Gerald A geraldablists at
Mon Apr 6 20:41:01 CEST 2009

Hi all,
I originally wrote Lothar in private, and asked for his permission to repost
to the list. There have been a few replies in the meantime, but there were
some good points here.

Now, I'm not a hardware guy, so take my input with a grain of salt, but I
have been watching the project for a while, and as a software person I hope
we can make it work.

Lothar -- new comments are inline.

On Sun, Apr 5, 2009 at 10:47 AM, Lothar Behrens <lothar.behrens at
> wrote:

>> On Sun, Apr 5, 2009 at 7:08 AM, Lothar Behrens <
>> lothar.behrens at> wrote:
>> Ok I cannot buy expensive equipment to test hardware that I may have
>> developed, but I virtually could
>> develop hardware. But many developers at one subject could spend money for
>> a rent to let one of the
>> team do outstanding tests.
>> Isn't it possible to also develop hardware collaboratively?

> I have to say -- at this point, I don't think so. It's not that the concept
>> is impossible, or as you mention above, that testing can't be done. But
>> based on what OM and FIC before them have reported, it would be very hard.
> Yes, it would be hard, but FIC and OM have made a great job. We have a
> fully functioning phone, but we couldn't easy create our own prototypes to
> play with. Good ideas are published as the robotics project. If having a
> really open schematics and even the board design. one could change the
> formfactor and add his/her needed stuff to play with. If you have to worry
> about how to enter a completely new schematics from the PDF, the fence is
> higher to think about jumping over and just DO it.

Steve has commented a bit about this, as far as a packaging and final
production are concerned. There might be a possibility to build "modular
kits" so different hardware (and software) combos could be tried out, but
translating that into a widget that can be sold as a phone is also a
consideration. We could put together an awesome phone as a kit that is about
the size of a CD drive, but then find out that some parts we used aren't
available in quantities or timelines that make sense to produce a phone. The
concept is awesome, but I'm not sure it can feed into a real product -- but
it's something to think about.

> Principally, this is due to a moving target. Since everything is obsolete
>> in a few months, the shelf life of products in the embedded space is very
>> small. The next big hurdle is in getting specs. OM/FIC were producing
>> thousands of devices and possibly more, so had better quantities then a
>> hobby group might muster -- and still had poor access to hardware specs,
>> when they got them. Now, of course, some of their decisions might have been
>> practical too (we can get >1000 more closed pieces from company X, while we
>> can only get ~100 more open pieces from company Y), we don't know.
> Yes, the technique is moving forward fast - for the real phone, not for a
> GSM module for sample :-)
> Today I have searched for a GSM module and indeed found one with a complete
> ARM based Linux stack. It would be much too expensive, but when having only
> the next planned GSM module that will appear in the phone, one could test it
> on a standard pc. Or even participate in GSM related development only.

I love the idea of being able to mock up hardware, as it lets the software
move forward too. But if our test platform can't be translated into a
suitable form factor, it might be a waste.

> I had an idea about my car radio. The idea came because I use my Neo to
> transmit music over bluetooth, then over a FM transmitter to the radio. This
> is bad quality.
> There are really much entusiasts building their own carPC in double DIN
> factor or similar - even small PC barebones. Why not equip it with a GSM
> module to become a real handsfree carPC + phone. They will benefit from such
> a module and propably participate in development.
> Open the development by also selling parts of a phone for the hobby
> electronics would increase the audience and the feedback.
> I don't know how this component has to be deliverded, but I think it must
> be compilant to some law.

The current phone stuff already passes those laws. Would it be possible to
adapt them, on the electronic side? I have no doubt. Steve or someone on the
OM side might be able to speak to the regulations issue.

Now, there are many people who like the idea of an "open source" phone, but
>> I think that a lot of them assume it will be polished to the level that
>> modern Linux distros are up to nowadays. And the truth is, the open linux
>> phone isn't there yet.
>> Now, these aren't impossible hurdles to climb, but they aren't going to be
>> simple either.
>> What I also think about, is why are there only PDF schematics available?
>> I think there were other formats too, but that might have only been case
>> design. My feeling is that OM isn't trying to be closed about hardware --
>> but rather make some money selling it and be able to subsidize software
>> development.
> Selling a mobile phone lab with components and the full schematics would
> propably taken from other companies to participate. They may be able to pay
> for the kit and inturn
> help development and give feedback. Think about opencores or the other
> projects and sites. The open hardware movement is at the way.
> With such a kit OM could get money, but also feedback - maybe in schematics
> and board design parts. I am not sure if a board could be divided in
> subdesigned subboards
> as schematics could (KICAD). But at least a part could be developed or the
> design could be overtaken.
> Small companies could jump onto that train, if such a kit is available. And
> it eases the jump, if Schematics would be based on open source software like
> KICAD :-)
> Dont always think about selling ready usable phones. Think about kits that
> help driving the idea behind an open phone in general (car PC for sample).
> The carPC hobby entusiast propably won't buy a not 'ready' phone, but think
> about adding the hands free phone option in his/her project. This is because
> he/she is acting in building the carPC.

