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    I found this post by the manufacturer to be rather good: https://mntre.com/media/reform_md/2020-01-18-finishing-reform.html

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      Is the MNT Reform the Most Open Source Laptop, Ever?

      The title changed from a question to a statement when posted here.

      I think the answer to the question is that it’s a tie with the Kosagi Novena: https://www.crowdsupply.com/sutajio-kosagi/novena … although the MNT Reform looks more like a conventional laptop, don’t need to BYO keyboard, etc.

      EDIT: It’s a shame that the specs are so similar to Novena, 5.5 years later:

      • Quad core 1.5GHz Cortex A53 vs Quad core 1.2GHz Cortex A9, meaning 25% more clocks but only 16% more DMIPS (2.3DMIPS/MHz vs 2.5DMIPS/MHz). Maybe supporting ARM64 instructions adds performance for some workloads, though…?
      • Max 4GB of RAM

      Seems like apart from i.MX series there aren’t a lot of “fully open” SoCs that are suitable for this kind of thing. :(

      (EDIT 2: Not meaning to bash on MNT Reform, it’s awesome these projects exist at all… it’s just harder to see how they’ll become successful outside of a few niches. I have a Novena but I’ve rarely used it.)

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        I want to like this thing. The similarities to the Novena really jumped out at me, too. Both in a good way (open-ness) and in a bad way (specifications).

        I think the fact that you can now readily get the PineBook pro makes me less excited about it. Candidly, I’m not convinced this is “more open” than the PineBook Pro. The RockChip SoC can be booted without blobs. And while its battery is not as hackable as a pile of exposed 18650s, the spec sheet for the PineBook pro’s battery is [available here](http://files.pine64.org/doc/datasheet/pinebook/40110175P 3.8V 10000mAh规格书-14.pdf) and the level of detail is impressive.

        I think this:

        But do be prepared for something north of what the $199 PineBook Pro costs. A lot of the elements being used to make up this device are pretty niche and unlikely to be procured in bulk or manufactured cheaply.

        is the real kicker. I’m expecting the PineBook pro to perform well for desktop computing tasks and give me 6 - 8 hours of untethered use. This feels like it’s going to perform like a Pi 3 and give much less autonomy.

        If it were something I could order today and receive in the next few weeks, it’d be easy to imagine a successful niche. But hearing that it’s something that’s about to enter a crowdfunding campaign makes it seem like expecting to get my hands on one in a year would be optimistic.

        I hope I’m missing something big that this device brings to the table. Because like I said, I want to like it. If I’m not, though, this feels like something that I really want to see the next iteration on.

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          not convinced this is “more open” than the PineBook Pro.

          The schematics and PCB design for this (apart from the CPU SoM, I guess) are available under an open license. And probably the mechanical part designs, too? Th ese might not be things a lot of people care about, though?

          The RockChip SoC can be booted without blobs.

          I’m guessing the reasons a rockchip SoC was not used for this is some combination of lack of publicly available hardware docs, harder production sourcing from Europe, and/or not wanting to have to route DDR RAM on the PCB.

          I suppose that making a pin-compatible SoM to replace the current one is not out of the question as an upgrade, though.

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            While I’ve not gone through them with the orientation that I’d like to build a clone, it looks like the schematics are available for the PineBook Pro here: https://wiki.pine64.org/index.php/Pinebook_Pro#Pinebook_Pro_Schematics_and_Certifications

            That even includes an autocad file for the case.

            I’ve not noticed a license on any of those, but I’m not sure how that is important. You don’t need a license to go build more parts from a schematic, as far as I understand it.

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              Oh, nice. I hadn’t seen that. Without the PCB layout files and an open license it’s still didn’t meet the standard of being Open Hardware but it’s pretty good!

              You don’t need a license to go build more parts from a schematic,

              This where things get complex and IANAL. But, without the PCB design files you can’t make more parts from the schematic anyhow (the wiki has the silkscreen markings but not the rest of the design).

              If you created your own PCB design based on the schematic or an updated/improved schematic then these might be a “derived work” of the original schematic, in which case the license becomes important.

