Is this Librem13 fully free this time?

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MrBuggles (not verified)
MrBuggles

I also wonder if it would be wise to go to The Free Software Foundation or RMS and ask them to make a public comment to possibly get the word out. This seems timely since so many articles by the tech "press" used the FSF Partnership with Crowd Supply as an oppertunity to plug the Purism Librem that had nothing to do with the announcement. There are a multitude of stories floating around just like this one: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/07/founder-of-gnu-bestows-blessing-upon-open-source-crowdfunding-site/

J.B. Nicholson-Owens
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Joined: 06/09/2014

name at domain wrote:
> I also wonder if it would be wise to go to The Free Software Foundation
> or RMS and ask them to make a public comment to possibly get the word
> out.

I read the article and I didn't see a link to the FSF's announcement of
this alleged "partnership" with Crowd Supply. This is troubling as one
would typically point to a document proving what the article claims is
true, particularly when dealing with a net savvy organization such as
the FSF.

I noticed that the title of the article describes whatever the FSF is
doing as a "blessing upon open hardware-focused crowdfunding site", and
says that Stallman is "known by many in the open source worlds" (how
many worlds is that, exactly?). Yet Stallman consistently replies to
people that ask him questions framed in terms of the open source
movement by replying he doesn't do anything "open" because that gives
people the idea he stands for or with the open source movement which he
does not[1]. Author Sean Gallagher goes on to conflate the difference
further by saying "open (or "Libre") hardware" yet "open" (a reference
to open source) and Libre (free as in freedom) are not the same thing,
in fact the open source movement was defined to never discuss software
freedom which is at the heart of the free software movement's message
and actions.

Gallagher claims Stallman "is not the sort of person you'd expect to
endorse a product" yet Stallman's own organization has (for a couple of
years now) run a product endorsement program known as "Respects Your
Freedom hardware certification" where the FSF lists criteria and the
list of endorsed products at https://fsf.org/ryf.

And on top of all this there's a typo in the caption underneath
Stallman's picture (not enough proofreading, I guess).

I quickly became suspicious that this article is highly inaccurate
because Gallagher apparently understands his subject far less than he
should. I wouldn't be surprised if this alleged endorsement was actually
something vaguely supportive Stallman said about Crowd Supply and
Gallagher is trying to reframe this as an "endorsement" and a
"partnership". Or maybe what Stallman really talked about was Crowd
Supply's using free Javascript code thereby complying with the FSF's
campaign to use only free Javascript. This is good for Crowd Supply and
its users but this really needs primary source backing in the form of a
link to an FSF webpage so we know what the FSF actually says about Crowd
Supply.

It's hardly surprising that the comments on this article are a joke,
much like what passes for "insightful" or "informative" on Slashdot,
another corporate repeater site.

[1] Read https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.html
and http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html for
more. Or skip to the Q&A part of any talk on
https://audio-video.gnu.org/ and listen for someone who apparently
didn't pay much attention to the talk ask something about Stallman being
a part of "open source". There's usually someone who does this despite
Stallman's patient in-depth explanation of how the older free software
movement differs from the younger open source movement.

onpon4
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Joined: 05/30/2012

I'm highly skeptical as well: looking at the CrowdSupply website, none of the JavaScript code is compliant with LibreJS's standards, and very little of it is libre, kind of like what you would typically expect from most websites. They even use Google Analytics.

Magic Banana

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Fishy indeed. More than a week after ArsTechnica announced the supposed "partnership" between Crowd Supply and the FSF, yet no trace of Crowd Supply on the FSF site: https://www.fsf.org/search?SearchableText=Crowd+Supply

SuperTramp83

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Joined: 10/31/2014

Well, I don't know if it is wise, but I'm really sick of this, so I just sent a quite long mail to RMS with the explanation, the links and the call for an article on fsf.
I feel better. :)

J.B. Nicholson-Owens
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Joined: 06/09/2014

name at domain wrote:
> I also wonder if it would be wise to go to The Free Software
> Foundation or RMS and ask them to make a public comment to possibly
> get the word out. This seems timely since so many articles by the
> tech "press" used the FSF Partnership with Crowd Supply [...]
> http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/07/founder-of-gnu-bestows-blessing-upon-open-source-crowdfunding-site/

Regarding this Condé Nast article, it's been almost 2 weeks since this
article was published on 23-07-2015. In that time:

- The Condé Nast article has not been revised to include links to the
FSF's website backing the claims in the article.

- The Condé Nast article links to the GNU Project's definition of free
software, an article which contains no language describing any
"partnership", "endorsing", or "preference" for Crowd Supply (or "Crowd
Suppy") as Condé Nast puts it.

- Crowd Supply is mentioning this alleged arrangement between the FSF
and Crowd Supply --
https://www.crowdsupply.com/free-software-foundation-endorses-crowd-supply-for-respecting-users-software-freedom
-- but I can see how such an endorsement would benefit Crowd Supply.

- I find no such article on fsf.org or gnu.org describing any such
relationship.

- Joshua Lifton speaks for Crowd Supply, which he co-founded. Lifton is
not authorized nor trying to speak on behalf of the FSF.

Here's what I asked the FSF by emailing name at domain and attaching the
analytics.js file I got from Google:

======================================================
Hi,

I read
http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/07/founder-of-gnu-bestows-blessing-upon-open-source-crowdfunding-site/
which makes a number of mistakes in pairing Richard Stallman with the
open source movement, making it look like the open source movement cares
about software freedom, and giving the impression that the FSF is
entering into some relationship with Crowd Supply (a "partnership",
"endorsing", or expressing a "preference" for Crowd Supply).

