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Security, Privacy Focused Librem 5 Linux Smartphone Successfully Crowdfunded (softpedia.com) 82

prisoninmate shares a report from Softpedia: Believe it or not, Purism's Librem 5 security and privacy-focused smartphone has been successfully crowdfunded a few hours ago when it reached and even passed its goal of $1.5 million, with 13 days left. Librem 5 wants to be an open source and truly free mobile phone designed with security and privacy in mind, powered by a GNU/Linux operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux and running only Open Source software apps on top of a popular desktop environment like KDE Plasma Mobile or GNOME Shell. Featuring a 5-inch screen, Librem 5 is compatible with 2G, 3G, 4G, GSM, UMTS, and LTE mobile networks. Under the hood, it uses an i.MX 6 or i.MX 8 processor with separate baseband modem to offer you the protection you need in today's communication challenges, where you're being monitored by lots of government agencies.

Security, Privacy Focused Librem 5 Linux Smartphone Successfully Crowdfunded

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This feels like a well-timed entry. You won't get Android-level market penetration, but the chans, among others, are starting to want smartphones to use as dev machines. This not only makes it possible, but assumes the user will do it. I hope to God they pull it off.

    • Maybe not Android-level market penetration (at first) but they do have a stretch-goal to support Android apps in an isolation layer.

  • No thanks, that's a seriously old SoC.
    i.MX 8, sure 2x A73 + 4x A53.
    i.MX 8M. which is their goal... average. 4x A53 @ 1.5GHz is a low to mid range phone.

    • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @02:19AM (#55347721) Homepage

      Their target is to make a phone that can run 100% on exclusively free/libre opensource code.

      That severly limits which SoC they can choose :
      - they need a chipset WITHOUT built-in modem, so the modem and its mandatory blob can be pushed out of the main system into an isolated box that only talks a standard protocol (so it doesn't have direct access to RAM. Unlike Qualcomm's chipset, where sometime the modem serves as the northbridge)
      - they need a chipset with opensource drivers supported by upstream linux kernel.

      Currently, only Freescale i.MX6 fits the bill (Vivante GPU supported by Etnaviv driver), and the Freescale i.MX 8 is their best hope of next chip to be similarly supported.

      Yes, it's an old SoC, with low to mid perf, but it's about the only one that fits the bill.

      (It might have also been possible with some of the Nvidia Tegra chipsets that are supported by nouveau, but they don't fit the power envelope.
      Intel's is fully opensourced officially, but doesn't produce anything currently targeting the tablet/smartphone form factor.
      Qualcomm is completely out of question : even if some are supported by Freedreno, the integrated modem running untrusted proprietary binary firmware, while having full access to RAM is problematic)

      • i.MX 6 is not low to mid performance, it's low to extra low.
        i.MX 8M is midrange
        i.MX 8 is decent.

        Most of their advertising is saying "i.MX 8", which is a really good 6 core A73/A53 chip. What they're actually targeting is the i.MX 8M, which is an average quad core A53. The 8 has a better GPU compared to the 8M as well.
        It's a little misleading.

        There is one key point though, as you said about Intel not targeting tablet/smartphone form factor, the i.MX8 range also do not target that form factor. They're designe

        • Infotainment unit's don't have batteries. Car dashboards don't have batteries.

          Technically they all run out of 12v lead batteries (internal combustion engine) or massive lithium battery stacks (electrical vehicle). But...

          There isn't a single use case for the i.MX8 series where the SoC is the biggest consumer of power in the system.

          ...yes indeed, the infotainement basically just feeds out of the 12v instrument bus.

          It's the job of other completely different devices to manage the power, and any way the consumption of the infotainment is dwarfed by that of the spark plugs and starter (ICE) or the electric motor (EV), and in both case the battery can be charged using the same electrical motor (respe

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @10:31PM (#55347117)

    Sure I believe it's been crowd-funded. What I'm skeptical of is whether it'll ship.

  • If we have learned one thing about all the failed phone attempts out there, it should be one lesson:

    1) You must have apps people want.

    There are other lessons, but that one is primary. Of course, there is a niche market that will exist for this Librem phone/platform. But if people can't play the games, or use the utilities they want, it will never get beyond niche. We are all dependent on quality maps, notification magic, multi-device syncing, advanced texting options, etc.

    An obvious goal will be the nec

    • by Anonymous Coward

      1) You must have apps people want.

      It runs Debian.

      $ apt-cache search . | wc -l
      52383

      That is a lot of "apps".

      Seriously, this phone isn't geared toward folks who care about an android/ios "app store" full of spyware and other malware. It will be a niche thing like the n900 and Maemo was. And, that is fine.

      I wish I could afford one.

      • >"It runs Debian. $ apt-cache search . | wc -l 52383
        >That is a lot of "apps"."

        Those are not "apps", they are shell scripts, X programs, text programs, services, fonts, etc, etc, etc. I doubt this phone is going to have X11, and text programs aren't helpful. Even with X, few if any native Linux GUI apps are designed for small touch-screens.

    • Re:apps, apps, apps (Score:4, Informative)

      by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @01:06AM (#55347591) Journal

      Fingers crossed with you. But to address the points you raised:

      1) You must have apps people want.

      They are addressing that. From another post I made on this story:

      - they are offering developer's kits for a donation of $299, to be delivered June 2018
      - their PureOS platform will ship initially with basic apps (phone, email, messaging, voice, camera, browsing) with others to follow
      - they will offer a secure collection of apps, as part of the Matrix ecosystem [matrix.org]
      - they have added a stretch-goal to support Android apps in an isolation layer

      An obvious goal will be the necessity to somehow support Android/Google apps. And an emulation/isolation layer to do so is certainly technologically possible.

