Tuesday, May 1, 2007

OSH Laptop Design

Here follows my idea for an open source laptop. Naturally, its components should be open source too.
First, all components need to use USB 3.0. This idea is detailed in a previous post here.
Secondly, it needs to be liquid cooled. This may sound ridiculous, but when you see my idea for the implementation, you may change your mind- more on this later.
Third, while the CPU instruction set's being open may sound stupid, keep in mind that the gcc can add it as a target platform as easily as it could be designed int eh first place. I believe it already exists anyway.
Fourth, it has a co processor. This would require the Linux, Open Solaris, FreeBSD, Haiku, whatever- kernels to be altered, but it would be worth it. Threads would issue a kernel call for mass math batching to the co processor, which would be used for all math intensive operations.
Fifth, it would take advantage of every power saving method under the sun. Parts of the processor would power off via clock gating when unused. Both clock frequencies and voltages to all components would be scaled dynamically.

Here follows some more specific design ideas: The liquid cooling system would be quieter and work better than current laptop air cooling. Thanks to all the power saving measures in place, it wouldn't ave that much stress put on it usually. It would have a small pump in the main body, and would cool all components that generate heat. One tube goes up behind the screen, and one comes down. There, a heat sink that covers the entire back side of it dissipates the heat with vertical fins while the laptop is open. Aluminum would likely work fine. This also opens of some neat aesthetic possibilities. Due to the flexibility of USB 3.0, the keyboard is not mandatory. One could easily replace it with, say, a touchscreen. Or a solar panel, with the top screen being a touchscreen. Possibilities are endless.

We touch first on the hard drive. First notable difference: simplified electronics. The system could use one GB of GDDR3 for L3, graphical cache for the co processor, and perhaps hard drive cache as well. The hard drive itself would lack a cache. Using Gb USB 3, it would negotiate one 60 and one 1 volt power input. The 60 bolt drives the motor, and the one volt drives circuitry. It would have instant spin down in a similar manner to hybrid vehicles. Shock mounted.

Next, the optical drive. Power negotiation would be identical to the other, with the exception of an extra voltage for the laser. The laser would be an independent unit of the drive, capable of bring upgraded to higher frequencies as needed without replacing the entire drive. The tray and reading/writing mechanisms would also be independent, allowing for design variations like drives that grab the disk and pull it in, without major redesign.

The power supply would put out a few 60 and 1 volt lines, with several variable voltage outputs. While these may not be particularly efficient, they centralize power conversion in the PSU. Centralization of operations is crucial. As all other components, it would be liquid cooled. Thus, it would be much denser than many other PSU's. This may sound like a bad idea, but as long as the liquid system is well designed and no one is emptying rounds into the machine, it should be fine.

Another component that one might find interesting is the modulator. This would be a digital-to-analog wave generator, and could be used as a modem, or to provide traditional audio output to old headphones and speakers. Or, hey, tuning radio and TV- even broadcasting at moderate power. This would be placed above the screen, along with a digital microphone and perhaps a webcam.

The usual or recommended setup would be one colemak thin keyboard, a thumb pad for security, and a touch mouse. Perhaps a small scanning pad would be handy too. These would be isolated in the keyboard layer, separate from other internal components, and a breeze to replace. As much as possible, the machine should be EM shielded and waterproof. With the right sealing methods, and design, it may be a good idea to actually make it capable of underwater use, conditionally. That is, it needs to be designed with that in mind, but most people wouldn't need it actually built in when they get one.

I want to set up some kind of group to make such designs a reality, but I need all the help I can get. ethana2@gmail.com- for those willing to contribute or comment.

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