Tag: PureOS

GNOME and KDE in PureOS: diversity across devices

PureOS, a Free Software Foundation endorsed GNU distribution, is what Purism pre-installs on all Librem laptops (in addition to it being freely available for the public to run on their own compatible hardware or virtual machines). It comes with a GNOME desktop environment by default, and of course, since we love free ethical software, users can use KDE that is also available within PureOS. This is the future we will continue to advance across all our devices: a PureOS GNOME-first strategy, with other Desktop Environments (DEs), such as KDE, available and supported by Purism.

At Purism we want a unified default desktop environment, and considering that we have chosen GNOME to be the default on laptops, we hope to extend GNOME to also be the default on phones. The ability for users to switch is also very powerful, and having a strong, usable, and supported alternative—that is, KDE/Plasma—for the Librem 5 offers the best of the “unified default” world and the “usable user choice” worlds.

Symbiotic GNOME and KDE partnerships

Purism has partnered with both GNOME and KDE for the Librem 5; what this means simply is that users running PureOS on their Librem 5 will get the choice of a GNOME environment or a KDE/Plasma environment, and the user could always switch between the two, like what is already the case on computers running PureOS. Will there be other partnerships in the future? We imagine so, since we will be happy to support any and all ethical OSes, GNU distributions, and want to make sure that the future is bright for a non-Android-non-iOS world.

While the initial GNOME and KDE partnerships mean uplifting diversity at the top level (and greater choice for users), each have a slightly different developmental and support roadmap. The reason for this is pragmatic, since KDE is very far along with their “Plasma” mobile desktop environment, while GNOME is farther behind currently. Investing time and efforts to advance the status of mobile GNOME/GTK+, aligns with our longer-term goals of a unified default desktop environment for PureOS, offering a convenient default for users. Diversity is why we are supporting and developing both GNOME/GTK+ and KDE/Plasma.


  • KDE: Purism is investing in hardware design, development kits, and supporting the KDE/Plasma community, and will be sharing all early documentation, hardware designs, and kernel development progress with the core KDE/Plasma developers and community.
  • GNOME: Purism is investing the same in hardware design, development kits, and supporting the GNOME/GTK+ community as we are with the KDE/Plasma community. In addition, Purism is needing to lead some of the development within the GNOME community, since there is not a large community around an upstream-first GNOME/GTK+ for mobile yet.

Choice is good, redundancy is good, but those are ideal when there is minimal additional investment required to accomplish technological parity. Since Purism uses GNOME as the default desktop environment within PureOS on our laptops, we figured we are going to invest some direct development efforts in GNOME/GTK+ for mobile to stay consistent across our default platforms. Adding KDE as a second desktop environment is directly aligned with our beliefs, and we are very excited to support KDE/Plasma on our Librem 5 phone as well as within PureOS for all our hardware. We will support additional efforts, if they align with our strict beliefs.

Why not just use KDE/Plasma and call it a day?

If we were doing short-term planning it would be easy to “just use Plasma” for the Librem 5, but that would undermine our long-term vision of having a consistent look/feel across all our devices, where GNOME/GTK+ is already the default and what we’ve invested in. Supporting both communities, while advancing GNOME/GTK+ on mobile to allow it to catch up, aligns perfectly with our short-term goals (offering Plasma on our Librem 5 hardware for early adopters who prefer this option), while meeting our long-term vision (offering a unified GNOME stack as our primary technological stack across all our hardware). It is also a good way to give back to a project that needs our help.

Why not just push GNOME and GTK+ and forward?

Because having an amazingly built Plasma offering available early to test and ship to users is a superb plan in many ways—not just for redundancy, but also because KDE/Plasma also aligns so well with our beliefs. The product readiness across these two desktop environments are so different it is not easy to compare side-by-side.

Empowering both communities is possible

Overall, Purism is investing the same amount across hardware, boot loader, kernel, drivers and UI/UX. These are shared resources. The deviation boils down to:

  • GTK+ and the GNOME “shell” development, that Purism is planning to be directly invested in, in close collaboration with upstream
  • Community support: by being involved in both communities, we are effectively doubling our efforts on supporting those communities, but that is a small cost for the greater benefit of users.

