The beauty of it is that it is unashamedly bad. It is the humblest of laptops. The body is a direct copy of the 13" MacBook Air. As a computer, it is at least as usable as a Raspberry Pi. The teardown photos are hilarious because the motherboard only takes up about 1/6 the internal space. The rest is empty.
It comes with Ubuntu 16.04, but there are other distros available that work to varying degrees. Since Firefox Quantum came out it's actually pretty usable for web browsing.
* It does in fact turn on.
* It boots surprisingly fast, since it is running on flash memory.
* There is an HDMI port, which may work in the future.
* The battery life is fantastic, due to it's meager CPU.
* Most have no more than 2 dead pixels.
* You can charge it from another computer's USB port.
* Potato quality camera.
* It costs less than a replacement battery for my ThinkPad.
I have a dev board with one of those chips and getting any of the peripheral hardware working turned out to be a complete nightmare. I eventually gave up on it. Hopefully whomever is doing the Ubuntu port knows Mandarin and is living next to the factory in China so he can sneak out some driver specs.
The bootlin group is a awesome collection of embedded linux engineers and they are well known if not one the top of the lines engineers for the Linux-Sunxi community.
Is there a third road to device support? What's the point of selling hardware if you're not going to provide any sort of path to enablement?
Why the hell release a linux only device, marketed at the DIY/hardcore user with no, or very limited ways to actually use the damn hardware? (like being stuck on some ancient kernels with 3.24x10^43 remote holes)
Its pretty astonishing, and seems to be primarily driven over paranoia about IP/patents.
After the answer a lawyer is always going to give to the question "Is there legal risk here" is yes, companies arnt going to do better until we demand they do.
Hackers like us are not a large market. Those who need a lot of CPUs for something that nobody even realizes has a CPU are ultimately a much larger market.
If you configure i3, compton, and build your own distro from scratch WITHOUT ubuntu, then the rpi can actually be very fast and snappy for programming.
If this laptop is anything like the raspberry pi, then it will require LOTS of customization to get the OS to work right. But once it's configured just right and you stay away from botnet browsers and sites like FB and IG, then the pi is actually quite nice.
Also once you are using i3 then using Debian instead of Ubuntu makes little difference to the user while going a fair way to removing a lot of bloat.
However suggesting linux from scratch is a bit extreme, it can be fun but you can get 99% of the benefits with i3 alone and maybe choosing a distro with a lighter HD footprint. Building your own OS is a lot of work for most people on the otherhand, and will scare people off your otherwise sound suggestion :P
Personally, I don't think laptops like the Pinebook should ever be used by the masses because, like you said, building your own OS from scratch is difficult, even for the tech savvy! And no I'm not talking about compiling your own Gentoo yourself. What I mean is just starting with a barebones distro with NOTHING installed, then sudo apt-get intsall your carefully selected list of packages- followed by tons and tons of googling and man pages to figure out how to configure your config files in just the right way.
This is how I learned linux- the hard way. My powerful windows 10 workstation died one day, and I decided to actually try using my abandoned rpI for day to day use. It took a LOT of googling, but I finally figured out how to make my pi enjoyable after close to half a year's worth of effort.
I'm definitely buying this laptop when I get paid because I am one of the few people out there who's masochistic enough to enjoy pi-like devices. This laptop is EXACTLY what I have been looking for.
Maybe you mean nothing more than what comes with the distro's install? In that case a clean Ubuntu counts? I think you should rethink what you have in mind; maybe you mean a distribution with few default packages and minimal preconfigured settings? Something like Arch?
I think The trick to helping others though is to show it can be done in stages, because trying to learn everything at once is too hard, it's easy to forget how long it took to acquire all of the knowledge and skill that make it seem easy to set up a bare bones linux distro into something comfortable and yet lightweight.
For most people I'd advise: Ubuntu (cos the web will help), then find your lightweight desktop of choice by installing and experimenting along side... then try to replicate it on barebones (or ubuntu server, mostly just involves adding xorg to your install list)... then experiment with more lightweight distros... and if tinkering with your desktop is not satisfying enough then you will no doubt go down the from scratch route as well eventually but at that point you don't need people telling you what to do. The thing that's lost with my seemingly simple suggestion is that you will learn so much by yourself while trying to achieve this, but without sacrificing your productivity.
