Widespread laptop manufacturers fetish for plastics and non-glass screens

Appreciate the response around serviceability. Makes a lot of sense. One thing I do think is missing is higher-resolution screens (2K-4K).

Is there any likliehood of having a higher res screen option for the Librem 14?

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Well, ATM we have 1080p (1920x1080). Higher screen resolution is feasible but displays are hard to source, 4k in 14" is not very common and our quantities are still too low to make our own (for that you would need several 10k per year). The other problem we have been debating a lot is what to do with such resolution then? If you would stick a 4k panel into 14" you need to scale the UI in order to be able to use it. So far only integer scaling has been possible with GNOME, i.e. either 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x etc. But at 14" your are sitting a bit in the middle when 1x would be too small for 14" and 2x too big. You would need fractional scaling like 1.5x or so. So for now we not have concrete plans to get higher resolution displays but that can change in the future. Firs we want to get the L14 out of the door as-is and then work on improving it :wink:

Cheers
nicole

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And hopefully ‘out the door’ will be soon!!!
Are address verification emails going out in the next week or two?

We all hope for that :slight_smile: ! Sourcing consumer electronics is a total pain right now, shortages everywhere, everything takes longer and it is extremely exhausting to manage through all of that. But we are pushing super hard! Like we mentioned in the last blog post, we are still hopeful to be able to start shipping in February, so yes, these mails will come kind of soon.

We will also shortly have another blog post coming up, we are now heads down in Embedded Controller (EC) firmware development! This is the first time we do this for a laptop of ours, which is super exciting! But also a steep learning curve :slight_smile: But also super rewarding! The EC does so much stuff under the hood you, or at least I, want to get control over so this becomes this endless sea of opportunities :slight_smile: We hope to get everything together and aligned with product arrival but since it took sooo long to get first EVT samples we are far behind with that EC firmware development but trying our very best, Matt and I are hacking away, the EVT sample already boots up with LCD and keyboard working with the free EC and Coreboot. Getting there :slight_smile: Code will be shared soon…

Cheers
nicole

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Does this also have a positive impact on antennae placement?
In the L13/L15s I have, WiFi range is really the lowest of all devices I ever had, but I’m not sure if it’s because of the antennae / metal casing or a problem of the chip itself.

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Glass gives more rigid feel. It makes the display harder and mitigates warping, when closing/opening lid. I think, that option to have it would not hurt anybody.

Oh, another thing. Is there any plans for 120hz screen? Before you say no, go to your nearest place where you can try out premium phones. Find Samsung Galaxy S20 (or S21) (or different phone with 120hz screen), then dig deep in settings and enable 120hz (smoothbrains at Samsung didn’t enable 120hz by default). Try 120hz for few minutes. Once you go 120hz, you don’t go back. It is like crack.

I have a few observations regarding laptop design. Metal cases do not automatically make laptops more durable and improve their life expectancy. The most durable laptops have plastic cases over metal frames. For example, look at the design of Thinkpad P-series with a magnesium-aluminum alloy structure frame and plastic case. In my experience, enterprise-class laptops (e.g. Lenovo Thinkpads, Dell Latitudes and HP Elitebooks) are more durable and more likely to last than Apple laptops, and they are certainly more repairable than Apple laptops.

Using CNC-milling to make cases from a block of aluminum like Apple does is a huge waste of resources and has a much higher environmental impact than using a plastic case. Making aluminum requires huge amounts of electricity (which is a problem if that energy comes from fossil fuels) and running the CNC milling machines is also very energy intensive compared to plastic manufacturing. Even if the waste from CNC milling is recycled and the case eventually gets recycled at the end of life, an aluminum case still generates significantly more CO2 than a plastic case. The general rule is that the longer an electronics device lasts, the lower its environmental impact, because roughly 80% of the total energy and total GHG emissions lie in the initial fabrication of electronics, so it is important to use electronics devices as long as possible to reduce their environmental impact.

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Unlikely but maybe. The problem is more in the ATH9k side which is not the most performant, starting with the lack of 802.11ac support. But it’s the only M.2 card we currently have available that does not require a firmware at runtime.

Cheers
nicole

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Wouldn’t the Redpine Signals RS9116: 802.11 abgn 2.4GHz/5GHz from the Librem 5 work? Or is that not connected via m.2 on the Librem 5?

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Actually, yes, it would! Because with the L14 we very intentionally wired not just USB and PCIe to the WiFi M.2 slot but also a UART and drumroll SDIO!

But the RS9116 does not have better performance than the ATH9k.

I am evaluating another chipset but this will still take some time. But if that works we will create a new M.2 card which embeds the firmware and this chipset and these cards will then work in the L5 and the laptops and support everything we want, also 802.11ac and BT5. But again, this will still take some time and a lot of effort and money :frowning:

Cheers
nicole

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I gather that as we might eventually have…

Which makes the the advantage “better performance / more modern standards”, but still lacks a free firmware. Do you see any chance that a concerted effort can free up one of those things?