              If you use the information in the original schematic to create a whole new design from scratch then you can likely avoid licensing issues in the original schematic, but this is a lot more work than deriving from an open design.

              There’s also the question of patents which is how hardware is traditionally protected. Without a patent license you have no guarantee of immunity from parent infringement. Although probably Pine don’t own any relevant patents.

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                Without the PCB layout files and an open license it’s still didn’t meet the standard of being Open Hardware but it’s pretty good!

                Yeah, I should have put that caveat in my first reply… While I’m acutely aware of the conditions that make something libre or open source software, I mostly lack that awareness on the hardware front. Things that make hardware feel open to me are:

                1. Ability to use it without blobs
                2. Enough documentation to program it using free software
                3. Enough documentation to repair it myself
                4. Enough documentation to extend it myself

                All that said… can you point me to something on the web that would be a good primer in open hardware licensing (and related) concerns for someone who’s very experienced in developing free software? I’d be particularly interested in what constitutes a useful form of PCB design files.

                I am expecting to receive my pinebook pro today. I think I’m going to wish that this thing exposed some more GPIO. If that pans out, I’m planning to ask someone at pine how that could happen. (All evidence suggests that they like that kind of thing a lot, and would engage happily on a question like that.) If one answer is “build your own board with a header that exposes that” I’d love to know what I should ask for to make this most useful from an open hardware perspective. This feels like a real opportunity with a company that’s demonstrably good at shipping real, hacker-friendly stuff in quantity and likes to engage with the community. If we can ask in a way they can easily act on, I’d not be shocked if they just turn around and do it.

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                  Hi hoistbypetard,

                  can you point me to something on the web that would be a good primer in open hardware licensing (and related) concerns for someone who’s very experienced in developing free software? I’d be particularly interested in what constitutes a useful form of PCB design files.

                  This is a good question!

                  The Open Source Hardware Association has a good list of best practices for hardware: https://www.oshwa.org/sharing-best-practices/

                  (specifically they talk about the desirability of Original Design Files not manufacturing files, although there are still some catches here as quite a lot of OSHW has original design files in a proprietary format.)

                  I haven’t watched all of it, but Drew Fustini gave this talk about OSHW and he seems to give a good intro to what it’s all about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so3zuQtu1wQ

                  For the concerns of a software user/developer and hardware tinkerer who cares about software freedom then I think the 4 items you mention are important and get you a long way. Something that can do these 4 things (like Pinebook) is probably “good enough” for a lot of purposes.

                  I am expecting to receive my pinebook pro today. I think I’m going to wish that this thing exposed some more GPIO. If that pans out, I’m planning to ask someone at pine how that could happen. (All evidence suggests that they like that kind of thing a lot, and would engage happily on a question like that.) If one answer is “build your own board with a header that exposes that” I’d love to know what I should ask for to make this most useful from an open hardware perspective.

                  Cool! I guess this is shows the difference between a “hackable” device and a OSHW device.

                  In a hackable device you get some header or something and some docs or a schematic so you can know how to connect your own thing to it, and that’s great. But you rely on the manufacturer providing the headers you want and the docs for that, if they don’t then your only option is to either “mod” your device, ask them to provide it, or make a “compatible clone” of their design that has it (while not copying anything copyrightable from the design files you do have as they’re not under an open license).

                  In an OSHW device you could take the original design files and modify them to make your own derived part which has those headers even if they aren’t part of the original design, or even if you want some different pins broken out to headers, etc. This is obviously still more work than just connecting to headers which already exist, most people aren’t set up to assemble their own high density laptop PCB. But OSHW makes it straightforward, if you want to do it.

                  In a hackable OSHW device (like Novena) you get the headers, and full documentation for the headers, and source files so you could make your own remixed board with different headers if you wanted.

                  For example I prototyped an alternative Novena display adapter board to talk to an iPad3 LCD panel. I could have probably done this for any laptop at all given enough time and reverse engineering work. Next step up, it’s much easier if you have a schematic for the laptop. Very best in the case of Novena, I had both the original schematic and the original board design files for the Novena’s LCD adapter and I legally could make a “derived work” of those design files where some parts of the schematic are copied straight off that original adapter board design.