      See above re "stretch" goals.

      It is even exciting to think about a device that might run quality non-Android Linux apps AND run Android apps in an isolated environment, denying it access to personal stuff, and/or feeding it fake data when wanted.

      Check. Again, see above. Per the link in TFS, the phone "[r]uns PureOS by default, can run most GNU+Linux distributions." The openness in the dev environment ensures that the kind of privacy and security you're talking about can be baked in.

      But there are a lot of legal and monopolistic minefields in trying to do so.

      Such as?

      And trying to keep it compatible over time would be a big, big hurdle; especially on a tight budget with little resources.

      Well, Gnu/Linux has fared rather well under similar circumstances.

      • er, no Linux has fared well with multi-billion dollar corporations contributing, the top kernel contributors are:

        1.Intel
        2. Red Hat
        3. Linaro
        4. Samsung
        5. SUSE
        6. IBM

        • All of them came to the Gnu/Linux party after the OS had established itself as a viable competitor in the market -- with the possible exception of Red Hat and SuSE, which started small and grew along side Gnu/Linux. But one can argue that they have benefited more from the Linux movement than the other way around (not to begrudge their success.)

          Bob Young, the founder of Red Hat, was once asked (around the time of their IPO) whether he wanted to make Red Hat as big as Microsoft. His reply: "No, I want to make

          • the point remains, Linux has enterprise level features (mostly thanks to IBM and HP) because of multi-billion dollar corporations and is now a product of multi-billion dollar corporations.

      • by b0bby ( 201198 )

        - they will offer a secure collection of apps, as part of the Matrix ecosystem [matrix.org]

        Hmm, the fact that the matrix webpage has this prominently displayed makes me wonder about their long term viability:

        Matrix Needs Your Support!
        UPDATE: The situation has changed and our need is more urgent even than before.
        Matrix needs you! We are facing a funding crisis.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Over time, I've realized that my critical smart phone apps are:

    1. Phone calls and messaging
    2. Maps and directions

    Is there any phone where I can get just #1 and #2, and as long a battery life as possible?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I believe that the Librem 5 at its current stage and with these proposed specifications doesn't stand a chance against iOS or Android. but still, I think that we need it as a third option.
    I have written a piece on why do we need an Open Source smartphone. Here's the link http://www.consumeit.io/librem-5/31005

  • For being a "security focused" phone, they didn't really mention anything about security on their site. Perhaps I'm wrong, but this sounded awfully lot like smoke and mirrors type of pitch.

    Am I actually supposed to just believe "It runs GNU/Linux kernel, it's secure" or do they actually plan to audit the kernel and components they're including for real? Because that kind of effort costs a helluva lot of money.

    I'm guessing they're not and they're just referring to the "many eyes, shallow bugs"-mantra here, b

    • Chipset (Score:5, Informative)

      by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @02:26AM (#55347733) Homepage

      Their main arguments are around the chipset :

      Most of the current smartphone use chipset (mainly Qualcomm) that have the modem integrated into the SoC.
      That modem (for radio licensing reason) must run a closed proprietary blob, while having full access to the SoC's RAM.
      Thus you're only an OTA live update away (not even installing an Android upgrade, just sending new bits to your modem to execute), before wire taping law get applied to you and your data start getting siphoned away.

      Purism want to make a phone with most of the sensitive part shut away in separate boxes that only speak a standard protocol. i.e.: modem in a separate chip, that only speaks a standard protocol (e.g.: showing up as an ethernet network) with no access RAM. No matter what rogue firmware it runs, such a modem cannot see your data, only sees an ethernet connection (and you're encrypting what goes through that one anyway, unless you stupidly trust the entire internet to be secure).

      Thus, for all you concerns, 100% of your system runs opensource auditable code. It's not guaranteed to be secure *yet*, but can eventually be reviewed and secured.

  • If this 'phone is successful then many apps will be developed that people will want to install. Today many such apps demand all sorts of permissions that are then abused by the app vendor. Refuse to give the permission most apps will not work.

    I want to regain control by: giving each app a different contacts database; a different call history; a different GPS location; ... Running each app in its own Linux kernel container should do the job.

  • There is an awful lot of talk on this thread about the necessity of some gargantuan "app store". I don't think this is all that big a deal. I'm guessing many if not most of the users of these phones are not going to be all that interested in playing angry birds or for that matter most of the other spy/crap ware floating around in the Apple and Google ecosystems. I don't see the lack of 5 million crappy apps to be that big a problem.
  • I've been adamantly against smartphones in general for a number of reasons but security (and the lack thereof) has always been at the top of that list; this potentially changes that. However, what will this device cost? I've seen nothing about that.
  • Question: Do you think Tor would work on a phone like this? Or would wireless companies block Tor?
    • It will work like any GNU/Linux computer but a really small one.
      And yes it will work with Tor as Tor works with GNU/Linux.


      Tor also works for Android in case you are currently using that.
      Check out Orbot and Orweb. (In F-droid "appstore")
  • A key problem with the Linux phone is figuring out timing.

    Personally, I have no doubts that not only there's demand for a device like that these days, but it'll only increase as more and more people gets their identity stolen, their private content thrawled through, and their personal security ravaged overtime.
    It's the direction we're walking to, and we're currently only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

    But a private Linux phone only has chances of keep going when there's enough money and interest into it to k

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