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Upcoming review: something POWERful

I’ve got a very special piece of hardware coming my way for review: a Blackbird Secure Desktop from Raptor Computing Systems. The Blackbird is a desktop PC with an IBM POWER9 processor that is open source from top to its very bottom – no firmware blobs, no management engines, no proprietary BIOS.

As the product page details:

The Blackbird™ mainboard is an affordable, owner-controllable, desktop and entry server level mainboard. Built around the IBM POWER9 processor, and leveraging Linux and OpenPOWER™ technology, Blackbird™ allows you to secure your data without sacrificing performance. Designed with a fully owner-controlled CPU domain, you can audit and modify any portion of the open source firmware on the Blackbird™ mainboard, all the way down to the CPU microcode. This is an unprecedented level of access for any modern desktop-class machine, and one that is increasingly needed to assure safety and compliance with new regulations, such as the EU’s GDPR.

I don’t yet know what exact specifications my review unit will have, but I’m assuming it’ll be the base model that has the 4-core POWER9 processor with SMT4 (4-way multithreading). I do know it’ll come with an AMD Radeon Pro WX4100 LP, which will be the only piece of hardware requiring card-side proprietary firmware (but it’s optional, since the mainboard itself has basic open source graphics capability too).

I don’t usually do this, but there’s a first thing for everything, so here we go: do any of you have any questions about this exotic hardware you want me to try and answer? Specific things to look into? I’ll also be able to ask some questions to Raptor’s CTO, so there’s a lot of opportunity to get some serious answers.

I’ll try to take as many suggestions into account as I can. The current estimated delivery date is 6 August, so expect the actual review in late August or early September. Also I’m sorry for the title pun.

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