Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Sunday, February 23, 2020 at 13:42

Unlike many other secure & privacy-respecting operating systems, PureOS does not get celebration in every release. Say for example QubesOS, Tails, Whonix, and OpenBSD, they all get celebrations every time they reach a new version. However, after a period of version 8.0, now PureOS reaches version 9.0 as per February 2020 I could tell. This article overviews PureOS in general and version 9.0 in particular starting from a little Librem computers intro, then things about the new Amber codename, the switch from Rolling to Stable style of release, and more. I also added valuable links at the end about its history and development. I hope this article can sum up well about PureOS for you. Enjoy!

 (PureOS 9.0, The Silently Released Distro)
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  1. About PureOS
  2. OEM or Manual Install?
  3. What are Amber and Byzantium?
  4. GNOME stack?
  5. Internet capability?
  6. Productivity?
  7. Multimedia & relaxation?
  8. How if you need more apps?
  9. Programming ready?
  10. Technical Things
  11. Further Readings

My Specification

I use an old laptop Acer Aspire One 756 with Intel Pentium 1.3GHz and 4GB RAM to run PureOS Hephaestus in LiveCD mode. I find out it runs well and can browse the web with many tabs opened without lagging. If your specification is better I am sure you can run PureOS better.

About PureOS

PureOS is the official operating system of the modern Purism Librem laptops, computers, and smartphones which is focused in security and privacy. It is a new GNU/Linux operating system derived from Debian, but unlike its predecessor, it is free from any kind of proprietary software. It is committed to GNU Free System Distribution Guidelines (FSDG) so it holds a commitment to remove any proprietary software whenever found. It is shipped in two laptops today, Librem 13 and Librem 15 while at the same time also downloadable via its website. Speaking technically, PureOS is a GNOME desktop  distro with its own repository and is architecturally available in amd64 for Desktop and arm64 for Mobile Phone. In a bigger picture, PureOS is created as a main part of Free Software Movement (symbolized by GNU/Linux) and Privacy Movement (symbolized by Edward Snowden) which made Mainstream (user friendly) carried by Purism. Everybody could download PureOS (version 9.0 at the moment) at

Librem laptops with PureOS displayed on screen 
(screenshot taken from Purism website)

OEM or manual install?

Personally, in my opinion it is best to get PureOS along with its official Librem computers --just as best practice in Windows coming preinstalled in many branded PCs or so does macOS in Macintosh ones-- and this is what I wanted to see for years. Why? Because this way user will not encounter hardware issues which frequently encountered if the computer hardware are not designed for the OS in the first place. You can choose between Librem 13 or Librem 15. The door is already opened and I love that. But if we want to install it by ourselves on our own computers, this door is also opened as well, and this is the way discussed in this article.

I mentioned mobile version but in fact PureOS website does not display download option except desktop version one. Where are them? Easy, they are in with file name ended with .img.xz instead of .iso, so they are actually available in that website address if we dive in a little more. However this is not discussed here.

What are Amber and Byzantium?

PureOS is now adopting Stable release style in place of its previously Rolling release style by keeping the latter one as a separate release. Amber is the current name of Stable PureOS and Byzantium is the Rolling one's. If you download PureOS from official website at the moment or updated it on your Librem computer, you will see "amber" name as the codename presented in sources.list:
pureos@pureos:~$ cat /etc/apt/sources.list
deb amber main
deb amber-security main
deb amber-updates main

But if you download PureOS Byzantium instead, or deliberately change your current system to it, then you will see all "amber" name above replaced with "byzantium". You perhaps will ask, where do we find this PureOS rolling version download? Easy also, just change "amber" into "byzantium" like this

 (Alternatively, you could open Software & Updates from start menu to see "Amber" codename of PureOS 9.0)

However, I still do not know what is the scheme behind naming of the download ISOS "Prometheus" and "Hephaestus" and why they are not using "Amber" or "Byzantium" names instead. I asked the official forum but today it is still not clear.

GNOME stack?

PureOS 9.0 included by default standard apps from GNOME namely Archive Manager, Audio Player, Backups, Calculator, Clocks, Calendar, Cheese, Contacts, Disks (Manager), File Manager, Text Editor, Photo Manager, Image Viewer, Maps, Software (Store), Virtual Machine, Scanner, PDF Reader, Chat, System Settings, Task Manager, Terminal, ToDo, and Video Player. This means PureOS is ready for daily tasks for most users. You can use your computer normally like everyday for example to take care of your photos and surf the internet with audio/video conferences.

(An overview of apps included in PureOS 9.0 which are mainly GNOME)

(GNOME Maps, a desktop map application displaying Tugu Pahlawan, one of most popular places in Surabaya city, Indonesia)

Internet capability?

