## Building my Own Laptop

We are building an open laptop, with some wacky features in it for hackers like me.

This is a lengthy project. Fortunately, ARM CPUs are getting fast enough, and Moore’s Law is slowing down, so that even if it took a year or so to complete, I won’t be left with a woefully useless design. Today’s state of the art ARM CPUs — quad-core with GHz+ performance levels — is good enough for most day-to-day code development, email checking, browsing etc.

We started the design in June, and last week I got my first prototype motherboards, hot off the SMT line. It’s booting linux, and I’m currently grinding through the validation of all the sub-components. I thought I’d share the design progress with my readers.

Of course, a feature of a build-it-yourself laptop is that all the design documentation is open, so others of sufficient skill and resources can also build it. The hardware and its sub-components are picked so as to make this the most practically open hardware laptop I could create using state of the art technology. You can download, without NDA, the datasheets for all the components, and key peripheral options are available so it’s possible to build a complete firmware from source with no opaque blobs.

Above is an annotated diagram of the circuit board. The dimensions of the board are approximately 121mm x 150mm — sized to fit comfortably underneath a standard-sized laptop keyboard. The image above is rotated versus the installation orientation; the port farm is meant to be on the right hand side of the laptop, not on the bottom. The overall height of the board is just under 14mm, with the height being set by the thickness of an Ethernet connector. The thickness on my Lenovo T520 base portion is just under 24mm, so once we stack a keyboard and plastics on this it’ll be just about the same.

Here are some of the features of the laptop motherboard:

• Freescale iMX6 CPU — same footprint can support dual-lite and quad versions:
• Internal memory:
• Boot from microSD firmware
• 64-bit, DDR3-1066 SO-DIMM, upgradable to 4GB
• SATA-II (3Gbps)
• Internal ports & sensors:
• mini PCI-express slot (for blob-free wifi, bluetooth, mobile data, etc.)
• UIM slot for mPCIe mobile data cards
• Dual-channel LVDS LCD connector (up to QXGA (2048×1536) @ 60Hz resolution) with USB2.0 side-channel for a display-side camera
• Resistive touchscreen controller (note: captouch displays typically come with a controller)
• 1.1W, 8-ohm internal speaker connectors
• 2x USB2.0 internal connectors for keyboard and mouse/trackpad
• Digital microphone
• 3-axis accelerometer
• header for optional AW-NU137 wifi module (*)
• External ports:
• HDMI
• headphone + mic port (compatible with most mobile phone headsets, supports sensing in-line cable buttons)
• 2x USB 2.0 ports, supporting high-current (1.5A) device charging
• 1Gbit ethernet
• “Fun” features:
• 100 Mbit ethernet — dual Ethernet capability allows laptop to be used as an in-line packet filter or router
• USB OTG — enables laptop to spoof/fuzz ethernet, serial, etc. over USB via gadget interface to other USB hosts
• Utility serial EEPROM — for storing crash logs and other bits of handy data
• Spartan-6 CSG324-packaged FPGA — has several interfaces to the CPU, including a 2Gbit/s (peak) RAM-like bus — for your bitcoin mining needs. Or whatever else you might want to toss in an FPGA.
• 8x FPGA-driven digital I/O
• 8x FPGA-driven PWM headers, compatible with hobby ESC and PWM pinouts — enables direct interfacing with various RC motor/servo configurations & quad-copter controllers
• 13x CPU-driven supplemental digital I/Os
• 3x internal UART ports

Items marked with an asterisk (*) require a closed-source firmware blob, but the system is functional and bootable without the blob.

In order to give maximum power management flexibility, the battery interface functions are implemented on a daughtercard. I co-opt a cheap and common SATA-style connector to route power and control signals between the mainboard and the daughtercard. To prevent users from accidentally plugging a hard drive into the battery port, I inverted the gender of the battery-SATA connector from the actual mass storage SATA-II connector. The current battery card is meant to work with the battery packs used by most RC enthusiasts — LiPo packs ranging from 2S1P to 4S1P (2-cell to 4-cell). RC packs are great because they are designed for super-fast charging. They are also cheap and easy to buy. For the board-side battery plug I decided to use the Molex connector found on classic disk drives, since they are cheap, common, and easy to assemble with simple tools. I couldn’t use a standard RC connector because the vast majority of them are designed for in-line use, and the few that have board mounts are too thick or too weird for use in this application.

The battery board can charge batteries at rates in excess of 4A. This means charging a 3-cell, 45Wh (4Ah) pack in about one hour. I’m estimating that a typical power consumption for a reasonable system configuration might be around 5-6W, so that’s 7-8 hours of runtime with a 1-hour charge time using that type of battery pack. Of course, since the whole laptop is user-configurable, typical power consumption is really hard to estimate — you could drop in a monster LCD and a power-hungry magnetic hard drive with loads of peripherals and the power consumption could be much higher. Of course, you can drop in a 100Wh battery pack if you wanted as well :)

Another cute feature of the battery board is that it can drive an analog panel meter. Xobs had suggested that it would be neat to embed a retro analog needle meter into the palmrest of the laptop to give a real-time display of power consumption. I thought it was a great idea, so I designed that in. Of course, the analog meter is driven by a DAC on the battery microcontroller, so it can be configured to perform a multitude of useful (or not so useful) analog read-outs, such as remaining runtime, battery voltage, temperature, the time (represented as an analog value), etc.

Next up is to spend a couple months validating all the features on the board — a long list of features to grind through indeed — and port drivers and a linux distro (no small task, but I’ll have Xobs‘ skillful help). I also am looking forward to designing the enclosure. Probably for the first rev, I will do something out of laser-cut acrylic that is vaguely tablet-like, to avoid having to mess around with a friction clutch on version 1 of the plastics.

A detached keyboard/trackpoint is attractive to me because I’ve always wanted a display I can “hang” on the seat in front of mine when sitting in an airplane or a bus — it’s a lot easier on the neck and the arrangement actually works better if the person in front reclines their seat.

Once I’ve got some experience integrating the whole thing, I’ll probably design a rev-2 case using CNC-cut ABS and aluminum. CNC cut ABS is almost as robust as injection molded ABS, and can produce reasonably intricate shapes. It’s also relatively economical to produce in single quantities. The CNC-cut design could be a clamshell design, or maybe some other funky design. Maybe I’ll try using wood and brass — who knows, the whole idea of making my own laptop is to play around with some new ideas!

It occurs to me that maybe other people might also be interested in owning a laptop like this, but don’t want to go through the trouble of fabricating their own circuit boards. If it seems like a few hundred folks are interested, I might be convinced to try a Kickstarter campaign in several months, once the design is stable and tested. However, I’m not looking to break any low-price records for this laptop — if you just want a cheap linux laptop you’re better off buying a netbook or EeePC. This is a low-volume, hand-crafted laptop made with uniquely open-source components, so the pricing would be consistent with such crafted goods.

For those interested in the source files for the current early prototype iteration of the design, bounce over to the Novena wiki, and keep an eye on Xobs’ blog. Novena (yet another Singaporean metro station, and also Latin for “nine”) is our stand-in codename for the laptop motherboard.

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### 331 Responses to “Building my Own Laptop”

1. Travis says:

So WiFi and GPU require closed-source blobs… Are we beyond the point of a fully-open laptop or was there some design tradeoff?

(I understand that the laptop can function without ’em, but those seem substantial.)

• bunnie says:

Clarification: Wifi does not require a closed-source blob, if you use an Atheros 9k mPCI-x version. An example card is linked under the mPCIx feature bullet.

The USB card is provided as an option just in case you want to put something else in the mini PCI slot, or you wanted a second wifi interface for some reason. Also, the USB card is much cheaper than the mPCIx card, so it’s a cost-down option for those who don’t care as much about a small blob in the system. Basically, if you care about having no blob for wifi, you can pay for an option that is open source.

GPU, on the other hand, is probably out of reach. nvdia and ATI have set a pretty strong precedent for closed source drivers to use those elements, and the IP vendors for integrated GPUs (like Vivante) are following suit. However, GPU is non-essential IMO for a large application space.

• Orva says:

Well nouveau (open source nvidia driver) does work without binary blobs, but you will lose 3D acceleration and support for older chips is quite flakey. One option might be Intel chips as those have open source drivers with 3D acceleration from Intel themselves, but I am not entirely sure if those need firmware blob or not.

• foo says:

Untrue, noveau works without blobs *and* provides 3D accelleration.

There are reverse engineered drivers for all the mobile GPU chipsets too, the ARM Mali one (limadriver.org) is the furtherest along I think.

• Orva says:

Nouveau can proveide some 3D acceleration with certain chipsets, but it is very slow. In fact so slow that intensive 3D applications (any game made with Unity, for example) are running with under 10 FPS. Composition is possible though, but I cannot say that you have working 3D if that is all what you got. :)

Said 3D support is under very heavy development so bugs and crashes are to expected. But I believe that in few years Nouveau can provide “proper” 3D support.

• Arthur says:

But it is enough to run “team fortress 2”, thanks to valve for porting it on linux :)

• Shawn W. says:

Linux port, yes, but will it run on ARM?

• anonymous rager says:

“(any game made with Unity, for example)”

nobody cares. gaming is massively, massively overrated. what was “stunning, unbelievable” one year becomes “completely unacceptable trash” the next year that nobody will play. its almost a disposable artform. its ridiculous to try to keep up with such an idiotic pace of development when the only end purpose is to simulate murdering people (and thats what most games are). OpenGL’s various gaming-pushed extensions are a hopeless morass of buggy incompatabilites that waste millions of man-hours of programmers time every year while they try to satisfy the bloodlust of angry obese man children.

if you want to play games, buy a fucking desktop and quit wasting people’s time.

• Ozzy says:

Entertaining take on gaming. I agree.

• bar says:

Well said!

• wowsers says:

he’s absolutely right! [Will Ferrel voice] no one likes retro games and gaming systems. doh! You’re so ignorant it’s beyond reason. Art games are experiencing an unprecedented explosion. limbo, minecraft, fez, bit trip series, journey… etc etc etc you could play amazingly crafted games all year long without ever once simulating a death if you were so inclined… even skyrim can be played without killing a single entity. not to mention the brilliance behind the physics simulations and data management algorithms.
you have derped.

• Southbound says:

Glad I didn’t step into a negaverse there for a second.

If anything modern gaming is moving farther and farther from the “violent kill streak” and more towards art, story and intelligence, especially with a vibrant indie community who are keen to pick up any device and make something wondrous with it.

I could easily imagine a game being made specifically for this niche market laptop that uses the analog panel metre to some effect.

• Nathanael says:

Retrogaming, however, doesn’t need aggressive 3D acceleration.

