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posted by on Saturday February 04 2017, @06:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the you-can-change-more-than-the-battery dept.

Olimex just announced the avaliability of their TERES I DIY laptop. The name is from king of ancient times that ruled in the area of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Return of the netbook? At least once the products stop being out of stock.

This kit lets you assemble a laptop with quad core Allwinner A64 (64 bit ARM Cortex A53 cores), 1GB RAM, 11.6" inch screen 1366 x 768, 4GB eMMC, WiFi & BT, camera, 7000 mAh battery in just under a Kg. Avaliable in black or white, with US keyboard showing a nice Tux. In the assembly instructions you can see two USB ports, HDMI, 3.5 headphone jack, microSD slot, mic and side speakers. Multiple modular cards to update or fix as needed. No fans. Current price 225 EUR incl VAT.

AC opinion: the RAM is soldered and small for modern times, but it could become a plataform upon which to improve without having to throw away everything. Olimex already lists some ideas for future add ons, like FPGA based Logic Analyzer, in the instructions. All spare parts are listed already in shop, some with PCB files (Open Source Hardware, developed with KiCAD) for those wanting to do custom versions.

Original Submission

Related Stories

Laptop and Phone Convergence at CES 17 comments

New laptops are drawing upon features/attributes associated with smartphones, such as LTE connectivity, ARM processors, (relatively) high battery life, and walled gardens:

This year's crop of CES laptops -- which we'll define broadly to include Windows-based two-in-one hybrids and slates -- even show signs of a sudden evolutionary leap. The long-predicted PC-phone convergence is happening, but rather than phones becoming more like computers, computers are becoming more like phones.

The most obvious way this is happening is the new breed of laptops that ditch the traditional Intel (and sometimes AMD) processors for new Snapdragon processors from Qualcomm. So far, we've seen three of these Snapdragon systems announced: the HP Envy x2, the Asus NoveGo and the Lenovo Miix 630.

Laptops with lower-end processors have been tried before, with limited success. Why is now potentially the right time? Because these systems aren't being pitched as bargain basement throwaways -- and in fact, they'll cost $600 and up, the same as many mainstream laptops in the US. Instead, they promise some very high-end features, including always-on LTE connectivity (like a phone) and 20-plus hours of battery life with weeks of standby time, which also sounds more like a phone than a PC. The tradeoff is that these Snapdragon laptops run Windows 10 S, a limited version of Windows 10, which only allows apps from the official Microsoft app store. That's also similar to the walled garden of mobile OS apps many phones embrace.

[...] There's another take on phone-laptop convergence happening here at CES. Razer, the PC and accessory maker, always brings one or two inventive prototypes to CES, such as last year's triple-screen Project Valerie laptop. The concept piece for CES 2018 is Project Linda, a 13-inch laptop shell, with a large cutout where the touchpad would normally be. You drop a Razer Phone in that slot, press a button, and the two pieces connect, with the laptop body acting as a high-end dock for the phone. The phone acts as a touchpad and also a second screen, and it works with the growing number of Android apps that have been specially formatted for larger laptop screens or computer monitors.

Original Submission

ARM Aims to Match Intel 15-Watt Laptop CPU Performance 12 comments

Arm Unveils Client CPU Performance Roadmap Through 2020 - Taking Intel Head On

Today's roadmap now publicly discloses the codenames of the next two generations of CPU cores following the A76 – Deimos and Hercules. Both future cores are based on the new A76 micro-architecture and will introduce respective evolutionary refinements and incremental updates for the Austin cores.

The A76 being a 2018 product – and we should be hearing more on the first commercial devices on 7nm towards the end of the year and coming months, Deimos is its 2019 successor aiming at more wide-spread 7nm adoption. Hercules is said to be the next iteration of the microarchitecture for 2020 products and the first 5nm implementations. This is as far as Arm is willing to project in the future for today's disclosure, as the Sophia team is working on the next big microarchitecture push, which I suspect will be the successor to Hercules in 2021.

Part of today's announcement is Arm's reiteration of the performance and power goals of the A76 against competing platforms from Intel. The measurement metric today was the performance of a SPECint2006 Speed run under Linux while complied under GCC7. The power metrics represent the whole SoC "TDP", meaning CPU, interconnect and memory controllers – essentially the active platform power much in a similar way we've been representing smartphone mobile power in recent mobile deep-dive articles.

