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First Laptop With Full-Sized Solar Panels Will Run On Ubuntu 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-sure-i-have-the-acreage-for-it dept.
iwritethings writes "The Sol, a rugged-looking laptop with built-in foldable solar panels is designed for use in the military, education and developing countries where electricity is scarce. The Canada-based makers behind the Sol claim that the device can run directly off solar energy or can harness the sun's rays to charge the laptop's battery in under two hours. Once fully charged, the battery is expected to last between eight and 10 hours. While the concept of solar charging gadgets isn't new, this type of battery life is unprecedented. There's no word on when Sol will launch, but its headed to Ghana first, and it will run Ubuntu Linux."
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First Laptop With Full-Sized Solar Panels Will Run On Ubuntu

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  • Matte screen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:08PM (#44493455)

    Hope it comes with a matte screen. A glossy screen would be unusable out in the sun.

    • Seriously, I wonder if they thought this out. Has anyone ever tried using a laptop in the sun? You can't even see the screen cupping your hands over part of it.

      Maybe LED backlighting could get it barely bright enough without sucking down the battery in 3 minutes.

      • Re:Matte screen (Score:5, Insightful)

        by niftydude (1745144) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:55PM (#44493705)
        Whatever happen to those colour E-ink screens Pixel Qi was working on? They would be perfect

        I was at a conference last year where some japanese guys were working on a microfluidic transflective displays - they are essentially as bright as the ambient light level is - those would also be pretty good for this.

        Come on people - we need low power daylight readable screens already.
        • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transflective_liquid-crystal_display [wikipedia.org]
          My old iPAQ had a transflective screen. Easily readable in sunlight, and in indoor ambient light with the backlight turned off.

          • by dargaud (518470)
            If they are so common (7 manufacturers according to your link), then why can't I code in the garden of the lab instead of my office yet ? I just did a search for a laptop with transflective screen and came out empty handed.
        • by hedwards (940851)

          Color E-ink is still on the way, AFAIK, the problem with them is still the limited number of colors, slow response time and lack of saturation. It definitely will be here eventually, but color E-ink isn't particularly impressive at this point. Last I saw, it was similar to where the GBC was when Nintendo released it. There was color, but it was lacking in muchness.

      • Samsung NC215s (Score:5, Informative)

        by iamhassi (659463) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:33PM (#44493923) Journal
        Samsung NC215s is the world's first solar laptop way back in 2011. [liliputing.com]

        It's on Amazon with real reviews [amazon.com] and here's a customer unboxing video [youtube.com]

        Article mentions the NC215s but claims it didn't have a 10 hour battery life [laptopmag.com] while this review says the NC215s did have a 10 hour battery life [itweb.co.za]... not that it really matters if the laptop can run on sunlight.... unless you're visiting the Arctic I suppose
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Seumas (6865)

        Has anyone ever tried using a laptop in the sun?

        This is Slashdot. We haven't even been in the sun.

        Maybe LED backlighting could get it barely bright enough without sucking down the battery in 3 minutes.

        My 2.8ghz 17" Macbook Pro probably consumes around 30 watts for normal usage, so with a 13" screen and lower powered everything, I would imagine this laptop would do fine - especially if they were to replace the hard drive with an SSD. Unless there has been a dramatic improvement in solar panel technology, I believe you should be able to get about 10 watts per square foot of panel, right? This looks like it has around 1.5sqft of solar panel, so while it migh

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          A 13" ultrabook might have a 40Wh battery, so 2 hours for a full charge would need a 20W panel. With a modern high efficiency panel that isn't too much of a stretch. I imagine they will have gone for a smaller battery and more efficient CPU/screen than a typical ultrabook though.

      • I wonder if they thought to make the solar panels attachable by cable so you can at least take the thing inside while it's charging.
        • by nbritton (823086)

          I wonder if they thought to make the solar panels attachable by cable so you can at least take the thing inside while it's charging.

          Moreover the thing looks very fragile, like the panels could snap off with the slightest misuse, such as in a combat situation. I'd have just put a solar panel on the back of the display panel, sure you'll only get 5 ~ 10 watts but that's enough to supplement and charge during intermittent power outages. If you need to run electronics completely off the grid, you're better off having a discrete power distribution system. Who is going to sit in the sun for 8 hours using this thing?

        • by cellocgw (617879)

          I wonder if they thought to make the solar panels attachable by cable so you can at least take the thing inside while it's charging.

          Heck, we can do better than that. Have the solar panels deploy in the shape of a large parasol. You get to sit in a nice shady spot while your laptop charges up.

      • Has anyone ever tried using a laptop in the sun?

