First solar-powered Linux laptop

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.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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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