Here a Cortex A76 based system running at up to 3GHz is said to match the single-thread performance of an Intel Core i5-7300U running at its maximum 3.5GHz turbo operating speed, all while doing it within a TDP of less than 5W, versus "15W" for the Intel system. I'm not too happy with the power presentation done here by Arm as we kind of have an apples-and-oranges comparison; the Arm estimates here are meant to represent actual power consumption under the single-threaded SPEC workload while the Intel figures are the official TDP figures of the SKU – which obviously don't directly apply to this scenario.

Also at TechCrunch.

See also: Arm Maps Out Attack on Intel Core i5
ARM's First Client PC Roadmap Makes Bold Claims, Doesn't Back Them Up
ARM says its next processors will outperform Intel laptop chips

Related: ARM Based Laptop DIY Kit Ready to Hit the Shops
First ARM Snapdragon-Based Windows 10 S Systems Announced
Laptop and Phone Convergence at CES
Snapdragon 1000 ARM SoC Could Compete With Low-Power Intel Chips in Laptops

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 4, Funny) by boltronics on Saturday February 04 2017, @07:10AM

    by boltronics (580) on Saturday February 04 2017, @07:10AM (#462791) Homepage

    At a glance, it looks like the EOMA68 [] might have some competition, assuming it too doesn't require any blobs.

    I already ordered the PFY Laptop Housing Kit for Computer Card as one of the options I ordered too, so I'll be assembling that laptop myself. I selected the clear and translucent casing, so maybe that will deter the NSA from heat-injecting spy hardware into the plastic while it's in the post.

    It's GNU/Linux dammit!
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by requerdanos on Saturday February 04 2017, @01:07PM

      by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Saturday February 04 2017, @01:07PM (#462831) Journal

      assuming it too doesn't require any blobs

      It's based on the Allwinner A20 which is supported natively by the mainline linux kernel []. No blobs.

      For that MALI GPU, however, free software support is "preliminary and highly experimental []", so if you want 3d acceleration, the nonfree binary driver is still required until free software progress takes its course.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Foobar Bazbot on Saturday February 04 2017, @05:54PM

      by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Saturday February 04 2017, @05:54PM (#462879) Journal

      I can see how, to a customer who's just in the market for an ARM-powered laptop, they are competitors. But it's important to note that the EOMA68 standard is about a whole ecosystem of interchangeable housings (laptops, tablets, and far more) and CPU cards from many manufacturers; the single laptop design and single CPU card is just a bootstrap phase.

      At least two more CPU cards are already in various stages of design, including one with an RK3288 SoC (a very nice Chromebook-targeted quad core) and 4GB RAM -- when those come out, they're a simple drop-in upgrade, and you can still use the old Allwinner card for something else.

      What that upgradeability, and more generally the whole ecosystem, is worth to you is a question only you can answer, but to me that puts this laptop in a whole different category, one I'm not at all interested in.

  • (Score: 2) by Bot on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:20AM

    by Bot (3902) on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:20AM (#462804) Journal

    I am not overly concerned with its presence, but I would like it cracked, so that we can put stuff there too. A hypervisor that checks for malware and rootkits would be nice.

    Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday February 04 2017, @10:37AM

      Damnit, I was going to stick with my old AMD chip until ARM boards something worth using as a low end desktop. There goes that out the bloody window.

      My rights don't end where your fear begins.
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Rich on Saturday February 04 2017, @12:13PM

      by Rich (945) on Saturday February 04 2017, @12:13PM (#462819) Journal

      I had a glance at the specs quite some time ago, but if I remember correctly, that's just some kind of super-supervisor mode on ARM, maybe with some attestation trail registers mixed in. So, if you pick up the boot from reset on, you're free to do whatever you want with it. With a plain Allwinner chip, there shouldn't be much in the way. Note, that for the Raspi, the Videocore blob brings up the ARM, so things might be different there, and recent Intel CPUs refuse to boot anything not signed by Intel.