If it is possible to delegate hardware development tasks to the
>> comunity why isn't it done yet?
>> I think this is a good idea. Maybe the community could launch a proposal
>> for what should go into an "GTA0X, X >2". The only problem here is that you
>> get everyone coming out of the woodwork to add their dream widget to a
>> phone. And if that got built, we'd need wheels on it to truck it around. :)
>> What we really need then is a way to get community involvement, but also a
>> realistic "put your money where your mouth is" way to solicit $$ from people
>> who are willing to buy the things. Something like, but stronger then, "if
>> the phone had features (x, y, z), would you pony up $AAA bucks for it?"
> Therefore a site with adding votes would be valuable. This eliminates these
> ideas only few have and push ideas many have.
> Then propably membership could be enabled to help in that idea...

Votes are nice, but even with voting you'll end up with lots of good ideas
and perhaps not so many marketable ones. My thought above there was to put
your money on the table with a "vote". "My company will by 10 GTA0X.Ys if
they have sexy widget Z in them, for $500 a pop". Now, that quantity is too
small to mean anything, but if you get 100 people like that, it might be
more interesting.

> Then if there are some results that have a chance to become a real
>> 'next' phone, a company like openmoko could
>> think about producing some prototypes. So the company has a reduced cost.
>> That's a good question -- what would producing prototypes cost? Maybe
>> that's the line to take with OM -- we can do the hardware specs, you produce
>> a few prototypes to see if they work, and then we go to production?
> The strength behind the comunity would propably reducing cost of
> prototyping. Here is a cost sample:
> I know of another printed circuit manufacturer my mother was visiting with
> her friend. I'll ask him about such prototyping issues. Maybe he could offer
> cheaper.
> The comunity is big and some came to quite good hardware ideas, so why not
> push the comunity be selling parts as premanufactured elements and let them
> have fun.
> Good ideas could be communicated (by voting), cost could be saved when an
> idea finds more attract and the chances of usable ideas for the next phone
> could be taken, because the hardware is open source.

> Swapping prototypes in the comunity would also be an option. Not always a
> new prototype is nessesary. One may build a wirewrap circuit and an engineer
> could catch up
> the prototype to work for a first layout that needs some HF knowledge to
> get properly working. Others that are interested in a first prototype
> printed circuit could be served by voting to add room for their ideas needed
> space on the board as breadboard.
> It's always the comunity that drive good ideas and thus cost is saved. More
> boards are cheaper :-)

 Would a prototype with GSM stuff be ok to be shuffled around? Would the
cost to produce such boards really be in the affordable range?

There is one really good electronics project: The internal debug board.
>> I'm not sure about that. The debug board(s) are one tact, but there are
>> lots of different neat knobs in the FR. Early on, someone was using the FR
>> for a small remote boat. Some of that stuff needs a creative mind, and it
>> might be external to the FR, but it can show what can be done with it.
> I know about the boat, I have watched his video :-)
> A hardware project site and using open source software for board design,
> such as KICAD would help to enlarge the comunity. Not all must be inside a
> phone, something could
> be at a Eurocard sized board. Say the remote boat or in general a device
> that supports remote appliances would find more attraction if it would be
> 'pluggable' on a stacked board. I am not sure how much electronics the
> remote boat needs, but at least controlling servos.
> BTW, I had developed a train station clock driven by a Microchip PIC 16F84,
> a stepup DC/DC converter and a simple H bridge to drive the 'motor' of the
> clock.
> Good ideas must be publisched open sourced (I think about that now :-)
> The project died, because it stuck at soldered wirewrap level board
> prototype, it was not communicated, therefore no interest came back thus no
> printed circuits were developed at a next development step. It would have a
> chance to grow and improve, when it were open sourced and other hobbyists
> get knowledge about it - the comunity.
> The project is more than 10 years ago :-(
> My current hobby is software development and I follow a movement that other
> argue to be unusable, or only at university level, (so it will be called
> 'arsed around'), but I don't agree to them. It's great stuff about code
> generation, MDA / MDSD and the like. It's a movement to a new methology how
> to develop software. It's not always understood by a mortal developer. They
> must see that new methologies work.
> Even a stupid idea like distributed hardware engineering may be a way to
> earn money. Services like board layout could be payd for. So it will
> propably not always
> at a hobby level. Another area is distributed music making - as reported at
> one of our local TV broadcaster. Things seem not realizeable but must
> thought twice.
> Link:
> That isn't really related to this thread, but points out, that things are
> possible.
> Developing on a board design could also done that way. We have Skype, could
> share the project files and even could keep versions of design ideas in the
> or SVN repository. There is only the question if an open source board
> design could easily converted in a format that - for sample is required for
> electromagnetic compatibility
> tests (
> Renting equipment or swapping parts would save money, who better could
> spend in a good layout. Using colaboration like the music sample could also
> save money.
> An electromagnetic compatibility specialized firm could inspect a layout,
> before it will go to a real hardware test.
> (If the format conversion from open source SW to expensive ECAD SW is
> possible)
> Many ideas when sitting at home :-)

I've been to installathons and other software type events, where the idea is
to fiddle around with stuff. Would it make sense to do something like this
in the community? A hack-a-moko day, whether it was sponsored by OM or not?
While it might not lead to a design that translates 100% into something
mass-produceable, could that inspire something that is, or it it too far

(I apologize for the quoting -- something seems a bit off there)

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