I also see
https://www.crowdsupply.com/free-software-foundation-endorses-crowd-supply-for-respecting-users-software-freedom
but neither article links to anything posted on the FSF's site that
would confirm the relationship Condé Nast's Sean Gallagher wrote about
almost 2 weeks ago.

Knowing how often people get the FSF's statements wrong, misunderstand
software freedom, and conflate the free software and open source
movements, I'm not going to believe the FSF is entering into any
relationship with Crowd Supply or endorsing Crowdsupply.com's Javascript
use until I see confirmation of this announced by the FSF.

When I fetch the markup for https://www.crowdsupply.com/ I see that
browsers will try to get https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js
which is a minified version of JS code which contains no license
description in the file, appears to have a dependency on Adobe Shockwave
(a proprietary program), or Adobe Flash. You'll forgive me for
misreading what the minified code says, I'm not skilled in working with
minified code. I've attached the file I got from Google so you can see
what I saw. I didn't run the Javascript code I got from Google and I'm
not entirely clear on what it does. What I was sent by Google certainly
doesn't seem to me to comply with the campaign to get websites to stop
serving nonfree Javascript, and I'd hardly call Google's Javascript too
trivial to consider. So you can understand why I'm confused about any
alleged FSF endorsement of Crowdsupply.com. I'm assuming that linking to
nonfree Javascript is not acceptable by the campaign, even though
Crowdsupply.com isn't serving the Google analytics.js code.

Since I've seen no word from the FSF on this, I'd like to know what does
the FSF say about this situation?

Thanks for clearing this up.
======================================================

Thanks for the discussion on this situation to date. Naturally, if
anyone can shed any more light on this situation I'd appreciate learning
more.

Legimet
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Joined: 12/10/2013

It's called Google Analytics, and yes it's proprietary software. The FSF recommends using the free replacement Piwik (and use it on their own website).
https://piwik.org/
https://www.fsf.org/blogs/licensing/interview-with-matthieu-aubry-of-piwik

onpon4
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Joined: 05/30/2012

RMS told me in an email that they are "trying to straighten things out with them [CrowdSupply]", and that they like CrowdSupply because they think it's possible to donate to projects without proprietary JavaScript.

It would seem that CrowdSupply made its announcement a little bit too early, but the partnership is legitimate.

marioxcc
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Joined: 08/13/2014

(removed by author)

todd-at-purism
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Chris, from ThinkPenguin, who thinks we're a competitor to his revenue. He/They have motive to spread slanderous comments about me personally, and Purism.

We have clearly stated since we started, that we are free from the bootloader, through the kernel, the operating system, and all software. We have known the difficulty with freeing the Intel FSP binary, even before forming Purism, I reached out to coreboot to hire developers to help in freeing this binary blob. We recently posted our Road to FSF RYF Endorsement and Beyond page: https://puri.sm/road-to-fsf-ryf-endorsement-and-beyond/ to help make it easy to follow our progress.

We ARE NOT THERE YET. But are very interested in anybody willing to help advance this area forward.

Rather than bashing those trying to solve the "impossible" maybe we can work together to free it!

I do not check this forum very regularly, but you can ask me anything, I will respond: name at domain

And here are some quotes regarding the "impossible" claim...

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

“To believe a thing impossible is to make it so.” – French Proverb

“It is either easy or impossible.” – Salvador Dali

“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.” – Robert A. Heinlein

“Impossible only means that you haven’t found the solution yet.” – Anonymous

“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.” – Vince Lombardi

“Every noble work is at first impossible.” – Thomas Carlyle

JadedCtrl
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Joined: 08/11/2014

You haven't responded to any of Chris' criticisms-- rather, you went straight with a ergo decedo argument, and with sappy quotes intended to evoke positive emotion in readers...

MrBuggles (not verified)
MrBuggles

Here is the problem Chris:

When pressed you admit Purism "is not there yet" and have done so several times. This is always buried in a comment thread or the Purism blog. Where it counts, what funders see, and what customers see is that you already have the product you are actually working toward. People are spending near 2k and many think they have what you and I both know you don't. Purism's entire messaging is a big oversell, to the point that it looks like Purism is deliberately misleading those who invest. All other issues aside, which are legion, this is the point that leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. The fine print is not clear and it seems deliberately so.

Some side points as a Trisquel Community member:

1. Chris has much more respect here than you do, he raises legitimate concerns, which you ignore in all of your replies. I am far more likely to believe you are not being upfront than I am to believe that Chris is slandering you. Especially when the few bits you do offer seem like hedging and back peddling.

2. Its is not just Chris, indeed the growing number of media calling you out for your shadowy marketing sudo-Steve Jobs issues is growing and is much bigger than one voice. The fact that you focus solely on Chris speaks volumes about how seriously you take all of this.

3. Again we don't know you. The first thing you do in this community when responding to legitimate concerns is to call someone who has this communities respect and has been a huge asset a liar, and a slander. Thats not getting you far with anyone. I find all of your behavior on this forum very unprofessional and that further hurts the brand you are trying to build.

BCG
BCG
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Joined: 07/07/2015

Not only the points about the community that you made, but also:

4) Trisquel is the upstream for PureOS, so maybe making drive-by comments in the community forum and saying you probably won't bother to check the responses is not a great way to treat the community around your distribution's upstream.

5) From a pure marketing standpoint, most of the people interested in a Purism laptop are at the very least intellectually aligned with members of this forum, are probably lurkers, and quite possibly members. You might actually benefit from visiting the forum more often to build up some gravitas. Chris is here almost everyday, often answering peoples' questions about hardware even though on a certain level I'm sure it conflicts with his business interests to do so. That sir, is how you gain trust in a community like this.

SuperTramp83

I am a translator!

