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Bunnie Huang Shows Off His Open Source Laptop (Video)

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the something-we've-been-waiting-for-since-1995 dept.

Hardware 24

Bunnie Huang is both a hardware and software hacker, but that's greatly understating the case: renaissance man is more like it. Bunnie doesn't just tinker with one-off system modifications or console mods (though he's done that, too) -- he creates and repurposes at scale. (He's also an author, respected researcher with interesting thoughts on a wide range of topics, like how to think of the H1N1 flu from the point of view of a security researcher.) Bunnie's latest long-term project has been mentioned a few times on Slashdot: It's an open-source laptop computer that goes much farther than some other open-source hardware projects, and as a bonus includes an FPGA as well as a conventional -- but unusual -- processor. (Bunnie grants that there are still bits that aren't quite open source, but points out that we also don't have the software that runs the fabs; there's a point of diminishing returns.) A crowd funding campaign (via CrowdSupply) was successful enough to also fund several stretch goals, including a general purpose breakout board. I talked with Bunnie at the recent Bay Area Maker Faire. (Expect more from that show in coming weeks.) He walked us through the state of the hardware, and talked about some of the design decisions that go into making a computer that is of, by, and for hackers. (Alternate video link)

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Bung Holg Surprise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47113157)

Bung Hole is both a hardware and software hacker's paradise, but that's greatly understating the case: renaissance man's glory hole is more like it. Bung doesn't just tinker with one-off hand jobs or athletic reach arounds (though he's done that, too) -- he creates and repurposes anuses at scale. (He's also an bisexual, respected researcher with interesting thoughts on a wide range of topics, like how to think of a man's anus from the point of view of a security researcher.) Bung's latest long-term project has been mentioned a few times on Slashdot: It's an open-source fleshlight that goes much farther than some other open-source hardware projects, and as a bonus includes lubrication as well as a conventional -- but unusual -- vibrator.

Annoying ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47113227)

I wanted to watch, but that annoying ad that cut about every second gave me a headache and I couldn't. Thanks, IBM!

I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47113379)

Is this one of those ego projects where you decide you're going to do a little bit of everything for no other reason than to get your name plastered on all of it? And if you're going by his standards of open source, we've had open source hardware since someone rewrote the IBM BIOS.

"Renaissance man" refers to someone who tries to understand everything so that he can contribute wherever he is needed, not to someone who tries to do everything.

Re:I don't get it. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47114059)

His standard of open source is very different from the IBM BIOS rewrite:
Novena PVT HW Design Source [kosagi.com]
if you go there you can download all board design files to go make the PCBs and get them populated at your favorite board shop. (mechanical sources for the case are also available). This allows anyone to make improvements to the hardware as well as the software and feed it back into the community.

He also made component selections that further the open source accessibility: the CPU does not require an NDA to get the full documentation (unlike, say, the Broadcom chip in the Pi, or any Marvell chip ever), and the same goes for the rest of the chips on the board. No Bluetooth since ALL BT chips require a blob driver, but he can include a WiFi card that has open source firmware so he does.

The campaign was successful enough that they have also partnered with Jon Nettleton to create an open source driver for the 2d/3d graphics blocks inside the CPU which only has a proprietary driver now, this will help every Linux distro and user that has an i.MX6 board from any vendor run a completely open stack.

Feel free to correct my impression that after someone rewrote the IBM BIOS not everyone could go download IBMs design files (note: this is different than having "PC/AT compatible" designs)

Re:I don't get it. (4, Informative)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 5 months ago | (#47114863)

The IBM PC/XT and PC/AT used entirely commercial off-the-shelf chips on the original motherboards. The Intel 82xx family of peripheral chips, to be exact. There were no ASIC or custom chips. The full schematics were published in the Technical Reference Manuals, including peripheral schematics. Yes, the floppy drive and hard drive included. All the commented BIOS source code was published in the TRM as well. This fact actually 'hurt' the BIOS re-write effort as anybody interested could read the source, and most people's view at the time this action 'contaminated' them from being able to write a clone BIOS.

If you want the schematic diagram for a Hard Drive, or the source code for the firmware of a Hard Disc controller card, you just had to buy the Technical Reference Manual from IBM. Which wasn't cheap, but it was obtainable by anybody with a few hundred dollars.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47115037)

Which wasn't cheap, but it was obtainable by anybody with a few hundred dollars.

Sounds pretty cheap to me...

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47115095)

Yep, that is pretty open, and comparable to much of the other hardware available at the time with schematics provided for repair purposes. I would consider the "anybody with a few hundred dollars" requirement to be more of a barrier than you do (notwithstanding the fact that actually making the hardware will cost considerably more, it does prevent hobbyists and students from easily learning from the design).
Schematic availability is still a far cry from fully manufacturable design files for both producing hardware and general learning. Much can be learned by poking around somebody else's DDR layout or BGA escape routing even if you don't have access to a shop that will build your custom version.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Jecel Assumpcao Jr (5602) | about 6 months ago | (#47116421)

The original PC was fully open, but the AT had a keyboard controller and two PALs that had to be reverse engineered to produce a clone.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 6 months ago | (#47115069)

Would have been nice if he had used OpenRISC as the CPU though.

