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Hardware Hacking Hardware Build

Open Hardware and Software Laptop 152

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-the-way-you-like-it dept.
New submitter mihai.todor85 writes "It looks like Andrew 'bunnie' Huang has been quite busy lately, developing a nice open hardware laptop. He was even kind enough to provide all the schematics without NDA. For anybody interested in owning such a device, he says that he 'might be convinced to try a Kickstarter campaign in several months, once the design is stable and tested' if enough people are interested."
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Open Hardware and Software Laptop

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    maybe

    • Only if he can compile the schematics into chips.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Only if he can compile the schematics into chips.

        Alas, at the moment it looks not to be - are there open-source schematic to RTL and RTL to transistor layout tools yet?

        After all, the existing VHDL and Verilog compilers are horrendously buggy and expensive.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Monday December 17, 2012 @08:32PM (#42320853)
      RMS is not a destination; he is a journey.
      • RMS is not a destination; he is a journey.

        Actually, RMS is the STARTING POINT of (hopefully) a very llooooooooooonngg journey.
         
        For every inferno, there must first be a spark that started it all.
         
        RMS is _that_ spark.
         

  • Binary blobs required for 3D acceleration and many Wifi drivers. Nothing to see here.

    • Not necessarily [bunniestudios.com]. It depends on what your needs are and how much money are you willing to invest.

    • "The bunnie" says otherwise (from The Fine Article's comment section):

      bunnie says: December 16, 2012 at 3:20 am

      Clarification: Wifi does not require a closed-source blob, if you use an Atheros 9k mPCI-x version. An example card is linked under the mPCIx feature bullet.

      The USB card is provided as an option just in case you want to put something else in the mini PCI slot, or you wanted a second wifi interface for some reason. Also, the USB card is much cheaper than the mPCIx card, so it’s a cost-down option for those who don’t care as much about a small blob in the system. Basically, if you care about having no blob for wifi, you can pay for an option that is open source.

      GPU, on the other hand, is probably out of reach. nvdia and ATI have set a pretty strong precedent for closed source drivers to use those elements, and the IP vendors for integrated GPUs (like Vivante) are following suit. However, GPU is non-essential IMO for a large application space.

      An interesting project, I wish them luck. Even if it is never widely popular in the marketplace, who knows what spinoff projects this might launch?

      • "The bunnie" says otherwise (from The Fine Article's comment section):

        bunnie says:
        December 16, 2012 at 3:20 am

        Clarification: Wifi does not require a closed-source blob, if you use an Atheros 9k mPCI-x version

        The USB card is provided as an option just in case you want to put something else in the mini PCI slot, or you wanted a second wifi interface for some reason. Also, the USB card is much cheaper than the mPCIx card, so it’s a cost-down option for those who don’t care as much about a small blob in the system. Basically, if you care about having no blob for wifi, you can pay for an option that is open source.

        GPU, on the other hand, is probably out of reach. nvdia and ATI have set a pretty strong precedent for closed source drivers to use those elements, and the IP vendors for integrated GPUs (like Vivante) are following suit. However, GPU is non-essential IMO for a large application space.

        An interesting project, I wish them luck. Even if it is never widely popular in the marketplace, who knows what spinoff projects this might launch?

        Yeah, for Wifi IF you use one specific mPCI-x version, but he also ammends GPUs are "out of reach", as in "binary blobs required". So, from a purist point of view, no different than the myriad of ARM netbooks/tablets/convertibles/whatnot.

        • by makomk (752139)

          Atheros ath9k and ath5k mini-PCIe cards are not exactly exotic hardware...

    • by ssam (2723487)

      FSF is happy with binary blobs as long as they are burned into a ROM.
      https://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/task2-openmoko [fsf.org]
      The openmoko did not see any benefit from the course of action, and so kept the blob on the filesystem in the hope that one day it can be replaced.

