Framework Laptop Review

With a new school year coming around, I decided that my unfortunately decrepit ThinkPad needed to be replaced. While I was researching my options (and being continuously disappointed by them), I came across Framework, an upstart company based in Palo Alto, CA, that has an axe to grind about the Right to Repair movement. Their first offering: A modular ultrabook. Just what I was looking for.

Now, this isn’t the MNT Reform or any of the various “upgradeable” laptops currently on the market. It isn’t made of LEGO bricks–it’s a very portable, thin, light ultrabook with a professional fit and finish. The real benefit is that every part is meant to be replaceable, from the power supply and battery to the monitor bezel.

Is that a… screwdriver?

Designed to be Repaired

The Framework laptop, while not a “hacker’s laptop” like the aforementioned MNT Reform, was designed from the ground up to be repaired. In fact, it comes in two flavors: DIY and Prebuilt. The DIY version can be purchased for as little as $999, allowing the user to provide their own SSD and RAM. I got the prebuilt version because it turned out to be slightly cheaper for the options I wanted.

But the SSD and RAM aren’t the only parts that are user-replaceable. The monitor, monitor bezel, keyboard, fingerprint reader, RAM, SSD, battery, motherboard, and more are all designed to be easily swapped out even by users with no laptop repair experience. The computer is even packaged with a screwdriver/spudger combo!\

Capable

My Framework laptop running Civilization VI

There were no compromises on performance with the edition of the Framework laptop that I received. With an Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 processor and 16GB of RAM, I can multitask and play light games all day long. This isn’t a gaming laptop–there are no discrete GPU options–but for an ultrabook, it packs a punch. Other options include the i5-1135G7 and i7-1185G7 processors and up to 32GB of RAM.

Expandable

Choose whatever ports you want. Or even a snack drawer.

The Framework laptop has four USB-C ports on either side, which are recessed into the frame. Expansion cards that can be purchased through Framework’s marketplace (or from third-party sellers) can give you a plethora of options that can be swapped on the go. I received my laptop with two USB-C cards and two USB-A cards.

Takeaway

If you can’t tell, I really love this laptop! I haven’t gone in-depth with my review as others have done so much better than I ever could, but my response to this computer is overwhelmingly positive. Since needing to upgrade to more powerful hardware is an eventuality, with Framework I know that I’ll be able to swap out those components myself rather than buy a whole new device, which is a huge cost-saver and more environmentally friendly than the prevailing business model in the industry.

I hope to see a lot more of these in the wild. The Anti-Macbook has arrived!

~RP

Upgrading my Workstation

Unlike so many, I’ve had the privilege of being able to continue to work throughout the pandemic with only minor interruptions. I haven’t been spending excessive amounts of time at home, and I’ve still had to squeeze a lot out of my off-time, with the computer business, school, and my volunteer work.

That being said, since I plan to significantly increase my school work load starting in the fall, I decided that I should put my stimulus to use and make some changes to my home workstation while it’s still financially feasible for me. Here, I’ll be documenting those changes as I go.

Note that this post contains affiliate links.

First, the before picture:

My old workstation, after cleaning off the desk and before any upgrades.

My planned upgrades are high-fidelity audio and a second monitor. Productivity to the max!

The Upgrades

After several days of working with these upgrades, I can say I’m very satisfied! I spent a little too much money, I think, and bought some things that I ended up not needing. I discovered that I prefer separate headphone and speaker controls, so I didn’t use the small RCA cables I had bought to connect the Atom amplifier to the D05.

I have to say that having a second monitor in portrait mode is extremely nice. I can use it for referring to documentation or textbooks while doing my main work on the landscape monitor. I highly recommend this configuration if you’re thinking about getting a second monitor for your own workspace.

As always, be well.

~RP

My Stance on Strong Encryption

Yesterday, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) introduced the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, legislation that would require technology companies to help law enforcement agencies to access encrypted data.

