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Progress On the Open Laptop

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the does-it-run-crysis-yet? dept.

Portables 57

An anonymous reader writes "Last October, we discussed Andrew 'bunnie' Huang's effort to build a complete open hardware laptop, called the Novena. bunnie has now posted a progress report on the laptop's design and construction, showing the latest revision of the board, the display, and a hack to use it as a secure router. bunnie says, 'At the end of the day, we're having fun building the laptop we always wanted — it's now somewhere between a python-scriptable oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and a laptop. I think it will be an indispensable tool for hacking, particularly for doing signal analysis which requires coordination across multiple protocol layers, complex trigger conditions and/or feedback stimulus loops. As for the inevitable question about if these will be sold, and for how muchonce we're done building the system (and, "done" is a moving target — really, the whole idea is this is continuously under development and improving) I'll make it available to qualified buyers. Because it's open-source and a bit quirky, I'm shy on the idea of just selling it to anyone who comes along wanting a laptop. I'm worried about buyers who don't understand that "open" also means a bit of DIY hacking to get things working, and that things are continuously under development."

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Reddit (-1, Offtopic)

Google Fanboys (2974975) | about a year ago | (#44203997)

! ATTENTION !

Starting from 2013-07-06 I have decided to ditch Slashdot for Reddit. Reddit is a much more fun site and more positive experience. That is all.

Re:Reddit (1)

pecosdave (536896) | about a year ago | (#44204039)

Great - now go there and stay.

Re:Reddit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204125)

lol i bet you can't even install gentoo bro.

Re:Reddit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204365)

It's not that hard. So if you can't, you're not really this site's target audience. You might be better served on reddit..or maybe muffington boast (like OMG!).

Re:Reddit (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#44204287)

The sites cannot be directly compared. Reddit is a pure message board, Slashdot a news aggregator. I use both.

Re:Reddit (2)

dfghjk (711126) | about a year ago | (#44204477)

"The sites cannot be directly compared. Reddit is a pure message board, Slashdot a news aggregator."

For sites that can't be directly compared, you sure did a rather direct job.

Re:Reddit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204715)

No, he described them. Take the following two sentences:

An elephant has large ears.
A mouse has a long tail.

These are descriptive sentences, coherent independent of each other, and display no attempt at comparative analysis.

Re:Reddit (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44204989)

Except that this is exactly what he didn't do. Your analogy would be fine if he said something like "Reddit uses Javascript. Slashdot uses comment trees." Both statements correct, but none of them indicating any similarities or differences between the two. But when you describe Reddit as a "pure message board" and Slashdot as a "news aggregator", I think it's safe to say that one of the things that come to most people's mind that it indicates a difference in the sense that Reddit is probably going to have a significantly higher proportion of user-generated (primary) contents (not just links with summaries).

Re:Reddit (1)

Inda (580031) | about a year ago | (#44214489)

It's that "pure message board" that some of us have missed over the years. Any subject, any level of detail, alternative accounts welcomed (we love the AC here, we love the alt-accounts there), the RES Firefox add-on (thought Firefox was a memory hog? Use this add-on and see the magic smoke in action), cats, cats, more cats and don't subscribe to the cat memes.

I like the long posts on there. Before finding Reddit, it had been a while since I spent a whole evening reading people's comments, something I used to do on Slashdot many moons ago. It's made the internet interesting again.

The doxxing is bad though and that needs to stop before real people get really hurt.

Re:Reddit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204331)

Like counterstrike was to quake, reddit is for people who can't handle slashdot.

Re:Reddit (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#44204783)

Well, it's still nice that you bothered to sign up so you could tell this to us.

Wasn't there already a free laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204077)

The one that richard stallman used? Or was it like custom made or something?

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year ago | (#44204097)

The one that richard stallman used? Or was it like custom made or something?

This one has a fairly decent display at 2560x1700 (should that be 1600?), unlike the crappy 1024x600 that Stallman finds acceptable.

does it have the GPU power for that size? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44204313)

and video ram for it?

Re:does it have the GPU power for that size? (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year ago | (#44204479)

Did you bother to RTFA?
It says: "We’re now using an LG LP129QE: 12.85, 2560 x 1700 pixels (239ppi), with a 24-bit color depth. It looks gorgeous."

