...he used to tear up her hardware, the designer's, and put the real parts into cases he'd make in his shop. Say he'd make a solid bronze case for a minidisk unit, ebony inlays, carve the control surfaces out of fossil ivory, turquoise, rock crystal. It weighed more, sure, but it turned out a lot of people liked that, like they had their music or their memory, whatever, in something that felt like it was there... And people liked touching all that stuff: metal, a smooth stone... And once you had the case, when the manufacturer brought out a new model, well, if the electronics were any better, you just pulled the old ones out and put the new ones in your case. So you still had the same object, just with better functions.
As a kid, I played the game "Neuromancer" (1989, Interplay) which is based on the book of the same name by William Gibson. The images of "decks" (portable computers) always struck me as odd and quite visually disconnected from the combination appearance of my Amiga 500 and its Commodore monitor. And yet, looking at a MacBook Pro from the front or side, it looks a great deal like those renderings of decks in that game (minus some of the features that make the images in the game more than just rounded rectangles). I know laptops existed earlier than that time, but to think they got a futuristic drawing so right it astounds me (not that we're quite to "deck" level with tech just yet).
Screenshot from the game:
The front-closed profile of a MacBook Pro for comparison:
I guess it's not a big jump though, considering these were some contemporary laptops of 1989:
the hilarious thing is, i read that book too - i confused it initially with the computer that Hiro opens up at the beginning of Snowcrash.
even more hilariously i had clearly totally forgotten about both books when developing this laptop concept, but just as clearly there must have been something in my subconscious that was still working on it... because i've implemented the damn thing :)
so, thank you from the bottom of my heart for noticing :)
... i'm sorry, you may be confused by the use of that phrase - allow me to explain before completing the sentence. broadcom is a highly unethical company that was caught completely off-guard by the rbpi phenomenon. their MOQ for this processor is 5 million units. the only reason they allowed it is because it was for "education" and it was one of their own employees working on it.
now, when you get one of these "education" boards, the first thing that happens is that a proprietary program is uploaded to the GPU, which then and only then turns on the CPU. this should be ringing massive alarm bells already for anybody who knows that respecting the privacy of children is fundamentally important.
but if that's not enough, if these children wish to watch films on these "educational" devices, they are forced to pay $2.50 to a cartel in order to obtain - not information but a PROPRIETARY library.
so here's the message that broadcom tells kids: "we want you to get educated! you're free to do so... except no further than WE say you can. fuck off kids if you want to educate yourself about the way our cartelled business makes money".
now, i'm keenly aware that they're under enormous pressure to release the GPU's inner details, but dumping the tools onto the software libre community and expecting them to pick up the pieces doesn't strike me as being particularly responsible either.
anyway so back to answering your comment... :)
so if you want to plug in 15mm high boards you need a housing that can cope with 15mm high boards. you want a pi-top in other words not this one. if you've seen the pi-top, however, you'll notice that it's almost 1.25 in thick, possibly even more! there are other issues with it as well, such as: the team haven't fulfilled their promises to be open with the schematics or the 3D CAD files.
i've taken a heck of a lot of issues into consideration in the design of the 15.6in laptop housing, basically as a demonstration to the industry that there is another way.
source code that's downloaded and then compiled thus constitutes "a single instance".
if the fuckers at broadcom had stopped for one second and thought, "we really should release the full source and just let people get on with it, because after all this is about education", then there wouldn't BE any need for them to collect royalties.
instead they went "we make money from this, therefore we should continue to exploit school children".
broadcom DOES NOT have to distribute binary versions of their CODECs. they COULD have chosen instead to release full source code under libre licenses. the fact that they are distributing binaries tells you everything you need to know.
"You can literally plug in a new CPU -- or swap your CPU into a variety of devices. (Laptops, phones, tablets -- all powered by the same motherboard!)"
My phone's battery would last 2 seconds if it used the processor my laptop would use. And my laptop would be slow as shit if it used a processor compatible with a mobile phone.
"you simply PRINT OUT REPLACEMENT PARTS with a 3D printer"
3D printers have terrible quality. They are for prototyping. You'd be printing out replacement parts every month.
"you can connect the computer card to your TV set to continue working if your monitor fails"
I've never had a monitor fail on me, is this an actual problem?
Aside from hobbyists, I'm not sure anyone actually wants this product. Open to some feedback here!
