While most of you are probably excited about the possibilities of the recently announced “Librem 5” phone, today I am sharing a technical progress report about our existing laptops, particularly findings about getting coreboot to be “production-ready” on the Skylake-based Librem 13 and 15, where you will see one of the primary reasons we experienced a delay in shipping last month (and how we solved the issue).
TL;DR: Shortly we began shipping from inventory the coreboot port was considered done, but we found some weird SATA issues at the last minute, and those needed to be fixed before shipping those orders.
The bug was sometimes preventing booting any operating system, which is why it became a blocker for shipments.
I didn’t find the “perfect” fix yet, I simply worked around the problem; the workaround corrects the behavior without any major consequences for users, other than warnings showing up during boot with the Linux kernel, which allowed us to resume shipments.
Once I come up with the proper/perfect fix, an update will be made available for users to update their coreboot install post-facto. So, for now, do not worry if you see ATA errors during boot (or in dmesg) in your new Librem laptops shipped this summer: it is normal, harmless, and hopefully will be fixed soon.
On Thursday, we have revealed our plans to build the world’s first encrypted, free/libre and open platform smartphone that will empower users to protect their digital identity in an increasingly unsafe mobile world. This naturally comes after having announced the general availability and inventory of our Librem 13 and Librem 15 laptops in June this year. Our newest line of laptops are undergoing shipping after a short delay related to finishing our coreboot porting work (look forward to our technical update on this subject, to be published this Tuesday).
In preparation for the phone project, in addition to our regular work we have spent 18 months of R&D to test hardware specifications and engage with one of the largest phone fabricators, and have now reached the point where we are launching the crowdfunding campaign to gauge demand for the initial fabrication order and add the features most important to users.
Enabling the next generation of cable-cutters, we are making the Librem 5 the first ever Matrix-powered smartphone, natively using end-to-end encrypted decentralized communication in its dialer and messaging app. We will also offer regular baseband functionality separated off from the CPU, and work towards the goal of freeing all components.
As increasing concern among Android and iOS users grow around personal data they give up through WiFi connections, application installations and basic location services, we hope to address those concerns by manufacturing phones that will operate with free/libre and open source software within the kernel, the operating system, and all software applications. We have built our reputation within the GNU/Linux community on creating laptops designed to specifically meet user concern about digital privacy, security, and software freedom.
Starting at $599—less than the cost of many popular smartphones—and featuring a bona fide GNU/Linux operating system (PureOS) instead of Android or iOS, the Librem 5 is intended to give users unprecedented control and security with features unavailable on any other mainstream smartphone, including:
Make encrypted calls that mask your phone number
Encrypt texts and emails
Set up VPN services for enhanced web browsing protection
Use the phone on any 2G/3G/4G, GSM, UMTS, or LTE network
Edit or develop on the source code, which will be made publicly available, as a community-oriented FLOSS project (not “read-only open-source”)
Run PureOS or most modern GNU+Linux distributions—not yet another Android-based phone!
Enable hardware kill switches for the camera, microphone, WiFi/Bluetooth and baseband
With the new batch of Librem 13 and Librem 15 this summer, we created our first ever “inventory” to shift from a purely build to order (preorders) model to a build to stock model. In other words, for the first time in our existence, we now have more laptops in stock than the amount of orders, which means new orders can be fulfilled in 7-10 days instead of taking months. We made a formal announcement about this a few days ago, and would like to take the time today to thank you, early supporters, for having made it possible for us to reach this milestone! As we finish working through our backlog and finalizing our coreboot port to correct some last minute bugs (more on this later), some users have already started receiving their Librems:
These new models ship with coreboot preloaded and the newest version of PureOS—featuring Wayland and GNOME 3 by default. We are, in fact, the first independent hardware manufacturer of brand new laptops to do this.
We are also uniquely positioned to ship with Skylake processors immune to the hyperthreading issue recently disclosed by OCaml developers, independently of whether or not you run PureOS on your Librem, as we have bundled the fix and rebuilt our coreboot images for the current inventory being shipped out from this week forward (those who have already received their Librems last week will be able to apply a BIOS update to fix the issue on their machines). Think about this for a second: there are no other manufacturers of brand new laptops in the world who can provide such a timely BIOS update, while shipping, within 48 hours of a CPU issue being publicly disclosed by a third-party mailing list.
