopefully I will be able to restart where I left off (I haven’t used the laptop since then) the next time I am in town, and it won’t take 4+ hours to complete!

I’ve come to understand that PureOS is an ever-evolving ‘rolling release’ operating system, and I realize that this initial 900+mb download is a one-time upgrade unique to my circumstances and that subsequent updates will likely be much smaller. However, I now have to figure out a regular schedule to come into town to get updates in order to prevent this glut from accumulating again.

To be honest, I was surprised to discover that the general assumption these days is that all computers are online pretty much 24/7, so much so that it is unnecessary to specify in product descriptions that internet access is required to get several functions accomplished. Now that I am aware of this, I can see that the frequent updates are no big deal to most folks. However, due to my geographic location and personal preferences, I do much of my work offline. For instance, to get new software, I usually must download it on a separate online computer (running Windows, internet access via usb dongle) and transfer it over to my offline one for installation.
So… Any advice on how to facilitate the offline software installation process with PureOS would be much appreciated.

I would also like to make the suggestion to Purism that they inform buyers (especially Linux newbies) that when they first receive their laptops they must run those update and upgrade commands while online. That way, they can start their Librem journey well-prepared without any rude awakenings. :slight_smile:


hello and welcome !

this is one of those situations when a dedicated torrent download mechanism for updates would be very welcome.

sounds like you had it rough ! someone did say that gnu/linux is the wild west.

where i live internet is cheap and fast (500mbs/7$/unlimited/dsl/pppoe/dynamic-ip-just data no tv or land voice)

have you tried celular 3g in your area ?

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Your point is well taken, and I think you’re right, there is a bit of an assumption of having access to a fast internet connection.

I do think there are a couple things that will mitigate this assumption a bit however. Firstly, we’re moving away from a rolling release on the laptop side to a more stable release cycle. This means there will be fewer updates in the future. Also, there is some research being done on using a different mechanism to build our releases which can make an offline installation process more efficient, but that is a ways off. Lastly, we’re updating the images that we create more frequently, which means that new Librems will be more up-to-date out of the box. I realize that doesn’t help you so much, but we certainly aim to help folks in your situation.


Keep in mind that you don’t “really” have to install updates.
Unlike Windows 10 which will annoy you until you reboot, or reboot itself, on Linux the updates
are mostly for minor bug fixes, so it’s totally common to run without updates for many months.
Many servers have updates turned off for stability reasons.

Also ~1GB shouldn’t take 2+ hours to download, maybe find another wifi cafe? :slight_smile:
Unless it’s a satellite link, even a 1mbit connection can do it faster. Slower speeds just make
the modern internet almost unusable, except for emails and basic sites.

… and if not cellular then is satellite an option?

Particularly if there is no internet access. That is a highly secure environment. :slight_smile: You really only need updates in order to fix functional bugs or to add functionality.

The big risk is that by the time the user rolls into town to apply 3 months of updates, the exploits are well and truly ready. It may therefore be wise to use a firewall to block all internet access on startup except what is needed to download updates. Once updates are applied, including whatever reboots are needed, the firewall can be set to less restrictive.

The user may wish to clarify whether they have any kind of local network at home (no internet at home does not imply no local network at home).

Thanks so much for your quick reply and helpful thoughts, reC!

this is one of those situations when a dedicated torrent download mechanism for updates would be very welcome.

I’m not sure what that would entail. Could you please elaborate a bit? I’ll then check to see if it might be do-able.

have you tried celular 3g in your area ?

There is 3G available via pay-as-you-go mobile broadband USB dongles in my area (like the one in the attached image) that I know work, but they are only listed as Mac and Windows compatible so I didn’t attempt it. That would be great!


I’ve found conflicting reports and rather intimidating lengthy instructions that involve downloading 3rd party drivers and reconfiguring one’s Linux system to recognize/run such a dongle, but none specifically for PureOS. Do you know if it is actually possible?

… and if not cellular then is satellite an option?

Hopefully I can get the 3G mobile broadband USB dongle to work. Much less cumbersome than a satellite dish system. Thanks @kieran! :slight_smile:

Thank you, Jeremiah (and the rest of the Purism team), for all of your efforts in developing a secure, well-rounded system, and also for being so forthright with information and assistance. This is all super news. Happy to hear things are moving along in such good directions. Onwards and upwards! Do you know if the above-mentioned internet USB dongle will work on my system?

Keep in mind that you don’t “really” have to install updates.

Good point, s3ns0r. Thanks for the reminder! In this particular case though it is the initial upgrade not the update that is so jumbo, and unfortunately apparently I do need to complete that step in order to download anything from the Software store… unless there is some secret workaround. :slight_smile:

Also ~1GB shouldn’t take 2+ hours to download, maybe find another wifi cafe?

The place I was at is the best in town! I was sitting there watching the download speed fluctuate anywhere from a couple bytes per second up to a brief 250kb max… “Unusable”? Yup, pretty much.

Particularly if there is no internet access. That is a highly secure environment.

Haha, yes, very true, @kieran! And your second paragraph nails the true moment of ultimate vulnerability… which I apparently already stepped into the other night when I went online for the first time. I hope the “exploits” you referred to didn’t sneak in and are now lying in wait. :frowning: Nevertheless, thanks for the firewall-on-startup tip. Words to live by from this moment on! I am assuming there is an on-board firewall in PureOS, yes? Any advice on that?
As I mentioned previously, I haven’t used the laptop since then. Fingers are crossed that the upgrade process will just pick up where it left off!

