Want a laptop that runs free and open source software, and only open source software? The folks behind the Purism Librem 15 want to build one… and sell it to you.

Purism is running a crowdfunding campaign at Crowd Supply in hopes of raising $250,000 to build a premium notebook with a 15.6 inch full HD display, an Intel Core i7 processor, and NVIDIA graphics.

More importantly, the laptop will ship with a Linux-based operating system and almost no proprietary software.

Update: After extending the campaign, the Librem 15 met its crowdfunding goal on January 21st, 2015.

librem 15_03

The laptop’s operating system is based on Trisquel, a GNU/Linux operating system.

Overall, this is a laptop for serious enthusiasts of free and open software who want to have full access to as much of the software running on their system as possible. For other folks who just want to install Ubuntu or Fedora on a laptop, it’s probably cheaper to just buy an off-the-shelf notebook, download a LiveUSB image and do it yourself… or buy a machine from a Linux system builder such as ZaReason or System76.

But Purism founder Todd Weaver says what makes the Librem 15 special is that each chip including the motherboard, daughter cards, peripherals, and graphics have been chosen because of their ability to work with open source software.

The kernel, operating system, and applications are all open source, with no proprietary blobs… although Purism’s laptop does still use Intel firmware for the BIOS and there’s closed-source firmware for the storage and other hardware. In other words, the laptop’s a lot more powerful than the Lemote Yeelong notebook used by free and open source software programmer and activist Richard Stallman. But it’s also a lot less open.

The system is also more powerful than something like Bunnie Huang’s Novena open laptop, which has a low-power ARM-based processor… but which includes open source hardware designs, and not just open source software running on proprietary hardware.

The Purism Librem 15 has a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7-4712MQ quad-core processor, NVIDIA GeForce 840M graphics, up to 8GB of RAM, up to 1TB of hard drive or 250GB of solid state storage, and up to 8 hours of battery life thanks to a 48 Wh battery.

It has 3 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, an Ethernet jack, 802.11n WiFi, an SDXC card slot, a backlit keyboard, a DVD drive, and a 720p webcam.

It measures 0.86 inches thick and weighs 4.4 pounds.

Librem 15 laptops will be price at $1,449 through $1,699 during the Crowd Supply campaign, although full retail prices will be higher if and when the project is funded.

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35 replies on “Purism hopes to crowdfund a high-end, open source laptop”

  1. I might be a little late to read this but so be it. I suppose they weren’t spoiled for graphics cards with great performance with open-source drivers. NVIDIA, while it will work with Nouveau, tends to have far better performance with proprietary drivers. Intel graphics on the other hand is fairly low quality by itself, even though the official driver is open-source.

  2. Ofcourse this Purism laptop a pure hoax and why? Well ask yourself the following questions:

    If they`re so concerned about privacy, then why are the secred webcam and microphone still obligated?

    Isn`t that the first piece of hardware that you will remove if you`re really concerned about privacy?

    Isn`t it the major concern with latops that the webcams and mics get hacked?

    Why can`t we buy a webcam and mic free laptop for a better privacy?

    Why not making it an option for the one who wants to fab with that webcam and mic?

    Rest my case

  3. > “For other folks who just want to install Ubuntu or Fedora on a laptop,
    it’s probably cheaper to just buy an off-the-shelf notebook, download a
    LiveUSB image and do it yourself…”

    I don’t think paying $150~$200 for a Windows pseudo-user license you won’t use is cheap

    1. OEMs don’t pay full retail price for the Windows license… it’s usually around $50, even less for the volume license…

      More recently, to help push MS’s efforts on mobile devices… OEMs can opt to make Bing the default search engine and get basic W8 license for just $15 and for small screen devices, primarily tablets, and generally in the ballpark of $250 or less for the whole device lets them provide a Windows license for free… Though, unless those devices come with 64bit UEFI it’ll be less than easy to get the distro of your choice installed and running without making a bunch of custom adjustments to the boot process…

      While, back to pricing, the main thing to still avoid is any system with the Professional or Enterprise editions as those still charge quite a bit for the license but still less than the full retail price…