Re:I don't get it. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47115153)

Sure it would have, but I'm having trouble finding a quad-core 1GHz version that is fully documented and available for purchase.

I think bunnie's choices are pretty pragmatic based on his original goal of wanting a machine he knew and could share the internals of, but could use day to day.

Finding a high-volume, current-ish, high-end SOC with truly available documentation leaves you with few choices.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 6 months ago | (#47117877)

No Bluetooth since ALL BT chips require a blob driver,

Really? I'm pretty nearly 100% sure that's not accurate, since the bluetooth HCI spec defines a command protocol over several interfaces (USB, RS232 and a couple of others) for controlling a bluetooth host. This is the case for Bluetooth 4, perhaps not earlier versions, but it does mean that you can plug in any random bluetooth 4 USB dongle and it just works.

It's somewhere in the spec, but I didn't read it in detail since I was more after the ATT protocol and GATT profile specs.

Naturally those devices will have some firmware on board as well, but in some cases it's not even flashable.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about 5 months ago | (#47114761)

Is this one of those ego projects where you decide you're going to do a little bit of everything for no other reason than to get your name plastered on all of it?

No.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47116849)

I can picture Stallman salivating over this, or maybe he's just thinking about what's cooking between his toes.

I guess (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about 5 months ago | (#47113489)

It DOESN'T run windows

It could (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47113845)

Windows CE for the i.MX 6 [wikipedia.org]

Re:It could (1)

4wdloop (1031398) | about 6 months ago | (#47116545)

WinCE != Windows, you'd be better off with Wine, although granted not on ARM.

Garbage (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47113555)

Throw it on the shit pile with that Ubuntu phone.

Who is Bunnie Huang (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47114517)

And why should I care?

Re:Who is Bunnie Huang (0)

Herve5 (879674) | about 6 months ago | (#47131339)

Simple. He got an idea, and developed it into convincing customers to give him $ 750 000 in less than two years.
Some consequences are
- it may be that his idea is interesting
- he certainly is more geek than you and me
- he also is most probably better organized.
I for one have tried to follow him for one year, but I completely missed the crowdfunding campaign, which incidentally tells a lot about my inconsistancy...

What is... (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 6 months ago | (#47115597)

his pOrn name?

Re:What is... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 6 months ago | (#47117393)

Enormous Genitals [imdb.com]

Cool idea...here's an improvement on it: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47115757)

It's a cool idea.

I have wondered for years if it's possible to build & sell a motherboard for a laptop that allows the purchaser to plug in their components, and 3-D print a case.

Of course the purchaser could install a processor and RAM, but there's more.

The connectors would be on the outside edges of the PCB, so that different sizes of laptops could be made.

A small laptop could use a single DIMM, laid at an angle, while a larger laptop would use (4) DIMMs, sitting straight up. The difference is in how the PCB is populated (with soldered-on parts.) Even with the same parts, one laptop could leave a DIMM that sticks off the side empty, while another one fills that space with a large DIMM. Different cases would allow for different components to plug into the motherboard.

A miniPCIe connector could take varying lengths of cards.

MXM (Mobile PCIe Modules for video cards) take different lengths of cards.

Even a simple USB port could be exposed on the outside of a tiny laptop, or plugged into an internal hub to provide several USB ports, a multi-card-reader, and other functionality on a larger model. This component would work great in a corner of a larger laptop.

A connector could hold a tiny mSATA SSD in a small laptop, or a longer mSATA SSD in a mid-size laptop. A SATA port can connect to a 1.8" SSD, a 2.5" hard disk, or a BluRay burner. Really weird designs could even use 3.5" hard disks in some configuration. One mSATA and two SATA ports could reside next to each other on the motherboard.

Different power supply boards could be supplied, so that a 7" tablet is not saddled with the power supply needed to run a 15.6" desktop replacement.

Varying designs of batteries could fill up extra space, using mainly 18650 cells, but we are not limited to those cells.

We're not limited to laptops. The same board could be used in embedded systems, tablets, in-car-systems, AIOs, etc. The purchaser could (ideally) select from a number of screens...eInk, LCD, external, PixelXi, etc. They could pick capacitive, resistive, or active digitizer touch screens.

I'm kinda surprised this level of user-customization has not happened yet. Dell, Sony, or Lenovo could do it easily. The selling point for corporate IT would be the use of the same driver and the same installation image on every machine in the corporation. Every ebook reader is the same as every desktop. Intel's Centrino is flexible enough to pull it off, with a well-laid-out motherboard. New versions would only be necessary when a new version of Centrino is released, every 3-5 years.

hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47116193)

But he drinks Diet Pepsi. Can we REALLY trust him?

Open Source water distiller (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47213961)

I just finished an open source water distiller combined with thermostat cooker

http://ronja.twibright.com/distillcooker/

Gathering donations at the moment

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