      (Also i have huge respect and am very grateful for the great code that has come from the GNU project)

  • If the hardware would be good enough, mainly the screen with good resolution (FullHD and more) it could be interesting for me. There simply are almost no options for people who want good notebook with high resolution without Windows preinstalled.
  • need more usb ports 2 is way to few

    • need more usb ports 2 is way to few

      Pah, USB hubs are cheap.

    • by aliquis (678370)

      USB hub? Bluetooth? WiFi?

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        USB hub?

        We're talking laptops, the less junk to lug around, the better.

        Bluetooth?

        Bluetooth in my notebook is a USB dongle.

        WiFi?

        You have a wifi keyboard and mouse? Your camera has wifi? Your printer has wifi? Your scanner?

        • by aliquis (678370)

          You have a wifi keyboard and mouse? Your camera has wifi? Your printer has wifi? Your scanner?

          No I don't. But it could be used for say storage by using a wireless NAS.

          And there's cameras with WiFi.

          And there's phones with WiFi.

          And there's printers with WiFi.

          And who knows maybe there's those multi-functionality devices with scanners with WiFi to.

          The suggestion wasn't to use either. I brought up options. For instance there exist keyboards and mice with bluetooth and if the device got bluetooth support then you wouldn't need USB for those. Whatever it have bluetooth or not I have no idea, I didn't looke

    • by Nyder (754090)

      need more usb ports 2 is way to few

      They can get rid of one of the ethernet ports, 2 on a laptop is not needed.

      • by mattr (78516)

        This is so it can act as a filter/router he says. There is a use case someone wanted something like this just recently on /.

        • Bingo. I'd probably buy half a dozen of these to build out as really powerful and small firewall boxes (no screen, headless and so on) for some of my customers.
    • What for? Moderns motherboards have about 10, and I don't think most people use them for anything else than keyboard+mouse. And since this is a laptop, it unlikely even a usb keyboard would be used.

      Just because they're cheap and everybody give you more than you use doesn't mean they're needed.

      • and forget digital cameras, USB Sticks/card readers, external HD's.

        3 is the magic number, at least for laptops, that permits most reasonable combinations of commonly used devices for most common scenarios.

        6 is also nice.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          But 5 is right out.

        • I don't think most users use all three of those things at the same time.
          In parcitular, you won't plug your digital camera if you're using a card reader (wouldn't you just use the card reader).

          I understand we can list more than 3 usb devices, my point is that most people won't use more than two USB ports on laptops, even if 3 to 5 ports is quite common.

    • it's a laptop. I don't think I've ever used more than 1 USB at a time on my laptop, because the keyboard and mouse are already there.

      • by ssam (2723487)

        wish my laptop had a build in mouse instead of a crappy trackpad.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        it's a laptop. I don't think I've ever used more than 1 USB at a time on my laptop

        I have. One for the bluetooth dongle, one for the memory stick (we don't have floppies any more, you know) and one for the terabyte drive. That's all three on my box. I could plug the drive into the tower and use wifi to get the data there, but it's easier just to plug it straight into the notebook.

        • The laptop described has provision for built-in bluetooth. Every laptop I've bought for the last 5 years has had bult-in bluetooth, even when I had to pay an extra $20 to get it, because I was expecting to need it in the future. To date, the only bluetooth I actually *use* is my cell phone pairing with my car's hands free system, but I am still ready for it if I ever buy a BT keyboard or such.

          As to the memory stick and the external hard drive, you could invest in something like this [newegg.ca] (there's many alternativ

  • But why not USB 3.0?

    • by Nimey (114278)

      Most likely there's not a sufficiently Free USB3 implementation to make it into the design.

    • Re:USB 2.0 (Score:5, Funny)

      by chaered (1834264) on Monday December 17, 2012 @09:01PM (#42321095)
      I want USB 3.14 -- it has rounder cables.
      • by Whiteox (919863)

        My USB goes to 11.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Actually, I'm looking forward to the 3.142 spec. Sure, it's just a minor update to the 3.14 platform, but you will really want that if you are serious about your cable roundness.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Be careful, I tried USB 3:16 and it literally crucified my data!