        Yeah, I'm using one in the sun almost daily and it sucks. Luckily, mine has a mate screen. Unfortunately, there seems to be only one company, California-based Clover Systems [cloversystems.com] who sell laptops with Pixelq screen (except for OLPC who are unusable for serious work). There modded netbooks are a bit pricey, though. Still I'm tempted to order one some day.

        So yes, without a display that is readable in sunlight, their solar panel laptop will not be very useful.

      • the OLPC (one laptop per child) project has a sunlight usable screen so why in hell couldn't this one use the same thing?

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        I have seen (it was a long time ago) a device that had some kind of light-collector on the top of the screen, that worked like those little plastic light-guides used for LEDs. The end result was that the brighter the ambient light, the brighter the screen.

        If they don't have something like that on this, I don't know why the hell not - if only to save power by reducing the requirements for screen backlighting!

    • by Skapare (16644)

      Or maybe add in an ability to use sunlight as the display back lighting.

      • Or maybe add in an ability to use sunlight as the display back lighting.

        You scoff - but that is what transflective displays are supposed to do - we just need someone to get one working outside the lab.

        • If you don't want any of that fancy "color" nonsense that the kids are talking about these days, you can get transflective displays limited only by the fact that people <em>do</em> want that fancy color nonsense which has largely consigned black and white LCDs to the very low end and TI-83s...<br><br>

          A pity the XO-1's screen tech never saw broader adoption. Serviceable color with the backlight on, beautiful, crisp, B/W with ambient light only(looks almost as 'paper-like' as e-ink; bu
        • by Romancer (19668)

          They are: http://www.gizbot.com/mobile/exclusive-sony-launch-smartwatch-2-september-news-013162.html [gizbot.com]
          Releasing in Sept.

          Small but functional display. No specs on the battery life but I'd guess pretty good from the history of transflective displays.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dereck1701 (1922824)

      Who says you need to use it in sunlight? Use it for a for however long you want indoors/under shade and then put it outside to charge. According to the article/summary it has a 10 hour battery life (probably embellished to be sure, but it probably lasts at least 6 under normal usage). If the designers are really clever, they'll give it two separate battery packs, one that stays with the laptop and one that is attached to an undockable solar module. Use the laptop indoors (theoretical 5 hour battery life

  • by SSpade (549608) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:13PM (#44493481) Homepage

    A separate set of solar panels could be used to power / charge things other than a laptop, and a set of solar panels connected by a cable would let you sit in the cool shade while using the laptop during the day, rather than having to sit out in the sun (where it's hot and you can't see the screen).

    Assuming it's real, which I have some doubts about - a couple of square feet of solar panels provides enough power to drive four or five laptops?

    • Assuming it's real, which I have some doubts about

      Since power usage from laptops and power output from panels that size have been converging if this isn't real I'm sure something along these lines will be happening soon.

      A separate set of solar panels ... a couple of square feet of solar panels provides enough power to drive four or five laptops?

      Yes, that's the 1980 onwards solution, maybe with bigger panels, but this thing is about it being more convenient, like having an internal disk drive instead of a US

    • Great, if in addition to carrying your laptop where ever you go, you also need to carry a laptop sized solar panel just incase your battery goes flat.

      By that reasoning laptops in general a terrible design. Why not make the keyboard and screen separate? You could then use a KVM to control many computers with just one keyboard and monitor!

      • by Camael (1048726)

        Great, if in addition to carrying your laptop where ever you go, you also need to carry a laptop sized solar panel just incase your battery goes flat.

        By that reasoning laptops in general a terrible design. Why not make the keyboard and screen separate? You could then use a KVM to control many computers with just one keyboard and monitor!

        Keyboards and screens of laptops are by design combined together for ease of carriage. You only have to lug around one unit together, which comprises your cpu, your monitor and the keyboard. This is important for a mobile user who only has two hands.

        Presumably this is also the reason why they decided to combine the solar panels with the laptop in TFA.

        I hope you also see the inconsistency of wanting to separate the keyboard from the screen (inconveniently creating more objects to lug around) while complainin

        • You seem to have misunderstood.

          I was comparing using a separate solar panel to a separate keyboard/monitor to illustrate the inconvenience.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Great, if in addition to carrying your laptop where ever you go, you also need to carry a laptop sized solar panel just incase your battery goes flat.

        If you could fold it the size of your laptop, I could see it being quite handy.

