Ex-Chumby employees are building an open laptop

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Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

It may only be at the motherboard stage so far, but this ARM-powered beastie may have promise.

While the documentation is available to make your own, we just hope that they mass produce the things.
(Credit: Studio Kousagi)

Being developed by Andrew "Bunnie" Huang and Sean "xobs" Cross, the project has some cred. Bunnie is known (among other things) for hacking the original Xbox, creating a device that lets you make your own smart TV, and was the hardware lead at Chumby Industries. Xobs was also at Chumby while it still existed, and is writing the firmware for the motherboard right now.

Considering the history of both parties, it should be no surprise that it'll be an "open" laptop, with Huang detailing the progress so far on his own blog.

Codenamed "Novena", it can support a quad-core Cortex A9 1.2GHz CPU, up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM, has a Vivante GC2000 GPU and boots via microSD firmware. Expandability, as you'd expect for a hacker board, is varied. A single SATA 3Gbps port is available, but you get gigabit and 100Mb Ethernet ports, just in case you want to run the board as a router. A mini PCI-Express slot manages things like wireless cards, a UIM slot does mobile broadband and it's got an SD card reader, two USB 2.0 ports, a combined mic/headphone port, an HDMI port and a USB OTG port.

The battery circuitry is split off on to its own daughter board, and should accept up to a 4-cell lithium polymer battery.
(Credit: Studio Kousagi)

There's a bunch of internal features built to support putting the board in a laptop: dual USB 2.0 internal connectors to hook up the keyboard and touch pad, an LVDS connector that will support a monitor resolution of up to 2048x1536, a digital microphone, a 3-axis accelerometer and a resistive touchscreen controller. There is a note that capacitive touchscreens usually come with their own controller, so we're assuming that this can be connected to the board with little issue.

There are also some hacker-friendly features: a Raspberry Pi-compatible expansion header, a Xilinx Spartan-6 CSG324-packaged FPGA with direct connection to the CPU, some UART ports and, quite frankly, a bunch of other interfaces that we have no idea what they're used for.

With what it means to be a laptop ever changing, we'll be interested to see where this one ends up.



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