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Live Interview: Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the onward-to-freedom dept.

Hardware Hacking 68

Today we're doing a live interview from 18:30 GMT until 20:30 GMT with long time contributor Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech. An advocate of Free Software, he's been round the loop that many are now also exploring: looking for mass-volume Factories in China and ARM processor manufacturers that are truly friendly toward Free Software (clue: there aren't any). He's currently working on the first card for the EOMA-68 modular computer card specification based around the Allwinner A10, helping the KDE Plasma Active Team with their upcoming Vivaldi Tablet, and even working to build devices around a new embedded processor with the goal of gaining the FSF's Hardware Endorsement. Ask him anything. (It's no secret that he's a Slashdot reader, so expect answers from lkcl.)

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first post (4, Funny)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252595)

yaay always wanted to do that :)

Re:first post (1)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252797)

And as the subject of the mentioned interview, I don't think you can even get modded down for it.

Re:first post (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252885)

It's the traditional medieval Right of the First Post. :-)

(Yes, I know, that one is a fiction, but you must never get facts in the way of a good joke...)

Re:first post (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253089)

yeah you can - comments are open. hey modders, biteme!

Re:first post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253533)

yay for more slashvertisements for lkcl's projects. the clique that runs slashdot sure does love you

Re:first post (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253659)

one of them's on arm-netbooks. he tells me they're really excited, and rooting for this project. i'll be sooo glad when the first card's out, and then the first product (looks like it'll be the vivaldi tablet). lots else going on, it's mad.

Tip for future live interviews... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42252643)

Let us know they're coming ahead of time... and I mean days, not minutes.

The most important question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42252659)

Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or a hundred duck-sized horses?

Re:The most important question... (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252683)

both! no wait - i'd rather shoot the horse-sized duck, make a fantastic meal out of it (quack) then tame the horses and sell them to circuses world-wide.

Re:The most important question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42258567)

By any chance the world famous Aylesbury Duck?

No shit ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42252687)

An advocate of Free Software, he's been round the loop that many are now also exploring: looking for mass-volume Factories in China and ARM processor manufacturers that are truly friendly toward Free Software (clue: there aren't any).

I don't think I needed anybody to tell me that one.

Why should they care about Free Software? All they want to do is Charge Money, and the wishes of a bunch of free software advocates doesn't mean anything to them.

The good news is, they'll steal the free designs as readily as they steal the other ones.

Are we under the illusion there is a high-volume plant where management is thinking "gee, if we could only get some work from Free Software people, we'd be set".

I like free stuff, but the religion which is Free Software seem to lose sight of the fact that the rest of the world isn't as interested as they are.

Free software people are like vegans -- always ready to get in your face about how you should do that they think. Both are equally aggressive and annoying, and the kinds of people you eventually need to tell to shut up and go away because they can't talk about anything else.

Re:No shit ... (4, Interesting)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252863)

An advocate of Free Software, he's been round the loop that many are now also exploring: looking for mass-volume Factories in China and ARM processor manufacturers that are truly friendly toward Free Software (clue: there aren't any).

I don't think I needed anybody to tell me that one.

you might not - but there are a few people who don't know, and who want to find out for themselves. it's good that they do that, because when it all goes to shit, they're the ones who it's easiest to work with. it's not just academic for them: they now KNOW what the problem is (because they lost money or time over it)

Why should they care about Free Software? All they want to do is Charge Money, and the wishes of a bunch of free software advocates doesn't mean anything to them.

well, take a look at the allwinnertech.com web site. the community surrounding the allwinner a10 processor has grown sufficiently large that a number of community-driven entrepreneurial boards such as the cubieboard, hackberry and so on are actually listed as "Dev Boards" on allwinner's official web site.

if you recall HTC had a keyboard-based phone? techies and geeks loved it. when HTC's next phone wasn't a keyboard-based one, it absolutely tanked.

bottom line: don't underestimate the level of influence that free software people can have.

The good news is, they'll steal the free designs as readily as they steal the other ones.

