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The Free Software Foundation loves this laptop, but you won't

Chris Hoffman | Feb. 6, 2015
Sure, all the software--right down to the firmware!--is free and open in the LibreBoot X200. But it's still a refurbished 2008 laptop, and indicative of deeper problems in the state of truly open hardware.

Gluglug's developers spent time reverse-engineering this laptop's low-level firmware, creating free software firmware to replace it, and installing that onto the laptop. You get a laptop with completely free software all the way down, with no closed-source bits of firmware. You're free to modify the firmware and install your modifications, if you'd like. That's what's really special about these laptops, especially to the FSF.

FSF endorsement can teach us a valuable lesson
Sadly, the FSF's endorsement of these laptops is irrelevant to most of our lives. Unless you really want to use a CPU made seven years ago, you probably don't want to buy this laptop. There's a reason the Purism Librem 15 campaign decided to allow non-free firmware--otherwise it wouldn't be able to ship with modern hardware. At least Purism seems to be making at least some progress on opening up the firmware.

The sheer difficulty of getting a laptop with completely free software running on it is sobering as well as instructive. If you believe in hardware that's customizable, modifiable, and open, so you can do whatever you want with your PC and exert total control and ownership over it--and who doesn't like the sound of that?--then it's quite tragic that the only options are so dated.

While I criticized the Purism Librem 15 campaign a bit for glossing over the concerns with closed-source firmware in its quest for an open Linux laptop, I tried not to hit them too hard. The FSF's endorsement shows us why the Purism Librem 15 and other modern pieces of Linux hardware don't have completely open firmware code. Sadly, it'll take more than a refurbished laptop from seven years ago with reverse-engineered firmware to change the industry.


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