[Dev] EOMA68 and freedom in digital technology

Christopher Waid chris at thinkpenguin.com
Tue Sep 20 08:22:13 GMT 2016

>> I want to make it clear that I don't dislike LibreBoot and I'm not 
>> saying it has no value. It's value right now to me is clear. It's 
>> 100% 
>> free software for what is otherwise proprietary. I value that. As we 
>> move away from X86 the value in it from a freedom-perspective will 
>> diminish as alternatives exist. In that position I would begin to 
>> think 
>> about alternative projects to work on if my primary focus was 
>> advancing 
>> software freedom.
> This is because you are, for some reason, associating Libreboot with 
> x86.

I'm not. I'm saying it's only value to the cause of free'ing hardware if 
you are doing it on older X86 systems. On non-x86 systems there are 
other free bootloaders. It's a duplication of work. Even if LibreBoot 
has functionality it doesn't help the goal of freeing a given system.

Within the work I'm concerned about I don't care if LibreBoot makes 
dozens of systems freer. What I care about is getting *just one* system 
as free as it can possibly get and be usable/well supported/etc. Those 
who care about maximizing freedom will hop ship and they will compromise 
functionality if needed to achieve that freedom. I don't see any reason 
to utilize LibreBoot over [a free version of] uboot within that context 
either as it stands now. I'm not intimately familiar with LibreBoot mind 
you, but from what I understand this is the case. Maybe if there is a 
feature LibreBoot provided then sure, we'd use it, but from what I've 
been told there are better alternatives to LibreBoot already from a 
functionality/size stand point anyway on non-X86 platforms. Obviously 
it's more complicated than I'm making it out to be here... but at least 
for what we're currently looking at in terms of maximizing freedom some 
version of uboot is the way to go.

> There
> is no particular reason to do this, and I'm working to add support for 
> devices in Libreboot. MIPS devices could also be integrated as well. 
> support is also planned to get integrated in Libreboot.

I only care about freeing devices, not whether LibreBoot works on 
something, I don't care how many devices LibreBoot works on. That's not 
something that matters in my opinion if there is already something else 
we can utilize. Certainly there will be people who'd rather go with an 
older system prone to failure that is slightly more powerful and less 
free and LibreBoot might be the only option in those contexts, but this 
is limited to X86. All other systems are pretty much problematic that 
LibreBoot might hope to work on [OpenPower might be an exception if it 
ever gets off the ground, but how needed it is I don't know, maybe uboot 
works here too, I just don't know].

If you make it work with stuff where there are not other options then it 
might become an interesting project from my perspective.

>> What I believe will make it valuable to people down the line will be 
>> functionality (within the free software community and maybe even 
>> beyond). I don't know what this functionality is right now and I 
>> simply 
>> know that it's got value to some use case still. If I had to take an 
>> educated guess I'd probably say it has functionality which is useful 
>> to 
>> system administrators in server environments. From what I understand 
>> of 
>> CoreBoot from which LibreBoot is derived that functionality was what 
>> has 
>> in the past spurred CoreBoot's adoption by those outside the free 
>> software world.
> I'm not sure extra functionalities are a requirement, but having 
> something that
> works properly probably is. We are working hard to achieve that, on 
> every aspect
> of free software support at the lower levels. However, I truly hope 
> that we
> someday only have to care about adding new features, over getting the 
> basics to
> work.

Yea- I'd like to see a time come when functionality is something I have 
the luxury to worry about. Right now my focus is maximizing freedom. And 
by that I mean doing whatever is in my power to get devices out there 
where we don't need proprietary bits. I don't want to be dependent on 
proprietary keyboard controller or LCD controller or hard disk firmware 
or CPU micro code or... the list goes on...

The bootloader problem is solved in my mind already so getting LibreBoot 
working on non-X86 systems just doesn't matter to me. It may matter to 
others, but not to me.

