Discussion:
The future of Libre Computing: Crowd Funding Campaign Starts Now
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c***@thinkpenguin.com
2016-06-30 01:56:16 UTC
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Over the last several years I have worked on projects with the aim of getting
code released and putting control over ones computing devices back into the
hands of the user. Working with others in the community I've managed to get
code released for wireless chipsets and funded efforts to produce freedom
respecting routers. These efforts have not been insignificant, but now we
have a chance to change the underlying dynamics of the computing industry
more significantly.

Today computers are designed around proprietary bits intended to be thrown
away when the next generation of devices is out and upgrading and repairing
them is nearly impossible. Fortunately it doesn't have to be that way.
Working with Luke Leighton we've managed to develop a solution to this
problem. By designing computers in the form of a simple freedom-conscious
user-upgradable computer card we no longer have to be as dependant on the
output and decisions of large corporations that don't have our - the users -
interests in mind. We can swap out CPUs and components easily for ones that
will respect user's freedoms. In other words we don't need to be dependant on
Intel, AMD, Broadcom, and others. When one doesn't cooperate we'll more
easily be able to move to another.

What's revolutionary about this new standard is that once you have a
'computer card' that computer can be used in any device compliant with the
standard. That means you can swap out an older 'computer card' for a newer
one when it's no longer up to the task of handling your desktop computing
needs without replacing the rest of the computer. Then you can sell that
card, or use it in another type of device compliant with the standard, such
as say a router, tablet, or maybe an entertainment device. Wouldn't it be
nice if you could super charge your $50 USD router by reusing your 'computer
card' from last year? Now you have a $200 router for little more than $65.

The prototype Libre Tea Computer Card has been reviewed by the Free Software
Foundation and will get RYF certification when it ships. There are no
blockers. The card utilizes a dual-core A20 CPU with 8GB of internal flash
and 2GB of ram. We have the sources for the main controller chip as well (ie
screen, keyboard, LCD touchpad, etc). Future computer cards will be much
faster, contain more memory, and flash. However we do need to see this Crowd
Funding campaign succeed before these efforts can continue.

I've written a bit about the backdoors and security issues in Intel and AMD
CPUs on our blog here:

https://www.thinkpenguin.com/blog

You can access the Crowd Funding page directly here:

https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68

If you want to help promote it click the link below and up-vote it on
Slashdot:

https://slashdot.org/submission/6035171/eoma68-modular-eco-computing-project-launches-on-crowd-supply

Just click on the "+" button at the top. This will increase the likelihood of
it hitting Slashdot.

I'm extremely busy so I may or may not come back and respond to
questions/messages unless people ask me to. To ask just click on my user name
and send me a message that way. Then I'll make a point to revisit this
thread.
Alexander Stephen Thomas Ross
2016-06-30 02:50:36 UTC
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This i great news. heh in fact i just came to post a link to the
crowdfund my self to promote it :). ive already made my pre-order for...
well... everything :D

It’s been great to hear your excitement for the effort. Thank you so
much for sponsoring it :D Big hand shake/hug :).

No longer do those that care about software freedom have to make do with
mainstream, not fully free cpu’s in laptops and other devices. this is
the best chance, that i see my self and for you, getting RYF laptop and
other devices. Designed how we like them and as chris says. with this
eoma-68 computer card standard (brain in a module) we can swap to
whichever is the best,fastest,free’est computer card (SOC/CPU) there is.

luke really cares about these issues. ive followed the development of
this project from near the beginning. I come to trust him to do the best
he can.

I truly do believe this is a really good bet for ya all. ive put my
money where my mouth is too :D , nod.

this approach means a far greater, than before, independence.

I strongly suggest and strongly recommend that you take this chance up
cus i fear there wont be one like it. in the past ive tried to mention
this cool project on this list and i hope this time you somehow see why
ive been so excited about it over these years.
happy web browsing :)
o***@riseup.net
2016-06-30 11:29:30 UTC
Permalink
OK, I definitely want to back this. I would have backed this if it was just a
freedom-respecting computer, but a freedom-respecting computer and this
really nice modular approach? There's no way I can not back this!
l***@gmail.com
2016-06-30 21:21:53 UTC
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remember that you can also download the casework CAD files (as a python
program) and 3D-print up replacement parts too... :)
https://www.youmagine.com/designs/libre-hardware-licensed-parametric-laptop-design
g***@riseup.net
2016-06-30 12:56:22 UTC
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Keep up the good work mate Chris! +1
j***@bluehome.net
2016-06-30 13:00:42 UTC
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I don't seem to see any information on the graphics part of things. I am
concerned that something like Mali may be in use. Can you please speak to
that?
d***@posteo.net
2016-06-30 13:16:51 UTC
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Indeed, Allwinner A20 system-on-chips use Mali for graphics.
So, no 3D acceleration, but as far as I know you can use 2D without blobs due
to the Lima driver.
It's really annoying but it's the best we have.
o***@riseup.net
2016-06-30 14:17:46 UTC
Permalink
It was addressed here:

https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/libreplanet-discuss/2016-06/msg00211.html
c***@thinkpenguin.com
2016-06-30 20:34:48 UTC
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As far as 3D goes the situation is not perfect. Like the LibreBoot laptops
there are components which are not fully supported. There are no proprietary
bits needed to boot however and the desktop environment doesn't require it.
There is some hardware acceleration though so you can watch videos and
similar. Even though I've been involved in the discussions with the FSF on
this it's a little foggy in my head as to the details. We had a working
demonstration of a test desktop environment running on Parabola Linux-libre
at a recent event. It works.

The main thing though is not the Computer Card or whether there is any
support for graphics components- or even free software. The main thing here
is we have a standard and laptop/desktop housing design that solves the
underlying problems. The problem is we have little to no control over the
design of components and boards.

We have had little to no control over upstream companies doing design of
critical components or even what components end up in these designs (wifi,
CPUs, graphics, etc). If we can't or can't easily get code from upstream nor
swap these components it becomes an impossible task to design a free software
friendly device. More and more is getting integrated into SOCs or being
soldered down on the boards themselves.

If this succeeds we will for the first time have a real chance at fixing
long-term critical and long-standing non-free software issues. In the past
Intel and AMD have been uncooperative in certain areas and the situation was
such that we were just stuck. With this design and standard we can swap
components more easily and work around uncooperative companies for which we
were previously dependant.

Ultimately these housing designs and standards open doors and give us options
that we didn't have before. There are valid criticisms here and I'm far from
completely happy myself. What is important here is we will have a means to
solving these problems long term as long as the Crowd Funding campaign
succeeds. The majority of the work here is done. We funded that much. What
isn't done is proving that there is sufficient demand for libre-friendly
hardware. If there is not evidence of sufficient demand from this Crowd
Funding campaign it won't matter that we solved the problem on paper. Right
now it is far from certain that there will be enough demand. Fortunately we
only need about $150,000 USD for the first run or about 250 sales. Further
out we'll have to hit much higher numbers.
l***@gmail.com
2016-06-30 21:31:37 UTC
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the summary is - and this surprised me to find out exactly what the FSF's
rules are - that basically average end-users must not be accidentally tricked
into running proprietary software (which could potentially end up spying on
them), for example like in Debian GNU/Linux you run synaptics, it presents
"nonfree" as one of the click-check-box options, there's absolutely no
warnings whatsoever about the dangers of installing non-free software, and
the average end-user really doesn't know what they're getting into with that.
*this* is the scenario that the FSF's rules are intended to cover - *NOT*
the average TECHNICAL end-user usage-case where they're competent enough to
know how to compile up code (even though they can't program), follow
instructions online and generally make informed decisions about what they're
getting into.

so in talking to the FSF i was surprised to learn that if we simply don't
compile in mali.ko into the linux kernel, then because it's LITERALLY
IMPOSSIBLE to gain access from userspace to that proprietary piece of
graphics - as in, there's nothing that the user can do which would allow them
to even know that MALI was even on the SoC - turns out that that's good
enough to be able to apply for an "Exemption" under the FSF's RYF
Certification Programme.

now, exemptions *specifically* require a Board Meeting to evaluate them, and
that means in effect that Dr Stallman needs to evaluate it, but chances are
high that we'll be ok.

what that *doesn't* mean is that it's okay for ARM to get away with messing
everyone about. this should *NOT* be used as an excuse by ARM to continue to
do what they're doing. and i can tell you right now that if we had any other
choices - any truly libre SoCs with full 3D graphics - i would certainly be
using them. this processor therefore represents the nearest stepping-stone
to get to where we want to be.
d***@unseen.is
2016-06-30 13:08:58 UTC
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This seems like a cool idea. The crowdsupply presentation seems to indicate
even the hardware designs will be GPL'd:

"you will always be able to repair your own EOMA68 devices by 3D printing
replacement casework parts; you will always have access to the source code
and the PCB CAD files."

