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The Open Source Laptop and the Golden Age of Open Hardware

timothy posted 1 year,21 days | from the not-quite-capsela dept.

Open Source 93

An anonymous reader writes to this short feature featuring "Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang on why he decided to build an open source laptop, how the slowing of Moore's Law is making it easier for individuals and small outfits to compete against major corporations in the computer hardware market and what hobbyist hardware makers in the U.S. could learn from China's Shanzhai, famed for their cheap clones of the iPhone and other popular handsets."

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I'd love to build laptops (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485561)

Companies should sell laptop shells and let us buy the parts individually, just like a desktop computer.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485741)

No, they shouldn't –and they can't. Not all parts have the same size, shape and cooling requirements. The only possible approach here would be to make a standard specifying a large maximum size, and then force all laptops to allow that much space. But that would then result in all laptops being giant bulky things with excess cooling and hence weight hanging about. The result is that they would all suck.

Laptops intrinsically have design constraints that mean this can not be done reasonably.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485765)

Or more reasonably, laptops could be sold with motherboards and little else. Almost everything else is already separate parts.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485821)

Those do exist. So-called "white box" laptops. My very limited experience with them is that getting your Windows install to play nice is a very similar experience to getting Linux to play nice with an off-brand laptop... it can be very time consuming, so if you value your time you just pay for some company to do it for you. And at the low end, you don't save any money because the components are largely part of the mainboard on crappy laptops. Thin-n-light like the Air is not possible at all.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485867)

I have not had trouble with a linux install in a long time. No idea about windows, I have no use for it.

Yeah this would preclude an air like device. I wish one of the smaller vendors like system76 would have such a device, but better. I want something in the 12" size range with at least a 2560x1440 display. Higher would be even better.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (4, Informative)

Mashdar (876825) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485933)

I even tell people these days that Linux is easier to install than Windows. While very new hardware can still be problematic (Llano drivers a few years ago come to mind), in general the installation process is:
1) Hit next several times.
2) Enter a user name and password.
3) Everything works.

Hunting for drivers on Windows, especially for legacy devices, hurts my brain. When I plug my 15 year old webcam into a Mint box it just works. So in that respect I agree with GP :)

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486127)

you forgot to select encrypt harddrive

Re:I'd love to build laptops (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | 1 year,21 days | (#44491125)

> you forgot to select encrypt harddrive

Naw, if somebody steals my laptop, I *want* them to be able to casually log in and use it, so I can ssh into the box and remotely pwn them in every conceivable way, getting way more fun and value out of the laptop than I probably would have gotten from using it myself. Drive encryption keeps your data more secure, but maximizes the likelihood that you'll never see the laptop again or get any post-theft entertainment value from it. When life gives you lemons, make a honeypot ;-)

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486141)

I recently tried to install Linux Mint and then Ubuntu on a 10 year old laptop just for the hell of it. Didn't work. I mean they both installed fine but wifi was broken, video was broken (no acceleration) and under Mint, Cinnamon crashed on every single boot. I couldn't be bothered to screw around with arcane and archaic config files, dependencies and workaround hacks, so I just wiped the whole thing, installed Windows XP and called it a day.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

cooperaaaron (897474) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486711)

On a 10 year old lappy ?

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

RMingin (985478) | 1 year,21 days | (#44487077)

Well, it's always been possible to cherry pick hardware that Linux will have a lot of trouble with, just like it's possible to spec out a machine that runs Windows poorly, if at all.

If your sample size was larger than one absurdly old laptop, you'd carry more weight.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (2)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,21 days | (#44487097)

So you compare a current Linux distro to a horribly out of date XP install? Try windows 7 on your craptop and tell us again how everything went perfect...

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | 1 year,21 days | (#44488499)

He'll have exactly the same problem with the older hardware. Vendors don't produce drivers for new OS's once the product is legacy and 15 years guarantees there is not a single driver for a 64bit windows OS. Microsoft and their vendors enforce an upgrade cycle for older products by refusing to produce drivers for older products. Linux gets around this because once the driver is produced it's generally carried forward forever.