Supporting both KDE/Plasma and GNOME means we will continue to build, support, and release software that works well for users across Purism hardware and within PureOS. Purism fully acknowledges that each platform is in different release states, and will be working with each community in the areas required—be that software development, hardware development kits donated, community outreach, conference sponsorship, speaking engagements, and offering product for key personnel.

Librem 5 Phone Progress Report – A Design Team Assembles

We have spent the last two months building our design team for the Librem 5 Phone project. We have been studying the current state of mobile design within the free software community as well as large companies that have shown success in mobile. We have been in the planning phases of development attempting to produce an ethically designed device and now that we have a working prototype we have shifted to the process of designing User Interfaces (UI) and User eXperience (UX) for the Librem 5.

New members on the design team

Peter K’s Concept Art

Upon successful completion of our funding campaign, we started to look for a Designer to take care of the user experience for the Librem 5, and a web developer to help us improve the look & feel (and more technical parts) of our website in general. Today, I’m glad to finally welcome them publicly!

  • Our new UI & UX Designer is Peter Kolaković, who is very talented and had already gotten involved during the campaign by creating amazing concept art (that we ended up displaying on the campaign page and that became the basis for our potential look and feel of the Librem 5).
  • Our new Web Designer is Eugen Rochko, the web development wizard who already proved his skills by creating Mastodon.

We had a huge amount of talented and motivated applicants who were perfectly aligned with our philosophy of digital ethics, and so picking only two was a very difficult decision to make. Thank you to all of those who applied! We appreciate your interest, motivation, and ideas!

Unified look for PureOS devices

Peter has also been working on the look and feel of PureOS in an effort to make our systems convergent across devices: phone, tablet and laptop.

Our approach to convergence is that mobile is the motivating factor for all other platforms. We are aware that usability is different from a small touchscreen to a laptop monitor with a mouse and keyboard. We want to improve the user experience through ease of use, by creating a graphical environment that doesn’t require a steep learning curve when switching between devices. This approach is also helpful to developers who don’t want to maintain too many different outputs. Mobile design brings efficiency and simplicity first.

The general appearance of the user interface we’ll be designing is expected to follow current visual design approaches in the mobile industry. We expect our design to have a minimalistic aesthetic by default.

We are starting work on a dark theme (a “light” one will be designed as well). Here are a few mockups that we are working on (click to enlarge):

Community involvement approach

We want any of our Librem 5 UI/UX design and development work to be a direct contribution back to the parent projects that they are based on. You may be aware that we have partnered with both the KDE and GNOME projects, and so we wish to make the Librem 5 a mobile platform where the user can have a choice of Desktop Environments. Of course, KDE and GNOME are currently at fairly different levels of development with regards to mobile user experience:

KDE Mobile UI Example
  • KDE already has a beautiful and full-featured mobile interface (that our dev team is busy on making work on the Librem 5 hardware). Whatsmore, from a design standpoint, the KDE design team has done a great job developing a set of clean, touch driven user interfaces that make it a pleasant and functional mobile environment already; there is not much to add to KDE except for a graphical touch interface specific to PureOS. Purism’s contribution to KDE may be generally focused on hardware integration and testing, rather than design.
  • GNOME developers’ resources have not been focused on mobile user experience per se, so there is more work required to make GNOME production ready for a convergent Librem 5. In an effort to bring convergence across our devices which already run PureOS with GNOME, we are hoping to contribute design and software development efforts to the GNOME project. Our teams will develop and design the missing mobile components and improve the existing ones.

This is what free software is all about—not just taking existing work “as is” but adjusting and improving things that we send back for everyone to benefit from. We’re looking forward to giving development back to these two free software giants!


As I said in a previous post, we are working on producing an “ethical design” that:

  • Respects Human Rights by using free/libre technologies and contributing to them for the profit of everyone.
  • Respects Human Effort by unifying the user experience, making convergent designs based on a “Mobile First” approach that favors efficiency and simplicity.
  • Respects Human Experience by designing a modern, clean and efficient look for PureOS.

