Technoethical t400s review

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Technoethical t400s review

Postby Onsemeliot » 2017-08-19 16:52

Image

This is just to share my experience. (I am in no way affiliated with Technoethical.)

I am a satisfied Debian user since I moved away from Windows in 2008. Back then I thought I could trick the market by ordering one of the very few systems that didn't come pre-installed with proprietary software. Therefore I went for a rather cheap Acer Extensa 5220 that came with Linplus Linux. Unfortunately it didn't even have a GUI and I was totally new to GNU/Linux. So the first thing I did was to install Debian because I value the concept of this community driven project. I never regretted it. But the laptop had the worst possible wireless card built in. It never really worked with free software.

In the mean time I have learned a lot and I started to help others to switch to free software. In my experience it is rather daunting to check new hardware for compatibility and even if you manage to avoid all possible issues you end up with a system that you can not fully trust because of the bios and the built in hardware (Intel ME for example).

Therefore I am very excited that you can actually order hardware nowadays that others have checked for best compatibility already. Since my old laptop got very unreliable recently I wanted to do better this time and I went for the Technoethical T400s, which comes pre-installed with Trisquel.

I am very pleased with the excellent customer care and the quality of the laptop itself. I was especially surprised how lightweight and slim this not so recent device is.

When the ThinkPad T400s was first released in 2009 it was reviewed as an excellent, well built but rather expensive system for about 2000 Euros. The weakest point was considered the mediocre screen. The Technoethical team put in a brand new screen which has perfectly neutral colours, very good contrast as well as good viewing angles. I've got 8 GB RAM (the maximum possible), an 128 GB SSD (instead of 64 GB) and the stronger dualcore SP9600 with 2.53 GHz (instead of the SP9400 with 2.40 GHz) CPU. In addition I've received a caddy adapter for replacing the CD/DVD drive with another hard disk. And all this for less than 900 Euros.

This is the most recent laptop of the very few devices worldwide that come with Libreboot and the FSF RYF label out of the box. The wireless does flawlessly work right away with totally free software. This system fulfills everything I need from a PC as a graphic designer. Image editing, desktop publishing, multimedia and even light 3D gaming. Needless to say that common office tasks as emailing and web browsing do of course work flawlessly. To get everything done properly only few people do actually need more powerful working machines.

The only downside for power users on the go might be the limited battery life of about two hours with wireless enabled. It is possible to get a new battery which might extend the life to about 3 hours but because the battery is positioned on the bottom front you can't use a bigger one. (The only sensible option would be a docking station, but I was never fond of those bulky things that crowd my working space even when the laptop isn't on the desk.)

Over all this is a great device that just works with entirely free software. I thank the Technoethical team for offering this fantastic service and I encourage you to support ethically motivated companies like Thechnoethical instead of getting your hardware bundled with proprietary software because without investing money in technology we want we will never get to the point where it is easy and normal to chose free systems right from the start without the need for additional work to liberate yourself by becoming a person that is technically more skilled than average users are. I can only recommend buying one of those T400s laptops from Technoethical.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby kedaha » 2017-08-20 18:55

Hi,
Well, I've read your review and must say I'm impressed by the specifications; just what I always wanted but I only wish I could afford it! :(
I specially think it's good that it comes with libreboot. and Trisquel If some day I'm able to acquire one I'll post again here but that won't be for some time. Thanks for the post.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby deborah-and-ian » 2017-08-20 19:18

Honestly, I think this is all rather sad. I mean, I get that the vendor isn't a big company and I get that disabling IntelME takes time and manpower, but seriously, hardware from 2009 that was souped up a little for the price of a Macbook? I think it's really sad that ethical computing is just as much becoming a luxury as proper organic food, while us mere mortals may wait a few decades until it trickles down.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby Onsemeliot » 2017-08-21 07:41

kedaha wrote:I only wish I could afford it! :(

Well, as deborah-and-ian pointed out, you can normally get similar used hardware much cheaper, but then you need to set it up yourself. And as far as I know installing Libreboot on the t400s is more complicated than on older devices.