I've got several scanners that only work under Linux (and Windows 95/XP) because the vender and Microsoft will never produce a driver that works with a modern windows.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

craighansen (744648) | 1 year,21 days | (#44489855)

And Linux has a similar problem. I've seen several different motherboards where the reverse-engineered nvidia ethernet driver didn't work after an upgrade and had to throw in an aftermarket card to work around it. Linux is strongly susceptible to bit-rot on old drivers.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,18 days | (#44518079)

If it matters to you that much, bisect it and file a bug report with the driver's maintainer.

Then for funzies, try to find out who wrote the XP driver for the same card and get his direct email address.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486239)

yep, Linux and FreeBSD do look really appealing in the current climate, and I mean there are some bigger issues then drivers now

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486725)

That's pretty much my experience with installing Windows, too.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44487129)

Bullshit. Windows 7 and Windows 8 has the WORST support rolled in for hardware. XP was lightyears ahead.

I do this for a living and I know you are so full of shit that it's flowing out of your ears and up to my ankles now.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44487839)

I disagree. I do this for a living too and Windows includes drivers for almost all hardware and will download drivers for what is not included. You do have to be competent enough to click through the dialogs and plug the network cable in, though. Perhaps this is your problem.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | 1 year,21 days | (#44488091)

I have to agree with this. I've only installed Windows 7 four times and Windows 8 once, but in all cases the only headache was the fucking license code.

Of course, in the same five year period I've installed Linux over a dozen times without having any hardware problems, save for my own screwups when I did manual disk partitioning (and if I had left things on automatic, that would not have been a problem).

I haven't heard of any serious Windows install problems since Vista, which Dell and HP seemed to prefer to ship with unsupported hardware.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44487069)

I even tell people these days that Linux is easier to install than Windows. While very new hardware can still be problematic (Llano drivers a few years ago come to mind), in general the installation process is: 1) Hit next several times. 2) Enter a user name and password. 3) Everything works.

Hunting for drivers on Windows, especially for legacy devices, hurts my brain. When I plug my 15 year old webcam into a Mint box it just works. So in that respect I agree with GP :)

You forgot 0) type "vga=xxx" after aborting booting, then resume booting - repeat until you actually see something

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44489573)

Also, with linux you have one reboot when done. Not sure about 7, but XP needed to be rebooted for every damned driver for every damned device. And when you're finished installing drivers you have to install apps. Neither of those steps are needed with Linux; a Linux install has all the apps you need already installed.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486217)

Good for you. What do you want, a fucking cookie?

Dumbass.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486703)

I had problems with things like sleep and power management on a no-name laptop, but I'll fully admit my inexperience was at play. I have not had problems with Linux on Thinkpads or Dells and the like. I had similar problems with Windows, as the drivers were tough to track down.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,21 days | (#44487071)

It's actually harder to install windows on a machine than linux. Because you have to go looking for and download drivers. Last Ubuntu installed everything automatically.

this was on a current Dell business class laptop. Windows is a day long painfest to get installed and 100% on a laptop, Linix is 2 hours and mostly watching TV or playing Xbox while it does it's thing.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485843)

You're a dipshit. Try to think a little, certainly try to think before typing. Fuck, this site has down the shitter, full of twat-waffles like yourself.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485859)

Luddites like you want to keep 3D printing in the caves! With 3D printing people will be able to 3D print their own laptops any shape any time they want!

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486897)

Okay, and how are you going to get the circuit boards all neatly packaged into the right shape to print a case around?

How are you going to integrate all the parts onto a single board so that you don't waste space with all the connections?

How are you going to guarantee that the parts don't collide with each other?

The problem isn't just with the shape of the case.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486619)

I'm not convinced that a standard would force everything to one size. Consider the ATX hierarchy: Mini-ITX

It would be harder, but I don't buy that it would be impossible, or even unreasonable.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486757)

The only possible approach here would be to make a standard specifying a large maximum size, and then force all laptops to allow that much space.

"The only possible approach?" Your mind is soldered shut. And we won't even go into the impossibility of "forcing" multinational vendors to do anything they don't want to do.

How about making a standard specifying a small maximum size, and then let parts vendors voluntarily compete to cost-effectively fill that space. Start with the form factor of the Dell mini-9 or one of the other super light-weight netbooks, so you know it's already achievable.

But that would then result in all laptops being giant bulky things with excess cooling and hence weight hanging about. The result is that they would all suck.

