A free/open computer on a card that you swap in and out of a 3D printed laptop

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/04/a-freeopen-computer-on-a-card.html


How is this not like…everywhere, already?


Can anyone else here rms’s teeth grinding over talk of the free software foundation and open source being mashed together?


Modular hardware is more difficult to optimize for minimal footprints; c.f. Project Ara and Android.


Well, the thing is it’s both not profitable and not practical to make modular portable devices. From an engineering standpoint, making something as one solid unit will lead to a device that’s cheaper, faster and more individually durable than anything made of modular or upgradable components.

It’s not trivial to design devices that run at speeds greater than 100MHz, and it’s exceedingly hard to design things at 1GHz+. Keeping signal integrity on boards is hard enough, let alone trying to maintain good signal integrity over interconnects where you go through slight changes of impedance. Adding places where a user can change connected devices weakens the case, lowering the effective life of the device. Connectors are also damn expensive, adding to cost.

This device, though, seems pretty mediocre in my opinion. It’s got a slower processor than an RPi3, barely enough RAM to do more than one thing at once in a laptop/desktop setting, and the laptop option is huge for such little power. I’m also not a big fan of Allwinner, I have very little trust that there’s no funny business going on on-die from them, and their implementations have, at least from my use of their products, been sub-par.


I take it you’re on the development team of this? I hope you’re doing something to keep people from jamming the device into a PCMCIA or CableCard slot or putting those types of cards into the sockets of your device. There’s liability there for misusing a standardized connector. You should at the very least key it such that you can’t mix things up.


Now imagine if you owned a computing device…

You’ve lost me already! XD Just kidding, sort of.

The strength of cheap, open computers like this I think is precisely that they can be made available without anybody needing to “own” them.

I thought I was quite explicit about that. I mean not owned by anybody. That they can be manufactured and used without the “you bought a device” phase. Not unlike those white Dutch bicycles.

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Very cool that the developer is here!

I gotta say, I am very excited by the concept.

As a gamer, I am always looking towards bleeding edge tech that specs high… But at the same time, it is amazing how far “good enough” computing has come. I am a huge fan of the Raspberry Pi project for this very reason, but my biggest gripe is how hard is to use in any mobile context.

Definitely will keep an eye on this!


I backed this earlier today, I fact.


If this were accompanied by an OS that puts the data library/directory/folder/whatever you want to call it on a volume separate from the OS and software, that’d be good. I’m not there, yet, but I’m working toward that idea. Since most modern OSes can mount most filesystems, data can be transportable from device to device pretty easily.


I like the idea of transportable computer guts that I can use in different housings.

The ease of users printing or cheaply obtaining replacement parts for their rigs is a nice sentiment. But people who care about that can shop with that end in mind pretty successfully these days. In the age of youtube and ebay repairs and component replacements on many contemporary laptops, etc are easily and inexpensively done.

The complete laptop solution is massively underpowered for the price point.


So it has the specs of a low end chromebook and the price of a retina macbook. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for ideological purity.


I can “literally” plugin a new CPU today… Or upgrade any of my components today. This actually looks incredibly limiting. You cannot pack much processing power on a PCMCIA card, and how do they handle heat dissipation? The article said “this video is AMAZING!” what the hell is so amazing about hipster vaporware?


Because it is a crap idea made on crap hardware.

For example, you can connect the computer card to your TV set to continue working if your monitor fails… and in the future, we’d like to give you the option to plug the computer card into your TV set if your monitor fails.

Huh? Can I connect the computer card to my TV if my monitor fails or not?

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Oh bro, the idea is fabulous and nascent.