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December 18, 2012

Chumby's Bunnie Huang Has a New Project: ARM-Powered Open Source Laptop

Admittedly, the time of the laptop does seem a bit tenuous these days. While there are still plenty of laptop users out there, more and more are progressing to tablets and smartphones. But for Bunnie Huang (News - Alert), creator of Chumby, there's still plenty of life left in the laptop concept. To that end, Huang is looking to put together a laptop board--though it could also be used in a desktop or even a tablet--not only powered with an ARM (News - Alert) processor, but also offers up open source capability for the do-it-yourself crowd.

Described as coming with "some wacky features for hackers", Huang's new board is set to offer a quad-core Freescale (News - Alert) iMX6 processor running at 1.2 GHz. Additionally, there are several extra slots for standards like So-DIMM, mini-PCIe, and SATA-II connections as well as both SD and microSD card slots. There is a pair of USB ports, and one USB on-the-go port, as well as HDMI and LVDS outputs to give the video a shot in the arm.

For online connectivity, both 10/100 and gigabit Ethernet ports are on hand, and the whole thing even boasts Raspberry Pi compatibility with an expansion header, as well as analog and digital inputs and outputs. These may well qualify as the "wacky features" mentioned previously, as thanks to those connections, one of Huang's laptops could do double duty as a separate firewall device.

Huang began the construction of the device earlier this summer, and has already made some serious headway, complete with a Linux distribution booting that's ARM friendly, as well as creating a variety of datasheets and manuals available free for download, and that would allow others to make their own firmware for the device. Additionally, Huang even has some plans--assuming sufficient interest--to offer up the device in a Kickstarter campaign as a full kit. However, Huang's plans are for "a low-volume, hand-crafted laptop with uniquely open-source components", which would make prices significantly higher than they would be for competing models like the Odroid and the Raspberry Pi.

Early reaction to the concept of Huang's laptop suggests that, in some sectors, form factor doesn't matter near so much as overall functionality. In this case, all those "wacky options" are likely to provide just the value that those particular sectors are after, as well as the ability to further modify the device to provide the more specific values that some are looking for.

Still, it looks like Huang's device should be well-received in its own time, with plenty of opportunities packed into one single, comparatively simple framework. It remains to be seen if this will ever see a wider launch, but there's a good chance enthusiasts will find themselves sufficiently interested to back Huang's Kickstarter ploy.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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