      Mind, OEM’s don’t need to provide a disk or other copy and OEM editions can’t be transferred to another system and that’s one of the reasons they charge a lot less… Leaving most of the added costs to the systems pricing coming from the OEM itself as they have to pay their employees, device warranty/support costs, device BOM, etc before they even get to their bottom line for profit margins to make selling the device worth it to the company…

      While the problem getting a good price on a system that comes with Linux pre-loaded is that the unit pricing tends to be high, because they don’t sell enough with still less than 10% of the PC market (server market mostly doesn’t count because companies use custom hardware and software, even if they use Linux), and OEMs can’t as easily use Bloatware to help lower their costs, as the Bloatware makers pay the OEMs to install their software and is how some OEMs offset costs…

      So, despite usually being free (not counting pay for services like Red Hat), Linux systems actually tend to cost more… It’s the unfortunate state of the Linux market that allows this but for those who don’t mind going through some extra effort… you can get refunded the Windows license, it’s a PIA process but if you have no intentions of using it then it can be done and then install the OS of your choice… or consider a bare bones system… not too many will sell laptops that way but they usually have everything hardware wise and just need a OS…

      Point being, there are options… albeit not all that great… but you usually don’t need great specs to be able to run the average Linux distro well… Even the $99 W8 tablets with only 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage can still run a typical Linux distro just fine… but until the 64bit UEFI is standard, and they phase out the 32bit UEFI, then options are still limited but should get better later…

  4. I love the idea of laptops getting the linux treatment, but I honestly dont need this much laptop for what I do in Linux. I have an older laptop running linux, and if I needed to replace it, I think $400 would be sufficient.

    I understand the chosen specs are based on their ability to support open source software, but I dont think an i7 is necessary.

  5. Either it’s running noveau and and not performing very well or it will use the gigantic nvidia binary blob.
    Also, when refering to a “open source laptop”, you refer to a laptop with open sourced hardware. If you don’t, you can call any laptop a “open source laptop” if you install a open source bios and a open source operating system on it.

  6. Okay, so it has a linux preinstalled. Big deal. What about the firmware of the USB hub? The network card? The WiFi? The keyboard controller? The GPU? The TFT controller? The microcode of the CPU itself? These are all tiny computers inside the notebook, all with tiny CPUs, few kbytes of memory, etc (except the GPU which is probably a more powerful computer in itself than the rest of the system).These are excellent places to install a backdoor that no operating system will notice. Even a $2 microSD card has a ~100MHz 32bit microcontroller inside with megs of RAM and gigs of storage space, and they all work totally independently of the main system. You can modify a microSD controller to include a virus to the end of every .exe or .apk.

    1. I didn’t gather the ‘big deal’ was linux preinstalled, it was that this is the first laptop (and maybe company?) to pre install without binary blobs (I know of the Leemote, but that wasn’t quite what I wanted). It appears from https://puri.sm/posts/purism-software-freedom-deconstructed/ that they are well aware. So I commend the effort, let’s just hope they listen and understand to push farther upstream.

      1. There was also an overpriced 10 years old FSF supported X60 called Gluglug, they at least also changed the WiFi adapter and supposedly every other device in the machine that would use closed source code: https://www.fsf.org/news/gluglug-x60-laptop-now-certified-to-respect-your-freedom
        While the concern for privacy is real, I think most of these are just quick money-grabs from people with persecutory delusion and/or things to hide after the recent NSA episodes, but a _real_ open notebook must be opened by the big companies, meaning open CPU microcode from Intel or AMD, open video-card drivers, open controllers on every level. It needs a global cooperation with Intel, nVidia, AMD, Realtek, FTDI, etc. It’s hard and it’s not the direct interest of any of these companies and clearly not in the interest of any government (be it the USA, Russia or China), but if there is demand, there will be solutions. Maybe not the top-of-the-line chips will get open alternatives. Maybe only ARM chips will be supported (Intel-Rockchip cooperation?). Maybe it will take another 10 years and another global privacy shit-storm, but I think we will eventually get there. But as long as people happily give up their privacy for a bird-slinging game or 5% off at Domino’s (or for presumed safety from terrorists), we can’t really blame the companies, there is simply no real demand for openness right now.

