The future of Libre Computing: Crowd Funding Campaign Starts Now

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onpon4
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You can run an OS on flash memory, but you will have to replace it eventually; it's not about "failure rate" with flash memory so much as failure time, because all flash memory has a definite number of writes that can be performed on it. Intelligent wear leveling tries to maximize this number, but it is literally impossible to use the same flash memory forever, unlike a hard drive which does tend to fail after some time but theoretically can last forever in the right conditions.

Anyway, because of this, I'm planning on using a microSD card for the OS rather than the NAND, regardless of how reliable it is. I'll probably just use the NAND for a backup OS, or for extra storage. It's much easier to replace a microSD card than to replace the NAND. :) Besides, you can get more storage for the OS this way.

hack and hack
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Exactly, I'd rather wear out a "disposable" and replaceable part rather than the part physically unmovable.

Also, the OS most will most likely occupy a small fraction of the available space. And considering the OS on the NAND as a backup OS is a really nice idea.
But thinking of the remaining space as extra storage kinda worries me, unless it's data that isn't meant to move, but only be accessed. Still, 10000 writes minimum is a whole lot, and if I end up using the NAND as much as I use the SD-card on my phone, I won't have to worry about it.
But one thing is for sure, the less the NAND is used, the better.

Wait, what if the NAND part wears out and becomes unuseable? Is an SD-card still useable?

onpon4
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> Wait, what if the NAND part wears out and becomes unuseable? Is an SD-card still useable?

Yeah, based on what lkcl has said, support for booting from a microSD card is in the boot ROM. The NAND doesn't have to be used at all.

hack and hack
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Cool, so the only downside being that it's not replaceable, then using it minimally should be the best.

and worst case, it's like there's never been any NAND. No big deal :)

Thanks for the info!

Chris

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The problem isn't really writing or reading from MLC NAND flash. If it was there wouldn't be any good SSD drives. The problem lies elsewhere. In real world testing this stuff lasts a *LONG* time. At least the individual MLC NAND chips. There are issues relating to power that cause failures in SSD drives (low end and older drives).

The power related failures theoretically can be solved by utilizing SLC and/or via a super capacitor. I have not had a chance to confirm this in real-world use case testing.

lkcl
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it's full source code available, for both versions (all GPLv2 compliant). the first version from allwinner is... odd. they didn't do an MTD design, and they extended the block size beyond that of a normal NAND write-block... very weird. anyway it works.

the second is a rewrite to conform to MTD, it's experimental, it's now working... sort-of, just be careful. available in u-boot and mainline (or at least in sunxi-next).

yes it would be a libre storage device, these are cheap-and-cheerful raw nand devices.

trisquel isn't one of the suggested OSes because there's no ARM port. or, not an up-to-date one. we looked. couldn't find one. at least now this is modern enough hardware to consider making a port.

hack and hack
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So MTD is an abstraction layer for raw flash storage?
According to this, it's needed in order for the CPU to access the NAND (http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1187102&seqNum=5).

So the Allwinner's version is weird, but works.
Why would it be better to have the MTD design then?

lkcl
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conformance to standard nand management (formatting etc.) tools, and direct communication with mtd-aware filesystems such as jffs2 and ubifs. more info on debian: apt-cache show mtdutils

hack and hack
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Thanks.

Soon.to.be.Free
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https://news.slashdot.org/story/16/07/31/0323255/new-crowdfunding-campaign-offers-modular-eoma68-computing-devices

You've made it onto SlashDot! Admittedly it isn't one created by the campaign (it's posted by 'EditorDavid'), but it made it into my daily email from SlashDot, so it must be pretty popular.

lkcl
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yeahyeah i spent the whole day yesterday dealing with questions.... :)

lkcl
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https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=16/08/01/083258

the reactions on this article are _really_ aggressive - i need some help answering them.

hack and hack
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Joined: 04/02/2015

I replied to 2 comments there, hope it helps. I tried to bring a different perspective.

The main criticisms are performance and upgradability of individual parts. But mostly performance.
But I can understand them (well, besides being so fakking aggressive for no reason). Frankly, it took me a while before posting on the thread.
It's so radically different from the classic RAM CPU HDD parts that are separated and individually upgradable.
I needed time to understand, for the shift to settle, and to gather all the other benefits.

lkcl
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yeahyeah it's a bit of a radical shift, we've been so innocuated to have powerful computers - i'm no exception, i'm typing this from a machine with a 13.3in 2560x1600 LCD, 4 80x50 xterms crammed into the left 2/5ths of the screen and still have room for iceweasel @ 1250 x 1400 on the right - that a 2.5 watt computer really is a bit of a kick to the head.

we'll get there... *in stages* - in manageable increments. that's what this is about. we've got something like... 12-15 years of trusting (and being betrayed by) the incumbent mass-volume manufacturers to catch up with. that's not gonna happen overnight - not on the budget of a single small-to-medium-sized business.

anyway. thank you very much. i was a bit overwhelmed.

hack and hack
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This looks like a super small resolution. Disclaimer: I'm not a math person.