      • USB 3.14 only has half a cable
    • USB 3.0? It's an ARM based design that uses a SD card for storage... how are you going to saturate even USB 2.0?

      And here I was, all excited, thinking someone had designed their own *laptop* and not an oversized clamshell smartphone... :(

      • by suutar (1860506)
        how do you define a laptop, then? My main gripe with this is that I'm not sure I consider an ARM chip sufficient, but I haven't kept up with the specs, and it may be that for what I would actually do on a laptop, it'll work. The video transcoding and editing will stay on the desktop with the two big monitors regardless :)
        • What I consider a usable laptop? At bare minimum, Core i3 level horsepower backed up by at least 4 gigs of RAM and a real SATA(3) SSD. Which is, in terms of perceived speed, about 100x the power of the proposed design, even for basic internet and office use.

  • What exact benefit does this supposedly 'open' laptop have over just buying something like a Thinkpad that uses Intel components that are well-supported by open source drivers on open source operating systems (Linux, *BSD, etc.)? If it's to promote the use of standardized components that can be re-used in different laptop designs, it may serve to reduce costs or to increase the useful life of some of those parts. On the other hand, the standardization would also limit designs and prevent some cutting edge
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @09:48PM (#42321407)

      RTFA. This guy is making the laptop he wants, the way he wants it.

      One of the features: dual ethernet jacks, so he can use the laptop as a packet filter or firewall.

      Another one of the features: an analog meter. He's setting it up for software control so it can display battery life, audio peak loudness, or silly things like time of day represented as the position of a single needle.

      He doesn't claim anyone else wants one. He did say that if, after he does all the work, there is sufficient interest, that he might do a kickstarter.

      I presume this meets with your approval?

      • Dual ethernet jacks are kind of silly, just because USB ethernet jacks now cost about $10, and are now almost smaller than a PCMCIA ethernet jack dongle ALONE used to be 15 years ago.

        On the other hand, a real sliding switch to physically cut the connection to the speakers, so you can safely boot up someplace where you CAN NOT have it making noise... well, that's another matter entirely, because that's NOT something an end user can go graft onto the system himself after purchase (at least, not without comple

        • by Svartalf (2997)

          USB won't do things the same way as two hard Ethernet devices would. It'd be close for light-duty things, but at 100Mbit speeds things start faltering because the devices can only sort-of keep up because of USB overheads, etc.

          You honestly want both a handful of USB's and two hard NICs if you can get them.

          • Well, ok... you have a point. I'm kicking myself right now for forgetting the best example of all -- the near-impossibility of getting host/AP/master mode to work properly with ANY USB-based wifi adapter due to timing requirements. You have to either move 99% of the active AP logic to the "interface" end of the USB cable, or wantonly abuse the way USB is supposed to work by firehosing a nonstop stream of nonstop isochronous USB data (with error-correction) in both directions (regardless of actual activity)

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday December 17, 2012 @10:34PM (#42321729) Journal
      My personal itch is that we are at a point where BIOS and firmware can be suspected of hiding some backdoors. Having a verifiable design with 100% of the source of any code running on any chip inside is actually an interesting goal.
      • >> Having a verifiable design with 100% of the source of any code running on any chip inside is actually an interesting goal

        We still cannot be sure that this is the code that really runs on the target.
        Who will invent signed/verifiable compilation / code distribution???

        • by Yvanhoe (564877)
          Compile it yourself, then.
          • by stooo (2202012)

            No. The resources obviously don't allow that. (can't wait days for a system to compile itself)

            Furthermore, you can't be sure the compiler you use is not infected with a malware compromising it's output (there's an old paper on that)

            There are crypto solutions to these problems, but it's not an easy path, that's sure....

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        I guess you don't know how complex hardware interacts with the BIOS. The hardware has code stored in a ROM that the BIOS reads and executes to set it up. It is usually x86 code, with non-x86 BIOSs having an emulator built in, although now it can also use generic bytecode with the advent of EFI.

        So unless you want to develop your own chips as well there is no way to run 100% verifiable code.