Did you burn your imagination out with fire? There's no reason to suppose vendors would sabotage themselves in such a fashion. Look at what the ITX form factor has been doing, for example - small voluntary standard that has not resulted in the doom you insist is intrinsic to the problem.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44487197)

Actually, MinITX is the perfect example of why this doesn't work. Mini ITX has to specify some fairly conservative volumes to be used by things like CPU coolers. This is space that then can't be occupied by things like disks, or power supplies. The end result is that it's impossible to build something like a MacMini out of a mini ITX system, because the cases need to leave all this (often empty) space lying about.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | 1 year,21 days | (#44488223)

MiniITX specifies a motherboard size, and that's all. It doesn't specify the height, width, depth, and minimum heat dissipation possible by the heatsink and fan, it doesn't specify the dimensions and maximum heat generated by internal storage, it doesn't specify the minimum amount of airflow in the case, etc... etc...

I think open laptop design might be possible if there was maybe a dozen standard configurations, each with rigidly defined restrictions on the external dimensions, heat, and energy demands for every single component.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44487809)

That doesn't sound viable from a market standpoint.

What incentive to manufactures have to make parts that fit your small standard rather than ignoring it and continuing to sell pre-configured systems at a high markup?

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44488075)

Or rather, ignoring it, and continuing to integrate their parts more tightly together, hence making even smaller machines with the same performance, which users will inevitably be prepared to pay a premium for.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44490275)

You know there's actually more than one standard for desktops [wikipedia.org] , so why not apply the same for laptops allowing potential builders to mix and match components based on their needs? Obviously not all desktops have to be big bulky generic monoliths. (It's just that form factor is the most common due to flexibility and ease of maintenance.) If you know where to look when buying parts, your desktop could easily be an artistic sculptural piece or a tiny cube micro-terminal that stays out of the way tucked behind your monitor.

Besides, I wouldn't mind having a somewhat bigger laptop if that gave me more freedom in configuration and compent choice as well as easier repair without needing special tools or services of some specialist. Keep in mind the buyer's market has plenty of room (as proven with desktops) so you're still free to go and buy a proprietary designed model if you want to do so.

But right now, the market for laptops is still captive to manufacturers that keep things mostly proprietary. So the pickings out there for us that would like to build our own is disappointingly slim. (Not enough competition yet.) Which is why most of us who don't have the resources like the guy in the article don't even bother. We just try to find a "close enough" fixed design proprietary model for our needs, while keeping fingers crossed that the quality is good enough for the price.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,18 days | (#44518053)

More correctly, it would create a class of laptop that was more versitile and flexible at the cost of being bulkier. Nothing says the other models couldn't coexist.

But note that things like DVD drives are interchangeable now except for the fancy bezels and it doesn't seem to have harmed anything. HDs as well.

Come to think of it, a LOT of parts could be made interchangeable without sacrificing size.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

djupedal (584558) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485799)

Imagine if there were this process where we could actually print them out ourselves.....oh, wait.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

YukariHirai (2674609) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485837)

While I'd love for that to happen, it's not especially realistic. Laptops are currently designed with the various components wrapped very tightly around each other. To make them modular in the same kind of way a desktop computer is would make them considerably more bulky. While that might not bother some people if it means being able to buy the bits of their choice and putting them together, for others it'll be a deal-breaker.

And it's rather doubtful that enough hardware manufacturers would get on board that idea and agree on suitable standards for it to really work.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486187)

BS. The only standard that would need to be agreed upon would be the design of the shell. Many laptops already have replaceable CPUs, GPUs, RAM, hard drives, optical drives, networking cards and batteries. That's pretty much all anyone would upgrade in a desktop form factor anyways.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486647)

The only standard that would need to be agreed upon would be the design of the shell.

Not really, as others have mentioned, 3D printing could solve that problem pretty easily.
Though the 3D printer still costs more then the laptop would cost... Not sure where the break-even point would be at this time.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,18 days | (#44518095)

And the chip fab costs more than the CPU.

You shouldn't buy a 3D printer to do a one-off. For that borrow a 3D printer or pay a service to do it.

Re:I'd love to build laptops (3, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485907)

Oh but they do sell the individual parts. Of course they are "replacement" parts and they are extremely expensive compared to just buying a whole new laptop. This doesn't stop you from making modifications though. Changing the memory and hard drive is easy and I've changed CPU's and altered wireless adapters too. Laptops are somewhat upgradeable, sometimes anyway.

