Donation Campaign for PCB design of the PowerPC Notebook motherboard

Goal: make publicly available a production quality Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design for the motherboard of the PowerPC Notebook based on the electrical schematics of the first donation campaign.
20.03% Raised
€4,806.16 donated of €24,000.00 goal
58 Donors

render powerpc notebook

The initial 2,703 euro of donations of this campaign arrive most from recurring donations that continue to arrive from the old campaign after reached the old campaign goal.

Preface

We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source.

To achieve this goal we have to design a motherboard from scratch that would fit into a notebook chassis and support the porting of open source software to the PowerPC platform.

We launched the idea back in 2014 and since then the number of involved people has steadily increased and we are now around fifty experienced volunteers that help on various aspects. Some is active fixing or fine tuning Debian packages for the PowerPC 64bit architecture (with Altivec), some support the communication on multiple social medias, some help with the translations and a few helps with the electronic design.

On the hardware side, in 2016 we started a collaboration with ACube Systems, an Italian company that has a long experience in designing desktop motherboards based on PowerPC. We were lucky to find in ACube a group of passionate people that shared the long-term benefits of the Open Hardware philosophy, and their prior experience in designing a variety of PowerPC motherboards makes them an ideal partner.

Together with ACube we have already completed and published the electrical schematics, and now thanks to this new donation campaign, we are starting the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design. This new donation campaign is subdivided in five phases, find below an extensive explanation of all of them.

In 2016 we established “Power Progress Community”, a non-profit association based in Milan (Italy) that would allow us to  manage some funds and sign contracts with companies. Thanks to this association, we will put into practice the goal of bringing new life into the PowerPC (PPC) platform, first by introducing some Open Hardware solutions and then by supporting the port of Open Source software, together with other side activities aimed at promoting an update of the platform.

We started with an Open Hardware laptop, and a master plan was carefully prepared together with ACube Systems, and that we publicly share on our website and other social medias.

Power Progress Community and ACube jointly agreed to support and coordinate the design and, most importantly, ACube took the commitment to build the motherboard.

2nd donation campaign: goal and roadmap

The goal of this donation campaign is to make publicly available a production quality Printed Circuit Board (PCB) that will be based on the public electrical schematics that came out of the first donation campaign. The final output should be production ready, and should allow any company to produce them. In order to achieve this goal, we will realize five prototypes and we will extensively test them to prove all of their functionalities. The design will be  performed by the Italian company ACube Systems in full partnership with the Power Progress Community nonprofit association.

Still following our tradition of pursuing an Open Hardware philosophy, all results will be publicly made available, thanks to a written agreement with ACube Systems, and combined with the public availability of the datasheets of the chips carefully selected for the motherboard.

Because of the complexity of this second campaign, and thanks to the experience matured during the first campaign, to better plan the activity and the corresponding required resources in terms of financing and staffing, we have subdivied the campaign in multiple phases:

  1. Printed Circuit Board (PCB), for a total amount of 24.000 euro, that can be split into two sub-phases:

    1A. PCB Project [19.000 euro]

    1B. Fast SI bus simulations [5.000 euro]; ( What is SI bus simulation )

  2. Production and delivery of five working prototypes [10.500 euro];
  3. Hardware testing using software provided by the manufacturer (ACube) [14.000 euro];
  4. Pre-certification and CE certification [12.500 euro].

When we will start Phase 1, we will start with transferring funds to ACube as soon as we start collecting them from the fundraising, so adopting the same approach we had in the first campaign that proved effective, as it assured some continuity in the design process.

When we will reach the goal of Phase 1A, corresponding to €19000, ACube Systems will finalize and deliver the PCB design.

When we will reach the end of Phase 1B, corresponding a total amount of €24000 (prior €19000 plus the additional €5000) ACube Systems will deliver the Fast SI bus simulations and an updated version of the PCB design with fixes obtained thanks to the Fast SI bus simulations.

Prior to the final transfer to ACube Systems of all funds related to Phase 1A and 1B, we will take one month to review the delivered design files.

