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lainchan archive - /tech/ - 34834

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This is something that I assume most of you are participating in by having used Thinkpads, etc.

How feasible is this going to be headed into the future? Our hardware is slowly being outdated and no new alternatives are coming to fruition.

I am worried that the capitalist battle for the "slimmest" model will continue to push things thinner, less ports, chiclet keyboards, and throttling, etc.

I struggle with constant want to move forward and have a nicer screen, nicer battery life, etc.. but I have a hard time coming to terms with giving up the ergonomic keyboard, comfort, and the general anti-consumerism-like nature of refusing to buy new and focusing on old tech.

What happens when the X220 and the T420, etc, aren't good enough anymore? What can we move onto or focus on next?



I wouldn't worry too much lain, eventually someone will make a modern motherboard that'll fit inside a t-series shell.

When lenovo stops supporting the hardware, it's up to enthusiasts like us to keep it alive. That's the cool thing about these laptops they have lots of space, It's somewhat feasible for a group of hobbyists to get together and reinvent the internals for a thinkpad.

I feel like for a lot of tech companies the jig is almost up, as a society we're growing sick of waste, my mom bought a used thinkpad, my sister is going to buy one too, and they're normal people, they just hate the idea of another soykafty laptop in a landfill.

If the tech companies don't adapt and give the people something they can modify and hack with in a meaningful way, their market shares will eventually drop, we just have to hold out until then.


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From a personal perspective it would get a bit hard finding a laptop that fits my needs as I started to really dislike trackpads and also want to be able to change parts in my laptop. The fact that you can't even change the battery on a macbook is just silly to me.
But giving my usecases I think that a X220 will last me for quite a long time since I don't need much processing power anyway and if everything goes wrong I just would (grudgingly) buy a new HP Elitebook or a new 'Thinkpad'.


CPU advances have slowed right down so as long as they can take an acceptably speedy HD they will still be hanging about. Maybe some vendor will take the plunge, say fuarrrk apple and make a utilitarian laptop, however get ready for the dongle book revolution before that happens.


>If the tech companies don't adapt and give the people something they can modify and hack with in a meaningful way, their market shares will eventually drop, we just have to hold out until then.

I don't think you're right, Lain. Is the hardware version of Windows, Microsoft has been selling their soykaf for decades and even today Windows is the most used OS on the desktop. And it's because normal people doesn't care and they don't have the knowledge to change it. Users like us aren't that common.



Maybe I'm just too much of an optimist, if there's one way we can attack the issue and promote change though, we can talk about the waste that new technological products produce.

Everyone loves the environment, and if they knew the kind of environmental effect their solid aluminiumium iphone was having they might not be so keen on buying another one unless they're confident it'll last 20 years. If a campaign like this were backed by a celebrity, we could even get the eco-warriors breathing down these peoples necks.


I'm not as optimistic. Although I would fuarrrking love to see a modern motherboard that'll fit inside a t-series shell, or an x-series.. that'd be amazing.

I don't think we're going to see people give up on consumerism and buying the latest gadgets and soykaf anytime soon. OSX and Apple products are gunna tank a bit in the future I think, but Microsoft is about to be on an upswing with their new 27" tablet PC thing or whatever it is.

I wish I could get a better screen for my Thinkpad and it's been stressing me out so much, I want something nice but I hate to support an industry I despise.


Here's what I'm hoping:
Soon enough, we'll get RISC-V laptop and desktop CPUs. They'll be relatively easy to work with and with some luck somebody will make a sane laptop with RISC-V and all the features everyone loves about ThinkPads (bonus points for using a compatible keyboard connector and shape)

I don't know if this will actually happen but I hope it does.


>capitalist battle for the "slimmest" model
There is no capitalist battle for the slimmest model, only the capitalist battle for profit. If there is a sufficiently large market for the sort of product you desire, someone will make it.
>anti-consumerism-like nature of refusing to buy new
In that case, wait for a communist revolution, a worker co-op to start making computers from start to finish, figure out how to make your own chips out of sand, or use what you have until it falls apart. Moore's law broke down around 2004 anyway, so keeping up with hardware advancements isn't a big priority. Since it seems to be just the chassis you are attached you, you can always just gut the machine you own and replace the components with those of the same size or smaller.


In the current market, the slimmer and more sleek the model is, the more profit. Is what I'm saying.

As for putting another mobo in the chassis, I'm not sure how feasible that is currently. There are minor swaps that people do, other thinkpad models in, slight upgrades, but pretty sure other than that, nothing exists. And I sure as hell don't have the knowledge to be the one to break the mold


Try buying from no name brands, like system 76 etc...