And taking into account that working hours are usually much more expensive than hardware I don't think that this is a rip-off. If you have to invest lets say 10 hours to get the same result then it might be worth to double the price of the hardware from let's say 450 to 900 Euros. And I think that somebody not already firm in the subject could do it in 10 hours is rather optimistic. But of course the result of the calculation heavily depends on how high your hourly fee would be. I suspect in most cases people would earn more money in the area of their expertise than they could save by doing the setup on their own. This is just because we are much more efficient with things we already have routine with. Of course you loose the advantage of being able to understand your own system the same way but depending on your plans that might be not an issue for you after all.

Of course the offering is only interesting for people who do not want to learn everything necessary to actually do the setup. But without such offerings only people willing or able to invest the effort to set it up would get a chance to have the benefits of such systems. In my opinion such an effortless option is a good thing. I know many people who do get how limiting proprietary software is but who do not have the time or nerve to learn enough to set something like that up. Those people might profit from this review. Therefore, I never imagined that people who are having fun with such tasks or who are motivated enough to fight their own way through would be interested in such a service.

The argument that such a service would be a rip-off sounds strange from my point of view since you could say this for nearly every service. People who feel that way might be the right people to offer such a service because in their view the provided service could be provided in a fair way much cheaper and I can only see advantages in having more people or businesses with such offerings.

In my experience people do not shy away from free software because it is alien or because it is difficult, but just because it is less convenient. If you could get pre-installed free software devices everywhere many more people would actually use it. They just can't be bothered to change the pre-installed software because it somehow works without going this extra mile. For me the development in the smartphone marked has shown this in a rather convincing way: Originally the iPhone was the one and only device and at least originally it did have superior quality over Android. But despite that Android devices got adopted. Of course the price was an argument too, but if it would have been necessary to buy iPhones in order to install Android I am convinced hardly anyone would have done it.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby deborah-and-ian » 2017-08-21 08:46

I can't say if it's a rip off or not (although it seems to me a bit of a rip off at that price, since I've seen stores doing the libreboot upgrade from 50-100 EUR -- let's be fair: the device can be found for around 200 EUR, add the upgrades for maybe 200. How does this get to 900? Or am I terribly wrong?). Rip off or not, I just commented how sad and also ironic it is that ethical hardware is not affordable to the masses. But this could be fixed: Countries should subsidise this for their citizens IMHO.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby deborah-and-ian » 2017-08-21 08:49

BTW, here's a vendor with cheaper offerings (although it's in Britain AFAIK, so shipping might not be an option for some):

https://minifree.org/product/libreboot-t400/
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby Onsemeliot » 2017-08-21 09:44

deborah-and-ian wrote:let's be fair: the device can be found for around 200 EUR, add the upgrades for maybe 200. How does this get to 900?

I'm not so sure about your estimate since I've got the maximum capacity RAM, a bigger SSD and a totally (better than original new) screen, a keyboard normally not available on the t400s and a rare stronger processor which meant to find a new motherboard since on this device the processor is non-removable. As far as I can tell the device is brand new without traces of any usage.

BTW, here's a vendor with cheaper offerings (although it's in Britain AFAIK, so shipping might not be an option for some):
https://minifree.org/product/libreboot-t400/

I am aware of that. I deliberately went for the Romanian store because they did offer better hardware and I could actually get it with a pre-installed German keyboard.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby deborah-and-ian » 2017-08-21 10:33

Thanks for the info. Since you've chosen a German keyboard, might I assume you're in Germany? I assume shipping was painless since it's from the EU, right?
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby Onsemeliot » 2017-08-21 12:13

deborah-and-ian wrote:might I assume you're in Germany? I assume shipping was painless since it's from the EU, right?

I'm in Austria. The shipping was in fact painless.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby None1975 » 2017-08-21 13:43

Onsemeliot wrote:which comes pre-installed with Trisquel.

