Novena open-hardware laptop nears completion

January 13, 2014 | 11:00

Tags: #andrew-huang #bunnie #bunnie-huang #floss #fpga #laptop #open-hardware

Companies: #arm #freescale #novena #open-source #xilinx

The Novena open-hardware laptop proposed back in 2012 by noted hardware hacker Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang is nearing completion, with the team demonstrating near-complete prototypes of the device.

First unveiled as a very early prototype in December 2012, Novena aims to produce an open-hardware and open-source laptop with features designed to appeal to makers, hackers and tinkerers - as well as those who have a mistrust of off-the-shelf hardware following the Snowden revelations of late. Its original design included a quad-core ARM processor running at 1.2GHz, a Xilinx Spartan 6 field-programmable gate array (FPGA) co-processor and support for DDR3 memory.

Since then, Huang and his team have been beavering away on the project and have finally offered a glimpse of the progress so far in an update on his official blog. 'After over a year and a half of hard work, I’m happy to say our machines are in a usable form,' wrote Huang. 'The motherboards are very reliable, the display is a 13” 2560×1700 (239ppi) LED-backlit panel, and the cases have an endoskeleton made of 5052 and 7075 aluminium alloys, an exterior wrapping of genuine leather, an interior laminate of paper.'

While the design is subject to change from its currently somewhat bulky book-like format, the internal hardware is near-complete including the ability to access all the internal hardware by removing two screws, access to component documentation without a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and the use of off-the-shelf components for everything from the CPU to the batteries - the latter being based on radio control battery packs.

While everything required to build a Novena prototype is available at the official wiki, Huang warns that it won't come cheap. 'Low cost is not an objective,' he explained. 'I’m not looking to build a crippled platform based on some entry-level single-core SoC just so I can compete price-wise with the likes of Broadcom’s non-profit Raspberry Pi platform.'
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