Daily-driver tweaks for Reform

I’m curious what modifications y’all have done to your vanilla Reform to make it more suitable for daily-driver use. Obviously, “daily-driver” will look different for everyone, but I’m referring to how you have brought your Reform more inline with being a replacement for the laptops that we are all accustomed to using. Have you created any new display screens for the OLED? Have you upgraded any hardware? How have you tweaked the base Reform Debian, have you added any keyboard shortcuts? For example, so far I have done the following:

  1. Transferred bootloader to eMMC and OS to NVMe, to remove dependence on SD card (via this thread Operating System on NVMe (without SD Card) - #18 by 8088mph)
  2. Updated keyboard and system controller firmware, to prolong battery life in off state (via this thread Battery monitoring while "off" - #7 by ghalfacree)
  3. Ordered Laird wifi antenna, for better wireless performance (via wifi thread)
  4. Installed neofetch (/s)

Personally, I’m wildly impressed by this device. This thread isn’t meant to highlight the Reform’s shortcomings; rather, it is to celebrate the openness/hack-ability of this machine, as well as the freedom that we have over our own hardware+software. Also, a consolidated list of common upgrades may encourage more people to take the plunge with this computer.

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So far I’ve also installed the bootloader to eMMC and the OS to NVMe, replaced the stock Molex antenna with some side-mounted 8dBi antennas, and added bearings to the trackball (though this is now stock for all Reforms going forward).

Curious about how the Laird treats you. Comparing datasheets makes it seem like a very slightly weaker antenna than the Molex (which is in line with my own experience, TBH).

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As for the hardware, I’m (still) using stock Reform.

Even booting from SD to ease swapping OS customizations (2021’s floppy disks :upside_down_face: ).

Speaking of Debian customization: I’ve just recently installed the still “work-in-progress” Debian-spin of Regolith-Linux.

I really dig Regolith for the best of tiling (i3-gaps) and GNOME (e.g. Settings, Wifi, VPN) experiences.

The installation is rather easy:

# add repo to apt's sources
echo deb [arch=arm64] https://regolith-linux.github.io/package-repo/debian/bullseye/arm64 bullseye main | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/regolith.list

# install regolith
sudo apt update && sudo apt install regolith-desktop

# create custom start script from Luka's ~/bin/reform-windowmaker script
cp ~/bin/reform-windowmaker ~/bin/reform-regolith
# on last line replace "exec wmaker" with "exec regolith-session"

# start regolith 
reform-regolith

For shortcuts/ usage see Basic Usage | Regolith 1.6

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The Laird antenna was the biggest bang for the buck for sure, but I also remapped the keyboard to be in Dvorak rather than Qwerty. I also removed the left-most key on the home row and the row immediately below and remapped the next-over to take the role of the key I removed, because I was constantly hitting the wrong key when shift and ctrl were further away than I expected.

I replaced Sway with EXWM inside Xwayland (modifying the reform-windowmaker script) which has made it much more comfortable for me as a long-time Emacs user. Now I can use all my normal key bindings in every program running on the system.

But TBH I don’t know if it will really feel natural until I get a whole new keyboard into it; the kailh choc browns are much better than standard laptop keys but not nearly as nice as kailh choc white IMO, and the staggering of the rows is really bugging me, so I’m looking forward to installing the OLKB mod.

The other thing is that I never really suspend it because it frequently crashes when resuming, so I’m looking forward to finding some time to dig into the cause of those crashes as well.

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I built the computer with the trackball. It’s a bit stiff, but I love the buttons on it. The keyboard is a little weird, but I’ve grown to like its minimalistic use of just two keys. I’ve considered putting ridges on the “F” and “J” keys, which are used on US English keyboards as touch typing guides to find “home row”, but I haven’t really needed to. I added an Intel AX210 WiFi card (and antennas), but I have been unable to use it as of yet.

Software-wise, I’ve used the reform-system-image to rebuild and reconfigure the kernel, this allowed me to build support for compressed blocks (zram) and NFSv4, which have allowed me to use it with an extracted Fedora 35 to an NVME drive. I use the stock Gnome there with the ZRAM, and the GPU mostly works, with a few nasty graphical glitches to text that renders outside of the Wayland compositor’s 3D. I have been unable to get the AX210 WiFi to work with the 5.12+ kernel from the repo, and I have been unable to get the laptop to boot the Fedora kernel directly (I’m still using the SD-card, and putting Image (uncompressed) and the dtb there).

I also bought a USB-C PD to barrel jack, and it works quite nicely at providing power from PD sources.

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