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Joined: 10/31/2014

How sweet of you to leave quotes here for us. I see you are quite good at it. You are awful with freeing computers and actually doing something to advance the freedom of the community. But you are very good at promising impossible nonsense and deliberately frauding people, and, last but not least, you are good with quotes..

davidnotcoulthard
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He/They have motive to spread slanderous comments about me personally, and Purism.

Here's where we are:
1. He had the same motives to do that to Gluglug (and he didn't do that).
2. He has gained respect here not only as a business guy of some semi-free PCs, but also as a helpful member to other members.
3. You haven't done #2 (which is not a wrong thing, but....)
4. His accusations towards you will be more believed here, especially if you don't come up with a dismantling of his accusations (which you haven't). Actually your post I'm replying to is definitely a non-denial denial (never mind a dismantling of his accusations).
5. Some of the things you have tried that Chris called impossible have been abandoned - "at this rate the whole thing will eventually get abandoned", a sensible brain would conclude. This is not about whether something is possible/impossible - it's about whether you're actually trying, whether the project is too good to be true, considering how it really looks like something too good to be true, regarding which......

"If it seems too good to be true, it usually is"

(Basically what I'm trying to say is that the burden is really on you to prove what you're saying, and you don't make Chris share it simply by stating the fact that he'd lose a larger-than-wee bit of revenue)

onpon4
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Joined: 05/30/2012

As others have said, using FUD on one of the most respected members of our community, and probably one of the biggest financial contributors to the Trisquel project, just isn't going to work here.

> We have known the difficulty with freeing the Intel FSP binary

And yet you completely ignore both the ME, and microcode updates:

https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Purism-Librem-Still-Blobbed

http://libreboot.org/faq/#librem

ME is required now, and the microcode updates are basically necessary for most CPUs to run well. Both of these need to be signed. By Intel's secret key. You don't have Intel's secret key, I don't have Intel's secret key, and no one is going to get Intel's secret key unless they have the financial ability to buy up all of Intel, which I'm going to assume you don't. That's not even accounting for the third parties that hold copyright to parts of the ME. You're not going to just randomly guess Intel's secret key, and I don't think using espionage to figure it out would go so well in the legal department.

There are only two possibilities here. Either you don't understand or refuse to accept that it is basically impossible to liberate the ME, not to mention the microcode updates, or you are deliberately misleading your audience by obscuring the fact that it needs to be done for the computer to truly respect your freedom. Which is it, Todd?

fchmmr
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To find out why everything Todd said was nonsense in the above post, please read:
http://libreboot.org/faq/#librem

http://libreboot.org/faq/#intelme
http://libreboot.org/faq/#microcode
http://libreboot.org/faq/#fsp
http://libreboot.org/faq/#intelbastards

I'm the lead developer of libreboot, and I'm telling you: the librem will never be supported in libreboot, because of the problems explained (in detail) in the above links.

I say this, based on experience, and knowledge, working on libreboot over the past 2 years, and from having spoken to just about every coreboot developer who is interested in these issues. The Management Engine will never be freed, precisely because it's tivoized (signature checking at boot time) and precisely because Intel will not cooperate.

The Intel Management Engine is also a serious backdoor, a fundamental affront to your privacy which flies in the face of any claims Todd can make that the librem is somehow "privacy respecting". It certainly isn't libre.

davidnotcoulthard
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I don't think that's really the problem though, considering that Todd's qutes regarding impossible-ness are, at the end of the day, correct. I think he's correct about that part.

It's just that, when the least vague description of his attempts at freeing the laptops are quotes of things not really to do with laptops, one wonders if he's actually trying.

If he isn't, he's a fraud. That's the real problem.

fchmmr
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It's actually irrelevant whether he's trying, because even if he tried, he'd fail. The microcode updates are required, as is the Intel Management Engine (read: giant backdoor), and neither of them can be replaced because they are cryptographically signed by Intel. Both of these deficiencies automatically disqualify the librem from being supported in libreboot, and also disqualify it from ever being FSF endorsed.

Even without those issue, there is still the FSP and Video BIOS, both of which will require extreme effort. It will probably take years, and lots of money, and even then, you'd still have the Management Engine and microcode updates, so it still would not be supported in libreboot. I somehow doubt that Todd's company is even able to pull this off, financially, and given that his venture seems to be for-profit, I doubt that they would want to (freeing that generation of Intel hardware would leave them with negative profits).

Not going to happen I'm afraid. If you want something that is libre, look at the libreboot project for starters. There are also several u-boot candidates out there (Novena, for instance).

http://libreboot.org/

marioxcc
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>We ARE NOT THERE YET. But are very interested in anybody willing to help advance this area forward.

>Rather than bashing those trying to solve the "impossible" maybe we can work together to free it!

If you promised a fully free system, the responsibility to deliver it lies entirely in you, not the critics, and if you are unable to do so, then it is your fault and the critics were right. Why should anyone else be responsible to help you deliver what you promised and already charged for?.

Also, despite the fascination of society with quotes, the fact that an assertion from a known figure is formatted as a “quote” doesn't makes it any more valid, and often it makes it less valid, because it is taken out of context. Clearly you are trying to appeal to emotions so that we will ignore reason (thus committing a fallacy), but it is not going to work.

>Chris, from ThinkPenguin, who thinks we're a competitor to his revenue. He/They have motive to spread slanderous comments about me personally, and Purism.