Heck, I can play “Adventure” on every machine I’ve every seen. :-)

• lolol says:

You must be a lot of fun at parties.

• Rohitasch says:

Parties are such a bloody waste of time.

• foo says:

The intel 3D drivers don’t need any blobs, the chips themselves are probably running some blobs loaded off internal flash or something though.

• Augusta says:

Unfortunately, Nouveau only works on desktop chipsets (not mobile chipsets like Tegra). ATI has open-source GPU drivers, but they don’t make mobile parts; the same goes for Intel.

The Lima driver looks like the most promising (and possibly only) one for mobile chipsets. I don’t think it’s far enough along to be generally usable; but if some popular open hardware projects chose Mali devices, the extra developer interest could change that.

There’s mention of an open-source project for the Vivante GC860 here, but I can’t find any details:
http://www.linaro.org/linaro-blog/2011/11/30/a-case-for-open-source-gpu-drivers/
Other than that, I don’t know of any community members working on Vivante GPUs.

• Orva says:

Although nvidia is working on open source Tegra drivers at this moment. I know couple persons working on them and there is occasional RFC patchset posted to lkml.

I’m working on open source drivers for the Vivante series of GPUs (I have a GC800 myself). I’ve succeeded in intercepting and parsing the command stream from libHAL.so, and am pretty far along to understanding the various bits and ioctls, and how the overall picture fits together. Feel free to contact me ( witchspace81@gmail.com ) if interested.
I hope to release this work and a bare-bones example of rendering without the binary userspace blob in a few weeks.

• Anonymous says:

Have you considered the Quad A15 with 8 DSPs from TI? LLVM pipe could provide an open source OpenGL, and an OpenCL runtime for this could also be built with LLVM. You need only a framebuffer.

• bar says:

Interesting thought. Could you please expand it a bit and perhaps throw in some links? Thanks!

• Svartalf says:

You can still get FOSS USB wifi devices. In fact, the USB Wi-Fi mobile device you’re listing on the high-res of the mainboard HAS FOSS drivers available for it. :-D

The GPU…as you mention…differing matter altogether.

I don’t know about Vivante, but you might be able to look at a differing SoC and whisper in the right ears with the vendor in question (As they’ve got it all in hand, they’re fairly pro FOSS, and all they need is to ask the original Patent holder on some of the tech the acquired for permission (which would probably be granted since the owner opened up the bulk of their programming info a while back…)) and you might get a win there. All the vendor needs is a gentle push in the right direction and they’d probably run with it because it’d mean a tectonic shift in their favor within the market.

• VC says:

caan always start here :P
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Graphics_Project

• John davis says:

I am so interested in this. I’ve contemplated how much I would pay for this device and I would gladly pay $1000 if the hardware was solid and the case was durable and not just a plastic mess. I’m thinking something like aluminum machining. I would also love something in the range of 1920×1080 for a screen resolution. • just saying says: Open Source video drivers for the typical ARM GPU combination http://malideveloper.arm.com/develop-for-mali/drivers/open-source-mali-gpus-linux-exadri2-and-x11-display-drivers/ there is an open source mali 400 driver, and there is another video chipset with a good open source linux project. also with nvidia and ati, both have freely available open source drivers, and ati at least communicates with the open source team. also intel makes video chipsets with open source factory drivers. 2. M@ says: WANT! I’d kickstart this in a heartbeat. • Tony Godshall says: “WANT! I’d kickstart this in a heartbeat.” me too! +1 • mike says: me three! • gaffertape says: me too! +1 • Clay Shirky says: Je aussi! as they say in France. (That’s fancy Romance Language talk for “+1”) • François Hollandaise says: In France we don’t say “Je aussi!” which means “I too”. We say “Moi aussi !”, this is the french for “me too!”. Nevertheless, I agree with you : “So would I !” Thx for the Romance Language ;-) • VEZ says: I’m thinking one of you is in Quebec, and the other is in France… One dialect is like slang to the other :P Just sayin’ • squalyl says: “Je aussi” sounds like “Le derp” in rage comics… • Brad says: “Je aussi” is wrong in both France and Québec. There aren’t really any grammar differences between the two. Vocab and accent, yes, but not grammar. • Ryan says: I’m thinking one of them is a French guy and the other is a douchebag who thinks his highschool French is “conversational” because he’s never had an opportunity to be proved wrong. I’ll let you look at their names to decide which is which. • John Beetem says: “Je aussi” is a nice reference to “The King of Hearts” (1966). IIRC, the Scottish Colonel demonstrates his command of the French language with precisely that phrase. • james says: Me too :-) • Steve says: Hell yeah, I’d kickstart for this!!! looks awesome, dude. • czesiek says: +1 !!!!1!1!cos(0)!! • Gonzalo says: Me too!!! +1 • fstd says: so would i • jjbarrows says: kickstarter +1 • Matyas Csanyi says: +1 • Axel B. says: +1 !1!! • Assgoblin says: +1 • Brewski Newman says: Count me in!!! Kickstart away!!!! • Matthew says: interestedParty++; • Eric says: Let’s do this kick starter! I can think of a funner weekend(s) project! ;D 3. Kent Crispin says: I would also pay for such a gadget… 4. Roger says: The extra sensors/connectivity/FPGA etc will obviously be very interesting to some. But for regular users it would be hard to compete against regular Android tablets or keyboardable ones such as the Asus Transformer. My own laptop is a T430s which works very well as a “power” machine (core i7, 16GB RAM, SSD and HDD) and complements my Android tablet. It also uses a CFRP body which keeps the weight down. The only major disappointment is that screens on decent laptops are pitiful compared to tablets, especially resolution. • Onwuka says: I agree. My work-issued HP ProBook 4530s has a 1366×768 display. The Nexus 4 has a 1280×768 display. I know that we can’t get those kinds of pixel density but it would be nice to see 1920×1080 if a display is thirteen inches or bigger. Am I asking for too much? • Xudhe says: > I know that we can’t get those kinds of pixel density… 1920×1080… 13″ Yes, you can get those kinds of pixel density. The iPad (3G/4G) has a greater pixel density – 9.7″ QXGA (2048×1536) The Google Nexus 10 has a greater pixel density – 10.1″ 2560×1600 The Asus Transformer has a greater pixel density – 10.1″ 1920×1200 The Nook HD+ has a greater pixel density – 9″ 1920×1280 The Kindle Fire HD has a greater pixel density – 8.9″ 1920×1200 The Apple 13″ MacBook Pro has a greater pixel density – 13.3″ 2560×1600 The Dell XPS 12 has a greater pixel density – 12.5″ 1920×1080 • bunnie says: That’s a handy list. Thanks for sharing it. Now to figure out how to reliably source some of those panels for cheap… • gabriel says: > we can’t get those pixels density that reminds me the old XKCD article about how TVs are dumbing down resolutions for everyone, and joke that his cell phone has more pixels than some 60 inch tv… unfortunately instead of that driving up pixel density all around, it dumbed down everyone and now we take as the norm that all laptops have 700 or so pixels height. when some 3 years ago it was already considered average. my old SGI 24″ CRTs had 1900 pixel in height… my first gen 22″ LCD has 1600 height. my 2yr old thinkpad from work has 900 height. but anything i’m going to buy today has 700 something pixels, and i have to pay extra-premium-with-overpriced-ssd to get anything close to 900. • FungalMonkey says: I understand that HD Resolutions are more weighty in price. But I’ve just picked up a Full HD laptop for less than 550 GBP (890USD) from Dell with a good Spec. i5 3.1GHz, 8Gb RAM, 1920×1080 15.6 WLED, Radeon 7730 2GB Ded, 1TB 7200RPM HDD, BR/DVDRW Combo The prices of the higher spec laptops are coming down quite quickly because of the interest in Full Mobile Tablet Convertibles. • Ronald Pottol says: I’d just about kill to get a laptop with a 12-15″ panel like the iPad/Nexus 10 panels, 1500+ high, I’d kinda lean towards the QXGA, and 12″ or so, I’m not sure I want a 10″ laptop, that’s getting tinny (I did like my 9″ one though). For me, pixels, max ram, weight, are the big desires. I could live with 4GB for the right screen though. • Ronald Pottol says: You can get 15.1″ QXGA panels for under$400 each, and they are IPS panels. They do list 10 packs and such. http://www.ebay.com/itm/140806920995?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649

• Alan says:

I have an old Dell laptop, 15 inch 1920 x 1200 display. I’d be happy to transplant the lid (display and all) to a new design…

I’d like the ADC section changed, however. Instead of eight 12-bit ADC’s (200KSps) try for 2 x 14-bit ADC’s with 100MSps, and 2 similar DAC’s. Consider: http://www.nxp.com/documents/leaflet/75016875.pdf

Or even just TWO lanes, compatible with the new JEDEC JES204A standard (3+ Gbit/sec serial).

Assuming that’s an XC6SLX45T FPGA, of course.

• bunnie says:

I must be lacking imagination, but what would one do with such high bitrate ADCs? The only thing I can think of is a software radio baseband, but maybe there’s some other interesting application for that as well?

The ADCs I threw in are mostly provided to allow for convenient environmental sensing. Temperature, light, etc. Software radio ADC/DAC requirements are non-trivial and I feel that just tossing down a high end ADC or DAC will only lead to problems without a clear notion of the kinds of fidelity and clock stability required for the systems they would interoperate with.

• Svartalf says:

SDR would be a very interesting use of those… Right now, I’d love to have a high-performance board with those sorts of ADC’s since I work in that space professionally. The other use would be a medium performance O-Scope. I’d think you’d be interested in that use, bunnie.

• KE5FX says:

*I must be lacking imagination, but what would one do with such high bitrate ADCs?*

Got an Agilent or Tek catalog handy? Half of the stuff in there is built with a general-purpose processor, one or more ASICs or FPGAs, and some fast ADCs.

The other half is built with a general-purpose processor, one or more ASICs or FPGAs, and some fast DACs.

‘Nuff said.

5. Jonathan says:

I’d join in on this if there’s a kickstart.

6. davisr says:

Wow, superb work. If you took care of the manufacturing through a kickstarter, I would love to back the project.

7. Dave Gilbert says:

Very nice; it’s nice to have the RAM via the DIMM (what’s the max it can cope with?)
also the mPCI would make it an interesting router board if you added another pair of wired ether on it.

How much for the board?

8. ijustloveit says:

is crazy ppl like you that make this planet a better place to live.
Hope success for you, hope project get success, hope to buy one.
(please, elimitate 100 Mb/s and place another 1Gb/s)
PS: i look better and… WOWOW!!! I LOVE SPARTAN6 ON BOARD!!!!!!!!!

Definetively I WANT IT. how much?

9. David says:

If you launch a Kickstarter, I’m in for at least one laptop.

