The fact that they went ahead with the crowdfunding on this is a really good indication that it will actually ship (if the goals are hit), and with a much higher probability of being on time than your average Kickstarter hardware project (where the people behind it usually have never had hands-on experience with actual production runs).
Just the board: This is perhaps the most appealing option but I would want a case with it, I'm not interested in building my own case. Why would I want a 4GB microSD with that? I'll buy my own with a decent capacity/class or even an SSD.
All-in-One Desktop: $700 more than board for a case and LCD? The design of the flip-top LCD doesn't make a lot of sense - you lose a lot of desk space and the board is going to collect dust. It's not very portable due to the lack of a battery, controller board, keyboard and mouse so I might as well just plug it into my monitor.
Laptop: $800 more than the desktop option for a battery, controller board and SSD. Seems a little expensive and again still not very portable. I'm not sure you can call it a laptop without a keyboard or pointing device.
Heirloom Laptop: $3000 more than the "Laptop" for what is now actually a laptop that includes a keyboard and pointing stick with a wooden case. Wood is quite heavy so it's not exactly the ideal material for a portable device.
The point of the thing is to be easily modified, and the design facilitates that. If you don't want regular access to the components, you can leave it closed and treat it as more of a conventional all-in-one.
I just got my pre order a few weeks back, but haven't had the chance to play with it yet.
(I don't know bunnie nor Xobs, but this is what I gather happened based upon reading occasionally about the project over the past some months.)
From my perspective, bunnie provided a write-up of what he was up to, purely for the interest of those who cared to read. There was overwhelming response.
If you care about open systems and hackability (in the classic sense), this is really worth looking into and hopefully supporting. (From my admittedly limited perspective.)
Congratulations Bunnie/xob/others on the release of the crowdfund.
This is stage one. Community, hackability and continuous development cycles will lead to better, more feature packed and stable devices. The CPU was a good choice for performance/power/openness but there is nothing stopping them from using a modular design for the SOC and people could replace them as required.. the www.pyra-handheld.com/ is build on that idea.
I'm looking forward to the use cases for the laptop...
Side question: Is there much in the way of design that can be done to improve the physical security to this design? or are we hoping that people simply don't have the driveby ability to mess with this due to the fringe-ness? and physical access is physical access.
The FreeScale i.MX6 platform is very versatile. Up to quad core 1.2GHz, SATA, PCIe, Gigabit Ethernet (limited to 480Mbps) and lots of good documentation and driver support.
The only issue is the graphics blob and... in this case the price tag. I hoped I could afford it, but it looks like I can't.
Still, there are lots of other community boards based on the i.MX6 SoC. If you don't need the laptop version or an FPGA, there are much cheaper boards out there.
The Novena Open Laptop really is good work. I hope it'll get funded!
Top model ships with a keyboard with a radio transceiver built in.
That said, I hope this is successful, these guys are consummate hardware hackers, it'll be neat to see what happens when they ship a project on this scale that ends up in a lot of people's hands.
TL;DR: here is the video from a conference where bunnie and his friend hacked flash card controller, so you can see the qualities that the laptop will possess.
1. The guy who designed the wood version is experienced in bonding wood to aluminium and has good reason for using high modulus epoxy.
2. "High Modulus" sounds really good, let's say that! Nobody wants "low modulus epoxy", whatever that is!
At work I use an FPGA as async real time controller. Not sure what utility that would have if not connected to specialized hardware.
I'd imagine it could be a mashup of SBC (Beagle, Olimex's LIME, heck, even RaspberryPi) and Bus Pirate. Add a screen and battery, and call it a day.
I don't think a device like this should have the fastest CPU and plenty of RAM (that wouldn't hurt of course).
A9 core rather than the virtualization-ready A15? (I'd rather have a 64-bit ARM but those are still a ways out)
Edit: and let's not hear about how closed A15 is blah blah. At the end of the day, something is closed. Did Freescale give you silicon masks? Guess it's not totally open after all.
Single SO-DIMM means max 8GB of RAM, but of course since you're running a 32-bit chip you'll be restricted past 4GB anyway.
100 Mbit Ethernet in the Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand Fourteen? Edit: Several people have pointed out that, thankfully, the 100Mbit port is a secondary port, while the main one is Gbit. This is actually pretty cool.
The case is actually kind of cool, but you can't really call it a laptop if your footprint is normal laptop size + a separate keyboard. Nobody's lap is that big. I think it could be pretty usable for work while on travel but you can't use it on an airplane tray table.
And then the pricing. Oh my the pricing. $700 for a case and a screen. Another $700 for an RC car battery and an SSD. Not even Apple marks up SSDs and batteries that much.
I would really love to get the laptop spec one for $800-1000--you know, the price of a great desktop PC plus a monitor. Sure, the ARM processor is going to be disappointingly sluggish and I'll be beating my head against the 4GB memory ceiling within an hour, but it looks really damn cool and the screen size is acceptable.
Kickstarter-type things are often done as "backers pay more for a unit, but they get it first and they're willing to pay because they believe in the product". However, the prices will go UP by 10% after this campaign is over! So the $2000 "laptop" will now cost $2200, despite the reduction in component cost due to time and scaling.
Edit: oh, and apparently the case, which I think is one of the cooler parts of this project, doesn't seem to be open? So I can't pay a fabricator $200 to make one, then slap a $400 A15 board in there. The totally open laptop, ladies and gentlemen!