      On a sidenote, I'm quite impressed. Whenever you look for Raspi alternatives, Olimex are somewhere in view. The Bulgarians in general seem to have a good grasp of such stuff. Ages ago, I had a little MP3 player, called "Diva Player" - made in Bulgaria. Neat thing, it cost half of the competition, would run off an AA cell, had a CF slot, and when I wrote them about some incompatibility with classic Mac OS (yes, it was that old), they responded with a fixed firmware.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by NCommander on Sunday February 05 2017, @06:06AM

        by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <> on Sunday February 05 2017, @06:06AM (#463039) Homepage Journal

        Specifically, and in an ARM64 chip, we're talking about the EL3 mode, or TrustZone*. I did a little work of this when I was involved with UEFI for Linario, but the basic way it works is when the processor comes out of reset, its in EL3, and in TrustZone mode which has some extremely odd rules involved (such as disabling virtual memory, and limiting the operations you can do). If the processor's reset point is in flash, then installing your own EL3 code is possible, but most production chips I've seen lock it to a mask ROM.

        The initial EL3 bootstrap (known as a monitor) finishes and usually validates the EL2 boot image (which is the UEFI firwmare blob) and jumps to the entry point. UEFI then boots the kernel. The kernel has the option to install a hook for a hypervisor at the EL2 level, then drops to EL1. Userland applications run at EL0. The practical upshot of this mostly depends if the processor reset point is a place we can write, or if its mask ROM. If the mask ROM simply does a jmp instruction into UEFI, it's de-facto disabled. Not all ARM64 chips have TrustZone and can directly come out of reset in EL1 or 2 depending if the chip supports virtualization. Without an examination of one of the SoCs and a look at its bootstrap code though, I can't honestly say if its possible to change or replace the monitor or even the UEFI image with a home rolled one.

        * - TrustZone exists on ARM32 bit chips, but is fairly different in operation as it's a completely different mode vs. an integrated set of the security system.

        Still always moving
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by TheRaven on Saturday February 04 2017, @04:19PM

      by TheRaven (270) on Saturday February 04 2017, @04:19PM (#462860) Journal
      You don't need TrustZone to be 'cracked' for that. ARM provides a reference implementation of code to run in there and you're welcome to provide your own. It's only an issue when you buy a board from someone who ships a bootloader that runs things in TrustZone.
      sudo mod me up
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:31AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:31AM (#462805)

    I remember red wine coming from Plovdiv at 99p a bottle when I was a student. It was the best pissed-per-penny coefficient of any drink in town. Happy days...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:44AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:44AM (#462806)

      At 99p a bottle, just how the frilly heck do you remember anything?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @11:07AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @11:07AM (#462810)

      Blimey, how many donkey's years ago was that? I thought I was doing well when I got Bulgarian red for £1.89/bottle (750ml), and that was years and years ago. They'd not long stopped being communist.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:16PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:16PM (#462935)

        Bulgaria never was anything like Communist.
        They were a Soviet satellite.
        Like the Soviet Union, their economy was top-down State Capitalism.
        Their government was top-down Stalinism.

        Even the Soviet Union, by 1924, when Lenin died and totalitarian Stalin took over, had made it clear that they weren't bottom-up and weren't about The Workers. []

        -- OriginalOwner_ []

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05 2017, @03:35AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05 2017, @03:35AM (#463006)

          You're trotskyite revisionist apologist for capitalism in sheep's clothing! Collectivism has to be enforced from the top down because otherwise kulaks and profiteers will subvert the equitable distribution of production by their unjust exploitation of the workers! Comrade Stalin warned us about your type!

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05 2017, @04:50AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 05 2017, @04:50AM (#463021)

            The 100,000 worker-owners of Mondragon.
            The Maracora law and the thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of worker-owned co-ops in Emilia-Romagna.
            The co-op farm of Marinaleda.
            The Shakers, the Oneida community, the Amana community.
            The Paris Commune of 1871.
            Barcelona, 1936-1937.

            You are simply wrong.

            -- OriginalOwner_ []

  • (Score: 2) by engblom on Saturday February 04 2017, @06:47PM

    by engblom (556) on Saturday February 04 2017, @06:47PM (#462899)

    The total price of this product is a bit more sane than the over priced pi-top. Sadly, this one is not Raspberry Pi based. If it would be, future upgrades would be so easy. Just pop in a new Pi when a new Pi is released. Maybe even the rpi compute module could be used for this kind of laptops, making it possible to have a sane port layout for a laptop.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by jmorris on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:14PM

    by jmorris (4844) on Saturday February 04 2017, @09:14PM (#462934)

    Just a lot of bad assumptions going into every product these days, this one suffers from several.