>> If servers were a high priority for us (they aren't) I'd probably be 
>> pushing/sponsoring LibreBoot. I was the first person to suggest 
>> LibreBoot add a donation option. Right now our focus is on laptops, 
>> desktops, and typical end-user hardware. I want to see GNU/Linux and 
>> free software adopted by the masses. It's largely won in the server 
>> arena and there is a huge market opportunity here for free software 
>> servers to anyone who wished to pursue it.
> Well, I don't like the idea to narrow our efforts to specific use cases 
> or types
> of users. Different people and entities have different needs. Some do 
> need to
> use servers. Frankly, I'd rather try and support every aspect of 
> digital
> technology out there rather than voluntarily restrict the scope of what 
> should
> be worked on.

Well, I think you have to narrow your efforts at first. Even with 
LibreBoot you started with narrower efforts and expanded outward. It 
wasn't the case that LibreBoot supported non-X86 at first. That came 

In my situation we're not focused on a bootloader. We're focused on the 
bigger picture so once that bootloader is done it doesn't matter if it 
only works on select systems because those select systems are going to 
provide the maximum freedom possible. I'd rather move on to other 
components, like wifi chipsets, or graphics components that we may not 
be able to utilize with free software or the systems may not have.

> And anyway, there isn't so much stuff we actually have the ability to 
> free, so I
> think this is what drives what we can actually do to the largest 
> extent. Also,
> given the best-effort nature of all this, I think people tend to work 
> on what
> they personally like/need, and I think this is fine.

Absolutely. If you don't have the skills/interest to focus on the other 
stuff your best to focus on the stuff you do have the skills to solve.

What I have tried to say to certain other people working on LibreBoot in 
the past was I think your/these types of skills can be better put to use 
working on similar types of projects for which no one else is working 
on. This is what I would do, but I have an interest in such a device, 
maybe not everyone else does with these skills. The example I gave is a 
GPS navigation device. It would seem one who has the skills to work on a 
project like LibreBoot would also be able to work on a free GPS 
navigation device.

> This is, of course, assuming a community approach and already existing 
> devices.
> Your approach, which is about producing devices, is indeed quite 
> different and
> you probably need to target an audience there. But then again, I'm 
> happy to see
> that different companies are working on liberating different areas of 
> digital
> technology by producing devices for that purpose.
> You pick what seems to make the most sense to you, others will pick 
> something
> else and if enough people do that, we may just cover a large part of 
> the
> spectrum!

Yup- and I'm trying to enable those with abilities and interests in 
hacking on relevant critical areas via whatever means and resources are 
at my disposal through the work I'm doing.

>> > > The reason this issue hasn't been solved by us is because it's simply
>> > > not possible given Intel's hostility and refusal to cooperate. Reverse
>> > > engineering is a non-trivial task and the resulting code would not run
>> > > on modern Intel systems due to digital signatures.
>> >
>> > Of course, we all agree that x86 is a dead-end, at least in the long 
>> > run. There
>> > are still possibilities with somewhat old Intel and AMD hardware, but 
>> > these will
>> > be outdated eventually. Also, note that most of these old x86 platforms 
>> > are
>> > much, much faster than the A20.
>> Of course. The solution isn't intended to outperform. It's intended 
>> to 
>> solve a problem. That problem is X86 doesn't work for us and it's too 
>> costly to have to design and manufacture our own non-x86 hardware 
>> (which 
>> is critical given all newer non-X86 hardware is dependent on other 
>> proprietary components such as 802.11ac wifi chips).
> My point is that not all x86 hardware is doomed. With some work, some 
> platforms could work with fully free software. Thus, I'm not saying 
> it's a
> solution to the problem, I'm saying it gets rid of the problem, on 
> those
> specific devices.

Yes- but these are older and still going to fail. 10 year old systems 
are prone to failure because of changes which occurred. Legal changes in 
the law many years ago.

I think there might be some Intel Atom stuff that might sort of work 
still or I should see be a potential candidate today. I guess it might 
not be completely dead for X86. However I think there are other reasons 
besides this that X86 should be considered dead. We need to expand the 
variety of companies we can choose from in order to ensure or reduce the 
risk. By sticking with X86 we increase our risks.

