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      I know that new “open” laptops are still available, but most of them–the System76’s, the Purisms, etc.–are overpriced in my opinion.

      While I agree the current direction is sad, we are probably not going to buck any trends, without putting our money where our values are shared.

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        Also, the reason why those are overpriced is in huge part because economies of scale are rigged towards the big ones. Those machines are special, but in a market where no one wants a special machine. (reasonably so)

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          I completely agree. I think we need to get used to the idea, that our general-purpose needs are not going to be the cheapest option available.

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            As long as the option remains available, I’m happy. I am certainly willing to pay a premium for “niche features” like privacy and ownership of the stuff I bought.

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              The problem is that “niche” features are always on the cutting block when companies decide to “streamline” their products.

              If privacy and ownership are niche, this civilization is doomed.

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                I was not talking about niche at all. You can realistically imagine a totally FOSS machine that you can flash to your hearts will that is of similar quality and featureset of say - a Lenovo thinkpad. (TBH, I’d buy that, I don’t need anything beyond what the hardware gives me) It’s a question of investing the labor and being in for the long game.

                The problem is that you will always have to cross the chasm where your machine will not be able to sell a lot of units, meaning that your production price will sharply rise.

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      This seems to be mostly about avoiding SecureBoot, but SecureBoot is not ‘security theatre’, it’s a useful feature for avoiding persistent malware. Most vendors either include some non-Microsoft signing certs or allow you to install your own and provide interfaces for enabling and disabling specific certs. If you install your own certificate and disable all of the others then your machine can boot only bootloaders that you have signed. GRUB supports SecureBoot (although recently had an embarrassing vulnerability) so you can also configure GRUB to boot only images that you have loaded. You can then use this boot chain to get an attestation for the TPM so that it will release your disk encryption keys only to an OS image that you trust can see the contents of your disk.

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        IMHO the threat of malware has never been great enough to want to kill hackability in order to avoid it.

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          It doesn’t kill hackability. You can still install whatever OS you want. At worst, you disable SecureBoot and you’re back where you started, at best you (or some other entity that you trust, such as the FreeBSD Foundation, Red Hat, or Canonica) signs your bootloader and you have a working SecureBoot flow.

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          Or you just sign your own code with your own signature…

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        The idea of secureboot may be nice. But the reality is that I’ve had to disable it on every system. Because it won’t boot linux. Or because, as I had to find out on a brand new laptop with a Ryzen 5 after fiddling with drivers (new chip) and reinstalling 2 times: the WiFi chip won’t work or react until secureboot is disabled.(So it boots linux but my hardware is broken..) And when I disabled secureboot, I had to agree to some kind of TPM erasure. Hopefully this didn’t delete the (embedded) Windows OEM license if my friend ever wants to use it. Disabling secure boot re-enabled the wifi chip and I didn’t need any PPA.

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      This article needs the tag rant as while it delivers some interesting points it also oversimplifies and exaggerates heavily. Just to name a few silver linings:

      • Linux support of many Laptop vendors is good (Lenovo, Dell). Recently both added out of the box Linux support
      • Open source software in many places has replaced proprietary software (Web, Code editors, data processing)
      • Many companies (especially Microsoft) embrace open source and don’t try to fight it anymore. I mean Microsoft is a Linux kernel contributor now and operates more Linux than Windows servers. Think about it.
      • Linux gaming of AAA is now easily possible thanks to proton
      • RISC V is very promising and some say it will replace other architectures all together
    4. 8

      Counterpoint on thin: After years of using ThinkPads, I’m much happier with my MacBook Air as a laptop. I don’t need ports or performance on the go, I want battery life and lightness. It’s nice having a laptop I can lift effortlessly with one hand. The MBA makes appropriate compromises for a laptop; one of the few things I miss from my ThinkPad is a nub. If it’s your only system, then it probably isn’t an appropriate choice, but I have faster computers (my desktop at home and many servers) if I need more .

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        One of the authors points is that companies are trying to take away computing power on move it to their cloud. Working on a beefy server in a data center somewhere is kinda similar though. In the end, it is (most likely) not your computer you can’t be sure nobody is interfering with.

        Not that I am not guilty of doing it myself.

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          Does that really hold true for Apple though, who doesn’t have their own cloud business? I mean, most of the laptop hardware manufacturer’s aren’t directly involved in cloud services either, so I’m not sure that argument holds up. It’s not like most aren’t still offering beefy ‘portable workstation’ types, it’s just a tradeoff of battery/portability and power.

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            This point might not be true for Apple, however they are going in a direction which is problematic in other ways: To me it feels like macOS is becoming more restricted with every major OS release. My guess is that sooner or later they will take away the possibility to run unsigned code on their computers. My prediction is that with the advent of ARM Macs iOS and macOS will eventually merge into the same product, leaving you with a powerful device and not a computer anymore.