Re:does it have the GPU power for that size? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44204953)

but what video chip??

The GMA chips in some apple systems can't really keep with the retina displays.

Re:does it have the GPU power for that size? (1)

Narishma (822073) | about a year ago | (#44205255)

It uses an ARM SoC with a Vivante GPU.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (4, Interesting)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#44204129)

No, I think Stallman's laptop just happened to have a free BIOS. IIRC Stallman does not think that free hardware is nearly as important as free software. This is a an open/free source hardware design meaning that anyone could theoretically grab the design files, do whatever changes they want and then start producing the board.

The integrated circuits are for the most part closed designs of course. If you want to design a completely and utterly open laptop you must first design an open universe...

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#44204309)

You can get a bit closer by using FPGAs.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#44204415)

True, you can get a lot more open in terms of intellectual content or intellectual property by using FPGA:s.

You are still writing ones and zeros to memories with an FPGA and you are still dependent on a proprietary part, but those ones and zeroes can have a much more radical impact on how the machine works if it is based around an FPGA than if it is based around a hard CPU.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44205023)

Realistically at some point you will have to rely on some large companies 'stuff' to get the job done. But at least if you push it down a few levels by using FPGAs you have mitigated the risk pretty well.

Sure if you are hard core you could go down a level or 2 even further ( or even make your own discrete vacuum tubes.. ), but we wouldn't be talking hardware that was anywhere near current levels and would pretty much remain a toy, and be the size of your fridge.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#44206119)

If you've written the FPGA logic in a standard language like Verilog, then there's not much keeping you from moving the code between different FPGA chips, or even chips from different vendors.

Of course, the idea of using FPGAs in a laptop seems rather silly to me; the whole point of having a laptop is to have something small which can be powered by a battery for a reasonable length of time. Using FPGAs instead of real ASICs and CPUs would drastically lower your run time. You might as well give up on the laptop idea if you're going to do that, and just make your own FPGA-based mini/microATX/miniITX motherboard and use standard desktop parts instead. Then you can plug in any monitor you want, and most of the other parts are commodity as well.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year ago | (#44207865)

The FPGA is intended to make this a good hacking tool, rather then a replacement for basic common components.

The idea here seems to be most definitely to make the kind of laptop we always wish we had from the movies - got some wires, want to see what's going on? A few twisted splices and you're looking at signal traces directly.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#44206479)

There is the Open RISC platform, which is under GPL. It's essentially the HDL code of a MIPS variant that can be used on FPGAs. So if one built a computer - probably not a laptop - using that, then the hardware would be open as well if all the chips on the PCB were programmable i.e. either FPGA or Flash.

Although I do wonder whether anybody, no matter how good at Verilog or VHDL, would try to reprogram the FPGAs on the card and redefine the interfaces b/w the parts? That would be the underlying point to having it open in the first place. Otherwise, once such a design is frozen, spin out ASICs based on that code, and optimize the power consumption vs performance.

The point about free hardware being less important - once un-programmable parts are used in a platform, there goes the idea of doing anything w/ the GNU's Freedom 3 - the right to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, 'so that the whole community benefits'. At that point, there is little difference b/w that, and a closed source hardware platform made up of unalterable parts. Yeah, most vendors may publish their specs, but that's not the same as giving a piece of hardware that can be altered any way one likes.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204437)

And those open CPUs too.

Doubt Intel or AMD CPUs count as open.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204961)

There is an open x86, complete with vHDL for support components like ethernet and video, but you can also choose mips, sparc, arm, etc... I hate to use the term, but think outside the box.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204865)

> You can get a bit closer by using FPGAs. ... of which only the equivalent to a CPU's instruction set is known, and the rest is top secret. Even the official documentation is free to download but with draconian terms attached. Heck, I wouldn't even have dared start something like the PacoBlaze (free PicoBlaze clone) for fear of being sued into oblivion.

Really, the EULAs of the software world are nothing against the legal crap piles from the hardware world.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44210489)

If I recall correctly Microsoft is the free (or almost free) hardware champion so their software pricing didn't seem as painful. That's been some years back but that seemed the point of the statement I read although not worded as bluntly.