What you *really* want is a standard "form factor" for the parts that fit in standard laptop cases. Then you could buy a gutless case and buy parts to build a full machine from there. However, don't hold your breath. The problem for manufacturers is that they are trying to cram as much stuff into your latest laptop as cheaply as possible, which leads to a single "mother" board that has the CPU and display adapter components built on. It needs to all survive at least some rough handling. All this requires complex engineering and integration testing and many manufacturers don't like to share.

So, where I would applaud an effort to make laptops more generic, I don't think you are going to get a major manufacture to offer up their designs or sell parts for this. What you are going to need is a base platform design for the case, while at the same time providing a set of "guts" (Processing, display, Keyboard, wireless) which are all available and free, pretty much all ready at the same time. Until then, keep wishing..

Laptop shops (1, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485633)

Laptop shops
And shaving stops
Could yet save us all
Until the day that
Some bureaucrat
Pours cologne on the stall.
Burma Shave

Slowing?! (2)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485661)

What's with this "slowing of Moore's law" nonsense?

That supposed "law" is either true or false, there's no speed change about it.

Re:Slowing?! (4, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485707)

I snicker at the term "Moor's law" myself....

It's really more of a guideline and an old adage which is generally true but it is far from a "law".

Re:Slowing?! (3, Funny)

Doug Otto (2821601) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485723)

Sort of like the pirate code.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485877)

I snicker at the term "Moor's law" myself....

It's really more of a guideline and an old adage which is generally true but it is far from a "law".

Moore's "Law" is actually more of a graph in the general shape of a parabola (doubling of capability every few years). The "slowing" is an indication that the graph is not a pure parabola extending to infinity (which no sensible person could have ever believed) and we are entering a point where the acceleration of capabilty on schedule slows or stops.

"Slowing" of Moore's law is either a shorthand way of saying "slowing of the acceleration rate asserted by Moore's Law" or just plain sloppy expression. Pedants are freely invited to argue over which.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

gidoca (2726773) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486085)

A doubling every n years yields an exponential function, not a parabola.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | 1 year,21 days | (#44488041)

I snicker at the term "Moor's law" myself....

I don't think the 8th century Spanish found them chuckle-worthy.

Re:Slowing?! (-1, Flamebait)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485719)

Tell that to Christians refuting Evolution, in their eyes if it isn't fast enough, it's not a law.

Re:Slowing?! (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485879)

What does that even mean, and how did this totally unrelated topic somehow come up? Are we just spewing stream-of-consciousness bullshit in public now?

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486129)

The pattern of thought is familiar. The same way of thinking about laws is applied to arguments against evolution and the discussions about the role of the US constitution. It's all politics.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486319)

Only if you have your head up your ass and all you can think about all day is people that you hate. It's not natural for humans to react in this way unless there's something wrong in the head. Cranio-rectal inversion, it's called.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486853)

sounds like facebook or twitter doesn't it.

Down with Education "We don't need no education!" (c) Queen

This is the result of the American Education System that's more interested in keeping so called teachers and their union employed and in power then teaching our kids to think for themselves.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

Sterculius (1675612) | 1 year,21 days | (#44487121)

Rush Limbaugh said so.

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44487247)

"We don't need no education!" (c) Queen

Wasn't that Pink Floyd?

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44491169)

"We don't need no education!" (c) Queen

Education, you fail it!

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44492255)

This is the result of the American Education System that's more interested in keeping so called teachers and their union employed and in power then teaching our kids to think for themselves.

I would have said that it's more interested in producing conformists than keeping teachers emploiyed. Read the Pledge of Allegiance, don't point fingers and shout "Bang!" Do as we tell you when we tell you. Learn this, don't question it.

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485963)

Tell that to Christians...

I don't understand why the particular religious belief matters (especially since not all religious belief is incompatible with evolution).

refuting Evolution,...

When you capitalize evolution, it suggests to me you don't understand the theory and underlying evidence and ideas, you merely accept it as your own religious belief.

...in their eyes if it isn't fast enough,...

I don't know what this even means. I suspect whatever you are trying to say is a strawman.

...it's not a law.

