Undergoing many changes from its earlier version, the latest version of the MNT Reform is the most friendly open source DIY laptop for hacking, customization, and privacy.
It’s comprised of eight different 3D-printed parts. Designed with customization, repair, and longevity in mind the MNT Reform laptop can be amended and appended with 3D printed parts. It has a hard-wearing aluminum case and a long-life battery that is user-replaceable. Almost all of the firmware, hardware, and software on this laptop are free and open source. Saved for a bit of non-ARM firmware at the start of the boot, there are no binary blobs in use.
They selected the “Nitrogen8M SOM” module for Reform because it is the only available module for which the user can download the complete schematics and understand what every component does. The SoM plugs into the Reform motherboard’s central 200-pin SO-DIMM connector. This means that anyone will be able to design a replacement SoM to power Reform with a completely different CPU or an FPGA, for example.
To protect the privacy of the user, the Reform doesn’t have any microphones or cameras built-in, and Wi-Fi is provided by a removable PCIe card. You can even install your operating system or sensitive work data on an SD card that you can simply eject before traveling. Full-disk encryption is easy to set up with LUKS, and the system has no “management engine” or other remote control features that could be used to attack you.
Instead of following the trend of making ever thinner and smaller devices and sacrificing the typing experience, they put a mechanical keyboard into Reform which has a direct connection to the system controller, allowing you to use it even when bypassing the computer’s primary processor.
Also, it has a 5-button trackball instead of a trackpad, so you don’t have to worry anymore about how to do a middle click or use the trackball as a scroll wheel (hold the bottom left or right button and roll the ball up and down). Certainly, if you prefer a trackpad over the trackball, you can choose it as an option. The trackball and trackpad are interchangeable modules.
There’s a 128 x 32-pixel OLED display above the keyboard that you can use to see things like battery health information even when there’s no desktop operating system running.
When not connected to a wall adapter, Reform is powered by 8x 18650 LiFePO4 battery cells. Each has a nominal voltage of 3.2 V, and all cells are linked in series, which means an operating voltage of 28.8 V. This arrangement has the upside that we can monitor and balance each cell individually. You don’t have to factory-match cells like you would have to in a parallel arrangement. You can buy replacement cells for Reform for around 2.50 EUR each.
The MNT Reform now is in the stage of crowdfunding at the CrowdSupply. So if you are interested in this open-source DIY laptop, you can pre-order it. After the crowdfunding is completed, as the partner of the Crowdsupply, PCBWay will manufacture and assembly the motherboard, keyboard, and trackpad/trackball.