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.