discussion Digest, Vol 38, Issue 2

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sun Mar 3 13:21:09 EST 2013

On Sunday 03 March 2013 15:13:10 lee jones wrote:
> >My impression is that you cannot upgrade the USB capabilities on the board
> > because they are part of the Ingenic SoC
> A Pity that the usb controller just "can't be changed" on the
> nanonote. Was hoping it was a simple case of removing a chip and
> replacing it. Ack! I guess that dosen't stop any new manufacture of
> nanonotes from using a different SoC that does have usb host and is
> usable. If it's too expensive to redesign the nanonote just make as
> few changes as possible?

Work was apparently done on new revisions but not brought to a conclusion:


> >As I said before, I don't think there's a shortage of hardware that you
> >could put together as a concept, but the challenge is to make it into a
> >product. 
> Quite agree there's no shortage of bits 'n' pieces out there. The
> biggest problem with all that hardware seems to come with the drivers
> for the software; propietary boot loaders and video drivers. Currently
> I've not seen (unless I'm wrong!) any new ARM based device for example
> that dosen't require a propietary video driver. Occasionally some
> gnu/linux distros (eg ubuntu) might be 'blessed' with having such a
> propietary driver but a)  you can't modify it and b) it won't work
> with anything else other than the 'blessed' distro. Not good.
> That's one of the big reasons I like the nanonote as it has no or as
> close to no propietary drivers at all.

Indeed. I'm not sure that the bootloader is a huge problem for many boards, 
but the graphics hardware certainly can be, despite efforts to make genuinely 
free drivers and firmware.

> >I remember the defunct computer manufacturer Acorn Computers having to
> >settle for previous generation laptop cases from Olivetti .... 
> I remember this too -- up until fairly recently you could still buy a
> second hand one from a company called CJE micros! Those old acorn
> machines are the ones I used at school, starting with the ancient
> Acorn/BBC B and later the Acorn archimedes. It seems a very long time
> ago now!

Yes, any subsequent laptops were only prototypes and probably borrowed cases 
from other manufacturers' existing production models or had such things 
commissioned by specific corporate customers. I knew someone who wanted to 
put a motherboard from a newer generation of hardware into a laptop case, but 
he never got round to doing that as far as I know. Dealing with the different 
electronic components possibly isn't too hard if you know what you're doing, 
as the following demonstrates (effectively achieving what my friend aspired 
to achieve)...


...but the matter of finding a suitable laptop body, particularly one that 
might then be used to supply more than one unit, and making sure that it is a 
robust solution probably poses the more significant challenge. That said, I'm 
sure that there are people out there who could easily put the electronics 
experts together with the product design and manufacturing experts, but a 
random individual isn't likely to be so well-connected.


> Maybe a different option might be to somehow 'scale-up' the nanonote
> and produce something along the lines of the efika MX smartbook? That
> wouldn't be bad -- no moving parts, quite small and t hin although the
> smartbook as a very major thing against it with its propietary video
> driver. The lemote yeelong did better though its main problem was the
> poor battery life -- 2 hours.

There is already stuff like the following available, of course:


That's architectually similar to the Ben NanoNote but, I imagine, not open 
hardware nor currently manufactured.


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