                  This feels like a real opportunity with a company that’s demonstrably good at shipping real, hacker-friendly stuff in quantity and likes to engage with the community. If we can ask in a way they can easily act on, I’d not be shocked if they just turn around and do it.

                  I agree this is a great idea. I don’t have any specific technical suggestion for what pins they could/should break out though, I guess it depends on what you want to add to your laptop?

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                    Thanks for the reply, and thanks especially for the oshwa link. That is exactly what I was after. I’ll quickly see what I want technically… I was seeking some vocabulary to use that might nudge the hardware towards being more open when I ask about that. Because when they understand it appropriately, this group seems very interested in doing what the community wants when they can, and they seem to like open-ness. Hacker-friendly to open doesn’t feel like a big leap. They’ve already done the things that give most companies heartburn about this.

                    And the laptop arrived yesterday. It’s much nicer than I expected. I thought it’d feel like using a $200 android tablet, but it feels more like using a macbook air from a few years ago. Or a current chromebook that goes for twice the price of a pinebook and shows up all locked down. That’s just my first impression, not a thoughtful, detailed review. But this thing may overturn my default “go get a used thinkpad” suggestion for hackers who want a laptop that plays well with free software.

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                      Awesome! Would love to see a review here on lobste.rs once you’ve used it for a bit longer.

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        Unlike a traditional laptop battery, which is powered by a lithium-ion slab, the Reform is powered by 8 individual LiFePO4 18650 battery cells. These aren’t the most obvious choice but can be replaced individually, one cell at a time…

        This somewhat worries me actually. I’m far from an expert but there’s usually reasons lithium batteries aren’t sold as commodity units. Just slapping new cells in along with some old ones can make Bad Things happen if the charge controller and associated circuitry isn’t designed to handle it. Hopefully theirs is.

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          You can see what looks like per-cell balancing functionality in the top left part of the mainboard (eight identical clusters of components each with a transistor and a diode). I found a bit about it under “Power System” in their blog post: https://mntre.com/media/reform_md/2020-01-18-finishing-reform.html

          LiFePO4 is also a safer battery chemistry than the more common Lithium cell types (-Ion, -Polymer) used in portable electronics. The post goes into some of that as well.

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            Awesome, thank you for the references! I tried to eyeball the photo and all I could really tell was “well they’re probably not all just wired in parallel, so that’s good”, but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes. Hopefully I’ll learn more from the article.

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              I thoroughly approve of not trusting lithium batteries by default!

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          These custom build laptops almost never clearly specify their weight or size. That’s frustrating to me because I really don’t want to carry a heavy or bulky device around.

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            Reform 2 is 0.5cm “thinner” than the original Apple PowerBook 100 (4.1cm vs 4.6). 29cm wide (PowerBook: 28cm). 20.5cm deep (PowerBook: 22cm).

            Source: https://twitter.com/mntmn/status/121960459664717004

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            How are these product reviews/advertisements even upvoted?

            I know that we all want an OS laptop but does it mean that we go ahead and accept all sorts of advertisements about them? So is Lobster the place to advertise niche technology now?

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              A link to an open source library is also product advertisement in your eyes? If not why not?

              How do you expect open source hardware to be successful when you’d ban from the rare places where there is an interested audience?

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                Extremely different, not going to get anything out of it.

                I did it for myself and shared it for free.

                Are you OK?

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                  Absoletely not different. The source files are also shared for this open hardware. The physical implementation of course costs money, because we cannot copy physical objects without a cost, unlike data.

                  I don’t know what you did for free… Please elaborate.

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                    Ops I thought you were directly referring to the post I just submitted, my bad!

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                      No, nothing such was in my mind. :)

                      I honestly would like to know your objections, because I don’t agree with the solution (no “ads” for open HW on Lobsters), but maybe I’m wrong. I think the fact that software can be copied infinite times while physical object cannot makes the case different, and makes paying for stuff OK, and it is not strictly a business advertisement. (Also some people share their SaaS services here…)

                      I personally think that mass market fabrication has its costs and benefits, and while sharing schematics and code for tiny circuits (eg. YubiKey clones) is nice and fun, open hardware projects should be more than these “trivial” (from a company’s point of view) stuff, and should become a standard for more complex, and not only computer related stuff too. Until it is common every such initiative has its place in my Lobsters feed.

