Purism’s Librem 5 smartphone ships with a custom GNU/Linux distribution called PureOS. It’s the same software that runs on Purism’s Linux laptops, but it’s been adapted to work with phones like the Librem 5.
So far there are some key features that haven’t worked yet. Now Purism is announcing it’ll enable some of those things in the next release of PureOS, which is code-named Byzantium.
Among other things, Byzantium will bring support for full disk encryption and GPS navigation. There are also a bunch of software updates that’ll make it easier to not only use the Librem 5 as a phone, but also as a desktop computer.
PureOS Byzantium is based on Debian Buster, and in addition to updated apps and settings, it shares the same code base between laptop, phone, desktop, and servers. Among other things, that makes it easier to run desktop apps, or even desktop environments, on the Librem 5. More on that below.
Here are some of the new features specific to the Librem 5. Disk encryption will let you password-protect the root disk, preventing unauthorized users from logging into your phone. GPS support will let you use Gnome Maps for navigation using data from the OpenStreeMap database.
The Gnome Web browser will also soon support using the phone’s built-in video processing unit to decode videos, allowing you to stream video over the web for longer while the phone stays cooler. An Adaptive File Manager now makes it easier to navigate files using a graphical user interface. Toggling the hardware kill switch for the mic and camera will now cause a new icon to appear in the status bar. And you can now uninstall any app, even default applications that come pre-installed on the phone.
Purism says the device settings application now has more options, including support for a high contrast mode for users with visual impairments. There’s also a test version of a Screen Reader.
The Librem 5’s default user interface is Phosh, a phone shell UI that Purism developed for this phone, and which has been adopted by many other mobile Linux distributions. But starting with the Byzantium release of PureOS, users will also be able to install alternate desktop environments that you can use either in phone mode or when connecting your phone to an external display.
Purism says supported desktop environments include GNOME, KDE Plasma, Xfce, MATE, LXDE, and LXQT. None of these are specifically made for phones, but the company has tested several of them running on the Librem 5 without an external display.
You can find more details at the Purism blog, or check out the video below for a brief overview of the new features coming to the Librem 5 with PureOS Byzantium.
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