Questions and Requests about the Rack Reform


I’ve been seeing a few updates on the rack reform and wanted to express my interest in it, and also to ask some questions and make some feature requests.

The main reason I’m interested in the Rack Reform is to have an easier platform than the laptop to test other operating systems on. One of the issues with doing this on the Reform laptop is that you essentially have to unscrew the bottom acrylic plate to access a serial port which makes for an awkward arrangement on the desktop and makes spontaneous debugging a bit cumbersome to do. I thought the Rack reform would be a great platform to do this on. In light of this my first request for the rack reform is

  1. To create a header that is a standard RS232 serial port directly to the motherboard. That way you can debug and look at console output without unscrewing the chassis and leaving electronics exposed.

In relation to this, I’m a bit confused about how to connect a display directly to the Rack reform if one is using the stock iMX8MQ module. As I recall, the HDMI port isn’t supported without specific adjustments? This is related to my second request

  1. Would it be possible to make an external display port header that connects directly to the motherboard?




I was looking at the project’s schematics and design files and it’s all handled in this little board:

It has a 2 channel usb-uart IC that would connect a usb connector
and it has an extension cable for the displayport connections that connect to a normal displayport connection as well as ethernet. so these connect internally to the reform motherboard and is located so you can access them from the outside.

this is just from looking at things, anyone feel free to correct me if i’m wrong!


I’m totally a noob so this may be uninformed, but I was hoping I could use Rack Reform to tinker with storage/backup of data on other devices (phones/laptop). Would Rack Reform be useful for this purpose?

Thanks chipperoodles!

I didn’t know the github repository had the Rack Reform design files and schematics uploaded. I took a look at the README, uninosho, and it actually describes that the Rack Reform can be used as a networked attach storage with a pcie sata card.



To tinker, you still have to open up the Rack Reform box. What you need is just something to attach your motherboard to for easy access and debuggability, no? This is the setup that I’m using for evaluating new reform-tools releases. It currently has the LS1028A installed:

In the corner there is a tiny RP2040 board with a few lines of micropython on it which sends p1 or p0 to the motherboard to switch it on and off, respectively. Here is a close-up together with the USB-UART adapter:

The whole thing is powered by a regular ATX PSU, powering the Reform with 12 V.

To create a header that is a standard RS232 serial port directly to the motherboard.

To do that on my regular reform, I have a USB-UART adapter integrated into the chassis and expose the micro-usb plug through the left-hand-side-panel:

As I recall, the HDMI port isn’t supported without specific adjustments? This is related to my second request

The HDMI port works just fine with the imx8mq. The only quirk is, that you have to select and boot with a different device tree to make use of it. You do that by running reform-display-config dual. This is disabled by default because if active, the internal display is run by a less performant display engine (LCDIF instead of DCSS) and the panel is run at a lower freq, so we can’t just default to it.


Thanks josch for your detailed response. I agree, for ideal debuggability, one would like easy access to the board as well, so maybe something like the rack reform wouldn’t be suited to that. On the other hand as I recall, the novena project had a very nice case that enabled immediate access.

Given my current lack of cad skills and fabrication ability, I think for the time being a setup like the one you posted Josch is the most versatile. I may reach out to bunnie to see if he still has leftover novena cases…

So I reached out to bunnie about these cases out of curiosity and the source for the cases were posted in the wiki (Novena Mechanical CAD - Studio Kousagi Wiki) under a CERN OHS license. Bunnie said that the cases were injection molded and the brass nuts in the case were molded in place and the gas piston was custom ordered.

Thanks to the MNT team for all the work it takes to design these things, it must take a lot of know-how to get everything to work.

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I have a novena, the case is pretty neat and makes for a nice desktop setup. As far as compatibility with the reform motherboard, It only has openings for ports on one side. The stock display is eDP so it may be compatible with the reform motherboard. There is a usb and buttons in the front that could be used for power on and off with a keyboard controller.