My experience with an out-of-the-box Librem 13v3

OK, I have ordered myself a shiny new Librem 13v3 laptop this month. I have especially felt this was necessary after visiting a security related exhibition here in Tokyo. The technologies showcased there were scary. Algorithms are looking everywhere for ‚deviant behaviour‘. Companies advertise ‚new platforms’ consolidating all information. Clearly it is time for me to reduce my digital shadow. Thanks to Purism‘s mission there is some hope out there, too.

So, out-of-the box the laptop booted up, led me through clumsy menus, but finally I have met the desktop. Please bear in mind that I have bought the laptop for privacy reasons, not for happy fornication with linux. But there were frequent horizontal stripes across the screen, the ventilation went up and down all of the time and then came a strange screen where the colours slowly fade and you witness that there is nothing at the end of the tunnel for your OS.

Listen, I knew a little bit about Linux, so I was prepared that re-installing the OS is something you need to know before comitting. Before buying this thing, I have learned the hard way what linux expects of its users as common sense (there is a gazillion of incompatible systems that all call themselves linux, hard drives need partitioning for whatever reason, sudo is another word for holy grail etc.) So one to two hours later, voilá, there was the desktop again and the horizontal stripes were much reduced and the tornado in the shell was tamed. Happily I continued exploring the software.

Yeah, some software didn‘t work (I played around with boxes to finally understand that it is a waste of time), I have checked some good software like Libre Office. Thunderbird seems to be quite powerful, so all in all the warm feeling came back. But there were stranger things:

  • Wifi only works at home. In my office or Starbucks there is no way the OS would let me into the internet with it.
  • You cannot control what the laptop does when the lid is closed and I use it with an external monitor and keyboard attached.
  • I have subscribed to this VPN service from Purism, but I have never received the email with my user details.
  • Two other VPNs provided me with OpenVPN profiles, until I finally have understood that this function of the OS is not working as well.
  • A half-naked girl climbed through the screen and asked me if I saw the ring.

What does the average user do now? He has to search the forums and then the wall hit me. I read about things I need to do for checking out what is wrong with my out-of-the-box laptop. It is a science to understand what could go wrong when accessing the internet - and I am not interested in learning that much. It‘s not my job, I have a family and friends. Why is the effort for some privacy so hard? I realised that I didn’t know a tiny bit about Linux and it would take me endless sessions in forums to improve my knowledge. Frustration settled in.

My conclusion is that the Librem laptops and their OS are not yet ready for out-of-the-box users. I cannot solve all the issues with the laptops by myself. I keep this thing and I wish the community enough energy to continue their mission. I will download their software in a couple of months again, reinstall the stuff and see if it has improved.

(BTW: It is inconceivable to me how a company with such a beta-type of product can think of increasing their product range by a convertible and a phone. A phone needs to work. People rely on it for their safety. It is not a toy you can put away for a couple of months and then see if it grew up.)

My story might be a painful reality check for some of the guys running this mission. And I believe that you are nice guys and it could be fun chatting with you, we would probably get along quite well, worrying about privacy, but I have had a bad experience with your product. Thank you for listening.


Hi @frederick,

This is really nice to have different feedback from someone who cares about privacy but is not a tech expert. It is true we tend to forget that not everyone is having the possibility or is willing to develop an expertise.

So far, there is quite a high correlation between privacy-conscious and advanced-tech people. You’re the proof that it is still possible to raise the awareness among people!

To be fair with Purism, it seems you got issues mainly because of a Coreboot update they released that had some issues that should be fixed by now. But I do agree this lacks of polish for average Joe :slight_smile:

Thank you for sharing what has frustrated you and very possitive attitude with those issues! This is much valuable for the community, and I believe for Purism as well.

Regarding the phone though, let’s keep in mind this is a tiny niche market: for most people not having Android or iOS apps on their phone is a no-no. I couldn’t say for sure but I think the Librem 5 is much more targeted at nerdy users willing to toy with their phone a lot.


hey @frederick

if I understood you right and you wanna change the OS, make sure you have the latest and stable Coreboot on your laptop before doing so. This is important (Coreboot is OS independent) and will solve few of your issues.

Congratulations on getting a Librem Laptop. I am still waiting until I win the lottery. Some of what you ask about is logging into a public WiFi with Linux. Sigh. This is a case of that public WiFi places intend to make money on spying on you, and the purpose of the Librem Purism software is to keep what you choose private to yourself.

Logging in a public WiFi’s is what one computer tech specialist called a “Garden Wall.” Apple names the public WiFi at McDs a Privacy screen. Starbucks, and I only go from memory, first wanted to do something like a Pop-Up, which I had initially had set to be blocked (I was using another form of Linux, I tried several in my trials with Garden Walls). And then wanted my email address and to leave some kind of auto login onto my Windows computer, else I would have to login again with a Password. I would through a lot of frustration with Public WiFi and Linux, or even trying to run Windows 10 in a secure mode. I found a webpage somewhere written by a guy from a tech company who frequently traveled, using public WiFi and a VPN on the problem of getting onto public WiFi. That is getting that first screen that warns you what you are doing is not private, proceed at your own risk. (Perhaps not less surveillance that what your ISP is trying to do to you at your home connection) There is allowing popups, clearing the cache on the browser, the more successful one to me is to type into the address bar something like, which is the address of the DNS company Cloudflare, who claim to be into Privacy, and anyway, not relevant, somehow it causes the local public WiFi router broadcast of its 'Garden Wall" Page to appear or an option on the browser might come up to click a button (In McDs it says Open Network Login Page). The techies webpage also described inserting the usual (for many routers) local set up page addy in the browser. I have never needed to go more than the first option, Cloud Flare. Keep in mind that you might need an email address for them to send you advertising.

Let me say it more simply, When the local login page does not come up. Type and nearly always an option appears to let you login.

If I am wrong here, I hope some more experienced knowledgeable linux techies will chime in.

A VPN, Librem One comes with a VPN. I refer you to that description. Librem One is the addition offered by the Librem manufacturer for an additional fee. RAH I say, we need Librem One. Just I do not have the money to buy it yet. And I have had problems trying to use Pure on the only laptop that can be used for that. Others say it uses PIA VPN. OR, I have used the free version of WindScript with Linux, which, if my memory works correctly, was pretty easy to follow their directions. Don’t recall if it is FOSS.

Speaking about here in the US, I do know about other countries. Keep in mind that some public WiFi’s block websites that relate to Linux downloads, Including in Windows, Firefox itself, and its updates, addons. All of Source Forge is blocked. Sometimes the provider does not directly say that a website is blocked, but it will seem like the website might be down. To find out for sure at McDs, type in Veracrypt, or the TorProject which will show in the search engine, click on it, Public Wifi Provider directly issues a page saying they are Protecting you. Seems like Linux does work. without being blocked because you are running Linux, but the block is on specific IP address is still there. If one has a VPN the blocks of course, disappear, and you can access what you want. Tor is a free option to get around blocks, after it is installed. Tor works in McDs, (although one can not do a download of Tor in McDs) but one can not download with getting around the block. FYI Tor is slow.

I want to congratulate @frederick for the tact, clarity, and candor in his description of his experience. It takes a certain level of bravery to do so on a vendor Web site. And I do hope that Purism is paying attention. I only had minor issues with my own Purism purchase (also a 13v3) but they were minor only because I’ve been using Linux for 20 years. I understood the issues were minor because I had the experience to recognize them. Improvement is a progressive game; an evolutionary game. It’s my hope that Purism looks at the end user experience and builds upon what they have done.

We’ve come so far. And yet, we have miles to go. Allez hop!