New Post: Shipping new SparkLAN Wifi cards with Librem 5

In the interests of accuracy, here’s what the blog article says:

Another advantage to the modular WiFi card is that existing Librem 5 customers who have the original Redpine card have the option to upgrade. We are now offering the SparkLAN card for sale in our shop in case you want to upgrade the Redpine module in your Librem 5.

The language is measured: “have the option”, “in case you want”. I would not call that a recommendation or encouragement or suggestion that you do the upgrade.

For those for whom “purity” is everything, it is simple. Make the choice not to upgrade.

They have given you good information about the technical comparison between cards - but it is still your device and your choice.

That is certainly true.

Admittedly you have to click on the link from the blog post in order to get a full appreciation of the process for adding the blackbox firmware.

Probably, yes, Purism could do a better job of educating random customers about non-free in this case. (I don’t think any of the customers in this topic need education.) But the firmware is non-free regardless. If Purism added a line to the comparison table for libre status, it would just say that both are non-free. The distinctions being made about where the non-free firmware resides and how it gets there are fine ones that may well be lost on random customers. Whichever of the two cards the customer chooses, the customer is making a choice to support blackbox firmware.

It is unfortunate that so many WiFi client devices require a firmware file, and in particular the ones that actually work better require a firmware file - and the firmware is almost always non-free.

If Purism had a lazy $XX million then it would be great for them to bring a libre option to the world but even if they did, there is always the opportunity cost i.e. they would have to consider whether that use of the $XX million provides the most benefit to the world. Presumably the easiest way of achieving that would be to buy an existing company and then open source the firmware but this is a wild hypothetical.

For example as @Hristo is maybe touching on, using $X million to make the Librem 5 a better phone and put more libre phones in more customer’s pockets is also a benefit to the world.

Not in my opinion. This is the point of the modular design. I guess compare it with ordering any desktop or laptop. The ordering web page will typically give you configuration options (how much RAM? what number of and capacity and technology of disk?) but that doesn’t change the product that you are buying. Of course the Librem 5 is not at that stage yet. You can’t choose WiFi card and even though you can choose the variant of the modem, you can’t choose between modems either.

NB: It’s the WiFi card, not the cellular modem, being discussed in this topic.


The situation with the wireless cards is not great, but I think that the jail solution (on mainboard storage) is acceptable. It does not require that OS distributions distribute things that they cannot for legal or ideological/philosophical reasons. More importantly, the Librem 5 leaves room for improvement, not just by Purism, but anyone who wants to make a M.2 SDIO WiFi card. Purism is performing a lot of work by making a Linux phone were all the code is upstream. The situation with the components can be dealt with later, and by other groups. It will be much easier for them once enough people have an actual Linux phone to build for. It also helps for-profit companies when there is a viable market for this product. Taking small steps is often better than trying to “boil the ocean.”


First thank you for reply and clarify.

I agree.

I agree.

I agree.

I agree.

I agree.

I agree. but the problem here is that Purism is promoting blobs which is illegal by FSF rules because Purism is the head of PureOS, and a potential danger to PureOS from Purism-team-BLOBing.

Again is illegal by FSF rules if Purism or PureOS giving u the tools for.

I guess that if Purism burn the SparkLAN BLOB & jail before shipping to user may be it is OK, then is preventing to user install blobs so in the way may be it fine, but in the current status Purism seems it gaming with FSF rules, if Purism want gaming like opensource does, then pureos it need get out of FSF.

I agree.

I agree.

I agree, but again the problems that purism it violates fsf rules.

I agree.

Yeap, but respecting the rules.



Thanks for breaking that down. Where I am coming from is that these rules exist for solving a problem, and I am less interested in the current set of rules and more interested in fixing the problem in a viable way. In other words, maybe it is the FSF rules that need to be updated, or maybe we need to think of this as a necessary first step before getting to our goal. I think that the FSF put a lot of effort into making sure that the rules around the blobs accomplished their goal, but I think it is the FSF who now has to consider what a firmware jail means for their goals and update their rules accordingly. It may be that nothing needs to change, and this is perfectly fine.

Given how Purism has handled this, I think that selling the phone with the firmware jail and new WiFi card combined is FSF complaint, but selling just the new WiFi card by itself is not. It sounds strange, but I do not think that the FSF needs the individual components to be complaint when they are used individually from each other within other devices, just the whole device being sold. If this new WiFi card were soldered onto the mainboard, it would be no different than how the first WiFi card functioned with its blobs, copyright wise, but you do have a point with how the OS is now involved instead of the component doing all of the work solely within its own processor and memory. I do not think that just because Purism lets you separate these components without desoldering them, that there is a FSF blob problem.