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (1)

Aditi Kumer (2970529) | about a year ago | (#44219169)

I'm not sure this meets the standard criteria for a laptop these days. That doesn't mean it isn't a valid, useful device, but if you think about the things most people buy a laptop to *do*, they're going to be secondary to the function of this machine. When you say "Laptop" people think "Sophisticated operating system, wide range of available software, media player, useful for software development, gaming machine (maybe), interfaces with wide range of modern portable devices, etc). This sounds like it's got a rather different set of capabilities in mind. Apple probably wouldn't like "HackBook", but it seems to fit better. http://bastcomputer.blogspot.com/ [slashdot.org] ">please visit it

Re:Wasn't there already a free laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44207219)

You can buy a used laptop for $100 that you can surf the web with, do word processing and spreadsheets, etc.

WASTE OF TIME !! SPACE !! HUMAN RACE !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204205)

If there were a market for this it would already be here !! And done by those capable of making it happen for real !! Build it and pray it works a little bit -- and never mind that it looks like a Kaypro -- is not an accepted business model !! Business model ??

Is this actually a laptop? (3, Insightful)

Dputiger (561114) | about a year ago | (#44204303)

I'm not sure this meets the standard criteria for a laptop these days. That doesn't mean it isn't a valid, useful device, but if you think about the things most people buy a laptop to *do*, they're going to be secondary to the function of this machine. When you say "Laptop" people think "Sophisticated operating system, wide range of available software, media player, useful for software development, gaming machine (maybe), interfaces with wide range of modern portable devices, etc).

This sounds like it's got a rather different set of capabilities in mind. Apple probably wouldn't like "HackBook", but it seems to fit better.

Re:Is this actually a laptop? (1)

rbprbp (2731083) | about a year ago | (#44204505)

Linux and most open-source software runs on it. That's pretty much enough for most DIY hackers. Besides, I think that this board would be useful for other applications (robotics, signal processing, etc...) or just as a cheap way of hacking ARM + FPGA.

Re:Is this actually a laptop? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44204609)

it's more like a general arm board with fpga than a "laptop".

I can see quite a bit of usability for it. just not any as a laptop.

Re:Is this actually a laptop? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44206409)

And yet, I can see this as my primary laptop.

My how opinions differ.

Now, why don't you kindly shut the f up if you are not interested.

Re:Is this actually a laptop? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204673)

This thing will be shit. Like all other open source offerings except for an exceptional few, it'll be half assed and full of bugs. The faggot big wigs of Linux will argue over its design and in the end only a few faggot nerds will ever own one.

Re:Is this actually a laptop? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204955)

This thing will be shit. Like all other open source offerings except for an exceptional few, it'll be half assed and full of bugs. The faggot big wigs of Linux will argue over its design and in the end only a few faggot nerds will ever own one.

I would like to slide my erect Muslim penis in and out of your butthole furiously. What say you?

-- Ethanol-fueled

Qualified Buyer (1)

mfwitten (1906728) | about a year ago | (#44204379)

What an outrageous notion! The only qualification is that one is willing to trade for it; who are you to determine that for someone else?

Re:Qualified Buyer (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44204647)

"one is willing to trade for it"

It takes two to trade, no? As the one currently holding the object, he can decide whether or not he is willing to trade. If he isn't, it doesn't much matter if you are...

Re:Qualified Buyer (2, Informative)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about a year ago | (#44204687)

It sounds like it is more about making sure that the buyer is absolutely clear about what she/he is getting. Qualifying buyers means you can at least have a conversation where the purchaser says 'I know there are going to be a *lot* of rough edges and I'm okay with major functionality possibly not working'. Otherwise, you end up with buyers who see the word open and rush to buy it perhaps without realizing what they were getting.

Maybe this fear is founded, maybe it isn't. But I don't see it as being completely unreasonable.

Re:Qualified Buyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44218325)

Well, you know why it's called the "Novena," right?

You have to spend nine days in prayer before it works right.

-almitydave

I have a question for Stallman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204489)

As soon as this laptop is released and he gets one, will he start trolling to the 99.999999% percent of the people that still don't use open source hardware?

maddog and bunnie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204525)

So what happens if maddog and bunnie are locked into a room together?

Strange definition of open (3, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44204561)

I'm shy on the idea of just selling it to anyone who comes along wanting a laptop. I'm worried about buyers who don't understand that "open" also means a bit of DIY hacking to get things working, and that things are continuously under development.

