Open Hardware

Carlo E. Prelz fluido at
Wed Aug 15 23:59:35 CEST 2007

	Subject: Re: Open Hardware
	Date: gio 16 ago 07 08:45:37 +1200

Quoting Robin Paulson (robin.paulson at

> i don't have one myself, but the system76 range are designed from the
> ground up to be open, and are supplied with ubuntu installed. they
> have all sorts of options, and the laptops start at $1000
> i have heard plenty of people speak highly of them

I had a look. Their top product - Serval Performance - is a Compal
HEL80. Compal produces barebone laptops, and buying barebone laptops
is apparently the only legal way to obtain an OS-free laptop here in
the Netherlands.

I had bought such a laptop at a small integrator here. Very nice
screen, but the PC was structurally fragile. Thanks to some coffee
being involuntarily spilled into it, the Compal hit an untimely
death. Actually, it may have been repaired, but I decided to find the
way to remove the keyboard myself (there was a sneaky trick I had not
learned) and in the process I literally destroyed the machine.

Since it had been bought a little earlier than a month before, the
same integrator offered, for a little fee, a smaller machine. I could
use the same processor (core duo, T7200), same memory (2GIG), same
disk, same DVD unit, same WiFi card. All these pieces are more or less
standard nowadays. The machine came from a different taiwanese
producer. It is a Uniwill X20II. If I had chosen it first, I could
have saved a lot of money, but that's no reason for despair... ;-)

Clearly the machine is totally different. It has a 12" screen, and it
is thus MUCH smaller. It occupies almost half of the desk
space. Fitting 1280x800 on 12" results in a crisp screen. I would
never buy a 15" screen with the same resolution.

With this processor and memory, the smaller battery lasts a little
over two hours. But where I need to use the laptop I mostly have
access to AC sockets. The machine is VERY portable. I can witness
about its solidity: I have just returned from a 2-month motorbike/tent
tour around Europe, including a 3-week work period in a Croatian
island. This laptop has been working perfectly (I had to unclog the
CPU fan a couple of times...) This mail is written on it.

(Warning: it may well be that the next barebone from Compal is a jewel
and the next one from Uniwill is a lemon. This is a question of
personal luck, I believe).

Practically everything here is supported in Linux. From the last
kernel version I compiled (2.6.23rc2) both disk and memory suspend do
work, at last! The graphic is Intel. Most probably not the fastest for
gaming, but I get bored with games. The OpenGL stuff I write for work
works sufficiently well for testing. And the XWindow driver is open
(with Nvidia and ATI you have to dabble with proprietary drivers).

Buying the machine from an integrator means that you get an empty hard
disk. Which for me saved the nasty chore of emptying it (with the
latest 'normal' laptop I bought, an ASUS, I had cleaned the disk from
the Redmond virus while on the train back from the shop. I still have
the DVD's here, sealed...) 

Compal and Uniwill are not that different from FIC, by the way. FIC
also produces laptops. When my ASUS was stolen I tried to contact FIC,
both in Europe and in Taiwan, to find out whether I could purchase one
of their laptops. Sadly, I received no answer.

All in all, I cannot see much the logic of buying a laptop with Ubuntu
preinstalled. Just download a Ubuntu cd, put it into the cd unit of
your barebone with an empty hard disk, and follow the instructions. I
use Debian, but I understand that now installing Ubuntu is quite

Small integrators, like the one I found here in NL, exist all
around. Search and you will find.

A little bit off-topic, I know. But I hope I may be of help.


  *         Se la Strada e la sua Virtu' non fossero state messe da parte,
* K * Carlo E. Prelz - fluido at             che bisogno ci sarebbe
  *               di parlare tanto di amore e di rettitudine? (Chuang-Tzu)

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