                      Why? For example my dishwasher has died. I don’t know what was the problem, and I had no chance to get to know it economically, thus I bought a new one. It was even not clear how the unit’s cover should be removed…

                      A widget had broken in my fridge and now it looks uggly. I’m no 3D designer, but if the parts were open source I could have 3D printed it for a few €uros at a friend or 3D printing shop (I know one in town). The vendor quoted 30 € for the replacement of a tiny plastic part, as I can only buy a kit of the stuff and related parts.

                      Not to mention the fact that the Intel WiFi is buggy in my old Lenovo notebook, but I need to flash unofficial BIOS to support alternative replacement cards.

                      Open source software is often just a huge code-blob of a vendor, and one does not build upon it, but sometimes it is still handy to have it available in that form, to fix minor annoyances, but on a daily basis I’d rather pay the vendor for its products or services. Its about the freedom of choice for me in the future.

                      And regarding your story: the revenged keyboard, I guess. It is really nice work 👍, but I think we can agree that it would be a better world if the vendor provided simpler means to do what you had to reverse engineer. If the manufacturer made an initiative to the sources, or at least the protocol of their peripheral, I think that would also be newsworthy in the current scene.

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                You know you can downvote an item which you don’t like? The system manages itself that way. Or I have an automated message from @pushcx or @alynpost in my inbox with a reason for deleting my post. Business things is one of those reasons …

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                  Please do not flag things you don’t like or encourage others to do so. Mods use flags to find problems, it’s really annoying when users waste our attention because they don’t like some programming language or want to punish someone they disagree with.

                  Just ignore things you don’t like, click ‘hide’ on the story, or filter out the tag.

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                    You mean flagging is different than downvoting? Or is downvoting what the hide button is for?

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                      Stories have only had flagging for over five years. I’m considering editing the comment UI to match stories so people quit treating it like the Reddit “dislike” button with the extra step of randomly picking a reason.

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                        I was unaware of this, my apologies for recommending doing so. Sorry.

                        What do you mean with, mods use flags to find problems?

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                          There’s a dashboard highlighting stories, comments, and users getting the most flags so we can spend our time where users believe it’s most needed - otherwise we’d have to read every story and comment real-time. Thinking back to the busiest mailing lists I’ve been on, I feel like site activity grew past where that was sustainable as a hobby in late 2015.

