Rob Braxman's review of the Librem 5

Which ones?

You mention Debian, but that is not listed on the PinePhone page that I linked to, and I have never heard of someone running OG Debian on a PinePhone. I believe Mobian includes non-free firmware by default, and I do not recognize any of the other operating systems listed as fully free.

I stand by my assessment that PureOS running on the Librem 5 is a unique achievement.

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Mobian = Debian on the phone. If you clicked on the link you would have seen "Mobian = An unofficial Debian build for ARM64 running with Phosh … Mobian is Free software. I think most of the distros on the pinephone are similar. The only one there in the list that I know for sure isn’t Free is SailfishOS, but there might be one or two others since there are a few I don’t recognize.

The Librem 5 includes non-free firmware for the Wifi+BT and the Cellular Modem. Whether its in the distro or on the device, it’s got non-Free firmware. And you’ve probably downloaded that proprietary firmware from Purism and flashed it.

In the end … Pinephone + Mobian or Librem 5 + PureOS … they both either have or load non-Free firmware on the cellular modem and the wifi+bt components. If you didn’t know that, then surprise. The Librem 5 is not unique.

No, I have not.

Unlike PureOS, all of the systems listed, as far as I know, include non-free software. You brought up Debian as an example of an OS that you claim is fully free, because Debian only installs free software by default, but I am pointing out that the relevant OS, Mobian, does not share that policy with Debian. So, you are left with the incorrect claim that “lots of the distros for the PinePhone are fully Free.”

PureOS has earned an FSF recommendation because it is fully free. You seem to imply that’s not meaningful because there are components in the Librem 5 (not the main storage) which have non-free firmware. I disagree.


@weirdnerd @Privacy2 @fralb5 on the topic of differences between PinePhone and Librem 5 regarding non-free firmware, a difference can be seen clearly when using pmbootstrap to install the postmarketOS operating system, as described here for the PinePhone case: How to Install postmarketOS on the PinePhone

For PinePhone, the pmbootstrap program asks this question (quote from the above blogpost):

[10:50:39] This device has proprietary components, which trade some of your freedom with making more peripherals work.
[10:50:39] We would like to offer full functionality without hurting your freedom, but this is currently not possible for your device.
[10:50:39] device-pine64-pinephone-nonfree-firmware: Wifi and Bluetooth firmware
[10:50:39] Enable this package? (y/n) [y]: y

So it explicitly complains about proprietary components for PinePhone.

If you use pmbootstrap to install postmarketOS on a Librem 5, there is no such question. So, the difference is clear.

Of course you can argue that there still exist proprietary components inside the Librem 5, the difference is “only” that no proprietary blobs are needed in the operating system being installed by pmbootstrap. But for postmarketOS developers this difference apparently matters, it is the difference between installing a fully free operating system, or not. As the message output by pmbootstrap says: “We would like to offer full functionality without hurting your freedom, but this is currently not possible for your device.”

That difference also matters for the FSF, in how they define a free operating system.

When looking at it from the perspective of someone about to install an operating system on a device, I think the difference is fairly easy to understand. You have the following two cases:

  • Now I am going to install an operating system. It is completely free software. I have source code available for everything I install on the device.


  • Now I am going to install an operating system. It is partly free software. I have source code available for some things, and then I also have some proprietary binary blobs that I also install.

That’s a clear difference between Librem 5 and PinePhone. People may have different opinions about how important that is, some find it important and others may not care about it at all, but the difference is there.

  1. You want to put them in the same category ? it’s on you with your own standards, I have different ones. And it’s not what I think about it, it’s more what I know about it, and again you decide to ignore my main complaint about this one.
  2. It was so predictable from you to take that bait, and you jumped on it, dismissing the other 3/4 of the product being proprietary, Apple using BSD didn’t make those product BSD-like
  3. Again answering to your own fantasies ? I voluntary didn’t gave you an inch about why, but you still put things in my mouth

Thank you for quoting the exact same part I did twice

No you didn’t explicitly said that, like I said, you just implied it doesn’t provide privacy, by saying those are just words for marketing

Oh ? look who is shifting now…
So now, it’s because they do not pro-actively do more for it… like … I don’t know… the HKS ? yeah okay…

Lol, I’m done arguing with you, it’s a waste of time
Have fun with your constant half-truths, while dismissing half of what we say, and answering to your own fantasies, I’m tired of it
And your best solution of all, is to propose buying google products… right …okayyy…

I’ll stay with my cult of looking at the big picture of what Purism is doing
While you stay to your hate cult focused on creating drama upon every little insignificant detail and past mistakes


Very well reasoned. Thanks!

