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Librem 5 Longevity: Solving The Problem of Disposable Technology

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I’ve been using GNU/Linux (“Linux”) as my desktop OS for over twenty years now. Throughout all of that time, one thing that I’ve loved about Linux on the desktop is how it can take a so-called “slow” and “old” computer and can breathe new life into it. Back when Installfests were a thing (events where people would bring computers to Linux Users’ Groups and get help installing Linux on them) often people would bring in second-hand computers, sometimes found in the trash or given away by companies after they were deemed too slow to run Windows. After Linux was installed they performed like they were new and the user now had a computer they could use for years to come. There were even programs that would refurbish second-hand computers, put Linux on them and provide them to schools who wouldn’t have computers otherwise. However bloated some people might think Linux is today compared to the “good old days” this effect still holds true–take a machine that’s too slow to run something else, and put Linux on it, and it’s like a new computer.

Linux’s low resource needs compared to everything else not only meant resurrecting computers that would otherwise end up in a landfill, it also meant if you were fortunate enough that you could afford a new computer, you could expect many more years of service out of the hardware, with OS updates that either improved performance (as hardware support improved) or at least maintained the existing performance. Many large companies assume their computers will last around 2-3 years before they need to be replaced but in my experience I get at least twice that longevity with Linux on the desktop.

My personal laptop is a first generation Librem 13 I bought in 2015 (I participated in the original crowdfunding campaign long before I worked here). I run Qubes on it and even after four years I don’t feel any need for a new laptop yet–it still works as well as it did when I bought it. Before that I had a Thinkpad X200s I bought brand new and had used for about six years before it started to show its age. Even now my wife uses that X200s as a secondary computer for writing.

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