I use "open" software all the time and I certainly don't do any DIY hacking to get it running and keep it running. So why does this "open" hardware have such a different interpretation? I can only surmise that "open" is actually being used as a synonym of "incomplete".

Re:Strange definition of open (1)

Techman83 (949264) | about a year ago | (#44221035)

I use "open" software all the time and I certainly don't do any DIY hacking to get it running and keep it running. So why does this "open" hardware have such a different interpretation? I can only surmise that "open" is actually being used as a synonym of "incomplete".

The primary difference being, people have different expectations when it comes to something they laid done a decent some of money for. If you download a project that doesn't work and don't know how to diagnose it, you move on. Drop a $1000+ on some hardware and don't possess the skills to work it out , you may feel quite differently. No amount of initial expectation setting can change that when it involves someones hard earned money. We've seen that with Kickstarter, you are told upfront that you are investing in a product that isn't in production yet and people get upset when things don't pan out as planned.

However all of the above doesn't make this project less open, you are still free to take those designs, source the parts and build one yourself. Bunnie explained that he wants to hack hardware, not spend his time doing end user support for people that didn't understand what they were buying. I don't think that's unreasonable.

Amy Wong! (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about a year ago | (#44204591)

Did anyone else notice that the screen in the router case photo has a partially obscured Futurama video playing?

Re:Amy Wong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44204619)

Did anyone else notice that the screen in the router case photo has a partially obscured Futurama video playing?

Yes, we did. And not even your afirmative fair-use defense will save you now! -- FOX

A Python Scripted Oscilloscope? (2)

NReitzel (77941) | about a year ago | (#44204641)

I couldn't help notice the line calling this (among other things) a python-scripted oscilloscope.

As an engineer, let me say, "To heck with the laptop bit, where do I sign up and buy one?"

Daughter boards. WiFi (if you must), Bluetooth (if you must), and Analog Channels, Bay-Bee!

Re:A Python Scripted Oscilloscope? (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#44204749)

Mhmm... Hands above the covers!

If the analog performance of this thing can be made halfway decent this guy may have the beginnings of a small business.

Re:A Python Scripted Oscilloscope? (1)

cachimaster (127194) | about a year ago | (#44205181)

Most modern digital oscilloscopes have USB interfaces and are controllable with C or a python api. For example, Rigol scopes have python drivers since some years ago.

Re:A Python Scripted Oscilloscope? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about a year ago | (#44205329)

As an engineer, let me say, "I'll make my own laptop! With blackjack and hookers! In fact, forget the laptop."

FTFY.

I'll need to sleep w/ my hands above the blankets (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#44205635)

Fucking engineer's fucking wet fucking dream, this

Lemote? (1)

ikhider (2837593) | about a year ago | (#44205789)

I thought Lemote already achived this, or no? Stallman uses a Lemote and claims it is completely open...right down to the BIOS

Re:Lemote +BLOBS ...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44211371)

I have a Yeelong Lemote laptop .. and it is not entirely free .. so no completely free Laptop/Netbook/Notebook exists..

it runs on the gNewSense 3.0 Parkes O/s :: http://h-node.org/notebooks/catalogue/en/1/1/Lemote/undef/undef/undef/undef/undef/undef/undef

Stallman himself even recognises that there are "BLOBS" in the source code .. so it ain't free and he is a walking contradiction.

Cool (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#44218577)

So when you want a generic shitty OEM laptop that just isn't shitty enough, go open source with it.

Professional web design & development service (1)

wilsonlink (2942253) | about a year ago | (#44224037)

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laptop (1)

Ratan Gharami (2979397) | about a year ago | (#44243877)

I'm not sure this meets the standard criteria for a laptop these days. That doesn't mean it isn't a valid, useful device, but if you think about the things most people buy a laptop to *do*, they're going to be secondary to the function of this machine. When you say "Laptop" people think "Sophisticated operating system, wide range of available software, media player, useful for software development, gaming machine (maybe), interfaces with wide range of modern portable devices, etc). This sounds like it's got a rather different set of capabilities in mind. Apple probably wouldn't like "HackBook", but it seems to fit better. Reply to This Share http://equipmentbds.blogspot.com/ [slashdot.org] ">please visit it
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