11. Calculat0r says:

Cool stuff, really cool stuff.
Though, I am not so sure about a Kickstarter as this looks rather expensive ;-)

> This is a low-volume, hand-crafted laptop made with uniquely
> open-source components, so the pricing would be consistent
> with such crafted goods.

Is there an estimation on the cost already?

We’re talking 100pcs quantities here so the parts are significantly above what Apple pays for such things ;-)

The Processor + core power management alone are around $50 @100pcs or so,$20 for a small FPGA and a 10 layer board of that size at low quantity is also not too cheap either, maybe $15?$10 for the USB hubs and ethernet transceiver stuff, $30 for all the connectors maybe.$30 for audio, RTC and EEPROM, all the inductors, capacitors and resistors and misc stuff,
$40 for the battery board and connectors maybe,$30 for the pcie WIFI Card. $15 for 2GB of DDR3 RAM.$10 for good quality 16GB microSD Card.

I may be wrong on some of the parts, feel free to correct me. Also I am not from asia so no idea if you can get the stuff cheaper over there at that low volume ;-)

Anyway, I’d guess roughly $200 –$250 for parts and PCB.
Then comes assembly and test…
And you still need a case, display, some cables, wifi antennas, keyboard, touchpad, battery, wall adapter, packaging… that assembly work also costs a bit.

And what about a bit profit? ;-)

If you look at the pandora, $400 to$700 and consider that the pandora is a lot smaller and has way less stuff on the board…
I’d guess sales price will be more than $700 for a complete system? • 700-900US$? looks ok for me for decent noteboo where ONLY binary blob is GPU driver and hardware documentation is available.
You should go for kickstarter(and take into account that non-US customers would also like this)

• Herve5 says:

Given these specs? I’d go over €1000, let’s say for the wooden version, so that it’s visibly a mod ;-)
Although, already, the analog needle panel is definitely brilliant…

• Calculat0r says:

I was just thinking about what would be the minimal(!) amount you’d have to invest in this. As you can see on the Pandora, the cost might be quite a bit higher. I would not be surprised if the final product is around $1500. Normal companies would add 50 to 100% margin onto the production cost and then come the distributors which add another 10 to 100%, plus tax. So if this thingy would cost$700 to produce, you’d see it for around $1500 to$2000 in stores.

12. Anathema says:

I’d buy this in a Kickstarter for sure, and try to convince all my developer friends to go for one too.

13. Jose says:

Well, you HAVE TO do a a kickstarter of this. :-D

The world needs this. It is the time for an open source laptop like there was a time for an os operating system.

If you start it, a lot of other people will follow, companies and govs need to create their own hardware in order to adapt better to what they do and for security.

14. Temia Eszteri says:

This certainly looks like a tinkerer’s dream. Definitely keeping tabs on this to see how it evolves!

15. Manamex says:

A lot of people would want to buy one, please consider going into production with his project. I would support it. Great project!

16. Joel Parker Henderson says:

Excellent! Yes to Kickstarter. I would love to buy an open source laptop, ideally with a 15″ high res screen– akin to the Thinkpad T61p WUXGA 1920 x 1200 pixel screen, or even higher.

• xyz says:

QXGA 15” ID Tech panel only

17. Raphael says:

Awesome. I have long been waiting for both FPGA and USB OTG in a Laptop. Count me in.

18. Connor says:

What point does the FPGA serve if you need another computer to program it. AFIK xilinx doesn’t have compile tools for ARM. Do they even have programmer software that works with arm?

• imMute says:

Xilinx FPGAs can be programmed via a SPI bus. A quick look at the posted schematics seems like he did the same thing. A programmer would simply be a shell script to pipe the bitstream into the /dev/spiX.Y device.

• bunnie says:

Correct, the FPGA is connected to SPI and you can just cat the bitfile to the SPI device. You can also use ioctls to do things like reset the FPGA, etc.

• KE5FX says:

Seriously… if you do another spin of this board, and/or build a version to offer for sale, PLEASE add some high-speed I/O connectivity for that FPGA. FPGAs are better than anything else at getting high-speed data into a system, but this one apparently can’t do that at all. It’s like you dropped a Ferrari engine into a grain silo.

• bunnie says:

OK, I have a note in bold red on my schematics now to route a few differential (LVDS) pairs from the FPGA to a flat flex connector that breaks out underneath the SATA connector (no space left for a fancy header). That’s the only convenient spot to route a few pairs. I can probably squeeze maybe 5 or 6 pairs there, but I’ll try to push for more…if I feel so bold as to strip out the JTAG header for the FPGA I can put many more. This is an LX fpga so the bitrate is limited to 950Mbs/pair, but even then that should give you a few gigabits of bandwidth through that cable.

The routing is actually really tight around the FPGA, as the northeast sides are completely blocked by DDR3 routing and I string a lot of non-FPGA control signals around the south and west sides already.

I’m not sure what you’d do with some LVDS pairs coming off the FPGA, but I guess that’s not the point of routing in connectors for hackers…

• Wolfgang says:

(Not only) with this mod, you can definitely count me in for kickstarter!
Please, if there is the possibility to do so, make this available to those who can not build the device themselves!

(For me, LVDS would be nice to connect a fast A/D or D/A converter for SDR and other anlog experiments, like video test generator etc.)

Actually, you could something slightly different like route the raspberry pi bus via the FPGA. Default would be passthrough to where they’re currently going, but you can then use the FPGA as a preprocessor etc.

Additionally, have you considered adding on something like a cc430 DASH7 chip? you can leave the laptop in almost off mode (just the MSP430) with external radio and sensors, ready to be woken remotely. DASH7 would come in handy for robotics and home automation (remote control and location sensing).
The DASH7 stack is completely open source and in most countries’ unlicensed bands. If you can use mode 2, that’s better!

A couple of other thoughts, while I remember: the preprocessor idea is in addition to the tight CPU coupling at the moment, as you’d want to have both.
It’s worth watching Pixel Qi as their next-gen screens are promising much better colour and refresh etc. Also, it would be useful to have external inputs to the screen if possible.
The form factor is very small for what you’re getting, but if you’re doing a respin, maybe make it slightly longer instead so you can double the motherboard into a phablet?
I don’t know a huge amount about FPGAs, but traditionally Altera have been more open with their soft designs eg. a Nios soft CPU can run linux. Do you have a preference for Xilinx?
Would high power IR be useful? It should be fairly easy to add to an external connection, but built-in might be useful.
Running some of the PCIe connections to the board edge would be handy for clustering, and interfacing to existing PCIe full-size cards if mini PCIe boards are not available.

• Ikem says:

I like Qualcomms Mirasol display more.

• The Doctor says:

I’m talking to some folks on IRC who have some questions about programming the FPGA. As this post is written, they’re asking where the bitstream generator for the FPGA image is in the toolchain.

19. Yes, please. A fast-ish arm processor with a removable display or keyboard is the way to go. This is already the keyboard/trackpoint configuration that I use on my desktop.

My only question is: is it possible to get a higher-than-normal density on the screen resolution? “Retina display” should be the new standard definition.

20. moxbox says:

Bunnie-

Awesome, I love it.
Q: why not put processor and graphics on Qseven format?
http://www.qseven-standard.org/
That way they either be changed/upgraded in future?

;-) mox

21. PB says:

Don’t know whether this fits, but here’s something I’d like from a laptop power system: Automated battery maintenance. I’m plugged in, a lot, and I forget to / blow off periodically cycling my battery. (Admittedly, maybe I’m unusual / an edge case, in this, and my thoughts here are of little general value.)

I’d like a power system that can be made to periodically and contextually select to run from battery, even while plugged in, so that the battery can be cycled in a manner that maintains its capacity.

So, when, every some weeks, I do need to run from battery, it’s still in decent shape. Without my having to manually ensure this on an ongoing basis.

I doubt it’s an interest or priority for you, Bunnie, but what the heck, I’ll throw the idea out there. When else do I have even a chance of having any input into a laptop’s design?

To my mind, in general a laptop’s power system should be able to maintain the battery’s condition, without my manual intervention.

(Of course… programmatic control introduces a channel to malicious manipulation, I suppose, to the extent one doesn’t already exist.)

• Paul Asselin says:

This is a great idea actually. Uhm, complex though.

• eMBee says:

please take a look at the battery for the OLPC XO.
they are designed to handle bad quality power and 10000 charging cycles.

mine still has full capacity after 3 years of daily use.

• Ronald Pottol says:

That would be the same types of batteries he has spec’d.

• eMBee says:

it’s not just the batteries themselves, but the electronics that control the charging. the OLPC batteries basically address PB’s concerns by keeping their capacity for a long time. if that’s already covered in the specs then all the better :-)

• Dr. Eddy says:

Uhm, isn’t this kinda wrong to do?

Batteries are designed and made with a specific number of cycles in mind. So by cycling the battery, you are actually damaging the battery.

For example you have a battery for 500 full cycles (100%-0%-100%), but it can do something like 1000 half cycles (100%-50%-100%).

The best way to preserve battery lifetime when not using it is to leave it at 40% in a cold and dry environment. That’s how they store the batteries in shops and stores.

At least that’s what I’ve been thinking the whole time.

• Otto says:

Actually, AFAIK, if you have 500 full cycles then you have more like 1200 half-cycles and almost ~1500 20% cycles, at least with LiPo batteries. Besides, any decent battery has a controller that stops charging when full and lets it drop a few percent before starting charging again.

• denmike says:

Exactly. The memory effect was only an issue with NiCd batteries. It’s so small with NiMh batteries that it can safely be ignored, and not at all an issue with Li-based batteries.

Doing a deeper discharge than absolutely necessary will only wear the battery faster than necessary.

• Otávio says:

Speaking of batteries, just an idea I just had reading the article. What if instead of a say-6 cell battery, you could use two 3-cell batteries in parallel that could be hotswapped. You could have endless runtime provided you had enough spares. Would it be too difficult to achieve?

22. It might be too late, but I will suggest to do this on http://arndaleboard.org. In fact we had an idea of building personal systems on this board. The distinct points are its fast cpu, memory bandwidth, SATA and SSD availability.

• seaside says:

One of the important aspects of this project is that it can work without any blobs. As the author says, “made with uniquely open-source components”. Is that true for the hardware you are posting above?

• Svartalf says:

It’ll boot without blobs, yes, but his board still can’t do 3D without a blob, seaside.

We can try to see if Vivante can be convinced, but there’s a possible other path on that one. There’s an SoC vendor in a bit of a unique position. They bought the tech from one of the GPU players a while back. The core parent tech has had it’s technical details disclosed to the public without any NDA’s and the company that owns it has been providing little shoves from time to time to help the FOSS crowd get a usable driver going. The SoC vendor is actually *very* FOSS friendly and have some of the most powerful mobile ARM SoC’s in the market. Whisper in the right ears with the right story any you might just get a totally open, no blobs, device.