That’s because the proprietary firmware is on board the device. Is that better? Are you aware that, at least for the wifi+BT device, the OS on the Librem 5 reads that proprietary firmware from the wifi card’s flash memory and then loads and activates it??? Is there a big difference to pmbootstrap? Yes, because it’s not responsible for that decision … because that decision was made by Purism rather than the user so it’s arguably a “less free” situation. Nonetheless there is proprietary firmware on both devices.

To be clear: the above difference is at OS installation time. That’s why I talked about the “Device + OS”. In the case of “Device + OS”, it’s the same in the sense that both will be running similar amounts of proprietary firmware to function. The difference is that Purism made the choice for the user in regard to the Librem 5. Is that more freedom or less freedom???

In regard to the FSF and RYF, I don’t think the Librem 5 should get that label. Why?

  1. Purism’s “intention” IMO is to have the firmware be upgraded after delivery. Purism makes the firmware available (just like Debian has a non-Free repository that the user can “opt-in”) and on the forums participants (including Purism devs) often recommend upgrading/reflashing the firmware.
  2. The proprietary firmware on the wifi card is read off the card and activated/run on the card by the OS on boot. i.e. The OS intentionally participates in having the wifi card run the proprietary firmware. i.e. Is there any difference between the OS reading the firmware from the disk vs. reading it from the onboard memory? Not in my opinion.

You probably know all that since you started a thread on it here: In defense of the FSF RYF certification

[Edit: I’m pinging you because I made some significant edits after re-reading your post. @Skalman ]

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@Privacy2 is right, and it is a shame for Purism opensource-ideology BLOBs.
Purism opensource devs it recommending blobs for Librem 5, it is a shame because that is unsecurity, unprivacy, unfreedom things coming from Purism.
Upgrading firmware-blobed is very danger even if fixing one or two thing plus changelog. @Privacy2 is the best, why? it say many true thing.

You realize that by violating their own Policies, FTC rules and SPC regulations, Purism is jeopardizing their whole business?

So if you really care about the goal behind Purism, you should care about them following the law.

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You’re replying to a 5 day old comment and your reply has almost nothing to do with my

Are you OK?

FTC rules, you are joking. FTC rules are supposed to promote competition , rather than promoting monopolies Gogle etc. SPC waived any recourse that people had possibly against Big Pharma.
I laugh ( in your general direction ha ha brrrraaaaappp)

5 days old, is that important to you? Have you got your appointment yet?

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It was off topic and old; I was just checking whether you were intending to reply to me. Creating off-topic posts with personal insults is childish and against forum rules.

Since when is attacking the product part of forum rules?

  1. Criticizing products in good faith is not against the forum rules.

  2. Off topic posts are against forum rules.

  3. Personal insults that have nothing to do with the arguments are against forum rules. I reported your post for attacking me; it was also off-topic. Stop.

Excellent . You have done very well.

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Yes, legally Purism should have followed its stated refund policy and kept paying out refunds for the L5 until it declared bankruptcy. If disgruntled customers had organized a class-action lawsuit against Purism for not repaying their refund requests or a governmental agency had cracked down on Purism, they could have forced the company into bankruptcy.

That would have helped the people who demanded their refunds early before Purism ran out of funds and had to declare bankruptcy. However, it is likely that a bankruptcy would have cancelled the L5, deprived the world of the code produced for the L5 and resulted in far more people being harmed than Purism’s decision to delay paying the refunds and only provide immediate refunds in the form of credit to buy other Purism products. My conclusion is that there was no good decision that Purism could have made in early 2020 which wouldn’t have resulted in some customers getting harmed, but it appears to me that Purism made a decision in favor of the majority at the expense of the minority that wanted refunds. The law doesn’t work according to Thomas Bentham’s “utilitarian calculus”, but I don’t think the legal solution to the problem would have resulted in a good outcome for the majority of people involved.

