Purism: Behind the (coreboot) scenes

This post does not reflect the opinion of the coreboot project, but reflects the personal opinion of its author, Alex Gagniuc.

Since the last time I talked about Purism’s stab at a coreboot laptop, a lot happened, including the launch of the non-libre Librem 15, alongside with plans for a 13″ version. My last post seems to have sparked quite some controversy on the subject, placing me on the CC field of many emails between not-so-happy supporters and Todd Weaver. I’ve avoided writing on this subject again, because I didn’t have anything good to say about Purism. However, considering the amount of new emails being generated lately, I think I should follow up on why the Librem 15 failed on the freedom front, and why another Purism laptop is just as likely to fail.

The road so far

A lot has happened since my last post, including a lot of media coverage on the issue. Now I can use acronyms like FSP, ME, and EC, without having to worry about losing 90% of my audience. It’s great that there is now a lot of non-technical coverage on the issue, something that non-corebooters can easily digest. However, some things also happened behind the scenes, which I’d now like to talk about.

Trying to meet Todd in person

After my initial post, a large number of emails flew back and forth between angry backers, Crowdsupply, and Purism, with me on the CC field. From this, I’ve had the chance to communicate with Todd Weaver directly, and express to him my concerns on why the Librem was about to fail. I also offered to set up a meeting with Stefan and Ron. I’ve talked to Stefan, and he seemed excited to speak with Todd and help put coreboot on the Librem. Ron shared the following over the email thread:

Todd, I think the overall concern with librem and your statements is the seeming lack of realization that you're walking over very well trod ground, and there are lessons learned, and we might as well pass them on.
I for one seeing you making the same mistakes that have been frequently made over 15 years, and there's benefit to learning what we've learned.

That was back in March. The meeting hasn’t yet happened. The discussion died down when I asked Todd to produce the current source code for the upcoming librem. After almost a month from my initial inquiry, on May 11, Todd wrote:

We will be releasing the source code once we get coreboot working on our rev1 which will be shipping within the next few weeks.

The Librem 15 launched

Fast forward a few months later, after the email exchanges died down, I get a tip that the Librem 15 has shipped with AMI UEFI firmware. While I do not have a Librem 15 in my possesion, this has been confirmed by PC World. Although I hate having been right about this, I love saying this: I told you so.

Todd claims he has coreboot developers working on Librem

A new wave of angry emails ensued just recently. I once again had the chance to communicate with Todd directly. He claimed to have three coreboot developers working for Purism, but they wanted to remain anonymous. He did, however, provide the name on one of the developers, whom I shall not mention for privacy reasons. Of course, I was curious to see what that person worked on:

[coreboot]$ git log |grep Author |grep -i <first name> -c
[coreboot]$ git log |grep Author |grep -i <last name> -c

I’ve informed Todd that this developer is not a coreboot contributor, and for the purpose of our discussion, does not count as a coreboot “developer”. I’ve asked Todd to produce git hashes of patches contributed by one or both of the other two developers. He has not done so.

Purism attacks Minifree (formerly Gluglug)


Just this morning, a tweet was brought to my attention, which, to me, seems like a direct attack on Minifree from Purism. The tweet compared an “old heavy IBM Thinkpad”, with the Librem 15, showing the picture of a T60 Thinkpad running libreboot. This is also one of the pictures Gluglug (now Minifree) used on its product page when they were selling the T60 model.

For those of you unaware, Minifree (formerly Gluglug) sells laptop systems which are completely free, from the OS down to the firmware, and which are endorsed by the FSF through their Respects Your Freedom certification. The Minifree laptops are what we, as the community have been working to achieve since the inception of LinuxBIOS more than fifteen years ago, and the reason I have stuck with the project for over half a decade despite all the difficulties and roadblocks. To attack Minifree is to insult all of our hard work over the years, and to me, it indicates that Purism really doesn’t give a damn about your freedom, but they really like your support and money.

I know I promised I would also talk about why another Purism laptop is just as likely to fail as the Librem 15, but I’ve ranted enough for one post. I’ll describe that into more detail next time.

UPDATE: I just received the following private email from Todd Weaver:

Ouch, that is not an approved tweet. I asked to have it removed, since I am a big fan of what Gluglug did/does. And we provide it as an alternative from our own website.

2 thoughts on “Purism: Behind the (coreboot) scenes”

    Hash: SHA1

    Alex, you are taking a lot out of context.

    We punted on Coreboot+Intel FSP releasing with our Librem 15 rev1, so we could ship product to early backers, whom knew they were not getting the Librem 15 rev2. Our website shows the difference:
    So if a backer wanted an AMI BIOS, and a Librem 15 rev1, we offered to ship that. And we did. The remaining stack was free, from the bootloader on up.

    With your negativity, it is no wonder why developers want to remain anonymous.

    We _should_ all be working toward the same goal, which is fighting for free software. We have posted quite clearly our progress to date:
    We link to GluGlug, and to Novena from there as alternatives.

    We are making progress on what is a very challenging problem to solve. It requires BOTH hardware manufacturing and software/firmware writing to solve this problem. NOT just coreboot software/firmware.

    We are fighting the same war, just different battles:
    1) We believe in digital freedom, we will not attack those that also believe in digital freedom. Libreboot, Coreboot, Gluglug, ThinkPenguin, System 76, are NOT enemies. They are fighting the same system. Think of them as other soldiers fighting a different battle in the same war.

    2) We DO want to challenge anybody whom does NOT believe in digital freedom, Microsoft, Apple, HP, Lenovo, etc. These are the institutions that we are at war with. Since they are not pro user freedom to the same strictness that we are.

    While there are some free software haters, they are doing good things generally, by supporting users’ rights. We want to challenge the corporate status quo. Let’s push in that direction.

    I have a meeting with additional coreboot developers this Thursday.

    Todd Weaver
    Version: GnuPG v1


  2. You’ve got my money, now back it up. I need convincing that rev2 is running CoreBoot. Words are empty, i’ll believe it when I see it.

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