Continuing my Hardware for Linux blog thread about laptops sold for use with Linux. Today I’m covering System76 and Framework.
System76 is an obvious option when considering the US market. My experience is that they have a solid fanbase in the FLOSS community.
Pangolin is System76’s current AMD ( early 2024 ) offering. It has plenty of CPU, 32 GB of RAM and NVMe for storage.
The Pangolin features a physical killswitch for the camera. The switch cuts power to the camera when you want it turned off. This is great privacy feature.
From the Pangolin product page
Camera Privacy With a physical killswitch that cuts power to the camera, you control how you present yourself to others—and when. Take comfort in an OS that refuses to collect and store user data.
System76 doesn’t have many configuration options, but the Pangolin is sufficient to provide what I want. The site doesn’t describe the keyboard, but an image depicts a ANSI keyboard with US English. It has a Super key. It also has a 10 key on the side.
System76 ships with either Pop!_OS ( their fork of Ubuntu ) or Ubuntu LTS.
System76 also makes their own desktop keyboard that has Free Software firmware. The Launch Configurable Keyboard is available in several models and is made onsite in Colorado. System76 makes desktop cases too. Linux Unplugged has a podcast episode with System76ers, What’s Cookin' at System76.
I’ve never gotten a System76 laptop. A couple times I tried, but they were out of inventory for what I needed at the time. System76 has a good presence in the FLOSS community and I’ve gotten good reviews when talking to people at conferences about their System76 laptops.
Framework makes customizeable, repairable and upgradable laptops. Want a new model of CPU or screen? Buy the part from the marketplace and follow the guide to install it. Need to replace the hinges, buy new hinges and follow that guide. They include a screwdriver with the laptop to help with future modifications. I still have my ZaReason screwdriver, it’s an inexpensive token towards right to repair.
Framework doesn’t ship with Linux, but says it will support a couple Linux distros. Order a DIY model with no operating system. The DIY model does require some assembly at home, but the majority of the laptop is preassembled at the factory. The DIY models are a couple hundred dollars less expensive than the pre-built models for the same laptop.
The Framework site shows support for Ubuntu LTS and Fedora. There is community support for some other distros.
Framework currently ( early 2024 ) has 2 models on the site: Framework 13 and Framework 16. Only Framework 13 is in stock, it is several months until the Framework 16 will be available again. I’m fine if smaller companies don’t always have everything in stock. Framework sells in batches, so inventory runs out. Can’t buy what’s not avaialble :), but otherwise I’m not worried about it.
Framework laptops have hardware switches to disable camera and microphone for privacy. Again, this is a fantastic privacy feature, especially since the microphone can be disabled as well. The embedded controller firmware is also Open Source.
Framework espouses Right to Repair with accessible part numbers, repair documentations and even CAD templates and reference designs. From the https://frame.work/products/laptop-diy-13-gen-amd[Framework Laptop 13 DIY Edition (AMD Ryzen 7040 Series) product page:
Every part of the Framework Laptop has a scannable QR code, giving you unprecedented access to documentation, repair guides, replacement and upgrade parts, and insight into design and manufacturing data.
Also from the https://frame.work/products/laptop-diy-13-gen-amd[Framework Laptop 13 DIY Edition (AMD Ryzen 7040 Series) product page:
We’ve released documentation, CAD templates, and reference designs, all under open source licenses to make it easy for both hardware companies and individual makers to create new designs.
Framework does a horrible job describing their keyboards on the site. The pictures of the keyboards are not great and there’s no text information about the layout. The picture of the clear ISO keyboard switches to a backlit ANSI keyboard when you mouseover. The Super key is a proprietary logo unless you pay extra for a keyboard with no markings.
Framework doesn’t have built in ports, which is great. In fact, it’s fantastic!
You buy port modules to get what you want. They have USB C, USB A, HDMI, Ethernet, DisplayPort, MicroSD, Audio, and Storage Modules. You need at least one USB C port for power. They will let you buy a laptop with zero USB C modules for charging. I’ll post about how I know another time.
Here’s an article on some reasons behind Framework configuration options and some hints on how Framework sources their hardware.
Framework does have a reputation for inadequate customer support :(.
There’s a known issue with the first run of Frameworks where bad firmware drains the battery, even when the laptop is fully powered down. Despite acknowledging the problem, they have yet to fully resolve it. Multiple firmware updates that were supposed to fix the issue didn’t. Their current position is that the Framework Laptop is not appropriate for users who won’t be plugging it in at least once a day, though they only say this to affected customers who have contacted support; it’s not mentioned to potential new customers anywhere.
More to come.
Mastodon post for blog post.