        How about the little tables with umbrellas in front of your favorite cafe's doubling as solar laptop charging stations? You and your laptop are protected from the sun's rays while you plug in and sip your espresso. The top of the umbrella is about the right size for a solar panel

        • So now you need to carry a solar umbrella?
          Instead of the foldable separate solar panel, why not carry a laptop sized battery, giving you several days* worth of power.

          * the battery in the laptop I'm typing on is about 10% the size of the laptop, giving 5 hours use. If it were 10x bigger it would give 50 hours.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            No, I don't see carrying solar umbrellas, but I bet some would.

            I'm thinking more of standing installations. Something coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor seating could offer their customers.

            Hell, if they got cheap enough, you could put them in state park campgrounds.

            • Except these laptops are designed to be used in places without the normal infrastructure, like power - that coffee shops and restaurants already have.

    • by pla (258480) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:19PM (#44493843) Journal
      a couple of square feet of solar panels provides enough power to drive four or five laptops?

      My PC draws under 45W average, and around 20W idle. At my latitude, that would require about 4 square feet (as in, 2x2, not 4x4), and I live pretty far North.

      Computers have gotten a lot more efficient since the bad ol' days of the P4, and solar panels have gotten a lot cheaper (like under $2/W). Given a laptop specifically designed for low power, I have no trouble considering this an entirely realistic design goal - An 8sqft 100W panel and a few laptops that draw 10-20W? You could probably even manage it with OEM hardware, never mind anything hardcore optimized for power.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        My PC draws under 45W average, and around 20W idle.

        A PC is not terribly useful without a screen.

        Computers have gotten a lot more efficient since the bad ol' days of the P4

        A 2.4GHz P4 draws under 30 watts while idle. The P4 system I've still got working draws just 39W when idle, including 7200RPM HDD and whatnot.

    • A separate set of solar panels could be used to power / charge things other than a laptop

      And all you need is a team of electrical engineers to help you set them up.

  • I WANT ONE! :) :) :)
  • It's going in my emergency bag. Looks like a perfect emergency and/or post-apocalyptic laptop.
    • by Clsid (564627)

      Better get this stuff, http://www.aliexpress.com/item/HOT-High-Capacity-23000mAh-Solar-Charger-Solar-Mobile-Power-Bank-Battery-Charger-for-iPhone-iPad-Tablet/928368152.html [aliexpress.com]

      It works for a lot more stuff and you can leave the cell out in the sun while you use your laptop in the shade.

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      'scuse me for asking: why would you need a laptop in a post-apocalyptic world? Even an electric powered bycicle will be more useful than the laptop.
      • Well, it has built-in GPS, so I could load it up with maps, survival guides, etc... but who am I kidding? It's more because I'm an engineer and I think it would give me +5 sanity.
        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Well, it has built-in GPS, so I could load it up with maps, survival guides, etc... but who am I kidding?

          Sincerity appreciated

          It's more because I'm an engineer and I think it would give me +5 sanity.

          Mhhh... a bit more pragmatism wouldn't hurt even an engineer (wait... what? aren't they supposed to be pragmatic to start with?).
          Like health first, sanity later [wikipedia.org]: a solution to filter/disinfect drinking water would rank higher than even a map (can go on living if you don't know where you are, won't stay alive for long with dysintery. Even an infected scratch on your foot may disable you for days). A post-apocalypse situation is likely to keep you so busy it's almost a guarantee it'll kee

      • Pornsites will probably still be available :)

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Pornsites will probably still be available :)

          Except that, being highly likely a geek will be "forcefully recruited as a worker" on such sites, the lap top term will suddenly gain a totally different meaning... one in which "solar power" is an irrelevant attribute.

      • by tftp (111690)

        'scuse me for asking: why would you need a laptop in a post-apocalyptic world?

        Knowledge will be the most valuable asset after the collapse of the civilization. Do you know off the top of your head how to make powder? No, not the smokeless propellant - just the good old black powder? It's not entirely trivial; many a powder plant blew up before scientists and engineers figured out how to work with it in relative safety. Or take the initiating explosives, such as primers. There are about twenty formulation

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          'scuse me for asking: why would you need a laptop in a post-apocalyptic world?

          Knowledge will be the most valuable asset after the collapse of the civilization. [etc] But where would you store all those Libraries of Congress with all that valuable data, in such a way that you can carry it, and in such a way that you can access it easily? A laptop with a terabyte drive would do it nicely.

          An ebook reader is likely to be lighter and offer better battery life (assuming that such equipment survives an EMP... but now, it all depends on your taste in apocalypses).

          A bicycle, outside of a direct survival situation, does not even compare. But in a survival situation nothing matters except what helps you to survive. It doesn't mean that canned food is useless if you are, at this very moment, shooting at your pursuers.

