Purism launched a crowdfunding campaign to build a premium laptop designed to run free/libre and open source software last year, and the result was the Purism Librem 15.

But some folks wanted a more portable option… and so Purism is back with a campaign to build a 13.3 inch, 3 pound laptop called the Purism Librem 13. You can back the campaign by making a pledge of $1,449 or more at Crowd Supply.

librem 13_04

So what does that kind of money get you? In terms of specs… not all that much really. An entry-level Librem 13 features an Intel Core i5-5200U Broadwell processor, a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel matte display, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB of storage.

The system has stereo speakers, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, an SDXC card reader, 802.11n WiFi, an Ethernet jack, and a 48 Wh battery for 6 to 8 hours of run time. The laptop has an aluminum case and measures about 0.7 inches thick.

You can pay more for up to 16GB of RAM or for faster solid state storage.

You could also pay a lot less and get a laptop from a traditional PC maker with better specs and just load a GNU/Linux operating system like Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, or Arch on it.

So why go with a high-priced Purism machine instead?

Founder Todd Weaver says the laptops are designed specifically to run free software and everything but the BIOS is completely free of proprietary binaries, blobs, and whatnot. The CPU, graphics, wireless card, and everything else was selected specifically because it could work with free and open software, which means there’s no code running on the machine that you can’t inspect or modify yourself (except the BIOS, which has proprietary firmware).

Purism is also making the case that it’s PureOS operating system (which is based on Trisquel Linux) should appeal to folks who value privacy and security, since users can examine all the code running on the system and ensure there’s no spyware.

There’s also an optional hardware kill switch which physically disconnects the camera and microphone when they’re not in use, preventing anyone from using your computer’s hardware to listen to you or watch you when you don’t want them to. When you do want to video chat, there’s a 1MP front-facing camera that can shoot 720p video.

Weaver says the Librem 13 should ship to backers of the crowfunding campaign in September if Purism can raise $250,000 to order an initial batch of computers from its manufacturing partner.

If you don’t care that much about using a computer with as many free software components as possible, you could probably save money by picking up a cheaper Windows laptop and even by replacing the OS with a GNU/Linux distribution if you’d like. But Weaver says Purism computers are different because every single piece of hardware has been chosen due to its ability to work with free/libre software.

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11 replies on “Purism Librem 13 laptop runs free and open software (crowdfunding)”

  1. I can’t stand chiclet keys. Why does every laptop maker play Follow The Leader and imitate Apple?

  2. It would – IMO – be interesting to see them make a computer (desktop or laptop) designed to run the (still being developed) operating system ReactOS. https://www.reactos.org . It is a free open source clone of Windows.

  3. Again it feels a bit of a hit-and-miss to me. There is clearly a demand for open hardware. But an open laptop (or any PC) should go beyond installing a linux distro on regular hardware. If you consider buying this, chances are you don’t want the NSA or the Chinese or the Russians poke around in your system with their built-in backdoors. But besides the installed OS and the BIOS/UEFI there are a lot of place one can hide a backdoor, one even the system can’t detect. The firmware of the network card would be one such obvious place. The keyboard controller could contain a keylogger secretly. The sound card could secretly let your mic run, your HDD or SSD or the card-reader could make shadow-copies without you knowing, even the CPU itself has a microcode that’s not documented and even if it would, you couldn’t make much sense of it. Want to sell me an open, backdoor proof notebook? Good, I’m buying! But make sure you are selling what you say you do, go ahead and look up, document and check ALL the possible places. Checking the BIOS in this case was a good effort thou, but clearly not enough.

    1. From the article:

      “Founder Todd Weaver says the laptops are designed specifically to run free software and everything but the BIOS is completely free of proprietary binaries, blobs, and whatnot. The CPU, graphics, wireless card, and everything else was selected specifically because it could work with free and open software, which means there’s no code running on the machine that you can’t inspect or modify yourself (except the BIOS, which has proprietary firmware).”

      I interpret “completely free of proprietary binaries, blobs, and whatnot” to refer to NIC firmware, SATA controller, sound card, etc. Am I misinterpreting?

  4. Installing and upgrading linux on a common widows laptop is not something everyone can do. Especially if you have a modern uefi laptop with a broadcom wifi card. I am myself running fedora on a 2015 ASUS laptop and every upgrade is a real nightmare. Those proprietary drivers updates always come later than the system update. You end up with drivers that are not matching your kernel version and have to fix things manualy. I wish I knew the Librem before buying my ASUS.

  5. and so the marketing said ….. an older pre-uefi device might do the trick a lot cheaper. and for the rest the company would have to proove the claim.with technical facts.

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