Sriram Ramkrishna

Chief Marketing Officer

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Greetings everyone! This is a progress report on the Librem 5 development for the past two weeks. Here is all that happened.

Conferences and Communities
Quite a few members of the Purism team attended FOSDEM this year. Kyle Rankin gave a keynote, The Cloud is Just Another Sun that dealt with vendor lock-in in the cloud; the video is also available on the FOSDEM site. Meanwhile, some of the Librem 5 team organized a community Q&A session under the heading of Free Software on Mobile Devices. Owners of the Librem 5 Developer Kit got their LCD displays flashed with the commands needed to work around some issues they had been experiencing.

Plasma Mobile sprint
Not everyone in the Librem 5 team went to FOSDEM: two team members attended the Plasma Mobile sprint in Berlin. Once there, they helped set up Librem 5 developer kits, talked about user interface design in Plasma Mobile and discussed development issues and progress. The Plasma Mobile team got something up and running real quickly on the developer kit, despite some initial glitches concerning touch input. This has led to a productive discussion on ways to support different form factors, one that will hopefully lead to some nice cross-platform ways to support device convergence.

Application Development
Recent discussions, both in the Matrix chat rooms and on the forums, have led to two initiatives concerning the subject of phone applications: the first resulted in the compilation of the Mobile GNU/Linux apps list, a community-maintained list of applications that are meant to work on mobile devices running GNU/Linux – either because they target small screens, or because they feature adaptive user interfaces. If you can think of any app that should be on the list but ins’t, please follow the contribution guide at the end of the app list page.

Dev Kits

Probably the most significant event in last week’s news is that the LCD screens on development boards will now work, if you update the software running on them. We knew that the screens worked just fine on the development kits we sent our backers, but we’re still all very happy to know that any remaining display problems could be fixed in software, not requiring the panels to be replaced. This update took longer to develop than initially hoped, as our kernel hackers had to work around a couple of tricky bugs in the hardware preventing the panel from being set up properly. Our community has already been exploring other features of the development board, so we’re now looking forward to seeing what they can do with working displays!

The second initiative led to the creation of a new Matrix room (community/librem-5-apps) for app development discussions, and it’s now listed in the online documentation. It’s early days, there’s not that much being discussed at the moment but, with two other channels dedicated to different kinds of Librem 5-related conversations, it’s good to have a place for app-specific discussions.


Hardware
Much has been written about battery charging on the development board. Although the board’s controller circuit has built-in protection circuitry, we do recommend using batteries that also provide some level of overcurrent protection so that there is redundant protection in place. Batteries used with the development board must meet the specifications we’ve outlined – see the developer documentation and the printed text on the board’s battery holder. Following these guidelines is the safest; if you are unsure about whether the battery you are using meets the specifications, remove the battery when the board is not in use.

Still on the subject of batteries, charging now works with our 5.0 branch of the kernel; but the current status of the battery isn’t always correctly reported by the operating system. Despite this, the charging circuitry is always working, in order to make sure charging occurs properly. While the 5.0 branch brings this improvement, the 4.1x kernel has support for more of the Librem’s peripherals; so 5.0 is not quite ready for everyday use just yet.

Software
Developers with no access to boards can still get an experience of the current phone environment by using an emulator, thanks to Pan, one of the contributors to the developer documentation. While this gives a flavor of the phone experience, it may be lacking when it comes to prototyping with the types of peripherals that the phone will have. Fortunately, use of peripherals can be simulated to some extent, and a recent contribution to the documentation shows just how to do that.

Low-Level
Ongoing work on the U-Boot bootloader, the flash-kernel and the tools used to create images for the development board aims to make it easier to resize the storage space available on the board. This will help with the board’s software development, especially when testing with large Flatpak runtimes. In the kernel itself, we have tied the panel to the backlight so that the two turn on and off together, and we switched to the mainline touchscreen driver now that a compatible driver has been identified. The graphics stack has also been receiving some attention, in order to make it more stable – with work ongoing in a branch, and changes being upstreamed at least as far as PureOS.


Shell and Apps

We have guaranteed Phosh is now more stable on the development boards, as a result of removing unused components from the session. In the user interface department, the volume control now does indeed control the volume. Chatty, on the other hand, has been updated and improved over the last few weeks to include support for Matrix chats, using libpurple to provide this integration. The user interface now also features adaptive elements and dialogs, and includes a brand-new welcome screen.


Design

The new online account icons got merged https://gitlab.gnome.org/GNOME/gnome-online-accounts/merge_requests/17


Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Wi-Fi was working on the developer kits, but many of the users found it to be unreliable; after a long investigation into this issue, a workaround was found and sent to the Librem 5 Development mailing list. As noted in the message, it will improve some aspects of wireless networking – although there are a few remaining issues to be aware of.

And that’s our report! Questions? Come by our matrix channels, we’ll be happy to see you.