23. lucb1e says:

This looks really awesome, I’m certainly interested in buying one!

24. foo says:

I’d suggest a SoC based on the ARM Cortex A15 CPU instead, thats the current state-of-the-art in ARM CPUs.

• Calculat0r says:

A15 is more power hungry as far as I have heard it.
Also dualcore A15 is not so much faster than a quad a9.

Plus there is no A15 with good open documentation or even one that you could get as someone who buys 100pcs or so (most vendors would start laughing at you).
Also most current mobile ARM SoCs don’t have SATA + PCIe + GBit Enet which is quite important for a Laptop like device.

• bhtooefr says:

I hadn’t looked that closely at the Exynos 5 Dual documentation that’s out now, but it seemed like it was fairly complete.

• Calculat0r says:

No it is not. This is only 880 pages with the bare minimal info that is relevant for the video driver development and such things.
Way over 6000 pages docs (several different PDFs) for the Freescale processor is a complete different story…

There is also no electrical datasheet btw.
Oh and 0.4mm ball pitch BGA package – this is ridiculously tiny and requires rather expensive high end PCB fabrication and high end assembly line.

Most people also don’t seem to know how much work this is and start talking “hey why not use this or that instead”!
You CAN NOT change such a complex PCB everytime a new CPU pops up. Especially not if it is a different manufacturer. This takes several month of concentrated work even for skilled people like Bunnie ;-)
I have done that myself already for an industrial project so I know what I am talking about ;-)

25. Daniel says:

Like everyone else, I would kickstart this in a heartbeat.

26. Ian Scott says:

Richard Stallmann would probably be all over this. I think he still uses a Lemote netbook with a Loongson MIPS CPU because it’s the only free as in freedom laptop around.

27. […] are some of the features of the laptop motherboard: Freescale iMX6 CPU — same footprint …(More…) pa2(); header();pa1(); Posted on Dec 16th, 2012 by admin in Lenovo laptop | No […]

28. sean says:

please do kickstarter – i want this thing to get made on a higher scale- very very cool and needed. thank you:!!!

• Yan says:

+1 kickstarter.

29. McDougal says:

I want this so badly now.

30. Asa Forsythe says:

Hey, I hear there’s this thing called Kickstarter

31. Aaron Kulbe says:

I would DEFINITELY buy in, if there was a Kickstarter campaign.

Can you build it with a higher capacity of RAM? 4GB isn’t much, these days. :)

• Ronald Pottol says:

This is the only quibble I have about this, granted, most of the reason I want a bunch of ram is to run VMs, which is less of an issue with this :-).

32. Jason says:

Definitely interested to see where this goes, particularly vis-a-vis a Kickstarter campaign (decrease the cost of specialty parts by buying in bulk, minimum manufacturing run required to make custom molds cost effective, etc).

33. Zoltan says:

I beg you, start an kickstart campaign…. I want so badly either – you couldn’t imagine. Also – I’d like to suggest to use Qi Hardware WPAN (open source short range bluetooth and wifi module), what is already there and open source. But this is already huge. You guys can request FSF endorsing as AMD G series is also under investigation with their ATOMBIOS. What is interesting on their board SPI, from the CPU, which goes to the on-board boot PROM running coreboot…. So I’m sure you are ready to melt some faces. http://rhombus-tech.net/amd_g_series/

34. KE5FX says:

The FPGA would make this a very interesting target for embedded instrumentation work, except there’s no wide/fast bus for it…?

35. Taniwha says:

Ha! – called it

http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=2579#comment-1164576

It’s a great CPU choice – even if the manual is 6000 pages long :-)

So yes point me at the kickstarter, I’m in

If you’re building laptop hardware how about a standard ‘slot’ architecture with a connector at one end carrying power, all the spare FPGA pins you can and a CPU connected i2c to access an on-card eeprom – I can imagine lots of slot cards would cost pennies and would just consist of a connector and rom contents that point to where on the ‘net you can load the fpga bitstream and linux drivers (or maybe you even pull them from the eeprom)

36. Theon144 says:

Oh wow, this is so much cooler than I thought it would be when I first heard “quad-core arm laptop”! I should have known better than to expect something ordinary from bunnie :)

37. hi – this is great to hear about. we put together a design and put in a proposal to kickstarter over two years ago – before the rules changed for technology proposals.

they didn’t quite comprehend what the excitement was about, and so i have been patiently bludeoning them over the head answering their objections repeatedly until they finally finally said “ok let’s hear what you have to say”. and what i have to say is *exactly* what this project is about.

so since then we’ve pursued a second track which is the EOMA-68 project – splitting the CPU out from what we call the “I/O Board” because that’s the only thing left on it: peripherals. the point of the EOMA-68 project is to *NOT* be dependent on one manufacturer’s delays and rules.

we then put together a series of design sketches which includes a laptop: http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/EOMA-68/Laptop

also we’ve done the schematics for the KDE Plasma Active Tablet, which could very easily be adapted for use in a laptop:
http://hands.com/~lkcl/eoma/kde_tablet/
http://rhombus-tech.net/community_ideas/kde_tablet/

it uses an STM32F as the Embedded Controller which is the same CPU that goes into the Leaflab Maple, the source code is GPLv3 for controlling the devices such as audio, backlight and so on. (obviously for a laptop you’d need to replace the AXP209 with something a bit beefier, but you’re already got that).

WIFI is done as an ATH9K USB-based Mini-PCIe off-the-shelf card.

so, bunnie: if you’re interested to do this project in a way that would be future-proof, user-upgradeable, of great value and interest to the Free Software Community and potentially end up in mass-volume production, please do contact me. we have a company that will pay for the hard tooling and will pay royalties – all they want is to see prototypes.

38. Arbofaktur says:

Awesome! If this gets produced in volume we would seriously consider doing a case for it (for standalone/htpc/router usage).
The world definitely needs more (readily available!) open hardware designs.

39. Cathal says:

I’ll just start saving now, then. You just got boingboing’d; if you don’t kickstart this, someone will! :)

Awesome work, truly delighted to see someone doing this.

40. I would also buy such a machine!

41. silviu says:

42. Justin Fay says:

Double want, will buy 2 of these. You have a good business opportunity on your hands here.

43. […] bunnie’s blog […]

44. Russell says:

I am so happy to see you doing this! I’ve wanted something like this for a very, very long time.

More than ten years ago, I posted a story to Slashdot about doing almost exactly this, and I’ve been depressed ever since about the response. The top one was, “This is dumb. You’ll end up paying three times as much to develop this thing. Just go buy an ultraportable, like the Thinkpad X22…” Naturally, rated +5 Insightful. I learned my lesson and never posted a question to Slashdot again. I didn’t think anyone really understood what I was talking about :

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/01/11/09/2144237/rolling-your-own-laptop

I suppose I was young and foolish and used too many commas.

Nevertheless, I still want the machine I was trying to describe. I was imagining a hand-built, ARM-based minimalist machine with no ports (WiFi, Bluetooth and inductive charging) and a high contrast gray-scale screen that doesn’t need a backlight. I would put in huge batteries relative to the power draw, so that it would last about a week on a charge, and I would carve the case and keys out of a cherry and walnut. And encapsulate all the electronics in PDMS.

It would spend 99% of its time being a very sleek, beautiful and bomb-proof VT220.

Please, please do a Kickstarter. Or something. And maybe tell me where to source a 1024×768 version of whatever screen they have on the TI-8x calculators.

• bhtooefr says:

How about the PQ101WX01? That’s color, but sunlight readable (I think it ends up having less and less color, the higher the ambient/backlight ratio is. The older ones, as soon as ambient light exceeded backlight, they were monochrome).

• Russell says:

The Pixel Qi screens are indeed cool, but I really like the old-school LCD look. They are also perfectly readable in sunlight, and has ridiculously low power draw.

I was so, so very annoyed when cell phones started packing color screens instead of monochrome liquid crystal. The color was ugly, the battery life was awful, and you needed to hide yourself in an abyssal cave to read them without awful glare.

I say we bring back the good old fashioned monochrome!

• Nick says:

Old LCDs are indeed nice for daylight readability. I have a bunch of old 160×128 pixel monochrome LCDs without backlight and with integrated controller with both character generator and graphics functions. They’re pretty neat, but at 20×16 characters (26×16 in 5×7 char mode) they’re not much good for linux-consoles. :-)

The most high resolution grayscale LCDs I can recall of the top of my head would be the ones used in the Psion Series 5 and Revo. Those where nice little computers. 640×240 pixel (half VGA) 5,6 inch and real keyboards that fold up to a tiny little package powered by an ARM at 18 to 36 MHz running from a couple of AA-batteries.

Back in those days, though, I was heavily into the classic Palm Pilots. I loved how it not only organized my life, but also did it for weeks on a single pair of AAAs. 160×160 pixel monochrome LCD with 16 MHz Motorola 68328 (overclockable, oh yeah!) I knew that system both inside and out and I loved it. it would even “surf” the web and do ICQ by connecting to my mobile over IrDA.

These days, my iPhone of course does stuff I could only dream of back then, but the price is that I have to charge it every night and stand in the shade to properly see whats on the screen …

45. http://bunniefoo.com/novena/novena_batt_labels.jpg

hilarious: you’re using an STM32F just as we planned on the EOMA-compliant laptop design. we learned that the 100-pin STM32F is $2.36 in 10k volumes FOB from a HK distributor. the 64-pin version is$2.20 so it’s hardly worthwhile optimising out to the lesser-pin version.

