Richard Stallman explains free software at TEDx Geneva. Subtitles and slides.
RetroFreedom sells GNU+Linux computers with the Libreboot firmware and Trisquel GNU+Linux operating system preinstalled. Libreboot is a free (libre) BIOS/UEFI replacement, offering faster boots speeds, better security and many advanced features compared to most proprietary boot firmware. The main benefit to libreboot is your freedom and privacy in using your computer, as per Free Software Foundation and GNU standards, but it has many technical advantages aswell (faster boot speeds, GNU GRUB directly in the boot flash, many customization options you can’t get with proprietary BIOS/UEFI).
The aim is simple: make it easy to have a computer that was made to run entirely on Free Software at every level, meaning no proprietary software of any kind. That includes the boot firmware, operating system, drivers and applications.
But why? What is this all about? All computer users deserve maximum control (liberty) over the computers that they own. I, Leah Rowe, company director, believe so strongly in this that this very website, RetroFreedom.com, runs on libreboot servers, on a network behind a Libreboot-powered router. All RetroFreedom.com servers are entirely self-hosted, in my lab! I’m quite competent at sysadmin tasks, and I’ve been self-hosting for years.
More information about the company, including how it operates and how orders are processed, can be read below.
How RetroFreedom operates
I, Leah Rowe, own and operate the company alone. You can see pictures of my lab here:
The company re-opened on 10 November 2020. It briefly went offline at the start of the 2020 Covid19 pandemic. Major improvements were made to the efficiency and reliability of operations, which you can read about here:
I have excellent suppliers, sourcing laptops for me regularly. They literally make phone calls, send emails, drive to locations and buy laptops for me, every day. They then thoroughly check the laptops for quality, before selling them to me (they sell the ones I don’t want, to other people instead). I never buy from auction sites (e.g. eBay); my suppliers sell to me first! If you can’t find X200/T400 thinkpads on eBay in the UK, it’s probably my fault 😉 I receive new machines into my lab on a weekly basis, and I have a steady supply.
Before a laptop is added to stock on the webshop, it is:
- Configured fully: e.g. Libreboot and Trisquel installation
- Parts installed such as libre AR5B95 WiFi module
- Thoroughly tested. If issues are found, it gets fixed and/or parts are replaced.
- Batteries are thoroughly tested. I include *2* batteries per laptop sold.
- CPU fan and thermal paste are replaced. I use high quality Arctic MX-4 thermal paste.
- Screen and keyboard are one of the main priorities. I try to find new parts whenever possible, or parts that are as mint condition as possible.
- The machine is thoroughly tested again
You can find a video of me setting of some Libreboot T400 as an example (use youtube-dl to download it):
(it was a live stream)
When I’m happy with the machine, I download source code onto it (Libreboot and Trisquel GNU+Linux source code), print the standard welcome pack included that has instructions for getting started and pack the laptop, along with batteries, power cables, charger(s) and so on. The laptop is then ready to be sold!
The result? When sold and shipped to you, the laptop that you receive is of high quality. Many of my customers comment that their laptop looks and feels brand new. When I say refurbished, I mean it! This is why my laptops are slightly more expensive than from certain other Libreboot suppliers (e.g. eBay sellers). When you buy from me, what you’re buying is quality.
Laptops are only added to stock on the website when they are packed and ready to ship. This way, they ship immediately after a customer pays for their order. Because of this, I’m constantly working on new laptops and packing them, ready to sell on this website.
In other words: if I had 100 laptops but none of them were packed, then they would be out of stock on the website. If I’m out of stock, that’s my problem and only my problem. However, the laptops are usually in stock! I have excellent suppliers, and I buy new machines constantly (almost every week).
I spend about 1-2 hours spread out throughout the day, answering emails. When someone orders a product, I am immediately notified via email. I have an automated system on my main workstation, that immediately tells me to check emails when a sale has arrived. Sale notifications go into a separate inbox internally, on my mail server.
When there are orders placed, I check RetroFreedom’s bank account and bitcoin wallet every hour. When a payment has arrived, it is identified and the orders that are paid get shipped immediately, or on the next available business day.
By operating in this manner, I’m able to quickly arrange shipping via UPS. I do this *daily*. When I book a shipment, I then leave the package in a secure location (the front door!) and when UPS knocks at the door, I hand over the package. The product that you purchased is then shipped to your location.