          Survival comes first, no argue here.
          Except it takes quite a lot to survive: if you are going to die because of bacteria in the water you need to drink - 3-4 days of disabling diahorea will weaken you fast enough - your knowledge to make primers is useless.
          Or if you can't travel long, fast, reliable and perhaps stealthy enough to a "niche

          • You're focusing on individual survival. No one individual has everything it'll take on their own. You're going to have to cooperate with other survivors. That means something of value to trade, an skills are of value.

            The life of a post-apoc engineer may consist of 'Give me a place to sleep and food for a few days, and I'll get that old well-pump working again' or 'Can I join your little community? I'm no good at farming, but I can loot a load of old solar panels and car batteries and get you electric light

          • by tftp (111690)

            An ebook reader is likely to be lighter and offer better battery life

            The reader has to have at least a terabyte of storage. Ebook readers are generally toys; yes, you probably can cram several hundred books onto an e-reader, with minimum illustrations and probably in four shades of gray. That won't be very informative if color is of importance.

            You also want your reader to be maintainable. Your laptop is just as fragile as the rest of the inheritance. You want to copy your data onto another laptop, and

    • "Sun goes dark" would also be an apocalyptic scenario.
  • That seems a bit more exciting then the whole solar power thing, but I suppose that's cool too.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      That seems a bit more exciting then the whole solar power thing,

      Err...

      but I suppose that's cool too.

      Nope. If/when exposed to the sun than it will get warm. Submerging it is likely to keep it cool (that is: unless you use a hot liquids or liquified gases at atmosferic pressure)

      (...ducks... just kinding guys...)

  • by Dputiger (561114) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:36PM (#44493599)

    For just $350, you can buy a laptop with implausible capabilities at an improbable price point! But does it clean with the power of lemon?

    Yes. Yes it does.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Actually, other than the solar panels, this is a completely plausible machine. Ultracheap 13" 1366x768 display? Check. Ultracheap, low-power Atom? Check. Less RAM than my laptop from five years ago? Check. Cheap disk drive, not pricey flash? Check.

      And don't forget, they're probably getting some subsidies, just like the other "cheap computer for the Third World" projects.

      • by Dputiger (561114)

        Right, but the solar panels *are* the selling point. And don't forget, this is supposedly ruggedized.

  • by chromaexcursion (2047080) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:39PM (#44493623)
    Leave it to an African company to understand, and try to get it as right as they can.
    Living off the grid is not easy.
    In the tropics the sun shines hard. Solar charging is a no brainer.

    Fortunately I only live off the grid for a week or 3 when I'm doing interesting travel.
    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Leave it to an African company to understand, and try to get it as right as they can.

      Canada is in Africa now? Boy, the maple syrup drinkers are gonna be surprised at that one.

  • $350 each? $400 for the "Marine" model. Let me guess. That one is a solar powered laptop that is water resistant to 2000m, right? This looks like some sort of elaborate scam... something high quality and innovative for the same price as a Walmart laptop... Hm. And seriously, Intel GMA gfx? Ah well, guess that's one way to save power. Nice web page though. Love the parallax scrolling and the elephant. :P Anyways here's some doubt to chew on: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/163184-sol-the-350-solar-pow [extremetech.com]
  • The specs... (Score:5, Informative)

    by afxgrin (208686) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:46PM (#44493651)

    I don't like their website design, I find it annoying to navigate. :P

    http://solaptop.com/en/products/laptops/ [solaptop.com]

            System

                    CPU: Intel Atom D2500 1.86 GHz Duo Core, Intel 945GSE + ICH7M
                    HDD: Seagate 2.5” SATA HDD 320GB
                    RAM: Kingston 2-4GB DDRIII SDRAM (Options Available)
                    Graphics: 1080p HD Vide, Built-In Intel GMA3600 Graphics
                    Battery Operating Time: 8 - 10 hours

            I/O

                    Display: 13.3" LCD, WXGA, 1366 x 768
                    Camera: 3MP
                    Audio: Realtek ALC661 HD Audio, Built-in 2 Speakers | Internal mic + 1/8” input
                    3 USB2.0, Headphone jack, HDMI, LAN(10/100), Card reader (SD/MS/MMC)

            Wireless

                    Modem: 3G/4G World/multimode LTE
                    GPS: gpsOne Gen8A
                    WiFi: MIMO 802.11b/gn (2.4/5GHz)
                    Bluetooth: Integrated Digital Core BT4.0

    • @afxgrin - "I don't like their website design, I find it annoying to navigate. :P"

      I agree - navigation of the page is horrendous, like a too-busy MySpace page.

