Noted hardware hacker Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang has announced a project to create a home-brew, hacker-friendly laptop computer under an open-source design.
Currently in the prototype stage, Huang's design boasts a Freescale i.MX6 Cortex-A9 ARM-based system-on-chip processor with four cores running at 1.2GHz, along with a Xilinx Spartan 6 field-programmable gate array (FPGA) co-processor and a DDR3 SODIMM slot for memory. The board includes dual-Ethernet - one gigabit port and one 10/100 port - along with HDMI video output, two 1.5A high-current USB 2.0 ports, a micro-SD slot for OS boot, an SD card reader for mass storage, SATA 3.0Gb/s connectivity for high-speed even-masser storage, USB Wi-Fi header, two internal USB headers for keyboard and mouse connectivity, a mini-PCI Express slot, and a USB On-The-Go (OTG) port.
If that sounds like a pretty impressive selection of features, there's more: in addition to the HDMI video output, the board includes an dual-channel LVDS port for a laptop display with USB connectivity for camera, LED backlight and a separate direct-drive port for a resistive touch-screen, which can be bypassed in the event that you're using a capacitive display. The board also includes an in-built digital microphone, three-axis accelerometer, internal amplified speaker drivers, a UIM slot for mobile broadband cards and a headset port compatible with most mobile phone kits.
Oh, but there's yet more: an on-board real time clock is powered by a supercapacitor or optional battery, utility EEPROM chips store crash logs even if power is lost and data corrupted, and the general-purpose input/output (GPIO) capabilities need to be seen to be believed: the board includes eight 12-bit analogue inputs, eight digital input/outputs and eight pulse-width modulation (PWM) outputs all driven by the FPGA, along with a supplemental digital IO port driven by the CPU, three UART serial ports and an extra CPU-driven GPIO header designed to be pin-compatible with the Raspberry Pi.
The unit's battery board, which includes a five-LED status bar and the ability to drive an analogue power meter, charges a three-cell 45Wh battery pack in around an hour. That one-hour charge should, Huang explains, give an average implementation around eight hours of usable power. While Huang has received prototype boards which are already usable as a fully-featured development board, the project looks to create a laptop with a detachable keyboard and trackpad.
If you're hoping that Huang is looking to compete with the Raspberry Pi in a race to the bottom, however, you're going to be disappointed. '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,
' he warns. 'This is a low-volume, hand-crafted laptop made with uniquely open-source components, so the pricing would be consistent with such crafted goods.
More information regarding the prototype, codenamed 'Novena,' is available on the offiical Wiki
, while Huang's comments can be found on his personal blog