System76 Comments On Their Open-Source Hardware Plans & US Manufacturing

Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 30 October 2018 at 02:30 PM EDT. 24 Comments
System76 is finally announcing the Thelio system on Thursday with plans to begin shipping it in December. Ahead of that announcement they've clarified a bit around their US manufacturing and open-source hardware plans.

Highlights of their post today:

- Thelio is “Designed and manufactured in the US with domestic and foreign components”. They are using components they source from within the United States, including steel.

- Thelio isn't going to be like 100% open-source per definition. "The strictest definition of an open computer is that every single part of the product has openly licensed design files, schematics, and code. No one is there yet. We all understand that it’s not practical to start at the end. So we’re chipping away at the proprietary bits."

- In terms of Thelio being open hardware: "The Thelio design we’ve worked on for three years is open source. That means anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design. You can send the design files to a metal shop to make your own Thelio. You can adapt the design for your needs."

- Thelio will still rely upon a proprietary motherboard, but with time are working on trying to depend less and less on that functionality. "To further our open computer ambition, we’re working to remove functionality from the proprietary mainboard. To that end, we designed Thelio Io, a daughter board that manages thermal and chassis control while also providing a storage backplane for the drives in Thelio. It’s open hardware and open source firmware, and a big step in the right direction. We’re by no means done. We’ll continue to open source more functionality."

- Ultimately Thelio is still going to be an x86_64 system but they hope eventually Intel or AMD will become more open-source friendly when it comes to the low-level initialization bits. "Eventually, all that will be left are proprietary hardware initialization bits and convincing Intel and AMD to open up there. We think there’s reason for optimism. Intel contributes lots of code to Linux and AMD graphics drivers are open source already. Maybe open hardware is next for them. Let’s keep pushing."

- "Open" laptops will be their next step. "This is just the start for us. Next, we move to designing laptops with open hardware designs and controllers. An open source keyboard? We’d love to make one. Motherboards? We’ll experiment there too. Having a factory opens up all kinds of possibilities. It’ll take time and a lot of work, but we sure like where we’re headed."

Their complete post in full on the System76 blog.

At this point Thelio appears to be an x86_64 system with different daughter boards for providing some functionality as open-source. The case and related components meanwhile are all System76 original and being manufactured at their Colorado facility. We'll know more for sure on Thursday.
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