what that means is that the 100-pin STM32F, for the benefit of a few cents, can cut out a whole stack of other components such as $1.50 for an audio driver IC (replacing it instead with 2$0.12 Class B amplifiers and a $0.15 op-amp). 46. […] s); })(); EmailHardware hacker Bunnie Huang is working on designs for an open laptop. Open, as in, it will run open source Linux-based software, but also open in that the designs will […] 47. Munir Nassar says: If you want a removable keyboard look at the compaq concerto laptop of yesteryear. handy device where the guts were in the screen section and the keyboard folded down: http://pc-museum.com/031-compaq/rcm-031.jpg I don’t think anybody has made a similar device since. • Kevin Puetz says: A couple other laptops that had the guts behind the screen, rather than under the keyboard: OLPC XO-1 Asus Eee Transformer (is it a tablet with a keyboard, or a laptop? what’s the difference, anwyay?) The main problem is that it’s easy to for the XO to overbalance and tip over backward. The Asus is better, since there’s additional battery under the keyboard that helps keep enough weight forward. • Edmund says: I have one of these, Compaq Concerto, and I am surprised that no one else had this sort of design, AFAIK. I really liked the design. It worked well on airplanes, and many other scenarios. 48. […] Building my Own Laptop @ bunnie’s blog. We are building an open laptop, with some wacky features in it for hackers like me. […] 49. Christian Berger says: What I wonder is how the case will be. I mean that’s the big problem, you cannot just buy pre-made cases or order one from a PCB manufacturer. Cases typically require you to mill forms for lots of money. Then there’s the problem not ARM not having a consistent “plattform”. So unless this project hypes like the Raspberry Pi, it’ll be hard to get any normal operating system on them. Anyhow good luck, so far it does look amazing. 50. michael pechner says: Kickstarter! So tired of wondering if the latest laptop I buy will run linux. 51. Greg Pilling says: I would like to get involved, particularly in the building of the case. Our company builds truck accessories, but we have been making some industrial strength cases for tablets and phones, so the next obvious thing is to make the whole chassis. We would like to make a case for this. A case that could be made to take a bit of living (aka abuse) without breaking. I like the idea of an heirloom device, so I want to help. Our shop has laser cutters, powdercoating, cnc press brakes, etc. so I think we can do a decent job on a low volume basis. Please contact me if you would like the assistance. Also I would back a kickstarter on this. 52. acidrain says: I’d be in on kickstarter depending on price. I mean, are we more in the$300, $600, or$900 range? I know the parts come in under $300, I just have no clue what it takes to do a small run of something this complex. • Andrew Laughton says: +1 Please add me to your mailing list. 53. gunther says: It looks to me an excellent idea. Especially for prototyping and then let it run headless. You could have a full blown “laptop/tablet” version and then use a second board with bigger battery/ no screen etc to run the system “in place”. The I/o is very welcome (especially the pwm/servo and maybe less the Pi header ) , but i wonder how to break this out in a usefull way from an enclosure. also, while the usage if an extra dhxa-195 card or so is not big issue, I wonder why not add by default a BT (4?) chip, for simple (none 4) they cost almost noting and a lot of things in the “hobby space” use BT as a wireless serial port. Those cards are like 50 usd, bit steap for adding BT… ok you can simply add one of those very cheap usb BT dongles, but one thing i’ve learned is that you simply can’t have enough USB ports, and that would eat one of the 2. • gunther says: ha and yes, +1 for the kickstart idea and (i know this will up the$$) a choise between a “cheap” and a “more expensive but hi res” LCD would be very welcome. 54. OK , I THINK THAT IT IS A VERY GOOD IDEA . BECAUSE THIS IDEA IS VERY KOOL. IT DONE 55. alessandro says: Good stuff. 56. A.Noodle says: The LXT versions of the Spartan-6 CSG324 can support 2-4 GTPs (flexible serdes that can go to 3.2 Gbps and speak protocols like GigE and sata). Would it be possible to bring these ports out to an external I/O card? If so, one could write a custom NIC to allow these boards to talk with each other in a mesh/ring. 57. Xudhe says: The datasheets on the i.MX6Q appear to indicate there is no support for ECC DDR3. Is that correct? • bunnie says: Correct, no ECC. 58. […] Huang], creator of the Chumby and artisan of chips and electrons, is building his own completely open source laptop. It’s called the Novena, and is powered by a quad-core ARM CPU, it’s got enough bells […] 59. […] Huang], creator of the Chumby and artisan of chips and electrons, is building his own completely open source laptop. It’s called the Novena, and is powered by a quad-core ARM CPU, it’s got enough bells […] 60. Zenon Tigerpaw says: This is awesome! But, in the long run, I’d like to suggest the Amber ARM-compatible CPU. Freescale’s isn’t exactly open per-se. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_%28processor_core%29 61. JBeale says: Very cool idea! I would love to support this project by buying one, but I worry the cost premium would make it unapproachable. At the right price it would be awesome though. 62. Daniel says: This would be perfect as a main board for mobile robots, for example the Turtlebot 2 Having the FPGA for acceleration and lots of varied IOs right on the main board would simplify things greatly. Even the separate power board is ideal since it could be replaced with a tap from the robot power supply system. 63. TJ says: This is so very the future. You pioneer you! 64. Raphael says: adding HDSDI i/o would be useful.. • grェ says: *this* digital video output without HDCP/DPCP headaches.. 65. You never stop keeping me amazed! 66. John White says: Please note that PCIe and PCI-X are not the same thing, the picture says “mPCI-X”, the text says PCI express…It’s PCIe! :) • bunnie says: Good call, thanks for pointing that out. I’ve fixed the labels. 67. Stefan says: Hi, very nice project. Will it be possible to use the FPGA as a encryption/decryption coprocessor? This is really one of the biggest features I miss with current low-mid range notebooks: they have no real options to use decent disk encryption with good speed. • bunnie says: That’s one of the envisioned use cases for the FPGA. It’s sized and pinned out to function reasonably well for that application. 68. Andy says: I’ve always wished for the ability to use the keyboard, mouse and display on my laptop as an external keyboard, mouse and display for another computer. For example, when debugging a server or robot (rasberry pi?), I could just plug in my laptop rather than going to find a monitor, keyboard etc. Also, I wonder about the mechanicals. Would it be worth building replacement motherboards for something like an EEE pc? • Kim Bruning says: Tere are 3 approaches here: A: You just use ssh and a terminal window, like the rest of us mortals. (or putty.exe for windows). This uses the least resources on your pi, and extremely quick and efficient. You have to use a command line. B: It’s called the X-Windowing protocol. You can open windows from a remote raspberry-pi on any normal linux (or mac os x [*]) computer. This requires a modicum of setup, or just ask ssh -Y to do it for you. Possibly there’s X for windows too. This only uses resources when you use it. You mostly stick to the gui, little use of command line. C: use VNC or RDP to show the remote desktop in a window on your laptop. your raspberry pi must constantly run a graphical environment (this costs power, processor-speed), but once set up can be done purely with gui. • Andy says: I am very well aware of those approaches… still I occasionally find a need for a physical KVM, and have always wondered why I can’t co-opt the KVM in my laptop. keyboard and mouse should be easy with USB OTG, video… maybe in the FPGA? maybe just grab a ADI or TI video switch? • Jonathan says: Oooh, as a sysadmin +1 to this idea. A ghetto USB device controller/SIE/PHY would be easy enough to implement on the FPGA for the hands. If only there were a cheap, easy way to put an FPGA in the display panel signal path with an HDMI input on it… @Kim, the use cases for a remote head differ from the use cases for a local head. Each of your suggested approaches requires userland cooperation and networking capability, which may or may not be forthcoming in the circumstances where you would need to go visit the machine (installing an OS, investigating a crash/pwnage, re/configuring hardware). It would be more useful to leverage standard USB protocols (HID, CDC ACM) which any target OS probably can handle in the kernel. • Jonathan says: Oh, wait, it’s got a USB OTG port. No hardware needed for keyboard/mouse emulation except for the right cable. Video would still be a three-pipe problem…. • Rediscover says: Looking at those ADCs connected to the Spartan, we could probably leverage that for VGA in. Fantastic board, count me in for a kickstarter. 69. Andy says: Are you not able to model the pcb to be able to use an existing laptop to provide the case, LCD, keyboard I.e remove & replace the guts That would reduce the build cost, wouldn’t it? • bunnie says: I had considered that but it’s more fun to build my own. :P • Andy says: Are we talking 3d printers here, or do you have something more cunning up your sleeve? I’m intregued about the housing, I would have thought that would have been really difficult to get made in small volume Then again I’m amazed at what’s possible now with laser cut metalwork • bunnie says: Nothing like good old elbow grease (in China)…CNC ABS isn’t too expensive, and you can do undercuts, etc. The other option is vacuum molding. Here you start with a 3D print, surround it by silicone gel, and then peel the gel off. The negative-image gel is then put in a high vacuum with an ABS feed going into the cavity. This is like inverse injection molding, except the tool is disposable. You can produce a couple dozen pieces this way before the tool breaks, and the end product is indistinguishable from injection molded product, with the exception that the finish tends to be a little bit dull. You would never use these techniques for mass production but they are cheap enough for a one-off that I’m going to use on my own. • Andy says: That’s very ingenious! Please do post some photos of the finished product, and if you can some showing how you did it…all very interesting Also thanks for answering my questions • Andy says: This Andy is not me – but I was thinking the same thing exactly. I have a few older Thinkpad T4x which could use an upgrade. • Nathan Myers says: Seconding Thinkpad mechanical compatibility, say T60 or T61. Used ones of varying ages are very available and cheap, and you can still buy parts no matter how old, particularly including WUXGA 1920×1200 LCDs. This isn’t any sort of demand, but it would be fun as a second model or a “competing” project. Repurposing the PCMCIA slot would allow for a lot of progressive connector choices. 70. cyplo says: Hi where can I throw my money in to get one of those ?;) +1 for kickstarter 71. dan says: im throwing money at my monitor but nothing is happening… wheres the kickstart for this? 72. Augusta says: Your photo doesn’t show a heatsink on the SOC. FYI, you’re likely to need one. Many iMX6 evaluation boards are unstable because of improper cooling. • bunnie says: It will absolutely need a heat sink. I’m currently planning on making a custom heat sink/heat pipe solution to fit in my laptop form factor. 73. Robert says: Hi. Wow. This is cool. I was actually looking to build a laptop around a Beagleboard for giggles. This just takes it to the next level. I am interested in purchasing one of these from you. Can you provide some details about whether or not this will be something we can buy, when we might be able to buy it and how long before it comes available? Any way to register for notification of whether or not you decide to sell these? Thanks! Robert 74. Robert says: Also, kudos on the fpga in a laptop. That is so unexpected as to be a bit mind blowing. Fantastic idea! Robert 75. krux says: Nice. Sounds like something that would be fun to play around with. I can see a few projects that could be centered around something like this. 76. dero says: shut up and take my money! @bunnie: you’re the man! 77. TQ Hirsch says: I have been meaning to do something like this for over a year now. Keep me posted on the kick starter! 78. Luca says: How many SATA ports are included in the current design? Would it be hard to eventually add more up to 4 ports? With more disks supported this board would became very useful for self-made Linux NAS. Thanks. • schobi says: The i.MX6 has only a single SATA port. But maybe a SATA port expander could be used? This is better left external, as you will need more power for the disks anyway. 79. seaside says: I hope you won’t cut corners or limit your imagination on this. There are already dirt-cheap, low-cost boards but no serious attempts at making a higher end open hardware laptop. Plenty of people (e.g. software developers) would easily pay in the$1,000-$2,000 range for an open hardware, well designed laptop. Many of those people buy Apple hardware simply because there’s nothing else out there. • bunnie says: That’s encouraging to hear. I certainly pay at least that much for my own laptops…and this isn’t meant to be a laptop for every person. • Robert says: I would easily pay$1,000-$2,000 for an open motherboard WITH a microSD bootable rom that loads up Coreboot (Linux Bios). You have a really good sense for what should be on these things, I would trust to be able to design an open high end mobo with all the bells and whistles as well as a few extras that would just make it all that more interesting. So add me as a buyer for one full power mobo and one laptop mobo. • f4eru says: Very nice project. We definitely need exactly that : an open source arm laptop !! When finished, we have to send one piece to RMS ;) • Luke McCarthy says: Count me in on that… I would pay good money for open hardware. This project sound very interesting and I’m not even a big fan of laptops. Constantly changing proprietary hardware has been a disaster for systems software innovation. 80. recri says: Very nice, +1 for the crowd sourcing. 81. […] Huang], creator of the Chumby and artisan of chips and electrons, is building his own completely open source laptop. It’s called the Novena, and is powered by a quad-core ARM CPU, it’s got enough bells and […] 82. mianchen says: Holy cow! I’d like to know how much a finished laptop would cost… 83. gordon says: Mother of god, I would give a kidney for such laptop. 84. Mattthias Beyer says: Oh I really like it! But I would love it to have a better CPU and more RAM. Much more Ram, whats abou 32 G? Quadcore (or even more) with 3+ Ghz an so on? Would love it for building own Netbook! • NeuroByte says: It would not be called a netbook, it would be a hackbook. 85. […] Now someone just has to run a kickstarter fundraiser to actually manufacture one of these things Project Novena, wiki, via One of this guy’s other projects is already a bit further, with fully released […] 86. Enrique says: Awesome project! question: what does one needs to know in order to desing and source a laptop, or any kind of motherboard for that matter? thanks 87. ArcaneMB says: How robust is it so far? Based on a quick look at the board routing it looks like the memory interface might not have much noise margin, and without ECC… • bunnie says: Seems pretty good so far. Actually, the mainboard-side routing tolerances exceed the minimum requirements for DDR3 by quite a bit. I’ve seen other designs get away with worse routing. ECC is mostly for catching single bit error events caused by radiation strikes, sort of a 1-in-10,000 error case that matters when you have a server room full of machines that have to be up 24x7x365. You shouldn’t be using ECC to overcome signal integrity errors. • Taniwha says: Yeah this is a tricky beast to route for – I’m doing an (unrelated) design with the same chip, which we will also be open sourcing – DDR3 for a socket is probably relatively easy – you just have to balance point-point byte/ddress groups – I’ve just finished routing a board with DRAM on the board – it’s much more challenging, especially a branching address bus, and of course a lot less space for wriggly lines Bunnie: any real gotchas you found? anything not obviously undocumented? 88. Georg Curnutt says: I will buy one gladly! Keep me posted on how where and when I can! Thanks! 89. […] Huang (“Bunny”) and others have been working on an open source laptop based on Freescale i.MX6 Quad processor since June, and they’ve recently got the motherboard. […] 90. Two things: 1, when I tired to register at the forum website I got this: from=,to=: 511 http://www.spamhaus.org/query/bl?ip=66.39.3.164 2, I hear a lot about kickstarter, but between kickstarter and credit card fees, you’re giving away 10%. If you have a lot of followers already, why not take something like Dwolla or Bitcoin directly? I would like to have a Debian package called ‘csd-fundme’ (community supported development) or something like that which includes html/shopping cart/CRM management that would basically do what kickstarter does, but on your own server, and with only a flat$0.25 per transaction fees if using Dwolla.