I use UPS because they provide a high quality service, with fast shipping times. Learn more about shipping.
People of RetroFreedom
RetroFreedom is currently a single-person company. I, Leah Rowe, am the company’s director, founder, sole shareholder and sole employee. I handle all the orders, and ship all the laptops. This means that I limit the number of laptops and consoles that I sell, to avoid becoming overwhelmed with too much work. I operate out of my home; the place I live in is small but very efficiently organized.
I do it all. My work schedule is very busy, which is why I organize myself the way I do. Everything has to be structured perfectly, so that I can run reliably.
My priority is this: when you order a laptop, it must ship quickly. If I’m out of stock, that’s my problem only. I try to run my business as honestly and as professionally as possible, with very little help. This is why I’m sometimes out of stock (I work very efficiently, so I’m usually in stock. If what you want is out of stock, check again a few days later!). However, despite this, I’m able to provide an efficient service.
About Leah Rowe
RetroFreedom’s founder, Leah Rowe, is also a libreboot developer (and founder of the libreboot project). Profits from RetroFreedom sales directly fund the libreboot project. This includes paying for development, hardware, hosting and so on. RetroFreedom can be contacted, using the information on the contact page.
You can also find me on twitter at https://twitter.com/n4of7.
In addition to Libreboot laptops, I also mod retro games consoles. Examples of mods I do: RGB, THS7374 bypass, modchip/modboard to disable copy/region restrictions, general board repair (fix board damage such as broken circuit traces or replace failed / burned out parts), mechanical repairs like on CD/DVD laser assemblies and servicing such as replacement of electrolytic capacitors. You can find videos of my work (plus Libreboot videos!) on my YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQH7N2oXp-_Za1zkdhaAPfg
My reddit user name is libreleah and I am a moderator of https://www.reddit.com/r/libreboot/
I am occasionally on IRC. My FreeNode nick is unoccupied and you can sometimes find me in the #libreboot channel, but I’m not as active on IRC as I used to be. I stepped down as leader of the libreboot project in early 2017; and_who and swiftgeek (on IRC) took over the project. I still contribute patches to Libreboot and help out as much as I can. I also maintain the hosting infrastructure keeping libreboot.org and related services (such as email) online, but if you want to get involved with Libreboot, talk to swiftgeek or and_who on IRC.
I’m a passionate Free Software activist. When I started this company, and created Libreboot, I did so precisely because I noticed a trend: libre systems were possible, but out of reach by ordinary non-technical people. Everything I do is geared towards non-technical people. However, skilled software engineers also buy from me!
- My aunt handles accounting (tax returns). She has been in the business since the early 2000s, and does a very good job, catering to small and medium sized businesses. I wouldn’t ever use anyone else.
Examples of how I, Leah Rowe, have contributed financially and technically to libreboot:
- I created the project, from scratch! The project was formally announced in early 2014, but work had started in December 2013
- Ported boards to libreboot many times, in addition to spending countless hours providing free user support to the public, via IRC and mailing lists.
- RetroFreedom has privately funded several new board ports to coreboot, which were then added to libreboot: 90,000 USD to Raptor Engineering for ASUS KGPE-D16 and KCMA-D8 libreboot support, and 4000 AUD to damo22 on IRC freenode (Damien Zammit) for Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L and Intel D510MO libreboot support
- The libreboot.org infrastructure and hosting is paid for by RetroFreedom, and maintained by it.
- I work on Libreboot regularly, and I discuss development with other developers. This costs time, which costs money (need to eat, sleep, etc).
- Generally paying for new development. I don’t spend much money on myself, it all mainly goes to libreboot and general living costs. Costs are kept as low as possible to ensure that libreboot always has excess funding available in the future.
I provide RetroFreedom as a public service. I price the laptops in such a way where I’m able to sustain myself adequately, and provide support to the Free Software community. When I started this business, in mid 2013, Libreboot didn’t exist and I was selling corebooted ThinkPad X60 laptops. I never expected the company to get big and popular (that happened by accident!). One day, the FSF contacted me, in late 2013 and wanted me to make my laptops meet their Respects Your Freedom standards, and I accepted to work for them. This work is what ultimately lead to the creation of the Libreboot project! I have personally met Richard Stallman and shook his hand, many times. In several different countries 😉 (I’ve traveled around the world and given talks about Libreboot at various conferences. A few of those videos are online today; e.g. FOSDEM 2017 Libreboot talk)