About the Linux PowerPC notebook project
We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source.
To achieve this goal a series of tasks must be performed, such as designing a custom motherboard that would fit into an existing mainstream notebook chassis.
Since October 2014, when the project was launched, the number of people showing interest had been steadily increasing, and we are now quite a few experience volunteers, some of whom are able to contribute in reviewing and checking aspects of the required electronic design. Unfortunately, after all this years we are stuck, because of the lack of either spare time, or engineer capabilities and professional skills.
In order to solve the situation, in 2016 we approached the Italian firm ACube Systems a company that have some experience in designing PowerPC motherboards. We were lucky, as we found a group of passionate people that shared the long-term advantages of the Open Hardware philosophy, and their prior experience in designing a variety of PowerPC motherboards makes them an ideal choice as a partner. Together with ACube we will be able to get the electronic design done, but a professional electronic designer has to be paid.
At this point the group involved in the project decided to get serious and launched a fundraising campaign to pay for the required job.
In 2016 we funded “Power Progress Community”, a nonprofit association based in Milan (Italy), in order to manage money and sign contracts. The mission of the association is to bring new life in the PowerPC (PPC) platform, by adopting open hardware and open source software, together with other side activities aimed at promoting the research and advancement of the platform.
A detailed plan was carefully prepared together with ACube, and we are now ready to share it with you in this document.
Power Progress Community and ACube jointly agreed to design and build the motherboard in Italy, whereas the chassis will be purchased in a batch from an ODM producing standard 15″ notebook meant for the x86 platform.
The Power Progress Community effort to revive the PowerPC platform touches a series of activities, here are some of the most important.
We established a community of passionate people with different skills sharing a common goal, and we grouped them around various thematic clusters such as hardware, software, and communication issues.
After the announcement made by the Debian developers to drop PowerPC support, a dedicated group of programmers joined in and is now trying to take over the maintenance of PowerPC ports, trying to keep the platform at the same level of other mainstream ones. Of course, to accomplish such a huge task we are always looking for additional passionate people, so do not hesitate having a look at our wiki pages (http://wiki.powerprogress.org/DebianPowerPcStartersManual).
We regularly give out updates on the association website (http://www.powerprogress.org/en/), the notebook project website (http://www.powerpc-notebook.org/en/), the discussion forum and we use dedicated profiles in the social media (Twitter https://twitter.com/PowerProgressCo and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/powerpcnotebook/). We share views and establish contacts with other projects or private companies that could be interested in supporting the PowerPC platform.
We have a Development Kit based on the T2080 CPU (T2080RDB, Reference Design Board) since two years but unfortunately our developer had many issues. The problems are now solved and the activity aimed at addressing the hardware initialization procedures is now restarted.
For a few months, the hardware group tried to analyze the required electronic components of the motherboard, but could not achieve a production level quality with the very limited man-power available. What has been achieved will be passed on to the professional electronic designer and will be used as an higher level starting point.
We decided most of the technical specs of the notebook, but it is possible that some details might change during the engineering analysis. As of today, the notebook specifications are the following (subject to change):
- CPU: NXP T208x, e6500 64-bit Power Architecture with Altivec technology
4 x e6500 dual-threaded cores, low-latency backside 2MB L2 cache, 16GFLOPS x core
- RAM: 2 x RAM slots for DDR3L SO-DIMM
- VIDEO: MXM Radeon HD Video Card ( removable)
- AUDIO: sound chip, audio in and audio out jacks
- USB: 3.0 and 2.0 ports
- NVM Express (NVMe), M.2 2280 connector
- 2 x SATA
- 1 x SDHC card reader
- 1 x ethernet RJ-45 connector
- WiFi connectivity
- Bluetooth connectivity
- POWER: on-board battery charger and power-management
- CHASSIS: standard notebook case 15,6”
Final goal and roadmap
The final goal of this fundraising campaign is to make publicly available a production quality electronic schematics that any company would be able to produce. Such schematics will be proven to be fully working thanks to the thoroughly tested prototypes based on them. The design will be performed by an Italian company called ACube Systems contracted by the Power Progress Community nonprofit association. All obtained results will be publicly made available by the Power Progress Community, thanks to a written agreement with ACube Systems.