        1. @zdanee:disqus , you’re exactly right about the need to open up at the BIOS and below. We have worked hard to get the level we’re at, freed boot loader, freed kernel (no binary blobs), freed OS, and freed software. We hand picked hardware chips that work without binary blobs and with free software. The current focus is at the BIOS binary called Intel FSP (or if we went with AMD, AMD AGESA). After that we are targeting all upstream hardware component makers to free their firmware. The “big companies” do not have the belief system we do, nor what you do, and will not be freeing any firmware from these upstream providers. But that is our goal! The approach we are taking is that by forming a business that cares about freeing all hardware, we will be able to have the leverage to make change upstream. Do you want to help?

          1. Dear Todd, I applaud the initiative. But I think the first question one should ask about open hardware is that “why is there no demand for it”? Or more precisely, “why does closed hardware even exist”? I’m no expert in the field, but to me the obvious answer is, that closed hardware exist because the manufacturers cannot ensure their IP rights in another way. So the first step towards an open hardware world would be the much awaited IP rights reform. If you can ensure a company that granting others to see how their hardware works won’t cause them long term losses, we can start to discuss about mainstream open hardware.

            As a customer my second question is: “how do I know as a non-tech person, that what you are selling is really open (or backdoor free)”? Because you said so? But other companies told us, there are no backdoors in their product while there in fact was.

            So IMHO a second step is to establish something, like an “Open Hardware Foundation” that would review open hardware and approve it (since I, or any other regular customer wouldn’t be able to make sense of a submitted open hardware design and spot the backdoor or anything). By approving I mean a sort of “reviewed and found clean badge” sort of thing. Now this (let’s call) OHF can’t be tied to any nation. You see, a big problem with privacy and closed hardware is the tendency of big nations & agencies to put their backdoors in there. USA, China, EU, Russia, etc. Now, any big nation would consider it as a plus if they can put their backdoor in a hardware, but would consider it a big minus if others put theirs in. So in my math, if the OHF would be funded by both the USA, China, EU and Russia, for each of these nations it would be 1 point plus to smuggle in their backdoor and 3 points minus to let others smuggle in theirs. The result is -2, for every possible backdoor of theirs there is a possibility of three of the others. This way we can ensure that it won’t worth bribing or pressuring the presumed OHF into let backdoors slip into open hardware. Also as an open hardware, other, independent peer review is possible by nature obviously, but that’s a slow process, by only peer-review a backdoor can hide for months or years, and by that time it would have already served it’s purpose.

            Now we have approved, clean open hardware, the next thing is to make it cheap enough to be a real alternative to “regular” hardware. Note, that submitting the design and source-code to any existing hardware to the OHF can make it approved and convert it into open hardware without any additional development cost. So what is the real benefit of open hardware? It’s “clean”! This makes it ideal to enterprise and government work, so in a few years it could be a criteria for any big company or government that they would only work with OHF approved hardware.

            And that’s it. At this point open hardware can become mainstream.

            So, as a conclusion to my long rant, I think it’s great that there are people who want to make us real open hardware, but I think you got it backwards, the first step to make it happen is not to make an open laptop, but to make a proper environment where it would happen by itself.

            Yes, I know there is already an Open Source Hardware Association, the OHSW, and such, but as it’s not “above nations” it cannot be such a strong catalyst.

          2. Q: …open hardware is that “why is there no demand for it”?
            A: I believe there is tremendous demand for it, the problems are threefold. First, no company has provided a real competitive product to respect users as an alternative (lots of demand, no supply). Second, the user demand is unheard because of disparate messages that all boil down to wanting privacy and freedom. Third, nobody has made it easy.