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              Given how many of the MBP devices get sold to developers, I think it’s unlikely they’ll restrict unsigned code entirely. They will almost certainly make it more of a pain, but tbh, I’m personally fine with that. The “average” Mac OS user generally needs their hand held and is better served having safety nets to prevent them from doing something dangerous. Power users, who know what they’re doing, can figure out the mechanisms to do whatever they want. iOS and Mac OS may merge in the future, but I think it would result in iOS becoming more ‘open’ than Mac OS being more closed. Even the most recent releases of iOS have things like scripting automation, (finally!) decent file handling, changing default browser (still webkit afaik, uhg), etc..

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          I have that computing power at home. I can SSH into it, or if I’m at home, just use it, right there.

          You’d be surprised how performant low voltage designs can be anyways.

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            Some people don’t feel comfortable or cannot afford to leave their computer running 24/7

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              So that’s when you leave a rpi running 24/7, hooked up to a USB-controlled finger which presses a key on your desktop’s keyboard and wakes it up when you want to ssh to it

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        Nothing portable about having to carry an additional “real” keyboard around …

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          I’ve never needed to carry around a keyboard. Unless you actually have a disability that prevents you from using a traditional keyboard layout, I actually like the keyboard on my ThinkPads and don’t think mechanical keyboards are a huge leap. The MBA is a slight downgrade on that front, but it’s perfectly usable.

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            I think the previous commenter is talking about Mac keyboards vs external keyboards. Employer requires me to use a Mac, and I’ve used the built-in keyboard for maybe thirty hours, and it’s starting to act weird already.

            While I’m able to write code on my personal ThinkPad keyboard, the work Mac keyboard sacrifices usability for smaller size to the point that I find it unusable. I think that’s what the previous poster is trying to say.

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              And you are so right. What a horrendous keyboard (and laptop in general). I’m shocked and disgusted by how bad it is.

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      ergonomics is another reason to use desktop computers, if you actually care about looking at a monitor at the correct height and typing on an input device that won’t kill your wrists, desktops make a lot more sense. The laptops I use at work are just really crappy portable desktops, at least, how I use them.

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        Yeah, due to my history w/ RSI, using a laptop for any extended duration (> 2 hours or so) is really not viable. When you give up the goal of “mobile computing” it really stops making sense having a laptop. I have one that I bring with me on work trips and whatnot (granted, those won’t be happening for a while). My desktop was cheap to build, is incredibly powerful (which is great when working in compiled environments), upgradeable at actual consumer prices. As you mentioned, I also invested in building a desktop that is ergonomic and comfortable. The whole thing was (desktop, peripherals, monitor, desk) was less than the price of a premium Macbook.

        I think laptops are great and have an important place for a majority of users, but it’s worth raising that the alternatives are real and viable.

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        Most laptops have a way to plug in an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Then your desktop computer and your portable computer are the same thing.

        In fact, despite being a computer nerd, I decided years ago that I would probably not buy another desktop computer. The take up too much space, they are loud, power-hungry, space heaters and can’t be easily shoved into a backpack in one second. The only thing that would have kept me from moving in this direction is the expandability of the typical tower. But these days, practically all accessories are USB. And I’m not a gamer or bitcoin miner, so I don’t need a high-end CPU or GPU with liquid cooling.

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      This is … not new. Here’s Cory Doctorow with a presentation from 2012 https://www.theverge.com/2012/1/2/2677097/cory-doctorow-28c3-war-on-general-computation

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      I don’t understand why the author styled this site so that the text is ABSOLUTELY GINORMOUS. This makes it very hard to read. Thankfully browsers these days (for now) still allow users to adjust this relatively easily.

      But aside from that, my impression is that the author doesn’t seem to understand what UEFI is. I mean, it has its problems (the main one being that it’s not much of a spec when pretty much all of it is optional) but its light-years better than the legacy IBM PC BIOS from the 8088 days that’s at least two decades past retirement. All modern OSes can deal with UEFI, Linux better than most. It doesn’t limit what you can do with your computer.

      And if the author thinks UEFI isn’t already the norm outside the laptop form-factor, he’s in for a rude surprise…

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      This seems to be desktop vs laptop? I’ve never understood why anyone buys a laptop to put on a desk, plug into the wall, and leave there 98% of the time. It’s just a more expensive and less flexible desktop at that point.

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        I’ve had that setup a few times. Usually for minimalism purposes - if I don’t need the computational power of a desktop, a single laptop (+ charger) makes for less clutter. And it’s still good that 2% of the time you want to take it somewhere, you can do so easily (without owning a desktop + laptop).

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        I don’t think many people with a laptop have it plugged in or docked 98% of the time. For those that do, maybe it’s extremely valuable to have a laptop for that other 2% of the time.

        My laptop is docked at my desk all day but when I go on a trip, I just grab the thing, I don’t have to worry about whether my work is copied over to it or pushed up into the cloud. I’m not a gamer or a bitcoin miner so I don’t need a ridiculous CPU or GPU, or water cooling, or colored case lights come to think of it.

        My last “desktop” computer currently sits unplugged under my desk. I haven’t gotten rid of it because it makes an excellent foot rest.

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        I took my laptop home from the office when on call. Barring that work requirement, I’d happily live without a laptop these days.

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      UEFI seems to me to have been more about locking Linux out of the laptop market to ensure that Microsoft Windows remained dominant

      I’ve seen this repeated often enough that I’ll just start calling it for what it is: a stupid conspiracy theory with not a single shred of evidence for it.