Get them while they’re hot
We are expecting to sell through this first inventory fairly quickly. For those who did not want to preorder and wanted to buy only when inventory becomes available, this is your chance—don’t miss it! Afterwards, we will manufacture increasingly frequent batches until we reach cruising speed and have a tightly controlled right-on-time rolling inventory to ship from.
For the past few weeks, the new Librem 13 and 15 have been undergoing stage 1 production with our case modifications and silkscreening. We had some back and forth between us and the printer to finally have clearly identified killswitches:
…and our certification marks and model identification on the underside:
At first the screenprinters had trouble with the font we’re using (as you can see above, if you have a keen eye), but we got that corrected as you can see further below. We were not so lucky with the keyboard’s “Purism logo” key as the aspect ratio was squashed a little bit by the backlit keyboard supplier and we found out too late, but at this stage the #1 priority is getting these machines delivered to you as fast as possible, so we’re hoping you don’t mind the Purism rectangle logo being in “ultra-wide” cinema format just this once 😉
As the laptops are now at stage 2 production, we have some teaser photos of the completed case work. These were shot a bit hurriedly, the lighting and compression is not flattering, but this at least provides a rough idea. We’ll take the time to shoot proper studio photos when the first new wave of shipments is mailed out in June.
Here is what the underside of the Librem 13 looks like:
Here are the silkscreened killswitch labels:
Note: the IPS display panels we source for the Librems are matte (as they should be!) The reason why the screen in the picture above seems reflective is that a glossy protective film is applied to protect the laptops during shipping.
For the curious among you, here is a bare view of the case’s interior, with only the multitouch trackpad and backlit keyboard (underneath the black electrical isolating layer) installed:
With this, we are confident that we will be able to begin shipping out finalized units to customers in roughly two weeks. Afterwards, we will have stock on hand allowing new orders to be fulfilled within a week. If you were reluctant to preorder and were were waiting for the presence of rapidly-shipping stock to purchase a Librem, this will be a deal changer for you.
Let’s recap recent progress with a summary of where we stand and where we’re going next on the “operations” front.
We have begun production of the two new revisions of Librem laptops. As we narrowed down on component choices and successfully raised additional funds, we have now made great steps towards our “zero outstanding orders” milestone and our goal of creating our first inventory to ship future orders from.
Last month, we ordered a batch of supplies to begin production of the new Librem 13 “v2” units. We have also tested and evaluated three prototype units, the latest of which we will use to extend our coreboot work.
Two weeks ago, we also ordered parts for the new Librem 15 “v3” units. So far we have evaluated one prototype unit for this new batch (which will also be used for our coreboot work), and will evaluate a second one soon.
We are currently working to leverage investment to make the Librem 11 batch order happen sooner and create an inventory directly; we will let you know of any progress on that front. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience. And please spread the word about the Librem 11 to those around you looking for a nice security-oriented and freedom-respecting convertible tablet with stylus support (especially interesting for visual artists who want to use the plethora of free creative tools such as MyPaint, Krita, Inkscape, GIMP, etc.)! The more people know about it, the sooner we should be able to put it into production.
Revised products specifications
For the upcoming Librem 13 v2 and the Librem 15 v3, we evaluated various prototypes, including different cases and keyboard models, alongside various possible CPU, GPU, RAM and storage combinations. With the newer motherboards, we aimed to keep the same flexibility in terms of storage: one M.2 slot and one standard SATA slot. As usual, the RAM and SSDs are all user-replaceable, not soldered.
The Librem 13 gets a whole slew of improvements for version 2:
A newer i5 processor, using the 14 nanometers lithography of the Skylake generation, bringing additional performance and power savings over previous generations
A backlit keyboard (the most often requested feature)
Newer Intel graphics as part of the Skylake chipset
One USB 3.0 “type C” connector
A much better trackpad (sourced from Elantech instead of BYD), which works better out of the box. It supports vertical and horizontal two-finger scrolling, allows changing workspaces with a simple four-finger swipe gesture, has smoother scrolling, and various multitouch gestures (dependent on applications support).
Those who have ordered the Librem 15 also get the free update to Skylake, newer graphics, DDR4, and improved trackpad. The Librem 15 already had a backlit keyboard and USB-C.