That is a fallacy known as attacking the man (“argumentum ad hominem”). If Chris has spread any actual slanderous comment (a falsehood), then please quote him and show us how he is wrong with actual evidence. For example, you can show us your progress in liberating the already mentioned proprietary technologies that you already commited to free. Maybe you already freed some of those things. That would prove that in fact, it can be done.

onpon4
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More specifically, he'd have to prove that it's possible to either crack Intel's key (i.e. show that another, similar key has been cracked by something other than sheer luck or espionage), or somehow get modern Intel CPUs to work without ME.

davidnotcoulthard
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"The fact that an assertion from a known figure is formatted as a “quote” doesn't makes it any more valid, and often it makes it less valid, because it is taken out of context."

Exactly the case here.

megurineturilli
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Until a whistleblower leaks the key, it won't be possible to liberate the ME. Once the key is leaked one could write a free replacement firmware using gcc. Therefore I won't buy the hyped hardware, which I think is as bad as Raspberry Pi. The Rasperry Pi firmware uses a proprietery instruction set which is not supported by GCC. The only thing that you can do with the Rasperry Pi without using any nonfree software is getting a blinking LED. Writing free microcode is impossible without knowing the microarchitecture of the CPU.

Currently the best way to have full freedom is the Gluglug which has the ME disabled. It has some minor flaws that you cannot use KVM, but there is XEN which allows virtualisation of free operating systems. It should even be possible to run the GNU Hurd[1] side by side with GNU/Linux. Hardware virtualization is designed to virtualize proprietery operating systems, I think there is no need for hardware virtualization in the free world.

On the long term one should migrate to architectures which do not have an A20 gate[2] such as ARM, MIPS or POWERPC. Single board computers such as the Beagle Bone do not need any non-free boot firmware, those might be acceptable if one does not need 3d graphics.

[1] http://libreboot.org/faq/#gnuhurd
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A20_line

Calinou
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> Hardware virtualization is designed to virtualize proprietery operating systems, I think there is no need for hardware virtualization in the free world.

I strongly disagree with this. Hardware virtualization is a huge performance improvement and power saver over software - it also lets you virtualize 64-bit operating systems. This is like saying people don't need 3D graphics in the free world...

Chris

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https://archive.is/KwxhV

Am I reading this wrong, or did the FSF endorse PureOS?

Note >>>>

http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.en.html

purism-road-to-fsf-ryf-graphic-20150726-700x540px.png
JadedCtrl
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To quote the text under that diagram:
""NOTE: PureOS is working to get FSF Distribution Endorsement, in the above diagram we are referring to Trisquel, which PureOS adds packages to.""

Chris

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Was the graph created for another page? I didn't realize that page was in defence of the FSF endorsement claim. I was laughing too hard at what I thought was another fumble. Someone else pointed me to the graph by itself initially. It looks like it might have been used elsewhere though (probably without the comment). Maybe not. It just seems so oddly confusing. A graph should help clarify in my mind, not confuse.

Chris

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Looks like I was right the first time around, though a bit too quick to post. Answering my own question the graph was used on https://puri.sm/road-to-fsf-ryf-endorsement-and-beyond/ first and Todd then revised the page to include:

" *NOTE: PureOS is working to get FSF Distribution Endorsement, in the above diagram we are referring to Trisquel, which PureOS adds packages to."

While not archived by archive.org I was able to pull up the original page from Google's cache:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Ahttps%3A%2F%2Fpuri.sm%2Froad-to-fsf-ryf-endorsement-and-beyond%2F&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

The page has also been preserved here just in case Google decides to update its cache: https://archive.is/HBDm3

The number of utterly confusing statements and outright lies just keep adding up.

What is actually the most annoying thing about all this is Todds making it out like he's actually done something. Re-mastering Trisquel and adding a few packages/re-branding is not doing something. Somebody else free'd the kernel, somebody else free'd the repository, somebody else (wait, when was the bootloader ever non-free?) free'd the bootloader. Nothing else has even been done according to the graph. Unless I'm reading it wrong again(?). Give me a few hours and I can re-brand Trisquel too. This is no big feat. Spend some time free'ing a distribution with some proprietary pieces, etc in it and we'll talk. Then I'll consider there to have been a contribution made to the cause of freedom. The extent of the work Todd's making it look like he's doing though is still significantly more. From what I can see he hasn't done anything what-so-ever.

Here I am thinking "Would a laptop with a chip needing non-free software, but not being necessary, nor including that non-free software qualify for RYF status- or be deserving of it". I think the answer I've come to conclude is yes (if its not possible to remove it anyway, ie such as with an SoC, which is different than say including an NVIDIA chip in a x86 laptop where its wholly unnecessary and only serves to encourage users to install non-free software). But even that I'm not liking. Heck- I don't like that we're promoting one of the worst companies in the community by building off Lenovo's laptops (in that the company, well, IBM at the time, led DRM on laptops), but it's small thing relatively speaking. It's an approach I've avoided, but I could be wrong, I'll admit that. My thinking has been I'd rather hold out a bit longer which we've done and do it right (be it I'm right or wrong for taking this approach, that's up to you to judge). There will be a better option. It's just a matter of time.

fchmmr
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Chris, the FSF rejected Purism's proposal to have PureOS certified under the Free System Distribution Guidelines. Ask Joshua Gay and he'll tell you.

(yes, I'm leaking this. It deserves to be put here)

Suffice it to say, PureOS contains software that isn't suitable for endorsement by the FSF as part of a distribution, and the FSF aren't willing to endorse what is essentially a re-branded Trisquel with one or two packages added.

onpon4
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You know what's really funny about this diagram? It's got a whole lot of filler: "Recommend Free Software", "Repository Freed", "Kernel Freed", Bootloader Freed", and "FSF Distribution Endorsement". Doubly humorous is that one of these filler statements which is claimed to be finished is factually incorrect.

