This here Framework laptop

Hardware geekery! Extremely softcore hardware geekery, because I am very much not a hardware person. (I was once, about when a 10MB hard drive was an exciting new thing. That was awhile back!)

A couple of years ago, I bought a Lenovo Legion Y740 I think it was, laptop. This was after being rather disappointed by a Dell Alienware something-something laptop previously. After a couple of years (or really rather less than that) I was rather disappointed by the Lenovo Legion Y740 also:

  • A couple of the keys just broke, and turned out to be hard to obtain replacements for (because after a couple of years they were of course old and only obtainable from antiquarian key sellers, and because figuring out exactly what key one needs is more challenging than it ought to be, because not all Legion Y740s apparently use the same up-arrow key), and also hard to replace once one did have the (probably) right key. At least once I managed to break the replacement key while trying to replace the broken key. So I spent lots of time poking at the nib under the key, and that got old (especially for the up-arrow key).
  • It forgot how to talk to an Ethernet cable, in rather complicated ways that I couldn’t figure out: the cable provably worked fine with other devices, and in every connection method to this computer (direct Ethernet, Ethernet-to-USB-A, and Ethernet-to-USB-C), it worked very badly, occasionally working for a bit but then randomly dropping. Hardware, software? Who can tell. “Reinstalling” the “Windows network drivers” made no difference.
  • It began being very confused about its battery. After using it for some time on power, with it announcing the battery charge at 100%, there was a good chance that within a few seconds of being unplugged it would shut down in an emergency fashion (not that Windows seems to know of any other kind), and on being plugged in again elsewhere would claim that the battery is at 0%. Bad battery? Bad power driver? Bad something else? No idea. Also it would sometimes randomly shut down even while plugged in. Battery? Overheating? No idea.
  • And some other stuff I forget; at least one of the USB ports felt very loose and I was never confident that a thing plugged into it would continue working.

And then it started to not be able to see the hard drive and/or to just randomly not boot. So that was bad. (For what it’s worth, both the HDD and the SDD work fine when read via USB from an external enclosure, so probably it was something complicated inside.)

So as not to be entirely limited to my “cellular phone”, I bought a tiny little Samsung Chromebook of some kind, for the price of roughly a dinner delivered by DoorDash, and that was actually surprisingly acceptable. No playing WoW or Satisfactory or Second Life / OpenSim or anything like that, but pretty much everything else worked great, lots of Chrome windows, multiple displays, Zoom, etc. It did slow down when too loaded, but it was able to do more at once than I initially expected it to.

I did want to be able to play games and be virtual again eventually, though, so I was looking in a disconsolate way at various beefier laptops that would probably disappoint me before long, when I (along with lots of other people) came across Cory Doctorow’s “The Framework is the most exciting laptop I’ve ever used: Sustainable, upgradeable, repairable and powerful“, and I (along with lots of other people) thought “Hmmm!”.

I went to the website, used the configurator / designer thing to design a plausible-sounding one, noted that it was noticeably not all that expensive, and probably without thinking about it as hard as I should have, I ordered one. Initially there wasn’t much information about when it might arrive (the ETA was, as I recall, “November” or something like that), since Framework are a comparatively small outfit who have to do things like batching up a bunch of orders and obtaining the hardware and getting the manufacturing done only once they have enough, and like that. But I figured I could get by on the tiny Chromebook for a bit longer.

As it turned out, I got a notice that it was being put together, and then shipped, at the early side of the ETA, and it arrived days before it was predicted to; so that was all nice. The Unboxing Experience was great; it turned out (I’d forgotten this!) that I had ordered the “DIY” version, which meant I had to spend maybe 10 minutes, tops, plugging in the SDD and RAM. (Apparently some DIY instances also have to install the WiFi object, which looks a little more complex, but mine already had it.)

And it works great!

The video is not some fancy AMD or NVIDIA, but just some modern Intel video chipset, which Real Gamers look down upon, but it runs WoW and Satisfactory and the Firestorm viewer and stuff just fine, and that’s all I need. (Firestorm does crash sometimes, and that might be because of the chipset, or something completely different.) The hot-swappable ports are terrific! I do realize that it’s really just like four fast USB-C connections on the motherboard and then a variety of something-to-USB-C adapters that slip in and out of them easily, but the effect is that if you want your computer to have four USB-C connections one minute, and a USB-C, a USB-A, an Ethernet RJ45, and an HDMI or Display Port or whatever the next minute, that’s totally doable. (I generally have three USB-C and an RJ45, and don’t swap them to speak of, but it’s that I could.)

Which reminds me to be a little baffled about how whatever-to-USB-C adapters work, and how they can be so small and simple and all. I mean, isn’t there more than just some crossing of wires involved in mapping USB-C signals to Ethernet RJ45? That particular adapter does stick out of the computer more than the others (which are all USB-C to USB-C, so yeah that I understand being simple), and has some circuitry visible inside its rather cool transparent body. But still, the fact that there are relatively simple and relatively cheap wires that can connect USB-C to just about anything impresses me. I guess many of them have little tiny computers inside? And that that’s what the “U” stands for and all? Okay.

It’s quiet (no moving parts to speak of, no HDD, SDD being so cheap these days, and that must be a very quiet fan in there), it’s slim and light (feels about like the tiny Samsung in terms of heft), it gets hot but not too hot, and it looks nice. Simple and clean and efficient visual design. And it really is designed to be opened up and have parts replaced if they break. (If a key breaks, apparently the theory is that you should replace the keyboard, and that’s a bit wasteful, but at least it’s possible!) And unlike the Samsung, it has a backlit keyboard! (Oh, and an audio jack, too! That’s just chef’s-kiss-dot-bmp.)

The only things I dislike about the Framework at all are (I don’t even remember what I was going to write here), I guess, that I’m running Windows on it? :) Windows 11, in fact, which it came with, and which is annoying in various Windows ways, but livable-with, and WoW and Satisfactory don’t as far as I know run on ChromeOS.

(Possibly there’s some setup that would run Linux, or Linux-under-ChromeOs, and then either Windows under that and then the games, or Linux versions of the games, or something, but I’m not into that level of system fiddling these decades.)

Oh, and the other negative thing is that the WiFi signal is terrible over here where I sit when we’re all sitting around in the big bedroom at night being together and doing our internet things. But that is not the laptop’s fault, and I should just move the access point to a better place or get a repeater / booster / mesh, or just run another wire up from the basement and plug into that. It works well enough.

So I’m happy! I have a small and light and quiet but sufficiently muscular machine which does the things I want and has a good vibe (a great vibe for moving off Twitter and onto the Fediverse at the same time, but that’s for another post). It’s possible that it will wear out quickly, but I’m kind of hopeful. More than I would be with yet another generic supposedly-fancy corporate laptop, anyway.

5 Comments to “This here Framework laptop”

  1. Chrome Books do much more if you enable Linux. Then they work like Linux!

    Liked by 1 person

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