The whole point of EOMA68 is to put the very low level components in our 
hands to control. We're not dependent on Intel or AMD or any particular 
company. It's a means of expanding and cutting the cost of design and 
manufacture. It more fully puts the control of new systems and what 
components are used into the hands of the free software community. This 
is why we've funded this. It solves more than one issue. It's solves 
keyboard/LCD controller firmware/various problems with CPU micro 
code/management engine firmware/hard disk firmwares/etc.

> But of course, since we're talking about old platforms, this approach 
> is quite
> limited in time. So it is likely that such computers will either become 
> too
> rare, obsolete in some aspects, or will simply be outperformed by newer
> generations of computers that can run with fully free software as well.

Yes. This is what I've been trying to say. I wanted to skip over all of 
this, but it's taken years to get to a point where we could even begin 
to solve the problem properly and to put money into freeing ancient X86 
hardware was a losing battle. There was good reason not to take that 
path as far back as 2009 when I first looked into that approach. It made 
more sense to try a new approach which is why we've been funding EOMA68. 
I think EOMA68 will work even if its a bit difficult to see right now. 
Yes- the current EOMA68 designs aren't that powerful, but we are in full 
control and it'll be much cheaper and more practical and thus feasible 
to ship higher end hardware in the very near future. Whereas LibreBoot 
will be stuck on either older X86 hardware or it'll be put onto 
ChromeBooks that are dependent on critical components like wifi that are 
all dependent on non-free firmwares [at least for systems you could 
reasonably get in volume].

Now OpenPOWER (or TALOS really) is really a separate project of which I 
don't know how much LibreBoot really matters for it to work or how 
likely it is to succeed (or do so long term). It's a hardware project 
ultimately. Hopefully it succeeds, but I'll be holding my breath, and 
it's not really something that is going to hit your average user. Which 
seems means it looks like a pretty risky endeavor to me. Hopefully they 
have a plan and the marketing to hit the target customer base its 
presumably being designed for. It seems like a niche of a niche market 
that could be hard to market to short of having specialized knowledge 
and maybe even working from within one of a handful certain large 
companies. However I don't know. It's not our customer base. I do know a 
lot of people who would love to buy such a system- but very few have the 
kind of money needed to actually buy one. Thus I again see this as very 
risky/highly prone to fail. Hopefully I'm wrong though and its a really 
awesome solution if the price were ever to drop into a range where your 
average person could get one.

>>  The solution to 
>> that is modularization. This has a side benefit of making it easy and 
>> cheap (relatively speaking, and therefore feasible) to manufacture 
>> new 
>> 'models' in addition to giving us inroads to obtain source code for 
>> higher end CPUs [moving forward]. Even ones that aren't yet on the 
>> market! That's a huge change to the two steps forward one step back 
>> we 
>> were doing before. Right now we are several years behind because of 
>> our 
>> dependence on X86 and companies who won't cooperate. By moving away 
>> and 
>> modularizing we can let companies designing CPUs cater to our 
>> demands. 
>> This is what you get from competition.
> I agree modularization is nice, but I don't think it fundamentally 
> changes the
> game regarding freedom, but more of a practical, nice feature to have. 
> For some
> other aspects, like environment-related ones, it is of course quite 
> fundamental
> though.

Yea- it's hard to get people to understand how this is going to enable 
freedom. All I can say is if you don't get it- well- just wait- we've 
already moved the bar significantly. We have a modern laptop and desktop 
design capable of 1080p video that isn't dependent on any proprietary 
pieces. Not even a proprietary keyboard/LCD controller. By modularizing 
key components we get the price down so not only can we get two devices 
out of this we can get many more down the road that wouldn't otherwise 
be possible. There is a limited amount of $$$ within the free software 
community to throw at such projects so by modularizing things it can get 
the cost of key components down drastically and you can then manufacture 
housings for a fraction of the down payment that would be needed if you 
needed to do everything. It also enables us to get to a point where we 
have influence over the companies designing key components. For multiple 
reasons. One because we can switch companies easily now whereas we 
couldn't before. And two because the volume of the key components jumps 
significantly when you start talking about a card that can go into lots 
of different devices rather than a motherboard that'll have a severely 
limited manufacturing run otherwise.

We've already had many successes as a result of this crowd funding 
campaign and approach. It's radically altering the landscape of what is 
possible given the limited funding available within the free software 
and GNU/Linux world.

>> > > We can do a lot more  than what is feasible with LibreBoot, but it has 
>> > > taken
>> > > years. Now that EOMA68 crowd funding campaign has succeeded though or 
>> > > is about
>> > > to succeed we can do a 100% free software system
>> >
>> > Note that the level of free software support brought by the EOMA68 is 
>> > not really
>> > something new.
>> This is incorrect or a misunderstanding of the value here. Its taken 
>> years and a lot of reverse engineering to get the Allwinner A20 
>> supported. While the first computer card is in part built off the 
>> work 
>> of others at a component level it's not the value for which I'm 
>> referring that EOMA68 adds in relation to free software. The value is 
>> in 
>> the modular standard and what it is enabling us to do in the free 
>> software world. To look at the CPU and components individually is to 
>> misunderstand the value in this project. It was not essential that we 
>> utilize the Allwinner A20. It just made a lot of sense given the work 
>> others have already done including the work of Luke (for which we 
>> sponsored). The value is we get to pick and choose each part that 
>> goes 
>> into a system and when one company upstream doesn't cooperate we can 
>> look elsewhere. We don't have to spend years reverse engineering 
>> parts 
>> thereof when we can work in collaboration with the companies upstream 
>> doing the design of these CPUs/SOCs. To achieve that we need control 
>> over the design and manufacturing process. This is not something we 
>> had 
>> before. This is not something most companies have. Most companies 
>> build 
>> off of reference designs and the product designs are little different 
>> than the reference designs in many if not most cases. A tweak or two 
>> at 
>> best.
> Again, I don't see why modularity changes the game here. The problem 
> has never
> really been the lack of acceptable hardware. ARM Chromebooks are such 
> an
> example. There have been countless other Allwinner boards, such as the 
> ones from
> Olimex, that do very well with free software. For each possible 
> platform that is
> somewhat interesting to free software, there are already boards 
> available.

There are zero laptops, tablets, or phones that are 100% free today. 
Every readily available Chromebook has critical components that are 
dependent proprietary bits. 802.11ac wifi is a great example of this. 
These systems are not designed for free software users even if we can 
steal some of the work done by Google on Chromebooks for use in EOMA68 
laptop housings.

There is a big difference between these mini board computers and what 
EOMA68 will enable. EOMA68 is a standard and will reduce the cost of 
getting all sorts of different types of devices manufactured down the 
road because the key components don't have to be manufactured in small 
quantities any more thus reducing the cost of the overall devices. The 
cost of the laptop housing wasn't a whole heck of a lot. But if you 
tried to get a laptop housing plus computer card manufactured (which 
would have been significantly more expensive because of the reduce 
demand) this project would have failed. It took three essentially 
different 'products' to make the financial aspect of this project work. 
In the future if you design a housing for say a tablet you won't have to 
raise the money to manufacture what amounts to be the 
motherboard/CPU/ram if you design it around the EOMA68 standard. And 
because EOMA68 isn't just a single computer card, but it is a standard 
for which other computer cards can be designed all these devices can be 
upgraded at a fraction of the cost. You don't have to spend $1500 to 
replace the entire laptop. You just have to replace the computer card in 
the EOMA68 compatible laptop housing to go from a dual-core system to 
quad-core system.

Yike! That's awesome. There is no way you'd be able to pull off a 
project like this if it wasn't modular. You would never have been able 
to produce a freedom-friendly long-lived laptop if it was a single board 
for a single chassis. It would have cost $200,000 just for the 
manufacturing and the campaign evidenced we wouldn't have even hit that 
number. The number of laptop housing sold combined with one computer 
card for each was significantly below the $200,000 number.