It includes PureBrowser and Mozilla Thunderbird. The former is a Firefox-modified web browser (with ad blocker and https everywhere add-ons preinstalled) and the latter is the most popular mail client. For real-time communication, it also includes Polari, an IRC client, which is a common in our community so that users of PureOS could contact PureOS user and developer community directly at IRC network. However, unlike other GNOME based distros, PureOS does not include bittorrent and remote desktop clients.

(PureBrowser 60.9.0, a browser based on Firefox Extended Support Release)

Speaking about wifi detection, PureOS does not detect my wifi hardware (Broadcom BCM4313) because this hardware depends on proprietary software firmware, and this is normal. Fortunately I can connect to the internet although I do not have cable internet thanks to Huawei Mifi which can do USB Tethering (thank you so much brother Juang Nakarani for this amazingly useful gift).


It includes LibreOffice 6. This means you can open and edit documents produced with LibreOffice and Microsoft Office and beyond. LibreOffice is a complete suite of word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, flowchart, database, and equation editor programs with large community. You can find documentations and tutorial videos all around the net. Along with it, PureOS also includes Evince PDF Reader and good printing support.

(Writer word processor edits the text I copied from Making the Most Secure Phone article by Purism founder dated 21 February 2020)

It also includes Alarm (within the Clocks app) so you set some and expect to be warned whenever you are busy typing. Tip: keep the program alive or simply move it to another workspace so no alarm would be missed.

Multimedia and relaxation?

PureOS 9 plays MP3 and MP4 out of the box with the audio (Rhythmbox) and video (Totem) players. Of course it can play OGG, FLAC, WEBM, MKV, and OGV multimedia format files as well. But in fact it does not bring any video game preinstalled. For example, it is common for a GNOME based distro like Ubuntu and Fedora to bring GNOME games such as Mahjongg, Aisleriot, Mines, and such, but PureOS does not.

(PureOS 9.0 plays a lot of MP3 files and an MP4 video)

How if you need more apps?

Apps are available in Software (Store) you can find as a shopping bag icon. Normally on other distros (Ubuntu, Manjaro) you would see Software (Store) is mixep up together between free and proprietary software. It is troublesome for user who want to distinguish both. But fortunately on PureOS, you would only see free software as the development team making great effort to make it free from proprietary software. For people who seek purity, this is a bliss. What applications are available? Simple answer, more than 10000 software packages for every human being field are available.

(Software displaying applications under Audio & Video category)

(GNU Octave, a scientific and teaching purpose software, can be installed easily via Software)

Programming ready?

Yes, PureOS 9.0 supports several popular programming languages. It includes built-in compiler and interpreters for C, Python, Perl, and Bash Shell languages. You can already code (or run source code you already have) in these languages. The terminal emulator you use to work here is capable to split its screen and work with sessions, it is called Tilix.

  • gedit 3.20
  • tilix 1.8.9
  • bash 5.0.3
  • python 2.7.16
  • python 3.7.3
  • perl 5.28
  • gcc 8.3.0

Technical Things

Installation? The installer is called Calamares, symbolized by Install PureOS logo on the start menu, it is the operating system installation method which are user friendly and also used by Debian and Manjaro. However, to install PureOS there is a tutorial already.

Documentation? Open the start menu and find out Help. That is the user guide to run PureOS desktop environment.

CPU/RAM resource monitoring? Just like any other distro, PureOS includes System Monitor that can display real-time CPU and RAM usage graphs.

Extensibility? Yes, PureOS desktop is extensible by installing more extensions from GNOME Shell Extensions website. For example, if you dislike the lack of bottom panel, you can add it by getting TaskBar extension.

Customization? Yes, PureOS includes Tweak Tool. By this you can change screen text size if you have difficulties in reading them, or change the theme if you prefer dark one, or other tweaks as long as they are related to GNOME desktop.

Further Reading

2019 year in review PureOS - official summary of PureOS development throughout 2019 with explanation about Amber and Byzantium, both Stable and Rolling respectively, different release styles. 

Librem 5 Software Update - October 2019 - official news of PureOS in October 2019 which summed up Amber release in both desktop and phone versions.

PureOS Rolls On As Stable - official announcement that PureOS switched into Stable release style after previously released in Rolling style (following Ubuntu rather than Arch)

Purism press releases - historical timeline in the official website. You can find for example information when Purism joined Debian's and GNOME's conferences.

Librem 5 Development Chronology - a comprehensive timeline with extensive links about Purism Librem whole history up to recently.

Wikipedia: Purism (company), Librem (hardware), Librem 5 (phone) PureOS (software),

Crowdfunding website: Librem 13 - the legendary crowdfunding campaign which started Purism Librem and PureOS.

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.