@Privacy2 has pointed to the example of Jolla to argue that Purism could have reorganized under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but I’m skeptical that would have worked for Purism. Jolla was a company formed principally to continue the development of the mobile operating system which Nokia had abandoned, and its hardware sales were primarily a means to advertise its Sailfish OS so it could sell the OS. Jolla was able to retreat to just being a software company and it found new funders to avoid a formal bankruptcy.

Purism didn’t have another business to fall back on like Jolla and if Purism had declared bankruptcy, I doubt that it could have continued as a company selling Linux hardware, because customers for its other products (laptops, mini-PCs, etc) would have lost confidence in its ability to deliver and simply stopped ordering. Maybe Purism could have tried to do a Chapter 11 reorganization, but I’m pretty sure that Purism wouldn’t have lasted long without new orders and ended up in a Chapter 7 liquidation. This is all speculation on my part, since I haven’t seen Purism’s books, but it is hard to imagine anyone ordering from Purism if it had declared bankruptcy and had thousands of angry customers complaining about their lost deposits for the L5. In that situation, I don’t see how Purism could have gotten preorders for the L14 and Mini to bring them to market, how it could have raised any money on Kickfurther or how it could have raised $10 million in convertible notes.

It is instructive to look at what happened to Jolla’s customers. From what I read, Jolla was unable to deliver its Jolla C tablet, because one of its chief backers had financial problems, and couldn’t keep funding the company. Jolla was able to refund half of each pre-order, and it said that its customers could use the other half of their preorders for the Jolla C to get licenses for Sailfish OS that they could use to install the OS on Xperias and other phones. 163 customers were randomly selected to get their full refunds, but the vast majority only got half of their money back. In contrast, Purism has been able to deliver the L5 to the majority of customers who didn’t cancel their orders.

This isn’t excusing how Purism has handled the refunds. I think that it is disgraceful how Purism has treated those customers, telling them that they would get their refund when they got to their position in the queue, and then saying privately in email to some customers that they couldn’t get a refund and could only get credit to buy other products, while saying in the email to Rossmann that the company still is trying to pay back the refunds when it gets the funds. I have criticized Purism for not publicly clarifying its policy for the the 600 customers who are still awaiting refunds. At this point we don’t know if Purism intends to ever refund them or not. Still, they are in a better situation than Jolla’s customers who only got half refunds, since they at least have the possibility of recovering their deposits by accepting the Librem 5 and reselling it for at least as much as they paid.

If Purism had declared bankruptcy in 2020, then the development of Phosh probably would have stopped, which would have been a loss for the users of mobile Linux, since Phosh has become the leading mobile Linux interface (according to PINE64’s poll). In addition, libhandy, libadwaita, Calls and Chats wouldn’t have become part of GNOME, and GNOME wouldn’t have become adaptive and touch friendly, so we would lose the benefit of Purism’s dev work for the wider Linux community.

If Purism had disappeared as a company, work on PureOS would have stopped, which would have an effect on the FSF, since PureOS has become the leading distro with 100% free software (according to Without Purism, we would probably have fewer Linux laptops on the market today that support Coreboot. People had been asking System76 to support Coreboot for years (2008, 2010, 2015, 2015), but it was likely the competitive pressure from Purism that convinced System76 to finally start working on it, and that in turn pushed Tuxedo Computer, Star Labs and NovaCustom to also add support for Coreboot.

Finally, we have to consider what would have happened to customers if Purism had declared bankruptcy. The US Bankruptcy Code establishes an order of priority for the payout to creditors. If Purism had any bank loans (i.e. secured creditors with a lien on the assets of the company), they would have been paid first. Any tort claims and any employees owed back pay or benefits would be paid next. If any money were still left, customers who have deposits up to $1800 for the “purchase, lease, or rental of property, good or service” would get paid next according to 11 U.S.C. Section 507(a)(7). However, customers who preordered the L5 would have to file a proof of claim in the bankruptcy case and they would have to do it before the “claims bar date” set by the court. If the customers failed to file a proof of claim by that date, then they would forfeit their right to payment. In all likelihood, most customers probably wouldn’t file their claims correctly, and it is doubtful that there would be much money left for the customers at that point, since a Purism employee said in the email to Rossmann that the company didn’t have the money to pay out the refund requests.

