Notes from LNLs Todd Weaver Interview

On Episode 57 (published Feb. 19th, 2019) of the Late Night Linux podcast Purism CEO Todd Weaver was interviewed by podcast host Joe Ressington. Below is a brief summary in bullet points:

  • Generally Purism is doing “extremely well”: Year over year triple digit growth rates, overall community support and achievements are great.
  • Laptops: Coreboot, neutered Management Engine, security story is great
    • Soon Pureboot (Coreboot + Heads + TPM + Librem Key) will be announced: Tamper evident systems.
  • Librem 5 hardware
    • “Shipping hardware is hard”
    • CPU issue ended up moving the Phone to Q2, mayor update soon
    • after development kit shipments interest went up, flood of orders
    • dev kit problems: Screen not working, neither does HDMI out
    • point of development kit: get developers work on hardware close to actual hardware, phosh speed, core applications need to be improved and will be, “one time programming” necessary to get screens to work, as SoC can’t send initialization code to the screen (NXP i.MX8M buffer to small, silicon bug?). Every developer kit screen will be enabled by software work with NXP or sending out One Time Programming kits.
    • “dev kit size enormous”: Dev Kit is a break out board for the SoM which has all the most complex parts of the system, SoM is small and right for phone size. Phone is going to be about 14mm thick (or so), similar to kind of iPhone 4 original thickness
    • Massive heat sink on dev kit, fan on postmarketOS photo, how will this be cooled in the phone? Errata against CPU; no power management early on; initial temperature 90°, now by software improvements down to 34°, more optimizations coming like idle state
    • iMX8 not designed to be in a phone. Snapdragon would be clearly designed to be in a phone. iMX8 has a pretty high power draw. is more for mains connected devices. True. But: There are no mobile chips that offer “complete freedoms”. i.MX6 and i.MX8M are helping with freedoms, i.MX8M will be dropping to 14nm in 2019, so power consumption will improve with a later hardware revision. Good roadmap. i.MX8M vs. i.MX8Mini: GPU differences, …
    • Target for idle battery life: One work day battery life. Confident it will be reachable for phone ship date.
    • When will the phone ship? Q2 or Q3 (1th of April to 30th of September), everything is marching forward, big problem was the silicon bug, created delay in fabrication, but software stack development progressed very nicely.
  • Librem 5 software
    • Software store: Going remarkably well. Easy way for people to recognize what applications are available and does it respect me as an individual.
    • How many apps are going to be phone optimized at launch? Campaign promised 5 apps for typical tasks: Phone call, Browser, e mail, messaging. But: Libhandy is in GTK proper, porting an application over just means changing a few classes. Music player, settings application, contacts incoming. Even some game developers started development. People want to be part of the ecosystem.
    • In house development of apps vs. community efforts: Focus on initial 5 internally (80 % Purism, 20 % community), Fractal (Matrix client) funded development, some applications are going to be entirely written by the community.
    • Community ports: Some working, …, as dev kits got shipped to early backers first and then to partnerships. Plasma Mobile is advancing, UBports will receive dev kits soon.
    • Android: No interest in Android backup plan, fine with people working on it. The mission for Purism is to solve the long term problem of having a phone that respects people.
  • Twitter questions:
    • App store: Elementary OS-style “pay what you want” thing? Yes, talked to them. Want to have a curated set of applications with options of donating to the developer, a pay the developer process, a subscription process or straight up gratis. Working on it, is going to be part of the Purism store.
    • Number of developers working on Pure OS mobile: Close to 20.
    • Will Signal be supported? Community folks are working on the APIs to have Signal work. Purism have connections with signal, of all the applications out there it is the most likely one to be included by default and meet the criteria Purism have.
    • Different Mobile hardware? It’s going to be i.MX8 going forward, next silicon version will lead to 2nd gen Librem 5. Qualcomm or Mediatek are not on the table for the near future.
    • Other devices: Lot’s of other things on the table. Services coming, version 5 of Laptops.
    • Ethical subscription services: Purism will be launching a bundle of services based on decentralized services under on simple account. Free and paid tier. VPN, E-mail, chat, video and voice calling, social media, all in one. Virtual phone numbers, cloud storage. Convenient, but also completely respecting user freedoms. Will launch before the phone, services have been used before internally, will be scaled up for external users. Cross plattform, Android, iOS, desktop platforms. Federated, so people can run their own.
    • MIPS or RISC-V? Testing RISC-V, following very closely. Within a couple of years Purism will have some kind of a RISC-V product, maybe a router, as the platform moves along.
    • Still working without VC money? Yes. Have completely avoided VCs and will continue to do so.

Necunos NC_1 or a Lunchbox Smartphone?

While Purism has allegedly finally managed to ship out their developer kits, Necunos will provide you with a thingy they call a smartphone much faster.1

Necunos NC_1
The Necunos project may be scam. Be careful! Update 2/3/2019: After FOSDEM it seems a little more real. Necuno Solutions plan to ship the NC_1 in March. Let’s see.

Specifications:

  • SoC: NXP i.MX Quad, ARM Cortex A9 quadcore @ 1.2 GHz, Vivante GPU (Etnaviv driver, hardware acceleration)
  • 1 GB Ram (meh!)
  • 8 GB Storage
  • 3500 mAh Battery
  • 5,0″ display (no resolution given)
  • Aluminum body
  • 5 MP Camera
  • Audio: 3.5mm audio jack
  • Charging: Micro-USB, Data transfer disabled
  • Microphone: Built-in microphone
  • Speakers: 2 Built-in speaker
  • WLAN: WiFi (via SDIO) WL1801 (2.4 GHz)
  • Ethernet: High speed 100Mb/s
  • Serial: Internal
  • Closed source firmware with memory access: NO
  • Binary blobs: NO
  • Locked bootloader: NO
  • Operating Systems: Multiple community driven operating systems to choose from.