Other than that, for how much could I get a thinkpad w700ds on a flea market if I see one?


I feel like there's always going to be a niche market for more utilitarian designs, there's more than proof of demand in that these designs already have a lasting and dedicated following.

Most companies spend too much money on R&D to be able to recoup their expenses without anything but the broadest of mass-market appeal, i.e. your average apple product, there's still money to be had catering to a niche, just not as much, thankfully it won't cost a gagillion nuyen to come up with a Thinkpad derivitive should they ever stop being relevant in and of themselves

Aside from that, in a few decades I wouldn't be shocked if there's a sizeable community printing out laptops in their garage, you could probably make whatever kind you wanted assuming of course you could aquire the requisite raw materials


>How feasible is this going to be headed into the future? Our hardware is slowly being outdated and no new alternatives are coming to fruition.
Hardware has been fast enough for a while now. It's making it last that matters, yes.

>I struggle with constant want to move forward and have a nicer screen, nicer battery life, etc.. but I have a hard time coming to terms with giving up the ergonomic keyboard, comfort, and the general anti-consumerism-like nature of refusing to buy new and focusing on old tech.

I mostly use my laptops as sedentary machines. Plug in a better keyboard, trackball, disks, screens and go.

>What happens when the X220 and the T420, etc, aren't good enough anymore? What can we move onto or focus on next?

I use a Lemote Yeeloong for some purposes just fine, so I don't think it's pressing to worry about old hardware dying out when there's still so much of it that can be used practically.


>nicer battery life
Batteries for Thinkpads most likely use 18650 cells (same as most other laptops), so you could always try your hand at rebuilding one with newer 18650 cells. I've been tempted to rebuild a battery for an old ~2008 netbook of mine as more modern 18650 cells (that aren't ridiculous Chinese ones with faked specs) are rated for at least 50% more mAh. I don't think there's been much else for advancements in battery life (other than newer processors being more efficient due to die shrinks) since displays LED backlit displays were being used in the late 2000s. The X220 and T420 can also use one of those slice secondary batteries.


I just buy "business class" laptops instead of consumer versions. A lot less bullsoykaf to deal with.


Newer batteries are built to make recycling cells impossible, the firmware built into the battery will refuse to cooperate if the unit has been tampered with.

I know it's possible on older models because I've head of people doing it, but I can't tell you exactly when it stopped being an option. Make sure you research the model changes the TP batteries have gone through if you attempt this.


it happened on the x230 but someone found a way to break the protection on it. I dont know if it's also broken on subsequent laptops.


I can't find any information on companies building any form of electronic tamper resistance into their batteries (only way they'd be able to tell from the cells is the time it takes to charge them, since to my knowledge the charge level is determined by the voltage). I was aware of laptop batteries being difficult to disassemble and if I was to attempt to rebuild one I would make sure I had the battery I was planning to rebuild opened without damaging it before ordering the cells.

As for the Thinkpad xx30 series, Lenovo apparently started using battery DRM to prevent third parties from making batteries for their laptops in 2012. Additionally, Dell incorporated DRM into their laptop AC adapters with their PA-9 series adapters sometime in the mid to late 2000s. fuarrrk technology today.


Yet another problem with newer computers to consider, beyond the simple problems with ergos and features. The recent problems with Lenovo having software reinstalled by their laptop's firmware after reinstalling Windows was enabled by a feature from newer versions of Windows (8 and 10) where Windows will run software from a location in a computer's firmware on startup. Machines running Windows 7 still had the process done entirely by the laptop's firmware. Expect companies forcing you to have software installed like this, which will inevitably include spyware, to become more common in the coming years.

10 years ago you might have been accused of having your tinfoil hat on too tight if you thought you might be spied on by your computer's proprietary firmware, and realistically if you were thinking about that at the time you'd be thinking about state actors. Now not only are hardware companies fuarrrking doing it, but software companies are going out of their way to make it easier for those hardware companies to do it. How much longer until we see the same with drivers or firmware for other components, like GPUs where FOSS drivers just load and interface with firmware that does the actual work for any 3D acceleration?


>What happens when the X220 and the T420
How are these relevant? They already have terrible screens and keyboards and are no longer even IBM -branded.

T60/X60 are the last ThinkPads to consider and even they have a) poor cooling (especially with the first generation Core - sorry, arch name escapes me at the moment - processors and with _p model which have dedicated ATI gpu) and b) majority of production have the new cheapo keyboards (the older production uses identical switch type to the one used in T40's).
But, sure, they still feel slighty 'thinkpad'ish'.


In regards to the battery drm issue.

Would it be so hard to hollow out a battery, put in your own hardware, and then run a wire out to the ac port?