Also, this absolutely is for hobbyists. I'm not sure how that detracts from anything. Maybe the marketing is too suggestive that general consumers will want to build their own laptop, but that's fine. That's marketing. Personally I think the product is excellent as I've wanted an open laptop that runs all free software.
I've also had a laptop monitor fail on me, and had to connect it to an external monitor to recover the files.
regarding the laptop monitor failure: were there instructions online on how to repair the screen? because what i'm doing is about empowering people with not only the concept "right to repair" but one that seems to be quite novel these days called "right to own" - anyone with an apple product knows exactly what i'm talking about - as well as "right to not be spied on" and "right to not be afraid of your computer any more".
frickin love the RC car :)
You might be confusing appearance and durability. The appearance of 3D printed parts is usually far from designer's tastes, but they are really durable.
I have 3D printed whole flying drones and structural robot parts many times, and they are sufficiently strong and durable for the task and last a while.
My main 3D printer is mostly made of 3D printed parts that are load-bearing, and none broke over the last 5 years or so.
Only problem i ever had was a reel of bad Chinese plastic that degraded quickly under sunlight. Easy to avoid by not buying on e-bay...
The question is not "could it be stronger?", to which the answer is always yes until you've hit the extreme end with some kind of inconel/titanium/carbon nanotube mix, but "is it strong enough?". Also cost to manufacture, including tooling costs, is an important factor in choosing the best manufacturing method for a given part.
But the former is a rigid industrial process needing complex machinery, while the latter is a fully configurable process with machinery you can make out of assorted scrap at home.
A powerful ARM CPU, down-clocked and/or in a big.little configuration would cover those cases, somewhat. Low clock during mobile operation, higher clock+power usage when docked in a non-battery situation. The concept seems to work fine with phones + ARM Chromebooks that are out there now.
> Aside from hobbyists, I'm not sure anyone actually wants this product. Open to some feedback here!
Still true. Most people probably don't want to upgrade that often, deal with their phone not working when the CPU is stuck into a dock, etc. I still like the idea of this kind of upgradeable hardware. Maybe it would make more sense to have different form factors for cards, with adapters to connect smaller cards into larger enclosures. It seems like that kind of schema would provide the greatest coverage of different use-cases (although, it'd require either standard buses/data connections through the entire line of hardware, or conversion hardware included in the card adapters).
In one monitor I've had a contact go loose that would black out the screen. Positioning it in a special way would reestablish it.
As for laptops.. the only cases I have seen are user caused, like closing the screen on some earbuds in a rush.
My TiBook (which is well known for cracking hinges) would only display blue unless I had the display propped just right.
i'll most likely be 3D printing just these parts alone in Polycarbonate or Nylon just to make absolutely sure they don't break.
the cable i've had to think about quite a lot, and there's now a spacer which keeps it away from sharp edges as the hinge rotates in its socket. last thing you want is a 90 degree turn and the socket to rub continuously against the cable, breaking it within a matter of weeks.
but, man those LVDS cables are thin. a 3.5mm bundle (wrapped in special cloth tape) of 28 wires! just incredible.
anyway, repair and maintenance will be fully documented so that people can sort their machines out. i really don't want these things ending up in landfill.
lucky we ain't gonna be using processors that are in
the laptops that you're currently buying, then, eh? :)
> And my laptop would be slow as shit if it used a
> processor compatible with a mobile phone.
again, luckily, it's possible to upgrade this design
(for a fraction of the cost) so that that's not such
a problem, then, eh? :)
if you look at the videos i made you'll find that the
performance is "good enough", and if you truly consider
it not to be "good enough" (for you) but you'd still
like to back the project so we can get to the point
where it's "good enough (for you)", you can always get
the pass-through card.
basically i've come up with a strategy where i can reach the goal that you're looking for.... in financially responsible steps that allow me to retain 100% control of the project. no VC funding. sponsorship only. that we've got this far, if i'm allowed to assess it impartially: that's pretty fg awesome all on its own.
> 3D printers have terrible quality.
china-produced 3D printers are even worse than terrible: they're illegal (copyright-violating) and* the only thing that's good about them is that you end up with a stack of parts that's cheap. people who've bought them instantly regret it.
no, you have to be REALLY careful about where you get your 3D printer from. the one that DJDemon made - an all-aluminium design - is pretty damn good.