As you can see, when you pre-order a Purism device, you don’t need to worry about the specs becoming outdated by the time of production & delivery. For all our products, we strike a balance as per our manufacturing & sourcing approach, yet strive to stay close to the latest technology out there. We aim to please our supporters by bundling these updates at no additional cost whenever possible.
Upgrading from the Broadwell microarchitecture for this round, we chose to go with Skylake (rather than Kabylake) in order to service orders more quickly without bringing on delays in supplies or testing. To provide the best user experience, we prefer to test more thoroughly before moving on to a new chipset (for instance, we’ll be able to provide coreboot support more quickly with Skylake as part of our current roadmap). We expect to upgrade the chipsets/microachitecture again for the next production run (planned for the second half of 2017 once we complete this batch), which will involve a revised motherboard design, as we will also be adding new hardware features in prevision of full support for Heads.
The power of the Dark Side comes as a duo
We chose to keep the same overall chassis, although the location of Librem 15’s killswitches will be different this time (all on the hinge cover, like the Librem 13).
A notable aesthetic improvement for the Librem 15 v3 is that it will be anodized black just like the Librem 13. The temptation of the Dark Side was strong! Here you can see an anodized aluminium extrusion sample of the Librem 15 v3, next to an existing Librem 13 v1:
As we are beginning to have quite a bit of hardware revisions and models to keep track of, the laptops will now also feature some subtle branding underneath the backplate for model identification and to show the appropriate certification marks (we are FCC and CE certified). The publicly visible parts such as the screen bezel, palmrests, or the back of the screen lid, all remain unbranded.
Better power connectors
We are now sourcing power supplies with L-shaped coaxial connectors, so they keep a low profile when plugged into the side of your Librem:
This is particularly useful if you like to sit cross-legged with your laptop on a sofa, for example! (or for those who like to meditate with a computer on their lap)
We are well on our way to provide a great new set of laptops this summer. We should be receiving the final components around the end of May, at which point we will do the final assembly and shipping throughout June. We will then be able to celebrate having cleared all the existing Librem 13 and 15 orders (including the recent big spike in orders). After that point, we will be able to ship within days and weeks (not months), which will be a huge relief for everybody looking to buy a Librem “in a pinch”. We hope you’re as excited as we are about that!
As always, thank you for your support, and feel free to contact us with your thoughts and encouragements, or to spread the good news around you!
Edit: post updated to reflect the processor models available as of June 2017. For the time being, the Librem 13 will still feature an i5 processor instead of the i7, albeit with the newer Skylake chipset.
This year, we’re attending and sponsoring LibrePlanet, which is being held this week-end in Boston. Todd and I arrived one day early, as we wanted to seize the opportunity to spend a full day coworking to align our plans (regarding communications, product design and supply chain management), confirm product specifications, and test some new prototypes we have on hand. Todd recently (yesterday!) received sample parts and prototype units from suppliers, so we spent some time checking the aesthetic and functional aspect of the next revision of the Librem 13 (v2) and Librem 15 (v3), including the chips, killswitches, and removable components.
I also brought with me some older units I had gathered from others, including the Librem 11 prototype (which we bricked during testing) and the previous revision of the Librem 15.
Oh, “But what is that mysterious black plate in the center of the table”, you ask? Well, that’s one of the sample parts our suppliers sent us: the upper aluminium plate of the upcoming Librem 15 v3, which will be anodized black like our lovely Librem 13.
Here you can see Todd’s Librem 13 on the left (which looks brand new even after 2 years of intensive use) and the Librem 15 v3’s anodized aluminium extrusion sample on the right (resting on top of the old Librem 15 production model for comparison).
We chose a matte finish to avoid fingerprints from showing up (disclaimer: if you’re worried about someone lifting your invisible fingerprints from your laptop, you probably want to type with gloves like this guy–except you’ll be way cooler, because you’ll be using a Librem instead of some old plastic junk 😉
We’re still finalizing details when it comes to the final specs, but from the looks of it, those with outstanding orders may benefit from a free upgrade to a newer generation of CPU and graphic chipsets, in addition to the black aluminium chassis.
Today we have placed a batch order through our supply chain for the Librem 15 v3, so we hope to provide you with an update on specifications and estimates soon. In the meantime, if any of you are attending LibrePlanet, we look forward to meeting you this week-end!