PDF? PDFs and the web will be laggy unless you set up a compositor like Compton to speed things up. There's enough GPU power in the PI to set up decent 2d compositing with transparencies.
Videos? I wouldn't count on it because youtube videos are still choppy for me. Even after a ton of work, I still get light choppiness on 320p video. I haven't tried local video files yet, though I assume local files might perform better than web videos. I mean, gifs and webms play smoothly without choppiness, so why not mpv video?
One of the biggest flaws in the raspberry pi is the USB Micro port. If your USB micro cable is broken and unreliable, then your PI will get extremely slow and may even crash a lot due to the flickering power supply. Your pi won't tell you what's wrong either, which makes troubleshooting a pain until you figure out that the lightning bolt icon on your screen means power problem.
If you like linux and tinkering, I would highly recommend you get a pi. Just don't expect a pi to work out of the box. Most distros are so bloated and the pi is so limited, that you have to trim everything down for the pi to be even remotely enjoyable.
If you wish to send me a download link to an example video file of yours, I can play it on my setup for you and let you know how well the video performs.
WRT PDFs and web, I use qutebrowser w/o JS, which is lightweight, and most PDFs are just papers with nothing fancy (I'm a humanities student / prospective researcher). I can take the choppyness if it's not unusable.
The videos are just any video on Youtube. Mpv is a program similar to mplayer, and I use it to watch any video on the disk or use it like "mpv <youtube url>" to view videos from youtube (it even has titles and can show progress, really nice), I guess you mistook it for a video format.
Context: i've been using Xfce4 for the last 4-5 years and recently had to use Gnome3.x because of RHEL. Since I've a recent Gnome, I decided to also try a recent KDE.
- XFCE manages to be consistently fast and overall a joy to use
- KDE is getting usable again after the KDE4.0 mess. Still too much gummy by default, but it's so customizable that you can turn off most of the trash that is enabled by default.
- Gnome really looks like it has been designed for and tested against mentally challenged people. It's infuriating, most of its utilities lack menus and basic options/settings, to the point where having a GUI is more of an impediment rathen than being something useful.
I am very worried by the fact that Ubuntu is reverting back to Gnome.
As mentioned in that review, the software part seems to be a problem area for Pine. That could also be why it's cheap (because it's mainly the hardware alone that one is paying for). I got the original Pine64 board through the crowdfunding campaign, and I found the distro images provided to be lacking and also not kept updated. I wanted to use it like a headless server/NAS kind of setup with VNC access to run other programs as necessary, but found that a bit too hard to get done. So it's just been gathering dust since then.
If you need multimedia and heavy web browsing, run Android. That's what it was designed for.
I'd recommend the Xenial images. There are Mate/i3wm versions for the pinebook, but all the others (Pine64 & Sopine) are headless and require the installation of a GUI.
Then to enable Mali support (which basically lets the device actually use the GPU to render the screen), you have to add an additional repository:
- apt-add-repository ppa:ayufan/pine64-ppa -y
- apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-armsoc-sunxi libmali-sunxi-utgard0-r6p0
- exec /usr/local/sbin/pine64_enable_sunxidrm.sh
- System -> Preferences -> Look and Feel -> Windows and disable Enable software compositing.
That is something you and I both have experienced with this laptop :P
As for the rest, it really is bad. Like really bad. Although I did get lucky, I have 0 dead pixels.
If it has a decent one (atleast 12 hours) I could use it as a travel notebook instead of my hefty thinkpad.
Are you sure it is just the Core A53 or is it measured in power/battery connection which account for the display, wifi, DDR, IO, etc?
I did power profile for cellphone SOC couple years ago. Typical power usage for CPU is very low - milli-watts or less range for IDLE, worst case 1-2 W at full performance mode OP (Operating Point).
When I profiled it, the Display, Wifi module consumed a lot more power than CPU/SOC during "normal" operations.
I can't guarantee about the precision; 2W may be 1.5W or 2.5W on my tool (it doesn't have decimals), although, I've measured my XU4 consumption, and it's consistent with third party measurements (5W on idle).
It does in fact turn on
This one made me laugh
Genius. I was seriously doubting how it was possible to be this cheap.
