The Minifree Libreboot T400 is free as in freedom
The Libreboot T400 doesn’t look like much. It’s basically a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad with the traditional Lenovo/IBM pointer nubbin and a small touchpad. It’s a plain black laptop, as familiar as any luggable assigned to a cubicle warrior on the road. But, under the hood, you have a machine that fights for freedom.
The T400 runs Libreboot, a free and open BIOS and the Trisquel GNU/Linux OS. Both of these tools should render the Libreboot T400 as secure from tampering as can be. “Your Libreboot T400 obeys you, and nobody else!” write its creators, and that seems to be the case.
How does it work? And should you spend about $300 on a refurbished Thinkpad with Linux installed? That depends on what you’re trying to do. The model I tested was on the low end with enough speed and performance to count but Trisquel tended to bog down a bit and the secure browser, “an unbranded Mozilla based browser that never recommends non-free software,” was a little too locked down for its own good. I was able to work around a number of the issues I had but this is definitely not for the faint of heart.
That said, you are getting a nearly fully open computer. The 14.1-inch machine runs a Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor and starts at 4GB of RAM with 160GB hard drive space. That costs about $257 plus shipping and includes a battery and US charger.
Once you have the T400 you’re basically running a completely clean machine. It runs a free (as in freedom) operating system complete with open drivers and applications and Libreboot ensures that you have no locked-down software on the machine. You could easily recreate this package yourself on your own computer but I suspect that you, like me, would eventually run into a problem that couldn’t be solved entirely with free software. Hence the impetus to let Minifree do the work for you.
If you’re a crusader for privacy, security, and open standards, than this laptop is for you. Thankfully it’s surprisingly cheap and quite rugged so you’re not only sticking it to the man but you could possibly buy a few of these and throw them at the man in a pinch.
The era of common Linux on the desktop – and not in the form of a secure, libre device like this – is probably still to come. While it’s trivial (and fun) to install a Linux instance these days I doubt anyone would do it outright on a laptop that they’re using on a daily basis. But for less than a price of a cellphone you can use something like the T400 and feel safe and secure that you’re not supporting (many) corporate interests when it comes to your computing experience. It’s not a perfect laptop by any stretch but it’s just the thing if you’re looking for something that no one but you controls.