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.
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