True to the promise we have made last month, we are thrilled to announce that today, February 15th, 2017, we are placing orders throughout our supply chain for all components needed for the Librem 13 v2 to begin shipping-from-inventory in April-May onwards! This comes after months of efforts to:
upgrade parts of our supply chain, case, backlit keyboard, kill switches, and battery;
close investment to place a large-enough order that we can have inventory to ship directly from.
This is a critical step. Future Librem 13 orders, from May onwards, will only take days to fulfill. Incrementally throughout 2017, this will become the way we fulfill orders for all our existing products. Read more
Since our previous status update on manufacturing & shipping operations in August 2016, we had to tackle a lot of challenges in parallel: changing some of our suppliers, preparing new hardware, processing refunds, preparing PureOS 3, deploying new public infrastructure, seeking additional funds to enable us to ship “from stock” in the future, etc. The puzzle had so many moving parts that we really had to wait for dust to settle at the end of November to know where we stand and to provide you with this report.
In this blog post, we’ll be providing a global shipping status update, a quick update on R&D, and we’ll be sharing some great news for those interested in the Librem 13. Read more
Today we learned once more why utilizing pure free software where the source code is available is critical to protect users’ rights to privacy, security, freedom, and anonymity.
The New York Times points out that this latest security breach “shows how companies throughout the technology supply chain can compromise privacy, with or without the knowledge of manufacturers or customers.”
Let’s examine the problem and see what can be done about it. It’s not too late to stand up for your rights.
The Fundamental Problem
All phones and tablets on the market today suffer from the same problem: the code that operates those devices are a mystery to the users. In this specific case Google’s Android, but the same problem exists with Apple devices and Windows devices, where the operating system, software-updated firmware, and most software that runs on those devices do not have the source code available to verify that there are no backdoors sending your private data to unwanted third parties.
What this means is there is absolutely no way, for a user of Android, iOS, OSX, Windows, or any operating system that does not release all the source code, to guarantee he/she is not being illegally spied upon for nefarious reasons, corporate surveillance, government spying, and/or private data mining.
The tracking built into mobile devices is at every level imaginable. We need to create a better, digital rights respecting future for computing.
The Future of Computing
If we, as users, continue to morally and financially support Android, iOS, OSX, Windows or any other operating system that strip away the digital rights of users, we continue to advance a future where:
users are controlled for profit;
private data is mined for advertising revenue;
governments spy on people;
corporations capitalize on every user interaction;
security breaches involve staggering amounts of personal data, with enormous consequences for individuals—even worse than what we’ve been seeing in recent years.
Every time you purchase a device from hardware companies that pre-install Android, iOS, OSX, Windows, and other nonfree operating systems, you are contributing to the erosion of your rights. Buying an HTC device benefits HTC, Google, the carrier, and all software companies that preinstall their privacy-stripping binaries. Similarly, buying Apple benefits Apple, the carrier, and all software apps preinstalled or even later installed.
The Upcoming Purism Phone and services infrastructure
Subscribe to our newsletter (simply send an email to email@example.com to subscribe automatically) or follow us (see website footer for social links), then you will be notified when Purism launches the first freedom, security, and privacy respecting phone.
Over the past few months, Purism has made great strides to improve on its hardware and software offering, as well as making your user & customer experience smoother. Besides shipping a hundreds of Librem laptops to backers (we will give you a better overview of this in a separate blog post with interesting data visualizations):
We have been progressively expanding our team to scale our business, infrastructure, and improve our communication.
We have deployed our own integrated store to have better control over sales, connect with our factory’s operations, and reinvest cost savings into our research & development.
We started a petition to help us negotiate with Intel for a “ME-less” chip design, and met the goal early.
Over the past year, we have been offering the option to pre-order the Librem 15 with a 4K (UltraHD/HiDPI) display. Our screen suppliers wanted to move to 4K as their standard offering, and sold us that it would be ready in time for us.
While we have been shipping hundreds of regular (1920×1080) Librem 15″ and Librem 13″ models, those of you who chose to order the 4K variant of the Librem 15″ model had to wait for the 4K displays to become available through our supply chain. A couple of delays happened, and we made it a point to always keep you up to date on the situation (as seen here, here and here). This summer, we were reasonably confident we would still be able to ship these 4K models by October this year.
