An open source laptop from Gluglug

Purely Open Source

© Lead Image © arcady31,

© Lead Image © arcady31,

Article from Issue 161/2014

A laptop with no proprietary BIOS and 100 percent open source software may sound too good to be true, but that's exactly what Gluglug delivers. Is it a good deal? Read on to find out.

Buying a laptop that comes preinstalled with Linux is getting easier these days. However, you'll still be hard pressed to find a machine that is scrubbed of any proprietary code, such as BIOS and closed source drivers. Francis Rowe of Gluglug (which stands for GNU/Linux Libre User Group) decided to rectify the situation. Obviously, building an open software laptop from scratch is beyond the capabilities of one individual, so he chose the next best approach: customizing refurbished IBM Lenovo ThinkPad X60 laptops [1].

Customization includes replacing the proprietary BIOS with coreboot [2], swapping the installed wireless card with one based on the Atheros AR5B95 chip, which has open source drivers, and installing the Free Software Foundation-approved Trisquel Linux distribution [3]. All these modifications turn the stock IBM Lenovo ThinkPad X60 into an open source laptop that has received the Respects Your Freedom hardware certification from the Free Software Foundation [4].

Laptop Options

This open source laptop sure looks good on paper, but what is it like to use for daily computing? To answer this question, I ordered a laptop from Gluglug's online shop. Besides the coreboot installation service (handy if you have your own ThinkPad X60), the shop currently offers two options: a ThinkPad X60 with and without extras. The latter bundle includes an UltraBase X6 docking station, a USB mouse, a USB serial adapter, a null modem cable, and an Ethernet cable. Both options ship with a new extended eight-cell (5200mAh) battery. By default, the laptop comes preinstalled with Trisquel, but you can opt for gNewSense or Parabola.


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