The think that the requirement of OS to move blobs from one part of the hardware to another part of the hardware is the only problem that is new here, if we are talking about the sale of the phone as a whole. Because the movement is within the device, there is no copyright issue. The fact that the OS gets to inspect the data, however meaningless it may be, could even be a desirable feature when you consider that the alternative is having no control or influence over the movement of blobs when the component does this all on its own (like the first WiFi card did). The FSF wants more ability to tinker, not less. Which is why I am suggesting that if there is a FSF rules problem, then maybe the problem is that the rules are no longer serving their function and need to be updated.

So I would ask:

  1. Is the ability to tinker being restricted, liberated, or staying the same?
  2. Is the copyright of the blob creating an issue for anyone?
  3. Does the blob have any new ability to mess with the user (such as unauthorized access to the main CPU’s memory)?

Pictures of the cards and the re-routed cables


It might be called a ‘card’, but it still is a modulator/demodulator.

You do have a point where the modularity is concerned. As long as no changes are made to anything soldered down, you could say it is still the same phone.

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The product page does not say you have to install non-free firmware.

The product page links to the blog article from which your quotation is and, read it once more, it is not mentioned that the firmware you need to install is non-free firmware. It just says “we can’t ship firmware with PureOS” which is not true, pureOS can ship with firmware provided it is free software.


Are there now somewhere summarized instructions on how to migrate from the old to the new WiFi card?
Is it as simple as?
Step 1: Download the new firmware while you still have WiFi on the L5. Question: from where?
Step 2: Switch off the L5 and exchange the WiFi cards.
Step 3: Switch the L5 on again and place the firmware in /lib/firmware
Step 4: reboot

Or maybe one could place the firmware even before exchanging the HW?
Or maybe there is something else that needs to be done?


I wrote tech support and all they said was install the card and make sure your phone is up to date and was given this link:


So this means swap the card and then do sudo apt update, sudo apt full-upgrade and that’s all?

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Scroll up a bit:


According to the chart the redpine has wifi 5 and the new one is wifi 6. According to wikipedia wifi 5 is 802.11ac and wifi 6 is 802.11ax. The tech specs the current site says its abgn ( which is clearly wifi 4.

wifipedia wifi chart:

Thus the tech differences on the article do not appear accurate or the purism tech specs appear innaccurate.


@dos, is there a command or file location to check if firmware jail is on our device?

Asking another way, o what day or month did purism start flashing the jail? I received mine in October. would that be considered older in this context?

October sure sounds like recent enough.

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I received my phone in December and it has the Redpine card so I doubt you have the sparklan in yours @kms.

This is pretty awesome as this appears to fix one of the major issues with the librem 5 (slow wifi). wifi 6 also is suppose to offer battery life enhancement. Any idea if this card uses less power in general (aside from suspend mentioned in the article?

Regardless, I’ve ordered one. We’ll see how well that works.


If anyone does a battery drain test for the new WiFi card, I would make sure that only WiFi 6 devices are connected to the WiFi 6 network. The feature that saves power is called target wake time, and I am not sure if it is one of the things that gets disabled when older devices connect. Maybe force WPA3 only (although some older WiFi cards backported WPA3). Maybe TWT works regardless of older devices being used on the network. I am not sure.

I wondered about that too. It looked wrong to me but I am not sure.

It would be good if someone could confirm or correct.

(I know this new WiFi numbering is supposed to be more user friendly than 802.11alphabetsoup but …)

I also suspect that it is wrong. As you know, “WiFi 4” as a name did not exist when 802.11n was released, and WiFi 5 / 802.11ac focused on 5 Ghz, which is less ideal for phones that often have a few walls between them and the wireless access point (and adding 5 Ghz reduces battery life), so the author might not have noticed that the old card is 2 generations behind. In other words, the skip over WiFi 5 was probably forgotten because of how irrelevant it was for phones.

thx @dos!

@raenrfm, yeah, I’m sure I have a redpine card also. I was asking about the firmware jail. If / when I get the sparklan card I was wondering if I would have to mess with flashing the firmware jail onto my phone or not. Looks like I won’t need to worry about that.

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