EOMA68 crowdfunding campaign (the last few days) plus ways forward for Libre Computing

Xavi Drudis Ferran xdrudis at tinet.cat
Wed Aug 24 16:01:07 UTC 2016

> There needs to be a constructive debate about incrementally improving this 
> situation. Instead of "I hate that processor" or "wait for my radical SoC I've 
> just started designing", people need to help find products that uphold 
> software freedom and privacy while also being usable (obtainable, for the most 
> part) for small libre hardware projects. And there needs to be an appreciation 
> that this work is not meant to create the "toy of the month" - a gadget that 
> is fun for a while and then stashed away somewhere - but instead to build an 
> environment where we shouldn't be constantly needing to urgently figure out 
> what kind of hardware we can use that uphold our values.

I'm too uninformed on hardware design to be able to say much, but I find that 
in the discussions I've seen it boils down to : 

- identifying components (chips) that are not encumbered by
GPL-violations, proprietary drivers, tivoization, DRM, or signature
verfication not controllable by the user.

- establishing enough of a relationship with the chip vendors to

  - datasheets and technical info (in principle without NDAs, I don't
    know if there are "light" NDAs that might be acceptable, but I think

  - software, like drivers or firmware, under free licenses (ideally mainlined).  

  - the needed quantity of chips at an affordable enough price.

I wonder if it would be conceivable to create some institution that
defines some clear criterium for components procurement, possibly some
criteria for libre hardware projects served, and continually
investigates the market and then pools demand from different libre
hardware projects to increase order quantities. It might also pool
access to production facilities like PCB manufacturing or the like,
but I find that harder, because the designs are going to be different,
so manufacturers possibky won't offer better deals just for bringing a
bunch of smallish different jobs.

You could add here more off-topic-here but important requirements such
as labour conditions, conflict-free minerals, responsible tax
behaviour, carbon impact, corporate social responsability, etc.

If achievable this might help libre hardware projects overcome some of
the price and availability problems, and could also help concentrate
driver mainlining and software efforts to a less diverse set of
components so that one can hope for better support. Better support
should lead to more sales for the component manufacturer (to the
institution partners or other customers) and could progressively
improve the institution negotiating margin. It might also encourage
libre hardware projects to collaborate earlier in the design phase
instead of publishing the design at the end when it is ready for

The institution could be a more formal organisation with legal entity,
budget and ability to enter into contracts or could be some wiki
somewhere where different tinkerers commit different efforts as best
they can and finally any pooling of demand depends on the trust among
the participants.

But I repeat, it is surely easier said that done and there are
probably hundreds of reasons unknown to me that make it inviable or
very unlikely. And even if possible, it'd still take someone to start
it. Or maybe it even has been tried and I haven't heard of it.

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