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I want to buy a computer (new/unused, ideally off-the-shelf) that

  • contains absolutely no proprietary software by default, and
  • can be used without installing proprietary software (it’s fine if non-essential things are not supported).

Device

It doesn’t matter what kind of device it is (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, single-board computer, …), as long as the user can plug in a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse.

It should allow to connect to the Internet somehow. It does not have to be built-in, as long as there is a supported external device available that also only comes and runs with Free/Libre software only.

Sound output would be nice, too, but this could also be an external device (again, if a suitable Free/Libre one is available and supported).

Operating system

I would welcome if it can run a (well known) GNU/Linux or BSD operating system, but I don’t want to require it.

Anyway, it should be a "real" OS, i.e., a system that allows users to update it and to install software; not a single-purpose system (like an e-book reader).

Use case

Browsing the Web, managing files, writing documents, listening to music, using the terminal.

No HD videos, no video/graphic editing, no games, no compilation … nothing that requires much power.


What I found so far

  • The Free Software Foundation certified three laptops (Libreboot T400, Libreboot X200, Taurinus X200).

    Problem: Not new/unused. They use refurbished laptops (i.e., they bought used laptops that came with proprietary software, replaced parts, flashed the firmware, etc.).

  • Earth-friendly EOMA68 Computing Devices offers single-board computers (and optionally corresponding desktop/laptop housings, whose design gets also published under a libre license). Its Libre Tea Computer Card will likely get FSF’s RYF certification.

    Problem: It’s in crowdfunding currently. Could become a good solution, but only if they will be available for sale after the crowdunding period.

Just to be clear, I do not require FSF’s Respects Your Freedom certification. The difference between their and my requirements is that I’m fine with OS that make the installation of proprietary software easy, as long as the user has the choice.

  • this feels super broad – Journeyman Geek Aug 26 '16 at 6:09
  • I am wondering why the intense focus on open source? – NZKshatriya Feb 13 '17 at 13:09
  • @NZKshatriya: Well, I don’t want to run proprietary software, and I don’t want to buy (i.e., support organizations who offer only) proprietary software. -- As for why I don’t want this, I guess this comment section, or this site even, is not the appropriate place to elaborate on this. – unor Feb 13 '17 at 16:47
  • Usually, I just get a commercial device, and wipe the thing. You can use nouveau drivers built into the linux kernel to run nvidia gpu's though if it is an optimus platform, I'd advise to run an updated kernel as the older kernels have less support. These days, more and more companies are making drivers for popular linux flavors in house though, which is awesome in my opinion, no more having to compile things on my own. Seems like sometime in the near future I may be able to ditch windows for gaming....as long as Linux gets DX12 capability, if not......I'll be an MS slave a while longer. – NZKshatriya Feb 13 '17 at 17:12
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I recommend the Pi-Top. It is mostly opensourced. The GPU driver has a proprietary blob in it, I think, but of course you don't need to install that; there are several terminal-only distros you could use on this device. I believe even most of the hardware, if not all of the hardware, is open source at this point, or will be in the near future.

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  • Interesting. But I guess it comes pre-installed with a OS that includes the proprietary blob, right? In that case it can’t be a match :/ – unor Jul 26 '16 at 20:00
  • "Installed" is something of a relative term when it comes to SBCs without internal storage media. I believe these ship with either a custom spin of Raspbian or NOOBS. In and of itself NOOBS does not use the driver blob, and may not even contain the blob if it is a part of the system downloaded at installation. In any case, it is also reasonable to argue that the device does not come with ANY OS preinstalled, given that it doesn't ship with the SD card inserted into the SBC. A different SD card which had never been touched by anything except FOSS could then be substituted. As such, it fulfill – Adam Wykes Jul 26 '16 at 20:10

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