This is what their little progress bar SHOULD look like:

https://goblinrefuge.com/mediagoblin/u/onpon4/m/what-purism-s-road-to-fsf-ryf-endorsement-chart-should-look-like/

SuperTramp83

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I think no "progress bar" should have been used at all. A "progress bar" implies there is a progress. No progress at all. We can NOT call an unethical business who makes the community look bad and takes away money that could have been employed to advance some truly decent project, like say Libreboot, a progress.
Therefore I think something like this would have been way more appropriate. Here it is - simple, clear and honest.

Untitled.png
onpon4
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Well, I think you can see in my version that Purism hasn't made any progress. ;) A completely libre OS is absolutely progress, it was just already done (more than 20 years ago).

davidnotcoulthard
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https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Purism-Librem-Still-Blobbed

"Even with the Librem 13 they're working on right now, they still haven't been able to make a firm commitment for a fully-free BIOS. I was sent an interesting email this weekend exposing more details of Librem. The text was interesting in its own right so it's been as the rest of this article. The original author wishes to remain anonymous.

###

Todd Weaver (who has employees at Purism now since February, including Jacob Appelbaum) is not only misleading/scamming his crowdfunding backers and the public with "Librem" laptops that aren't, but also harming the free software community at large with his actions.

Todd promotes his Librem 15 as "the first high-end laptop in the world that ships" with a fully free operating system and touts this as a "HUGE win" – obviously this is false, as ThinkPenguin and Los Alamos Computers have been installing Trisquel on high-end laptops for years before Purism existed.

In his November blog posts he claimed with strange diagrams that the BIOS was already two-thirds freed. On the Crowd Supply page he makes conflicting and confusing statements, first saying that "the BIOS does use coreboot" and then saying that "the BIOS is not yet free" but "the Librem 15 will be the first laptop ever manufactured to ship with a modern Intel CPU fused to run unsigned BIOS code". This is followed by a quote from Richard Stallman which suggests that Richard Stallman, speaking on behalf of the FSF, endorse Purism's work.

This inaccurate statement about the Librem 15 is a confusing reference to Intel Boot Guard as well a suggestion that Purism has led "pioneering efforts" and discovered something revolutionary. In reality, Boot Guard is only a "feature" on Haswell (fourth-generation Intel Core) and later CPUs, so in the past all laptops with a "modern Intel CPU" could "run unsigned BIOS code". And frankly, anyone who's built a PC and is vaguely familiar with Boot Guard could figure out how to avoid it – any CPU that is sold separately from the mainboard and BIOS can't be fused by the mainboard vendor to run only their BIOS.

So, considering Todd's statements about the BIOS being two-thirds freed and using coreboot and about the CPU being "fused to run unsigned BIOS code", one might easily be led to believe that Purism is shipping their laptops with fused CPUs and coreboot. However, an owner of a Librem 15 rev1 reported that the unit came with "American Megatrends version 2.15.1236".

This seems to be confirmed on Todd's "BIOS Freedom Status" post, which now since December lists "Release a coreboot/libreboot for the Librem 15" after "Reverse engineer, or release the FSP source" (which sometime in March or so became "Free the FSP/ME"). Todd has said that he's in contact with Sage Electronic Engineering (a company that develops coreboot-based board support packages with non-free firmware for Intel and AMD systems) about porting coreboot to his laptops, which may very well be true.

But apparently he plans to get coreboot running on his laptops after he frees the Intel Firmware Support Package (FSP, a binary firmware package that performs initialization of the memory controller and other hardware, which Intel distributes to boot firmware developers) and Management Engine (ME, an embedded coprocessor with DMA and firmware on which applications like the Trusted Platform Module, Boot Guard, Active Management Technology, and audio/video DRM run). In other words, the Librem laptops might never ship with coreboot.

Regarding the FSP, Todd says that Purism is "working with Intel to allow [Purism] to scrub, release, and maintain the source for the FSP, but [Purism hasn't] finalized that yet." He also says that someone from Intel at IDF14 "suggested that [Intel] might be willing to share some of the needed information" to somehow free the FSP per his BIOS Freedom Status blog post.

Since Google and others have tried to get Intel to publish code or documentation for hardware intialization, and all Google managed to get out of Intel was a Memory Reference Code (MRC) blob for Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge, I suspect that his only contact with Intel was with a salesperson at IDF14 who told him everything he wanted to hear about all of the documentation Intel could provide to Purism under Intel's Corporate NDAs. I'd like to hear more from Todd about who his Intel contact is and what they've said they might share.

If Intel refuses to free the FSP, there is another option: reverse engineer its contents, study documentation (under Corporate NDAs), and develop replacement code. But that will take years of work by people with great knowledge of DDR3 RAM controller initialization and training, among other things.

To his credit, Todd at least seems to have some clue of what's in the FSP. It sounds like he researched Intel and AMD systems and focused on these hardware initialization blobs. Of course, he could have avoided the whole FSP issue (as well as Boot Guard) by using Sandy Bridge (second-generation Intel Core) or Ivy Bridge (third-generation Intel Core) hardware, for which native RAM initialization code was developed by a skilled coreboot hacker who studied the MRC blob.

This would (slightly) increase his odds of successfully building a free system. He knows this and admits as much in the last paragraph of the "Intel Management Engine (ME)" section of his "BIOS Freedom Status" post. But after that statement, he says that the ME is still an issue. The paragraph effectively says, "making a free system is already a hard problem, so we might as well make it harder."

His plan to solve the ME problem shows less thought. Back in November, he didn't even mention the ME, suggesting that either he didn't know about it at all – perhaps thinking, as is common, that an Intel PCH (CPU and northbridge) without the AMT application is completely free of such non-free firmware – or he was trying to ignore the issue. In December he updated his post to acknowledge the ME, proceed to discuss the FSP in what might be an attempt to confuse the matters, then reveal his half-baked plan.