The user may wish to clarify whether they have any kind of local network at home (no internet at home does not imply no local network at home).

No local network of any kind at home.

ok you mentioned that you run pureOS on librem 15 v3 and you got yours 2019 (it’s a decent-machine for basic stuff).

you haven’t been very specific about your level of experience with a gnu/linux/debian distribution so far or computer hardware in general.

maybe next instead of a wifi-cafe search for a real internet-cafe and maybe ask them to assist you (if they are able to) - most of them are windows based but maybe you get lucky with a linuxy type sys-admin.

about the 3g dongle - yes that’s the one. instead of that with gnu/linux your most easy bet would be to connect with a 3g/4g smartphone to the internet then activate the wifi connection (on the smartphone and laptop) and use the smartphone as a mobile wifi router to connect the laptop to the www (that’s called tethering).

did you have a look at the librem 5 ?

Great! Can you (or anybody else… maybe @Jeremiah?) give a rundown of how to set it up to work on a PureOS Librem? It really sounds like the most viable option here.

Yes, looking forward to it, but I need to get my laptop up’n’running now, not whenever the phone ships. :slight_smile:

Thanks! Really appreciate you and everyone else taking the time to advise and assist. I hope other newbies find this thread helpful.

that red color on the 3g dongle from vodafone you have is great. last time i set one of those up was when i was on windows a few years back.

i don’t think that proprietary red color from vodafone likes the green of the linux-libre kernel on pureOS but try your luck ! if not perhaps a different distribution that supports non-free linux driver modules such as Ubuntu 19.04.

the things we do to get online …

I can’t comment on PureOS but I have a couple of USB dongles (one 3G and one 4G) and with Ubuntu they basically just work out of the box, with negligible set up required (no software installation required and just need to do a one-off select of country, carrier or reseller, and APN).

The cost of just trying it out is not high! You probably wouldn’t want to be on a lock in contract for the SIM though until you have established that it works.

As a previous comment says, tethering using your phone is even easier - presuming that you tether via WiFi (tethering via USB works but may require software installation - I haven’t tried tethering via Bluetooth but that might be pushing it).

In case it helps you or anyone else … some 3G dongles operate in a weird way.

When you initially plug the dongle in, it presents itself as a CDROM. The purpose of this is that the CDROM contains the software for Windows that you may install and then use to manage the dongle. That software is useless on Linux and may safely be ignored. However the “CDROM” is recognised and mounted just fine on Linux and may be viewed using your file manager.

What happens next is that the operating system must do a “modeswitch” which tells the dongle to present a serial port (which becomes a dial-up modem and thereby becomes a network interface). With Ubuntu that all happens automatically but that would be intimidating for the novice user if you had to do it all yourself.

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Thanks for the very helpful info! It matches what I have been able to find elsewhere online.
Unfortunately tethering to a phone is currently not an option for me.

@reC, you also suggested switching to a different distro, but I would really prefer to stick with PureOS since it came with the Librem, and they were designed to work with each other. We’ll see how it goes. :slightly_smiling_face:

I realize that, as @reC alluded to, the proprietary-ness of the dongle I have might not work with PureOS, but with both of you encouraging me to give it a try, I feel up for the challenge of doing so. It sounds like the best place to start is figuring out the “modeswitch” process.

Everything I’ve read said that I would need to download and install a usb-modeswitch package, and I easily tracked down the latest version at the Debian website, but they strongly recommend using a packager manager such as aptitude or synaptic —neither of which I have— instead of doing direct downloads… BUT to get either of those they strongly recommend using a package manager such as synaptic or aptitude! :confounded: Thankfully, before venturing any further into that vicious circle, I thought to run: sudo dpkg -l and discovered that usb-modeswitch is already installed in PureOS. Whew!

Will report back as soon as I’ve given it a try!

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BTW, for future reference: Synaptics and Aptitude are only wrappers on top of apt, so don’t let that stop you. You already have apt since PureOS is based on Debian.


Hey @rootapoottoot, just to expand on what @patrixl said, if you open a terminal you can search for packages or applications by typing ‘apt search’ and then a search term. For example

apt search usb-modeswitch

This will list all the packages it finds based on your search term. You will also see [installed] on the right if it is already installed. You can search the package list when you are offline. If you then want to install it you can do ‘sudo apt install’ followed by the package name. For example

sudo apt install usb-modeswitch

Also, in the terminal you can type ‘man’ followed by a command you need help with and it will show you the reference manual. For example

man apt

That will show you the reference manual for the ‘apt’ command. It can be especially handy if you don’t have access to the internet! Hope this helps.

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Really appreciate the information and tips, @patrixl and @zero!

I’m learning so much just by using the ‘man’ and ‘whatis’ commands on everything, haha!

A quick status update on my Librem15’s initial full upgrade process: Yes, I am still plugging away at it! Day #4 of camping out at the wifi cafe and hoping to finish the remaining 15%. Fortunately I’ve been able to start downloading and installing some things from the Software Store. So, I am making progress. Hurrah!

That said, after reading a bunch more posts on the forum. In particular, this one:

I’m suspecting that the sluggish wifi I’ve been experiencing might not be completely due to the cafe’s system and might be the Librem itself. Will continue checking on this possibility.

Unfortunately the 3G usb dongle I was intending to test was faulty. So, back to the drawing board on that end.

Patience and perseverance, Grasshoppers!