Prototypes Updates and next Talks – October 2021

Prototype delays due to electronic components shortages

As already stated a few times, we are still victims of the electronics industry supply-chain difficulties. Back in July, we informed you that “98% of more than 2000 components are now secured and will be delivered on time. The hunt is still ongoing for the remaining forty components left, and finding them is crucial not to miss the October deadline.”Some of the power management components are currently unavailable, so the electronic designer had to search for their replacements. Soon we will publish the resulting updated PCB design reporting all new components. The production factory has not yet received all the required components that we already ordered, and there are still that so far cannot be found anywhere on the market. In particular, we are facing problems getting the HDMI connector (part number 2041481-1) that could fit inside the Eclipse notebook chassis. If you are able to help us find such a connector, please contact us. We are urgently looking for 3 pieces of this connector for the 3 prototypes. Additionally, we are also looking for a solution for the larger batch production.

Unexpected increase of 1000 euros for the prototypes

We are very happy about the generous participation of all donors that allowed the prototype campaign to exceed 90% of the final goal. Thank you very much!

During our surveys on the electronic markets last September, we observed a skyrocketing increase of the prices. We are a group of hobbyists that have zero power to sit down and bargain with electronic companies. Even the well established Raspberry Pi foundation was forced into increasing their prices (see https://www.raspberrypi.com/news/supply-chain-shortages-and-our-first-ever-price-increase/)

As a result, every prototype increased its final cost by around 300-320 euro including 22% local VAT, for a total amount of 1000 euros including PayPal fees for the three prototypes. Long story short, we have to increase the campaign goal from 12500 to 13500 euros.

We currently cannot tell if the market prices will go back to lower prices, and, moreover, when the current electronic components shortages will be finally over. We all hope that the situation will get better by the time the full batch production starts.

Now, the bright side of the overall situation is that being forced to wait for electronic components is quite compatible with the slow pace of our donation campaign, so please, continue donating!!

MXM Video Cards

You may get an idea of the current electronic shortages by the fact that we ordered an AMD Radeon E9172 MXM GPU (approximately 295 EUR with VAT) and an AMD Radeon E9174 MXM GPU (approximately 380 EUR with VAT) back in May 2021. Well, the expected delivery date is 27th of November 2021!

At the moment, the cost of the three MXM cards needed for the prototypes are not covered by the donation campaign, but we ask your financial support for those cards also.

In the meantime, we had the chance to buy an ATI Radeon HD4650 1GB DRR3 MXM 3.0 card and, thanks to the kind donation by Stefano, a new collaborator from Italy, we have now two AMD FirePro M4000 GDDR5 1GB MXM 3.0A cards.

ACube Systems, our partner taking care of building the prototypes, has also purchased a PCI to MXM adapter. The adapter will allow us to test MXM cards before we have the prototype ready, as it will be used in conjunction with the motherboard “Sam460ex” made by ACube Systems. Tests will be performed under AmigaOS 4.1, a native PowerPC operating system.

Switch to the Cern 2.0 License under evaluation

We are currently evaluating the possibility to upgrade our Open Hardware license from Cern 1.2 to 2.0.

The first thing we noticed was that the second version is split into three variants called Strongly Reciprocal (S), Weakly Reciprocal (W) and Permissive (P). Basically, all three documents are structured in the same manner and, indeed, some sections are identical. The main differences are found in sections 3 Copying, Modifying and Conveying Covered Source, 4 Making and Conveying Products and 5 Research and Development (which does not exist in the Permissive license). The changes that can be found comparing one document to another also imply different concepts to be explained in section 1 Definitions. Most terms that appear on more than one document have the same definition. Important exceptions to this are 1.1 “License” which refers to the exact variant of the license on each document and 1.7 Available Component which is not exactly the same on R and W (and can’t be found on S)

As we understand, the variant should be chosen depending on the restrictions related to the components (Available Components) and additional parts that could be added by the Licensee (External Materials). OHL-S specifies that all “the Complete Source is the Covered Source” and any modification should be distributed using the same license. On the other hand, OHL-W allows the inclusion of External Materials, which means that you can add some parts to the design using a different license. Finally, the Permissive license does not mention anything about Available Components and External Materials but allows to make or publish a Product only including all the Notices of the Licensor.

To better understand the differences, the examples provided in the Open Hardware repository FAQ page are quite explanatory:

What are all these suffixes?