Freescale has extensive open source board support packages for several flavors of Linux and Android. With the exception of the TI's OMAP5, all of the A15 implementations I know of are under lock and NDA and even though Bunnie could source them, the documentation and software support packages would not be as easy and would require working closely with the manufacture to get them. I have no idea about OMAP5 as I haven't even seen one in production. Most mobile ARM processors AFAIK do not support gigabit ethernet yet, save a few Marvell SoCs (less for mobile and more for other embedded).
Smartphones designed with modern ARM processors require teams of 2 dozen engineers working their asses off for months to make a single revision, and this is when they're partners with the chip manufacturers (ala Google, Apple, or Samsung). Bunnie is working with a much smaller team and with different constraints.
Any board like this is going to be expensive to manufacture and assemble. Even if he were to do a run of 100 units at a time, the overhead of assembly and part purchases in such low quantities are likely to run $100+ a unit. Combine with the extra support costs of including an FPGA in there, and it's not unreasonable to charge so much for such a niche, low quantity product.
Edit: Also Freescale is on the low end of the high end ARM market and they know it. I wouldn't be surprise if Bunnie got some extra help from them during integration.
I've always been happy with the amount of support Freescale puts behind their processors. You don't realize how bad it is with some manufacturers until you're halfway through a project and things just fall apart.
And the i.MX6Q is a snappy little processor for the price.
The focus of this laptop is really on versatile and hardware-hacking-power, not on raw performance. There are a number of flagship features that you won't find in a typical laptop, and gobs of expandability.
For example, there's an onboard FPGA, for when you're at the coffee shop and you need to MITM a high-speed / low-latency protocol.
The schematics are full of attention to detail and fantastic surprises:
As you've pointed out, it seems like a big price jump to go from the bare board to the desktop and from the desktop to the laptop, but you're actually getting a lot of components there, including: very flexible battery charge controller (runs ChibiOS on an ARM7), speakers, speaker mounts, machined SSD mounting rails, and cabling. The screen is a gorgeous IPS panel.
Also, regarding the airplane tray table: it's actually designed to be hung off the seat in front of you, so you've got the entire table free.
There aren't really many choices. Samsung has A15 cores, but it's probably hard to get and there's _no_ documentation. The same for Nvidia Tegra. Not sure how easy it's to get OMAP5, and how expensive.
The i.MX6 SoC is probably the developer friendliest one, has very good documentation, and it has support for lots of stuff.
> 100 Mbit Ethernet in the Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand Fourteen?
Read carefully. One of those ports is 1Gbit (due to SoC limitations only 480Mbps though). The other one seems to be connected via USB 2.0. One could have put an Intel PCIe Gigabit Ethernet chip on the board, but the PCIe slot is probably better used for WiFi.
It's pricy, but I don't think they are able to produce them for fewer money, like HP/Samsung with their $400 Chromebooks.
(Also: "no wireless, less space than a nomad. lame.")
I understand it's supposed to be open for hardware hackers, but lets face it: who wants to hack a laptop? most hardware hackers are happy using a raspberry pi and a Ubuntu laptop. Why would you want to risk breaking a $1k open laptop to open your garage door when you can get a fully functional Linux computer for $35, or a cheap Android for $60?
I do, kinda sorta. I do 99% of my hacking on a Lenovo W500. I have some desktops machines but they serve more as media devices and for background processing of a few things.
Back when, I used a desktop for almost everything. The nice part was I got to build a machine that suited me. If something new and better came along (CPU, graphics card, monitor) I could upgrade my system piecemeal. I typically didn't have to give up the screen I like (unless I was swapping it for something better) or lose the keyboard I've become familiar with.
But now, using a laptop, I'm stuck. My Thinkpad is getting a bit dated. I'd like to upgrade, but buying a new laptop is mostly an all-or-noting affair. Want the higher rez on the new Thinkpad? Well, then you have to take the goofy giant trackpad and lose the dedicated trackpoint buttons. And there's a numpad you'll never use, too, making the main keyboard off-sided. Want a different keyboard layout? Well then you can't get the nicer rez or 16GB of RAM.
In an ideal world I'd be able to upgrade a laptop the way I've upgraded desktops: Better CPU available? Swap it in!. Nicer keyboard? Go use it.
Ideally the display, main CPU/motherboard, and keyboard would all be separate things. I long for the day when my "phone" is powerful and flexible enough that it can be used as a "laptop" by way of wireless keyboard and larger display.
The laptop under discussion isn't for me, but I love the idea of it.
That's a disappointing choice! Why not something more like LEON or OpenRISC?
I'm thinking of e.g. NeTV
Linux is a complex operating system, and it takes a genius to understand the complexity.
I'm gradually growing aware that just having the sources be open is not enough to be hackable.
2. https://plus.google.com/110440139189906861022/posts/EKhGyqn1... (including comments)
Don't get me wrong, I use linux everyday and it's better than the alternatives out there. But seeing a blue-sky bespoke attempt like this gets me wanting more.
The second is about suspend; while I somewhat agree on not liking high integration (dbus, high-complexity desktops), suspend has been a total nightmare largely due to hardware manufacturers. You need to do very specific things or the display doesn't come back cleanly.
I agree that libtool is ugly, but it lets you build on different systems with different management that are immune to harmonisation. The sound mess is similar: people refusing to give up their own ideas on what constitutes a good solution. We don't have a magic wand to make people reach consensus. The best we've managed is Jobsian totalitarianism, and even that doesn't always produce the right answer.