I'd describe the product this way:
* 100% free hardware
* long-lived hardware

Hopefully I don't miss anything essential, but I feel any of the other qualities come from those 2 ideas.
When I think performance, I think heavy image editing, heavy video and 3D editing, heavy music making (not necessarily heavy metal), things like that.

For the most part, those are the needs of pros.
16GB of RAM would completely cover those needs, 8 would be more than fine. Plus we're talking about free software, the encremental need for more power isn't as steep, if I'm not mistaken (probably though, I don't know what I'm talking about here).

root_vegetable
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> Plus we're talking about free software, the encremental need for more power isn't as steep, if I'm not mistaken (probably though, I don't know what I'm talking about here).

I don't think whether a program is free software affects whether it is bloated. For example, Firefox has been a monster since the beginning and has only got bigger. Similarly Android's build process is horrific. And GNOME and KDE are monstrous, and keep growing.
Certainly some proprietary programs are bloated because the developers can often get away with sloppy code. Windows is bloated partly due to Microsoft maintaining compatibility as much as possible with old APIs (I think Windows might be quite sloppy and full of crusty code but I think the maintenance of compatibility is a major factor in making it the absolute giant it is today. it requires around 20G to run on a typical PC, and that is before all the crapware manufacturers install).
Although what you are using is generally probably less beefy than a typical Mac or Windows OS, this is not a general rule. The Linux kernel for instance, is gigantic! It won't scale down to really small embedded devices (4k ram etc) because it doesn't need to. The same goes for other bloated programs.

hack and hack
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I see your point, but most GNU/Linux programs and OS run better on older machines (I think). But I don't know, Blender most likely needs as much power as its proprietary counterparts for heavy duty stuff.

Again, not too sure about what I affirm here.

lkcl
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blender would likely be too much. i'm using openscad to develop the laptop casework and my dual-core dual-hyperthreaded 2.4ghz modern pentium with 8gb RAM is barely able to cope: i'm looking at SECONDS per frame to render. that's with a standard intel graphics, with the shared memory bus architecture, you know the thing. so it's not surprising... but just don't be surprised when certain computational tasks mash machines into the ground, regardless of OS :)

onpon4
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> Firefox has been a monster since the beginning and has only got bigger.

Not quite. I think it was Firefox 9 when there were massive performance improvements; before the release I'm thinking of, it required so much RAM that it was flat-out unusable on the OpenPandora with its 256 MB of RAM, and not to mention agonizingly slow. Then it suddenly got better than Midori, to my recollection. I don't know whether or not it's gotten back to its old bloated self since then, but in any case, it hasn't only gotten bigger. :)

SuperTramp83

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With its 15 million lines of code (Midori has 63 K to give you an easy comparison) , I would define it extremely bloated. Firefox is not only superslow and full of anti-features and useless crap, but also probably a piece of software that is full of holes and bugs.
I wouldn't recommend it especially on older machines. Someone needs to write a good browser from scratch. Seamonkey rocks btw (yes, it really does) :)

onpon4
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I was talking more about RAM usage and speed, not complexity or lines of code.

root_vegetable
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I would say the bloated code base contributes to the clunkyness of Firefox. It means it is full of security holes. It is also why it is difficult to produce proper Firefox forks as opposed to mere spins. Look at the trouble the PaleMoon developers had.
Certainly it is by no means accurate to say that lots of code corresponds to memory usage and speed but often the two problems go together. Lean and mean programs often have small code-bases.

lkcl
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https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68/micro-desktop/updates# just got printing tested and confirmed, and the next update in the queue is 1080p60 hardware-assisted *LIBRE* video playback... :)

onpon4
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Just want to point out that I posted another thread:

http://forum.freegamedev.net/viewtopic.php?t=7094&p=70214

lkcl
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aaaa another forum to track, dang :)

Chris

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Free Talk Live Interview with Luke (lkcl):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjgxGd2eSn8&feature=youtu.be&t=6m6s

* I'm also in the background

onpon4
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Suggestion: how about a video showing some OpenGL programs running? Not anything really high-end, just things like Tiled that use OpenGL for basic stuff and don't really need a whole lot of speed.