This version is 32-bit, but it has 4 cores @ 1.2GHz and 4GB of RAM. Also, it is actually open source, meaning that all the electronic design files (made in KiCAD) are available on GitHub and as soon as we have decided on the correct formats the same will be true for the mechanical/case parts, so you will be even able to 3D print replacement parts.
I could not find the design files for Pinebook so I'm not sure what is "Open Source" about it? Schematics are not sources.
I don't know how you can sustainably make a laptop and sell it for $100. I'm selling the first developer models for EUR 549/599 and I'm not making any profit on these, it's basically passing on the material cost. I guess it's a tradeoff between cutting enough corners to bring the price down and trying to achieve some base of quality and durability. These are different goals.
Anyway, I'm happy to see more activity in the ARM space as that means more eyeballs on ARM Linux applications, potentially more issues filed and bugs fixed.
I don't completely understand your goal. If the case has been designed to be able to sensibly 3d print replacement parts, why are you spending so much making the thing high-quality and durable in the first place?
After almost a year the Pinebook I bought doesn't have any broken parts at all. Additionally, that FF update that brought multi-threaded page loading was essentially equivalent to upgrading the CPU. (The people I bought it for use it mainly to browse.)
I assume that this product was able to source laptop parts from a factory that already had production set up for generic android notebooks or something like that, which would help keeping the prices down.
I also like how you avoid the whole Wi-Fi/OSS mess by just offering a mPCI slot so people can add proprietary hardware if they chose.
I wondered about that and then saw it only has 2GB RAM and a 16GB Flash drive.
I just wanted to say though. I absolutely love the hacker aesthetic those laptops have going on
Edit: I already purchased some critical parts (all SoC modules, 100x hinges, 2000 keyswitches, fans, optical sensors), and I have suppliers for the screen and batteries.
Best of luck with the project regardless.
That might be what you were looking for :
I'm curious, what sort of battery life are you getting out of the setups that are currently available for pre-order?
Did you see anything similar?
Because the batteries are knackered and new ones aren’t available for old models. Tho’ this does vary by vendor. Chinese knock-off batteries are usually available but carry their own risks.
There are several articles online about how hard it is to store Li-Ion batteries, eg: http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_store_batt...
Although the actual cause might be different (I'm no expert) I've become cautious of super cheap Chinese 9-cell batteries.
I’ve been wanting to order some but obviously don’t want to buy them from some rando off of eBay because I don’t trust that they will
1. actually be new, and
2. that even if they are new they won’t explode in my face
I don't know how easy it is to get them to ship to you, nor how easy it is for individuals to buy from them.
There are companies who mix-and-match recycled cells and combine them into Ebay batteries out there. Beyond the explosion risk innate to Li-Ion, you're going to get bad battery life with these recycled cells in the very best case.
The cheapest "legitimate" laptop batteries I've found come in the ~$80 mark.
A good and proper 18650 cell costs $7.50 alone, and you'll need six of them to build a laptop battery.
That's $45 for 6x proper cells straight from the manufacturer. Plus labor, plus all the other parts of the laptop battery (chassis, protection circuit, etc. etc.). Anyone selling for less than $50 is straight up recycled mix-and-match junk. Its the only way you get to $20.
And before you go look up cheaper cells: Ultrafire cells are recycled junk. So ignore all of those listings. Its best to stick with Panasonic / Samsung / other name brands.
So the main issue was not damaging the case? Did you have any references or guides?
That's exactly how I've done desktop Linux: buy ex-corporate laptops from a reputable refurbisher. You get a quality machine with a good chassis and keyboard, highly-compatible internals (all-Intel) and a decent screen for a good price. Performance doesn't matter if you aren't doing stuff that actually needs the power. Trade-offs are worse power management, and short life-span (I change my Linux laptop every couple of years).
I've picked up i5(2600)/8g/500G laptops for 150 like this on several occasions.
1. Battery puked out pretty quickly, so that's $100 (AUD) to fix on a $500 second hand laptop.
2. Some keys stopped working, could be bad luck as laptops have shite keyboards normally.
Both are not necessarily concealed issues BUT this is the kind of shit you are dealing with with second hand laptops and the savings don't seem to justify it, for me anyway. Plus less NSAWare.