Are we under the illusion there is a high-volume plant where management is thinking "gee, if we could only get some work from Free Software people, we'd be set".

it's much more fundamental than that. these are factories that in some cases quite literally make shoes, or jumpers, or... socks and handbags on the same floor or building. the owner went one day "i know i'll diversify: let me just go buy some PCB manufacturing equipment". the level of software expertise they have is LITERALLY zero. they buy ready-made designs, ready-made [GPL-violating] software images, and so on.

I like free stuff, but the religion which is Free Software seem to lose sight of the fact that the rest of the world isn't as interested as they are.

well, you need to read the articles online about how the Linux Steam/Valve Team got together with the Intel 3D Graphics Team. one of them described it as "the most productive work meeting they'd ever had".

there really *is* a business case for using free software. tie that in with the fact that many engineers buy stacks of tablets hoping to be able to buy 1,000 of them and use them as the basis for their custom products, but then they find that no, the source code isn't available, and bear in mind that geeks are some of the most influential people on forums which the average users frequent, and you start to realise that it's a bit bigger than you think.

Dealing with IP theft in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42252691)

You hear a lot of horror stories about unscrupulous factories stealing the basic IP from smaller customers. Is this something you're concerned about, and how would you deal with it if it did happen?

Re:Dealing with IP theft in China (3, Insightful)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252765)

You hear a lot of horror stories about unscrupulous factories stealing the basic IP from smaller customers. Is this something you're concerned about, and how would you deal with it if it did happen?

well, to be honest, i mean, what exactly are they going to "steal" here? think about it: linux is more expensive than windows because the number of CDs that it goes onto is greater. and if they "steal" the source code, and try to "hoard" it? congratulations to them: they just cut themselves off from community resources! so i'm really not that concerned about the software, although it's both hilarious and often frustrating to watch them try.

with the EOMA projects, however, it's a different matter: not because it's "stealing" per se but because of the risk of non-interoperability. i've posted about this before, about my uncle (anthony pickford) who used patent law to protect against dangerous copy-cat medicines [which were killing people - literally]. so we've followed his example, and have submitted 3 patents. patents tend not to go down too well in amongst the free software community - myself included - so i made them as extreme as i possibly could, on the grounds that i hope like hell that any companies which we ever need to go after will actually complain enough to get the patent system itself limited or shut down.

Re:Patents and open hardware licenses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253771)

with the EOMA projects, however, it's a different matter: not because it's "stealing" per se but because of the risk of non-interoperability. i've posted about this before, about my uncle (anthony pickford) who used patent law to protect against dangerous copy-cat medicines [which were killing people - literally]. so we've followed his example, and have submitted 3 patents. patents tend not to go down too well in amongst the free software community - myself included - so i made them as extreme as i possibly could, on the grounds that i hope like hell that any companies which we ever need to go after will actually complain enough to get the patent system itself limited or shut down.

Are you willing to release some sort of board using the EOMA standard under an open hardware licence (e.g. CERN's or TAPR's) that gives legal protection to people making (open) derivative products?

While I can understand why you would like to keep control of the standard with patents, that approach may make the EOMA standard unusable for open hardware projects. If not, using the EOMA standard in my projects isn't worth living in fear of a lawsuit, and I can't in good conscience pass them on to other people with this hidden risk.

If you'd like to make money off of people making money using your standard for closed hardware I have no issue with that. If you are worried about compatibility and hardware damage, however, some sort of (copyrighted) certification logo may be much friendlier to open source community. An example of this kind of scheme is the USB standard; if you don't see the USB logo on a piece of hardware you know that you are taking a risk by plugging it into your computer. This has prevented catastrophes on the consumer side, but still allowed the open hardware community to experiment and share freely with each other and the world. While you could argue that allowing people to distribute non-compliant hardware risks fires and other safety problems, this hasn't really been a significant issue with USB.

Re:Patents and open hardware licenses (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253933)

Are you willing to release some sort of board using the EOMA standard under an open hardware licence (e.g. CERN's or TAPR's) that gives legal protection to people making (open) derivative products?

love to!