>They already have terrible screens and keyboards
that is an opinion, wrong, but an opinion.
>no longer even IBM -branded.
why don't you buy an apple if you care so much about the badge


>eventually someone will make a modern motherboard that'll fit inside a t-series shell
The Chinese 51nb are active on this front.


>terrible screen
this is true
>terrible keyboard
if you can find a laptop with a better keyboard for this price I'll be happy to check it out, the keyboard is miles better than pretty much any other laptop I've used
you didn't even mention the speaker being absolute trash even for a laptop
not sure why the branding matters.
Either way I love my thinkpad even though it's not perfect


>if you can find a laptop with a better keyboard for this price I'll be happy to check it out, the keyboard is miles better than pretty much any other laptop I've used
I mentioned T40. 600 series ThinkPads again have better keyboards, but in the late 90's, majority of laptops had decent keyboards.

>you didn't even mention the speaker being absolute trash even for a laptop

I didn't, bevause I have no experience of them.

>not sure why the branding matters.

Once upon time not everything was owned by mainland Chinese companies and hardware was manufactured even in the West. Small percentange of T40's were still manufactured (or rather assembled, because CPU sure as hell wasn't manufactured there) in Scotland, T20's more so and over half of units of all 600 series models.

>why don't you buy an apple if you care so much about the badge
Even though you might not admit it, the 'ThinkPad' badge is very much relevant to you and from which company did it originate? Not Lenovo.


The only laptops not assembled in China are a select few Japanese ones, and they're rather underwhelming. There are boutique online vendors that'll happily assemble your rebadged Chinese Clevo here in the US for a hefty sum.


They're called "smart batteries", and it's how your laptop battery can tell you when it's dead or disable itself if it discharges too much. People have tried to recell vintage Apple laptops from the 00s and run into issues with this, the same applies with some of the later 90s PowerBooks.

Look on vintage computing forums with a lot of vintage PC/Mac owners like VCF or 68kmla, you'll find plenty of posts about this.


There are currently three open hardware laptop projects I'm aware of, Bunny's Novena and Olimex's Teres-A64, and the piTop, so there's at least a niche market for this stuff.
What's stopping somebody from either stuffing the components from one of these into an old Thinkpad shell, or fabricating their own rugged case around one? I know some enthusiast somewhere is going to try pimping one out with a mechanical keyboard and a bunch of crazy soykaf, so is there anything stopping someone from making a hackable spiritual successor to the old Thinkpads other than not thinking of it yet?


>mfw i still use my powerbook G4 from time to time
the best laptop i ever had. prefer my 2011 desktop setting tho.


I'm actually looking for a replacement for my T520 since it is slowly falling apart. Don't want another old one since its old and clunky. Keyboard is nice, build quality is good but everything else is really soykafty compared to modern Laptops.
I'm thinking about a HP Zbook, they have all the things old Thinkpads have plus nicer Design, better Displays and longer battery runtime. Replacement parts are also availiable, allthough not as cheap as those for 6 year old Thinkpads.


There is also the EOMA68 on crowdsupply. It uses fully Libre hardware and no blobs at all. I already ordered one myself and encourage those who care about Free Hardware and Free Software to do so as well.


I'm surprised nobody's come up with some reason this >>35359 wouldn't work or is stupid. Am I onto something lains?


I'm pretty sure a couple of years from now, people will start doing stuff like building their own laptops. If the progress of hardware halts just for a little bit, this will start to happen(hopefully), not just in laptops, because people will want new stuff, and since it cant get any 'thinner', they will start to make more modular designs(again, hopefully). You can already do it now, but you can still find nice Thinkpad's that are useful, so its no big deal. You could also think of something as putting a raspberry pi into the body of an old thinkpad, replacing the screen, connecting the keyboard, trackpad, touchpad, scanners/stuff.... since pi's are getting more and more powerful by the day, and they are pretty handy. Like other lains already stated, im sure there will always be people that will tinker and hack, and you can follow their guide, or by then learn yourself ^^


I haven't built my own laptop per se, but I (and other people I know) have non-laptop mobile PC's. The arrangement I have isnt the most efficient, but If I were to build it into a bag of some sort it would be quite easy to carry around, and powerful on par with fairly good modern desktops.

Using things like nucs and small custom pc's, things like you describe are entirely possible today, for the dedicated hobbyist.


Not being consumerist != being a communist.

This is a false dichotomy.
Also, you fail to see that trends exist, you deny that there is a trend for slimmer and less accesible electronics.
However, most hackers can attest that changing the parts of a modern computer keeps getting harder (and more often than not through artificial means).
Manufacturers like apple have no interest in having the user fix their phone, that is they force the user to buy a new phone, when maybe it isn't necessary.


this. it's sad to see laptops becoming consumerist wankware, just like smartphones and tablets. if you really want a modern device to play around with, get a workstation-tier laptop.