The main benefit of buying second hand is the 'good for the environment' feeling it gave me.
While a refurbisher could potentially insert malware, they're not going to do it for the NSA.
Old Thinkpads are also generally well supported by libreboot/coreboot, so that's one less attack vector to worry about.
The big limitations of this model are:
- Display has poor contrast
- Even with discrete GPU, worse performance than modern integrated graphics - it can drive 1080p monitors and play old and some indie games, not much more than that
- Max 8GB of RAM
- No USB 3 (but I have a USB 3 express card which works ok)
- Not great battery life - more recent CPUs are not THAT much faster but they are less power-hungry
Its upsides are:
- Classic thinkpad keyboard and clit mouse (if you're into that)
- Cheap, easy to find refurbished accessories (though I don't know for how much longer this will be true)
For my use (mostly development on Ubuntu), it works pretty well. For computation heavy stuff I remote into a 6-core Dell Precision I got refurbished for $400 (DDR3 ECC RAM is cheap as dirt).
Unless you have particular needs for high-perf CPU or GPU, or want extra-long battery life I'd buy a refurb and throw an SSD in it over buying a brand new laptop every time.
I had to do a lot of trial and error stuff to get it right, but anyway, I was having that spot instance sitting there almost idle, while using up the credits I got for free, so I had no issues with it.
The C5 instances are great for this kind of stuff.
I think that this Pinebook thing would be a perfect replacement for my Chromebook once I drop coffee on it by mistake. However, it would be even better with a x86 like my current Chromebook. It is not that much of a problem, since I remember living happily with my old ARM Chromebook with crouton (before the screen died).
I brought a second one of the same spec for my 5yo daughter out of curiosity. Thinkpads are perfect for kids as they're built much tougher and can take serious amounts of liquid spills on the keyboard.
I have problems with sound and DVD playback on the second one I bought, but screen, speed and general reliability has been great.
Plus I also had an issue with the microphone jack on the first one I bought.
Battery life isn't great (~3hrs), but I typically don't need the battery for that long.
As a developer, I want to make sure my stuff works with ARM, if for no other reason to help the ecosystem a bit.
Would be nice if there was a standard so, any USB c phone could plug into a display - along with the display acting as a hub, and/or Bluetooth for keyboard.
[ed: for desktop/dock. See sibling for sentio - which is for turning phone into laptop]
In android world, the concept is alive & well. I myself use the sentio desktop app to connect to a monitor and use a bluetooth keyboard/mouse.
Check it out here https://kshadeslayer.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/launching-netr...
I tried the X11 modesetting driver, but the mali blob is missing GBM support on there.
I find it a bit slow for web browsing with a heavy modern browser, but I haven't spent the time to find a more optimized one.
I'd say that for $99 it's nicer than most $300-400 laptops I've used in terms of build quality, and it makes a great dumbish terminal.
For the price I paid, if it got broken/lost/stolen I wouldn't be too worried about it. A handy little toy that I use more often than I thought I would.
It looks like it might be worth the price.
Anyone have one here? Any idea on delivery times?
First, they intentionally gloss over the performance aspect; as a owner of multiple ARM boards, I can tell you that the A53 performance is terrible for desktop usage; it's not even good for headless servers (although "terrible" is relative).
Second, I'm very skeptical about the 64-bit claim, which they haven't investigated. While ARM CPUs are 64-bit themselves, ARM Linux distros are typically 32-bit.
And finally, don't underestimate the lack of support for ARM builds. While of course, the full Ubuntu repositories are available, for software outside them, the "compiling from source" can be troublesome for ARM architectures.
I think that a high-power ARM laptop (ie. A15 or more) would be interesting; but not a low-power one.
To be clear I’m really interested on the Rock64 boards but I don’t like any of their OS options. It would be great to be able to use the Aarch64 port of Alpine Linux on those.
There's surprising little information about 64-bit SBC O/S. It's possible that 64 bits don't give so much performance improvement, or that they increase the power consumption - not sure. It seems that nobody really took the time (and distro...) to do an accurate comparison.