At the same time taking a ChromeBook, throwing LibreBoot on it, etc 
won't make it as free as this EOMA68 compatible laptop design. And it's 
not just this laptop that'll be possible now. It's other classes of 
devices like tablets, phones, desktops, and similar.

> The way I see it, the EOMA68 is a i+1 iteration of this. Most certainly 
> a much
> better one than most of the ones before, but not a game changer still. 
> Again,
> just to be perfectly clear, this is not to undermine the project. All 
> iterations
> that are better than the previous ones are leaps forward, and that's 
> the way to
> go!

OK- please point me to a single laptop in existence that is as free as 
this. The reality is you can't. You can't point me to anything that 
comes even close. It's not just an iteration or a small leap forward. A 
small leap forward would be if one more component were free'd or 
something similar. This enables lots of devices to be manufactured that 
are 100% free and it won't cost much. Which is the only way you'd be 
able to do it given the limited resources within this community. The 
laptop itself isn't even where the leap forward is. It's the EOMA68 
standard. If you look at just the laptop even that is a huge leap 
forward, but it's only possible because of the EOMA68 standard.

>> > There have been dozens of computers, some of which come with a
>> > free board design, using platforms that are as good for freedom, 
>> > especially with
>> > Allwinner (but there are lots of others). The linux-sunxi community has 
>> > been
>> > working hard on those for years and years, so this is nothing new or 
>> > specific to
>> > the EOMA68.
>> >
>> > Many ARM Chromebooks even go a step further, with a free software 
>> > embedded
>> > controller firmware.
>> I'm in many cases referring to laptop designs. This isn't totally 
>> correct though particularly as it relates to laptops. All of the ARM 
>> Chromebooks have fundamental problems in one way or the other. There 
>> are 
>> no free software friendly 802.11ac wifi chips and these wifi chips 
>> are 
>> integrated on every single modern Chromebook that is readily 
>> available 
>> [last I checked]. You can't easily replace these chips like you can 
>> with 
>> X86.
> This is correct, but is also a detail because it has never really been 
> a
> problem. Sticking-in an ath9k_htc dongle solves the issue with nearly 
> zero
> associated drawbacks (and we can thank you for that). 

It's a problem now if you want to have a modern laptop and it's a 
problem tomorrow if you want a *WORKING* laptop. The older X86 laptops 
running LibreBoot have a severely limited time left because of the 
materials required to be used by law. As a result they will if they 
haven't already started failing. You can't continue down that path. So 
you will have one other path maybe and it's utter crap. That would be to 
re-purpose chromebooks and these are all dependent on propritary wifi. A 
really crappy solution would be to stick in a USB wifi dongle 
externally.. but hardly ideal.

>>  To solve this problem and many others in the process is to gain 
>> control over the overall design and what you can utilize as your 
>> building blocks.
> Of course, but anyone designing a board can do that. This is what was 
> done with
> EOMA68, that extra step was taken. Modularity is only a flexible, 
> practically
> convenient way to achieve that, but the problem has never been there.

Not cost effectively to be feasible. The feasible part is the important 
bit here. If it was so easy to do before why hasn't anyone done it? It's 
because it doesn't work financially.

>>  With the laptop housing that is part of this crowd 
>> funding campaign you'll be able to get an Allwinner dual-core A20 on 
>> the 
>> Libre Tea Computer Card today and upgrade to a quad-core CPU 
>> tomorrow. 
>> It won't cost $500 either. It'll be under $100.
> To contrast, I personally fully support this approach (especially from 
> the
> environmental perspective). I'm just saying, it's not a game changer on 
> the
> freedom perspective.

The environmental aspect is a side-benefit at best and it's the freedom 
perspective that is the real benefit here. I'm sorry you've completely 
failed to understand why that is, but we're going to be able to keep 
making progress primarily because of EOMA68. We've never even been close 
to a completely free laptop before. Only ones which were maybe sort of 
almost (but not really) "good enough" to call free.