91. John Cockroft says:

Please say that this is booting using CoreBoot (http://www.coreboot.org/Welcome_to_coreboot)! That would be utterly amazing – a laptop which has transparency all the way from its first instruction after RESET to booting an (open source) operating system! It needs a quad core ARM chip though I think. What would be even better is if this design could be ported to the 64 bit ARM chips that are coming out soon.

92. sampath says:

will it be as cheap and reliable as raspberry.

• Robotblog says:

How do you think this could possibly be as cheap as the Raspberry Pi?

• Travis says:

Raspberry pi’s are extremely unreliable…

• Yonatan RF says:

@Travis why do you say RPi is not reliable? to what extent and in what aspects?

94. […] la programmazione hardware e software di dispositivi open-source. Un ottimo punto di partenza è il blog di bunnie.Tags:Dev Board Freescale iMX 6 Quad mini pc News & Rumors Novena Laptop opensource Follow […]

95. foo says:

Please add a physical kill switch for the microphone and a combination physical killswitch and cover for the camera module.

• bar says:

That’s an excellent idea!

• Mikey says:

+1

• bunnie says:

A good idea. I’ve added it as a to-do note. Figuring out *where* to put the kill switch on the case is a different challenge, but at least electrically provisioning for a switch on the power line should be relatively easy.

• ASTR says:

Why the heck can’t you trust your software! You better not be using M$Dows! and be asking for such a feature. 96. Marcus says: Very interesting. Laptop hardware has been going in a direction I haven’t liked for quite some time. This is promising. 97. […] : Bunnie Huang, Liliputing, Hacker News. ← Promo : Le clavier Bluetooth Logitech DiNovo Mini à […] 98. kfir says: Bunnie! <3! you are an inspiration to me! 99. ampharos says: If you follow through on this, will you have a “lite” edition that cuts out FPGAs and dual ethernet? I’d be OK with some of the HW dev features cut out and only having a single port. 100. trololo says: ++ 101. raywin says: count me in for a kickstarter 102. RZak says: Awesome idea! Count me in as an early buyer. And the FPGA, accelerometer, and Raspberry-Pi-compatible headers make for very nice additions!! I hope you’ll put a Debian-based distro on it without something silly like Unity. How about a Kickstarter project? 103. mitcoes says: i would like a future ARM64 multi SoC desktop MB with a similar power and cheaper than a Intel i7. With good drivers, even if they are blobs, specially for the GPUs. i do hate the secret drivers for ARM SoCs I do want their blobs published as any of the x86 GPU’s ones. If this desktop multi SoC, can be also modular to upgrade it with mroe SoCs with the time, even better. Thanks for sharing your work, if it gives you experience for making future desktops / laptops with ARM64 SoCs you will be able to make a good contribution and earn some money to cheap desktop computng. 104. Timothy says: This is a really cool idea. I hope that eventually this idea could be expanded to x86-64 and higher end GPUs and whatnot. I think if the gamer community could get their customization on, this could really take off and become quite awesome for everybody. 105. […] Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments […] 106. modd says: Awesome! pls include me also to your estimates iff going for kickstarter. Btw, would a (mSATA) SSD, much more ram (16+GB@high MHz) be possible? I’d like to use it as development/modelling (notebook) machine. with hopes ARM becomes more widespread and commercial tools (Matlab) get ported to it. (Is there a decent graphics card?-for gpgpu?) Keep us posted please. *two thumbs up* • Batman says: I think you (and others) overestimate performance a little. This is a low power ARM SoC and not x86 core i7. Performance is like dualcore Intel Atom with same clockspeed maybe. 4GByte DDR-1066 is abs max. RAM – this can not be changed of course. Performance wise the GPU is comparable to a 6 – 10 years old AMD/NVidia Desktop GPU (exact time depends on if you compare to low or high end). But has more modern arch and can do OpenCL or course. I don’t want to say it is bad – no – it is great – but you should not be upset when you realize that it is not as fast as a 6 years old IBM T60 notebook for example. • acmeanvil says: T60 was an awesome laptop, though the t42p was dyno-mite…just slower. I would take that for day to day performance. 107. Chris says: I would love some hardwood keys for the keyboard. 108. Anonymous says: What’s the physical form factor of the target laptop’s plastic bits? Your words seem to suggest a ThinkPad T60 mod. Can se see some concept art? 109. JayB says: If you kickstarted this, would you consider selling a kit? First reason: I would really enjoy flexing my soldering muscle. Even if all the SMT components were completed, self assembly would be super fun. Second reason: I have a few applications in mind, and for one I almost certainly would want it to be board only (accessed by SSH). For the ‘headless’ application (internal combustion engine controller) I would absolutely be making use of an FPGA. The idea of a laptop with that array of IO just tickles me. If the case has all of those pins accessable through breakout headers or something on the case I would be delighted beyond belief. This looks like a fantastic project. Even if you don’t sell it, I am eagerly awaiting updates. 110. avoidingwork says: I didn’t read all the comments so this might already have been said. The wood case intrigued me. If you made it wood and brass you have have an excellent Steampunk design. Sell a bunch of that these days. Just saying. 111. dinosath says: +1 kickstarter. simply amazing!!!!! btw i have read about the warwick flat flexible loudspeaker. a paper thin loudspeaker. does anyone know if the warwick flat flexible loudspeaker is available to market?if so it would be awesome to have it in this diy laptop(if it really has power equal to traditional speakers).it is very space saving…considering the motherboard and power supply board will be much bigger than conventional industry laptop mobos…and we need extra space for hdd/ssd and a big battery 112. avarner says: “Items marked with an asterisk (*) require a closed-source firmware blob” Typically, “blob” means something running on the host CPU. Does the Vivante GPU require just a closed source firmware image, or does it also need a closed source device driver? By “firmware”, I mean loaded onto the GPU coprocessor, not executed by the main ARM processor. By “device driver”, I mean something loaded into the Linux kernel, executing on the main CPU. • Wladimir says: Avarner: the Vivante GPU has closed userspace drivers (both the libEGL, libGLES2 and an lower-level layer called libHAL. The kernel driver is open source (though sometimes hard to find). There is no (either closed or open) firmware image downloaded to the device itself, unlike with the Videocore. 113. acmeanvil says: Kickstarter all the way, I am willing to “go deep” on support. I am curious about the final product. Would this be a complete laptop or would you be willing to sell the parts? This may be 6, one half dozen of the other…but I would really like to package my own. I am not so good with the board layout, but I have a cnc machine shop and a burning desire for my own laptop from scratch 114. Andrew, Awesome stuff here! I am very interested in the future of this topic. I just found it from Slashdot and it is good to see the website his holding up. Would you be willing to email me about an open source project I want to do? I could use some tips. Thanks, Frank 115. offer says: One thing I’ve always wanted on a laptop are _inputs_ for USB and VGA. I want to use my laptop as a keyboard/display for a server – bypassing the installed OS on the laptop. Sure would make server management more convenient. 116. Leonard Plentz says: “I might be convinced to try a Kickstarter campaign in several months, once the design is stable and tested.” – Please do. And see if you can leverage the manufacturing infrastructure already in place at Raspberry Pi. Your design philosophies appear to be somewhat similar, so it might not be as hard to get them interested as you might think. We don’t need the cheapest laptop. We need one that makes practical sense and doesn’t come with crapware. Getting away from the broken X86/X64 dinosaur CPU architecture is equally brilliant. But please do consider a 64-bit processor architecture, as it appears that you’ve chosen 32-bit, if I understand correctly. We should have had this 20 years ago. Why laptops were never open like desktops always mystified me. Don’t worry, there’s still time. Tablets are a pain in the ass for people who want to get real work done. 117. megaman says: Greatly humbled to see this. I certainly want one, and I’m in for a kickstarter campaign too. I hope it spurs more engineering pioneering enthusiasts make other variants. 118. rogerdugans says: I love the idea and would love to have one. Depending on cost on my employment situation, I hope to be able to jump in if you go to Kickstarter. 119. MJK says: Hi, I’ve been wanting to learn more about hardware. I’ve taken some basic circuits and digital electronics and VHDL classes in the past. I want to build systems like these, but don’t know how. I’m not so familiar with how to create a system like this, how to lay things out on a PCB properly, how to design entire hardware systems and so forth. I’ve heard about Eagle and others but I’m not how to put it all together. Are there any resources available for someone in my situation? 120. James says: Surprised you’re not /.’ed yet! Good luck sir, I’d be interested to see this Kickstarted! 121. suarezvictor says: +1 to kickstart it please let the community tweak it with ideas! 122. Chris says: :( If it was only for the blob on the graphics it looks like this is something I would support. 123. Nerobro says: Bunnie, I’m in on this. I’m all for a kickstarter. The idea of having a hackable laptop just amazes me. I did have a DEC Laptop that had three internal pcmcia slots, and two more availalbe on the docking station. That was great, at the time it let me add usb, scsi, wifi, modem and ethernet… It seems that the FPGA would let you do some similar things. And all of the expansion on that board. I’m already salivating. this design also seems like it would lend itself to interesting packaging. Like a slim briefcase. 124. TK says: Nice to see FPGA tightly attached to CPU. Maybe some day there is a “Bit Store” where we can purchase bitstreams for configuring the FPGA to bring some kind of supercomputing capability to the notebook ;) • Goldorak says: No! Slippery slope! Comercial “$WHATEVER Store” => need for DRM => need for Trusted Computing => no more open platform
Do not want! (I speek for myself)