The Senators’ assertion that “[warrant-proof] encryption adds little to the security of the communications of the ordinary user”1 is incorrect. “Warrant-proof” encryption, their name for strong encryption without backdoors, is required to prevent sensitive data from falling into the hands of malicious individuals over the Internet, as can be seen by the sheer number of zero-day exploits that are discovered being used by hackers in the wild every month.

This legislation would also deal a severe blow to the freedom of the press, who rely on strong encryption when reporting on the activities of tyrannical regimes. Banning such encryption would, in fact, place the United States government several steps closer to tyranny itself, and would inevitably result in the abridgement of the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendments to the Constitution.

I urge my readers to contact their Senators and express their opposition to the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act. This is a moment to take a stand for freedom.

~RP

1: Graham, Cotton, Blackburn Introduce Balanced Solution to Bolster National Security, End Use of Warrant-Proof Encryption that Shields Criminal Activity. (2020, June 23). Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/press/rep/releases/graham-cotton-blackburn-introduce-balanced-solution-to-bolster-national-security-end-use-of-warrant-proof-encryption-that-shields-criminal-activity

Go Kit Battery Box

My latest project has been modifying a battery box for the inevitable public safety power shutoffs this summer (and potential related emcomm use).

The box features a voltmeter with an integrated USB fast charger, a power switch to prevent inadvertent draining of the battery, and a 12-volt power socket.

The battery that I’m using is a 12-volt, 35 amp-hour AGM battery. There is extra space in the box to hold an inverter and spare parts.

Future improvements will include a panel-mounted quick-disconnect port to replace the one hanging out of the lid, and a 12-volt circuit ammeter to monitor my power usage.

This project was significantly more expensive to assemble myself than it would have been to purchase pre-built online; however, I was able to customize it and use higher-quality components from Powerwerx.

Parts List

Starting my Homelab

Because my career interests lie in the world of information technology (servers, computers, and the tech that connects them), I’ve been listening to a lot of related podcasts for the past several months. I recently started studying in earnest for the CompTIA A+ certification, which has been a fascinating review of things I know well, and additionally a lot of information that I didn’t know before. It’s a lot of fun!

That being said, I realized that there’s a long way for me to go in order to achieve the level of competency that I want, so I followed the advice of the people at r/ITCareerQuestions on Reddit and started to build my own home server experimentation lab, affectionately called a “Homelab” by the denizens of r/homelab.

I’ve completed the first step, which was to acquire a platform to start on. I’ll be adding a 4TB disk drive and a nice Noctua fan next week. Here it is!

It’s not much to look at yet, but this is the humble beginning of my homelab. It’s a refurbished Dell Optiplex 7010 with 24GB of RAM, Windows 10 Pro, and 1TB HDD. At the back you can see my 2TB single-drive Direct Access Storage (DAS) drive, which will supplement the 4TB datacenter drive that I ordered on Newegg.

My plan is to image the system drive so I can retain that copy of Win10 Pro, and then install it in a virtual machine on whatever hypervisor I decide to replace it with, alongside other services. I have a lot to learn, but this is what I’ll be learning with for now; I fully intend to upgrade this server with more storage space, more modern hardware (such as swapping the i7 and DDR3 for a Xeon and ECC DDR4), and eventually, enterprise-level equipment. It’s going to be fun!

~RP

Time to Leave Windows 7 Behind

Operating system vulnerabilities allow people with evil intent to do a variety of nefarious activities on your computer. They could install cryptocurrency miners, botnets, keyloggers, or other malicious software. They can also steal your data or hold it hostage through a ransomware attack. Since these are exploits of weaknesses in the operating system itself, there isn’t a lot that your antivirus software can do to stop them—only regular updates provided by Microsoft can patch these holes in your system security. And when those updates stop coming, you will be utterly defenseless. Is the convenience of putting off your upgrade worth the risk?

Continue reading “Time to Leave Windows 7 Behind”