Why should you buy a Librem laptop?
Right now you can get the early bird special Librem 13 for $1,549. That’s a little higher than a run-of-the-mill 13″ laptop, but what do you get when you get a Librem?
Alex Gagniuc, a Google employee at the time, posted the following on coreboot.org’s blog: “The truth about Purism: Why Librem is not the same as libre.” (According to his Linked profile he worked at Google from Feb 2015 to July 2015.)
The Purism Philosophy is at the heart of this discussion, and it says:
Purism follows a strict belief in users’ rights to privacy, security, and freedom. We developed Purism so that users can have access to the highest quality computers without compromising these beliefs. The founder of Purism developed the Philosophical Contract, that we all abide by, which was adopted from the Free Software Foundation, and expanded to include hardware manufacturing as it relates to software.
- Purism will only use free/libre and open source software in the kernel, OS, and all software. Free/Libre and Open Source Software is software that respects your freedom. Nonfree, or proprietary, software and installable firmware will be strictly prohibited within Purism. We promise that a Purism system and all its components will be free according to the strictest of guidelines set forth by the Free Software Foundation’s Free Software Definition.
- Purism will design and manufacture hardware that respects users’ rights to privacy, security, and freedom.We promise that Purism systems will use hardware and software that respects users’ rights. Nonfree, or proprietary, chipsets that require installable firmware binaries into the kernel will be strictly prohibited within Purism.
Take a break to analyze this part: “We promise that a Purism system and all its components will be free according to the strictest of guidelines set forth by the Free Software Foundation’s Free Software Definition.”
The big question Alex appears to be asking is: Just exactly when will Purism achieve the FSF’s Free Software Defintion for the BIOS? (Shameless plug: Do you want to help out with our BIOS hacking?)
That’s a good question.
Right from the start, Purism has reached out to coreboot. On August 27, 2014, Todd Weaver wrote:
I am tasked with making sure it is possible (a), a rough idea of how long (b), and if we can hire somebody to develop it (c).
I appreciate any replies to any parts of the above, and I am hopeful somebody would be able to have the time needed to get paid to get coreboot onto this board.
Alex may have misunderstood the email. Alex’s blog again (emphasis added):
The first red flag was that we, the coreboot hackers, were never contacted by Purism about what it would take to get such a design up and running on the firmware side. We could have immediately told them that there are major pieces of the initialization path for their CPU which were missing source. That is, they were only available as blobs.
When Todd emailed the coreboot list, useful information immediately began flowing. The ME blob is mentioned within 24 hours. AMD vs Intel were compared. Thanks, coreboot community!
Alex’s blog (emphasis added):
The possibility of reverse engineering those blobs existed at the time. Although that takes a lot of effort, we’ve done it numerous times before. But they never asked.
Reverse engineering was very much a part of the discussion, for interoperability of course!
We are glad to be able to explain our philosophy, since it means so much to us. We understand the immense challenge it will be to achieve software freedom, and we’ve already made the innovative step of freeing the CPU from almost all signature checking. Hopefully more Free Software-respecting hardware manufacturers will follow suit.
Commenting on this boon to consumer freedom, Dr. Richard M. Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), states:
Getting rid of the signature checking is an important step. While it doesn’t give us free code for the firmware, it means that users will really have control of the firmware once we get free code for it.
Our philosophy compels us to work toward software freedom and user’s rights. The coreboot project also contributes to software freedom and user’s rights, and we salute them for it!
There is much more to do than just achieve the FSF’s Free Software Definition, but it is our first and primary goal. The FSF’s pioneering efforts to preserve software freedom are very much at the heart of Purism’s philosophy. Please do consider donating to the FSF.
But please go ahead and imagine a device with no binary blobs or closed-source components. We do.
Resuming the rest of our philosophy:
- Purism will prioritize privacy, security, and freedom for our users.
We will place respecting users’ rights to privacy, security, and freedom above all else.
- Purism will not discriminate against persons nor groups nor fields of endeavor.
We will allow for any person or any group of persons or any field of endeavor to use Purism systems for whatever purpose.
- Purism will source, and manufacture the highest quality hardware.
We will make every effort to source the best component parts that operate using free/libre and open source software, we will also make every effort to manufacture the best computers that every user can be proud of. We follow this negotiating and sourcing priority whenever possible: * freedom respecting * ethical working conditions * ecological impact * quality * price * availability * mean-time-between-failure * warranty * quantity breaks
Purism will donate a portion of proceeds to free software projects quarterly, according to Purism own Free Software for Freedom Margin Share Program.
Our philosophy says it best. We want freedom everywhere. We prioritize those things that will help the largest number of people we can. We will most likely find ways to improve our philosophy, but it’s a good start!
We will get to the FSF’s Free Software Definition. The plan was here back in November:
We hope that the FSF will grant the hardware exemption for the CPU microcode, a non-free binary blob that is cryptographically signed and locked down. The Librem 13 requires CPU microcode loaded by coreboot during startup.
Alex’s blog (emphasis added):
Librem is bringing nothing new to the market. Laptops with libre operating systems have existed for decades. The only real innovators in this area have been Google and GluGlug. Google ships partially free firmware, although insufficiently libre to be able to provide the “respect your privacy” guarantee. GluGlug can make this claim, and it ships laptops with fully libre firmware.
GluGlug laptops are great! We would like to extend an open invitation to the GluGlug developers to work with us in freeing the remaining blobs. We’ll bake you a delicious cake if you that’s your thing! (Thanks to Mozilla for the idea. No, not that cake.)
Our philosophy wouldn’t be the same if we excluded anyone.
Questions? Comments? I check my email from time to time. email@example.com