Brussels / 30 & 31 January 2016


AMENDMENT: How to develop eco-conscious Libre Hardware

How to make products that save people money and respect Software Freedom at the same time

About 5 years ago it hit me that Corporations are never going to take responsibility for Software Libre compliance. Full Software Libre compliance actually affects their bottom line, and it's the responsibility of Directors to pathologically maximise profits. In fact, selling eco-conscious products that can be upgraded year-on-year, throwing away perfectly good components in the process, also adversely affects a Corporation's bottom line.

Competing with existing profit-maximising Corporations on "Software Libre Compliance" is not a strong selling point: nobody who isn't a programmer actually really cares, and they're not knowledgeable enough to upgrade the software anyway - they'd rather just throw the whole thing away and get a new one, in the naive hope that the new OS will somehow be better, cleaner, and free from the malware attacks that slowed down the perfectly good hardware they just discarded into landfill.

People are mainly influenced by money (saving it), cool-factor, convenience and fear. So the trick is to come up with a strategy that plays on all these four things. The EOMA68 Project thus was envisioned as a way to help people save money (because they can upgrade just like popping out a "Memory Card", they can now push a button and pop out the "Computer Card"), as well as help reassure them on personal security. Sending the laptop back for repair, you don't want the people in the shop to copy or rifle through your private data? No problem: pop out the "Computer Card" before sending it off... and incidentally you can pop that Computer Card into a spare base unit and carry on working.

Almost as an incidental side-line, then, the products being developed are Software Libre Compliant right from the ground up (not that the end-users really need to know that, as it's not a major selling-point to them). Some of the products being developed can even be RYF Certified (are FSF-Endorseable) - again, the average end-user doesn't care about this. However, Software Libre developers will know what's under the hood, and are being invited to participate in bringing these products to market. The first main products will be two EOMA68-compliant CPU Cards (one with an FSF-Endorseable Ingenic jz4775, the other with an Allwinner A20 dual-core ARM Cortex A7), a Micro-Desktop "base" and a 15.6in 1366x768 Laptop. The laptop's case is 3D-printable on a standard 200x200mm Mendel90, and uses bamboo laminate for the main panels, to save on plastic.

In short: where standard Hardware Corporations are set on maximising profits year after year, collectively they've left a gaping hole in the market that, with a little creative thinking, can be filled by someone who is willing to take active responsibility for doing things in a conscientious and principled way. The resultant products - which have an expected upgrade lifecycle of at least a decade - just happen to be really cool.

(Please note that this talk replaces "Emulating the Nintendo 3DS" by Tony Wasserka.)


Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton