EOMA68 crowdfunding campaign (and those x86 concerns)

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Thu Jun 30 22:04:32 UTC 2016


I've mentioned this fairly recently in discussion threads on the 
security/surveillance concerns with x86-based platforms [1, 2], but I thought 
I should pass on the news that the EOMA68 initiative has opened a crowdfunding 
campaign for its products:


The Free Software relevance here is that the hardware to be delivered supports 
a completely Free Software environment, with no proprietary drivers or 
firmware required. More discussion of that can be found here:


And Joshua Gay, of the FSF, participates in a discussion about the RYF 
(Respects Your Freedom) certification of one of the products in the campaign 
in the following message:


Meanwhile, the hardware is "open source hardware" at the circuit board level, 
and the physical design of the laptop being offered as part of the campaign is 
also freely available for people to print themselves if they really want to. 
One of the goals is to make sustainable hardware that is not unnecessarily 
resource-intensive to produce, hence the unconventional use of plywood panels 
in the case designs.

What I find personally interesting is the modular aspect of the concept. There 
are lots of single-board computers but they are often either not particularly 
expandable or their accessories are infuriatingly specific (which may seem 
unproblematic if you are one of the many people using a Raspberry Pi, but the 
fun may lessen somewhat when they bring out a new version which is different 
in some way, rendering some accessories incompatible). In principle, this 
initiative could help people to concentrate more on developing other aspects 
of open computing devices.

On the topic of the perceived problems with x86 platforms and the intersection 
of that topic with this campaign, there's a blog post by Think Penguin who 
have been sponsoring this effort:


The computer cards offered employ an ARM-based CPU, and it appears possible 
that other architectures will be offered at some point in the future. For 
example, a MIPS-based card was prototyped and it has been indicated that it 
isn't too far behind the ARM-based card in terms of readiness, but I don't 
intend to second-guess those involved in any of this. I'm hoping that other 
cards will be offered during the campaign, but they may end up waiting until 
afterwards for all I really know.

Although I intend to support this effort, I am not endorsing it as such. This 
message is meant to inform people about the recent concrete progress of a 
project that has been many years in the making and has had its ups and downs, 
occasionally in a rather public manner [3]. There are other projects offering 
laptops and other "end-user-friendly" computing devices [4, 5, 6], and it is 
up to everyone to decide which one balances their own interests with what is 
being offered in a way that they find personally acceptable.

For instance, some people might find the Librem laptop [5] an acceptable 
platform for running Free Software despite its reliance on an Intel CPU with 
the notorious "Management Engine", and they may be reassured by Purism's 
efforts to petition Intel to release the "Firmware Support Package" under a 
free licence [7]. Others may not expect Intel to cooperate, leaving the Librem 
susceptible to the concerns raised previously. Some people wanting x86-based 
hardware might find something like the APU1 [8] acceptable because it employs 
an AMD CPU that supports Coreboot, even if the hardware is not "open source 
hardware" (nor is the Librem, for that matter).

I hope that, if nothing else, this has given people a few things to look at a 
bit more closely. I encourage people to ask questions about the campaign 
mentioned in this message if they are wondering about any aspect of it; 
there's a link at the bottom of the campaign page below the growing list of 
questions and answers. If nothing else, it will help people figure out where 
the next opportunity lies in open and free hardware for Free Software.


P.S. I would have blogged about this, but blogs.fsfe.org is not responding. 
But I guess the topic is worthy of discussion, anyway. ;-)

[1] http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/discussion/2016-April/010913.html

[2] http://mail.fsfeurope.org/pipermail/discussion/2016-June/011102.html

[3] http://blogs.fsfe.org/pboddie/?p=933

[4] https://www.crowdsupply.com/sutajio-kosagi/novena

[5] https://www.crowdsupply.com/purism/librem-15

[6] https://olimex.wordpress.com/2015/11/24/a64-olinuxino-oshw-linux-laptop-

[7] https://puri.sm/posts/bios-freedom-status/

[8] http://www.pcengines.ch/apu1d4.htm

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