• Goldorak says:

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t try to blame you for this idea, but honestly, if you think that a commercial “bit store” has a real interest for a lot of people, maybe you could “fork” this open laptop project or work with Bunnie to provide a version of this platform where DRM mechanisms are activated and where a commercial “Bit Store” for the FPGA would be possible…
But I’m pretty sure that a lot of people also (including myself) are more interested by the openess of the platform!

125. Dave says:

I see robots, lots of robots. In the world of robot hacking, we have reached the tipping point where we want something round-about the power of a laptop, running Linux, to be the brainy compute node, with a good way to off-load hard realtime tasks to a distributed farm of Arm Cortex-M3-ish microcontrollers. We’ve made a lot of attacks on this. Willow Garage’s ROS software stack is a key component and driver of all of this.

Some issues we run into with laptops on robots are: 1) how to get to the real-time stuff. (No, USB anything is a baaaaaad idea for hard realtime, many have been there and done that. Anybody that suggests that should go off, build, and come back and show me your working robot. Then we’ll talk.) 2) battery management — too many battery operated subsystems (laptop, motors, misc peripherals), no central charge controller, and multiple charging connections. Yuck.

So this looks very interesting. Battery manager on a separate subsystem is perfect — the robot can have it’s own version. Now…. if we could just get to the two I/O pins that bring out CAN bus, or have a good way to get tightly integrated CAN I/O going so that you can talk to a robot-area-network of Cortex-M3’s over the CAN bus, we are golden. Is there any chance the CAN pins could be mux’ed out? The automotive hacking crowd would wet their pants over that, too.

Oh… and the FPGA is great for robots, too. Super useful.

126. khaled says:

Hi,
I am a hardware design engineer. I want to contribute to the project, is there any help you need.

127. I suggest you consider applying for the FSF’s Hardware That Respects Your Freedom program.

http://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/endorsement/respects-your-freedom

128. Mikey says:

The FPGA and CPU alone come to £55 ($90), with case, memory, and screen, I cant see much change from £900 (~$1300)

129. Luke McCarthy says:

Actually as a follow-on to my previous comment, I’m actually looking forward to seeing Moore’s Law screeching to a halt. Not that I don’t want faster computers, but hardware needs to slow down and stop changing every 5 minutes so that software can catch up. I wish hardware companies would sit down and try to define standard software/hardware interfaces so that we don’t have to continually write the same drivers over and over again.

130. Goldorak says:

Hello,
I’m very interested by this design, but I have a (naive) question:
– if I chose not to use the GPU with his binary proprietary blob, is the video interface HDMI fully functional anyway? What are the screen resolutions supported?
Kudos for this great project guys! I hope to find some time to contribute myself!

131. tidux says:

The Linux kernel, starting in 3.8, has support for booting a generic kernel on multiple ARM SoCs. This means that it’s possible to add support for this board to the kernel, get the patches submitted, and then have ANY Linux distro work with the laptop.

132. SonicBroom says:

kickstarter? More like PUNCHNOW!

Seriously you have made my mind wonder at all the things i would do with this device. it just has to be made for all.

133. Violet TheViolet says:

Awesome !!! The idea of building my own laptop has always been an interest.

Thanks !!!!!

134. Matthias says:

I would pledge for this.

Have a look at Christie Street. It’s crowdfunding focused on hardware projects: https://secure.christiestreet.com/

135. Rafi says:

Awesome project

Do you have room to add consumer IR? I’d love to have a transceiver mounted at the top edge of the screen. Useful for both controlling other devices and controlling the laptop (presentations, etc).

Along those lines, I think the raspberry pi supports controller signals over HDMI. Does this have all the necessary (if any) hardware to support that?

Does the mpcie slot also support msata?

136. Jason says:

Great Idea/work; Please spin up a kickstarter for it!

137. Milton says:

Yes, Kickstart it.

138. Colonel Panik says:

The Colonel says /°_° to all of you. (Colonel speak for +1)

FOSS hardware is the next step in the evolution of humans.

139. mike says:

Great idea! I will support the Kickstarter campaign! …and don’t forget the trackpoint (;

140. Pleurastic says:

141. RichR says:

This is fantastic project and a logical progression from your development of the Chumby product line (one of the ‘funnest’ development platforms).
GO FOR IT!

142. Dave says:

I would definitely be interested in this on Kickstarter :) Even if it’s just the main and battery boards.

143. John says:

I would not be interested in a laptop version.

But certainly interested in buying the mainboard alone…..
It has everything you can dream of, to do any kind of project.

Hope that it will be available on kickstarter or other funding platform

144. Simon says:

Sounds like everybody wants one for different purposes. Hopefully, an ecosystem gets build around this idea. Personally, I want an upgradable CPU is important, although I’m sure is pretty difficulty :) The next versions of the ARM processors are freaking sweet!

145. Elrond says:

Santa can you please include dual Gigabit ethernet and USB 3.0 with my next custom made laptop.

146. Ben Coman says:

!!! Check out these guys http://www.embeddedarm.com/products/board-detail.php?product=TS-4800

I’ve been following them for a few years. They provide open access to the schematics for all their products – look under the [Resources] tab.

Perhaps consider partnering with embeddedarm for your kickstarter campaign. They are a long standing legitimate business and proven track record. Or at least subcontract them to design and manufacture for you – and sell the product on an ongoing basis.

147. Travis says:

Oh man, Please do a kickstarter! I would love to get one of these and use it in some industrial robotic applications!

148. bunnie says:

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I’m not sure I can keep up with all of it!

• Andy says:

I’m sure we would all agree to shut up if you would agree to make this a commercial product

• Herve5 says:

Sorry for such a practical question: can we expect that, if you launch the kickstarter, you’ll retrieve all of our emails in the comments here to warn us, or do we need to come back here regularly?
TIA!

• bunnie says:

I don’t collect emails of users to spam them later on, so no. The email field is there mostly because the default wordpress comment template incorporates it, and it’s occasionally helpful if a serious admin issue arises. But as a general rule I will not volitionally disclose, share or otherwise use for commercial purposes emails submitted as part of a comment.

Besides, I’d say a good fraction of the emails submitted are patently fake…

I think though, based on your comment I will try to remember to tweet something if I do a Kickstarter. I don’t like twitter much, and even though I have a “follow me” link, I almost never tweet. But, now that I think about it twitter is a notification system (albeit with an astonishingly low signal to noise ratio), so it would be a correct medium for relaying the message to interested folks, if and when I decide to do something commercial with the Novena design.

• Herve5 says:

I don’t know if you realize what you are pushing me towards :-D

I came here for open-source hardware, and now that’s the first time ever I’m considering registering to a closed-source, ad-oriented twitter service!

I think I’ll wait until tomorrow before really making up my mind on that one ;-)

H.

• Andy says:

I’m not a fan of Kickstarter because it takes 5% of your plegde total and amazon takes 5% for transaction fees, although it is popular and may reach a lot more people.

As for tweeting, don’t bother, just post to hackaday.com. Most of us probably came from there anyway

• Cathal Garvey says:

There’s always selfstarter: http://selfstarter.us/
But then you have to handle all the cash in your own, and refund it if you’re operating on an all-or-nothing basis.

OTOH, if you’re working on an “all donations welcome” basis, then it’s moot; why *not* use selfstarter, in that case.

I’m not naive enough to think bitcoin will do on its own, that’s just silly. But, there will be a *lot* of bitcoiners excited about this and eager to get a laptop with an FPGA onboard, just for the hell/status of it. So I *do* suggest having a bitcoin address for donations, with or without a script to convert to local currency and add to the running total.

I’m still eager to get a truly open-source laptop, this is my second time checking back! Can’t wait to hear more! :)

149. m47730 says:

Impressive work!
In my humble opinion, the interest can only grow around “novena” (good name, in italian sounds very cool).

I’m hoping you can build a sort of motherboard skeleton and follow more closely the recent innovation, for example, nowadays port USB3.0 are common in new laptop, etc.
But if you put on some kind of good stuff (two ethernet in a laptop are too useful for network debugging), you can achieve a kickstart goal very soon (i think the cost of this laptop must be 1000EUR max to be successful)

What i’d like on a laptop: a wireless keyboard (that plug-in and out of chassis), a battery hot-plug, a space for two sata disk.

Sorry for my english.

Good luck!

150. Chris says:

Well it might not be a mobile chip but the HD4000 in my i5 (lifebook ah523) is a fantastic cpu/gpu (can’t believe I’m shouting the praise of an intel gpu – at last they get it!)

power seems ok I get a good 5+ hours and the whole thing doesn’t weigh a ton !

for me needing a binary blob for 2d/3d makes a design one built round closed technology…

I just wish more companies saw the light like Intel have…

151. The Doctor says:

If I can get my hands on one of these, I’m building it into a C=64 chassis.

