This is the story of how a motherboard is designed.
This project was started by Hope (founder of 51nb) and 17m19 (designed the fans for the X2100 and X210) since early last year. Some of you may have heard of this project online. This was an answer to the extremely enthusiastic fan base behind the 4:3 15.4″ T60 and T61. As the project was extremely early in development until recently, I did not comment on it as I knew how long crowdfunding can drag on (X2100 really made me learn a lot). I wanted to support the project only after details and production timeline has been confirmed in order to reduce wait times and keep promises up.
Due to the pandemic and several other problems, this project was halted until recently when I headed to mainland China and met up with both of them. Quarantine was 3 long weeks in a dingy hotel.
The good news was that by then, the motherboard was already designed and a prototype was built to facilitate firmware development.
Due to the extremely small volume however, the developers and Hope are not keen on continuing this project. They were also having issues with Thunderbolt development as Intel offered almost 0 support for Thunderbolt development and it just cannot be enabled properly.
There is also the threat of lawsuit. As I’ve later learnt, 51nb was sued by big L on the pretext that the images and website contained trademarked terms. However, the real reason was revealed that 51nb actually owned the tp.cn domain name and big L wanted it for themselves. Even though 51nb actually won the lawsuit, it hurt their financials badly and they were very reluctant on continuing these projects.
As there is a huge TP fan base outside of the Chinese market, both 17m19 and I proposed to continue this, leaving the Thunderbolt hardware intact, but with only USB-C functionality for now. We plan to send the motherboard for coreboot development by 3mdeb, with the hopes that they will be able to enable Thunderbolt functionalities.
As a way of moving forward, I’m aiming to libre-rate all builds and machines. I’ll be working with 3mdeb to port coreboot to this motherboard and to port over an open sourced embedded controller firmware if possible. This should enable TB4 functionalities as well.
The cost of porting coreboot and maintaining starts from 10K EURO and this cost is included in the cost of motherboard and full builds.
Display and Xiphmont’s TLD LED mod
As the motherboard has the best compatibility with the 4:3 15.4″ T61 chassis, I’ve looked into the 4:3 panels and came up with the conclusion that the best panel is an IPS panel with an LED mod. The factory LED panel HV150UX2-100 and the QXGA IAQX10N are the two best panels choices in the T700 (T61) but are almost impossible to obtain in large numbers and are expensive, not to mention difficult to guarantee the quality.
In short, the best panels for the T700 (T61) are difficult to obtain and not viable for a mass produced build. I’ve thus decided to employ xiphmont’s TLD design. Installed on an IPS UXGA panel, it should be the best available panel for the T700. I will be documenting the TLD build process in future blog posts.
The driver board can be used directly while the LED board will require some modifications to accommodate the larger panels. The LED batch will also be changed as the exact batch of LED is impossible to hunt down.
I have PMed him and emailed him but received no responses. Xiphmont if you read this, please drop me an email so I can get a formal approval to use your design.
As the T60 and T61 is more than 15 years old at this point, it’s almost impossible to find brand new chassis for this build. As such, I’ll either be sourcing for refurbished chassis or lightly used chassis. If you have your own chassis, you’re more than welcome to send in your build. I’m physically located in mainland China though and shipping can get fairly expensive.
I’ll be posting at least monthly on what’s happening for the T700. I know not many people would ready this but I thought a bit more updates semi-regularly would keep people interested. It will be titled T700 to prevent mix-ups from the other posts. I promise it won’t be too frequent to keep it from being annoying.
Future & Current projects
Despite the T700 crowdfunding happening, I’m still very inclined to take on the X230. As the T700 had been brewing for close to half a year since early 2021, I definitely had to offer my full support to the project. It’s also a good test bed to work with 3mdeb and see how it feels working with them. Not to mention getting a bit more experience before building up to the X230 and other projects.