Open Laptop Soon to be Open for Business

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zigote
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nadebula.1984
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The website is inaccessible from China, so I could only read it when I take a tour outside China.

tonlee
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Are you able to watch
archive.org?

jxself
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The "no less free" is not the case. It requires a proprietary software blob and has been discussed here before.

https://trisquel.info/en/forum/imx8m-comments

zigote
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https://mntre.com/media/reform_md/2020-01-18-finishing-reform.html#ports

says it is optional:

"HDMI port (on i.MX8M, requires an optional HDMI TX firmware blob to work)"

Or do you mean something else?

chaosmonk

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> "HDMI port (on i.MX8M, requires an optional HDMI TX firmware blob to work)"
>
> Or do you mean something else?

I think jxself is referring to the firmware blob needed to boot, announced here.[1]

"Unfortunately, during the boot process, i.MX8M requires a closed-source firmware for an embedded ARCompact) processor in the Synopsys DDR4 PHY). This firmware, which is only a few kilobytes in size, is responsible for regulating the physical connection to the DDR chips in the face of changing temperatures. We are in contact with reverse engineers with the goal of analyzing what the capabilities of this so called PHY Utility Block (PUB) are, and to find out if we have a chance to replace this firmware at some point in the future."

I stopped following the project at that point, so maybe the situation has changed.

[1] https://www.crowdsupply.com/mnt/reform/updates/re-introducing-reform

jxself
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If there were a success to reverse engineer the proprietary program I would have expected some sort of announcement of that. I do not find any. Thus I assume that the situation is unchanged and wonder why they left that particular program out of the blog post, especially after they stated in the other thread that it was a "major concern" for them and so they put it "front and center." Now the mandatory blob no longer deserves to be "front and center" and instead fades into the background with only the optional one being mentioned?

chaosmonk

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> If there were a success to reverse engineer the proprietary program I
> would have expected some sort of announcement of that. I do not find
> any. Thus I assume that the situation is unchanged and wonder why they
> left that particular program out of the blog post, especially after
> they stated in the other thread that it was a "major concern" for them
> and so they put it "front and center."

Agreed. If they really have found a way to do without the blob, it is
weird that they have not explained how this is possible when in their
earlier post they seemed to say it would require reverse engineering.

zigote
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Perhaps that particular blob is not of big concern if it is known to be only for temperature control. Perhaps they are still working on reverse engineering it, considering the overall goal.

chaosmonk

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> Perhaps that particular blob is not of big concern if it is known to be only for temperature control.

Perhaps. They said it was required to boot, not required for temperature control, and if it was not a big concern then I'm not sure why they described it as a "major" one, but when I said "perhaps the situation has changed" I was considering the possibility that after learning more about the blob they determined that it was not as important as they originally thought.

zapper (not verified)
zapper

Probably, I wonder if it is a major problem on a remote level or if its just an offline risk. :/

aka, its easier to decrypt if you have the computer physically near you.

Or if it causes a network risk like intel me. Either way I realize it ain't great. I am hoping they can remove it in he future. :)

zapper (not verified)
zapper

I would actually like to know about this as well.

Maybe ask them about it? I dunno.

zigote
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> I would actually like to know about this as well.

> Maybe ask them about it? I dunno.

Then why don't you ask them and share the answer?

boba
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Joined: 08/28/2017

Agreed. Let's ask them and share the answer.

EDIT: In fact I have written to Lukas from MNT to ask him about the state of their reverse engineering efforts so we do not need to draw straws.

zapper (not verified)
zapper

I did, waiting for an answer. :)

boba
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And the answer I got from MNT:

"This is still a work in progress."

zapper (not verified)
zapper

Well, I plan to follow it till I find out anything.