> You'd be printing out replacement parts every month.
correct... if you pick the worst-quality PLA available on the market, today. if however you use high-quality PLA such as that from Faberdashery, or if you use Polycarbonate or Nylon.... no.
also it's down to internal design: the base back part that i designed uses an internal structure similar to that used in Gothic Cathedrals. the result was a part so strong that on attempting to snap it with my hands i actually became concerned for my safety due to the amount of pressure i was applying to be able to bend it.
> They are for prototyping.
that's right. so what we will be doing when this gets to MOQ 2500 and above is: going to injection-molding... BUT - and this is really REALLY important - the parts will be EXACTLY THE SAME so that people can, on buying a mass-produced variant of this laptop housing, go down to a local library or go to UPS's web site and order a replacement.
if they really want high quality they can go to shapeways and get it powder-printed. it'll cost them a fortune but they'll get a "decent-looking" replacement part.
> I've never had a monitor fail on me, is this an
> actual problem?
this was a way to illustrate flexibility. lots of people were saying "what happens if the LCD on the laptop breaks and i can't replace it" etc. etc.
and yes i have actually managed to break monitors by running them at higher-than-rated refresh rates.... oops :)
> Aside from hobbyists, I'm not sure anyone actually
> wants this product.
well, we're almost up to 1,000 backers so i must be doing
I want my laptop to last 10h while being very portable, so I will gladly sacrifice performance there whereas when I am at my desktop I do not have the same limitation.
If I could simply unplug this from my desktop and plug into my laptop to resume my work that would be interesting to me, or work to home etc., but as is it feels more like a gimmick.
I suppose the optimal version of this would be to have your userspace carried on a cell phone, so you could plug your phone into any desktop and use it. There's already kind of versions of this, one where the laptop is basically a dumb terminal, and another called drivedroid which allows you to treat your phone as a bootable disk.
yehhh that's a software thing... look how that's
worked out in a completely oversaturated market
that's controlled by a few massive incumbents
with profit-maximisation as their sole objective.
... not working out so well, is it?
> I want my laptop to last 10h
that's just about doable with this design, and you
can always get one of those portable 10000mAh
external battery packs - just make sure it can do
12V and has a 5.5mm DC pin positive jack.
> while being very portable,
... how does 1.1kg grab ya? :) or, how about 40 grams
for the computer card?
> If I could simply unplug this from my desktop
> and plug into my laptop to resume my work
> that would be interesting to me,
you can simply unplug this from the desktop
housing and plug it into the laptop housing -
that was the whole idea man! :)
That said, you're right that the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and Google haven't had any incentive to make it easy for someone to easily transfer their whole computing configuration from one machine to another.
i understood it differently, but there are definitely people who don't want today's low-power tablet-style processors in a desktop computer.
(aside: let's remember that tomorrow's desktop processors will be lower power and more powerful even than today's tablet-style processors!)
those people are the ones that i'm specifically not targetting, here. i'm targetting the "good enough" crowd. and the makers. and the libre people. and those who are fed up with being spied on through devices that they paid for. we don't like paying to be snooped on, that's just f*g cheek.
No, but I'm the one that pointed out this HN thread on the arm-netbook list.
Edit: Oh, and I talked to you a little on the #arm-netbook IRC channel a few weeks ago. I use the same nick on IRC as here.
Note: I have not actually tested any of this due to lack of time, but is seems quite possible, although some software modifications may be needed.
2. Is there even a complete spec for RISC-V?
3. At that level of paranoia, you're always going to probe deeper... Suppose someone inserted backdoors into your RISC-V core. Suppose the fab house has backdoors in the layout tools. Suppose an oversight committee got paid off...
not anything useful
> 2. Is there even a complete spec for RISC-V?
> 3. At that level of paranoia, you're always going
> to probe deeper... Suppose someone inserted backdoors
> into your RISC-V core. Suppose the fab house has
> backdoors in the layout tools. Suppose an oversight
> committee got paid off...
the damage that would be done to the reputation of
any company stupid enough to allow backdoors to be
slipped into their tools would be... they'd be
finished. absolutely NOBODY would trust them EVER
AGAIN - not their billion-dollar customers or the
Military or the Intelligence Services that utilise
their tools on a daily basis.
no - what you're suggesting is, far from being
a plausible scenario, is in fact those companies
WORST NIGHTMARE scenario because it's the day that
they go out of business and probably have agents
from all over the world queueing up to murder
them! i love that film with john travolta,
"this is incredible. i never seen anything like
this. ya actually gotta get in
line to whack this guy"....
