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One thing we have never tried to be as a company is apolitical. Producing personal computers modified for maximal privacy is inherently a political act, and the more that crooked left-wing leaders erode our digital rights and privacies, the more necessary our products become. Unfortunately, thanks to inflation (or, the Biden effect), we've had to increase prices across the board for our products. As of today, the base price for laptops is now $325, and the base price for tablets is $375. The machines are becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to source in good condition, and the price of new tablet batteries has exploded out of control. Price increases are frustrating, but the unfortunate truth is that this is our only option while we research other alternatives, such as finding a different system to use as a base that can be sourced more reliably.

Of course, if this nightmare we're living through were to end in 2025, this all might quickly become a moot point, but this is unfortunately where we're at right now.

You may have noticed that the Thinkpads that we sell are all 10 years old and you may be wondering what the reason for that is. There are two main reasons, and I'm going to explain them here.

The first reason I'll touch on is price. Obviously, an older laptop is going to cost less than something more modern, but the point that isn't said by people selling modern computers is that most people don't need a modern computer. I mean, of course if your line of work includes 3D rendering, video work, or any other such application, or your goal is to play the latest video games, then an older computer is not going to work for you, but for the vast majority of people who's needs include web browsing, e-mail, writing word documents, and maybe working with some spreadsheets, an older computer is absolutely more than adaquate. I personally use a Steinworks machine with an i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 500GB SSD. In other words, the recommended configuration, which right now runs for $370. And that brings me to another important point: every SSD sold in a Steinworks machine is brand new. The reason old computers get a reputation for being slow is because of their old mechanical spinning disk hard drives, not because of their processors or their RAM. By installing a brand new SSD into each machine, we are able to entirely eliminate the bottleneck that made these computers feel slow in the first place. I feel like our base model price of $295 is quite good for a machine that will excel at all but the most demanding of tasks. Yes, there are higher spec machines out there, but you'd be spending at least four figures to get them, and frankly, that's way too much money to spend for no tangible benefit for the majority of people. Oh, and the keyboards on our laptops are way better than anything modern out there, too ;-)

The second reason has to do with privacy. This may get a bit more technical so I hope you'll bear with me. Every modern computer using an Intel processor contains a co-processor called the Intel Management Engine, or Intel ME for short. The Intel ME runs its own proprietary operating system, is always on, and has full access to all of the hardware, network, and memory of the computer. In other words, it can always see what you're doing, it is always connected to the network, and you can't analyze what it's doing with that access. Not only is it spyware built into the computer at the hardware level, it is also a major security vulnerability, and there have been several hacks that have targetted specifically the Intel ME to gain access to the main system. And before someone says it, AMD processors have an equivilant system called the PSP, Platform Security Processor. There exists a tool called me_cleaner, with the goal of removing the Intel ME. It works by reading the ROM image off of the chip it's contained in using an external SPI flasher, modifying the ROM image to remove the Intel ME, and writing the modified ROM image back to the chip using the external flasher. It's a non-trivial process as it involves opening the machine and flashing chips directly on the motherboard. Very old intel processors, such as the Core 2 Duo chips, had older versions of the Intel ME that could be disabled entirely. After that, the Intel ME became more difficult to remove. In the x230 laptops we sell, the Intel ME cannot be removed entirely, but can be removed to the point where it is only active during the initial boot, shuts itself off after your operating system loads, and does not ever have any network access. That last one's the big deal, because without network access, it's not possible for it to spy on you or be exploited remotely. Modern machines have an even newer version of the Intel ME that is even more difficult to remove. me_cleaner is able to remove some of it, but the amount of it required to be left behind for proper functioning of the machine, in addition to the additional scope of what it's able to do, makes it unacceptable to me. We feel like the amount of removal we're able to achieve on our Steinworks machines is a good balance, since the ME is effectively neutered, but we're still able to offer a machine that runs modern applications. Older machines that have the older versions of the ME that can be removed entirely struggle when it comes to running some modern programs or web sites which our Steinworks machines can handle perfectly.

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