During the last week of October we were presenting our Open Hardware PowerPC Notebook project in the Linux Day Italy and Amiga32 in Germany. After that, we also introduced our Open Hardware project in Alchimie12 in France.
Since 2001, Linux Day is a distributed initiative to learn and promote Linux and free software.
This year the main topic of the Linux Day was “privacy and individual confidentiality”.
The event consists of numerous local events, organized independently by groups of fans in their respective cities, all on the same day. In this context, you can find talks, workshops, technical assistance, gadgets, forums and practical demonstrations.
Linux Day 2017 Milano PowerPC Notebook Labs presentation
Our project was shown in Milano by Roberto I. and in Bolzano by Diego M. (see picture below)
Above you can see Roberto explaining the work carried out by some of our members in what we call “Labs”.
Three months have passed since the kick-off of our campaign, and it is now time to share a status update.
We reached the amount of €7100 thanks to more than one hundred donors that contributed, in some cases with more than one donation. We are thinking about how to boost the donations to achieve the €12600 final goal. We have seen that a good number of donors are new followers of the project, so it seems that our communication activities successfully attracted new people. We now want to go even further, so we kindly ask everyone to share more and more our project, for example supporting its advertisement in online tech magazines and forums, websites and other media. To promote these activities, the project was presented last week end at two Linux Day events in Italy, one in Milan by Roberto I. and one in Bolzano/Bozen by Diego M. The very same week-end ACube advertised the project at the very successful Amiga32 event in Neuss (Germany) and many people have shown their interest. On November 11th, Philippe F. will give a presentation at the Alchimie 12 event in Tain l’Hermitage (France).
Do you want the electrical schematics to be ready by Christmas? The solution is only one: prepare yourself for an active contribution, either by donating, and by involving more people!
PowerPC Notebook block diagram
Regarding the work in progress, ACube is working on the electrical schematics design and sent an early block diagram that was extensively discussed with our hardware core team of volunteers. After this discussion, in particular regarding an NDA component, we have arrived to a final version agreed by both sides: almost all components are identified. We are including PowerPC Notebook block diagram a block diagram of our PowerPC Notebook motherboard (without integrated circuit names). We will disclose all integrated circuit names when we will reach the required amount of donations to complete the electrical schematic, as agreed with ACube. Then, we will publish design files when a design phase is completely finished and tending to be error-free and fault-free. Before that, anyone wanting to actively collaborate in the design review can join and participate in our project and association.
In a nutshell, we are working hard to promote the campaign, and ACube is on track to accomplish phase one of the project. We see the light at the end of the tunnel! Keep it up!
Lastly we want to remember the importance of small recurrent donations. The possibility of having many people helping with a small amount of money monthly is very interesting for us as this will guarantee the constant work of the hardware designer.
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
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.
It’s been over a month since our previous post so it’s time to report about our activities. Basically, we are working on the same issues we discussed in the previous news. Anyway, in this PowerPC Notebook project update, we will try to go over all the areas that we are working on, just because our idea is to be as transparent as possible.
Status of the GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook project
Firstly, regarding the creation of an organization, we have evaluated to establish a foundation but the cost is too expensive for us. We have also tried to get the protection of an existing organization but, sadly, we have not been answered. Finally the most suitable and fast solution for us is to register a non-profit association in Italy. This association will promote the funding campaign for the motherboard design and prototypes.
On the hardware side, we have a first list of components to be used in the notebook. We are evaluating their suitability to our needs and also choosing them according to how much open they are. We still have to keep working on this, discarding some elements and adding new ones. We are doing this in collaboration with the designer of the motherboard.
Our software team remains in contact with the Debian community but again we move slowly and we need more feedback to be able to focus our efforts. The software team is thinking about an alternative approach to streamline this task.
Finally, we have to talk about obtaining a chassis for our laptop. In this case we can say that we are contacting several companies that supply barebone notebooks and some other laptop producers. Here again we must say that we are waiting for responses. Our preferred option would be to obtain the help of Iameco. We love its chassis and case concept for ethical reasons. The Iameco laptop is produced using recyclable materials and producing a minimal carbon footprint. We would love to design our motherboard to fit one of its chassis.
In short, all the community groups are working hard and some progress has been achieved by all of them. In addition, our community continues to grow daily. We have new volunteers for translation, dissemination of our messages and for the computer software. Some of our new members apologize in advance for not having much time, we answer always saying that we are volunteers, we are moved by our principles and we try to reach our objectives enjoying the project with passion and enthusiasm. If you miss the days when computers had more personality, join us and help us recover the spirit of the pioneers of computing.
As we said in the previous article we are working on the creation of the crowdfunding campaign. Things are not so easy because we have to organize ourselves and this action requires to set many things but, we are on it and we feel that it could be started soon. To better understand everything, the crowdfunding campaign will provide the required resources to design the motherboard and to produce five prototypes that will be tested and used by our developers to write drivers and adapt the OS.
In the meantime we have continued the conversations with the hardware producer and we are in the process of selecting the components to be used in the motherboard. After that, this company is going to start with the motherboard design. This means that we have created a work-group that includes our hardware specialists and our partner company.
We expect to have more detailed news in a few weeks.
We need you!
We are looking for people to participate mainly but not only in these areas:
Crowd-funding: someone with experience on this kind of campaigns.
Open hardware: a person to provide knowledge in this kind of projects.
Notebook case and chassis: we need to contact a notebook case supplier.
Spread the idea: we want to have more collaborators and news letter subscribers.
Software work-group: PowerPC GNU/Linux applications optimization (test GNU/Linux application packages, give feedback or fix the errors), distro porting (U-boot, etc), push sources to mainstream branches and package maintenance.
We define ourselves as a Solidarity/Ethical/Passion driven community. We promote a Positive and Humane relationship between collaborators, and advocate giving people a choice to run GNU/Linux on different hardware platforms.
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