First solar-powered Linux laptop

First solar-powered Linux laptop

Summary: A new kind of laptop, the SOL, is being designed for the great outdoors and it's powered by sunlight and it will be running Linux.

TOPICS: Laptops, Hardware, Linux

WeWi Telecommunications, a Canadian telecommunications company, is better known for its disaster recovery services than it is as a Linux or PC company. But if Wewi have its way about it, the business will be the first to build a fully solar-powered, Linux laptop.

Say hello to the SOL: The first solar-powered laptop with Linux

The new laptop, which is still in development, will be named the SOL. WeWi hasn't revealed any pricing but it's rumored that it will list for $400.

To make the SOL capable of running on solar-powered batteries alone, it's a relatively low-powered laptop.

The SOL's specs are:

CPU: Intel Atom D2500 1.86 GHz Duo Core, Intel 945GSE + ICH7M
HDD: Seagate 2.5" SATA HDD 320GB
Graphics: 1080p HD Vide, Built-In Intel GMA3600 Graphics
Display: 13.3" LCD, WXGA, 1366 x 768
Camera: 3MP
Audio: Realtek ALC661 HD Audio, Built-in 2 Speakers | Internal mic + 1/8" input
3 USB2.0, Headphone jack, HDMI, LAN(10/100), Card reader (SD/MS/MMC)
Modem: 3G/4G World/multimode LTE
GPS: gpsOne Gen8A
Wi-Fi: MIMO 802.11b/gn (2.4/5GHz)
Bluetooth: Integrated Digital Core BT4.0

The company claims that with this configuration, and its built-in Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels with 16-percent efficiency, it will have a battery life of eight to ten hours.

For its operating system, it will run Ubuntu 12.04. Eventually, this will be upgraded to later versions of Ubuntu.

The Sol isn't just about solar-power and Linux. Its real purpose, according to the company, is "With a rugged design, durability and a solar array that allows you to work wherever you are, you can take SOL with you to the most remote places on earth."

The business means it. David M. Snir, WeWi's founder, told me that "SOL is first going to be available in countries where it is needed most, starting with:"

1. Ghana
2. Kenya
3. Zimbabwe
4. Rest of Africa

Snir continued, "We are then going to introduce SOL in the European, US/Canadian market with both SOL and SOL-X (with higher specifications)."

This project sounds a lot to me like the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Linux laptop. I asked Snit about this and he replied, "Somewhat yes. People have asked us about OLPC. While we admire their effort and their initiative, SOL is somewhat different, in that it is a fully functioning laptop which young adults and professionals can use for work."

He concluded:

"SOL is also very open and a user can install whatever OS they wish on it (We have a test unit running Windows for example, as well as others running different Linux distributions.) Having said that, we are working with several governments to introduce SOL into their One Laptop per Child program - where the machines will be either heavily subsidized or entirely given for free by these governments - for us this is a wonderful thing as this way those who need it most but can't afford it will have access and future in computing."

Alas for those of us in North America and the European Union, it's going to be a while before the SOL is in our hands. No release date has been set yet for its arrival in either Africa or the rest of the world. I'm sure I'm not the only one who hopes that it will be soon.

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Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Linux

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  • I probably would have chosen a different name,

    "SOL"??? If it's cloudy, guess that's what you would be, hehe!
    • I would have chosen a different cpu and storage. If the goal is to get it

      to run well off solar power why not choose a low power cpu and an SSD. They're not going to be affordable without government subsidy anyway.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Cost

        I believe the lack of SSD is due to cost, I can get a 1tb SSHD for $100 but for the same price I can only get a 128gb SSD. The CPU as well, I believe it's the new silvermont ATOM though, look at the options, 4Gb RAM? Isn't Atom right now stuck at 2gb? Also on their website they said it's a 1080p screen, I have no idea.
    • cloudy weather isn't a problem

      It's often assumed cloudy weather significantly reduces insolation. It doesn't all that much.
      • Using This Quote:

        "With a rugged design, durability and a solar array that allows you to work wherever you are, you can take SOL with you to the most remote places on earth."

        I bet you can't use it during in the arctic during winter.
        Alan Smithie
        • Maybe you can...

          It has an A/C adapter
    • Yeah

      At least do not make it all caps. "Sol" and I think of the Sun.

      Apparently, I must remind Silicon Valley once again to talk to me, because I can come up with poor product names at bargain prices.
  • A Massive Boost For Third Word Countries....

    A Combination of Solar Power and One Laptop Per Child will open up a whole new world for those living in parts of the world without an electricity supply readily to tap into.

    It is unfortunate Windows XP support is coming to an end as it would be a perfect base system for the specs. outlined.

    Perhaps Microsoft could be convinced to ship XP without charge on these machines as they have taken all they can from XP. Otherwise Ubuntu will need to suffice.

    Whatever way this is good news.
    • Not unless they release the source or contract out support.

      Not likely, but could happen if they just extend XP support.

      Though the "not likely" is because MS never releases anything without charging double/triple what it is worth.
  • In practical terms, what this really means is that you can only

    work at night, since during the day, you'll have to leave it in the sun to recharge.
    • UV light

      At night all the person has to do is have a UV light on to keep the power going. I do this with my smart phone. I charge my 1100v battery back up using a 400 watt inverter that is connected to 4 small solar panels in my garden window in my kitchen. Don't get me wrong its expensive at first. I haven't paid to charge my phone for over 6 years. It will pay for itself in about 20 years. But all this equipment I found dumpster diving. Let the bashing begin. Do something with your kids. I taught my 8 yr old how to cut cat 5 cable and apply cat 5 heads. He does this on the weekends. He is 15 and has built me countless cables.
      • No bashing here

        That's actually pretty impressive. It's also good that you're teaching your son about this stuff too, so he can use it later on.
        Third of Five
      • If you had a power source to run the UV light

        wouldn't it be better to just let it run the laptop directly, remove the light altogether?
        William Farrel
        • You can!

          A/C adapter included! Source: FAQ
  • SOL!!!

    Yep, anyone who is dumb enough to buy this sure is!!! LOL
    • ?

      Why would people be dumb if they buy this laptop?
  • I sure hope they put a good screen in it

    It would be truly ironic if you could only use it in direct sunlight but the screen wasn't viewable in direct sunlight.
    • No you don't

      Your masters in Redmond would be displeased.
      • Shouldn't you be off cashing your google paycheck?

        you know, what they give you to troll.

        Funny how you allways throw some anti-MS refernece into everything. I guess the fear guides your every move.

        That, and those little gChecks you get for shilling. :)
        William Farrel
        • Better log back into your other sockpuppet, Wilie

          Your blood pressure is rising.