Thanks to Albert for contacting us and agreeing to help out via arm-netbooks. He contacted me last week to ask if it the laptop would have AZERTY keyboard support. As this is a libre project, I explained to him the process, not realising that he was an embedded hardware engineer.
It was therefore a really nice surprise to hear him get enthusiastic about the possibility of hacking the firmware and to begin asking how to set up the development environment, which we went through and then documented.
Albert is not yet at the exact same stage of development that the original prototype was at, yet: he still has an FPC24 connector on order, and the AZERTY keyboard (P/N MP-03756F0-5282 where the original prototyped used MP-03756GB-5287) but we hope to be able to bring you an update and a video soon of how he is getting on.
What it also means is that anyone else who wants to create a different keyboard, including one that is just blank keys for example, can consider doing so. (Just a word of warning: for anyone considering doing this please do not buy from ajparts.co.uk - we found that they fail to deliver the correct item around 75% of the time. They operate under multiple aliases on eBay).
I really could not have hoped for a better outcome: this really is a genuinely libre project where everyone is invited. Could something like this have happened during the middle of the Pi-Top campaign? Or the Novena? More than that: there has been years of relying on the mass-volume computing industry to deliver our hardware. It’s been long enough; they haven’t delivered; it’s time to take back control.