While I can understand why you would like to keep control of the standard with patents, that approach may make the EOMA standard unusable for open hardware projects.

i'm glad you said "may", because i would have to contradict you, and i don't like doing that. we thought this through: the patents will come with an automatic royalty-free grant for any product that's FSF-Endorseable, written in stone into the papers associated publicly with the patent. yes, i'm keenly aware that there aren't that many FSF-Endorsed products: it's something i want to encourage.

If not, using the EOMA standard in my projects isn't worth living in fear of a lawsuit, and I can't in good conscience pass them on to other people with this hidden risk.

it's not hidden: i've mentioned it a number of times. actually, every time this issue comes up i've answered it, that there's been a plan in place even as the patents were being conceived. i really *am* a free software advocate, not a free software band-wagon-jumper.

If you'd like to make money off of people making money using your standard for closed hardware I have no issue with that. If you are worried about compatibility and hardware damage, however, some sort of (copyrighted) certification logo may be much friendlier to open source community.

well... we'll have to look at that as-and-when it happens. if a product's scope is small, i honestly don't think we'll be particularly concerned. and, also, remember: the CPU Cards are where we'll most likely find that people are having to buy these off-the-shelf from mass-volume manufacturers. it's mainly the mass-volume manufacturers that we're concerned about. a few engineers developing alpha-grade hardware and selling 100 to 1,000 units, knowing full well that they and their clients are taking a risk plugging a card into a board? yeahh, i'm not so worried.

but, a competitor company that's making a million units a week and they're incompatible and short-circuit existing customer's products??? that's bad.

An example of this kind of scheme is the USB standard; if you don't see the USB logo on a piece of hardware you know that you are taking a risk by plugging it into your computer. This has prevented catastrophes on the consumer side, but still allowed the open hardware community to experiment and share freely with each other and the world. While you could argue that allowing people to distribute non-compliant hardware risks fires and other safety problems, this hasn't really been a significant issue with USB.

well, that's because USB devices and USB chips come with built-in protection. here it's a different matter. if someone badly or even *deliberately* designs a card which is non-interoperable, and its use shorts out the power lines to ground, there's no over-voltage protection and chances are it'll damage something.

so i know what you mean, and chances are that we'll have to review things on a case-by-case basis and be encouraging to open hardware designers (i want them to succeed!), but we cannot risk letting it get into a free-for-all - it's simply too dangerous, and it would be irresponsible of us. remember, there's something called an "estoppel defense". if we "turn a blind eye" to an "open hardware" platform, and it gets copied and turns into a million-a-month product, and it turns out to have a hardware flaw, what then? the million-a-month company could claim "well you didn't contact the small company when they were doing 100 a month, so we don't have to pay either".

it's a tough one - but the idea is to use the patents to protect the *whole* EOMA community, *not* as a means to stifle innovation as they're presently used. please remember: i'm a free software advocate. i'm working with and from within the system; i'm not looking for ways to *exploit* the free software community, i'm looking for ways to make them relevant!

Re:Patents and open hardware licenses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42255489)

Are you willing to release some sort of board using the EOMA standard under an open hardware licence (e.g. CERN's or TAPR's) that gives legal protection to people making (open) derivative products?

love to!

This is good to hear. I'd rather support your standard than roll my own. If something like a health-related bankruptcy causes your patents to be sold to a patent troll, however, I need to know that I (and other users/contributors) are not at risk; both the CERN and TAPR license provide this kind of insurance.

The patents will come with an automatic royalty-free grant for any product that's FSF-Endorseable, written in stone into the papers associated publicly with the patent.

Depending on the exact language, this could be enough by itself to address my concerns. I'll feel most comfortable if you can get the endorsement of an organization like the FSF, OSI, or OSHWA; they'd be well worth contacting for feedback on the precise wording of the license.

While you could argue that allowing people to distribute non-compliant hardware risks fires and other safety problems, this hasn't really been a significant issue with USB.

well, that's because USB devices and USB chips come with built-in protection.

