New Post: A Vision in Focus

It’s the start of a new era at Purism. With the announcement of my new role as President, I thought I should share a bit about my background at Purism, my thoughts on the vision Purism captured in its Social Purpose charter, how we’ve approached that vision so far, and how I see us working toward it in the future.

My Origin Story

I joined Purism full-time at the beginning of 2018 during a time of intense soul-searching. Linux Journal, which I had written a monthly column for going on ten years, had announced it was closing. If you read my farewell post you can see that I wasn’t just processing the death of Linux Journal, I was trying to figure out what that said about the free software community at large, and my place in it:

With Linux Journal shutting down we’ve lost an advocate for Linux, Open Source and open standards that we need now more than ever. We’ve also lost a rallying point for those of us in the community that still believe in all of the principles that brought us to Linux to begin with. We may have won a few battles, but the fight ahead of us is more insidious and subtler. Are there enough of us left who remember what we were fighting for? Are enough of us still in fighting shape?

After a decade of hacking and slashing, I have to accept that this era is over. Instead of losing heart, for me this marks the start of a new era, and a chance to refocus on the things I’ve always valued about this community. I hope you don’t lose heart either, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

I decided then that my part-time contributions to free software (mostly writing and advocacy) simply weren’t enough and that I should “put my money where my mouth is” or in my case, put my time where my mouth is by working to advance free software full-time. As I mention in How Purism Funds Free Software:

A lot of great software has been written in a developer’s free time, and arguably most free software is written this way. Yet if we want free software to progress as quickly as possible (and we do), we must enable more people to pursue their labor of love full-time instead of just on the weekends. That means paying people full-time salaries for their work.

So I joined Purism as Chief Security Officer to help design security measures for our products that still respected people’s freedom not just by being free software, but by giving people more security self-sufficiency. This started with launching an initiative to incorporate Heads into our boot firmware, which is now part of our PureBoot project. That was followed by launching the Librem Key and integrating it into the boot firmware so that we could make the existing verification process more user-friendly and more secure, with keys you control. We also expanded anti-interdiction services to detect tampering in shipment, and it is now a popular add-on for our hardware. I’ve even found an outlet for some of the writing I previously wrote for Linux Journal in the Purism blog.

Read the rest of the post here:


While crowdfunding has gotten us where we are today, the crowdfunding approach isn’t ideal when your focus is stability. Even when you have experience with making hardware like we do, it is still incredibly challenging to predict timelines for new products and foresee all of the problems and delays that can come your way. So instead of announcing products and taking pre-orders at the conception phase, we will take a more traditional (and stable) approach of announcing new products once they are ready to ship.

I’m glad that Purism is moving away from crowdfunding of new products. I learned a lot about cell phone hardware while waiting for the Librem 5 and gained a greater appreciation for the challenges of creating mobile Linux, but the long wait also generated a lot of negative commentary by frustrated customers, which wasn’t good publicity for the company.

However, I will miss the updates on the new products that Purism is developing, and I hope that Purism will try to keep us informed on their progress. It would make me sad if Purism becomes a company like System76 where all we get is some vague announcement (e.g. a Linux laptop made in the USA), and then we spend years hoping that something is being developed, but nobody knows for sure if it is being worked on.

Creating an ethical, free software alternative to Big Tech that protects people’s freedom, privacy and security isn’t easy. Few of our goals have shortcuts, many require us to build things from scratch, and few can be realized 100% at the start. Instead of shipping nothing until a goal is fully realized, we have announced our goals, then make incremental progress toward them, getting the ball closer to the hole with every swing. The community has been invited along in this journey in the form of crowdfunding campaigns and participating in our public development efforts.

Not everyone understands the incremental approach. For some, anything short of 100% doesn’t count. They want a hole in one. Instead of being interested in our big, long-term goals, they may just want a piece of hardware or software for a short-term solution. Instead of joining us on the journey, they are upset we aren’t at the destination.

Really glad to see Purism framing it this way. It took iOS and Android years to develop their current security features, so it isn’t realistic to expect mobile Linux to match them on day 1, but it is worth supporting the development of security which the user can control and can independently verify. The black boxes developed by multi-billion dollar companies probably do provide better security, but buying into that solution means blindly trusting the black box, whereas buying from Purism means helping to develop a freer solution for the future, which won’t be proprietary and restricted to a single company.


And when they do fall short, they have an incentive to minimise it, sweep it under the carpet, deny it, … That is, those billions of dollars are a two-edged sword. Yes, they pay for a lot of developers etc. But those dollars also talk, they can act to protect themselves from things that threaten their continued flow, and do so in the cheapest, most expeditious way, rather than the right way.


I remember doing a short contract job at “Black Box” (per se) in Pennsylvannia in the 1990s. Nice facility. They used HP3000s.

As far as soul-searching, you’ll always find it the last place you look.

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I think that goes for everything.

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For instance, once we hit shipping parity on the Librem 5 USA, which will happen soon, we intend to keep it in stock from that point on.

So, does that mean the Librem 5 USA is not “in stock” currently (despite saying “in stock” with a 120 day lead time on the product availability chart)?

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Nah… I make a point to keep looking after I find something. Never know what else might pop up.


This verbal gymnastics has been discussed extensively elsewhere. Best not to hijack this topic with that discussion again.


Especially those things the wife had put away years earlier and didn’t tell you about when cleaning the house.