Support for the Librem 5 Phone

Librem Mail

Mail (Figure 6) is adequate for basic email. It supports attachments and can draw upon a device's Contact listings for recipients, as well as add custom signatures and manage multiple identities. Basic configuration is no harder than entering your Librem One name and passphrase and the composition window could not be simpler.

Figure 6: Mail is best-suited to small volumes of mail.

However, I would be reluctant to rely on it for my daily communication, because it currently lacks the ability to filter messages into different folders. You cannot, for example, set all the messages from a mailing list to download into a designated folder.

Even more importantly, while end-to-end encryption is available, it is needlessly complex. First, you have to create your keys in OpenKeychain [7] (Figure 7). Then you have to activate encryption in three separate places to configure Mail generally. Should you discover one of these places in the wrong order, you will need to fumble around to find the others. Moreover, once you have enabled encryption, the interface assumes that you know the basics of how to use it. Considering that encryption is advertised as one of the features of Librem One, requiring users to jump through these hoops defeats the point of having encryption in the first place.

Figure 7: Install OpenKeychain if you want encryption.

Librem Tunnel

Anyone who has used a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can appreciate the security it supplies. However, configuration can be difficult, which is why I had high hopes for Tunnel (Figure 8). While I usually prefer command-line configuration, a graphic interface seemed exactly what was needed to make setting up a VPN quick and easy.

Figure 8: Tunnel manages VPNs, but not conveniently.

Unfortunately, if I assume the persona of a novice user, Tunnel offers few of the advantages that justify the use of a graphical interface. Help is hidden in an FAQ in the middle of the top-level menu, and begins with "Get a working config (tested on your computer or download from your provider/organization)." In the very first sentence, novice users are left behind, and the FAQ only gets worse from there. Few novices are likely to get around to the Graph or Settings menus, and, if they do look out of curiosity, they are not going to be any the wiser. At the most, novices might manage through trial and error to connect to online storage, but even that process will probably be none too clear. The result is that what could be the star app is all too likely to be the least used.

Potential Still to Come

I like the idea of Librem One immensely. It has the potential to play an influential role in spreading the use of open hardware. However, even allowing for a first release, the implementation seems rough and inconsistent – especially if the point is to bring security and privacy concerns to the general user. The current release has promise, but that promise is only partly realized.

Still, Librem One is worth watching to see how it develops. It should be especially interesting to see how Librem One compares to the similar set of tools being developed by Gaël Duval's /e/ Foundation [8].

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