Meltdown, Spectre and the Future of Secure Hardware

Meltdown and Spectre are two different—but equally nasty—exploits in hardware. They are local, read-only exploits not known to corrupt, delete, nor modify data. For local single user laptops, such as Librem laptops, this is not as large of a threat as on shared servers—where a user on one virtual machine could access another user’s data on a separate virtual machine.

As we have stated numerous times, security is a game of depth. To exploit any given layer, you go to a lower layer and you have access to everything higher in the stack.

Meltdown and Spectre are not just hardware exploits, they are the processor and microprocessor exploits. Meltdown is an exploit against the CPU which has a patch in progress, while Spectre is an exploit against the design of microprocessors which has a “possibility to patch upon each exploit as it is identified” in a never ending game of cat-and-mouse.

Protecting from Meltdown and Spectre with PureOS

  • Purism’s PureOS, a Free Software Foundation endorsed distribution, is releasing a patch to stop the Meltdown attack, with thanks to the quick and effective actions of the upstream Linux kernel development team.
  • Like the patch for Meltdown, PureOS will continue to release patches against any Spectre exploits as they are found and fixed, which highlights the importance of keeping up-to-date on software updates.

Countermeasures in Purism Librem hardware

Purism continues to advance security in hardware through a combination of techniques, including the inclusion of TPM in Librem laptops, where we are progressing towards a turn-key TPM+Heads solution. This will allow us to provide Librem users with a strong defensive stance making future exploits less scary.

While these countermeasures are not direct solutions for Meltdown and Spectre, they help work towards a larger scope of measurement and indication of “known good” states. In this case, this would mean only running a Linux kernel version which has good patches applied for Meltdown and Spectre exploits. Flagging or stopping any modifications that could be exploits adds another layer of security to protect users’ devices and sensitive information.

The Future of Secure Hardware

Intel, AMD, and ARM seem to suffer from the same issues that proprietary software suffers from: a lack of transparency that results in an unethical design which shifts us further away from an ethical society. RISC-V is something we are closely following in the hopes that it can create a future where processor hardware can be as ethical as Free Software—meaning that the user is in control of their own hardware and software, not the developer.

Purism, as a Social Purposes Corporation, will continue to advance along the best paths possible to offer high-end hardware that is as secure as possible, in alignment with our strict philosophy of ethical computing.

FSF adds PureOS to list of endorsed GNU/Linux distributions

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA — Thursday, December 21, 2017 — The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today announced the addition of PureOS to its list of recommended GNU/Linux distributions.

The FSF’s list showcases GNU/Linux operating system distributions whose developers have made a commitment to follow its Guidelines for Free System Distributions. Each one includes and endorses exclusively free “as in freedom” software.

After extensive evaluation and many iterations, the FSF concluded that PureOS, a modern and user-friendly Debian-derived distribution, meets these criteria.

“The FSF’s high standards for distributions help users know which ones will honor their desire to be fully in control of their computers and devices. These standards also help drive the development work needed to make the free world’s tools more practical and powerful than the proprietary dystopia exemplified by Windows, iOS, and Chrome. PureOS is living—and growing—proof that you can meet ethical standards while also achieving excellence in user experience,” said John Sullivan, FSF’s executive director.

“PureOS is a GNU operating system that embodies privacy, security, and convenience strictly with free software throughout. Working with the Free Software Foundation in this multi-year endorsement effort solidifies our longstanding belief that free software is the nucleus for all things ethical for users. Using PureOS ensures you are using an ethical operating system, committed to providing the best in privacy, security, and freedom,” said Todd Weaver, Founder & CEO of Purism.

FSF’s licensing and compliance manager, Donald Robertson, added,

“An operating system like PureOS is a giant collection of software, much of which in the course of use encourages installation of even more software like plugins and extensions. Issues are inevitable, but the team behind PureOS worked incredibly hard to fix everything we identified. They didn’t just fix the issues for their own distribution—they sent fixes upstream, and are developing new extension ‘store’ mechanisms that won’t recommend nonfree software to users. Our endorsement means we are confident not just in the current state of affairs, but also in the team’s commitment to quickly address any problems that do arise.”

PureOS is developed through a combination of volunteer contributions and work funded by the company Purism. The FSF’s announcement today is about the PureOS distribution, which can be installed by users on many kinds of computers and devices. It is not a certification of any particular hardware shipping with PureOS. Any such endorsements will be announced separately as part of the FSF’s Respects Your Freedom device certification program.

