MNT Reform

by MNT Research GmbH

The open source DIY laptop for hacking, customization, and privacy

View all updates Jun 01, 2020

Boot Image Build, Blob-free H.264, a Podcast, and an AMA

by Lukas H

System Image Build Process and Demo Video

Over the last week, we worked on the bringup of the first MNT Reform 2.0 beta unit that will be sent out to a customer. I used the opportunity to update and polish the system image build process and out-of-the-box experience when you first boot MNT Reform from the SD card.

The build process is based on Debian Multistrap and performs the following steps:

  • Clones the Linux kernel, applies our patches (until they are upstreamed), Device Tree, and builds it.
  • Clones our fork of U-Boot (until upstreamed) and builds it.
  • Calls Multistrap to create a root filesystem (userland) with a set of default applications.
  • Populates the userland with the Kernel and DTS, some sensible default settings, and a user skeleton with help files and a user-friendly default configuration for the Sway tiling window manager/compositor. This also includes a real-time CPU and Disk I/O activity monitor I wrote yesterday (pardon my newbie Python 3).
  • Steps into the userland via chroot (supported by QEMU on a non-ARM build platform) and clones and compiles newer versions of Mesa, X/XWayland with a graphics bugfix, Sway, and Waybar.
  • Copies the completed userland into an image file and installs the U-Boot bootloader to block 66 (that's where i.MX8MQ's boot ROM expects it).

The resulting reform-system.img can then be written to an SD card that any MNT Reform can boot.

In addition to all the theory, here’s an unedited video I recorded directly off the HDMI output of my personal MNT Reform to give you a sense of the look, feel, and speed of the default installation. Some delays when starting bigger applications are the result of not loading from a fast NVMe disk but directly off of the SD card. Also note that the colors are washed out as a side-effect of the 60 FPS USB video capture. On the real display, everything is nice and crisp.

Libre Lounge Podcast Episode

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed for the Libre Lounge podcast by Serge Wroclawski. Libre Lounge is a podcast about "various topics involving user freedom, crossing free software, free culture, network and hosting freedom, and libre hardware designs." In this episode, I talk about my personal background in software and hardware, how I came to Free Software and Linux, and some future directions for Reform:

https://librelounge.org/episodes/39-mnt-reform-with-lukas-hartmann.html

Blob-Free H.264 Video Decoding

Did you know that i.MX8MQ (the default System-on-Chip of MNT Reform) has built-in hardware video decoders? Due to recent development work by Ezequiel Garcia, Philipp Zabel et al, Linux 5.7 includes support for the Hantro H.264 (and MPEG-2) decoder block via the video4linux infrastructure. Recent builds of gstreamer can already leverage the code to play back H.264 video on MNT Reform without significant CPU usage.

Save the Date: AMA on June 3rd

As part of the campaign, the MNT Reform team (at least Greta and me) will be available for an AMA (ask-me-anything) on the Crowd Supply Discord Server this Wednesday, June 3rd at 1pm Pacific Time. Here’s the link to the Discord channel: https://discord.gg/eFGkjjK. And here’s a link that will translate to your local time: https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?msg=MNT+Reform+AMA&iso=20200603T13&p1=202&ah=1. We are looking forward to all of your questions.

About the Author

Lukas H

 Berlin, Germany


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Product Choices

$1,500

MNT Reform Max

A fully assembled MNT Reform with 1 TB NVMe SSD, an mPCIe Wi-Fi card, a printed and signed operator handbook, our custom Black PiƱatex Leather Sleeve (vegan) made in Berlin by fashion designer Greta Melnik, as well as a Debian GNU/Linux 11 SD card and international power supply (110/230 V).


$999

MNT Reform DIY Kit

You assemble MNT Reform yourself from the individual boards, display and case parts, and print the manual on your own (if you want). All circuit boards are populated; no soldering required. Save some money and have a great learning experience building your own laptop.


$40

MNT Reform T-Shirt

Just want to support the development of an open hardware laptop and get a nice shirt, too? Then this Fair Wear certified MNT Reform T-Shirt made from 100% cotton is for you. Color: Black. Screen printed in Berlin by blackink.

Credits

MNT Research GmbH

MNT creates open source hardware and software like the VA2000 FPGA-based Amiga graphics card and the most prominent project Reform, an open DIY laptop. The Reform team consists of Lukas F. Hartmann (electronics, software design), Ana Beatriz Albertini Dantas (product / industrial design) and Greta Melnik (sleeve design, SMD assembly). We believe that computers and personal electronics should be open, documented, understandable and repairable and respect their owner's rights. Reform is an attempt to push the industry in that direction.


Lukas Hartmann


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