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A Very Open Xmas! – Part I: Hardware

Yes, ’tis time to drink, dance and go shopping. To satisfy the compulsive Christmas shopper we all carry within ourselves, we’ll be running a series of articles which will give you some ideas as to what to get your loved ones or to regale yourself for the holidays.

Not everything will require you spending money at stores and, not surprisingly, we’ll be focusing exclusively on products that promise at least some decent degree of freedom. We’ll also be including products that may not make it to store shelves by Christmas, but are running crowdfunding campaigns right now and would make cool techie gadget presents whatever the time of year.

Phones and Tablets

Today we’ll be looking at hardware and let’s kick off with phones. Earlier this year, Canonical and Meizu (China) and bq (Spain) jointly announced that there would be Ubuntu phones on the market by the end of the year. With a little more than a month until the 31st of December, and no more news about the subject coming out of the Canonical camp, it seems unlikely they’ll meet the deadline. Having said that, keep your eyes peeled, because if they do manage to pull off getting a handset to market before Xmas, these phones will be sweet!

Update 25/11/2014 09:30 CET: What do you know? Not 24 hours after publishing this, and this pops up. Still not confirmed, and Ubuntu phones will be available no earlier than the first quarter of 2015, so not in time for Christmas. Sorry, folks.

A much more realistic purchase is the Jolla tablet. A real beauty, designed by Finnish engineers who fled the Nokia mobile division when it was bought by Microsoft, this is a high end, but affordable piece of hardware that runs the Open Source Sailfish operating system, which, by the way, can also run Android apps.

Jolla's tablet.
Jolla’s tablet.

You can pay for the tablet now but note it won’t be available until May 2015. The reason is that it is still being crowdfunded on IndieGoGo. The good news is that you can get it cheaper than what will be the final estimated retail price. If you contribute now, you can get the Jolla Tablet for USD $209, while, if you wait yo buy it in a store, it will cost 40 dollars more.

And rest assured the the campaign has already succeeded in reaching its goal: Jolla blew past it’s aim of raising USD $380,000 in 24 hours. With 15 days still to go, the current amount raised is well over 1 million dollars. As a show appreciation for such an overwhelming response, Jolla has their flagship phone on sale for €100 less than normal. Offer finishes tonight, November 25th, at midnight CEE time, so you better hurry.

Virtual Reality Headsets

The DIY Open Source VR Goggles.
The DIY Open Source VR Goggles.

If you are on a tighter budget, you could go for the Open Source Virtual Reality Goggles that are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Inspired by Google cardboard, the DIY Virtual Reality Goggles extend functionality with, not only a magnetic button, but a capacitative switch that guarantees the goggles will work with virtually all smartphones with a touchscreen. It also includes a rig that allows you to attach the goggles to a cap, which means you can use it hands free… Because you’re going to need you hands for the Leap Motion you can mount at the front of your device, allowing you to interact with the VR world using your hands.

They have also created an Open Source VR development framework called GLAM, that allows developers create VR environments as easy as creating web pages, so it’s a gift to programmers too.

Personal Computing

The Librem15 free laptop.
The Librem15 free laptop.

If you’re looking for something a little more practical, but stylish and at the same time free (as in freedom), check out the Librem15 ultrabook by Purism. This beauty has the looks of a MacBook Air, but actually runs a variant of Trisquel, a GNU/Linux distribution officially approved by the Free Software Foundation.

All the hardware is also guaranteed to run free drivers and be fully compatible with free software. The specs are also a pretty impressive: Librem15 comes with a 15.6″ 1920×1080 display and is powered by a 4 Core (8 Threads) 2.3GHz Intel i7-4712MQ. The GPU is an NVIDIA GT840M Graphics and in the way of storage, it has 4GB RAM (which can be ramped up to 8GB) and a 500GB HD (which can be expanded to 1TB HD or 1TB SSD). Despite being a very slim machine, all the innards are readily accessible by unscrewing the back, and components can be easily switched out and replaced.

Purism is currently running a crowdfunding campaign and want to raise $250,000 to start to mass-produce the Librem15. You can nab one of these high end ultrabooks for $1,499, but you’ll have to wait until April 2015 before its delivered to your home.

Update  23/01/2015: The Librem free laptop just got funded! The organisation has raised over $250,000 and also publish where they compare the degree of freedom of the Librem (very high) with that of other vendors (very low).

The Sable Touch tactile computer.

A computer you can literally get your hands on right now is the Sable Touch by System 76, an all-in-one touchscreen computer that runs Ubuntu. Again, another beautiful machine, with a fully functional, Open Source operating system that takes advantage of the touch capabilities of the full HD screen.

You can opt for a 21” or a 23” monitor and also decide if you want an i5 or i7 processor, plus choose RAM size, HD, and other components on the DESIGN + BUY screen. The most basic set up will set you back about $1,000.

If you’re looking for something less glamorous and cheaper, check out the shops below for laptops, mini PCs and more that come with Free Software operating systems pre-installed, configured, and ready to run:

  • US: The other big US company that sells laptops, servers, and desktops with Linux preinstalled is ZaReason. You can choose from Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Edubuntu for all machines, or even request another flavour of Linux.
  • France: Ekimia offers laptops and mini desktop computers with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled, as well as support.
  • Germany: Tuxedo offers laptops and towers at reasonable prices and with a wide choice of Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mint and more.
  • Spain: Check out Tuxy for a selection of laptops and mini PCs that you can purchase with Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Ubuntu GNOME
  • U.K.: Laptops, towers, servers and Steam Machines can be purchased at Entroware. You can choose to have Ubuntu installed, or no operating system at all and set up your system yourself.
  • Worldwide: Linutop is a major supplier of Linux-based Mini PCs that sends machines allother the world.

DISCLAIMER: Neither Pling or Plingzine are associated in any way with any of the companies or manufacturers mentioned in this article. We cannot guarantee the quality of any of the products and encourage users to research and explore other possibilities.

If you work or own a company that offers free software-friendly hardware products like those mentioned above, or you are user who would like to advise others about more alternatives, please let us know in the comments below and please remember to include a link. Anything that is not spammy will be approved.

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