About the FSF

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software—particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants—and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF’s work can be made at donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA. More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at fsf.org/press.

About the GNU Operating System and Linux

Richard Stallman announced in September 1983 the plan to develop a free software Unix-like operating system called GNU. GNU is the only operating system developed specifically for the sake of users’ freedom. See gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html.

In 1992, the essential components of GNU were complete, except for one, the kernel. When in 1992 the kernel Linux was re-released under the GNU GPL, making it free software, the combination of GNU and Linux formed a complete free operating system, which made it possible for the first time to run a PC without nonfree software. This combination is the GNU/Linux system. For more explanation, see the GNU FAQ entry about Linux.

About Purism

Purism is a Social Purpose Corporation devoted to bringing security, privacy, software freedom, and digital independence to everyone’s personal computing experience. With operations based in San Francisco (California) and around the world, Purism manufactures premium-quality laptops, tablets and phones, creating beautiful and powerful devices meant to protect users’ digital lives without requiring a compromise on ease of use. Purism designs and assembles its hardware in the United States, carefully selecting internationally sourced components to be privacy-respecting and fully Free-Software-compliant. Security and privacy-centric features come built-in with every product Purism makes, making security and privacy the simpler, logical choice for individuals and businesses.

Media Contact

Marie Williams, Coderella / Purism
+1 415-689-4029
See also the Purism press room for additional tools and announcements.

Donald Robertson, III
Licensing & Compliance Manager, Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942

PureOS now features AppArmor activated by default

Purism, the Social Purpose Corporation focused on software freedom, privacy and security, proves it is dedicated to making its products secure straight off of the factory floor. Now, new PureOS installations (including those provided with Librem devices) have AppArmor activated by default. Let us first look at what AppArmor is, and then why we chose it specifically to strengthen PureOS. Read more

We love Ethical Design

In our wish to bring our contribution to the betterment of society, wherever we plan to work on refining our products or existing software, we will conform to the Ethical Design Manifesto. Our philosophy and social purpose have always been in perfect unison with the principles stated in the Ethical Design Manifesto, and having it as part of our internal design team’s policy is a good way to make sure that we always keep it in mind.

What is Ethical Design?

The goal of “ethical” design is to develop technology that is respectful of human beings whoever they are. It encourages the adoption of ethical business models and, all together, it is favoring a more ethical society.

According to the manifesto, ethical design aims to respect:

  • Human Rights: “Technology that respects human rights is decentralised, peer-to-peer, zero-knowledge, end-to-end encrypted, free and open source, interoperable, accessible, and sustainable. It respects and protects your civil liberties, reduces inequality, and benefits democracy.”
  • Human Effort: “Technology that respects human effort is functional, convenient, and reliable. It is thoughtful and accommodating; not arrogant or demanding. It understands that you might be distracted or differently-abled. It respects the limited time you have on this planet.”
  • Human Experience: “Technology that respects human experience is beautiful, magical, and delightful. It just works. It’s intuitive. It’s invisible. It recedes into the background of your life. It gives you joy. It empowers you with superpowers. It puts a smile on your face and makes your life better.”

Growing the seed of an ethical society

Working towards an “ethical society” may sound like fighting windmills. I personally see it as a global, constant yet disorganized wish that nonetheless tends to materialize from time to time through a common concerted effort. I don’t think that this effort is about changing some thing because of its unethical nature; it has nothing to do with a fight. Instead, it is about growing the seed of a more ethical thing that would exist next to it.

In line with this goal and our social purpose is the fact that we aim to work in an “upstream first” way as part of the Free Software community; in order to contribute to the common effort toward growing this ethical seed, any software development and improvement on top of an existing project is intended to be discussed and co-developed upstream first. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel and fork existing projects just because we don’t like the colors of the paint on the wall! This would only fraction the community’s resources and add confusion for users.

There are so many amazing free software projects that share our philosophy, and we hope to contribute while also ensuring these pieces of software respect human rights, human effort and human experience. These are my guiding principles for Purism’s UI and UX design projects.