The bad news
Today’s blog post is painful to write but necessary, as it continues our tradition of accountability towards you. Even as we poured our heart and soul into trying to make 4K happen, external factors made plan A, plan B, and even plan C derail. LG (and its subsidiaries) has now let us down, just like Samsung did, putting us back onto “infinite backorder with no ETA”. The difference, this time, is that there are no more “easily” accessible 4K display panels suppliers left to turn to, bringing us back to square one when it comes to this particular component. Everything else in the supply chain, including our own operations, was aligned and going well, so it’s not for lack of work and efforts on our part. Our mistake was to readily believe Samsung and LG on the future availability of their screens.
At this point, we don’t think having you wait any more is acceptable, so we’re giving up on the 4K variant of the Librem 15 for now; we will be providing the regular Librem 15 instead, along with other models and their upcoming revisions. We are going back to “2K” so that we can confidently ship the goods without introducing any further delays undermining your trust in what we’re doing.
Rest assured this not a decision we are taking lightly. We made heavy investments trying to make this happen, and have spent sums that we cannot recoup: approximately $75,000 in assembly line retooling and deposits for 4K screens to Samsung and LG for orders that will, it seems, never materialize. We are trying to negotiate and recover some of the supplier deposits, but at this point we have to consider this money a net loss. On the other hand, we’ve made other investments early in our campaign that were worth it (for example: $50k to place an initial order for rarer Intel CPUs requested by some backers, $25k to retool the motherboard to 6 layers to support 32GB of RAM, progressively growing our team…).
We will be intensifying our product & service development pace, and we are still working on everything else part of our mission (including the Intel ME issue, achieving FSF endorsement of our software and working toward FSF RYF certification of our hardware in the long term). With your help, we can do this.
The updated operations roadmap
We may revisit the switch to 4K later, when we can get absolute certainty about it (no more preorders, we’ll only believe display manufacturers when they have the 4K panels in stock and ready to ship for us immediately), but for now we must regroup our forces to win this war.
Our plans (for the next 12-24 months) are now:
Begin shipping the 1920×1080 version of the Librem 15 in September and into October (instead of the 4K variant), as per the options provided to you further below.
Order enough materials for the Librem 11, 13 and 15, so we can ship from stock (without having long delays discouraging people from buying).
Plan/design our upcoming Purism phone (we will be posting a survey about this soon, stay tuned!).
In mid-2017, redesign the Librem 13 and Librem 15, including ways to meet the hardware selection criteria to qualify for “RYF” certification by the Free Software Foundation.
Release “Purist Services” (our upcoming secure and private telecommunications infrastructure for you to use).
Launch the Purism phone as an invite-only pre-order campaign.
Launch the new Librem 13 and Librem 15, ship from stock for all orders.
What are my options if I pre-ordered a Librem 15 “4K”?
Should you choose to get the Librem 15 with the 1920×1080 IPS screen as originally planned, which we do have in stock (a bit over 50 units that we can assemble and ship quickly; we will re-stock soon to meet the demand and ship the remainder during September-October), you have the following compensation options:
Maintaining the configuration and pricetag you paid, and getting 150% of the difference in credit for our future products (including our upcoming Purism phone). Therefore, the ~$300 price difference of the 4K screen would become $450 in credit that you can reinvest in any of our future products and services. Besides being a pretty interesting “early bird” opportunity for you from a pricing standpoint, this will help us get faster to the goal of providing the Purism phone and Purist Services infrastructure. You will also get an invitation to be among the first ones to try our Purist Services.
Upgrade your RAM and/or SSD on your Librem 15 for up to $450 in value.
Normal refund of the price difference.
You can, of course, decide to switch to a different product of ours, such as the Librem 11 or 13, but that means you will have to wait a few more weeks than if you were to choose the original Librem 15.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you would prefer us to do with your order.
We’ll need your help to continue this journey.
As always, your patronage is an investment that helps us deliver on our promise and make the case for privacy-respecting Free Software computers. We are very grateful to all of you who are supporting us (through purchases, word-of-mouth, feedback, etc.) and making it possible for us to fulfill our mission. If you have any comments, suggestions or encouragements you would like to share, feel free to send us your thoughts at email@example.com — or come have a chat with us on the “#purism” IRC channel on Freenode.