With projects like Gobuntu and gNewSense aiming to provide a platform that is zealous about free software, the obvious question is “where can I run it?”. And right now, as far as laptops go, there are no good answers. Pretty much any laptop you can buy today needs some sort of non-free bits to make the most of its hardware, putting you in the tricky position of having to choose between hardware usefulness and software freedom. And boy, do we know about that choice in Ubuntu!

There have been several threads about this, in comments on this blog and also on comments to Bug #1. Most of them have focused on free drivers but we should also be thinking about OpenBIOS (the new name for the LinuxBIOS project). An ideal solution would also use firmware that has a free software licence as well, but I personally would see OpenBIOS and free drivers as a good start.

Right now, software freedom isn’t a huge priority for most of the companies that make up components for the PC and laptop industry. If we want to get onto their radar screen, we need to show that its worth their while to think about it. To that end I’d like to build up a list of people who are interested in this idea, and would potentially buy a high-powered laptop if it were guaranteed to work completely with free software drivers and OpenBIOS.

So I’ve setup a mailing list over here:

https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/free-software-laptop

Please go ahead and join that list if you think you would seriously consider buying a laptop that was powerful and designed specifically to be free-software friendly.

This is a totally moderated list – I’ll only allow messages through that specifically let people know about the possibility of acquiring a laptop that can pass the free software test. So it’s news-only, and ultra-low traffic. If we can get sufficient numbers of people to express interest in such a laptop then I will start hunting for an OEM to offer a solution for pre-order.

I’ve also started to sketch out the components and specifications for a laptop that would meet these requirements here:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/FreeSoftwareLaptop

It will take a lot of committed buyers to move from concept to execution but if we can pull it off it will have an excellent ripple effect in the PC hardware industry. Make yourself heard!

141 Responses to “Willing to buy a high-end, free-software-only laptop?”

  1. fotis Says:

    The pre-installed proprietary software of a sony vaio vgn-fe11s was and still is tricky. After installing kubuntu Feisty Fawn on it is transformed to a working horse for my needs (development, graphics and video).

  2. Pawel M. Says:

    In fact, I’d like to see an affordable free software only laptop, something like Eee PC from Asus but with a larger, 12.1 inches screen. It would consist of the Pentium M processor and a graphics card running on open source drivers that would be able to handle compiz. Dell sells laptops with larger screens and better hardware for $549 so this one should be a lot cheaper.

  3. Stefano Spinucci Says:

    I dream of a free-software-only laptop able to fulfill all my computing needings.

    however, I have to admit that an ubuntu only machine can’t, for example:
    – fully manage my nokia phone (I have to use Nokia Pc Suite)
    – rip *simply* dvd, convert *simply* divx to dvd, etc
    – buy music from itunes

    all of the previous points are for me showstoppers for a free-software-only laptop.

    however, I guess why we can’t have from dell, hp, acer, etc a free-software compatible laptop, with Ubuntu installed (optionally, for free) also when I choose Windows.

    PS
    I have an Ubuntu-compatible Dell Latitude D610, with Windows XP (installed by Dell) and Ubuntu installed by me

  4. cb951303 Says:

    For graphics VIA has a open source integrated solution with S3 chipsets… Worth a look

  5. cbtapir Says:

    As Intel cpu’s can’t be used because of BIOS problems we need a decent oss graphics card. I did a quick research and found these:
    VIA’s K8T900 and SiS’s SiSM771 chipsets seems to work with integrated oss graphics and both support AMD Turion 64 X2. It’s worth looking…

  6. tella Says:

    i am willing if it’s not more expensive than the typical ones. a small size would be just great, like a sony if you will

  7. Politics in the Zeros » Willing to buy a high-end, free-software-only laptop? Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, wants to create laptops that are”designed specifically to be free-software friendly.” That means no proprietary anything, including the BIOS. Sounds like a most excellent idea. Check it out. […]

  8. High-end, free-software-only laptop « Bob Morris Says:

    […] That’s what Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, wants to create. Laptops that are”designed specifically to be free-software friendly” with no proprietary anything, including the BIOS. This would […]

  9. Peter Says:

    I’ve compiled a huge statistical summary of everyones input. They’ve been added to the end of the wiki page.

    Perhaps the laptop should get it’s own web site? Any laptop that meets these requirements will be the ideal laptop for any free operating system, and the greater the sales, the lower the price they can be sold for.

  10. Alan Jackson Says:

    What would I like out of a laptop? Weight, Time, Light, Reliability…

    By weight I mean I’d want it to weigh as little as possible – this would make it more useable in more situations.

    TIme… I want it to turn on instantly, and off again instantly. I want the battery to last at least a whole day’s work and still not weigh much. I would compromise on processor speed, display resolution, pretty much most things to get good battery life and low weight.

    Light – I want to read it outside, in bed, anywhere. I don’t want to squint or hunch, I want to be mobile. I would be very happy with a black and white passive LCD screen for instance.

    Reliability – It’s got to just work, all the time. I want a versioning file system, at least for all my text files, so I never have to think about different versions. Redundant storage, easy back up and effortless synchronisation.