As we want to be as transparent as possible during the entire duration of the donation campaign, we will take care of periodically share a detailed status update on the project website.

As a final remark, we will try to adhere to the Open Source Hardware requirements in the design of this laptop motherboard, therefore we are strongly committed in avoiding any hardware component requiring an NDA (Not Disclosure Agreement).

For this purpose, we have contacted many chips vendors in order to verify their agreement to distribute as Open Source Hardware our electrical schematics and PCB design obtained in this second campaign. Among others, NXP which is the company producing the selected CPU, has answered positively.

The process required to achieve a fully compliant Open Hardware motherboard, was carefully analyzed by students of the Law and Policy Clinic of New York University School of Law. Thanks to their work, we have now clear the practical implications of the requirements for the OSWHA Open Hardware certification, and cross-checked our approach and adopted solutions with OSWHA personnel. An important part of being considered Open Hardware compliant (OSHWA Open Hardware certification), require that everything that is under our control and  that is used to produce our motherboard, should be publicly disclosed, such as schematics, PCB, Gerber-files and all their accompanying information. As a consequence, most of the datasheets of the chips used in our schematics are freely downloadable, as well as the schematics and the PCB design. In case some of the chip vendors will ask us to remove technical details that we were not supposed to disclose, we will comply to their requests by removing the published material, but that will do not impact on our compliance to OSHWA Open Hardware certification because we could demonstrate that we strived to be as open as we could.

We are sure that you will be satisfied by the final PCB design, and you will be proud of being one of the contributors that could make materialize the first and only Open Hardware complaint PowerPC notebook motherboard!!​

Funding mechanism

As it was adopted with the previous campaign, we will not use any of the most famous crowdfunding platform.

PowerProgressCommunity is an Italian nonprofit association, and that does not allow us to produce and sell commercial products Not being a commercial company, we can afford not to have a strict business plan, nor to have a tight time-to-market strategy, that perfectly fit the fact that the association is run by hobbyists that work on the project solely on their spare time.. For these reasons, we can afford to run for an unlimited amount of time a donations campaign, an approach that does not fit well to most of the crowdfunding platforms out there. We accept multiple types of donations, such as one time donations, or recurring -smaller- monthly donations ( or with others selected frequencies).

Each identified phase of this donation campaign will be financed through a dedicated step, each one managed  by a separate written agreement with ACube System, and each one with a dedicated campaign that will start as soon as we will have collected the required funding. Once we are able to publish the results of one phase, we will proceed to the next one.

Being a hobbyist and a nonprofit association, we do not need to hide anything from the public, so we will strive to be as transparent as possible by keeping informed anyone interested on the project. We will periodically publish any advancement made and we will answer questions. Anyone will be able to validate the open-sourceable output quality and, hopefully, we might find new people willing to help us achieving the goals on the way. We will made publicly available the list of donors and how much each one has contributed to the project. Of course, you may opt out, and tell us that you wish not to be listed among the donors, leaving your donation anonymous.

Payment Methods

Online Donation – PayPal

Press Donate and as Payment Method select PayPal

You can choose one time donations, or recurring -smaller- monthly donations ( and with others selected frequency).

Offline Donation – Bank credit transfer

These are the bank account details for donating

Bank name: Banca Etica

Bank account owner: POWER PROGRESS COMMUNITY

IBAN:  IT94X0501801600000012339610

BIC SWIFT: CCRTIT2T84A

Please, indicate the following as the bank transfer cause.

see 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

You can choose one time donations, or recurring -smaller- monthly donations ( or with other frequencies).

Anonymous Donations

When you make the donation (offline or online) you can choose to make your donation anonymous.

Preferred payment method and TransferWise / CurrencyFair

Our preferred payment method to receive donations (to keep commission and also your costs low) would be:

EU donors: Bank Transfer (online or offline)

Non-EU donors: Bank Transfer with services like TransferWise or CurrencyFair (see here)

Who is involved in this campaign

Power Progress Community is a nonprofit association run by enthusiasts people contributing on a voluntary basis and inspired by the Open Source Hardware and Software movements. The mission is not focused on selling products, and the contribution to the “PowerPC Notebook Project” is an example; the entire 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, and 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 certified Open Source Hardware.