While USB does provide protection against one of the most common design errors (a device sinking too much current), there are plenty of other mistakes that can damage the device or start a fire. To choose an extreme example, if a loose wire causes a sustained short between the 600V for the CFL backlight and one of the data lines, both the USB controller and device are likely to be badly damaged. The more common case that I worry about in my designs is the risk of starting a fire by overcharging a LiPol battery (over USB or otherwise). Thus I think USB is still a reasonable example where the possibility of building and designing dangerous things hasn't resulted in a great loss of life or damage to equipment.

so i know what you mean, and chances are that we'll have to review things on a case-by-case basis and be encouraging to open hardware designers (i want them to succeed!), but we cannot risk letting it get into a free-for-all - it's simply too dangerous, and it would be irresponsible of us.

I know your intentions are good, but please consider the risks and benefits of keeping things tightly controlled. In terms of the benefits, as a designer you're certainly already aware of all the ways design mistakes or short cuts could lead to damaged equipment or serious injuries. It certainly keeps me up at night sometimes. If someone is willing to produce an unsafe product, they are likely to do so with or without EOMA, and EOMA doesn't really introduce unusual hazards like high voltage, high temperatures, high pressures, etc. Thus the chances that the EOMA patents (rather than existing liability laws) will be instrumental in saving lives or equipment is small.

In terms of the risks of keeping the patents as a sword of Damocles hanging over any EOMA projects, you end up leaving the projects dependent on the fortune and good will of a single member of the community. People grow and change, and many strong proponents of open source have been convinced to change their tune by venture capital. Even if your intentions are durable, your illness or death could leave your intellectual property in the hands of heirs or creditors who saw it as a source of capital. I know you think this will not happen to you, but as a community we've seen it happen often enough that we don't trust that it won't happen again.

remember, there's something called an "estoppel defense". if we "turn a blind eye" to an "open hardware" platform, and it gets copied and turns into a million-a-month product, and it turns out to have a hardware flaw, what then? the million-a-month company could claim "well you didn't contact the small company when they were doing 100 a month, so we don't have to pay either".

I would agree - it's in no one's best interest to have you "turn a blind eye" to people violating your license, and I think you should make sure that small open hardware projects do so along with the large ones. If the 100 a month company isn't really releasing the design according to the license, you should contact them and make sure they do so. If the million a month company isn't releasing the design according to the license, you should contact them and sue for damages if needed. The estoppel defense shouldn't cause you problems if you do this.

I think we share common values, and if you can externalize those into a properly worded perpetual open license, I'm enthusiastic about the work you're doing. If your license leaves current and future project vulnerable to the future whims of whomever has a hold of your IP, however, then I think we still don't have a solid open standard for the niche EOMA fills.

Re:Dealing with IP theft in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42254355)

and thus the truth comes out, a future payday for Mr Leighton and his 'IP'

I wouldn't touch this project with a 50ft poll.

Re:Dealing with IP theft in China (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | about a year and a half ago | (#42254421)

...my uncle (anthony pickford) who used patent law to protect against dangerous copy-cat medicines [which were killing people - literally].

I would not use patent law to protect prospective customers against a lethal machine. Even in China, building a product that kills its user is an inherently limiting prospect.

Re:Dealing with IP theft in China (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42254529)

...my uncle (anthony pickford) who used patent law to protect against dangerous copy-cat medicines [which were killing people - literally].

I would not use patent law to protect prospective customers against a lethal machine. Even in China, building a product that kills its user is an inherently limiting prospect.

yeah, in china, because our clients are State-Sponsored factories, it's their business that would be disrupted and threatened. so we just give them the name of the product, and let them go beat them up. or whatever it is that they do in china to people who kill end-users.

i mentioned this in the original post: the use of patent law (by my uncle) to track down the criminals was extremely innovative. remember that they had absolutely no idea who was supplying the killing-drugs, and the only people who would know was Customs and Excise. but they weren't telling. so they sued a random company for patent infringement that they *suspected* of importing the killing-drugs, *knowing* that they would lose, but during the pre-trial they made a "Discovery Request" to the Inland Revenue.

  they lost the case, but they then sued the Inland Revenue when the Inland Revenue refused to comply with the request. they lost that case, appealed, took it to the High Court, lost that case, appealed to the House of Lords, where my uncle was able to make a presentation and got the law changed. it's now part of UK Law that a 3rd party *must* comply with a "Discovery Request". prior to that case, there was no precedent: any 3rd party could refuse to comply.

  he was an incredible man, my uncle. very intelligent, very very angry and intolerant, but he was amazingly good at his job. of 36 changes to UK Law over the past 50 years, *EIGHTEEN* of those changes were down to him. including the modifications to the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Re:Dealing with IP theft in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253001)

How did those naughty Chinamen steal your Internet Protocol? Is this related to IPv4?