He said that ideally Purism would "load [their] own open source ARC firmware that can initialize the clocks on the board. [Then another confusing/distracting remark about the FSP.]" He then acknowledged that this is, at the very least, "a very very difficult problem" because the ME firmware is signed. So instead his plan is to "get that freed by Intel or more likely their subcontractor BIOS development company [Purism has its] NDA with."

Not only is Intel most likely unwilling to ever free the ME firmware code, but they're also almost definitely unable to do so, because the ME firmware is based on a ThreadX RTOS, a Java virtual machine, a Web server, and probably lots of other proprietary third-party code that Intel can't just release. It also runs "security" applications like for audio and video decryption (DRM). And even if they did release it, the boot loader stored on ARC core's ROM still won't load ME firmware that isn't signed by Intel. So then you have the increasingly common "TiVo" issue of firmware you can modify and build but not install and run.

On systems with Intel 4 Series chipsets running Intel ME firmware version 4.0, like the Lenovo ThinkPad X200, it was possible to remove the ME firmware from the boot flash memory space and modify the ICH9 (southbridge) flash descriptor to disable the ME core. On newer Intel systems this doesn't seem possible, because the ME firmware is more integral to the system. According to coreboot developers, newer ME firmware performs some hardware initialization and power management, and the ME boot loader will shut down the system after 30 minutes if ME firmware with a valid signature isn't loaded.

Sometime around March, Todd removed from his post the sentence describing his plan to get the ME freed by Intel or American Megatrends, which is also rather suspicious. As far as I can tell, Todd's plan for the ME is doomed to fail for multiple reasons, and it looks like he might now realize that. Notably, the Crowd Supply campaign pages don't mention the ME at all – neither making a false promise to free it nor even acknowledging it as a problem.

More information about the ME is available in a book published by Apress, on Wikipedia, and on reverse engineering web-sites.

Another issue with modern Intel CPUs is that their increasingly large instruction sets are implemented in extremely complex microcode, and the factory-installed microcode revisions are always buggy. For this reason, Intel (and AMD) releases (non-free) microcode updates to be uploaded to the CPU by the boot firmware. Since November, Todd has noted that the factory-installed microcode on Librem laptops is unlikely to work.

He confirmed this four days ago in a post responding to Alex's criticism of Purism. He says near the end of the post, "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."

Additionally, Librem 15 prototypes included an "NVIDIA GT840M 3D controller", which didn't even work with Nouveau, as can be seen in the Linux ring buffer log that Todd posted (look for "nouveau": the driver says "unknown chipset, 0x118010a2"). Depending on whether this "GT840M" is a GeForce GTX 840M or a GeForce 840M, it might be supported by Nouveau by now. Either way, this is a new GM10x-family Maxwell-architecture GPU.

Nvidia GPUs have a "Falcon" processor which runs microcode for context switching. This microcode is uploaded to the GPU by the graphics driver in the host OS kernel. Nouveau developers have reverse engineered this non-free microcode and replaced it with free microcode for many Nvidia GPUs. However, the Falcon processor on new Maxwell GPUs will only run microcode signed by Nvidia. Nouveau developers remain waiting on Nvidia to release signed firmware images for Maxwell.

All of this suggests some combination of fraud and incompetence in Todd and Purism. And like I said, not only does this serve to trick people into giving their money and attention to a project that can't possibly deliver what it promises, but it also harms the efforts and credibility of the free software movement generally.

The FSF, ThinkPenguin, coreboot, libreboot, Replicant, Nouveau, Google's Chrome OS team, and others have been working for years to enable hardware to work with free software. We as a community have had some nice successes, and we've also hit plenty of walls with Intel, AMD, Atheros, Broadcom, ARM, Nvidia, and other uncooperative hardware vendors. We know that freeing software and firmware to make mostly or fully free systems is hard and that fully free modern Intel systems are basically impossible.

But Todd swoops in, raises at least half a million dollars, and convinces lots of people that free systems with modern Intel hardware are not only possible but forthcoming. I imagine real efforts to make free systems will be met with more criticism than ever (or skepticism among anyone who realizes that Purism can't fulfill their promises). We'll have older Intel systems, AMD boards, low-power ARM laptops, etc. But Todd will have people expecting "fully free" to be "new and shiny high-end Intel laptops". And anyone who honestly sells mostly free systems, like ThinkPenguin does, could eventually be seen by some people as not doing enough for free software, while Purism sells systems that are no more free but are thought to be completely "libre".

The Librem 13 campaign page even says that Purism plans to produce a Librem Tablet followed by a Librem Phone. I expect more self-defeating decisions in those projects, if they happen, especially considering mobile computers have many of the same problems that modern PCs have, and more (non-free and signed boot loader stacks, non-free drivers and firmware for radios, backdoored baseband processors, etc.)."

NYNEX
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Does anyone else see issues with this "...debugging..." setup[1]? It looks very flimsy from this point of view. In the future, I will have to try this new method of prying off the keycaps when I start on my next machine. Generally, when I'm debugging a new board, I remove it from the machine until I'm done. Sometimes, I'll drill a hole in the side or palmrest if I need to debug it externally after the fact. It looks like I have a lot to learn from Purism.

