back to article Penguins, I give you: The SOLAR-POWERED Ubuntu laptop

WeWi Telecommunications has built what it claims is the world’s first “fully solar-powered laptop”, which it says never needs to be juiced up at the mains. The SOL, a solar-powered Ubuntu machine on the Canadian telco’s blog here, is billed as “the all-terrain, off-road, sport-utility laptop.” SOL is for when you need to be …


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  1. Steven Raith

    So when the sun goes down....

    ...and the batteries are low on charge, are you SOL too?


    Steven R

  2. Robert E A Harvey


    I want one, especially at $350. Bargain!

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: WANT!

      PCPRO article said they were $300. They are a really interesting idea. The solar panels look cumbersome and heavy but it's very interesting.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: WANT!

      You want one? I've been wanting one since the 1980s.

      But I want one with much lower-power components. Like, for instance, ARM processor, e-ink screen, SSD storage. Lighten the whole thing - notably the battery and panels - to be truly portable, as well as giving it a much longer battery lifetime even when it spends days in a backpack.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: WANT!

        The refresh rate and B&W status of e-ink screens might be a drawback.

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          Re: WANT!

          What's wrong with a B&W screen? And as for movies and action-games, I'll pass on those too. E-ink will do nicely, and has the added bonus of being more readable in daylight than the other, power-hungry display technologies on the market today.

          1. James 51 Silver badge

            Re: WANT!

            I have an e-ink reader, I use it every day. However the lack of colour means it's not possible to tell if text has been highlighted with different colours if the text itself is in different colours and what those colours are. Diagrams can be confusing. A colour e-ink screen, even if it is slightly washed out would get round this but no one has brought that technology to market (in the UK at least) and would I imagine drive the cost of the unit up.

            The refresh rate and ghosting would be a bigger issue if all you wanted it for was browsing the web and office work. Imagine typing away at sixty words a minute or scrolling through a long article.

      2. Professor Clifton Shallot

        Re: WANT!

        I want one with much lower-power components

        And OS / software designed round low power consumption.

        This. I'd be quite happy with a solar-powered Psion 3 type device if it was truly rugged, portable, and free from cables.

        1. James 51 Silver badge

          Re: WANT!

          No, the 5MX or even the orginal netbook.

      3. Patrick O'Reilly

        Re: WANT!

        To paraphrase your comment:

        "lighen the battery and panel", "give it a much longer battery lifetime"

        You do realise that these are opposites, like saying put a smaller engine in a tank and make it go faster.

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          Re: WANT!

          "You do realise that these are opposites"

          What a silly comment. The e-ink screen alone is sufficient to accomplish both those objectives in a device that doesn't gratuitously waste power elsewhere. That makes the ARM procesor and SSD storage mere icing on the cake.

        2. John Bailey

          Re: WANT!

          It's ok.. Just make it thinner too. Cos when you want to make mobile stuff better, you just make it thinner.


      4. Robert E A Harvey

        Re: WANT!

        Yes, but in the absence of those I will buy the one someone actually makes!

  3. wowfood

    If only I ever went out in the sun.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I really want one..

    ..even though they said 'Digitally Empowered'. I bet the techs at that company died a little inside when their marketing bods re-cycled that fsckwittyditty.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    I'd like more info of course, but it certainly looks promising. I wonder how easy it would be to remove the Ubuntu crud and restore the machine to a decent lightweight fast debian.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Interesting

      Any particular debian? I just installed out-of-the-box wheezy on a new ultrabook. Lightweight it isn't!

    2. Tim Walker

      Re: Interesting

      I'd go for Arch Linux, personally. I built a stripped-down Arch system on my Eee 701SD, and the little fella zips along, largely thanks to not having all the "lard" a typical Ubuntu installation sticks in there. (Oh, and the RAM maxed-out to 2GB. Every little helps.)

      That said, if Debian gives you a similar opportunity to work up from a minimal base installation and choose only the bits you want/need, that should do just as well.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: Interesting

          In this particular instance I was thinking of carefully filleting out everything I didn't want so as not to disturb things like power control or networking.

          Normally I install the basic debian with no desktop or 'standard' stuff, then apt-get openbox and ROX. That pulls in all the graphical stuff I actually need, and minimal gtk libraries. From then on it's just installing what I want on that particular machine.

  6. The Man Himself Silver badge

    WeWi communications? Is this for real, or are they taking the piss?

    1. IR

      All the way home.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    What's not to love?

    Complete with a picture of a Land Rover on that site - right hand drive, and under the section "Beautiful design" these people clearly have a sense of style. Not sure what these dollar things they want us to pay with but let's assume they're open to some negotiation.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: What's not to love?

      If the device is as awful as that website, I'll not be buying!

  8. breakfast

    One improvement

    What it really needs is satellite based connectivity so that wherever you are ( except presumably in winter in a polar region ) you also have internet connectivity. Also the acronym would be SOIL.

    Then an adapter kit so any laptop could be SOILed would be helpful.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: One improvement

      Plus, you can buy the extra extended battery kit for when the sun's gone down called NIGHT SOIL.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One improvement

      DIY installation? SOIL yourself

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Why Not?
    Paris Hilton

    well their page graphics take hours to download, maybe they are preparing you for the battery recharge?

    Nice idea, not sure how they are going to do that for $300 I'm assuming the cost of panels will be a significant part?

    Paris because she will go all night without a recharge.

    You know I wish el Reg had a decent comment system that allowed edits.

    1. M Gale

      Those panels look like the couple-of-watt solar trickle chargers you can get from Maplins for a tenner or so. Given the panel component cost will be a lot less than that, they might add up to less of the total materials cost than you might think.

      Whether it can really charge a netbook battery to full in two hours anywhere further North or South than the Tropics, is another matter.

  11. Richard Lloyd

    Price is now $350

    Price has jumped to $350 and the product isn't actually available to buy yet (so there's a chance the price will jump again). The specs claim 1080p graphics and then have a display res of 1366x768, hmm. Still an Ubuntu laptop that's "submersible" (!) with solar panels for $350 does sound interesting, though it'll be 350 quid if it ever gets sold to UK users of course.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glossy screen???

    or matte? Would hope its matte being outdoors ;-)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what made them choose Ubuntu over Windows? Not that I'm complaining, it just seems to be bucking the trend a little more than your average laptop (overlooking the solar panels of course).

    For my activities in WICEN (Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network), this sort of device looks ideal.

    1. The Man Himself Silver badge

      "I wonder what made them choose Ubuntu over Windows?"

      Probably a battery protection thing. I have a feeling that Ubuntu (especially if you decide not to load a graphical shell) will be less demanding than Windows when it comes to power draw.

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Thats probably a chunk of it, cost is another.

    2. plrndl

      Ubuntu over Windows

      Maybe it's because Ubuntu can be customised to suit hardware, usage requirements, desktop preference etc.

  14. dougal83

    I have one question... Can I install windows on it?

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Given the specs theres a chance you can, although don't expect more than netbook performance from that atom cpu.

      The marine version seems promising, might make a decent machine for tethered shooting in humid \ misty \ rainy conditions. It would be great to see another version in a year or so with one of the newer atoms, support for more ram \ usb 3.0 etc. A 1080p screen would also be great but its probably too far from the target market.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That is all.

  16. Stryker007

    bad bad bad design!

    Ok so it has plenty of solar capacity with the solar panel that folds out but why oh god why did they make it so when the solar panel is folded in not a single panel is left exposed on the back of the lid!!!!! so much charging opportunities missed! what spends most of the time facing the sky? yes the LID !!

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: bad bad bad design!

      I'd guess the thinking was that a device designed for use off grid in rough conditions isn't something you'd casually leave lying in the sun when not using it. Leave it deliberately in charging configuration yes, otherwise keep it safely in its case. Still a serious oversight though.

      Even better if they could safely build a backpack that exposed the panels while trekking, a very likely use.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: bad bad bad design!

        >Even better if they could safely build a backpack that exposed the panels while trekking, a very likely use.

        These already exist and have for a couple of years. You can Google it.

    2. The elephant in the room

      Re: bad bad bad design!

      You raise not only a good point, but also a startpoint for a nice hardware hack project for anyone with an old laptop and a solar panel, perhaps this £15 one from Maplin. To the Shed!

  17. ecofeco Silver badge

    Very cool

    $350? A bargain!

  18. Johnny Canuck

    It makes sense

    It says right there on the site - free power, free software. I think they are promoting it as free power + free software = freedom (also, presumably, freedom from malware). Even their video, which I liked, seems to be aimed at people who spend a lot of time outdoors (more freedom than office drones).

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