It had, e.g., a big chunk of code bolted on that loaded a binary data file at boot time and configured the various peripherals. My suspicion is that that was the init code from an entirely different operating system completely that they'd just duct-taped onto the Linux kernel. Unwiring that was a problem.
The chip itself is pretty nice from the hackability perspective. It has a boot rom, like the processor in the Raspberry Pi, and is capable of loading the kernel from flash or an SD card, so you can build unbrickable hardware with it. (For years I ran my personal website off an A20-based TV set-top-box nailed to a plank.)
It's not entirely true about running entirely free code. Apart from the boot ROM, which I suspect you can change if you pay Allwinner enough money, it's got a Mali 400 GPU. There's some of an open source driver here: http://limadriver.org/ ...but I don't know how usable it is. If you want full acceleration I believe you need a blob.
It's still a four-year-old semi-obsolescent SoC, of course. Perfectly adequate for low-end work but compilation on it is for masochists. (I should know; I did.)
ah! it's been so long, i've been so busy i couldn't
remember who you were, out of curiosity had to
look you up. yes. i remember. from successful
experience of 10 years using wikis for note-taking
in reverse-engineering projects, you insisted on
posting unstructured information to a mailing list
where it was then utterly impossible for anyone to
find it (i don't mean me), help you with it (i don't
mean me), collaborate with you on it (i don't mean me)
so... let's rewrite what you said to reflect it from
> the project lead who has a lot of experience in
> complex reverse-engineering, ongoing documentation,
> information management and software libre, asked
> me to respect certain rules... and i refused to do
> so, causing his life and everybody's life to
> become, um, "difficult"
you were causing me a significant amount of work by
having to cut/paste things that you were writing to
the list instead of putting them in the wiki and
sending a link as i asked you to do, so that i was
the one that was forced to clean up after you.
not really very fair of you to do that to someone
is it... but you blamed me for that? uhn??? how
does that work??
so... yeah - that you left the list was a good thing
because i was able to focus on what i was doing rather
than having to clean up after you. sorry if you felt
that that was unfair or "a run-in" or was "difficult",
but it's real simple: when trying to find important
information, if it's unstructured, it might as well
not ever have been written. there's only so much that
a google search can achieve. i trust that in the
intervening years you've learned that by now.
It had, e.g., a big chunk of code bolted on that
loaded a binary data file at boot time and
configured the various peripherals.
i don't know who you are but we probably both
contributed at different times - i was the one
who released the first linux and u-boot kernel
source to the public via my server, and later
on did a usb sniff of the USB-FEL traffic by
putting LIVESUIT.EXE into qemu, configuring
qemu to give it access to one of the USB ports
and uploading an OS to one of my Computer Cards.
that was enough for Henrik (hno) and others
to complete the fex-boot program. i love doing
anyway, upshot is: after a LOT of work by a LOT
of people (including yourself it sounds like),
the A20 is one of the few china processors that's
fully libre reverse-engineered for its boot process,
contains no DRM, and even the Video decode engine
and 2D GPU are now reverse-engineered.
there aren't very many processors you can say that
about - if you do know of any please tell me
because i will need to make an in-depth evaluation.
I've also used an A20 for compilation... briefly. And not much was compiled in the brief period ;)
As for the boot ROM blob, do you know if that is the 'boot0 and boot1' that Olimex apparently published the source code for?
I wonder if anyone's verified that the code in the boot room on this device really is what you get when you build the boot0 code? I wonder what sort of maliciousness you could fit in there if you tried...
no, the chances of them making a glaring and incompetent accidental mistake that compromises on security are far, far higher than them getting involved in deliberately adding malicious spying code into the device.
you have to remember that the A20 was designed along "unbrickable" lines, so that they could help out incompetent OEMs and ODMs who took it on themselves to "experiment" by making random changes to the design. any kind of DRM would be a serious impediment to that... so they didn't add any.
since then i've been alerted to 2 more processors... but anyway the point is: out of all the ones on that list, the A20 is by far and above the most "ethical" one - irony that, given allwinner's background - that we can GAIN ACCESS to, that is also capable of running 1080p60 video so that people can go "ehhh.... yeahh okay, i could put up with that for a year whilst these guys figure out the next Computer Card".
now, there's been a lot of discussion and evaluation on various other forums including phoronix and reddit about RISC-V, i was going to do a separate update about it, but basically, RISC-V is not ready for prime-time.