[1] https://archive.is/qb0v5

Chris

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9c4b8a004401a3197c7142f68cb9dddfe185c15d.jpeg 06667d16f370079eeb0260e87ece9f2653be1df0.jpeg
NYNEX
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I wonder if Todd knows that "Steam" is non-free (the bottom image features the Steam logo). The page also says : "With so many completely free software applications available, we know there is something for everyone...", but the steam client is non-free software. It also goes against what they say about respecting users' freedoms and privacy. While the steam client is non-free software, it also spies on the user and includes DRM.

https://archive.is/ZPsZVism

Legimet
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Yeah, I saw the same comment on Reddit :P
https://archive.is/F1X98

Legimet
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https://archive.is/KwxhV

"Purism continues progressing with its grandiose plans to be the first laptop manufacturer to ever receive Free Software Foundation’s (FSF) Respects Your Freedoms (RYF) certification."

Indeed their plans are grandiose.

gran·di·ose
ˈɡrandēˌōs,ˌɡrandēˈōs/
adjective
adjective: grandiose

impressive or magnificent in appearance or style, especially pretentiously so.

Chris

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More news on "Purism":

http://blogs.coreboot.org/blog/2015/08/09/the-truth-about-purism-behind-the-coreboot-scenes/

An outrageous twitter post from Todd attacking an actual RYF FSF certified libre-laptop:

https://twitter.com/Puri_sm/status/629787848246341632

PC World did an article now too:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2960524/laptop-computers/why-linux-enthusiasts-are-arguing-over-purisms-sleek-idealistic-librem-laptops.html

And so did IDG:

http://www.idgconnect.com/abstract/10297/insult-anger-the-fight-laptop

I think parts of the articles are a bit misleading and fall into Todd's hand unfortunately. The article still leads one to believe that Todd's doing something only adding to the list of things he can't really do. He may get PureOS endorsed by the FSF, but that'll just be further used to mislead people about the laptops he's selling. PureOS is little more than a Trisquel re-brand. I don't see this as moving things along. There are already two perfectly good distributions, Trisquel and Parabola GNU/Linux-libre. Re-branding Trisquel doesn't help anybody as these options already existed. It can only be used to sell people on this idea that he's doing something and put money into his little pocket.

And just to be clear with everybody- and Todd more specifically- since he seems to think I'm behind this- I had nothing to do with either of these articles being written, nor coreboot's attack on your genuinity. There are a lot of people upset with you. I contacted one reporter who you (Todd) already interviewed with and they have yet to do anything with that info. That reporter actually already had questioned the authenticity of what you were saying too (although I think it was only after the interview with you was published).

The one article says "If you do want high-end, current hardware, a Librem laptop offers a better free software experience than a MacBook, a Windows 10 ultrabook, or even Dell’s sleek Linux laptops, which simply plop Ubuntu on popular XPS notebooks designed primarily for Windows. "...

While that is true, it's misleading, in that it's not any better than what we've already got from a free software stand point. Apple, Dell, etc do a poor job, but ThinkPenguin was still already doing a better job here. The implication here is that Todd's laptop is somehow better from a freedom stand point than anybody elses including ThinkPenguin. It's not and there are things that Todd could have done which would have been better if he truly cared about a modern laptop. They wouldn't be ready nearly as quick, but the way he went these laptops will never be freedom friendly.

Coreboot developer Blog says Todd emailed them with:

"Ouch, that is not an approved tweet. I asked to have it removed, since I am a big fan of what Gluglug did/does. And we provide it as an alternative from our own website."

Is he really asking Twitter to censor someone else's tweet? Given everything else you've said that's the oddest way of showing your a 'big fan'.

J.B. Nicholson-Owens
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First, thanks for pointing us to these articles and social media post. I
find it very interesting to read the views of people working on this
stuff (the people most knowledgeable on the details of the
implementation). And thanks for assembling the computers and selling
them to us all with free software throughout.

I concur with another poster criticizing the use of "open source" in
these articles as that movement would never pursue software freedom. As
much as I think it's good to bring news of the issues underlying this
discussion to the masses (just as all sorts of laptops are sold to
ordinary computer users), it is worth noting that both IDGConnect.com
and PCWorld.com's articles get this important information wrong -- the
latter referring to "ideologically pure" laptop development without
explaining what the salient ideology is, nor telling readers that the
open source movement's ideology is quite radically different from the
free software movement's ideology. After all, these two ideologies reach
radically different results: It's not the OSI or any other "open source"
group that put together the Respects Your Freedom campaign.

I figure that the lack of explication on this point is also why these
organizations don't give GNU a share of the credit for GNU/Linux
(instead calling an operating system "Linux" when that's really a
kernel). Really, they are siding with "open source" because that
movement's ideology is compatible with proprietary software (which is
what they report on most of the time they report on software). They
certainly aren't going to mount a full-throated and widely-repeated
defense of software freedom; that would get in the way of their
full-throated and widely-repeated defense of user subjugation via
proprietary software.

name at domain wrote:
> While that is true, it's misleading, in that it's not any better
> than what we've already got from a free software stand point.

I concur; if all I wanted was a laptop to run free software on and I was
okay with hardware I could never fully control, inspect, or reprogram
(nor hire anyone to do this on my behalf), a Librem laptop would be no
better (certainly not better enough to justify its price and
crowdfunding-based payment).

But this leads me to wonder: Is there an architecture on which one could
have a laptop (complete with the physical camera/mic switch) that used
some CPU, BIOS, and other hardware that would simultaneously make good
on the freedom promises Librem can't deliver while offering modern
laptop niceties (such as a high ceiling on RAM, 15" or larger LCD
monitor, SSD, gigabit ethernet jack, and USB3) in order to compare
reasonably well with modern 64-bit Intel-compatible laptops?

Nothing in the FSF's RYF hardware certification requirements
(http://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/endorsement/criteria) requires
Intel-compatibility.