Evolution isn't a law. It's a scientific theory. It is currently the best explanation we have for our observations.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486377)

actually Origins would be dealt with as Models not even theories since Origins is

Not Measurable
Not Repeatable

so the first 30ish picoseconds of Time can only be dealt with as Logic Not Science.

critters can Adapt but you can't/don't have any proof of a Critter becoming a different type of critter.

this would be similar to a tornado splattering an automotive junk yard and leaving behind a LearJet.

oh and ICR and AIG both have collections of articles where Simple Things ARE NOT ACTUALLY SIMPLE.

but back to the subject it would be nice if we had a Common Reference Platform where we could have a base (shell , core bits, CPU and the slots and Bays) and then be able to select different parts [screens with WI?, Touch , Cell ,Glossy/Matte Cam.Mic ect] or even Upgrade them later.

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486413)

Oh brother....

Apparently you do not fully grasp the issue being raised by creationists (not Christians per say), but all that debate aside, they are debating a "THEORY" and not a "LAW". They are vastly different things.

So.. You misidentified your opponents and mischaracterized the argument.. Ad hominem AND a Straw Man argument.

Bad form sir..

Re:Slowing?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44489453)

Evolution. No proof of it. Based on assumptions. Evidence exists that evolution can't explain.

Creationism. No proof of it. Based on assumptions. Evidence exists that creationism can't explain.

I think a third and provable option should be sought.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

Immerman (2627577) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485861)

There's no "law" in Moore's Law, it's a practical observation of a manufacturing trend. Technically it has nothing to do with processor speed either, just the number of transistors.

Nonetheless it has been broadly colloquially understood to refer to an exponential CPU performance curve, a doubling of CPU speed every 18 months. As such a slowing of the "law" is a readily understandable phrase to refer to the fact that performance is no longer growing nearly as fast as it once did. That is the nature of a living language my friend, it has precious little to do with logic. Why do you suppose scientists like Latin? It's dead, the pope is the only person who speaks more than a few words at a time, and so you can hold it to a logical framework.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486015)

Taking a lazy shortcut to say in three words what would require ten words to say accurately and unambiguously is not a mark of a living language. It's a mark of an incompetent writer.

Re:Slowing?! (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486215)

Every single person reading Slashdot understands what "slowing of Moore's Law" means. A few people just like complaining about it.

Brevity is the soul of wit (1)

newbie_fantod (514871) | 1 year,21 days | (#44489181)

wouldn't using only three words to say something that normally requires ten be the mark of a highly efficient - and competent writer?

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485947)

Google is your friend.
It means its more than 18 months to double, therefore Moore's Law is slowing.

Re:Slowing?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44494207)

That supposed "law" is either true or false, there's no speed change about it.

Yeah, just like coleslaw!

Shanzhai? No (5, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | 1 year,21 days | (#44485851)

What does "could learn from China's Shanzhai" mean? Shanzhai electronics is crap. No, really, it is. Does it mean "use cheap garbage components that will fail 0-6 months after sale, and close up the company so we don't have to provide refunds"? Not that China's consumer protection laws mean a damn, anyway.

The whole article stinks of "d00d this is totally kewl, we should totally make, you know, a laptop. Then add shanzhai, then add bookbinding, then add "guerrilla hardware". WTF does guerrilla hardware even mean? This has more nonsense buzzwords than the latest corporate marketing press release.

Re:Shanzhai? No (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44491237)

I would love to leverage the paradigm shift shown here. It would provide a synergistic best practice that at the end of the day would add value and create a win-win senario while still providing organtic growth of the product.

Motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485883)

In 2009, a poster was discussing the price difference between Apple products and PC products and how it was more cost effective to build your own PC. An AC offered an out-of-context response, sarcastically and rhetorically asking if the poster would please explain how he can build his own laptop. Thus this project began as an effort to shut an AC the hell up.

Cortex A9 (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485887)

Performance increases have indeed been quite slow in the x86 space for the past few years, but this is ARM based and there are still dramatic performance increases showing up regularly in that space. This is based on a quad Cortex A9 design (similar to the first-gen Nexus 7), and the current Cortex A15 core is roughly twice as fast. Whereas in the same timeframe Intel has managed only a ~20% performance increase, though they have been focusing more on power consumption than performance.

