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Purism Librem 15 Linux laptop blends high-end hardware with totally free software

Chris Hoffman | Nov. 20, 2014
Purism wants your help making an uncompromisingly high-end Linux laptop with uncompromisingly free software inside.

librem laptop opened front

We don't normally cover crowdfunding campaigns on PCWorld, but sometimes one comes along that's just begging for a deeper look. The Purism Librem 15 notebook is one of those.

Purism, which launched a drive on Crowd Supply on Wednesday, is seeking at least $250,000 to make a high-end Linux laptop that only runs free, or open-source, software. This means no annoying closed-source drivers--or "binary blobs"--necessary to make the hardware work. Make no mistake--this is a serious, slick Linux notebook, not a bit of kit for hobbyist hackers.

A high-end laptop with open-source software

Linux laptops can be hard to find. Even harder to find are Linux laptops where the hardware works perfectly well with free software. Even Linux laptops that look nice and slick might have closed-source "binary blob" drivers running in the Linux kernel.

Enter the Librem 15, which claims to be "the first laptop in the world that ships without mystery software in the kernel, operating system, or any software applications." This claim may be a bit overblown--we're sure Richard Stallman and his Leemote YeeLoong would disagree--but it certainly does look like an awesome, high-end laptop that blows systems like the Leemote out of the water.

Purism claims the laptop's hardware has been "meticulously designed chip by chip to work with free and open source software," saying it's the "first laptop to reinstate your rights to freedom and privacy." Marketing the privacy angle is probably a smart move in this post-Snowden world, but this campaign may be just as exciting for any Linux user or developer looking for a solid piece of well-supported hardware that doesn't require potentially unreliable closed-source drivers.

The system will ship with the "Purism GNU/Linux Operating System," a Linux distribution based on Trisquel. Trisquel is Ubuntu-based, but includes only free software. If you prefer another Linux distribution, it should be trivial to switch.

They're not lying when they say they want to make high-end hardware, either. The Librem 15 includes a 15.6-inch 1920x1080 display, an 8-core 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, NVIDIA graphics, 4 or 8 GB of RAM, Wi-Fi, a 720p webcam, and all the other goodies you'd expect in a high-end laptop--including a brushed metal exterior. The price is high-end too, with the cheapest retail configuration starting at $1899, or $1499 if you commit to buying it during the crowdfunding campaign.

Purism says they've put together final prototypes, and now they're seeking $250,000 to make it a reality.

No proprietary software, but proprietary hardware and firmware

This project immediately reminded me of the Novena laptop project.


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