I suggest this because someone on the thread at freegamedev.net just made a post suggesting that no OpenGL programs could possibly run at a reasonable speed without 3-D acceleration:

http://forum.freegamedev.net/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=7094&p=70226#p70225

lkcl
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can't find tiled but am going to try freedoom... :) nope doesn't work needs prboom or odamex... will try tuxracer or something

onpon4
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lkcl
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ok so not a game, at all - a map editor. ok gimme a mo... ok yep i'm not seeing anything hugely slow about this program, it seems pretty quick in fact. got any examples i can try?

onpon4
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You mean of maps to load in Tiled or other non-game programs that use OpenGL?

If you mean Tiled (TMX) maps, you could try level.tmx and map.tmx under examples/data in xsge_tmx:

http://download.savannah.gnu.org/releases/xsge/xsge_tmx/1.0/xsge_tmx-1.0.tar.gz

If you mean programs other than games that use OpenGL, I don't know of any specific examples, but a program that uses the Qt OpenGL Module (as Tiled does) is likely to be one (if you're using Qt, you're probably not making a game). I don't know if that helps or not.

lkcl
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yeah perfect - no that works great, editing with tiled is really quick and responsive. i just wanted some kind of example to run that was a bit more complex than a couple of rectangles: it's clearly responsive. Supertux on the other hand was not... :)

onpon4
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Right, SuperTux is a bit more demanding. ;) I'd bet it would run much better if you ran it without OpenGL, though. You can do that like this if you're interested in checking that:

supertux2 --renderer sdl

I don't know how the speed of the A20 compares to the Pentium 4, but my mom has a computer with one of those and no working hardware acceleration (since it has an integrated GPU from ATI), and it went from running horribly to running pretty well when I used that command-line option.

lkcl
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yep at around 640x480 it's about 10fps, if i expand the window to 1200 x 720 (appx) it's down to about 5fps - that's with sdl.

tonlee
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ikcl, in update 19 you wrote on > difference between our MOQ goal and our dollar goal. What are you going to do, if you reach 250 computer cards, enough to get them made, but not fund limit?
Are you going to renegotiate with crowd supply or those who have bought a laptop with computer card?

lkcl
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tonlee we're getting this question a lot, let me refer you to the arm-netbook archives answer: http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/2016-August/011499.html

basically, i suggest focussing on helping with the campaign.

tonlee
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Joined: 09/08/2014

I disagree on waiting and see. I do not think you will reach the seeked fund. If someone considering buying a computer card reads the crowd funding website, they will notice that funding is lower than 50%. I think that will stop people from getting the computer card. They do not know what happens if full funding is not reached. Set a plan now, a plan that tells computer card buyers they will get the item if 250 computer cards are sold. Best would be if you negotiate with laptop buyers and get that part out of the crowd funding. Set the fund limit to the amount of 250 computer cards. My matter is to get the computer card manufactured. Show people you can sell a free software arm computer.

onpon4
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> If someone considering buying a computer card reads the crowd funding website, they will notice that funding is lower than 50%. I think that will stop people from getting the computer card. They do not know what happens if full funding is not reached.

It's not flexible funding. Contributions are pledges; if the goal is not reached, none of the money gets sent.

tonlee
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If funding goal is not reached, buyers know they will not get their item. Maybe he will come up with something that people get their computer cards anyway. They do not know. If he renegotiates like I wrote, people will know they will get their computer cards if 250 computer cards are sold? He made a decision to put the expensive laptops into the crowd funding and because people are not buying funding is small? He could not know that, but it turned out to be a mistake. What I want him to do is renegotiate such that computer cards get made.

onpon4
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> If funding goal is not reached, buyers know they will not get their item.

...And they won't pay a cent. There is zero risk for backers.

If this is unclear, it should be clarified, but suggesting "renegotiating" would happen if the campaign fails would make potential backers more nervous, not less, because it suggests both desperation and a complicated process which a lot of people are not going to want to get involved in.

tonlee
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>If this ...
Maybe you are right. If I had ordered a computer card, I would look at the funding. Knowing that funding is below 50% and likely there will be no full funding, I would rather get the laptops out of the crowd funding lowering the funding goal to 250 computer cards and a total funding goal of 16250usd. If I had ordered a laptop and got an email asking me to cancel the order because to few are being sold, I would accept that and either buy nothing or order a computer card.

onpon4
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That's not how it works. If the crowdfunding campaign fails, nothing happens. No money gets exchanged, the project doesn't move forward, and Luke will have to launch an entirely new campaign (assuming he can; otherwise he'll have to spend some time coming up with a new game plan, possibly years).

