Ordering a Purism Librem 13v2 to run Qubes 4.0RC4

Privacy has increasingly become a worry for me, and with big corporations selling your data like candy, it seems like a good idea to go somewhat under the radar. Not just by not using big corps “free” services, but also protect oneself again maliciousness from evil doers, due to holes in all code made in the concept of “time-to-market” instead of security in mind.

And how do you secure yourself from Trojans, and all the other stuff, without reading every instruction on the internet about issues and how to counteract them?

You can tape your camera, run antivirus, avoid clicking this and that, but isn’t there something completely wrong with programs, if a single click can infect your computer without authorization, and all your phone’s data can be sold to the highest bidder, because you are not in charge of your data anymore. The world is as insecure as it gets.

A long time ago I abandoned facebook and I need to take a step further. I had this romantic dream of kill switches that disables bluetooth, microphones and camera, giving me the controls back, instead of being a possible victim of Trojans en mass, etc. And the idea of a browser with a bug, didn’t put my harddrive accessible to the internet. Kill switches took me to purism and compartmentalization took me to Qubes.

A match made in heaven ! 🙂

So installing Qubes 3.2 on my lenovo yoga 2 Pro, was step 1 and ordering a Purism Librem5 phone was step 2. After ordering the phone (Librem 5), I also ordered the Librem 13v2, with Qubes, with the latest hardware, so I could run Qubes 4.0, when it was released.

This is the story of how my Purism Librem13v2 was a challenge. And the story isn’t over yet.

On the 22nd of November I ordered my Librem13v2, anticipated shipping a few weeks later.

An expensive buy, but I was in the mood for a long term relationship, with Purism. NVMe disk and Qubes. A bit overpriced you might say. That’s another story. NVMe 512GB here is $200 retail, so yes.

The shipping update on the 26th of November was promising:

  • Hi Max,
  • We received a new batch of Librem 13 a few days ago. We’ll start shipping them in a few days. Since your order is fairly recent, it will probably be shipped around mid December.
  • Best regards

Mid December. Sounds good to me. Then maybe I can get it as a christmas present?

  • Hi Max,
  • Unfortunately, not. Your order includes a TPM add-on and those orders will be shipped in the first half of January. We received a lot of requests for TPM, so we needed more time than initially planned to modify all those orders.
  • Best regards

Damn. My christmas present was delayed. Well, the thing is worth waiting for :). Right? Half through January it was still awaiting shipment….

Hi Max,

We’re trying very hard to fulfill all orders in a timely manner and have hired additional staff. We’ll get to your order as fast as possible, probably in the next two-three weeks.

Thank you for your patience.

Best regards

Ok, now i’m getting sad. over 2 whole months before my order get’s shipped.  Well, better late than never.

On the 3rd of February, they shipped the item…. Well, they have notified USPS that there was an Item to be send, but shipped? No, not yet.

on the 6th I received this:

  • Hi Max,
  • USPS still didn’t picked up the package. You’ll probably see an update in the next 12-24 hours.
  • Best regards

Super. Well. Within  a few days, the package came to Denmark. Getting held up in Customs and I was fined 3600DKK in taxes. That’s a bit more than $600.

I better love this privacy thing. Bottom line is expensive kill switches 🙂

Well, guess what. No USB stick.. The reply was:

  • Hi Max,
  • We don’t have USB flash drives on stock at the moment. We’ll send it separately in about two weeks.
  • Best regards

Thank you very much. Well, I can wait. Let’s try this PureOS out.

The install wen’t almost without issues. The touchpad didn’t work. Known issue I was told:

  • Hi Max,
  • Yes, that’s a known problem. We’re working on a fix.
  • Best regards

Well, the install finished and the touchpad worked. Now, let’s see what this PureOS is all about. Wauw. This was one of the best, simple, beautiful, Linux distributions I have ever seen. With encryption, privacy and moderate security as default. Qubes is a bit much, and PureOS seems like the OS for me. So I decided then that PureOS  should be my primary personal VM of choice in Qubes, of course 🙂

Well, Qubes 3.2 didn’t install very well, due to known issues. 4.0 couldn’t get installed because of other issues with CoreBoot 4.7 . My Librem 13v2 is shipped with Coreboot 4.6 which does not support Qubes 4.0.