                          select extract(year from created_at) as y, extract(month from created_at) as m, count(*) from comments group by 1, 2 order by 1, 2;                                     [54/281]
                          +------+------+----------+
                          | y    | m    | count(*) |
                          +------+------+----------+
                          | 2012 |    7 |      161 |
                          | 2012 |    8 |      360 |
                          | 2012 |    9 |      718 |
                          | 2012 |   10 |      261 |
                          | 2012 |   11 |      194 |
                          | 2012 |   12 |      273 |
                          | 2013 |    1 |      135 |
                          | 2013 |    2 |      110 |
                          | 2013 |    3 |      150 |
                          | 2013 |    4 |      114 |
                          | 2013 |    5 |       84 |
                          | 2013 |    6 |      142 |
                          | 2013 |    7 |      192 |
                          | 2013 |    8 |      157 |
                          | 2013 |    9 |       64 |
                          | 2013 |   10 |      109 |
                          | 2013 |   11 |      129 |
                          | 2013 |   12 |      196 |
                          | 2014 |    1 |     1253 |
                          | 2014 |    2 |     1010 |
                          | 2014 |    3 |      938 |
                          | 2014 |    4 |      942 |
                          | 2014 |    5 |     1130 |
                          | 2014 |    6 |      873 |
                          | 2014 |    7 |     1227 |
                          | 2014 |    8 |      844 |
                          | 2014 |    9 |      801 |
                          | 2014 |   10 |      874 |
                          | 2014 |   11 |     1207 |
                          | 2014 |   12 |      774 |
                          | 2015 |    1 |     1055 |
                          | 2015 |    2 |     1078 |
                          | 2015 |    3 |     1534 |
                          | 2015 |    4 |     1439 |
                          | 2015 |    5 |     1200 |
                          | 2015 |    6 |     1314 |
                          | 2015 |    7 |     2058 |
                          | 2015 |    8 |     1643 |
                          | 2015 |    9 |     1678 |
                          | 2015 |   10 |     2163 |
                          | 2015 |   11 |     2319 |
                          | 2015 |   12 |     2300 |
                          | 2016 |    1 |     2273 |
                          | 2016 |    2 |     2536 |
                          | 2016 |    3 |     2561 |
                          | 2016 |    4 |     2762 |
                          | 2016 |    5 |     2960 |
                          | 2016 |    6 |     2937 |
                          | 2016 |    7 |     2602 |
                          | 2016 |    8 |     2643 |
                          | 2016 |    9 |     2803 |
                          | 2016 |   10 |     3023 |
                          | 2016 |   11 |     2889 |
                          | 2016 |   12 |     2972 |
                          | 2017 |    1 |     3711 |
                          | 2017 |    2 |     3327 |
                          | 2017 |    3 |     3651 |
                          | 2017 |    4 |     3363 |
                          | 2017 |    5 |     3966 |
                          | 2017 |    6 |     3112 |
                          | 2017 |    7 |     4259 |
                          | 2017 |    8 |     3567 |
                          | 2017 |    9 |     3237 |
                          | 2017 |   10 |     3695 |
                          | 2017 |   11 |     3335 |
                          | 2017 |   12 |     3356 |
                          | 2018 |    1 |     3720 |
                          | 2018 |    2 |     3500 |
                          | 2018 |    3 |     4110 |
                          | 2018 |    4 |     4089 |
                          | 2018 |    5 |     4585 |
                          | 2018 |    6 |     3987 |
                          | 2018 |    7 |     3866 |
                          | 2018 |    8 |     4101 |
                          | 2018 |    9 |     4648 |
                          | 2018 |   10 |     5359 |
                          | 2018 |   11 |     5556 |
                          | 2018 |   12 |     4413 |
                          | 2019 |    1 |     4515 |
                          | 2019 |    2 |     4761 |
                          | 2019 |    3 |     5518 |
                          | 2019 |    4 |     5568 |
                          | 2019 |    5 |     5447 |
                          | 2019 |    6 |     5398 |
                          | 2019 |    7 |     5099 |
                          | 2019 |    8 |     5427 |
                          | 2019 |    9 |     5802 |
                          | 2019 |   10 |     5847 |
                          | 2019 |   11 |     5226 |
                          | 2019 |   12 |     5108 |
                          | 2020 |    1 |     4698 |
                          +------+------+----------+
                          91 rows in set (0.23 sec) 
                          
                      2. 1

                        There isn’t really downvoting on stories. Not liking something, unless spam, is a personal choice that doesn’t seem to have an effect on what others see.

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                        Just ignore things you don’t like, click ‘hide’ on the story, or filter out the tag.

                        I’ve never found tag filtering useful since the tags are so broad. I certainly wouldn’t want to filter “hardware.” In terms of “hide,” I guess I’ve never understood how that’s supposed to be used. Do I click “hide” after I’ve read it just so it doesn’t show up in the listing again? How do I know I want to hide it without taking the time to read through it and saying “yeah, I don’t want to see this!”?

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                          Sometimes you know from the title, sometimes from looking, sometimes from the direction the discussion is heading. It hides the story and its comments from your pages/feeds.

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                        I’m also free to state the reason and perhaps find people who also think that all these posts are just marketing upvoted enough times. That’s all.

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                      Hopefully this doesn’t come as too irrelevant, but one thing I think would be really cool for a Linux laptop manufacturer would be to have a “native cloud backup” solution, where you can separate out user-specific data onto a separate partition, and back the entire partition up to a remote server. I switched from macOS to Linux for my primary driver recently and the biggest thing I’ve missed from native macOS might be Time Machine.

                      Is this a feasible thing to do? It would be a massive selling point to me (like if System76 had FOSS native cloud backup software integrated with Pop!_OS, it would be a selling point against Ubuntu)