Taurinus X200: Now the most 'Free Software' laptop on the planet

The Free Software Foundation has announced Libiquity's Taurinus X200 laptop has met its strict requirements for being a free-software computer, including replacing Intel's Management Engine firmware.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) take free software very seriously. To them, any proprietary software, hardware, or drivers is bad news. In practice, they've had to compromise.

For many years it was hard to find open-source drivers for graphic cards and Wi-Fi chipsets. The code for these is now available, but a free software firmware replacement for the CPU wasn't available. Until now. In Libiquity's Tarinux X200, Intel's Management Engine (ME) firmware and software has been removed.

Libiquity's Taurinus X200 laptop is based entirely on free firmware and software.
From the FSF's viewpoint, Intel's ME isn't just proprietary firmware; it's a "back door into a person's machine that allows a perpetrator to remotely access the computer over a network. It enables powering the computer on and off, configuring and upgrading the BIOS, wiping the hard drives, reinstalling the operating system, and more."

They don't like it one little bit.

The Tarurinus X200, which is based on the older Lenovo ThinkPad X200 sub-notebook, has had all its original low-level firmware and operating system software replaced. Instead it uses the free-software boot system, Libreboot. No trace of ME has been left on this laptop.

To do this, Libreboot developers reverse engineered Intel's firmware. They then created a small software utility to produce a free firmware image that conforms to Intel's specifications. Finally, to install their firmware on the device, they used a serial peripheral interface (SPI) flasher. This is then used to completely overwrite the proprietary firmware with Libreboot and GNU GRUB 2.

For an operating system, the Taurinus X200 uses the FSF-endorsed Trisquel GNU/Linux. This is an Ubuntu-based Linux that has had all the proprietary bits -- including Ubuntu-specific programs such as the Unity desktop -- removed

With both free hardware and software, the FSF has awarded the Taurinus X200 its Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification. This is only the second laptop to be given the RYF, and it's the first to be ME free. This makes the X200 the most free software PC available on the planet.

As FSF's licensing & compliance manager, Joshua Gay, said, "With a rise in manufacturing of treacherous computing chips and each successive version of Intel's Management Engine becoming more treacherous than the last, it would seem that the public is being inundated with hardware that is defective by design. Therefore, it is refreshing to have companies like Libiquity making strong commitments to computer user freedom."

Libiquity founder and CEO Patrick McDermott added: "We are honored to be the first US company with an RYF-certified laptop product, and we look forward to further working with the FSF and the free software community to develop and offer additional freedom-respecting products and services in the future."

This older PC comes with Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26 to 2.66 GHz processor and a Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics processor. The display is small, only 12.1-inch in size. It also comes with Gigabit Ethernet port, three USB ports, a 5-in-1 card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, an ExpressCard slot, and 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

The Taruinus X200 gives you several storage choices. These range from a 160GB hard drive to a 1TB drive. You can also get a solid-state drive (SSD). These range in size from 120 to 240 GB. You can also go from a minimum of 2GBs of RAM to 8GBs. A minimal-level system costs $445.

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