Price: 1199 EUR
Continue reading “Necunos NC_1 or a Lunchbox Smartphone?”

  1. To me, this – while it is an admirable effort – is not a smartphone, but rather a modern Linux PDA since it has no modem to connect to cell services. I’ll keep sticking to this 22 year old definition, where a smartphone has to be an actual phone. []

An update on the reMarkable paper tablet

In April I wrote down my impressions on the reMarkable Paper Tablet. This is  an update to that post.

How much did I use it?
For some time, I have used it a lot.But after getting a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet,1 my use the reMarkable
dwindeled as that Surface was just a lot more convenient for what I did at the time.2 Unfortunately, the Surface started to suffer from “ghost touch” issues, which – while I still like to do stuff with the pen on it – has made me use the reMarkable more again, with the Surface serving as a laptop replacement.3

Continue reading “An update on the reMarkable paper tablet”

  1. Because it turned out that using the recommended tools (mostly Citavi and Microsoft Office) for university can make life easier, especially as I spend my workdays in Microsoft Word anyway. []
  2. Marking up PDFs with colors is sometimes more useful than doing it in black and white. []
  3. Mostly in portrait mode with a ThinkPad USB keyboard attached, which is tremendously great for text writing and editing. Everybody should try this. []

More Podcast Appearances: Nerdzoom and Schnapszahlbrothers

Once again I was allowed to take part in the recording of an episode of the NerdZoom Podcast, which hopefully is an entertaining and informative listening if you care about nerdism and Linux on smartphones. Big thanks to Marius and Max for having me!

Also, on the 11th of November I launched a podcast with my brother called “Schnapszahlbrothers”1, which will have 11 episodes in total (for this first season), being released on the 11th and 22nd of each month.

Unfortunately, both formats are recorded in german language. But I might… no, no spoilers.

  1. Rough translation “repdigit brothers”, “Schnaps” is “booze” in english, “zahl” is “number” or “digit”. []

The Nook Glowlight 3

Another post on a device featuring an eInk screen, how likely is that? I honestly don’t know, but this is another post about such a thing.

I have been an avid buyer of the devices US book giant Barnes & Noble has made under the Nook brand since 2012, when I purchased a Nook Simple Touch. Than, in 2015 (?) I upgraded to a Nook Glowlight Plus which I unfortunately broke a couple weeks ago. Recently, I purchased the latest iteration of Barnes & Noble’s 6″ eInk product: The Nook Glowlight 3.

Continue reading “The Nook Glowlight 3”

“Widescreen laptops are dumb”

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge on laptops and aspect ratio:

“But a laptop is more than just a video playback machine. For myself and millions of others, it’s the primary tool for earning a living. We use these machines to read, write, remember, create, connect, and communicate. And in most of these other applications, a 16:9 screen of 13 to 15 inches in size just feels like a poor fit.”

As a guy who among other laptops uses an ancient IBM ThinkPad X60s from time to time and does not own a single 16:9 laptop despite market realities, I obviously wholeheartedly agree.

a reMarkable paper tablet

I am late on this one, as I could have written about this way earlier. But I neglected to do so because it seemed to be just another good idea that will not work out—neither in the market place, nor technologically.

After this dark precursor on a very white device, the reMarkable paper tablet, let me start by pointing out that this is a device that comes close to fulfill my “Digital Assistant” “vision” I uttered in late 2009. In fact, it is the device that comes the closest of the countless devices I had for brief intervals of time (* = still have it): Continue reading “a reMarkable paper tablet”

More GNU/Linux on Smartphones: 1. postmarketOS

While the Crowdfunder for the Librem 5 successfully finished, I want to shed some light on possible alternatives to it for people that want to run GNU/Linux on Smartphone hardware. First up: postmarketOS

postmarketOS (short pmOS) is a relatively new project. A little more than two months ago the projects founder ollieparanoid published a blog post titled: 100 days of postmarketOS, listing pretty amazing accomplishments in these first 100 days.

Target devices:
Instead of other attemps at getting GNU/Linux onto smartphones, pmOS aims to target multiple devices with small device specific parts and a set of software that then is interchangeable between multiple devices. It is based on Alpine Linux, a distrOnly recentlyibution designed for “power users who appreciate security, simplicity and resource efficiency”. Currently, 17 devices are supported (not counting QEMU targets) and in various states of support. The best supported devices currently is the good old Nokia N900, as it pmOS can stand on the shoulders of giants here with regard to mainline Linux support.

Approach:
There is not one interface, due to a modular approach of pmOS and in order to support devices that are less capable. Currently, supported interfaces (more a “will be” than an “are” statement as far as I good gather) include good old Hildon (known from Maemo) and Plasma Mobile.
So, to boil it down: Device agnostic, UI agnostic, open and friendly.

Purism Librem 5 Announced, Crowdfunding Started

Purism has now launched the campaign to crowdfund their smartphone, the Librem 5 I was writing about recently.
They ask for USD 1.5 Mio. Perks include a developer kit at USD 299 scheduled for June 2018, and (of course) the Librem 5 priced at USD 599, scheduled for January 2019.
The campaign will continue for 59 days, which (if I am not mistaken) makes October 23rd the last day of their campaign.
Note that the Crowdfunding happens on their own platform, they are not using Kickstarter or Indiegogo.