152. amigabill says:

Hey, I’m not the only one crazy enough to want to do my own laptop… Though my interests demand I look to PowerPC. I’d take an existing PC laptop and clone the motherboard form factor in that though. I can do electronics, but I’m no mechanical CAD guy for casing design… Good luck, and I look forward to seeing more about your project!

153. Hessianerd says:

Id be interested in a kickstarter for the guts, not necessarily a whole laptop. Id want to cut my own case etc.
Integrated FPGA is pretty awesome

154. gnexus says:

I don’t need a laptop. But if this mainboard is made available for under \$100 I will buy many!

155. Tom says:

I’d also be interested if there was a kickstarter

156. dinosath says:

are you able to make the fpga and soc upgradable by adding a 2nd sodimm slot and use the sodimm for the cpu and fpga like the toradex colibri ?

157. Ethan says:

Would definitely pay for a premium, modular, easily hackable linux laptop.

158. Cov says:

Awesome stuff Bunnie! If/when you go the crowdfunding route, I would recommend checking out the software libre Selfstarter project to see if it might serve as a viable alternative crowdfunding platform to the proprietary conventional choices.

http://selfstarter.us/

159. Martin says:

I generally like the idea, however, you should keep the support issues in mind. Btw., I also like the crowdfounding idea.

160. toyotabedzrock says:

You might be able to put together a better battery charging setup via http://www.batteryspace.com/

They have a good amount of info and just about every type of battery cell you could want.

161. i says:

I don’t want to miss the launch!

Publishing a note on this very blog about the launch would work equally well.

162. dinosath says:

is it possible to create a pc with arm and x86 like cupp? for example a motherboard with 2 so dimm slots,1 for ram and 1 for an arm computer on module( like toradex colibri t30),a x86 module( size of a 2,5 inch hdd) and have the fpga control the flow of data for wifi hdd,ssd,ram,display etc. Is it possible to share the ram,wifi and hdd?
I want to get the cupp punk this module but i hate the fact that its so large for that little performance

ps. i know many of you wont approve of this idea because x86 is close source but i think many would like to have a open souce arm based laptop to run linux and do most of their work there and just open the x86 module for gaming..just saying:-)

163. ijustloveit says:

Please provide 4 usb plugs (no matter 3.0 or 2.0). but ONLY 3 usb to much often are not enough. place 2 left side, 2 right side. (and not place them “glued” one to the other, left space in between (all fuked laptop producer place usb SO NEAR one tho the other so only mouse/keyboard can be plugged… hey! my usb wireless card/memory stick/whatever is more fat that a stuplid mouse plug! it need more space!!) and no: to use a usb cable extender is NOT a solution.

164. Something I’ve often wanted was the ability to use the screen mouse and keyboard of my laptop as external peripherals for other computers… So when you wander into a server farm or are building a new server, or visiting a customer to do something on their headless machine when their networking support has broken, you don’t need to lug a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse as well as your laptop!

Seems like that would be a neat feature for a “geeks” laptop.

Cheers and good luck with the project.

• Munuel Nostrom says:

As most of my work gets into embedded I have decided mo move imto the following configuration for most of my needs when am out of the office.

Am using right now a combination of small servers based on Beagleboard, Beaglebone and Pandaboards, with the ocasional multicore SBC and android dongles. When I need to get into console am using a Motorola lapdock which by the way can power up your ARM via OTG.

So am thinking like something equivalent to this, being able to unplug the hdmi and usb’s HDI and plug it into another target,

Definetely I like yoru approach, the Lapdock got a very low-middle class keyboard

165. Graham Reeds says:

I’ve always wanted a laptop with ergonomic natural keyboard…

166. kickstart_this says:

…yes if you start a kickstart campaign, count me in for atleast ONE of those laptops.

and GL building your Openhardware Laptop, (even with some of those closed-cource blobs)?
I wonder whatever happened to the old “OGD1” project, although that was for a PC/Desktop ? I guess, onlt fpga, no GPU amd/nvidia completely won’t open anything like that.
But that, to me, as already mentioned by many others, would really be the holy-grail, and everything else would just “Open” right up, hardware-wise.
… but then I woke up !
;)

pheww, that is a lotta work fer sure,
but hey, Seriously, buunie , all-the-best in your Laptop project.

167. John Gilmore says:

Given all the good crypto that we’ll need to run to keep this open hardware safe and open and yet un-tampered with and un-surveilled, please include a hardware random number generator on the board, if there isn’t already one in the ARM chipset.

(You can skip including “crypto accelerators” — usually in a real system they’re slower than doing it in software, plus you provided an FPGA anyway. But it’s hard to make a reliable RNG out of circuits designed to be fiercely deterministic. I suspect that using several rings of free-running flipflops in the FPGA to generate randomness would produce results that could fail, depending on the layout of the circuitry inside the FPGA.)

168. Eric Herman says:

I would certainly be willing to pay extra for an open hardware system such as this.

The idea of a kit is also a fun one, although this is much more ambitious than my limited SMT experience.

Please keep up the hard work!

169. Flemming Richter says:

I too would be very proud if I could have such a laptop.

Good luck with all future bug fixing and kernel hacking!

I hope this well be possible to buy and I don’t mind paying extra for something so awesome

170. lineber says:

Just imagine if Linus Tovalds would have posted his original message saying that he was going to develop an open source operating system by himself and everybody should wait a year. We wouldn’t have the Linux kernel.

I would contribute to a kickstart, if this project was openly develop, with schematics and all. Also, it would be better if it was a community development.

That being said, I like the hacker feel that this project has. It sounds like a great idea. Hope you succeed at it.

• kickstart_this says:

well even “if” that would have happened, we still would have had all the *BSD’s.
:)
can’t stop Freedom.

• simon says:

the BSDs have a difference license where companies take and never give back. Linux demands modifications be contributed. Companies are free to use the BSDs yet they still prefer Linux even though they have to give up their code and lose any competitive edge(they gain competitive edge from using Linux). Go figure.

171. Wolfgang says:

@lineber: Have a look at http://www.kosagi.com/w/index.php?title=Novena_Main_Page for all the schematics, gerbers and altium files. There’s also a link to some firmware there, but I did not look into this yet.

What do you mean with “community development”? Look at all the comments above – there are too many contradictory wishes to get a common settlement for everybody. (Furthermore, being blunt, some comments and ideas imply that people either did not think about what their wishes would have for consequences or even have no idea about electrical design and/or manufacturing…) I trust Bunnie much more in this, and if you can argue reasonably, I am quite sure he is open to suggestions for improvement.

What’s left? I would also love to see a kickstarter project, but I guess that either Bunnie wants to make sure the design works before starting one, or he is worried about it being a success because of all the different needs/wishes people have for this device…

172. Laptop says:

I would like to suggest make bit more difference between the two usb ports. Because when we plug another usb device there is always conflict

173. VSaxena says:

I would go with something better than a Cortex A9. That’s the same type of CPU used in tablets these days :-).

174. Many thanks for making the effort to discuss this, I feel strongly about this and love learning a great deal more on this topic. If possible, as you gain knowledge, would you mind updating your website with a great deal more details? It’s very helpful for me.

Hello, i think that i noticed you visited my web site so i came to return the choose?.I am attempting to find issues to improve my website!I assume its adequate to make use of some of your ideas!!

176. Nick says:

Yeah, I’d be into you doing a kickstarter for one of these. I’d back!

177. Ed says:

Great idea. I’ve been following for a couple months and here are a few thoughts.

-Are UHS-I devices available without a binary blob? I haven’t been following SD Cards of late. I’d very much like to see the external reader be UHS-I.

-Is there a way to pull analog video off any of the output devices without numerous dongles? I’ve yet to see a conference room without a VGA only connector in North or South America, or Japan. (travel for a living)
(ok not 100% true. Apple actually had some, as did TI)

-dual ethernets seem like a waste of layout space for the 100M connector. Just my feeling.

-DDR3 so-dimms top out currently at what? 8GB? Next design you might think of doubling up on sockets while the industry screws around not making large dimms or controllers.

-Is there isn’t a do-not-exceed for pwm for the cpu? Or an overall thermal design plan? Routing heat from the FPGA and SoC look odd with the IO ports, unless you move to over the mPCIe card? still odd.

-I like the idea of the battery control card, but the #1 field failure for laptops is the power connector. leverage from the barrel tends to break the solder joints on the internal side. Apple solved this nicely, but I’m guessing there are other ways to do this. without insane licensing fees.

-board needs some higher speed standardized IO to match up with the DSP FPGA you’ve chosen. Doing direct with it’s analog or digital are rather clunky on a laptop.

-Kickstarter seems like a waste of % to make this into a reality for many folks. There are more viable options now.

• simon says:

8GB seems plenty…this is an ARM board after all.

178. JeffR says:

What’s the status on this project? Is it still active? Very interested!

179. Hmm, cool stuff, seems a bit outdated but it works. Hopefully some of the Raspberry Pi stuff gets easier to do. Some crazy projects

180. Portatili says:

nice project, nice job..I would like to contribute if you wish on this job.

181. Robert Taylor says:

Just. Awesome.

I am in. I don’t care what you charge for this, I want one.

I will keep an eye on the blog, but I wish you would setup some type of signup form online to ease the tracking of the project. It would give you a chance to do a bit of market research as well in a more direct way.

Also, congrats on getting this out the door. This is a big project, and I am glad to see it come to fruition.

182. Bruce says:

Looks great, bunnie!

It appears to be gaining its own momentum.
Is there anything that can be done to help?
I’d love to contribute.
Bruce

183. Hasjim Williams says:

Not sure if you have seen these:

Similar concept, but with Cortex-A9 and the FPGA on the same die.

184. daniel tygel says:

Why not doing like the fairphone (http://fairphone.com/)? They opened up for preordering, and when they received the money for 5 thousand fairphones, they finally starting producing…

I mean, people like me would be glad to pre-buy the laptop as an investment for you to keep this open source laptop project running up to the final product. I don’t mind waiting 1 or 1.5 years for receiving it!

We must break through the corporate world dominating high technology with their hidden patents: long live the open source philosophy!

185. Nick says:

Do a kickstarter, i am with you

186. Chethan says:

congrats on getting this out the door. This is a big project, and I am glad to see it & I have one suggestion Can You Add a USB 3.0 Port

187. Thorsten Wallner says:

hi
it also has UMTS

• Thorsten Wallner says:

hi
it also has Windows XP professional

188. any idea when they’ll start making raspberry pi’s that run android? :P

189. intilop says:

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