Would you buy a high-end laptop built completely around open hardware and the Linux distro of your choice?
Novena offers that opportunity, but it comes with an out-of-the-box experience that might be beyond the reach of the typical computer consumer.
That said, the Novena laptop’s experimental technology has the potential to offer new options to a sluggish computer industry. Novena is an open-hardware computing platform that is flexible and powerful. It is designed for use as a desktop, laptop or standalone board.
Two engineers cofounded Sutajio Ko-usagi, an operations-oriented company focused on the manufacturing and sales of hardware to OEMs and hobbyists.
Huang teamed up with cofounder Sean “Xobs” Cross to change the market with a transparent notebook made of open source components. The concept started as an experiment in a make-it-yourself computer line. The niche offering is gathering momentum, however.
“One big advantage to building a fully open source laptop is the knowledge that manufacturers did not alter the design of the hardware to introduce security risks,” Huang told LinuxInsider.
Huang and Cross obtained financing for their startup’s operations
through crowdfunding on Crowd Supply. The Novena campaign ended May 18, after raising US$717,285 — far surpassing its $250,000 goal.
The engineers have tested the prototype, and pre-orders are coming in. They expect to start shipping by November or December of this year, according to Huang.
The Novena computers laptops are being manufactured by a contractor with whom they have worked previously. The distribution is being handled by Crowd Supply.
That is one of the advantages over funding through Kickstarter, said Huang.
Novena is a 1.2-GHz Freescale quad-core ARM architecture computer closely coupled with a Xilinx FPGA. It is designed for users who care about the free software and open source movement. It also targets users who want to modify and extend their hardware.
All the documentation for the printed circuit boards is open source and thus free to download. The entire OS can be built from source. Plus, it comes with a variety of features that facilitate rapid prototyping.
The i.MX processor family encompasses a quad-core platform running up to 1.2 GHz with 1 MB of L2 cache and 64-bit DDR3 or 2-ch. 32-bit LPDDR2 support. Integrated FlexCAN, MLB busses, PCI Express and SATA-2 provide excellent connectivity. The integration of LVDS, MIPI display port, MIPI camera port and HDMI v1.4 makes it an ideal platform for leading-edge consumers, automotive and industrial multimedia applications.
The Spartan-6 LXT FPGAs deliver up to eight 3.2-Gbps GTP transceivers and an integrated PCI Express Endpoint block. Both of these components are derived from Virtex FPGA family technology. They provide low-risk and low-cost solutions for serial connectivity.
Of course, this technology is probably much more high end than the typical Linux user needs. However, beyond hobbyist bragging rights, the Novena computer configuration could offer a computing solution not found anywhere else in the market — and it is open source technology.
Idea Kernel Grew Fast
When Huan first ventured into working with hardware, his efforts were fueled by the availability of schematics for his Apple II computers. He revisited that thrill by building a laptop of his own design from the ground up.
Last year, the two engineers gave a presentation at a conference where the idea for their own hardware surfaced. Interest in the project grew from there.
They built all the circuit boards. They built the chassis and everything that goes with it up to the operating system level. All of it is open hardware.
If You Build It, Will They Come?
Open source hardware has another benefit. That is, if you can hack it yourself, you own it. The laptop design includes everything a hands-on computer hacker would want to enhance and use his equipment, according to Huang and Cross.
Their reference to “hacker” refers to computer hobbyists who make innovative customizations to computer equipment.
The two decided to build an open hardware computing platform originally as a hobby. Both computer engineers, Huang and Cross spent their workdays designing equipment for other companies. They wanted to build a system for themselves for a change.
The Novena computer family has four models. All of them are built around a unique design. Still, they are not what an ordinary everyday consumer might want.
The screen uses a self-opening construction that lets users open the case easily to access the hardware under the keyboard.
The options are pricey, Huang acknowledged.
“The prices are a bit higher than you would normally expect to pay. Our customers are willing
Article source: http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/80684.html?rss=1