    1. The assumption that everyone buying a laptop wishes they could buy Apple; thus they care most about whether it is as thin and light as an Apple. Thin and light are both worthy goals, but not at any cost in other functionality. The cheap ass, thin, no action, reduced layout keyboards required to hit the small and thin target for example, are a bad trade. And since they were shooting at expansion, as in FPGA, etc., both thin and light should have been pushed down the list of priorities a bit.

    2. ARM == Cheap. The idea that anyone wanting an Arm laptop is looking for the cheapest piece of crap they can buy.

    3. Open == Cheap. The idea anyone who cares about open or "Free" is also looking for the cheapest piece of crap they can buy. 1GB of ram, for a machine with a head? And that has to share memory with the GPU? 4GB of flash? Yea, I get that they are repurposing one of their little embedded boards (different PCB but basically the same bill of materials, so using existing stocks and leveraging their existing bulk purchasing) but design choices that work for a $50 dev board that will more likely than not will not have to run a full desktop (perhaps Kodi/MythTV) won't work for a general purpose computer that does need to run a full browser.

    They did get a lot right. Unlike the Novena this looks like an actual laptop. For what it does the price isn't insane.

    But I'd be a lot interested if it were a wee bit more usable. Forget making it under a Kilogram, add a few more grams a few more millimeters in all dimensions and use it put in a better keyboard, a big enough battery to assure 16+ hours of full on runtime and a screen that is a wee bit bigger, brighter, more pixels and IPS. Doesn't need to be a huge full HD+ screen, but at least 1600x900 and 13-14 inches. A laptop, not an over sized netbook like the current offering. Jack the hardware inside a bit. 16GB of internal flash, 2-4GB of ram, a 64bit CPU is a waste without threatening the 4G address limit, right?. Keep the CPU since it seems to have pretty good support in the mainline kernel and things are improving. Nothing to be done for the broken video so grumble and accept the blobs for now as long as they can ship a real Distro on it with a GL enabled desktop.

    And if it is a bit bigger, and a bigger battery shouldn't take all of it, there should be room for a nice bay in it for expansion. Which would be sweet.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @10:53PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04 2017, @10:53PM (#462958)

      Listen up jack. This is the age of the internet. Everything is cloud. You don't need PC any more. Mmmkay?

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by Pino P on Sunday February 05 2017, @01:01AM

        by Pino P (4721) on Sunday February 05 2017, @01:01AM (#462981) Journal

        People still need PC until cellular ISPs stop charging several USD per GB of data transfer allowance.

        • (Score: 1) by Frost on Sunday February 05 2017, @03:24PM

          by Frost (3313) on Sunday February 05 2017, @03:24PM (#463124)


          PC has how much data transfer allowance?

          • (Score: 2) by Pino P on Monday February 06 2017, @02:41PM

            by Pino P (4721) on Monday February 06 2017, @02:41PM (#463430) Journal

            A PC or set thereof connected to wired home Internet has 1000 GB per month (source: Comcast). A PC connected to cellular or satellite Internet has closer to 10 GB/mo. But applications running on a PC have historically had better offline support than Web applications or applications for mobile phones, causing your use of the application to not use your Internet data transfer allowance at all.

    • (Score: 2) by lx on Sunday February 05 2017, @06:22AM

      by lx (1915) on Sunday February 05 2017, @06:22AM (#463044)

      Your biggest assumption is that this would be someones main computer. As a secondary device or one dedicated to a single task this looks quite attractive.

      • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Sunday February 05 2017, @07:51AM

        by jmorris (4844) on Sunday February 05 2017, @07:51AM (#463051)

        Even what I described would be nobody's primary computer. Anyone who isn't a geek these days will be using a phone or tablet and we geeks have need of more on a primary PC. ARM machines are slow, An Atom usually wipes the floor with one and we are talking about an Allwinner here, not a Tegra or top of the line Samsung SoC. What I would like is 'good enough' for a laptop.

        And 1GB simply isn't enough, no modern browser runs well in that environment now and the direction of the bloat only goes one direction. Same for the puny 4G of internal flash. I have a VM with a Devuan Ascii cut down to the bone, just to see how low I could go, Only the MATE Desktop and enough basics to say it is a desktop and not a ChromeOS like terminal / endpoint. 1206 packages, 3.3GB. You would need to set aside at least 1GB for swap because of the puny ram situation so you are already over budget. No way. Mounting /home on a MicroSD card is bad enough, do you want to put /usr on a slow device?