I feel for the people that are still waiting for their refunds from Purism, but it looks to me that they would be in a worse position if Purism had declared bankruptcy in 2020.


What is a better or worse position for refundees is not for us to decide; the fact that their refund request(s) are not being respected now with shipping parity across all Purism devices means everyone loses.

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  1. I agree that it likely would have cancelled the L5 (in the same way that the Jolla tablet was cancelled).
  2. I disagree about the code. That’s the point of FOSS. It’s still there. Would the camera code have been produced? Yes, but not as quickly and maybe not by Purism.
  3. I disagree about “far more people harmed”. Remember, the whole point of bankruptcy law is to have a fair order. You are putting yourself ahead of people who didn’t get their phone/refund in a timely manner. You’ve consistently minimized the harm to them. I trust a judge and the law to be a better arbiter of fairness than you, who has a biased stake.


Bankruptcy law is based on “fairness” and balances all the promises made to all investors and creditors (whether they are stock holders == none, bond holders, secured creditors, customers). The fact of the matter is that the stock holders (Todd Weaver and, presumably, a few others) and bond holders (including convertible notes) took advantage of the creditors. That was not fair. At all. You’ve now sided with “business owners and big money” against many of the actual customers. And that is wrong.

No. That’s its current position. Jolla had a dual goal of continuing the Nokia + Meego/Maemo SW (SailfishOS) and creating and selling HW for that OS. Their original business plans recognized that the HW would have to be the income generating portion because they would not make money on Free SW. You must recall that they had promised to release everything as FOSS? After the 2nd round of funding, they had to clarify that this was “after their expenses had been recouped” (just like Purism’s promises in regard to the KiCAD files). Well, the fact of the matter is that this business plan didn’t work … and it’s exactly why SailfishOS is not entirely FOSS. [Edit: Here’s an article that shows when Jolla had to change from HW + SW to SW. Mobile Maker Jolla Splits In Two, With Sailfish OS Its First Order Of Business | TechCrunch ]

No. I think you don’t understand how private equity works. The “backers” didn’t have financial
problems, they didn’t want to “throw good money after bad”. Jolla made the mistake of using all of their investor money funding developers (their run rate was ridiculously unsustainable) and then thought
they “had to” use customer money — which was earmarked to pay the HW manufacturer for the product — for paying developers. In the end, the HW was made and Jolla no longer had the money to pay the HW manufacturer for all of the product (some customers did get their tablets). Familiar story, no?

It’s trying to. You’re saying “it’s bad, but still for the best”. That’s an excuse. And I don’t agree with it.
Rossman has quite clearly pointed out that Purism doesn’t see itself as the villain, when they should. .

I disagree. And I feel that this suggestion is akin to a hostage situation … and you say that it would be fine to pay the ransom and not try to arrest the hostage takers. The fact is that the investors (Todd Weaver or anyone holding stock … as well as those holding convertible bonds) should take the hit first. Don’t you see that???

That’s just in your imagination IMO. I recently posted a link to a video of how/why System76 started working with Intel on coreboot (edit: Here is a youtube video. . I also posted a direct link from the OSFC site somewhere if you don’t like youtube). Basically it was because Intel offered to work with them. I can get you a URL if you want … but it was Jeremy Soller’s talk at the 2019 Open Source Firmware Conference. There’s also a talk there by someone from Intel explaining their Open Platform Enabling Plans.

It’s a good summary paragraph. What you should note is that the stock holders and convertible note holders (investors who intentionally took risks to get rewards) should take a hit before the customers. In your world, that would never happen and that, IMO, is morally wrong.

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Jolla C Tablet, “C” ? Are you confused about Jolla C Phone?
Anyways let is wait for the upcoming Sailfish 4.6 supporting 5G, plus WPAN Tethering, HDR Cam, and huge more. :wink:

Also the upcoming fancy support for Sony Murray for Sailfish OS, to me will be the best ever elegance device for sailfish.

Oh sorry. I’m talking about the Jolla Tablet, not the Jolla C smartphone.

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