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Hardware Technology

Bunnie Huang's Novena Open Source Laptop Launches Via Crowd Supply 88

First time accepted submitter ogcricket (3557713) writes with news about a new laptop designed by Andrew Huang and Sean Cross. "Earlier this year, the two Singapore-based engineers fashioned a laptop made almost entirely from open source hardware, hardware whose designs are freely available to the world at large. They called it Project Novena. Anyone could review the designs, looking for bugs and security flaws, and at least in theory, that meant you could be confident the machine was secure from top to bottom, something that’s more desirable than ever in the post-Edward Snowden age....The original idea was simply to encourage others to build their own open source laptops at home. But now the pair are taking the project a step further. Starting today, you can order your own pre-built Novena laptop through the crowd-funding site Crowd Supply, and it will ship out in the coming weeks. Much like Kickstarter, Crowd Supply is place where you can put up money to help fund a company and then get a product in exchange."
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Bunnie Huang's Novena Open Source Laptop Launches Via Crowd Supply

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:03PM (#46644305)

    I am working on Fedora builds for it -- pics of it on my bench here [] and here [].

  • $1,995 for a laptop??

    How does an open-source machine cost so much more than a closed, proprietary one sold by a for-profit corporation?

    • by H0p313ss ( 811249 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:13PM (#46644383)

      $1,995 for a laptop??

      How does an open-source machine cost so much more than a closed, proprietary one sold by a for-profit corporation?


      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Useless ( 11387 )

        How does an open-source machine cost so much more than a closed, proprietary one sold by a for-profit corporation?



        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Fixed costs matter less per unit as you make more, so you can charge less per unit and make the same profit. Buying a $20,000 laser cutter will matter a lot more to your pricing if you are only going to use it to cut 10 sheets of metal rather than 10,000 sheets. It also takes less manhours to do administrative things like accounting when you already have a system in place and are able to simply add additional items rather than doing the entire process again. Not to mention everyone being new to the hardware

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward


          It doesn't. If you buy 1000000 units you will be able to negotiate a price from a manufacturer that is competitive to other laptops that are produced in equivalent amounts. Assuming that you can fork out the money on delivery.

        • Well at least I laughed, well played sir.

      • It must go to 11.

    • Because this one is hand built by 2 guys, rather than manufactured by a combination of robots and Chinese teenagers that get pushed off a roof if they're not productive enough? (only the teenagers, they'd never push a robot off the roof)

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        But just the MB is $500 - there's not much done by hand on one of those. And it has 5-10 year old technology like USB 2.0 and SATA 2 (and it sounds like there's only a single one of those ports!).
        • Custom-manufacturing a board isn't cheap, especially in small production runs. A high volume of sales would mean larger production runs, which would lead to lower prices.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          I'm sure you can get it for $99 each if you buy a million of them. Just make sure to pay upfront.

        • Well then, sounds like you've identified yourself a business opportunity.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      $1995 for a small run, niche market laptop that you can be sure that the NSA doesn't own at the firmware level and has an onboard FPGA for hardware hacking. I doubt you'll find anything that open or that customizable for that cheap, but if you think you can do better, buy the mainboard for $500 and cheap out on the rest.

    • Because those huge evil for-profit corporations actually understand how to make a consumer product.

      These guys...not so much.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        Don't be so sure. Bunny was the guy behind the Chumby (and related Insignia Infocast and Sony Dash devices), which was mildly successful for a while (the hardware was relatively inexpensive, but the service costs were apparently unsustainable).

        What consumer products constitute your bona fides?
  • by Jody Bruchon ( 3404363 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:13PM (#46644391)
    At the prices they're asking for one of these things, I really don't understand why anyone would buy one. You might as well buy a Raspberry Pi and PAY SOMEONE to make a fancy case and interface an LCD panel and battery to it. Geez. What were they thinking? I'm sure the ARM chip in this is better than a RasPi, but $1000 better? No freaking way.
    • Agreed, they are way over priced. It may be that something like this can't be done cheaply enough at low volume, but I don't see how anyone would pay this much for something that's basically already out of date.

      I absolutely love the battery though. Seriously, can we be done with proprietary batteries now?

    • by complete loony ( 663508 ) <> on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:27PM (#46644967)

      If you just want a laptop, this isn't for you. Think of it as a portable workstation with FPGA and other features for rapid hardware prototyping and hacking.