In the software domain, there are three generally acknowledged licensing regimes for free and open source software: permissive, weak copyleft and strong copyleft. There are tastes and use cases for each option, and the same happens in hardware. We use the word “reciprocal” instead of “copyleft” because the underlying rights in our case are not restricted to copyright. So, when you use the licence, you need to add a Notice to your designs with one of the three following suffixes: S, W or P:

  • CERN-OHL-S is a strongly reciprocal licence. For example, if you release HDL files under CERN-OHL-S and then somebody uses those files in their FPGA, when they distribute the bitstream (either putting it online or shipping a product with it) they need to make the rest of the HDL design available under CERN-OHL-S as well.
  • CERN-OHL-W is a weakly reciprocal licence. For the example above, if you release your part of the design under CERN-OHL-W, somebody who distributes a bitstream which includes your part does not need to distribute the rest of the design files as well.
  • CERN-OHL-P is a permissive licence. It allows people to take your code, relicense it and use it without any obligation to distribute the sources when they ship a product.

Compared to this second version, OSHL v1.2 does not include “Available Components” and “External Materials” terms, making it difficult to establish a direct relation with any of these variants. This makes us think that it is probably more similar to OHL-S.

Regarding the Disclaimer section, which is the one that protects the Licensor from legal issues and warns the Licensee about his responsibility, both versions have a very similar writing. Version 2 is slightly more detailed specifying that “The Licensor shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, have no liability for […]” while the previous version did not mention the limits created by law. In any case, we think these limits are oblivious and the meaning of the Disclaimer section is equivalent.

Again, to compare OSHL v1.2 and OHL v2 we can make use of one question in the FAQ section:

I am a user of CERN OHL version 1.2. What are the main changes introduced by this new version?

Version 2 of the CERN OHL improves on version 1.2 in various respects:

  • The new version comes in three variants: strongly reciprocal, weakly reciprocal and permissive. Reciprocal licences stipulate that changes to a design must be fed back to the community, for everybody to benefit from them. Permissive licences do not impose this condition. In this way, CERN OHL v2 caters for the different collaborative models currently used in Open Source Hardware projects.
  • In the reciprocal variants, it is very important to clarify the scope of reciprocal obligations. By introducing the concepts of “Available Component” and “External Material”, plus the already-existing concept of “Product”, the new version makes a special effort to clarify what sources should be shared in both the -S and -W variants.
  • CERN OHL version 1.2 included a patent licence, i.e. a promise by the licensor that (s)he will not sue a licensee for patent infringement as regards the design licensed under CERN OHL. Version 2 adds a reciprocal clause for this patent licence: if a licensee sues a licensor for patent infringement, (s)he loses all the rights granted by the licence.
  • In licence 1.2 we did not make a special effort to cater for Hardware Description Language (HDL) development as used in Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) and Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) design. As we became convinced that there was no appropriate reciprocal licensing regime for HDL, we made sure that CERN-OHL-S and CERN-OHL-W can provide a good solution for FPGA and ASIC designers with a reciprocal mindset.
  • Version 2 makes a special effort to maximise the chances that the recipient of a physical product will get access to the design files for that product. It does this by granting the licensor the possibility of embedding a URL or another reference in the object itself, and establishing that downstream licensees should respect that notice and update it as applicable if the design is changed.
  • The new version provides a grace period of 30 days for licensees which infringe in terms. If they come into compliance within 30 days after receiving a notification from the licensor, their rights are reinstated. This is meant to help with cases in which a licensee infringes the terms of the licence inadvertently.

We are still studying which alternative is better from OHL-S, OHL-W and OHL-P. The decision should take into account how free we want the licensees to be when producing or modifying our design.

Join our Talks at OpenPower Summit 2021, Linux Day Online Italy 2021 and the Sfscon 2021

For more news and updates about our project and future plans, join our talks during:

Linux Day 2021 Online (23rd October 2021 3 PM CEST) “When the community produces an Open Hardware laptop”  in italian .

At the OpenPOWER Summit NA 2021 (28th October 2021 at 2.45 Central Daylight Time (CDT), UTC -5 ) “Prepare yourself to switch computing to Open Hardware Power Architecture”

At the Sfscon.it PPC64 Open Hardware Notebook prototypes around the corner (12th November 2021 2.30 pm CEST).

Hurry up, vote for the motherboard name!

As of the 22th of October 2021, we’ve reached 987 votes out of the 1000 required to take a final decision on the motherboard name. We would like to close the pools as soon as we have reached that number to start working on the drafting of logos and other communication materials.

Freedesktop-sdk merge requests to support PPC64 Big Endian

Thanks to Charles and Manuel, members of our software team, we have submitted a merge request to Freedesktp-sdk with a patch to allow the compilation on PPC64 Big Endian. That was a major achievement and an enormous effort by our volunteers. A very good job guys! Thank you!!

Our ppc64 Be branch of Freedesktop-sdk.

Freedesktop-sdk was going to stop supporting the PowerPC architecture due to the lack of a builder . The situation has now changed, and we are now very happy to inform that even thanks to help from OpenPower members ( from OSUOSL), in terms of updates and improvements to the ppc64le branch of freedesktop-sdk.

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