Loongson (1)

unixisc (2429386) | 1 year,21 days | (#44490627)

Either that, or there is RMS' own endorsed platform - the Lemote Yeedong. That one is based on the Loongson, and everything about it is liberated, as per the bearded one himself. So why not try that - take that platform, fire it up w/ gNewSense or even a different distro, such as Mint, and be off to the races?

Re:Loongson (1)

Wootery (1087023) | 1 year,21 days | (#44490817)

MIPS flavored RISC goodness. Shame they're basically unavailable in the UK, even if you go hunting for one.

Year of Linux on the laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44485915)

Maybe 2014 will be the year of Linux on the laptop? After 2014 I doubt anybody will still buy a laptop so it's its last chance!

Rah Rah CHINA!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486343)

hardware makers in the U.S. could learn from China's Shanzhai, famed for their cheap clones of the iPhone and other popular handsets.

People in China build cell phones and other really complicated things and they don't even think it's interesting enough to talk about

China's small 'Shanzhai' firms famed for making low-cost clones of popular handsets like the iPhone

So people in the US (or Europe, for that matter!) should learn to make clones just like China? I would agree that making clones and other really complicated clones isn't interesting to talk about.

Re:Rah Rah CHINA!!!! (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | 1 year,21 days | (#44491475)

His point is that many of the "clones" actually improve upon the original.

Examples:

AMD's 40MHz 386 (faster than the fastest "386" Intel itself ever made)

Hercules monochrome (allowed businesses that were "mostly" text-oriented to have bitmap graphics that were compatible with MDA displays & had the same high-quality (for the era) text (at the time, MDA was generally sharper & better-looking than VGA for text). It was never, EVER an official "IBM" standard, and was basically the first ding in IBM's monolithic armor.

SVGA (IBM's own official standard for the 8514 specified 16-color 1024x768 @ some horrid interlaced fieldrate)

The Cyrix 5x86/133, which gave you the performance of a 75MHz Pentium from a "486" motherboard.

Android phone clones with more ram, more flash, faster CPUs, and/or better cameras than the phone they're supposed to be a clone of.

Re:Rah Rah CHINA!!!! (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,18 days | (#44521875)

And let's not forget the NEC V20.

Yes, learn from shanzhai manufacturers (3, Interesting)

poity (465672) | 1 year,21 days | (#44486499)

Go ahead and make a 14" form factor laptop, and put in a 12" 800x600 screen (blacken the surrounding bezel so it doesn't look like ass), install a VIA board and cpu and modify the BIOS so that it reports an i5, while you're in there also make it report 8GB RAM instead of the 2GB that's actually in there, then solder a 64GB USB drive inside because, face it, no customer who cheaps out this much actually uses the 500GB advertised capacity anyway. And if the entire thing feels too good in your hand, put in some metal weights in the extra space you have in there to make it more realistic, because quality things have a certain density, and you also don't want to draw suspicions for being the lightest 14" i5 laptop in the world. Well, at least not until that injection mold for the Sony replica is finished. And of course never sign contracts or NDAs, who leaves paper trails for these things?

Re:Yes, learn from shanzhai manufacturers (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486971)

This. My dealings with Shanzhai have been only similar... What a ridiculous premiss this article has...

Shanzai (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486561)

Like the fake iPhone chargers that kill people?

But WHENNNNNNN (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44486855)

can I get one Bunnie. I've been drooling over an open sourse laptop with all GNU. Please make a kiskstarter for it. You would get overwhelmnig finincial backing.

Who are they targeting? (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,21 days | (#44487201)

So this open source laptop has the specs of a very low end Chromebook. Making it useful to who? also it had better sell for $99.00 because the $199 chomebooks out there are already faster and far better built.

Honestly, what is their point? Making an open source very very low quality laptop is a waste of time.

Re:Who are they targeting? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,21 days | (#44487433)

Making an open source very very low quality laptop is a waste of time.

Might I add... It's a waste of money too..

Re:Who are they targeting? (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | 1 year,21 days | (#44487583)

Honestly, what is their point?

What is it with the slashdotters who produce nothing yet live to shit on everyone's parade.

It's useful for people who want a fully open source laptop.

Why is that useful?

Well, for a start the designs are online. You can buy the reference build and start hacking on the software while at the same time making a modified design to suit your own needs.

Oh and you don't have to worry about venduh support for drivers.