            Q: … “why does closed hardware even exist? … that closed hardware exist because the manufacturers cannot ensure their IP rights in another way.”
            A: That is one reason, but I don’t believe it to be the main reason. The main reason relates, which is fear. The default is to protect it all, be that copyrights, trademarks, patents, NDAs, binaries. The computer world is much different than the world that brought those laws into being. So the computer industry gets triple “protection”, copyright, patent, and binary. That is overkill. But since those are given practically by default, that is what is used.

            Q: … “how do I know as a non-tech person, that what you are selling is really open (or backdoor free)”
            A: There is only one way to ever know, which is to get the source, if the source is not available (to the public under an acceptable license), then there is no way to know. Our laptop is free from the bootloader, through the kernel (that has no binary blobs even!), GNU OS, and all software.

            Q: … “establish something, like an “Open Hardware Foundation””
            A: The FSF has something https://fsf.org/ryf that does just that. We have to free a BIOS binary, the Intel FSP, before we can get that endorsement.

            Q: … “but I think you got it backwards, the first step to make it happen is
            not to make an open laptop, but to make a proper environment where it
            would happen by itself.”
            A: That may be a valid opinion, but like RMS did in 1982, we either attempt to change, through acts of congress, the way things are, or we accept the laws as they are now, work within those rules to build a better tomorrow while trying to change the laws. We opted (as RMS did in 1982) to fight within the rules governing us today.

            Thanks for the reply!
            Todd.

  7. This is more scammy than System76 Laptops, and most of their Systems are just Quanta Whitebox Laptops with neutered Firmwares to get rid of UEFI problems. But at least System76 has the decency to just sell their junk instead of asking people to “fund” a whitebox bulk order to get discounts that are not passed on to the customer.

    1. We do not have buying power, nor volume, to get our design manufactured at such inexpensive pricing (yet). We cannot buy one-offs and install GNU/Linux and get anywhere near as deep as we have with offering free software. We have selected every chip to work with free software. See above comment to know what is not freed at the BIOS level. We are here to fight for the freeing of all hardware components, so the funding gets us a minimum order quantity run, and the ability to have leverage to free upstream component hardware.

      1. You can and should have focused on a different model. You’ve
        clearly picked one of the poorest choices to free. You’ve not even
        explained yourself as to why you’ve picked such a poor choice of
        laptop to free. There was nothing wrong with free’ing a laptop and
        branding it. However to imply your designing and manufacturing it is
        outright fraudulent. I hope somebody ELSE runs a campaign who has
        some integrity because I do want to see these issues fixed, but your
        clearly not the one whose going to do it with or without a successful
        fund raising campaign.

  8. I’d like to see higher resolution than 1920×1080 on a “high-end laptop” (their words, not Brad’s). To me, “high end” suggests they’re competitive with a MacBook Pro with a retina display.

    1. Depends where you consider that “High End” starts… Besides, not all Macbooks come with retina displays… Apple still sells a 13″ Macbook Pro option without a retina display for example, never mind the Air…

      While most of the PC laptop market still isn’t pushing really high resolution screens yet and even gaming laptops still can come with less than FHD because sometimes other aspects of screen quality, like refresh rates, color accuracy, etc are more important than pixel density…

      You can have a very high resolution screen that still looks lousy if the other aspects of screen quality aren’t also high!

      Besides, considering how much laptops are still coming out with HD screens it’s at least not low end…

    2. Neither Windows nor Linux Desktops have good scaling and behave well with high rez screens.

      1. Presumably Windows won’t be a popular option for buyers of a laptop optimized for open source, when there are so many other options available. And I thought the Ubuntu folks were working on improving their desktop for Retina displays. (I recognize that Ubuntu is just a subset of the Linux market, but it’s the only one I personally care about.)

        1. Most work has been for mobile devices… namely Ubuntu Touch, which is still a separate project from the traditional Ubuntu…

          While scaling issues isn’t something easily fixed without major changes throughout both the OS and any applications and even web site designs to support it… So, we’re still a long way from seeing it no longer be a factor… and it doesn’t help that Linux still deals with less official graphical support than Windows or OSX gets, and still needs to deal with some long standing issues that prevent universal support… though, they are getting closer to doing so…

      2. High resolution screens? I think you meant high density, because increasing the resolution and keeping the density (increasing screen dimensions) doesn’t cause a problem to user interfaces.