>> > > (that is LibreBoot doesn't magically make a computer 100% free, there 
>> > > are
>> > > other problematic components).
>> >
>> > Of course, but nobody claimed that it does. It is only a very 
>> > significant piece
>> > in the software freedom puzzle.
>> It's one of many pieces. It's not quite as significant as people 
>> think. 
>> If it were gone it wouldn't really make any difference.
> Note that by Libreboot, I mean "fully free bootup software" in general,
> regardless of the boards that are currently supported. This is what 
> Libreboot is
> and targets, and it'll grow to cover as many of the boards it can 
> support as
> possible.
> So what I meant is that fully free bootup software is a significant 
> piece in the
> software freedom puzzle. Perhaps the most crucial one.

Yes- 'fully free bootup software' is a critical key component. 
Absolutely. There are many critical components of course and we still 
need 802.11ac wifi, graphics, and similar. Though some of these might 
sort of be half-solvable in a sense. You can for the moment revert to 
802.11n and you can cut corners and achieve free graphics maybe even 
too. It's a complicated mess of terrible options all of which need to 
fixed yet even if they haven't hit the critical point. I think we will 
get there, but these two in particular are *really* significant. 
802.11ac is probably still more critical than the graphics only because 
we still don't really need 3D. That problem can be solve via software in 
simply not utilizing 3D accelerated components. Wifi though is pretty 
darn critical and if we can't get 802.11n components manufactured the 
world will literally end for the majority of free software users. It's 
probably the 2nd most important thing after a free bootloader.

>> There are many components for which we are dependent and there are no 
>> alternative options. Wifi firmwares are a great example. We have only 
>> one driver and chip for modern 802.11n that we can utilize (AR9271) 
>> and 
>> nothing for 802.11ac (in any format, PCIE/M.2/USB). It won't be the 
>> case 
>> that we can get AR9271 adapters manufactured forever and at some 
>> point 
>> it will become critical that we work on obtaining sources [another 
>> project we're working on].
> I fully agree. Technology moving so fast really doesn't help either. 
> I'm truly
> grateful that people like you are working hard to keep up the pace and 
> make sure
> free software remains relevant and freedom is still a possibility 
> without living
> ten years in the past.
>> Wifi cards are fundamental to modern computers. You can still get 
>> away 
>> without 3D acceleration, but good luck with a system that doesn't 
>> have 
>> internet connectivity.
> Agreed, without a doubt.
>> There are zero good options for graphics right now too. Graphics are 
>> not 
>> quite critical because we can ship without it for the moment and the 
>> user experience is still "good enough",
> Well, it would be unfair to say that the situation is that bad. Drivers 
> such as
> nouveau support cards (with free firmwares in many cases, by the way) 
> that are
> not tied to any specific architecture (not only x86 uses PCI) and there 
> are
> efforts to support GPUs embedded in ARM SoCs, such as Freedreno and 
> Etnaviv (and
> nouveau, too). I think this is all valuable and shows that we're going
> somewhere. Maybe not as fast as we'd all like, but the amount of work 
> is huge.

The graphics situation is utter crap unless we can combine the right 
components for which we have yet to succeed at doing (or the companies 
capable of doing it have not done it and have shown no interest in doing 
it yet, but that doesn't mean we're not talking to these companies to 
try and get what we want, but it's a long ways to go assuming we're even 

I'd say the situation is only slightly better than I'd come to accept 
recently. While we have nouveau it's limited to older NVIDIA graphics 
card unless you are willing to accept non-free software on your system 
and if you even try newer cards that are suppose to work you'll find 
it's not remotely good enough. It's not even working.

And while we might be able to do $10,000 workstations that are 
completely free that's not something you can make work in the real 
world. People don't have $10,000 or even $3,000, or even $1500 in most 
cases to throw at a computer.

The other issue is getting these components that would work combined 
into an SOC which can be utilized or similar.

So while the work people are doing is good, it's not that work which I'm 
criticizing. It's the situation. It's the limitations, it's the 
restrictions, it's the DRM, it's the signature checking, etc.