GNOME Foundation Partners with Purism to Support Its Efforts to Build the Librem 5 Smartphone

Orinda, CA/San Francisco, September 19, 2017 – The GNOME Foundation has provided their endorsement and support of Purism’s efforts to build the Librem 5, which if successful will be the world’s first free and open smartphone with end-to-end encryption and enhanced user protections. The Librem 5 is a hardware platform the Foundation is interested in advancing as a GNOME/GTK phone device. The GNOME Foundation is committed to partnering with Purism to create hackfests, tools, emulators, and build awareness that surround moving GNOME/GTK onto the Librem 5 phone. Read more

GNOME & KDE: The Purism Librem 5 phone is building a shared platform, not walled gardens

You might have heard about our Librem 5 phone campaign that we recently launched and that has now crossed the $300,000 milestone. If you are reading this particular blog post, it is quite probably because you are a member of the great GNOME/KDE/freedesktop community, and if you were expecting the Librem 5 to be only “a GNOME phone” and exclusionary of others you will be happy to know that Purism is working with both KDE e.V. and the GNOME Foundation, and will continue to do so.

As a matter of fact, to the question “Will you be running GNOME, Plasma, or your own custom UI?”, our campaign page’s FAQ stated, from the beginning:

“We will be working with both GNOME/GTK and KDE/Plasma communities, and have partnered with the foundations behind them for the middleware layer. PureOS currently is GNOME-based and our great experience with working with GNOME as an upstream as well as GNOME’s OS and design-centric development model; however we will also test, support, and develop with KDE and the KDE community, and of course we will support Qt for application development. We will continue to test GNOME and Plasma, and should have a final direction within a month after funding success. Whatever is chosen, Purism will be working with both communities in an upstream-first fashion.”

As a point of clarification, Purism is supporting GNOME/GTK and will continue to do so; Purism is also supporting KDE/Plasma and will continue; forming partnerships with these great communities is a way to establish our long-term commitment to those goals.

Likewise, Purism will ship PureOS by default on the Librem 5, but will support and work with other GNU/Linux distributions wishing to take advantage of this device.

The Librem 5 is about users reclaiming their rights to freedom, privacy and security on their mobile communication devices (also known as pocket computer, smartphone, etc.) with a platform that they love and trust. It is not about creating walled gardens, erecting barriers and division in the free desktop community, and reigniting the Desktop Wars of the past:

We are planning to empower users to run both GNOME, KDE, or whatever they see fit, on their GNU+Linux phone—just like we can have both GNOME and KDE on the same desktop/laptop today. The fact that we are going to be making an integrated convenient product that may or may not be a vanilla or heavily modified version of one of these two desktops as the “official recommended turnkey product choice for customers” takes away nothing from the value of these environments or from the ability to run and tinker with whatever Free and Open-Source software you see fit on your device—a device that you can truly own.

What we are providing here is a reference platform that is not Android, for both GNOME and KDE communities—we just so happen to need to provide it as a turnkey usable product for less tech-savvy customers as well, while doing it 100% in the open, upstream-first, like a true Free Software project should be. Right now, the exact set of software technologies we will base our “integrated product” on—whether closely based on KDE, or GNOME—is something we are still evaluating and will decide along the way. There is no “us” vs “them” here. The two projects are in different states of advancement when it comes to mobile and touch technologies, and both communities have their specificities, expertise, and strengths. No matter which project we pick as the basis to invest most of our technical resources in, both projects will win:

  • Even if one project is not chosen as the reference product user interface, it gains a hardware reference platform that community members can standardize on, and thus improve itself however they see fit.
  • This is not the nineties. GNOME and KDE have had a healthy collaboration relationship for the better part of a decade now!
  • We light up a competitive fire again in the hearts of contributors in both communities—and beyond. We can now fight for a platform we truly own, from the backend and middleware to the graphical user interface. No more proprietary UIs, no more “fork everything in middleware!”
  • We will still provide support to developers and testers across the board, everybody is welcome.

From a higher perspective, we believe this campaign is vital to the relevance of Free Software and the viability of GNU+Linux (vs Android+Linux) beyond the desktop, and to protect ourselves from pervasive surveillance and data capitalism. We hope you will see it in this light as well.