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The Quest for a 100% Free Software Laptop

  • Talk: The Quest for a 100% Free Software Laptop
  • Speaker: Bob Ham
  • Location: Madlab. (Manchester Digital Laboratory).
  • Address: 36-40 Edge Street, Manchester. M4 1HN.
  • Date: Tuesday, 17th July 2012 (3rd Tuesday of the month)
  • Start time: 19:00
  • Finish time: 20:30


A great deal of computing hardware is produced today that requires proprietary software in order to operate. Some of the worst culprits in this respect are laptops, whose manufacturers rarely support free software. Many of the components used in modern laptops likewise require proprietary software either in the form of proprietary drivers or proprietary firmware (the odious “binary blob”).

In this talk, Bob Ham discusses his quest to find a modern laptop whose hardware is fully supported by free software and showing that it is not only possible but easily done. Topics covered will include the Coreboot project, FSF-approved 100% free software GNU+Linux distributions and hardware components that are supported by free software drivers.

The event will include a Q&A session, discussion and then lively debate in the pub afterwards.


  • Bob Ham

“I’ve been using GNU+Linux and advocating free software for over 10 years. I have helped develop numerous free software projects including professional audio systems, high level database APIs, and more recently started working on software for free phones such as the Openmoko Freerunner and Golden Delicious GTA04. I work as a GNU+Linux system administrator.”


The meeting will take place at the usual time, 7pm, at Madlab on Edge Street in the Northern Quarter. "(Between Thomas St and the Craft Centre, opposite A Bar Called Common)". The venue provides wifi. The talk is followed by an informal discussion in the bar opposite (A Place Called Common).



Around the venue there are parking meter bays that become zero cost after 8pm on Tuesday so you'll have to pay up until then and the maximum stay is 2 hours BUT MAKE SURE YOU VERIFY THIS. There are paid parking lots around the venue, the light blue P in this OpenStreetMap centred on Madlab. A lot of them, perhaps all, are are owned by NCP. If you can't decide otherwise then park in Manchester Arndale.

Public Transport

Manchester Victoria (MCV) train station, Shudehill tram station and Manchester Piccadilly bus station are all fairly close to Madlab, see OpenStreetMap centred on Madlab. Manchester Piccadilly (MAN) train station and Manchester Central Coach Station are not too far either.

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Post-Event Reports

Roy Evison's review