About Open Source Hardware

At the end of this past year we started to consider the possibility of making our motherboard Open Source Hardware (OSH). After discussing the idea with the hardware producer, both sides agreed that this was a good idea. We announced this new challenge at the beginning of the year and now we think is the perfect time to clarify the implications of making the motherboard Open Source Hardware. To explain it better, we are going to formulate and respond to a couple of questions.

What is open source hardware?

It seems difficult to explain what is OSH. A complete and detailed explanation can be found on the OSHWA definition page, but simplifying it even further, we can say that OSH is hardware made in such a way that its design is publicly available. Not only that, the documentation provided to understand and reproduce the device should be friendly, in terms of allowing its edition and improvements. So a PDF file containing the schematics is not enough to describe a hardware device as open source hardware. To open source a hardware project, the complete set of CAD and description files should be provided, enabling for instance the edition of the circuits. Of course if any firmware is used to make the hardware work it should be also available as open source code.

The problem for a project like ours is attempting to reach a complete degree of openness. A notebook uses many components which are created by third party companies and, as can be imagined, nearly all of them are under proprietary licenses. In many cases, if you want to use them you have to sign an NDA agreement with their maker (for instance, NXP for a PPC processor). Furthermore, the signature of an NDA means that you can not reveal particular pieces of information in relation to that item.

The OSHWA also refers to this particular problem when explaining the process of awarding a certificate to hardware for achieving the satus of being Open Source Hardware:

“However, that does not necessarily mean that the entire project must or will be open source. If the creators used third party closed components outside of their control, they are unable – and are therefore not required – to open source those components. While it is strongly prefered to use open components when possible, OSHWA recognizes the reality that this is not always possible”

So, what’s our plan?

We want to be as open as possible. We will publish all the CAD files, specifications and any other documentation in a way that could be usable. Of course we will share our source code too (firmware and drivers). On the other hand, we will not be able to make public any third party resources covered by an NDA.

One more thing we will do is give preference to any component that could be considered open source if it accomplishes what we need. However, we need to be practical too, so the selection could be a different component if the open source hardware component lacks desired features.

Finally, where are we in in this process?

As we announced a couple of weeks ago, we have constituted the Power Progress Community association this past summer and the members of the project are currently in the process of joining the assocation by completing our membership application and paying the yearly membership fee (30 Euro). WIth that, Roberto is currently presiding over the association and soon we will have the first NDA agreements signed.

Power Progress Community logo

Power Progress Community logo

Another important point to quickly cover is the list of hardware components for the PPC notebook. The selection of these components is not quite completed yet, but we now feel this aspect of the project is most important so it is currently our main focus. Once the list of hardware components is finalized we will release this information in another project update. Look for that in the very near future.

Which software do you want for the GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook?

Following our will of transparency reporting our activities, we do a fast review of the last month and what is coming next.

The first thing we want to say is  that we recently requested your help through the forum to choose the core set of applications available on our Linux distribution. We proposed an initial list grouped by the type of application and now we have some new suggestions that we are considering. As you can imagine, in our listing appeared well known software like LibreOffice, Iceweasel (Firefox), Gimp, Transmission, Calibre … We invite you to visit the forum and give your suggestion in the dedicated thread.

Iceweasel is in our software list

Iceweasel browser

Regarding the initial funding, we recalculated the amount to raise, placing it at 55000 €. The increase is due to the expenses that we expect to certify the product. The objective is still to collect this sum before September 2016. So the crowdfunding will cover the design( that we will publish with an Open Hardware license ), the production of five prototypes and the certification process.

As we said some time ago, to get the crowdfunding phase launched we need to establish ourselves as an organization. The chosen form is a non-profit organization created in Italy. We are currently in the process of establishing the organization and we hope to close this issue later this month. Once established, we will notify and invite anyone who wishes to become a member. This will also help the project as it will provide funds for small expenses like hosting our website, presentation materials such as flyers, etc. More details will follow soon.

Alongside this month we will continue with the discussion on the hardware components to use. We have a list of possible components but we need to pick the right one in each case. Moreover, this kind of decisions depend on the format of the chassis. It is quite possible that this last requirement will be clarified very soon but we cannot guarantee anything yet. Once again we invite you to participate in the hardware forum to give us your opinion.

Finally, as someone asked in our forum, we want to inform you about our presence in social networks. You can find us on the following sites:

And that’s all for now. Remember that any opinion or idea from you will help our community. Subscribe to our newsletter, if you have not already done so, and visit our forum.


GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook at “Fa’ la cosa giusta!” fair of conscious consumption

This saturday 14th March I will present to everybody our GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook project at “Fa’ la cosa giusta!” – The national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles (Italy) 12th edition, Milan, 13-14-15 March 2015 – more info about “Fa’ la cosa giusta!”

Fa La Cosa Giusta - The national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles

Fa La Cosa Giusta – The national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles

I will be in the “padiglione 4” of Fieramilanocity, Peace and Partecipation, stand PP06 inside the stand of “computer solidarity” (Informatica Solidale) association.

I will be there trying to recruit volunteers for the PowerPC Notebook project; inform the wider Computer and FOSS community about the projects existence, I will provide updated information about how my endeavors go and I hope this time I will take more photos :D

We have opened a new board, Public physical Presentation , on the forum where everyone can share information about events where the GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook project makes an appearance or is mentioned. Continue reading

Presentation slides used at Linux Day 2014

In the morning of October 25th I presented our project to the students participating at Milan’s LinuxDay, while during the afternoon I repeated my speech in front of everybody else. The presentation was so popular that there were more people than seats and a few had to stand to attend my speech.

The aim was to explain what PowerPC is and to show how Free Software is not bound to a particular CPU architecture. The slides used during the presentation were written for everybody, even for people who know nothing about PowerPC.
Below two pictures taken during and after the presentation.

Linux Day 2014 Open Source PowerPC notebook presentation

Linux Day 2014 Open Source PowerPC notebook presentation

Continue reading