Imagine a computer whose instructions you can download, in entirety, from the Internet. No, not the standard operating manuals but instructions to put together the board from scratch and how to program and wire each component from the processor onwards.
Why is this a big deal? Because proprietary or non-open source components would usually be difficult to obtain documentation for. And often access meant signing a lot of non-disclosure documents.
The Novena project is all about creating an open-source laptop with components you can cobble together with freely available instructions. Not that it would be easy, quick or cheap, mind you. But that didn't stop Sean "xobs” Cross and Andrew "Bunnie" Huang from teaming up to create a working laptop on their open computing platform.
A labour of love
Huang said his primary motivation was " to build something I would use every day." And he certainly has, using the laptop to make presentations on the security vulnerabilities inherent in SD cards.
The duo's rationale behind the laptop is that if you can't hack it, you don't own it. While the on-motherboard components have easily obtainable documentation, hardware like the LED screen, keyboard and the modified RC-battery powering the machine needed to be brought off the shelf. Huang in his blog post on Make zine said the motherboard was very reliable, and coupled with a 13” 2560×1700 (239ppi) LED-backlit panel. They chose to wrap their DIY laptops with genuine leather exteriors with an interior paper laminate. Interesting choice of design materials, to say the least.
If you fancy yourself a hardware hacker, visit the Project Novena wiki for resources. Just a reminder: this is not for the faint of heart or the light of pocket as sourcing the parts will be expensive, not to mention the cost of commissioning the board's manufacture. But hey, you can truly say that the laptop is really yours, in every way.