If you want a laptop with better sensors (GPS, full 6DOF, IMU, etc) you can stick them in.

Basically if you have needs that aren't met by standard hardware (duh).

I have trouble believing that your imagination is so limited that you really can't possibly imagine the use of such a device.

because the $199 chomebooks out there are already faster and far better built.

How many FPGAs and GPIO pins does that chromebook have? A clue: none.

Re:Who are they targeting? (1)

Damek (515688) | 1 year,21 days | (#44489983)

Some people get caught up in designing their own parade, and then on feedback from those who shit on it, realize they might prefer to spend their time elsewhere because they hadn't thought of the critiques that others provided them.

"Shitting on people's parades" is part of the corrective, stabilizing force of sociality. People who never talk to other people often think they've figured out all the answers, and then they go tell everyone else (as in this case) that everyone else should follow their solutions. In what world does it not make sense for some people to shit on some other people's poorly-thought-out-in-a-social-bubble parades??

Positive feedback is also part of this system, but since you're only shitting on the parade of shitting on parades, I'm only addressing the negative.

Re:Who are they targeting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44492317)

People who never talk to other people often think they've figured out all the answers, and then they go tell everyone else (as in this case) that everyone else should follow their solutions. In what world does it not make sense for some people to shit on some other people's poorly-thought-out-in-a-social-bubble parades??

The CEO at my work fits in this category precisely: he thinks he knows all the answers. When his commands fail, he points the finger at his minions. Clearly, it was the way his command was implemented, and not the idea behind it. No, there's nothing wrong with instructing someone to set something up to comply with what our downstream rebroadcaster wants, yet not bothering to find out what it was.

And no, there is no corrective force in place to make him unemployed: his father is on the board.

Re:Who are they targeting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44512423)

Says the kid that has never done anything in his life.

Re:Who are they targeting? (3, Insightful)

Sesostris III (730910) | 1 year,21 days | (#44488355)

Honestly, what is their point? Making an open source very very low quality laptop is a waste of time.

Many things are a waste of time. Watching TV is a waste of time. Going to the theatre is a waste of time. Reading a book is a waste of time. Good heavens, reading Slashdot is a waste of time!

Or perhaps not. If it's what you want to do, then, as far as you are concerned, it's not a waste of time. Building an "open source" laptop is no more a waste of time than Linus's initial interest in producing a new (open source) kernel.

I'm not an engineer, but I (for one) am interested in how this project/hobby works out. Certainly I think "open source" hardware is something to be encouraged (like "open source" or "free" (libre) software).

As to usefulness, who, in 1991, thought a new "open source" kernel would be of any use? Who thinks so now? (Answer - me, for one! I'm typing this in Firefox running under LMDE XFCE!)

I'll consider buying one if it becomes commercially available.

Re:Who are they targeting? (1)

mako1138 (837520) | 1 year,21 days | (#44490075)

Bunnie has described this project as a "bespoke oscilloscope", so it's probably going to cost thousands of dollars. If that horrifies you even more, you're probably not the target audience.

All this hype about "the golden age of OSHW" is nonsense though.

Re:Who are they targeting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 days | (#44491049)

Is the learning process he gets from this a waste of time?

Also, there are people out there who a so sold to the OSH idea that they will pay for this sort of thing.
value of an item is increased by it's rarity, there are no other OSH laptops like this that I'm aware of, that make it rare and increases it's value.
This particular OSH laptop might be 'low quality' but the next version? and the one after that?

Re:Who are they targeting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44496395)

Three words: Proof of concept.
They did it to prove it can be done, that way somebody else can come in and do it better.

Vivante GPU? (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | 1 year,21 days | (#44493631)

This part of the specs caught my attention (http://www.kosagi.com/w/index.php?title=Novena_Main_Page#Features):

"Vivante GC2000 OpenGL ES2.0 GPU, 200Mtri/s, 1Gpix/s (*)"

According to a note, the asterisk indicates that it requires "a closed-source firmware blob, but the system is functional and bootable without the blob."

Why the choice of Vivante over the more popular Mali architecture, which among the ARM-based GPUs has the most mature third-party FOSS support in the Lima driver project (http://limadriver.org/)? There's also third-party FOSS support for the Vivante GPU, but it's much less mature (https://github.com/laanwj/etna_viv).

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