    We’re in an age of networked computing now – this means that computing devices can be more tied to a function rather than a person – and the Internet is how our data should follow us. But we’re still often stuck in this idea of one computer per person, that one device should do everything.

    A laptop is about being mobile, which to me means being light, working away from power and being readable in all light conditions. If it synchronised effortlessly then I am happy to compromise on all the features of my desktop environment. Right now my paper notebook is still more mobile and more useful than my laptop in most situations.

  11. Corey Says:

    Someone else made a comment about this, but I think it deserves a second mention. OpenBIOS is NOT LinuxBIOS. The two are entirely separate projects, with differing goals and even in different languages. The LinuxBIOS project is still very much alive, and a v3 is well on its way through the development stages.

    That aside, this is a GREAT idea, it could probably use a lot of the knowledge and relationships gained from the OLPC project. I would certainly buy a LinuxBIOS-based laptop over any other.

  12. Mark Shuttleworth: “Willing to buy a high-end, free-software-only laptop?” « Linux and Unix Top News Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  13. Mariah Says:

    Attended a seminar ten days ago to be exact (2Oct2007). One speaker from Intel was mentioning something about INTEL working with partners (hardware) to run their Quad-Core Xeon processors on machine independent of software. Since I was half-asleep, couldn’t really catch the exact details. BUT I am sure it has some connection to this topic. You guys can further check with INTEL. (I think they are trying to run away from MS 😉 – can’t stand the pressure huh!)

  14. Top Unix News » Blog Archive » Mark Shuttleworth: “Willing to buy a high-end, free-software-only laptop?” Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  15. Top Linux News » Blog Archive » Mark Shuttleworth: “Willing to buy a high-end, free-software-only laptop?” Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  16. BillBasher Says:

    I don’t see the point of this. (everything must be open source, including the bios) It will not work any better then if it’s not open source. In general I think Ubuntu should focus on supporting common hardware, where it can. In Gutsy, the newest fglrx drivers (ATI proprietary) were not included. WIth the result that you could not set a reasonable resultion on a widescreen lcd, if you had a Radeon HD. For me it was not much a problem (but a waste of time) to manually install these drivers. But think of the average user, who expects things just to work.. This will probably change when the new open source drivers for the ati chips are out.

  17. Jon Says:

    I’m currently jobless, but if it ever comes out where I’m in a position to buy it I’ll be the first to sign on. I think all you people putting conditions on what it has to have before you’ll buy one is ridicules. If it isn’t perfectly to your taste suck it up and buy one for the good cause!

  18. Jon Says:

    I think the majority of those willing to buy it even without a perfect fit really aught to be the ones it is designed around. I am one of those users.

    I’d prefer the following, but as I mention it isn’t ever going to be a requirement as I’m willing to support this cause by buying one either way:

    XGA 1024×768 or equivalent WXGA
    14″ XGA screen or equivalent WXGA
    5 pounds
    Solid design that will take serious abuse- IBM ThinkPads come to mind (I mainly say this because many notebooks wear out quickly)

  19. Trusted computing - Wie vertrouwt wie? | Kletskous Says:

    […] Ik vind het moeilijk om op dit moment te overzien wat precies de gevolgen voor vrije software zullen zijn. In ieder geval is Mark Shuttleworth, de oprichter van Ubuntu Linux, een project gestart om een volledig vrije laptop te ontwikkelen. […]

  20. araç kiralama Says:

    My perfect Ubuntu laptop would focus more on the hardware than the software. It would have at least 3 years worth of upgrade compatability, (future-proofing) for CPU, GPU, HD, and RAM. I don’t care if that means that I’m locked into a specific vendor (such as Nvidia for the GPU) but I do want to be able to upgrade the components as my needs arise.

  21. Gerard Says:

    If I had the money, I would.

    My dream

    Suppose I had BusyBox and Python running, how much can I already do …
    How would a stripped down dedicated linux box look like.
    My gut fealing: reinvent the wheel, and make it round this time!

    -> (Low Power) Microcontroller developments At ATMEL are very interesting.
    -> Turning your modem/router into a little Linux Box is hyping.
    -> Display technology is rapidly changing
    -> You could see development of .NET with its own machine code as a development
    of a higher abstraction of BIOS/HAL, running same functionality on different cores/devices

    Have a day in space and contemplate from a distance and, again:

    Reinvent the wheel, make it round this time!

  22. Adam Smith Says:

    Is there any progress with this idea?…mailing list very quiet! Wiki looking very interesting, and it is a wonderful idea, that I sincerely hope comes to fruition.

  23. evanc Says:

    Talking of free laptops…. I heard about this

    http://laptop.org/

    flying with American Airlines. I love the idea MIT had but it seems it might be spoiled by Intel’s and others dumping. Although many argue that these laptops will not be effective in places with education and basic living conditions deficiencies, I think they will still do a great job in utilizing human (not only physical but also mental) resources from the third world countries. They are a factor, a HUGE number, that should not be underestimated in the future development of world. Seems laptops are a good way to start to access that brain power, currently not very accessible.

    http://laptop.org/

  24. Munich Unix » Mark Shuttleworth: “Willing to buy a high-end, free-software-only laptop?” Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  25. Jose Hevia Says:

    Nobody is going to read this, but here it comes:

    I’m waiting for free software companies for starting new products-ideas innovation, the same way others do(Microsoft-tabletPC Apple-iPhone touch).