        You are clearly uninformed about FOSS desktops, many of which (Gnome, KDE, Unity) have supported high resolution scaling for over a year, maybe two.

        1. You mean the basic support they introduced a little over a year ago… Sure, W8 has scaling options too, doesn’t mean everything is optimized or even makes full use of it!

          If it was that easy then this wouldn’t be a issue for any OS but everything from the OS to every single app and web site has to support it too!

          While Gnome and others have not been working lock step with the others and there has been a accumulation of incompatible patches, etc… They even had to take a break from working on it over the summer… Meaning the work on this isn’t applicable universally and as long as that’s true then you’d never have full and effective handling of HiDPI support… not to mention we’ll have to wait a few more versions before it can be considered more than basic support…

    3. Please refrain from associating Macshit Pros with quality. Using aluminium for a laptop body instead of magnesium alloy or carbon fiber is a really poorly designed treat; and don’t get me started with the glossy mirrors that crush any possibility of color accuracy. You don’t need to use a propagandistic term like “Retina Display” just to refer to high-density/HiDPI displays. Those are usually just Samsung or LG panels, and many other laptops like the Chromebook Pixel have them too.

  9. Scam. You can’t build an ‘open’ laptop with the #1 with a bullet most closed video in the industry. So right there you know whoever is behind this doesn’t even know what the heck ‘Open’ means and you have to look for what they are really up to. This is just a generic Chinese laptop somebody is trying to collect a premium price for would be my first guess.

    If you want an open design you have to settle for Intel graphics or sift through the ATI chipsets for one that is new enough to be useful and the free driver works well enough with to ship a supported product around. Nvidia is right out. The reverse engineered driver is neither reliable or performant enough yet to ship a supported product around.

    1. Uh, #1 would be Imagination Technologies with their PowerVR GPUs… Nvidia’s Linux drivers may still be mostly closed but since last year they started working with Nouveau to open some of their code and Nouveau had already been backwards engineering drivers for Nvidia cards and I believe they already went stable last year…

      Here’s a article on how well the drivers perform…

      https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=nouveau_linux318_mesa104&num=3

      So it is still possible for this to be completely open but you are right that we should be wary…

        1. Yeah, and I believe the Nvidia Optimus GPU switching option should work as well… So users can switch between them if they wish without needing to reboot all the time…

    2. I don’t like Nvidia either, but the fact is that AMD/ATI GPUs will be unusable on 100% free operating systems like Trisquel or a fresh Debian install as long as they need proprietary firmware. The driver isn’t the only thing that might get on the way

      1. I’m almost RMS Pure, but I disagree on the firmware issue. I do not like blobs, especially ones that get regular updates, but can live with them so long as they contain code that executes off of the main CPU and are freely redistributable. Although video does blur the line since a GPU has almost unfettered access to the system memory unlike a USB device or other more contained device. We live in a world where the $0.25 for a bit of flash is enough to create a competitive difference, some of us accept the world as it is.

        And Debian is the least Pure since all you have to do is check a box during install to get unfree drivers, blobs, flashplayer, etc. Fedora allows blobs but other than that is far more of a pain to get closed hardware going with. Repos do exist if you can make it through the installer and have network, but are like “Fight Club” in that you may not even speak of them on any official Fedora fora.

  10. 8 cores? Brad, I know this isn’t your error if it is one, but has there ever been an 8-core mobile i7?

    1. Who says it’s a mobile CPU?

      I’ll see if I can get more info about exactly which Core i7 this is… and whether it’s a true octa-core chip, or if he’s counting threads instead of cores.

      1. That was just speculation on my part, I doubt they would go for a desktop-oriented part for that reasonably thin chassis. That, and the only true 8-core i7’s have TDP’s of 140W that would be outlandish in a thin laptop. There’s the option to underclock/volt, but still…

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