More About the Librem 5

I concluded my previous post about the Purism Librem 5 [1] with the phone working as a Debian/GNOME system with SSH access over the LAN. Before I published that post I managed to render it unbootable, making a new computer unbootable on the first day of owning it isn’t uncommon for me. In this case I tried to get SE Linux running on it and changing the kernel commandline parameter “security=apparmor” to “security=selinux” caused it to fail the checksum on kernel parameters and halt the boot. That seems to require a fresh install, it seems possible that I could setup my Librem5 to boot a recovery image from a SD card in such situations but that doesn’t seem to be well documented and I didn’t have any important data to lose. If I do figure out how to recover data by booting from a micro SD card I’ll document it.

Here’s the documentation for reflashing the phone [2], you have to use the “--variant luks” option for the flashing tool to have an encrypted root filesystem (should default to on to match the default shipping configuration). There is an option --skip-cleanup to allow you to use the same image multiple times, but that probably isn’t useful. The image that is available for download today has the latest kernel update that I installed yesterday so it seems that they quickly update the image which makes it convenient to get the latest (dpkg is slow on low power ARM systems). Overall the flash tool is nicely written, does the download and install and instructs you how to get the phone in flashing mode. It is a minor annoyance that the battery has to be removed as part of the flashing process, I will probably end up flashing my phone more often than I want to take the back off the case. A mitigating factor is that the back is well designed and doesn’t appear prone to having it’s plastic tabs breaking off when removed (as has happened to several other phones I’ve owned).

The camera doesn’t seem to work well at this time, all photos have an unusually low brightness. The audio recording also doesn’t work well, speaking clearly into the phone results in quiet recordings.

I updated the Debian Wiki page on Mobile devices [3] to include a link to a page about the Librem5 [4] and to also have a section about applications known to work well on mobile devices. Hopefully other people will make some additions to that as most programs in Debian don’t work well on mobile devices so we need a list of known good applications as well as applications that can be easily changed to work well.

One thing I’ve started looking at is the code for the Geary MUA (the default MUA for the Librem5 and the only one in Debian I know to be suitable for a phone). It needs the Thunderbird style autoconfig and it needs the ability to select which IMAP folders to scan as a common practice is to have some large IMAP folders that aren’t used on mobile devices.

I believe that Android runs each app in a separate UID to prevent them from messing with each other. The configuration on a standard Linux system and on PureOS is to have all apps running with the same permissions, I think this needs to be improved both for phones and for regular Linux systems which will probably benefit more than phones do. I’ll write another blog post about this.

2 comments to More About the Librem 5

  • fsflover

    Have a look at the Purism forums. Many of the questions you have are answered there. For example, the camera works fine, you just need to adjust its exposure and gain *manually*.

  • fsflover:

    The above URL describes how to do it. It gives some nice results if you want to get RAW data and post process it, something that’s impossible with most other cameras apart from DSLRs. But it doesn’t support just pressing the button and getting a reasonably good photo as every Android phone and iPhone does. The vast majority of photos I’ve taken are ones where just pressing the button and getting a reasonably good photo is the desired option.