If I see they make a change regarding this, i will say something.

boba
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The original article on the MNT website (1) has been updated on December 28th and the paragraph now reads as follows:

"According to NXP, this so called PHY Utility Block (PUB) does not have access to other blocks or buses in the SoC and needs to be run only once at boot to train the DDR4 connection, which ultimately yields a set of register values that can also be read and written by the main CPU. We are doing experiments to find out if the values can be found once per board and shipped with each PCB so that you wouldn't have to run this firmware yourself. As of December 2019, this is a theoretical approach."

The crowdsupply version of the article (2) has not been updated though.

(1) https://mntre.com/media/reform_md/2019-05-20-reintroducing-reform.html
(2) https://www.crowdsupply.com/mnt/reform/updates/re-introducing-reform

EDIT: typo

boba
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The updated crowdsupply page (1) blurb completely ignores the PHY Utility Block question.

Still, the page provides an interesting comparative table - scrolling down long enough - between the MNT Reform, MacBook Air, Pinebook Pro, Librem 13 and T480, which mentions that "DDR4 controller needs non-ARM blob" for the MNT vs. "DDR4 controller needs blob" for the Pinebook.

I am not sure what they mean by "Open Hardware Keyboard/Trackball/Trackpad", because the table says "no" for the Pinebook, while I thought it would be "yes". Maybe I am confusing with some other piece of hardware, though. It also says that the Pinebook needs blobs for "display and wifi". $799.01 is still a high price tag for (almost) firmware freedom.

I am now almost convinced that my next laptop should be a Pinebook Pro.

(1) https://www.crowdsupply.com/mnt/reform

zapper (not verified)
zapper

Actually, Pinebook Pro is probably worse.

Tell them you want one without a blob, maybe if enough people reply to them, they will make another option.

If not there is an option for 3+ years later:

https://balthazar.space/wiki/Balthazar

But to be clear, Mnt Reform could be good, only reason I am not getting it is because I am looking to a much more future oriented idea, which is the above link.

so there's that.

But I do recall someone saying pinebook pro requires a blob.

I would say Mnt Reform or the above link are the best options. But obviously wait till he removes blob/makes another option thats blobless. :)

boba
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Sorry, I forgot to add the emphasis on "almost" in "I am now almost convinced" in my previous post. It was supposed to bear the same meaning as in "almost free".

That said, the Pinebook Pro seems to be a very decent option compared to whatever one could get from mainstream retailers. How many of those ship with uboot, for instance?

The table on the page I mentioned is very clear, it seems accurate (the Pinebook display, wifi, keyboard and touchpad indeed need blobs, as things stand) and the bottom line says $199.99 for the Pinebook Pro against $999 for the Reform - at some point in the distant future.

I am not sure I would buy a Reform even if I could afford it, but the price gap does not give it any chance with me anyway.

Balthazar is a nice name, and I also wish RISC-V the best.

zapper (not verified)
zapper

Well, I meant that pinebook bro needs more blobs than MNT Reform. Wifi being one of them.

And that is in my opinion a huge problem.

As for the Balthazar laptop, it won't probably be out for a few years, but they did say they were planning to sell it for under 500euros. They want to sell it for 300euros. From what I remember.

But that is a few or more years in the future.

But yeah, if you have less money i guess go with pinebook pro if you think it will last a while.

As for the Mnt Reform, I would recommend waiting for a more libre processor. Or one that doesn't need a blob to run the basics.

boba
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> As for the Balthazar laptop, it won't probably be out for a few years, but they did say they were planning to sell it for under 500euros. They want to sell it for 300euros. From what I remember.

It might be worth the wait, then, though it might actually take 10 years according to some. I mostly use second-hand stuff, from the ones I rehab, but of course I cannot free them as much as I wish I could.

centurino
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How's the used ThinkPad market nowadays? You should still be able to buy and libreboot an X60. Though I guess there's still EC firmware and you'd probably have to swap the WiFi card too. Still a better choice than those new ARM devices IMO, their single-core speeds suck and they're much more expensive.

boba
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So the blob is still there, and you can pre-order it for $999.

zapper (not verified)
zapper

Yes which is why I will wait to see if they make it libre in future, etc...