I don't know if this is all you need to build this device yourself if you
could.
c***@thinkpenguin.com
2016-06-30 21:22:42 UTC
Permalink
So there are elements that you can't print yourself because the technology to
do so doesn't exist. The casework can be printed though. There are also plans
to release the PCBs, but this is ultimately less important. There are certain
minimum thresholds that have to be met to get these pieces manufactured. The
practical usefulness therefore is minuscule unless this project succeeds and
it turns out that there is demand for variations and so on by other
interested parties. So the software and casework is much more significant
right now.

When you start talking about minimum numbers to manufacture something like a
laptop you are talking about somewhere in the ballpark of 100,000 units. To
give people an even better idea a 100,000 units is more like a trial run to
see if it'll be successful in the market place. We'll need to hit something
like 250,000 units in the long term. 250 units is basically like a small test
run. That's what is going on here.

Can it be done? Get involved and you'll be a part of answering that question.
Long term we need substantially more demand than what freedom-conscious users
can sustain so keep that in mind. We have to get both the technical minded
and masses on board.

To give people some idea of what numbers are like and how seemingly
insurmountable an effort like this is I'll provide some estimates of demand
for other devices within the GNU/Linux world. Among all the GNU/Linux users
regardless of who is or isn't concerned about freedom there is a demand for
about 500,000 USB wifi adapters a year. No small entity is going to be able
to get anywhere near filling that entire demand or even a small percentage
of. Even filling 10%-20% is impressive. The majority of that demand will be
filled accidentally. That is people buying random hardware and it
coincidently it working [because others like myself have worked to get the
code released / chipset supported]. There will also be large quantities
bought by companies whom have tested different hardware components. So for
example a company selling kiosks to T-Mobile might buy a Linksys wifi card.
Linksys doesn't know anything about the chipset and even the manufacturer
upstream of Linksys likely knows nothing about it either. But none-the-less
it works so they use it. [yes- often companies get into trouble here because
they don't understand that the model doesn't equal a chipset, but
none-the-less the practice continues].
s***@gmail.com
2016-06-30 15:36:35 UTC
Permalink
I was about to ask if this is something like the librem computers. Then it is
think penguin.
We expect the Libre Tea Computer Card to receive the Free Software
Foundation's >Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification
either ARM to make their
minds up to provide the sources (and you can help there by contacting
ARM by telephone and taking up the receptionist's time by asking to
speak to someone about why they haven't provided the source: the more
money that they lose by having to pick up the phone the better), or
for someone to put the funds up for the three years necessary to keep
Luc Verhaegen full-time employed to carry out the necessary
reverse-engineering
If someone wrote this to think penguin, what would he answer?
o***@riseup.net
2016-06-30 16:06:19 UTC
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That email you quoted is from Chris. So, that's what he would answer. Or
rather, what he did answer.

Note that getting RYF certification does not require 3-D to be working. Also
note that the page says the Libre Tea will be RYF certified before it is sent
out, and if that doesn't happen, anyone who ordered it will get a full
refund. That's how you (not knowing the technical details) can know that this
is not like the "Librem" laptops.
s***@gmail.com
2016-06-30 16:48:39 UTC
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About fsf you are right. Writing that phoning arm will make them release
source software is like negotiating intel to do the same thing.
j***@bluehome.net
2016-06-30 21:09:00 UTC
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"That email you quoted is from Chris."

Just as a point of order to correct the record: The message in question was
forwarded by Koz Ross and seems to have originally been written by lkcl (Luke
Leighton), not Chris. Although Chris was CC'd on the message.
l***@gmail.com
2016-06-30 21:36:47 UTC
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yup, that was me. my point about phoning up ARM is: never underestimate the
power of crowds. one person phoning up is a nuisance - a mosquito that can
be slapped away. but have you ever seen what happens if you pour petrol onto
a tire at night and set fire to it in the middle of a jungle? my uncle did
this in the 2nd world war: the quantity of moths and other insects attracted
to the flames that were previously plaguing the soldiers LITERALLY smothered
a raging petroleum fire. amazing. so. never underestimate the power of
crowds...

a***@ncf.ca
2016-06-30 15:54:02 UTC
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Nice going Chris; thank you.
f***@openmailbox.org
2016-06-30 20:17:10 UTC
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Ok, will it have 3-D acceleration? I really want to know.
j***@bluehome.net
2016-06-30 21:06:45 UTC
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Not with free software, no.
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