On a related note: On the Debian mailing list, they are currently discussing the problem of their default images not having the firmware needed to install net-installer images on WiFi-only laptops. I suggested a fundraiser to (eventually) have less of these problems, but there seems to be little enthusiasm towards freeing firmware :confused:

There is definitely enough enthusiasm: https://www.pine64.org/2020/10/28/nutcracker-challenge-blob-free-wifi-ble/. It’s just hard I guess.

I thought the RS9116 was had open source firmware available?

No.

Ah just the drivers I guess https://source.puri.sm/Librem5/linux-next/-/merge_requests/258. Shame.

If you wanna see how great Apple products are, check out Louis Rossman’s videos on the subject on YouTube/LBRY. Apple’s so-called “unibody” is two pieces of metal glued together, with glue that goes soft when heated. Sitting right next to the hot exhaust ports. And that’s just one example in a long list of design flaws you invite when you let your people design for looks rather than function and durability.

I much prefer a plastic laptop that I can take apart and replace the individual parts of. Plastic, because unlike metal, it doesn’t easily deform permanently. It may crack when mishandled, but then you’d just replace that part and be done. With metal, when it deforms, it continually keeps applying stress to the electronics it holds. And that’s not something you want.

I totally agree with this.
The matte display is favorable to a reflective one. And the weight is also a very large concern. Those are the two most important things for me when i get a laptop. It needs to be light weight so i don’t get a back injury when carrying it and the screen needs to work in many environments. It wont do if you can’t work on your laptop in the train, because the view outside the train is reflecting in the screen. It might look nice when the laptop is turned off, but that is just not smart.

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While I obviously agree, I can also see the point of glass + optical bonding, I have seen displays with it and yes, contrast and brightness is better, clearly, since of course the matte structure on the top glass of the LCD, by purpose, works against both. But weighing the options and having worked with a glare screen laptop for a while, well, no, sorry, I don’t like it. In a dark room it’s great! Brilliant picture, great contrast, vibrant colors, it really makes a difference! But as soon as there are other light sources around you it quickly gets super annoying unless you crank up the screen brightness to compete with the other light sources - which of course has its limits.

For a work machine and especially a laptop I want to carry around into different environments I am also in favor of matte displays. And from experience I can also tell that we (at Purism) only see broken (cracked) displays very seldomly I also think that protecting the display with an additional glass is trying to solve a problem that does not exist.

So for now I am pretty happy with the choice of display we made for the L14 along with the increased brightness and pretty good color gamut it should be nice to work with.

Cheers
nicole

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can’t wait to inspect the L14 display since i haven’t had a laptop for a few years now (sold my surface in 2017 and didn’t look back)

Apple came with some pretty advanced solutions with glass ONLY and nano-etching as anti-glare coating with upto 1600 nits > https://www.apple.com/pro-display-xdr/

but that’s for workstation and dark-room/studio type scenarios so the application/translation for a portable ‘warior’ scenario can be far-fetched …

Displays are a total pain in the b*!

Making them isn’t actually super complicated, if you look at regular TFTs. What makes the situation so complicated and frustrating is that there are no real standards. Most displays are custom made for some consumer product, in very high quantities, tailored for this one product. For high volume device this is not an issue, the one time setup cost and following minimum order quantities (MOQs) are a no brainer for higher volume products - like an Apple or Dell or Lenovo or HP. Then there are a couple of high volume ODMs that make devices for OEMs. Also for them higher volume LCD orders are no big deal.

For custom developments for smaller projects like ours we can not afford a custom LCD design. At MOQs barely starting in the ballpark of 20k for small displays and going up quickly the larger the display glass gets, this is out of reach. So we (and many others) have to live from the knock offs trickling down, this is the common way it works. This means a large one creates a new custom display and uses that exclusively for a year or two. Then the tooling for that, which is the expensive part, is sold to second tier LCD makers which continue to make the same display for the first tear original customer but also starts to sell them to the general market. These are the displays you can find in the open market. If the volume drops below a certain amount the manufacturer then just stops making them and a next order incurs a pretty hefty MOQ again (this 20k and above figure).

So that’s the situation we are facing right now, we have to use what we can find on the market and believe me when I tell you that we do the best we can to choose the best displays we can source - but our choices are simply very very limited. And our quantities are still way too small to go for a custom display of our dreams. We are getting there one fine day! We are already a lot better off concerning our numbers than we were, say, two years ago! Which is great and gives us a bit more flexibility already on the hardware side like the PCB / mainboard design. But we are still pretty far away from full custom design e.g. for a display.

Cheers
nicole

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