    Here is my idea, realistic, that will make people to want an ubuntu-laptop:

    Separate the screen from the main body. Easy. Isn’t it?.

    Why? A 17” laptop screen weights 200 grams, get something in your hand this size and this weight. You can rotate it, move it, the same way you do with a note block. Start thinking what you can do with this you can’t do now.

    A tablet weights kilos!!

    The only engineer-task: a fiver optic point to point link, thats a 3 month-one person project. The fiver could be plastic (cheap) that breaks if tension stressed for screen safety.

    From a marketing perspective, it makes sense, there is a need for this product nobody currently fills and will make the ubuntu trademark shine.

  26. evanc Says:

    Why is my comment of Nov. 20.07 still waiting for moderation and Jose Hevia’s one posted 6 days later on Nov 26.07 is posted?
    Are you tailoring the comments the way you would prefer them Mark?

    All I said was posting the idea for a ‘One Laptop Per Child’, done with all the open source, humanitarian agendas, that you claim to stand for. Your blog and this post seemed like a good place to spread the word. They had a special offer that lasted till Nov 26 for buying one laptop for a third world country child and getting one free for the child in your life. But you chose not to post it on time, i.e. post the next comment and delay this, so my goal of spreading the world is a bit late, at least for this offer… I am sure there will be more,nevertheless this does not take away from your agendas… Its a pity if you stand only for open source/humanitarian projects of which only you are in charge.

  27. evanc Says:

    # evanc Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    November 20th, 2007 at 1:47 am

    Talking of free laptops…. I heard about this

    http://laptop.org/

    flying with American Airlines. I love the idea MIT had but it seems it might be spoiled by Intel’s and others dumping. Although many argue that these laptops will not be effective in places with education and basic living conditions deficiencies, I think they will still do a great job in utilizing human (not only physical but also mental) resources from the third world countries. They are a factor, a HUGE number, that should not be underestimated in the future development of world. Seems laptops are a good way to start to access that brain power, currently not very accessible.

    http://laptop.org/

  28. evanc Says:

    http://laptop.org/

  29. liquid Says:

    One Ubuntu Laptop Per Geek

    OULPG – pronounced: OWLPEG

    Base it on the OLPC but with a trimmed and slimmed down version of Ubuntu which every geek could buy from ubuntu.com

  30. ankara oto kiralama Says:

    Life imitates art:

    http://geekz.co.uk/lovesraymond/archive/taking-freedom-further

    yes this is good.

  31. Fredrick Amankwah Says:

    PLEASE MY NAME IS FREDRICK AMANKWAH FROM GHANA AND I WILL LIKE YOU TO PLEASE SEND ME A FREE LAPTOP TO THIS ADDRESS;DZORWUULU JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL,P.O.BOX.NT.10,ACCRA-NEWTOWN,GHANA-WEST AFRICA
    PLEASE SEND THE LAPTOP THROUGH FEDEX OR DHL TO MY ADDRESS.

    PLEASE CONTACT ME WHEN YOU SEND THE LAPTOP TO MY ADDRESS AND I KNOW YOU WILL.THANK YOU@!!!

  32. oMbra Says:

    Hi, I’m an italian ubuntu user..
    Yes, I will buy a laptop with only linux installed..in my laptop, buyed 2 month ago, the first thing I’ve do is to format it e to install Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy and Ubuntu Studio…

    linux forever!!!

  33. Kolonyalı Mendil Says:

    I wish it had something better than the crappy Nvidia 7300 GO available though (on either laptop!). Won’t be able to game at all (FPS) with anything in the last 3 years. Pathetic. Wish they had some 7800 GO as an option (the cheaper versions). Mainly I’m looking forward to Unreal Tournament 3, due out in Nov.
    I’m probably the minority since I doubt most linux gamers will need a 7800 GO. They will however, need a nvidia card. That other laptop doesn’t even offer nvidia cards as an option. That rules it out for gamers.
    I know intel video cards are liked because they are open source but .. come on .. they don’t work for gamers =(

  34. Kolonyalı Mendil Says:

    The fact that consumers let companies get away with installing substandard hardware is because they lack the education to demand something better. Certifying any pc as linux / free-software which includes integrated graphics accepts the same shoddy quality companies have been pushing on users for some time now.

  35. teşvik belgesi Says:

    My perfect Ubuntu laptop would focus more on the hardware than the software. It would have at least 3 years worth of upgrade compatability, (future-proofing) for CPU, GPU, HD, and RAM. I don’t care if that means that I’m locked into a specific vendor (such as Nvidia for the GPU) but I do want to be able to upgrade the components as my needs arise.

  36. ISO 9001 Says:

    Life imitates art:

    http://geekz.co.uk/lovesraymond/archive/taking-freedom-further

    yes this is good.

    thanks.

  37. joyturk Says:

    Hey, Mark. I would love to buy one of these laptops once you get things going. How much would they cost? Also, will they be available at mainstream stores?

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