To better plan the whole activity and its corresponding required resources in terms of fundings and man-power, we have identified four phases:
- Hardware components research, analysis of the architecture, and design of the electrical schematics [12600 euro, 30 net days];
- Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gerber format delivery of the electrical schematics [11950 euro, 30 net days];
- Production and delivery of five working prototypes [ 8800 euro, 40 net days];
- Hardware testing using software provided by the producer (ACube) [14400 euro, 30 net days];
- Pre-certification CE certification [12.500 euro].
Net work days are spreaded over time, they will not be continuous, and will follow the flow of money transferred from the PPC Association to ACube, and will strictly depend on the donations trend.
First phase: hardware research and design
This phase will achieve the identification and design of all aspects of the motherboard thanks to a contracted professional electronic engineer.
The most delicate and important phase is going to be the first, as only after that we will be able to reduce the current uncertainties related to the hardware specifications and, consequently, the production costs. Other phases should be more constrained, and even faster.
We will be able to sign the first contract even before reaching the amount of 12600 euros.
Update 10th August 2017: we have signed the contract with ACube Systems.
Then, the campaign will continue without a fixed deadline. Once reached the final goal of 12600 for Phase 1, the work will be completed by ACube and they will produce the electrical circuit design as a result.
The necessary updates regarding the R&D for the phase 1 as frequent and fast as donations will arrive, will be finalized with a delay to finalize design only after the 12.600 euro for “phase one” will be reached.
As the final motherboard should adhere to the Open Source Hardware requirements, we are strongly convinced to avoid hardware components requiring an NDA (Not Disclosure Agreement). However, our initial research made clear that obtaining a 100% Open Source Hardware might be out of reach if we want a certain feature to be implemented. Nevertheless we will try our best.
The final design resulting from this phase will be shared as much as possible (the use of some chip might require to sign NDAs), and we will make sure that it will be so appealing that you could not resist in funding the next phase!
We discussed an impressive amount of time on how to approach the crowdfunding, and we finally decided not to use any of the commercial platform out there.
Being a nonprofit association has some limitations (e.g. we cannot produce and sell commercial products), but has the advantage of not having deadlines nor limiting business plans. We can afford to adopt an alternative solution based on free donations, both in the form of one time donations, or in the form of recurring -smaller- monthly donations.
Each of the above mentioned phases will be financed through separate steps, each dealt with a separate contract signed with ACube and each with a dedicated campaigns and will start as soon as we will have collected the required funding. Once the producer delivers the result of one phase, we will proceed to the next one, starting again raising the public attention with a new campaign centered on the new phase goal.
From our side we will publicly share any advancement made and we will answer all your questions. Anyone will be able to validate the output quality and, possibly, might be even able to support us reaching the final goal. We will made publicly available the list of donors and how much each one has contributed to the project; you may tell us if you wish or not to be listed by reporting your choice in the cause of the bank transfer, see below.
Of course, anyone should feel free to send us multiple donations at each step or at the end of each phase, or might opt for a bigger one time donation, the solution we set up leave any option available.
Online Donation – PayPal
Press Donate and as Payment Method select PayPal
Offline Donation – Bank credit transfer
These are the bank account details for donating
Bank name Banca Etica
Bank account owner POWER PROGRESS COMMUNITY
BIC SWIFT CCRTIT2T84A
Please, indicate some text as the bank transfer cause, like in the following example:
“PPC notebook donation – NAME and SURNAME”
(e.g..: “PPC notebook donation – John Cocke”)
Where the NAME and SURNAME are the same you will fill in the Donate page.
After you have made the bank transfer:
Press Donate and as Payment Method select Offline Donation
When you make the donation (offline or online) you can choose to make your donation anonymous.
