Project Novena (open source laptop)


ghostpatch

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Just stumbled across this article: http://makezine.com/magazine/building-an-open-source-laptop/

A few awesome people are building an open source/open hardware laptop. Meaning there's hardware documentation, no binary blobs etc. - all the good stuff. Its using a Freescale i.MX6 Quad SoC. They made a few nice design decisions, besides using off the shelf parts, like including an FPGA, two ethernet ports and an LCD adapter (which lets you connect a variety of LCDs to my understanding). The best thing is, they are planning a crowd funding campaign late Febuary or March! I'm so gonna buy it,... probably ; ) 

Novena man page: http://www.kosagi.com/w/index.php?title=Novena_Main_Page

novena_full-e1389122192543.jpg


novena_lab.jpg


novena_pop_clean_sm.jpg


novena_back_sm.jpg


the board looks pretty "end of the world military grade gear"...  he he ; )
 
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canseco

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Prototypes are always ugly, ;)

Sounds great, i want to see how ends up the design of the final case.
 

Hồng Thất Công

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What's the point of open-source laptop?  Can't you already install linux on any kind of laptop out there now?  Open-source handheld is a different matter, me thinks.
 

SNESFAN

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Hardware with open source drivers. Its for free software people I'm thinking. Agree it looks ugly as shit. A more modular standard for laptops is desperately needed though. Don't think this project is going to change that issue in the long run, but still pretty cool.
 
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Granitehead

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Ugly. The only word I can think of :/
That's why I would like a "dislike" button.

I've seen this project before quite a long time ago, need to look closer to see how much it has progressed since then.

But "no binary blobs" doesn't mean what you think it does. Because it does need binary blobs in practice (GPU+W-LAN), it's just possible to go without them if your name is Richard Stallmann and you're okay living without Wifi and a graphics card.
 
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Granitehead

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afaik, the "stallmanbook" doesn't need any blobs at all.
I didn't find anything called Stallmanbook, so I assume you meant this one or the laptop Stallman owns. I'm pretty sure I once read about the latter, if I remember right it's very outdated and he has to do without a lot of features which Novena has even when you go without binary blobs.
 

ghostpatch

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That's why I would like a "dislike" button.
you dislike it because the prototype is not all shiny and "bling bling" enough? xD

But "no binary blobs" doesn't mean what you think it does. Because it does need binary blobs in practice (GPU+W-LAN), it's just possible to go without them if your name is Richard Stallmann and you're okay living without Wifi and a graphics card.
There's an open source driver project for the Vivante GPUs called Etnaviv. Its far form beeing usable but they need to reverse engineer the whole thing. Recently its making progress a lot faster.

The wlan module is optional and WLAN chips without blobs exist. I'm sure you can have blob free WLAN somehow

it depends on what you need or want it for. I give you that. Its ceranly no good for anything that need GPU power. However I'd like to use it in combination with a Oixel Qi screen for reading, writing and so on, in broad daylight. http://www.adafruit.com/products/1303
 
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Granitehead

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That's why I would like a "dislike" button.
you dislike it because the prototype is not all shiny and "bling bling" enough? xD
No, I would like to be able to "dislike" Wallys post. :-D

Yeah, I guess free W-LAN is possible somehow.

What I wanted to say is that it's just not really practical to live without binary blobs (yet). And I'm a practical person.
 

fusion_power

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It really looks like an Open Source Laptop at least!  :D  Not really water-proof but let's hope it is not the final state of the Design.

However, the (for me) most interesting part - the GPU- seems to be still so closed that they had to use Software rendering instead of real hardware accelerated graphics to keep their open source philosophy intact.

Why are the "cool" stuffs like graphics, GPU etc always closed source?
 

ghostpatch

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No, I would like to be able to "dislike" Wallys post. :-D
pardon me, I misunderstood you there ; )

What I wanted to say is that it's just not really practical to live without binary blobs (yet). And I'm a practical person.
I disagree, or you must be reffering to the ARM eco system? In the x86 world Intel has the best open source graphics drivers for Linux (they don't have a proprietary one). You get decent performance. Video accelaration is no problem and some basic gaming is possible too.

Why are the "cool" stuffs like graphics, GPU etc always closed source?
two reasons:

  1. they want to prtotect their special knowledge. GPUs a very complex and its a hard fought market

  2. they don't want to be sued! Keeping your stuff closed is often a good way to protect you agianst patent claims. Just look at the smartphone

     clone court wars xD
 
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Granitehead

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What I wanted to say is that it's just not really practical to live without binary blobs (yet). And I'm a practical person.
I disagree, or you must be reffering to the ARM eco system? In the x86 world Intel has the best open source graphics drivers for Linux (they don't have a proprietary one). You get decent performance. Video accelaration is no problem and some basic gaming is possible too.
Well, what if I want to do something more advanced than basic gaming, say CAD or advanced gaming?

I also doubt that I could find the source code of my mainboard's BIOS if I tried, are there even any open source mainboards which are readily available? I guess that's no "binary blob", strictly speaking, but it's still a part of my system which doesn't really belong to me.
 

slaeshjag

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BIOS? There's coreboot for some motherboards.

Intel graphics drivers works OK mostly. They have a tendency to crash my X-server once in a while when I'm working in kicad though.
 

ghostpatch

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Well, what if I want to do something more advanced than basic gaming, say CAD or advanced gaming?
waiting for better days...  I suppose... : p    isn't that more desktop/workstation class stuff anyway?

I also doubt that I could find the source code of my mainboard's BIOS if I tried, are there even any open source mainboards which are readily available? I guess that's no "binary blob", strictly speaking, but it's still a part of my system which doesn't really belong to me.
My Acer c720 got coreboot/SeaBIOS which is open source. I think chromebooks have that in common. Just got it and I'm happy with its cpu/gpu performance. I'm still in the process of testing Ubuntu, Debian and ArchLinux on it.

Edit: So the thing about the Novena is more the open hardware perspective
 
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Granitehead

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Didn't know about coreboot - but from a short glance at the docs it doesn't seem easy to try it. There are few mainboards in the compatibility list and from what I understand if mine is not in there I probably need to code support for mine in manually, which isn't recommended if you are no C coder. That's not what I'd call "practical". Might take a further look at it anyway.

Well, what if I want to do something more advanced than basic gaming, say CAD or advanced gaming?
waiting for better days...  I suppose... : p    isn't that more desktop/workstation class stuff anyway?
In the case of CAD, I guess yes, but I wasn't talking just about mobile devices anyway.

There is just always something for which there is no good open source program. Drivers, specialized software (say AutoCAD-like programs), games, etc.
 

fusion_power

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two reasons:

  1. they want to prtotect their special knowledge. GPUs a very complex and its a hard fought market

  2. they don't want to be sued! Keeping your stuff closed is often a good way to protect you agianst patent claims. Just look at the smartphone

     clone court wars xD
Yes, of course they have reasons to keep their knowledge save. It's just sad that this behaviour sometimes prevents users to have the full advantage of their Hardware. But as long as the closed source drivers are good, this is not an general enduser issue.This open Source Laptop has enough power for software (video) acceleration ( I have read this in a german article about the device where the GPU driver issue was mentioned -> http://www.golem.de/news/novena-open-source-laptop-fuer-hacker-1401-103841.html). So this seems to be also no problem for this special Laptop. They wrote they did not used the binary blob Vivante GC2000 GPU driver to keep their full open source philosophy.
 
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