For three years now, we have been more cautious than ever regarding security breaches in anything internet or computer related. Ever since Edward Snowden exposed the sneaky dealings of the NSA, it seems like one thing after another has been happening. Nothing we own, say, or do is private because the way we control it is all on social media, emails, websites, and smartphones. Feeling secure in our private life is a thing of the past, and most of us just deal with it, or shall i say #dealwithit. However, there are some good companies and organizations out there that want to give the consumers something different. Project Novena, from two Singapore-based engineers hoping to create an almost completely open-sourced laptop made of completely open-sourced hardware, wants to provide a better, more secure device that any consumer could be confident in.
After a year and a half of building, Bunnie Huang, hardware expert of the Novena startup, has put its open-sourced laptop on Crowd Supply, and as of November 2nd, has raised over 3 times its $250,000 crowdfunding goal. Its popularity is no wonder. You can build Novena yourself; everything needed to make your own from-scratch laptop is given to you. Its entirety is unique, including a homemade motherboard, battery board, and display adapter board. Other components include hackable dual Ethernet sockets, a hackable USB OTG port, and a Freescale iMX6 quad-core ARM CPU. Two different case varieties are offered, one made of aluminum, and the other an “heirloom” wood bezel, as pictured.
Open sourcing hardware is gaining some speed in the world of builders, hobbyists, and big companies. Open sourcing software is definitely well known among the world of developers. Hence, another good thing about Novena is, in addition to its hardware, its software is open-sourced. When you are able to inspect and identify your own system, as it can contain bugs or other security issues, it is nice to be able to fix it yourself instead of depending on vendors. This is possible because Novena has no closed-source embedded firmware (drivers, kernels, and bootloaders), which are usually snuck into the CPU and other embedded computer controllers (IEEE Spectrum).
Open source is a great thing, and DIY computing (mostly towers) has become quite the popular hobby. However, open-sourced DIY laptops are super rare “because of their smaller form factor and non-standard parts” (Extreme Tech). Huang originally sought after the Novena project with a mission to get folks building, but quickly decided to offer the pre-built version of their own open-sourced laptop by launching it on Crowd Supply. For a pledge of $1,195, you are ensured the Novena machine, complete with the aluminum casing, an HD screen, and motherboard. It is intentionally left empty so you can build upon it in any way you desire. Modifying requires no special bending tools, and the kit even comes with extra bezels “in case you break one”. Early backers are getting a much cheaper price than what Novena will go for commercially, so hit up Novena’s website now!
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