>> LibreBoot is a duplication of effort as far as critical components 
>> are 
>> concerned and we should try to avoid duplication of efforts given the 
>> limited resources available.
> This sounds particularly wrong to me. You're assuming a specific 
> structure here,
> very much company-like, where a group of people get to decide of the 
> directions
> for the group and others follow. This is not how our community works. 
> Our
> community is best-effort based, so different people (or different 
> companies)
> will work on different things as they please.

I'm not telling anybody to work on anything. I'm simply saying if your 
objective is to work on critical components your not doing it as far as 
I can see via LibreBoot. We're not on the same page and there is nothing 
wrong with that, but we're not working with the same objectives in mind, 
and if we are it seems the LibreBoot approach is doomed to failure 
without someone else solving the hardware issues [ie TALOS]. Even then 
I'm not sure LibreBoot is needed if there are already other options.

> I find it quite strange to make claims that suggest we should all 
> follow one
> specific direction. People just do what they want to do. This is the 
> mostly
> natural things for way to work in our community, and I have no doubt 
> that they
> will keep working this way for a long time.

If we are all going different directions to solve the same aim though 
there is only one that is going to pan out from where I'm standing and 
that I'm aware of. If I thought LibreBoot would solve the problems I'd 
have gone that direction. I didn't see that working out in 2009, 2014, 
or now. There are other people designing a motherboard for some model 
Lenovo laptop. If that had any chance of working I might have gone that 
direction. But none of these things are feasible solutions to solve the 
goal for the majority of people within our community of producing a 
system that maximizes freedom.

There is a severe shortage of individuals with the skills needed to even 
begin to solve these problems [ie designing hardware, reverse 
engineering, etc] and I'm going to back the people whom have the right 
skills and seem to be doing what I think has the highest chance of 
success-or will otherwise listen to someone whose got an understanding 
of what'll most likely work and adapt. If there is nobody to back [which 
is scary and often the case] I'll throw what resources we have at other 
projects. For example: A GPS navigation device, freeing graphics chips, 
etc. In the past I've thrown resources, time, and energy at resurrecting 
free embedded OS firmware projects like LibreCMC (ie LibreWRT) for 
routers and freeing wireless firmwares (ath9k-htc), making it easier to 
adopt free software via making it easier to obtain free software 
friendly hardware, and simply working on the business/financial side of 
solving the problems of pulling such projects off.

>> > > We've got the source code for LCD/Keyboard controller firmware,
>> >
>> > Regarding LCD: are you talking about a MIPI interface done in software 
>> > with a
>> > MCU? Please feel free to share details about this LCD controller 
>> > firmware, I'd
>> > be very interested to learn more about it, it sounds unusual!
>> I know a little bit about it, but not enough to give you details. The 
>> details are readily available though.
> Okay, I'd be interested in those details out of curiosity, if you'd 
> like to
> point me to them (I can take no for an answer, this is asking you to do 
> some
> extra research work, that you can certainly do much more efficiently 
> than me).

You would have to talk to Luke.

>> > > bootloaders, CPU micro code
>> >
>> > Huh? Again, please share details about the CPU microcodes. I am not 
>> > aware of any
>> > ARMv7 implementation using a microcode at all, nor of any that was 
>> > liberated.
>> Overgeneralized. As far as the A20 goes you are correct. I can 
>> confirm 
>> that there is no micro code in this particular CPU.
> That makes sense.
>> I'll throw out some other words that may make more sense here:
>> SPL uboot in mainline 2015-10- ddr3 timeings initialization and pll 
>> clocks.
> Yup, the community sure did a great work there. RAM init is always the 
> trickiest
> part of bootup and in that case, Allwinner only barely helped (or when 
> they did,
> most of it had already been figured out IIRC).
>> > > and similar for the EOMA68 laptop housing and Libre Tea Computer Card. 
>> > > That's
>> > > huge. And there are more significant developments coming including the 
>> > > release
>> > > of schematics and higher end CPUs.
>> >
>> > I fully agree that this is great and I support your project. However, 
>> > keep in
>> > mind that this is nothing new or groundbreaking (not to undermine the 
>> > project
>> > and the efforts associated with it).
>> I disagree. There is simply nothing you can compare this project to. 
>> We 
>> are achieving results that can't be demonstrated via any other means. 
>> If 
>> we could get here some other way at a lower cost with the same long 
>> term 
>> impact I would have gone that route.
> See what Olimex has been doing for years then. They're also coming up 
> with a
> laptop design. I agree that you went steps further than most before, 
> but this is
> incremental improvement, not something truly new and groundbreaking 
> compared to
> what existed before.