or, more specifically, the people doing SoCs based around RISC-V haven't yet put something together that would match the minimum functional requirements of EOMA68. those requirements are quite modest, including 18-pin RGB/TTL @ 1366x768, SD/MMC, I2C, SPI, UART, PWM GPIO, EINT GPIO and 2 USB interfaces... but they still haven't actually managed that. the closest team that has is the lowRisc team.
now, on top of that, we need operating systems. it's no good trying to think you're going to raise $1m on crowdfunding selling 10,000 computers if the only OSes available are based on "linux from scratch" or "buildroot" for embedded computers. you need debian, you need android, you need chromeos, you need arch, parabola, gentoo - everybody needs to get on board.
once you become aware of these things you start to realise that RISC-V based SoCs and required OSes are at least 3 to 8 years out, so it would be much much better to start with something like MIPS64 for now.
if you know of a way to raise between $5m and $10m i can start that process NOW and have a chip ready in about 18 to 24 months. i've been through the process back in 2012 (google "Towards an FSF Endorseable Processor slashdot") so know what needs to get done.
> You can literally plug in a new CPU -- or swap your CPU into a variety of devices.
Either they're using the term "CPU" in a colloquial sense to refer to the processor plus other things, or it's literally just the processor. If it's the latter, what's the point? The CPU is hardly the important thing when I'm switching between devices. If anything, I would want a set of devices that all boot from the same storage device.
the CORRECT phrase to use is:
"You can literally plug in a new COMPUTER CARD -- or swap your COMPUTER CARD into a variety of devices".
does that start to make much more sense now?
I would prefer to have a larger card with female HDMI (or DP) and USB (female for power and eventual storage access by a beefier host and male to use the mouse and the trackpad and other USB ports on the laptop or dock.
the A20 computer card has Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB-OTG and Micro-SD. it's effectively the same as one of those USB dongle computers in that regard, so we're providing the option for people to pledge for a "cable kit". take care if you're going to source your own! make damn sure it's the right type, you want one that's "OTG Host Power" - many of the ones that you can find online DO NOT do the bidirectional power provision that you need.
- Micro-HDMI Interface (for 2nd monitor)
- Micro-USB-OTG (bi-directional power)
USB-C would be great though
when the USB3 world stabilises - even intel can't get it right. also it'll be a while before GPL-compliant SoCs come out that have stable USB3 hardware. it's quite costly at the moment and the low-to-medium end tablet/smartphone fabless semi companies can't justify the cost.
There should be a dock that lets the phone use a faster processor and GPU etc. Data would be stored on the phone and accessible but for desktop performance and full os it would need to be docked.
or you could look up the "NexDock" or the "Superbook". ooor..... you could get one of the EOMA68 15.6in Laptop Housings plus a "Passthrough" Card and use that... :)
maybe there's a backlash against the wintel cartel that leads people to no longer trust them. maybe the DRM-locking that goes onto the microsoft phones and intel-based phones respectively is enough that people are absolutely sick of them.
It could be improved a bit if they used a smartphone instead of a card, but that still leaves the problem of there being no "base stations" around.
Perhaps a better idea would be something like an HDMI computer - a stick that carries everything and is pluggable into a regular TV, but that's invented already.
how so? at the time of writing almost 1,000 backers
would disagree with you.
> It could be improved a bit if they used a smartphone
> instead of a card, but that still leaves the problem of
> there being no "base stations" around.
smartphones are typically DRM-locked, have unethical
OSes that make it impossible for people to say that they
truly own their own devices, are so full of spying at
the HARDWARE level it's just flat-out nuts, and the
components are so cartelled it's just.... gahh :)
google "qualcomm 900 million security vulnerability"
and you'll start to understand why i didn't start
with a smartphone!
> Perhaps a better idea would be something like an HDMI
> computer - a stick that carries everything and is
> pluggable into a regular TV, but that's invented already.
it is... but look at what you have: a morass of cables.
by total contrast, you can simply plug the Computer Card
snugly into the Laptop Housing (or any other Housing)
and it won't get destroyed accidentally.
Would it even be possible to make a free/libre machine which uses HDMI? One of the reasons I don't use HDMI/HD equipment is because of they use DRM (and, of course, because there's nothing wrong with my VGA equipment)
PS3 is shitty and runs in HDCP mode all the time, but that's Sony for you.
As far as I'm aware even on HDCP-compliant hardware none of the Linux drivers can even use it if they wanted to.