      However, if they can make these for less than $300, it would make a great outdoor hobby toy. Like back in my youth, when we would spend hours fascinated by our first hand-cranked international weather radio.
  • by cdxta (1170917) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @10:48PM (#44493661)
    Every time a cloud goes over you're going to loose your work, or is your work in the cloud?
  • Last time I checked, software (i.e. the OS) ran on the hardware, not the other way around.

    And if this thing is just a solar charger - admittedly a pretty cool one - where's the linux tie-in? My USB charger works with my phone (that runs on Android*, incidentally). Does that make it big Android news?

    * yes, I see what I did. wonder why...

  • Solar panels come in many sizes,so how big is a full sized one? Big enough to cover the roof of your house? A football field?

    Does the solar power industry have a standard definition of what full size is?

    • It's better than Sized Ready, just like Full HD is better than HD Ready.

    • by lxs (131946)

      so how big is a full sized one?

      About the size of one Dyson sphere. A bit unwieldy but very efficient.

  • Errrr.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:00PM (#44493743)
    Pretty sure that Ubuntu will run on the laptop. The laptop will run on the Sun.
    • ...and then the Sun will be bought out by Oracle.

    • by havana9 (101033)
      Could you run Ubuntu on the Sun? I think Solaris runs better on a Sun tha Ubuntu. Besides I think running Solaris on a solar powered laptop is more cool than a fez and a bowtie.
  • solar panels are probably heavy. thats a lot of extra weight to have to carry around, and then its a device that only works at its best when the sun is shining and its really hot outside, plus it generates more head when you use it. and forget about working in the shade; thats out. if this is for military application, i'd hate to be the guy who has to carry and use this thing. i'd rather be the guy who carrys the M60. probably equally as heavy, and a lot more fun!
  • PowerBook 1400 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by martinX (672498) on Tuesday August 06, 2013 @11:50PM (#44493987)

    Apple's PowerBook 1400 had a removable book cover style lid so you could put in pretty pictures etc. A company called Keep It Simple Systems made a solar panel that slipped right in. (TidBITS article here [tidbits.com]). Here's a quote from MacFormat magazine describing it (source [wordpress.com]):

    The PowerCover is especially neat because it fits into the BookCover slot on PowerBook 1400s, so you can leave it on more or less permanently. This will extend the battery life by around 35% (the PowerCover is, after all, a bit smaller than the Mercury II). KISS claims you can expect its products to give you up to 20 years of free energy. An extreme example of these devices’ usefulness is that of Ralph Harvey, a research scientist who uses a solar charger on his PowerBook in the Antarctic where power’s clearly at a premium. [...]

    • by evilviper (135110)

      An extreme example of these devicesâ(TM) usefulness is that of Ralph Harvey, a research scientist who uses a solar charger on his PowerBook in the Antarctic where powerâ(TM)s clearly at a premium.

      Sounds like a horrible use. Solar insolation near the poles is going to be miserable. Less than 1/4 than the rest of the world would get.

    • by dj245 (732906)

      . An extreme example of these devices’ usefulness is that of Ralph Harvey, a research scientist who uses a solar charger on his PowerBook in the Antarctic where power’s clearly at a premium. [...]

      My understanding is that there is plenty of power at the antarctic.

  • and they focus on a touchpad, brilliant!

    though not as brilliant as a glossy screen on a solar powered laptop

  • I'd buy one today if it wasn't running Ubuntu.
  • This is the Aran Benjo computer. I see a jerkass giant robot pilot surrounded by pretty girls using this PC. The only proble is that it will boot only at the end of episode, just in time to control the final superweapon and destroy the cyborg of the week.
  • Awesome! We get a laptop that not only has one, but two technologies that are always promised to work right 5-10 years away. Now you can really stick it to those regular computer AND windows people. Showing them how to be subpar twice with one device.
  • This would be great for those long flights I'm on that don't have AC outlets to plug my laptop in to.
  • There have been many laptops that can be made to run for 8+ hours. They are harder to find these days with the rise of multi-core and SUV-tops but there was a time when you could easily get an underclocked Pentium M to run on an extended battery for a long time.

  • Nobody's worried about tan rectangles on tomorrow's supermodels?

  • Seems like an obvious point was missed... this laptop charges wirelessly. Wireless power is here! Woot!

  • How many people do you see using laptops while they're sitting out in the sun, not many. In developing countries where they lack electricity I don't think you will find many laptop users sitting out either for fear of being robbed, an no I am not stereotyping, this is a fact. What third-world countries need, is electricity and running water, before they start using laptops.

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