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free software laptop (ARM-based, 1280x800 LCD)

folks hi,

after the somewhat embarrassing lessons learned last year from dealing
with the GPL-violating seatron ST-PC89E i am still persistently
looking to bring about a Free Software laptop - one that is actually
useful and useable (definition: 1gb RAM, 1ghz+ CPU, 11in or greater
1280x768 or greater LCD).  incredibly, after all the fuss and hype
going back over 2 years, from ARM themselves as well as the top CPU
companies such as Samsung and Texas Instruments _and_ after clear
proof from the XO-1.75 that a system based around a 1.2ghz single-core
ARM CPU can outperform an Intel Atom laptop, there still doesn't exist
a decent useful and useable laptop based around ARM or MIPS high-end

now, after a _lot_ of research, the two top CPUs that stand out are
the S5PV210 and the DM3730/25.  the S5PV210 is $14 for the 800mhz
version (and $20 for the 1ghz version), whilst the DM3730 is $30 and
the DM3725 is about $26.  i've received approximate quotes for the
creation of a laptop using either of these two CPUs, to create an
SO-DIMM + Motherboard combination (along the lines of DirectInsight's
SwiftModule), to fit into an *existing* "no-brand" OEM laptop chassis.
 so - NO casework needed, which is by far and above the major cost of
designing a laptop (as you can see from examining the blogs behind the

roughly it goes like this: approx $10k for motherboard+SO-DIMM based
around an S5PV210, and approx $18k for motherboard+SO-DIMM based
around a DM3730/DM3725. the motherboard itself is ridiculously cheap
($USD 2k) as it need only be a 4-layer board.

[i specifically mention and include the DM3725 because it does *not*
contain the proprietary OpenGL 3D SGX hardware engine, and so a system
based around this CPU would qualify under the FSF "Hardware
Endorsement" Programme.  the only other alternative is for people to
assist with the reverse-engineering of PowerVR SGX, given that it is
now a FSF High-Priority Project].

the hardware engineer i have been speaking to in china is particularly
keen to work with Free Software Developers, as he recognises the value
of working with the Free Software Community.  i've asked him if he
would speak to some of his "suppliers of manufacture" as he puts it in
best chinglish, with whom he has a strong long-term working
relationship, if they would like to supply the casework from existing
"no-brand" laptop products, and he's agreed to approach them.  chinese
factories are incredibly sensitive about whom they will talk to, so as
not to give away "secrets" [ no ironic comments needed, please - it's
been a looong six months :) ]

so, simple question, with that background in mind: anyone else
interested to make this happen?

key info: the complete BOM (bill of materials) excluding DVD drive and
Hard Drive ends up somewhere around the $USD 160 mark (in large
volume) so you need to multiply that up by about a factor of 2 to end
up at a reasonable low-volume "retail" price.

also: for those people interested in the "Freedom Box", the S5PV210
would, due to its HDMI output and capability of 1080p30, be a very
good starting point as a "subversive" FreedomBox because it could act
as an Internet TV or even as a TV [even though it wouldn't qualify for
FSF Endorsement unless the PowerVR SGX reverse-engineering is
completed].  the cost of an SO-DIMM with 1gb RAM using this CPU would
only be about $40-$45; a basic motherboard plus boring-looking case
you'd be hard pushed to exceed $USD 10.  [approximately double that
$50-$55 for low-volume markups, tax and shipping and you start to see
why the SheevaPlug comes in at $99].

just one last thing: if you'd like to suggest alternative CPUs that
you happen to know of, please do so by editing either this page or its
discussion, at:


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