Hello. Nice review. Did you plan replace Trisquel to Debian? If so, can you share experience with us?
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby Onsemeliot » 2017-08-21 15:02

None1975 wrote:Did you plan replace Trisquel to Debian? If so, can you share experience with us?

Indeed, the first thing I did was replacing the operating system with Debian. Not because I dislike Trisquel but because I wanted to use a full disc encryption and I like the standard Debian desktop with all its tools. Since I had to do a new install anyway, I went for Debian.

The only Issue I have experienced so far is the fact that the second function keys do not work. I don't really get why (so far). I used xev to check if different key events are triggered if I use the second function keys but there is so much output that I can hardly see any difference. However, directly after installing the new system and also instantly after using xev the first time the second function key did work. For an unknown reason this functionality went away after booting the system the second time. Instead of any reaction I always get an error sound.

Now, after some additional testing I found out that the second function keys for audio playback (bound to the arrow keys) do work properly. So I guess I just need to find a way to bind the other second function keys with the expected behaviour.

In the following output I pressed first the right arrow and then holding the "Fn"-Key again (which caused a jump to the next song as intended):
Code: Select all
$ xev -event keyboard
Outer window is 0x2600001, inner window is 0x2600002

KeymapNotify event, serial 24, synthetic NO, window 0x0,
    keys:  0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   
           0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   

KeyPress event, serial 25, synthetic NO, window 0x2600001,
    root 0xb7, subw 0x0, time 27277801, (376,286), root:(459,406),
    state 0x0, keycode 114 (keysym 0xff53, Right), same_screen YES,
    XLookupString gives 0 bytes:
    XmbLookupString gives 0 bytes:
    XFilterEvent returns: False

KeyRelease event, serial 28, synthetic NO, window 0x2600001,
    root 0xb7, subw 0x0, time 27277889, (376,286), root:(459,406),
    state 0x0, keycode 114 (keysym 0xff53, Right), same_screen YES,
    XLookupString gives 0 bytes:
    XFilterEvent returns: False

KeymapNotify event, serial 28, synthetic NO, window 0x0,
    keys:  4294967223 0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   
           0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   

KeymapNotify event, serial 28, synthetic NO, window 0x0,
    keys:  4294967223 0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   
           0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0

ClientMessage event, serial 28, synthetic YES, window 0x2600001,
    message_type 0x147 (WM_PROTOCOLS), format 32, message 0x145 (WM_DELETE_WINDOW)


Here I did press the "Pos1" key and then again during pressing the "Fn" key (wich should make the screen brighter, but didn't do anything):
Code: Select all
$ xev -event keyboard
Outer window is 0x2600001, inner window is 0x2600002

KeymapNotify event, serial 24, synthetic NO, window 0x0,
    keys:  0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   
           0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   

KeyPress event, serial 25, synthetic NO, window 0x2600001,
    root 0xb7, subw 0x0, time 27512127, (450,335), root:(533,455),
    state 0x0, keycode 110 (keysym 0xff50, Home), same_screen YES,
    XLookupString gives 0 bytes:
    XmbLookupString gives 0 bytes:
    XFilterEvent returns: False

KeyRelease event, serial 28, synthetic NO, window 0x2600001,
    root 0xb7, subw 0x0, time 27512255, (450,335), root:(533,455),
    state 0x0, keycode 110 (keysym 0xff50, Home), same_screen YES,
    XLookupString gives 0 bytes:
    XFilterEvent returns: False

ClientMessage event, serial 28, synthetic YES, window 0x2600001,
    message_type 0x147 (WM_PROTOCOLS), format 32, message 0x145 (WM_DELETE_WINDOW)

Unfortunately I do not really understand the output.

[edit on August 23th at 14:07]: The second function keys do suddenly work again, but I am not confident it will stay this way ... they even survived a suspend to disc.
Last edited by Onsemeliot on 2017-08-23 11:27, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Technoethical t400s review

Postby None1975 » 2017-08-21 17:19

Thank you for the answer. Unfortunately, i didn't have much experience with notebooks.I use solely only desktops...but have plans to buy Technoethical t400s.
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