Consumerist wanking means less time is spent actually optimizing our machine for compatibility with other hardware. Just stick a void warranty seal over one of the screw holes and ensure no normal person ever touches or modifies the internals.


>what next
I've already given up on Lenovo. Dell report:

XPS 12 2016 (tablet) - very nice except Linux KP's on suspension. Love the keyboard. Have heard that the keyboard+cover is much less pleasant to type on. Keeping it in hopes that Linux eventually works, but it's also a warning: not everything Dell works well with Linux.
XPS 13 2016 (laptop formfactor, not 2017 2-in-1 design) - perfect. Hardware's near-identical with the 'developer' edition that comes with Linux, so I just picked it up at a microcenter. I love this thing. The 2017 model is probably OK, but I just hate the '360' 2-in-1 design: laptopmode isn't compromised much, but tabletmode is a joke. Why even bother? Are these popular purely due to the movie-watching options?

And these are "high end consumer soykaf" models. There are also business laptops with clitmice, that are easy to operate on, that come with western support. Latitude laptops.

Dell also have very nice BIOS setups, BIOS updates, one-time boot menus, etc. It's just pleasant.

I remember Dell as that company with the annoying fuarrrking "dude" ads and never used them before getting the XPS 12, but they're a breath of fresh air now after a decade of buying lots of brands of laptops and never being quite happy with them - especially the last decade of Linux compatibility seeming to get worse and worse, and BSD not working at all.


What do these modern dells have that makes them better than modern thinkpads?


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Yeah, Dell is good option if you keep Linux in mind. I recently bought Dell Latitude 5470. As you can see it closely copies thinkpad and I can say that I'm pretty happy with it and had zero problems with installing manjaro instead stock Ubuntu 14 on it. It has good display and HQ versions of intel chips. Also I managed to get it on pretty decent price. Shop was selling ubuntu version laptop 200$ cheaper than same model with windows.


If the Thinkpad Retro (yeah its happening) isnt great il prob get the T470s in October. While my x220 is pretty swell im aching for high resolution, high color accuracy and usb-c.


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Skip the 540 is all i'm saying. I have used the 430, 430s, 440s, 450s and the 460. The 440 was really bad, worst trackpad ever.

I'll get the 470 as soon as it's available and think it'll be ok.

Right now i have a 430s with 16GB and the fastest i7 from that time. Feels good man.


Note that business class Dell laptops and consumer grade Dell laptops are vastly different beasts. My Inspiron 7559 took a solid year before I could boot Ubuntu on it without specifying nomodeset in grub, and I still can't get Suspend or any sort of reliable fan control to work.


Well, you could do a 'sort of' open laptop, using a a Sabre Lite (i.MX6) (check [0]), the VIA OpenBook design[3] and HDMIPI[4], with some stuff from Adafruit (like the battery). It should not be hard at all, and cost much less than Novena.

But I don't think the laptop design will be a thing on the next few years. I don't like the mobile design too, so what I thought was to get a head mounted display (HMD), like Avegant Glyph, with a DIY keyboard that I'm planning to do (open source).

This keyboard works the same way as the DataHand, but using analog sticks (sort like the DualShock sticks, but tinnier) on each finger. The design would be pretty light (using flexible PCB), so I could get some bracelet within the design to get a pretty ergonomic design.

Together (the HMD and this DIY keyboard) would get a pretty good design for people that don't use mouse, like most of the people using window managers with keynav[5] when needed. I would also try to find the less effort and more efficient layout for this keyboard, like the Carpalx[6] approach.

Any feedback about these ideas? It's dumb soykaf or would rise some attention from the community?

[0] flash a good u-boot[1], instead of the boated soykaf they put these days (you can also apply this[2] patch). Also, get a good system working on it (I wouldn't suggest the system I always suggest, OpenBSD, since the ARM port is soykafty on it. A bare Debian install should be enough).

[1] https://github.com/boundarydevices/u-boot-2009-08
[2] https://sel4.systems/Info/Hardware/sabreLite/03_android-imx6-uboot-extra_fs_features.patch
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VIA_OpenBook
[4] http://hdmipi.com/
[5] http://semicomplete.com/projects/keynav
[6] http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx


The main reasons why people buy thinkpads: trackpoint & keyboard.
Dell's flat, squishy keyboard with terrible layout is Apple-tier.

If they released a <13" or 3:2 laptop with a good keyboard then we'd be getting somewhere.