Previously achieved goals

The Power Progress Community effort to revive the PowerPC platform involve a number of activities, we sum up here some of the most important ones.

We successfully attract the attention of a lot of people, and in the past few years we succeed in creating a community of passionate people with heterogeneou skills, all sharing the common goal of reviving the PowerPC platform. There are now different thematic groups, a specific one following activities related to  the hardware, a group specialized in software, and a group dedicated to the communication.

Following the announcement by Debian developers to discontinue the PowerPC support, a small but very dedicated group of programmers joined in and is now trying to undertake the maintenance of PowerPC ports in their spare time. The goal is trying to keep the platform at the same level as other Tier-1 architectures, especially for the PowerPC 64 bit branch (PPC64). You may give a got to our PowerPC 64 repository meant for the Debian based distros by clicking here. To accomplish such a huge task we are always looking for additional people that would help out, so do not hesitate to contacting us.

If you are interested on how to start using Debian for PowerPC, you should also take 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.

On the hardware front, our team started back in 2016 with two Development Kits based on the NXP T2080 CPU, more specifically the T2080RDB, Reference Design Board. After quite some time and an incredible numbers of attempts, we successfully setup a PCI-Express video card based on the AMD RadeonHD chips in combination with a Debian SID LInux distribution, as well as the Fienix distro all using graphical modern desktop such as Gnome, MATE, and LXDE.

Our hardware group identified in early 2017 a  desirable list of components and a set of features of the laptop. In June 2017 we launched a first donation campaign that was aimed at paying ACube to design the electrical schematics and a year later, in June 2018 we reached the goal of collecting €12,600 and finally started finalizing the design.

Here you may download the resulting schematics of the 1st donation campaign.

eletrical schematic of powerpc notebook

As of today, the notebook specifications are the following (subject to change):

  • CPU: NXP T2080, 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: C-Media 8828 sound chip, audio in and audio out jacks
  • USB: 3.0 and 2.0 ports
  • STORAGE:
    • NVM Express (NVMe), M.2 2280 connector
    • 2 x SATA
    • 1 x SDHC card reader
  • NETWORK:
    • 1 x ethernet RJ-45 connector
    • WiFi connectivity
    • Bluetooth connectivity
  • POWER: on-board battery charger and power-management
  • CHASSIS: standard notebook case 15,6”

Finally, we are very proud to list among the list of already achieved goals that the issue of a missing laptop chassis is finally solved. In fact, the problem of finding an enclosure during the first donation campaign was largely underestimated, and it was the main cause of multiple delays of the delivery of the electrical schematics because the hardware designer required a final list of external ports to be able to finalize the pinouts of many chips.After many attempts, we have now accomplished this goal thanks to a collaboration with SLIMBOOK , we are able to adopt an off-the-shelves chassis.

FAQ

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 neither 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 nor any refund for any reason. 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 will sign with ACube Systems the second contract for PCB design when we will reach the minimum required amount of donations. ACube will start the research and design PCB once the contract will be signed. Judging by our surveys results with more then one hundred people are willing to donate for PCB campaign, so we are pretty much confident to start the PCB design on October 2019.

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.

Other projects of the associations are:

  • Debian ppc64 patch and fiix packages
  • Open Source Notebook Chassis Design
  • Revivo with Scratch

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:

  1. A nonprofit association cannot make commercial products;
  2. The association can receive donations, but cannot refund them;
  3. 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:

  1. The association can have a particular goal to reach and ask donation to achieve it, but it cannot give back the money (no refunds).
  2. Donation must be altruist so, no one will receive something back for their donation.
  3. 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 be 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 non-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, for us bank commission cost is high: 6 euro, so we strongly suggest to use service like Transferwise to decrease the commission cost for both.

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.