An Internet-Safe Laptop Computer

This document specifies a secure laptop computer to replace my aging Macintosh PowerBook. It appears that nobody is willing and able to offer what I really want, so this specification is for something to which I can later add the required security features myself when I have time, and absolutely prevents infection when I am on the road.

1.  The computer must dual-boot both the majority operating system (WinXP) and some open-source system like Linux or Unix that I can recompile the kernel. Recompiling the kernel is a requirement in the delivered system. A minimal partition booting a minimal Vista for compatibility testing is also desirable, but not as the primary system.

2.  The system must have a full (image) backup capability onto removable media, which can be booted up for restoral in the event of a hard disk failure or replacement or system crash, and from which individual files can be extracted and restored without shutting down or restoring the whole system. Both Windows and *x partitions must be fully backed up and restorable.

3.  In WinXP mode the computer should have a simple way (ideally a shortcut icon with not too many additional clicks) to completely disable or enable all network access, so it behaves as if the network has been unplugged, even when connected. Setting IP access to dial-up seems to work, if that can be activated easily. Leaving IP access completely disabled at all times is an acceptable alternative if removable media can be (perhaps sequentially) time-shared on another computer system as "floppy-net" for transferring data files and programs.

A "deep-freeze" mode of operating, where every WinXP boot-up starts over from the frozen disk image (completely discarding all subsequent changes, installations, and infections) is highly desirable.

4.  The computer must include a video-out port capable of driving standard video projectors.

5.  The computer must include fax send/receive capability.

6.  The computer must fit inside a standard briefcase with its backup drive (if not internal), power brick(s), cables and dongles, media, presentation handouts, etc. It must be usable on a standard airline seat tray for at least two hours of reading or text editing.

7.  Screen motion capture software (in WinXP) with voice-over annotations, video editing, and DVD burning is desirable for producing presentation media. Editing needs to be able to insert video from one clip under audio from another, simple fade and wipe between clips, add background music track with fades, and static titles.

8.  All software components of the system must be fully installed and shown to be working before I take delivery.

9.  The computer should be plain and undistinguished in appearance. If there is a prominent logo on the cover, the delivered system should include a "skin" or permanent sticker that tastefully conceals it.

Tom Pittman


Acceptance Tests

1.  Running my demo program (I'll bring CD) with video+voice capture
2.  Edit into MP4
3.  Play MP4 on Win
4.  Video to external "projector"
5.  Burn DVD
6.  Play MP4 on Linux
7.  [Start] kernal recompile (probably takes too long to wait for it to finish)
8.  Change some system setting then reboot, Gone! (both Win/Linux)
9.  Run my demo program in Vista
10. Click URL in WinXP/Vista, it fails to connect; repeat in Linux, OK
11. Send fax
12. Open miscellaneous documents on my CD, including VisualStudio project & build
13. Back up WinXP/Linux to external media
14. Boot up system restore program from external media & reinstall backed up system(s)
15. Verify full Linux source files included, preferably on CD or DVD

rev. 2008 February 21