      Linux people: “you need to sign your software and packages, otherwise it’s not secure!”

      Also Linux people: “ZOMG! This OS signing is horrible evil plot from Microsoft to subjugate us all!!!”

      I am hoping that building a desktop computer with my choice of motherboards will allow me to avoid Trusted Platform Module chips and UEFI in which secure boot cannot be disabled.

      Almost all systems allow just disabling secure boot (or all? I can’t readily find any systems where you can’t disable it) and most systems allow “legacy BIOS mode” too if you just want to skip the whole UEFI shebang altogether.

      Either way, the firmware on desktop mainboards are pretty much the same as those on laptops, so this is a very poor reason for getting a desktop instead of a laptop.

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      Not to even mention these shitty island type keyboards in all laptops.

      From all features of pre 2012-NOW laptops the REAL KEYBOARD is what I miss the most.

      I really hoped that Lenovo will make something more from its 25th Anniversary Edition ThinkPad (some name id T25) but from what I know only 5000 pieces were made and finito. Or ar least that Lenovo will PERMANENTLY provice a classic/retro ThinkPad with every new generation with REAL KEYBOARD.

      That is why I still use 2011 ThinkPad W520 and ThinkPad X220 - to have REAL USABLE KEYBOARD with REAL PGUP/PGDN HOME/END INS/DEL keys block in the top right space.

      Future looks very dark since years in the laptop space.

      The more I look into laptop computing (and often computing in general) the more only single word stands out.

      D I S S A P O I N T E D

    11. 3

      I mean, thinness is a proxy for weight, and reducing the weight of a portable computer is a perfectly defensible thing to do. If you don’t want to pay the cost for portability, don’t. I hate using laptops, myself, but am space constrained at home, so I have a laptop. It is slower, less expandable, and less pleasant to use than a desktop would be, but we don’t live in a world without compromises.

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        You can have a thick light laptop, it just has to have a lot of air inside. :) The structural plastic doesn’t weigh much.

        Advantage of a laptop like that (e.g. cheap Clevo white box laptops) is it’s relatively easy to poke around inside.

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          Oh sure, yeah. I was just trying to get at the point that all computers have compromises in their design, and you need to make your decision based on where you personally fall in that n-dimensional matrix of shittitude.

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            My opinion at present is heavily influenced by the fact that my father and I recently took apart a HP laptop to upgrade the ram and storage in it, and it was an absolute nightmare to do. Every single part was tiny, fiddly and delicate. Argh. :)

            It was also disappointing: the space savings from engineering it like this added up to less than a cm, the weight savings added up to nowt. For all this effort, it was still miles from being able to challenge even a MacBook Pro for thinness.

            Does anyone even look at the thickness of a laptop before buying it? Aside from the small but affluent market segment that buys every single MBAir iteration. I kind of assume most people just look at the headline numbers: screen size, specs, price and weight.

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      it occurs to me that for many of us infoslaves (i’m mostly kidding with that term), with the new normal of possibly being remote permanently, a desktop rig makes more sense right now for price/performance. unless you’re on a mac.

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        My workplace only issues laptops to employees, the main reason being that most of us don’t want to be chained to our desks all day long. Being able to bring your laptop into a meeting is a huge advantage, and until recent events, lots of us would spend at least half the day working from random places in the building.

        I have a laptop at home that is docked most of the time but when I want to take it downstairs and work on the couch just to be in the same room as my wife, then I’m very happy to have it.

        Desktops have always been cheaper price/performance wise. But they also take up more space, consume more power, and are generally louder. (This doesn’t hold for small form-factor boxes, but those tend to be priced similarly to laptops.)

        unless you’re on a mac.

        In which case we assume price was never much of a factor ;)

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        Yep - that’s my experience. My desktop has more ram and less thermal throttling than a similar price laptop. When I don’t need portability (and that has been the case for some months and will be so for some more), it’s a huge win.

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      The mobile stylesheet makes this very hard to read because lines are just 20-25 characters long. In typography, there is such a thing as “too big”.

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      The larger workstation ThinkPads do have swappable batteries, both my P50 and my P52 have 90mAh batteries I can easily swap out. I carry a spare charged battery in my laptop bag. I will also say that both of my ThinkPads need that extra battery since I chose the Xeon option with the max RAM option.

      As I’ve said before, I prefer doing offline development as much as possible. That means I choose laptops that are effectively a desktop replacement with enough cores, ram, and storage to be useful for several days without an internet connection. I’m still not sure that’s a better choice than a beefy desktop with a light laptop that acts as a thin client, but it works for me as long as I have a power plug.

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      I started to use a Mac Mini this year and it is extremely good experience.

    16. 1

      I’m a couple of years into a return to desktops, after a long stretch with a series of laptops as primary machines. It’s a vast improvement on every front except portability (well, and energy consumption). Ergonomics, performance, extensibility, storage capacity, screen real-estate, Linux compatibility, cost.

      If you’re thinking about it and your lifestyle lets you hold still in one place long enough for it to make sense, do it.