Fwd: New Open Hardware company

Jon 'maddog' Hall maddog at li.org
Mon Jul 27 17:15:14 CEST 2009


Thank you for a very thoughtful email.  I appreciate your inputs on this

>This is my outing, that I never really understand the concept of  
>"open"(moko) :-)

>From my observations of this list, I do not think you are the only one.

>2. Considering this, you have to arrange with a compromis.

Life is full of compromises, but you can still have goals and (as you
have mentioned) a vision.  A vision and the goals (both short-term and
long-term) to meet that vision move you in a direction and help you to
reject side-paths that might distract you.

>IMO any device which you can put free SW on it, is a acceptable one.

But what is the definition of "Free Software"? And at what level?  Is it
"Free Software" to have a GSM module that has binary firmware, but a
firm programming interface for kernel engineers to write against?  Is it
"Free Software" to have a binary-only kernel module, but allow GNU
libraries and applications above that?  Is it "Free Software" to put
Open Office on top of Microsoft Windows?

I will argue that (working backwards) every piece of proprietary,
closed-source software you eliminate is getting closer to the goals and
vision of "Free Software".  So I personally advocate to people who want
their friends to try "Free Software" to start them out with Firefox and
Open Office on top of Microsoft first, and then work with them to
replace more and more of the rest of the proprietary software.

Is this as "good" as having them use an entire distribution of Free
Software?  Perhaps not, but it gets them going in the right direction.

>What we need is high-end-hardware with a lot of options. THIS is what  
>attracts an active community.

I tend to agree with you on this.  But since I am not infallible, I
think there may be room for a simpler piece of hardware that people can
do things with.

Even if the GTA03 was available today, assuming we could get enough
parts to keep producing the GTA02 I might advocate the continued
production of the GTA02.  The GTA02 would be a less expensive phone for
those that might not be able to afford the features of the GTA03.  And
as new software features get integrated into the pool of software for
the GTA03, they would be available for retrofitting to the GTA02.

Another issue is volume of units in circulation.  There has to be a
"sustainable volume" to support a community of developers, even for
backports.  And the effort to backport has to be easy enough.  I do not
think that the GTA01 (for example) had reached that volume, nor was the
ease of backporting and maintaining the kernel and distribution easily

> 3. The way to create a 100% open parallel-world (as it seems your
> vision Steve), is to establish a GSM-independent network.
> (eg. as Sean mentioned once a WLAN-peer-to-peer network)
> IMO it's too late for it.

I am not sure that it is too late to create a WLAN-peer-to-peer network.
It might exist as an "alternative" network for those that wish to use
it.  But, that was your opinion, and you are welcome to have it.

> 4. The idea of community works fine with software, but not with
> hardware modifications. It has to do with missing knowledge,
> capacities and money.

I heard the same arguments about the ability of a community to create a
complex project like the kernel of an operating system, or a
distribution of an operating system back in 1994.  People were still
saying "it can't be done" although distributions like Slackware, Red Hat
and SuSE were gathering steam.  Most of those people who said "it can't
be done" to me now work for Red Hat.

Certainly hardware has different needs, and you are right about some of
them.  But I think these needs, once recognized, can be addressed.

> Once again, I honour everybody with a vision. And I am aware my
> comments are from a very banal money-earning point of view.

Actually there is nothing wrong with a "very banal money-earning point
of view".  In fact, I think that more attention to that point of view is
necessary for the Openmoko project to succeed.

When I first joined the Linux community I saw a project that was being
worked on as a "hobby" or "for technical people", and what I perceived
was a project that could have huge commercial impact to the computer
industry.  I thought to myself that the project would continue no matter
what, but if people were allowed to "make money on it" then it would
move forward much faster.  If the community resisted those commercial
efforts, then the people who had those commercial interests would fight
Free Software, slowing its spread.

I approached the Linux community with this idea, and there were some
people who said "I do not want people to make money off the software
that I write for free".  Those people (unfortunately some very good
people) soon left the Linux project.  Others, such as Linus, understood
what I was saying, and embraced this model.

I might argue that some of the issues of the first round of Openmoko was
that "banal money-earning" issues were not addressed fully.

Perhaps people tried to address them, and due to the circumstances of
the time the issues were not capable of being addressed.

But we can learn from the past, and at least the Openmoko project has
some successes which can be used to help address these points as time
goes on.

Again, thanks for your email.

Warmest regards,


More information about the community mailing list