Also, it's not possible to change the campaign's funding goal in the middle of it. If you could suddenly reduce your funding goal to make the campaign succeed, and did so, that would be fraud. So assuming people can cancel their orders (I don't think you can), telling people to do so would only make it almost impossible for the campaign to succeed because you're just cutting off roughly $35,000 of pledges.

What should be done, and what is being done, is focusing on raising the $150,000 goal. That goal can be achieved; please remember that many people might be waiting until the last minute to contribute for one reason or another. If the campaign fails to meet its goal, no money will be raised (i.e. not a problem for backers), and Luke can decide what to do to salvage the situation (possibly with a smaller crowdfunding campaign for example) at that time. There's no need to plain for failure now.

tonlee
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Do you use the word fraud in its legal frame? Tell how you define fraud?
You repeat that if funding goal is not meet nobody pays. I got that. I want to set a new funding goal which is likely going to be meet. If crowd supply rules say, you cannot change parameters during the crowd funding, then nothing can be done. Maybe resulting in what you wrote.

About getting the laptops out of the crowd funding. They will not get them if funding goal is not meet. I want the laptop buyers to accept, that the crowd funding is about the computer cards and funding goal is going to be set to 250 x computer cards. If enough people buy laptops, they will get them, else they will not. If laptops are the obstacle in terms of the funding goal it was a mistake to make them a part of the crowd funding. If the 35000usd steams from laptops the money does not matter, because the laptops will not be made anyway if the funding goal is not meet.

>That goal can be achieved
I do not think so. It would take a sell of about 1328 computer cards to meet the funding goal. Or about 191 laptops.

>no need to plain for failure now
Yes there is. Or rather investigate how to avoid not getting funded by setting a new funding goal.

jxself
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Some places, like Indiegogo, support what they fall "flexible funding campaigns" which don't have this "all or nothing" rule.

lkcl
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because it is so unique (the 20:1 ratio) this campaign isn't one of those *either*. it's pretty much unprecedented to have a critical dependency between items pledged at $65 and $1200. so we are being flexible... but, AGAIN, the focus IS... *help spread the word*.

lkcl
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tonlee: this isn't helping. every moment spent by you being concerned about "what happens if we fail fail fail FAIL FAIL **FAIL**" is time wasted on helping spread the word so that we succeed succeed SUCCEED.

but not only that, you're *actively* taking up *my* time dealing with answering your questions about *FAILURE* instead of helping me to spread the word that will lead to *SUCCESS*.

even worse than that, this is a *public* forum where you are distracting *other people* from helping to spread the word so that this campaign is a *SUCCESS*.

do you see that that's what you're doing?

so i'm going to be very direct, and ask you quite firmly to stop doing this and turn your attention instead to HOW TO MAKE THIS CAMPAIGN A SUCCESS.

ok?

lkcl
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> I do not think so. It would take a sell of about 1328 computer cards
> to meet the funding goal. Or about 191 laptops.

or it would take an order of 500-1000 computer cards for a separate project (and i am talking privately to someone who wants to do exactly that).

or it would take a much smaller group of people ordering the fully-assembled laptop housing.

or it would take just one person to pledge for the $10k level as that would be more than enough to cover the NREs.

or many many other combinations which give you some idea that this is a COMPLEX campaign that can only be fully assessed at the *end*.

so please.

STOP focussing on "it's gonna fail" and *help us reach people so that it's a success*

ok??

CalmStorm

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Agreed its not over until all time has run out.

It will succeed I feel it.

lkcl
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http://rhombus-tech.net/crowdsupply/assess_campaign.py

with some very rough numbers in, it's just about doable, right now, based on $10k NREs, there's about $6k spare [update: corrected the numbers, it's about $10.7k]

lkcl
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> Also, it's not possible to change the campaign's funding goal in the middle of it.

it is.... you just have to have a *really* good reason. most campaign's simply can't justify doing this... but we can. the thing is: we can... but we still shouldn't, as it gives the wrong impression.

> What should be done, and what is being done, is focusing on raising the $150,000 goal.
> That goal can be achieved; please remember that many people might be waiting until
> the last minute to contribute for one reason or another.

e.g. they have a paycheck that's coming in... this is extremely common. so yes.
*help spread the word*.