If so, perhaps that is a laptop worth investing time and money in. I
won't buy a Librem given the freedom problem they face, but I view Todd
Weaver's leadership as a detail; I'm judging this on the specs of what
is delivered to the end-user.

onpon4
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There's an ARM device in development called the "Pyra" with a decent configuration (2 GB of RAM, dual-core CPU) with the only problems with libre software being: no hardware acceleration, ever (PowerVR GPU), probably no built-in wireless, and lower sound quality. That one fits everything into a small (pocketable) form-factor, so I suppose something without that need would be able to be given more. Choose your components wisely, and you might end up with only a few components that need reverse-engineering, and none of them would be absolutely necessary to run the system.

Chris

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There is a possibility of an ARM-based solution. It's tricky to do and won't exactly be competitive with modern x86 offerings. However the designs are being worked on that may eventually lead to something better. Right now your going to be missing 3D accelerated graphics with any ARM based solution that is running only free software. The efforts to reverse engineer fell through/never materialized.

An ARM based solution though would be better than what we have with x86 from a free software perspective and is what Todd should have done if he was going to do a campaign. The problem is he isn't actually designing a laptop. He's just putting the pieces together based on a reference design that already exists.

There are a number of things that need to be done before a proper free software ARM-laptop can be manufactured. Besides an actual design you need an OS ARM image. What good is a ARM laptop without an operating system?

There is/was at least one ARM 13.3" laptop reference design we could have built off. We investigated it a bit and there were license violations and backdoor issues which allowed a major government to spy on its citizens. In theory it should have worked for us still, from a free software perspective anyway, but a certain large government had its hands in its design. That was then licensed including a binary image to others for manufacture. Ultimately we'd not be able to get it manufactured as the companies doing so are too afraid to do business with anybody who has the source code (as opposed to them giving people just the binary). They (the factories) fear being arrested for collusion with the enemy. I'm pretty sure its this particular system that is the problem as its being given/sold to the enemy or potential enemy anyway by the state. I don't think there would be a problem had this not been the situation. It's quite interesting what you can learn from those working in the free software world- and who have connections to people working in or alongside manufacturing. I'd love to see a story on this go public, but I'm pretty confident it would be highly risky for those involved.

Anyway a campaign to pull together the resources to manufacture the machines is definitely something that'll be needed.

Jookia
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Perhaps we need to start wondering if purism is ... impure? Impurism? http://retro-freedom.nz/blog/2015/08/03/logo-wars-back-with-a-vengeance/

Chris

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I love it!

trisq

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Excellent discussion. It is great to see the growing intensity of interest on freeing hardware. A couple of years ago there was a similar sense of many things being beyond reach but the pot is simmering now instead of being kind of lukewarm as it was then, which is not all bad.

Chris

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It's not really that much different. Actually we're probably still going more backward than forward.

1. We had a free software friendly graphics chip and now we don't have any
2. We had free software friendly wifi chips and now we don't have any

We can certainly design a system that is more free today- probably- at least in that its not dependent on any non-free pieces to boot (ie BIOS, Bootloader, etc). However it is not going to be anywhere near the performance standards of yesterday (which did have a proprietary BIOS, but at least the graphics/wifi were free).

marioxcc
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>2. We had free software friendly wifi chips and now we don't have any

I thought that your company ThinkPenguin is selling some. Do you mean that free software friendly NICs are no longer being manufactured?.

Chris

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I mean to say next generation wifi chips are all dependant on proprietary firmware with no sight of free'ing them. It might still happen, but my hopes have dimmed greatly. The people at Qualcomm responsible for it aren't being cooperative. This is a result of people leaving and those remaining not wanting to change development habits-essentially.

We *do* though have new form factor M.2 or NGFF 802.11n wifi chips. These are rare, but we got them. I'm a bit concerned though right now as we don't have a huge quantity of them. I'm not even sure how many we'll be able to get a hold of. Ideally I'd get enough to hold us over for quite a few years, but even that, might not be adequate. If even one company is interested in buying a lot of them it'll most likely wipe out our entire supply. In a sense that is good for us, as it means more money. But if we can't replace the chip then its bad because it hinders people looking to adopt free software.

And even after all that we still don't have any solution for the future. Lets says two or three years from now. Unfortunately there are a lot of things that need funding like this (be it reverse engineering or cleaning up code for release or design work / manufacturing), cooperation of huge entities, and so on, but we also need people interested in and capable of working on these things.

marioxcc
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I see.

>And even after all that we still don't have any solution for the future. Lets says two or three years from now. Unfortunately there are a lot of things that need funding like this (be it reverse engineering or cleaning up code for release or design work / manufacturing), cooperation of huge entities, and so on, but we also need people interested in and capable of working on these things.

Maybe it is feasible to make free software friendly wireless NICs for the new technologies in a small scale. “Crowdfounding” may be used to provide funding to a team that is concerned with the free software ethics.

tonlee
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I have sought information about risc v. It looks like they are active. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=novCbl4Wq3I&feature=youtu.be and a risc v workshop. Isn't that defining steps?

On wikipedia it says cpus up to warehouse scale. Isn't that performance enough to make x86 duo core cpu like notebooks?

David Patterson is part of risc v. He is a very capable person?

If you can make powerful risc v cpus, then can't you make powerful graphic cards?

If you have an adequate risc v cpu, then what does it take to get an notebook mainboard to put it on? Is it a small thing? Difficult and expensive? It cannot be done?

If risc v are ready for manufacturing, then are there not manufacturers to make them? Or does intel own or control it all?

Ubuntu phone crowdfunding got more than 10 millions usd. What could that amount do for a risc v notebook?

As risc v says, most software is or spring from public source code. And there are not technical reasons, on the contrary, that free software cpus should not be available.

I would know if the notebook could be made?