Hardware hackers Bunnie Huang and Sean Cross wanted to design a laptop that didn’t rely on any proprietary hardware or software, so they created the Novena open laptop. At first they figured there was a market for exactly two of these systems in the world… but when they started talking about the project, plenty of other folks expressed interest.
So in addition to making the plans available for anyone who wanted to build their own, the creators of the first few Novena systems launched a crowdfunding campaign to see if they could raise enough money to product a limited number of systems for folks who might not otherwise be able to build their own.
This week the Crowd Supply campaign ended after raising over $700 thousand… nearly three times the original goal. Apparently there is a market for more than two of these things.
The team is offering pledge rewards ranging from T-shirts to custom-built laptops with wooden cases. In between are items including a system board and a Novena laptop which is designed to be user-hackable.
If all goes according to plan, system boards should begin shipping to backers of the campaign in November with laptops going out in January.
The Novena isn’t for everyone. It’s an extraordinarily geeky device aimed at hardware hackers who see the value of things like an FGPA and a software-defined radio and people who are willing to pay a premium for those things.
It’s also relatively slow by modern laptop standards. The Novena is powered by a Freescale i.MX6 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor. Right now there aren’t even open source graphics drivers for this chipset, which means there’s no support for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics or HD video on Linux… but the team is working on that. One of the first stretch goals that the project blew past was an effort to polish some reverse-engineered open source graphics drivers. Not only will they be available to Novena users, but once they’re ready to go, anyone with a Freescale i.MX6 device should be able to use them.
Odds are the Novena will never go into mass production or become the kind of system to rival the MacBook (or even Raspberry Pi) in terms of price or popularity. But it’s pretty nifty to see that there are enough people out there who care about geeky, open source projects like this to turn dreams into reality.