So I had bought a laptop that worked barely with 3.2 (My restored Kali VM doesn’t work and the boot loader fail) and not at all with 4.0. The whole reason for the purchase, was to get it running Qubes-OS 4.0.

Well, the Purism and Coreboot team worked hard, and it seems that the early announcement, might soon get to be a real announcement that is not just a statement, but an actual usable announcement with a guide to get your brick working. Right now, it’s still without a proper guide.

Soon I hope. Soon.

But when trying to test my poor Qubes 3.2 installation, the fan breaks down, and starts a rattling noise.

Not happy about it, the support gives me a choice of sending it overseas back to Purism or send a spare to me.

  • Hi Max,
  • There’s no need for a video. We had a similar case, where the noise would occur from time to time, and it was coming from the fan. Could you try to bring the bottom of the laptop near your ear when you hear the noise again?
  • The only thing left to do is to send the laptop back to us for repair. Or we could send you a replacement fan, if it happens that it’s a source of that noise, and if you think you could replace it by yourself.
  • Best regards

Well, I told them to send it with the missing usb-stick and I’m looking forward to it. And of course the Coreboot update. And the test of Qubes 4.0.

In restrospect, I would maybe recommend the Lenovo X1 Carbon (Which I use for work, actually) and the Qubes team uses too. Regarding hardware switches, Joanna actually commented on it regarding Qubes 4.0 that “Similarly, we don’t consider physical kill switches on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices to be mandatory”. So I guess, that running qubes and controlling the hardware to VM’s should suffice. And it’s cheaper than kill switches.

But, hey. The hype get’s you a long way, says an iphone user 😉

UPDATE 22/2-2018:

The coreboot is available, but the initial version is quite faulty, so updating will be a hassle. Be sure to get the latest Coreboot 4.7 v.3

February 2018 coreboot update now available

UPDATE  22/2-2018:

To make me feel even worse, Purism offered free TPM and International shipping on all NEW orders. So, even though my order is not quite finished, the answer to the question “Could I be included in this great offer, since my order is not yet fully received? was…

  • Only for new orders.

So there you go. $99 for the TPM and $80 for shipping and now I have to return the damn thing because of a faulty fan.

This thing is costing me more than the X1 Carbon I should have bought instead, it seems.

The most expensive kill switches in the world, and it doesn’t have a danish keyboard 🙂

UPDATE 7/3-2018

I shipped the thing back on the 1st of march and it hasn’t been delivered to Purism yet. I’m looking forward to see how long time it will be, from ordering a laptop to actually getting a working laptop. So far its’ been ….. quite some time…

UPDATE 9/3-2018:

  • After receiving the package at Purism, I inquired about when to expect the fan to be replaced and the answer was:
  • Hi Max,
  • It will probably take us 5-10 days. We’ll let you know as soon as we fix it.
  • Best regards

So, counting on approximately 3,5 months now and 4 months since initial order…

UPDATE 15/3-2018:

  • Hi Max,
  • We managed to fix your laptop. Could you send us your shipping address?

🙂 Of course. Keeping the costs down by saving on CRM systems is a great thing.

And now it’s almost shipped 😉

We have a very expensive public sector here in Denmark, so we have to make people pay the absolute maximum to get the show on the road. I must say, paying customs twice, because the same machine travels the border twice is just stupid.

UPDATE 20-03-2018

  • Hello Max Andersen,Your item is being held in Customs at 12:38 pm on March 20, 2018 in COPENHAGEN EMS, DENMARK.

    Tracking Number: XXXXXXXXXXXX

So when confronted with the customs yet again, I was send back and forth between FedEx and Customs 5 times before the issue is (maybe) resolved.

The Clearance Broker At fedex have now send an email to Customs and a few days will pass…..

If 2 days pass, We are officially 4 months from the order date. That is a huge fail.

UPDATE 21-03-2018

  • Hello Max Andersen,

    Your item cleared customs in DENMARK at 10:22 am on March 21, 2018.

    Tracking Number: XXXXXXXXXXXX

One day left for the 4 month mark…