Having said that, curiously, SUSE actually produced a 64-bit distro (https://www.suse.com/c/suse-linux-enterprise-server-raspberr...), due to them already having an ARM distribution. I'll actually try it at some point - I'm very curious. More direct download link: https://www.suse.com/de-de/products/arm/raspberry-pi/
The original Windows distribution lasted around one month. Since then it's been running a number of lightweight distributions, currently Lubuntu. It works noticeably better than laptops running Windows with twice the memory. Even compared to more powerful machines I manage to keep it competitive by avoiding bloated crap.
Of course the battery doesn't last like it used to, and I had to replace the keyboard a few years ago.
It was certainly doable and tweaking the laptop to run on limited resources was fun.
Other than that a recent OpenBSD installation used only 128MiB of RAM, with ram usage occasionaly rising to around 280 MiB when I opened firefox.
I still use the netbook as my primary mobile machine. But I think getting a second hand thinkpad again would be a reasonable thing to do.
Although the netbook is perfectly usable, it is really heavy compared to today's standards. That is the only complaint I have for my machine.
Pinebook uses a Mali GPU, which if I understand correctly relies on closed binaries to run though it looks like that is changing: https://www.cnx-software.com/2017/09/26/allwinner-socs-with-...
Also my personal experience with this laptop was less than stellar. This was last May (before Firefox Quantum), but I opened it, tried to do some things, and immediately closed it because it's absolutely too slow to use as a laptop. Definitely cool as a terminal. I ended up putting it back in the box and donating it as a prize for an event
That's pretty impressive!
At least with this one, the specifications are on a reputable seller's website and the Linx company is a UK Ltd company; the box it came in and tiny manual were good quality, unlike some of the Dells I have ordered!
I was pleasantly surprised! Impressed by the lack of bloatware on it too.
A few tips:
- You can install an OS on the internal 16gb memory. Then swap in an SD card to run other OSes.
- Performance is not too bad if you run i3wm. And Firefox Quantum helps it out even further.
- I've yet to try this out (waiting on another SD card to come in the mail), but shadeslayer released an image for the pinebook that runs KDE with accelerated X11 & video playback support. Which is pretty impressive if you know anything about Mali and the issue of closed-source binary blobs.
I asked about the Allwinner misery with Linux kernel support. They answered that is no longer an issue with the new 64 bit chips. I have not verified the statement.
I would try one if they had a reasonable distributor in the EU. Now it's gambling with customs. Might not come much cheaper than e.g. an HP with Intel Atom and 32 GB of eMMC. And those play in a whole different league in build quality. (I use them with Linux.)
Where does one source a webcam this crappy in 2018? Did someone find an old stock of 90's sensors in the back of a warehouse somewhere?
There are ways to get around such issues like distributing those blobs or the object files separately, but they were not savvy in free software. They started getting savvy by posting on github sanitized Linux sources and sources of the bootloader, https://github.com/allwinner-zh
So what do you do if a fabless manufacturer violates the GPL out of cluelessness? Do you follow the path of the core kernel develolpers (https://lwn.net/Articles/698452/) or do you go for the nuclear option?
Well, a certain person on linux-sunxi went for the nuclear option. You can see the `GPL violation` edits on the linux-sunxi Wiki on these obsolete tarballs with object files. You can see the same person on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allwinner_Technology writing about 'GPL violations'.
I admit that the `nuclear option` is a strategy. If it works, it would transform the company by force to become friendly to open-source (/sarcasm). But it is a shitty strategy.
And the "path of the core kernel developers" is to simply not sue them. Which this "nuclear option" follows. Plus, suing a Chinese company might be a fruitless endeavor.
I'm really happy with the money I paid for it - the screen is significantly better than I expected (it's become my go-to "watch tv in bed" laptop...)
Firefox with all blocking plugins takes regularly about 1.5-2.5 GB RAM on my machine, even with 5-10 tabs only.
I would like to see 13" model with full size keyboard (not the 11.6 one with crippled/squeezed keys) and at least Full HD screen.
Having 1366x768 resolution in 2018 is misunderstanding to say the least.
As an EU citizen, regulations state that you have two years of warranty within which, if the item is faulty, you may return it and get a refund.
I think for $100, I will give it a whirl. It has escape key unlike my new fancy overpriced macbook pro.
It seems reviewer didn't like keyboard much. :( That is unfortunate.