    • by dissy (172727)

      What exact benefit does this supposedly 'open' laptop have over just buying something
      *snip*
      I see there being little to gain but much to lose from this approach.

      Oh great. Now we are not allowed to create a personal hobby electronics project that does not meet your approval, or that of the market?

      What next, I am not allowed to use my gcc compiler to write a program just because I want to write a program for myself, unless it meets your approval and is marketable?

    • by Chirs (87576) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:07AM (#42322493)

      This motherboard has a built-in FPGA, multiple channels of analog/digital I/O, PWM output, Rasp-Pi compatible header (to allow use of R-Pi accessory boards), builtin speaker amp (for small speakers, but still), 3 UARTs, and a USB-OTG port.

      This is a hardware hacker's *dream* system.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      On the other hand, the standardization would also limit designs and prevent some cutting edge innovations from being utilized.

      No, I strongly disagree with this sentiment.

      Standardization sets the baseline. Take HTML for instance. What if there was no openly accepted standard in the early days? It'd have taken a lot longer for things to take off; the improvements, variations, and deviations (MS HTML, VRML, HTML 4.0, etc.) would not have occurred. Everyone would've been attempting to (more or less) completely one-up the other person (see: Flash) and nobody would benefit until a monopoly were established, forcing everyone else out.

      In

    • by nazsco (695026)

      Because all thinkpads came with a portable fpga and cpu Ports...

  • by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Monday December 17, 2012 @09:27PM (#42321275)

    Yet another open hardware project?

    Might he combine resources with Luke Leighton, who as recently as last week was interviewed about a FSF endorsable arch, in addition to his eoma-68 project?

    Diversity is good but with economies of scale there's a KDE tablet, Golden Delicious openmoko successor, replicant.us and geeksphone all promising varying degrees of openness but failing to develop much of a market up against the big boys...

    • by Menkhaf (627996)

      lkcl has already been talking about the possibility of teaming with Bunnie on the arm-netbook mailing list.

  • And if it goes onto Kickstarter I probably will. Why? I had ARM desktops back in the 1990s, they're really nice chips for a range of reasons. If you program close to the metal they're really nice chips with a very clean instruction set; they're very low power and run cool, so battery life is good and noise level should be low. An ARM laptop - particularly if it could dual boot RISC OS [riscosopen.org] and Linux - would be a very nice machine. Also, I believe in the value of open source hardware; it keeps us - the users - in

  • Perhaps if it had some horsepower to it (versus just being another ARM knockoff), there might be some value to it. Until then, the Thinkpad is about the closest thing you can get.

    But then you'll probably respond with the thought-terminating cliche of "not the target market". Be more original than that (or more original than modbombing).

    • There's absolutely nothing wrong with ARM for the target device here. "Just another ARM knockoff" is quite insulting to the amount of work that has gone into this... the value of this isn't necessarily in the CPU anyway but in everything else that's on that board. The FPGA, headers and just generally the incredibly geeky ideas that are realized here are fundamentally cool... and yes, I'll gladly put my money where my mouth is. I would love one of these!
  • by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @10:15AM (#42325615) Homepage
    So much freaking negativity on here about this. I for one think this is a really cool project... and oddly enough actually fits the tagline of "News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters".

    I have read several pages of comments and so far there have been only a very small handful of positive comments, while I think this is one of the coolest and most exciting things I've seen in a while. If this goes to a Kickstarter campaign then I for one am all over it. The very idea of building a laptop with everything I want and nothing I don't (including R-Pi headers and some really freaking cool ports on the board for getting down-and-dirty with the hardware) just excites me. I want one, and I will not be dissuaded from that opinion. Come on; an integrated FPGA that you can turn to any task you like? How many laptops have that? The PWM headers mean that you can take one of these motherboards and make it the brain of your own robot... an incredibly powerful one compared to most of the hobbyist kit that's out there.

    I would ask what happened to the Slashdot that I used to love, but I think I already have a pretty good idea.
  • If this happens, then this really is a very exciting news. I think this is a really cool project. Expect to achieve

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