      Personally I think it would be more usable with the traditional clamshell design. Right off the bat, you're going to need another layer of protection for the screen and somewhere to store a keyboard before you can consider lugging this thing around.

      • That's the other thing: the design makes very little sense. It's not a laptop so much as an "ultraportable desktop." I can understand having a rapid prototyping system for hacking on, but it just seems like this is hard to justify excluding very niche markets.
        • And they basically designed it for their own niche market. So you're not wrong.
        • That form factor is almost perfect for working whilst sitting on a train (trains: something we have, and use a lot here in Europeland). You plonk the main unit on the table and the keyboard in your lap - yes, yes, I know I could do that with an ordinary laptop, but that's not nearly as cool as something like this. You'd have to stuff the spare space behind the screen with a few arduinos and breadboards, lots of loose wires and maybe a few flashing LEDs for good measure though.

          The only thing that could make

      • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @08:38PM (#46645077)
        Think of it as a workstation with a processor as powerful as cell phone.
        • Think of it as a workstation with a processor as powerful as cell phone.

          ...for the price of a macbook pro.

          I love the idea and the spirit of the project, but it's just not economically viable.

    • by ssam ( 2723487 )

      RaspberryPI was designed to be cheap and makes various compromises, e.g. very low end CPU, low memory, USB connected 100MB ethernet, fussy PSU.

      Novena looks easily powerful enough for normal use, plus has nice features, FPGA, gigabit network.

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:32PM (#46644517)
    Free as in a 200 year old single malt scotch. Beer just doesn't cut it at these prices.
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:38PM (#46644567)

    I hear you about the price, and merely being open source and secure is not what makes this laptop awesome.

    This isn't just a laptop, it's a hacktop. It's the equivalent of a portable electronics lab. It has GPIO headers and an integrated FPGA. There are no laptops in existence with these kind of features.

    Bunnie started out just building the laptop for himself, as it's OBVIOUSLY not the most price efficient way to do things, but builders, engineers, and hackers wanted this. They know what they're getting.

    • by Kenja ( 541830 )
      Yea, it's a neat project, and I am somewhat tempted to back the project. I just wouldn't call the end result a laptop in the general sense.
  • The original idea was simply to encourage others to build their own open source laptops at home

    Yeah, um, let me see, I'll just fire up my clean room and source some rare earth stuff and plug in the old CPU creator I got at the garage sale, and I can bake screens in my oven I just add some plastic and finger paint and voila!

  • Run windows?

  • I wonder if "The Producers" is getting a modern version now...

    1. Take money

    2. ????

    3. Profit!

  • I have toyed with the idea of installing CoreBoot on my Thinkpad as a way to enhance security. The Noveena doesn't appear to have a BIOS, however, and there is little mention about firmware in their pitch... I'm more concerned about this than who designed the motherboard traces.

    I'm not much of a hacker, but I do love the overall concept here. Hopefully they will divulge more details as the time progresses.

  • The idea is cool, but how could one verify that all the delivered hardware actually conforms to the open source hardware designs? I.e. in principle one can review the open source designs, looking for bugs and security flaws, but I'm not sure I grok how one can be sure that the physical hardware you receive - built by someone else - was actually produced from those designs, as opposed to (e.g.) having some hidden backdoor. What am I missing?
  • by 517714 ( 762276 ) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @05:25AM (#46647145)

    “The motherboard, battery board, and display adapter board are designs from whole cloth,” Huang told us. “Every trace on those PCBs was placed by my hand.”

    Let us hope he means the third definition rather than the second from []

    2. (figuratively, used attributively or preceded by various prepositions) The fictitious material from which complete fabrications, lies with no basis in truth, are made.

    3. Something made completely new, with no history, and not based on anything else.

  • Bunny: "Bless me father, for it has been 3 years since my last confession. I confess that I have not been attending Mass regularly and have had impure thoughts about proprietary technologies!"

    Father O'Reilly: "Why that is fairly serious. I suggest you say a Hail Mary twice a day for two months."

    Bunny: "OK, Father."

    Father O'Reilly: "Oh, and can you make a Novena?"

    Bunny: "Why sure, Father! Give me the schematic and I can make anything!"

  • Based on the picture in the article I wouldn't call that a laptop (open sourced or not).

  • As an April fools joke they should have announced that all the bloatware on the machine would also be opensource.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker