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Thinkpads: An alternative to the status quo.

Written Jun 19, 2022
Tags: hardware tech

Modern laptop are defined by sleek, light and fast consumer standards. These machines are easy to carry, easy to use and quite fast. When people think of laptops they often think of Macbooks or ASUS laptops that are all small and light.

Unfortunately these laptops are not designed with the consumer in mind, they are designed to backstab you in every possible way. Let’s take a look at the numerous ways modern laptops are designed to sabotage you.

1. Freedom

But what do I mean by Freedom? Well, typically technology is either free or non-free (Make no mistake this name is not related to price, free means free as in freedom, Not free beer) free technology is technology that has no obstacles or restrictions, anyone can see how it works and anyone can use it however they want.

Modern technology is however not free, or as we call it non-free. Computers don’t automatically know how to use your hardware or device, they need special software (called “drivers”) to know how it works, and the source code for that driver can be proprietary which makes the technology non-free or it can be open-source which makes the technology free and ethical.

So, first and foremost, modern laptops fail in this regard by not giving you control over each component, you cannot run your computer as freely as you wish and you are bound by the EULA of the manufacturer. But there is another subtle way computers sabotage you.

The Intel Management Engine.

Intel is known for selling CPUs, CPUs are the central processing unit of your computer, it’s basically the brain of the computer, it can calculate basic mathematical operations billions or trillions of times each second and those mathematical instructions can be used for lots of different things like calculating time, sound and colors!

The CPU is central to your machine, if it contains spyware then it means that any activity on the computer will be surveilled, and unfortunately due to technological limits, this “spyware” will be impossible to remove or mitigate.

But Intel has also been hiding something from the average consumer for many years, most Intel CPUs contain a backdoor that allows Intel to spy on you and collect data on what you do, and it also allows it to transmit that data over the Internet.

The so-called Intel Management Engine is in all of Intel’s CPU products but it can be removed in some models. The Core 2 Duo CPUs are the last available CPUs where the Intel ME can be fully removed. It’s near impossible to fully get rid of the Intel ME backdoor in anything newer than the Core 2 Duo. (Unless you’re the NSA, in which case, Intel will happily sell you CPUs without the backdoor.)

The Intel Management Engine is like a computer inside your computer but you cannot control it, it only does what its programmed to do. And the worst part is we don’t know what it’s doing and we have no control over it! No one except Intel knows what the Intel Management Engine is doing!

Oh and for those who think “I will just use AMD”, AMD also has added a similar backdoor to their products. AMD’s PSP (Processor Security Platform) is a milder counterpart to the Intel ME but it is nontheless a backdoor, fortunately, it can be disabled in some cases.

It’s not just morally corrupt for Intel to include a backdoor and surveillance mechanism into one of the most central components of a computer, but if someone discovers a security vulnerability in the Intel ME then it will have devastating effects, since you cannot repair your device and you must wait for Intel and your laptop manufacturer to release an update (And that’s assuming they still release updates for your device) which is obviously bad for security.

2. Durability

So modern laptops are surveillance machines, they can gather information on you without you even knowing and they can transmit that information to government agencies such as the NSA and CIA, if that doesn’t convince you that modern laptops are awful then I don’t know what will, anyone who values their freedom will stand up against this injustice, we cannot let technology control us!

But modern laptops are also flimsy and not durable, they break easily when you drop them. And they also typically include technology designed to prevent you from repairing your device. They manufacture it so that if they detect you tried to repair your device, they will break it and force you to get a replacement. But also most peope don’t bother repairing their device, they buy a new one when it gets broken.

The combination of anti-right to repair trapdoors and negligent consumerism has transformed electronics of all kinds, not just laptops, into one of the worst sectors of environmental damage. When electronics are manufactured, carbon emissions are emitted and now these electronics that we have spent resources on are thrown away for no reason whatsoever.

Modern laptops are a hazard to the environment, since they are very rarely recycled and also since they are very flimsy and likely to break. Do not use a modern laptop if you care about the environment.

The solution? Thinkpads

(Oh and by thinkpads I mean the classic thinkpads, the ones released between 2006 to 2010, anything newer than that either has the Intel ME or has other nefarious backdoors and ways to sabotage you.)

Thinkpads have re-emerged as alternatives to modern laptops, they are durable and they respect your freedom. You can easily repair it and it doesn’t break your device afterwards. A good thinkpad can last years and years, they are like cast iron pans, they only get better and they never break down.

These thinkpads can run Libreboot, which means you control almost every part of your laptop! And you can also replace the non-free components in the machine with fully-free ones which means your laptop is fully free, when your laptop is fully-free, it means you control it, and it obeys your orders. Modern laptops in contrast only obey you after they obey someone else, and that someone else is typically the manufacturer of the system.

In a world dominated by Apple, Intel and AMD.

In a world dominated by proprietary technology and secret backdoors.

In a world where you cannot repair the device you bought yourself.

The Thinkpad is always an independent option, the Thinkpad is always a liberating option, and the Thinkpad is always a long-lasting option.

Choose a thinkpad for your own good, and let us reject the monstrosity that is “modern computing”

Additional reading: “You don’t need a new computer” by blackgnu.net