Well, think what you want, but we actually did it. There are lots of 
other projects which were in the works and have been for years and none 
of them have gone anywhere to date. Maybe Olimex or somebody else will 
get somewhere. I don't know. If they are succeeding I haven't seen the 
evidence of that and success in my mind is more than coming out with a 
single laptop/desktop/device. Success in my mind is solving critical 
underlying issues like reducing the costs of doing such projects such 
that it opens doors for other projects and continued newer models, etc. 
And this is what I see as being a success. Not simply coming out with a 
one-off board, laptop, or similar. It has to work financially.

>> The issue is your looking at one thing. A few specs. It's not the 
>> specs 
>> that matter. It's the standard, it's the modularization, it's the 
>> response and cooperation we are getting already as a result of our 
>> actions here, etc. Intel and AMD are not going to cooperate and 
>> building 
>> off of other companies products (higher up the chain) is not a 
>> reliable 
>> long term solution.
> Again, I don't see how modularization changes anything here. Hardware
> availability has never been the problem. For laptops, we only had minor
> annoyances, like Wi-Fi chips that require proprietary firmwares, with 
> the most
> advanced designs for freedom like ARM Chromebooks. So you took a step 
> forward
> there. It's not a revolution, it's a step forward: solving the (minor) 
> Wi-Fi
> issue. For single-board computers, you didn't bring any specific 
> improvement
> over Olimex's Allwinner boards.

These are nothing alike. Do you not understand what EOMA68 is? It's s 
standard that reduces the costs and enables us to do things that 
wouldn't otherwise be possible.

There is a reason this hasn't been done before. It's not just one laptop 
or one desktop. It's a means of producing and continue to produce faster 
better devices and different types of devices long term. It enables us 
to get code and work with companies that wouldn't even talk to us 
before. If you produce a small quantity of something nobody will talk to 
you. If you produce a large quantity of something then companies start 
talking to you. EOMA68 will reduce the cost and increase the demand for 
critical components such that companies will be more willing to talk.

> Again, I don't want to sound like your project doesn't matter to me, 
> because it
> really does. Only that it's an improved iteration over what exists 
> rather than
> whole new ground. And that's totally fine by the way, it is a very sane 
> way to
> go. It also shows that you're not the only person on earth caring about 
> these
> issues and producing hardware that solves an increasing number of them 
> (even
> though I suspect some other players produce devices with such results 
> without
> really aiming at that goal).
> So overall, thanks for your work :)

You simply don't get it... and it's not worth my time to explain it 
further. What really matters is I and others I'm working with keep at it 
so we (as in free software community working on hardware-related 
problems) keep moving forward in this area. It doesn't matter really if 
you do or don't get it. What matters to me is we continue making 

There are certainly lots of other people doing good work. Heck- we've 
built off that work. To imply that I'm taking or trying to take credit 
for everything is wrong. This was not something that was all my/our own 
efforts. We're building off the work of many other people and some of 
our own work both now (EOMA68 / laptop / desktop designs / and I think 
some of it may be derived from previous work, as well as work by people 
doing RE on video components, DDR3 pieces, keyboard/LCD pieces, etc) and 
previously (ath9k-htc). There are also successes that are coming and/or 
haven't been revealed that'll better demonstrate what's possible and 
what this project has enabled already/will enable. But its still mind 
blowing to me that you don't get the significance of whats already been 
accomplished. To call it just an iteration is so far from reality to be 
unbelievable to me.

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