‘Bunnie’ Huang designing hacker-friendly laptop

Andrew “Bunnie” Huang made a name for himself hacking Microsoft’s original Xbox console. Now, he’s designing a laptop infused with hacker-friendly features. Work on the project began in June, and the prototype motherboard is currently undergoing validation testing. Interestingly, the board’s components are as open as Huang could find; he notes that the datasheets for all the key parts are publicly available, allowing folks to build their own firmware and software for the system without having to worry about proprietary code. Yes, it’s already running Linux.

The labeled board shot is a little hard to read at that resolution (check out the super-sized version here), so I’ll give you the highlights. The system is based on a Freescale iMX6 SoC with quad ARM Cortex A9 cores clocked at 1.2GHz. Each core is enhanced my ARM’s NEON FPU, and the Vivante GC2000 integrated graphics promises OpenGL ES 2.0 compatibility. The board contains a single DDR3 SO-DIMM slot and can support up to 4GB of RAM. There’s also a 3Gbps SATA interface; SD and Mini PCIe slots; a collection of USB 2.0 ports; LVDS and HDMI video outs; and both Gigbit and 10/100 Ethernet jacks. Everything is squeezed onto a circuit board measuring 4.8″ x 5.9″.

Huang has spiced up the board with a number of “fun” features, including an FPGA loaded with analog inputs, PWM headers, and digital I/O channels. He’s even added a Raspberry Pi-compatible expansion header. In another nod to the hobbyist crowd, the board is designed to work with the lithium-polymer battery packs favored by RC enthusiasts.

Although the system doesn’t have a case just yet, Huang has a few ideas on that front. Looks like he’s leaning toward a detachable keyboard and touchpad. Before you get too excited, though, note that Huang is mostly designing the laptop for himself. He may fund a limited production run through Kickstarter, but he cautions that the final product won’t be cheap due to the component selection and low volume. Still sounds like a neat project, and probably one that will resonate with the hardware hacking community. Thanks to Boing Boing for the tip.

Comments closed
    • notfred
    • 7 years ago

    Didn’t realise the i.MX6 was out of NDA, I’ve been working on various projects with it for a while. I actually found an issue that Freescale acknowledged and fixed in a later rev of the silicon.

    The chip has got a huge amount of stuff on board and programming the iomux to get the right things on the right pins is a bit of a nightmare.

      • tfp
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah they have been out for a little while I guess, Boundary and FSL both have a few reference designs out there with the i.MX6Q. I have yet to see a reference platform with the i.MX6 Dual, Dual-lite, or Solo. Granted I haven’t looked very hard.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Why not just buy a rPI for $35?

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      You realize the rPi has something like 1/4 the features of this, right?

        • floodo1
        • 7 years ago

        because there is no comparison between this swiss army knife and that spoon 🙂

        • shaurz
        • 7 years ago

        And a CPU that is probably at least 10x slower…

      • rephlex
      • 7 years ago

      The Raspberry Pi gets my vote as the most overhyped piece of hardware of 2012. I bought one from the very first batch so I should know. Broken USB, officially endorsed overclocking which can result in a unbootable Pi as a result of SD card corruption apparently caused by some as yet unresolved driver bug, unbelievably poor power integrity due to bad/cheap design which can result in crashes and general flakiness, outdated and slow ARMv6 CPU, etc.

      I’m looking forward to the Ouya which is shaping up to be a big step up from the Pi for not much more money when everything is considered, i.e. the price of the Ouya includes a case, power supply and built-in storage, unlike the Pi.

    • moog
    • 7 years ago

    I’ve always been interested in hacking, but I’ve not done much more than look at local packets.

    Opensource software + open hardware such as this should theoretically make it possible to have the network cards bubble up all traffic as well as spoof hotspots etc.

    Combined with a little social engineering to gain initial access to the network, you can gain access to bank accounts and make a little side money for your efforts. Muhuhahaha!

    • willmore
    • 7 years ago

    “Each core is enhanced my ARM’s NEON FPU…”

    Probably be ‘enhanced by’?

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Maybe Geoff had a HAND in designing it?

    • just brew it!
    • 7 years ago

    I always thought it would be neat if we could have a DIY market for laptops just like we do for desktops. It could happen if stuff like this takes off.

      • colinstu12
      • 7 years ago

      form factors are a big problem. Can solve this with custom form factors which equate to more elegant laptops, but then the only thing you can do is add a processor/mem/ssd/wifi and that’s it… and that market already exists.

      • End User
      • 7 years ago

      May the Lords of Kobol provide him with a multi-touch trackpad that works properly.

        • lilbuddhaman
        • 7 years ago

        i thought it was COBOL? I think you got some BSG in your tech speak.

          • End User
          • 7 years ago

          I mix BSG in with everything.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      I think this is a level below the DIY market where you need knowledge in electrical engineering to take advantage of.

      DIY laptops would be a laptop with a interchangeable graphics card and other components. MXM fits into that category, but usually components are whitelisted on the bios so you can’t just upgrade them.

        • just brew it!
        • 7 years ago

        Yes, I understand that. But boards like the one he’s designing, if marketed commercially, could form the basis for DIY laptops. That was my point.

      • davidbowser
      • 7 years ago

      I love it too, as it opens up the possibilities, but I think this is a different level here. This is akin to a blacksmith making his own tools to do more/better blacksmithing. We dig the wow-factor of something like this, but we at TR tend to be hobbyists without an end-state or process improvement goal in mind. Software folks do this ALL THE TIME, where they write apps (or programming languages, and even sometimes something like Linux is born) to make something happen a specific way when they are not satisfied with the way it gets done today.

      What many of us (or at least I) would want is an open standard for laptops and components that would allow the flexibility of desktops. I want an SDXC slot today, but I would like to be able to upgrade it to the next SD standard slot when I feel like it. That goes for CPUs and GPUs and ports and even screens.

      The real question is how viable this is from a cost perspective.

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