I would say that having usb port for power would be very much welcome feature.
Also, further video review:
This computer, to me, has been a blast to tinker with. It's so crappy, yet hides nothing. When my monitor didn't work well, I just took it apart, rewrapped the video cable with some copper-snail tape and attached that to the ground plane on the board, and the signal is so much better now.
i.e. a netbook
I'm not sure of the proper definition, but I'm using it to mean something smaller and less powerful than a laptop - a kind of "sub-laptop" category.
What definition are you working with?
I'm intentionally vague about the specifics, but as far as I'm concerned, 11.6" fits the bill. For example, Eee 1101HA was 11.6" and was widely considered a netbook. The Pinebook, by comparison, must be somewhat lighter (no mechanical HD, tiny motherboard).
That said, I haven't really kept up with the ensuing maze of laptop terminology since the netbook days. Some late era netbooks would probably be classified as "sub-notebooks" or "ultra-portables" or some such today.
But I get that you'd ideally want 7", since you stated that explicitly. I've been passing time on train rides with a Libretto 50CT lately, and it's so damn practical in terms of size, so I feel you.
I've switched over to android a few years ago as a development machine, expecting it to "disrupt" PCs, as other form-factors did. It has disrupted PCs, but not for development! BTW Always fancied the librettos, but seemed too expensive for me.
You had to hit each key HARD, directly in the center, for keystrokes to register. Touch typing was impossible.
The trackpad wasn't any better.
Ended up selling it to a coworker (with an additional standalone Pine64 board) for $75.
I got a 99 dollar used Dell 64 but dual core system with Windows 10 on it upgraded from Windows 7. Runs quite well, but it is not a gaming machine.
This laptop is competing against Chromebooks, Netbooks, old but still functional laptops, etc...
If Commodore got the C65 to work it would have cost less to make than the C64.
So now there is a remake called the Mega65
Is it likely for Crostini to support ARM anytime soon?
Command-line java development (ecj, dx, git, etc) is practically instant.
(If you need an activity-center IDE, you're gonna have a bad time.)
And unfortunately, some Khan Academy graphical exercise. Strangely, "kalite" (offline version) works instantly, probably because it uses an older presentation - I bet it's "modern" frameworks again (though maybe because offline?).
The N800 specs were very modest compared to this stuff (something like 500Mhz and 256MB if I'm not mistaken). So, for command line stuff, most of the stuff you'd use 12 years ago would still be valid today. Stuff hasn't really changed that much. If anything, some things might run a bit faster than they used to on the same hardware due to ongoing optimizations and cumulative fixes. E.g. python has improved a lot since 2.5, which I think was current then. Compilers have gotten better, kernels have improved a lot, etc.
However, these days, a minimum requirement for most would be to be able to run a modern browser (i.e. with all the security holes patched) capable of browsing all popular websites. Unfortunately, that just requires a lot of memory and CPU these days. Websites have gotten a lot more complex in the last 12 years. I'd say memory is actually the biggest bottleneck here. Most laptops are effectively idling most of the time and grow extremely hot if you actually run them at 100% CPU. So a modern low power ARM SOC with enough memory suitable for e.g. a mid range smart phone of around 200$ should have everything you need for comfortable browsing.
The Lifebooks and the VAIOs were both so cool.
I wonder why people think it's OK that their daily use software is too big for a computer like this.
Sub $100 makes them close to disposable so you could have them scattered around a work site without much care for security or being careful to take good care of them. They could also be cheap enough for a classroom to afford that otherwise wouldn't be able to make any computing devices available.
A72 cores are moderately slower than intel. A53 cores are excessively slower than either A72 and intel.
You carry it with you when you travel somewhere and then dial back to your supercomputer for the heavy lifting.
Anything you can run on a Raspberry Pi you can get going on this - I largely use it as "a Raspberry Pi with a keyboard/screen/battery" - which it mostly does better than my PiTop (which has a vastly inferior screen and keyboard).
Can it run Debian?
I run Ubuntu on mine, but there's recent Debian Jessie support in the forums...
Put the SoC behind the screen !!!
Other poster mentioned the thermal issues. It's probably not great for EMC either.
USB 2.0 Port
Should be 3.0 Port.