Who is involved in this campaign
Power Progress Community is a nonprofit association composed by people contributing on a voluntary basis and inspired by the Open Source Hardware and Software movement. The mission is not focused on selling products, and the contribution to the “PowerPC Notebook” is an example; here the Power Progress Community is working to establish and consolidate a potential purchasing group big enough to motivate a manufacturer to start the building process.
The Power Progress Community was first conceived while working at the PowerPC GNU/linux notebook project, that kicked off in October 2014. During these years the initiative gathered people truly passionate about Free and Open Source software, PowerPC and more generally Open hardware and sustainable, ethical, and socially aware responsible consumption. Altogether we decided to establish this association, a way for helping and supporting the original initiative, and even supporting new greater future ideas and projects.
The Association promotes and disseminates software (especially open source software), and open hardware (with focus on, but not limited to, PowerPC and OpenPower architectures) with the aim of sharing knowledge and expertise.
ACube Systems is an Italian company producing its own line of PowerPC based motherboards. Since the beginning of the project, ACube Systems accepted to build our motherboard. We would like to thank the people of ACube for allowing us to pursue a transparent approach towards a purely Open Source Hardware project, aiming to publish and deliver all technical details of the hardware.
Why a donation campaign?
We cannot make use of commercial crowdfunding platforms because they are aimed at backing the production of a product, and moreover, they require a working prototype to start campaigning. We are not making nor selling a product, we are making and supporting research and development instead, and to achieve this goal we need to finance the engineering process. The identified solution is to receive direct donations for this task and update a dedicated website documenting all results.
Designing a PowerPC notebook is one of the goals of the Power Progress Community, so you will directly finance the official mission of the nonprofit association. Each donation should be intended as a liberal donation, so you accept that you will not receive back a physical product. Your donation will be used for reaching the goal of making publicly available the necessary technical documentation for allowing any company to produce a working motherboard based on the PowerPC platform.
We have not fixed a deadline for starting Phase 1. Instead, it will be started only when we will reach the minimum required amount of funding for signing a contract with ACube Systems (for Phase 1 was set at 4000 euros). ACube will start the research and design once the contract will be signed. Judging by our surveys results, around one hundreds people are willing to fund Phase 1 as soon as possible, so we are pretty much confident to start quite soon.
What will happen in the worst case scenario
In the worst case scenario we will propose and vote with all donors on how to use the collected funds, with the only constraint that the new goal must be coherent with the association mission.
As the mission of the association is decided by its members, a potential donor might want to join Power Progress Community by paying the yearly membership fee (http://www.powerprogress.org/en/membership/).
Donations are liberal and not refundable
The Power Progress Community is a nonprofit organization established in Italy. The Italian law allow to collect liberal and not refundable donations meant to pursue the missions and projects of the association and not give back products.
Restrictions for a nonprofit associations in Italy
An organization like ours has to take into account the following constraints:
- A nonprofit association cannot make commercial products;
- The association can receive donations, but cannot refund them;
- The association must be coherent with its mission, and is allowed to ask for donations for their achieving the goals.
So, what we can do to start our project is based on the points below:
- The association can have particular goal to reach and ask donation to achieve it, but it cannot give back the money (no refunds).
- Donation must be altruist so, no one will receive something back for their donation.
- Italian law allows an association to finance an R&D for a project or activity.
What happens if the campaign fails?
As stated above, we will not be able to refund the donors in any case. Because of that, if the money collected is not enough to fund this research we will use it for another goal within the mission of the organization.
Will all the received money used for the research?
Almost, as any payment platform available, either PayPal or the Bank account transfers, have a fee applied to each donation. As not for profit organization we have inside EU 1,8%+0,35euro of commission, outside EU 2,8%+0,35 euro ( from some country we see that could arrive to 4% of commission) for paypal. In case your bank transfer is from outside EU bank commission cost is high: 6 euro.
What happens if the campaign exceeds the goal?
If the collected funds exceed the phase goal, the remaining money will be used for achieving the next phase.