SOC release rate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42252719)

Sadly it seems like SOC development outpaces your ability to actually put it into a platform. Is this still going to continue for the foreseeable future?

Re:SOC release rate (4, Insightful)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252919)

Sadly it seems like SOC development outpaces your ability to actually put it into a platform. Is this still going to continue for the foreseeable future?

good question! this first one was always going to be the hardest. it's taken.... almost a year to eventually find all the parts and suppliers. Mid-Mount HDMI was a bitch to track down. we'll still need to do the PCMCIA casework, and so on, which will need $6k for the endplate to be modified.

once that first one is done, however, we'll not only have pre-established relationships with all the suppliers, but we'll likely already have spare stock of some of the parts, *and* have the schematics to be able to cut/paste to create the next one, and so on and so forth.

so i fully expect subsequent cards to be vaaastly quicker development time. but, even there, it depends on the level of cooperation of the SoC vendor. if they don't provide EVB schematics, we can expect the PCB development to take longer. etc. etc.

remember - this is a project which will be going for at least the next decade. we're just getting started.

Define friendly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42252745)

looking for mass-volume Factories in China and ARM processor manufacturers that are truly friendly toward Free Software (clue: there aren't any).

What does he mean by friendly? I thought the Chinese manufacturers don't care much as long as you give them money?

Re:Define friendly (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252933)

What does he mean by friendly? I thought the Chinese manufacturers don't care much as long as you give them money?

yeah. so those that don't honour the GPL, we don't give them any money. good eh?

Re:Define friendly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253101)

Doesn't apply if they are hardware manufacturers building stuff for you. Keeping the GPL part is your responsibility.

Unless they build extra units and sell/distribute them without complying to the GPL. Is that what he means by not being friendly?

Re:Define friendly (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253211)

Doesn't apply if they are hardware manufacturers building stuff for you. Keeping the GPL part is your responsibility.

it's Copyright Law: it's the license. so it's the responsibility of anyone who distributes binaries - be it the SoC vendor themselves, or the ODMs, or the factories, or the distributors, or the retailers, or you. you shift it, you agree to the license - period.

Unless they build extra units and sell/distribute them without complying to the GPL. Is that what he means by not being friendly?

yes. it's down to Copyright Law.

Re:Define friendly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253551)

If you're going to be distributing your source anyway why does it matter?

Are they really going to do extra work to change the source significantly for free? It'll just be the same as whatever you gave them to load onto the hardware.

Re:Define friendly (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253639)

If you're going to be distributing your source anyway why does it matter?

Are they really going to do extra work to change the source significantly for free? It'll just be the same as whatever you gave them to load onto the hardware.

well, yes, they [pick any hardware engineer as an example] might well want - or need - to do extra work. many of these low-cost tablets for example have USB buses. that means printers, keyboards, specially-designed hardware devices, future products not currently supported by the linux kernel, DVB-T USB dongles, 3G dongles, GNURadio products, SDR Radio dongles with that low-cost RA-Link chipset and so on. ... if you haven't got the linux kernel headers and the original kernel config, you're f*****d - you can't guarantee that any .ko modules that you compile will actually work.... that's assuming that you can gain access to the system-level in the first place.

if the driver is _really_ out-of-date wrt the version of the kernel that's on there, such that you have to do a complete and full rebuild of the kernel, you're f****d unless you have the full build toolchain and know the boot process... and in some cases now have the key which allows you to sign the kernel so that it *can* be booted.

then also what happens if the bootloader (e.g. u-boot) doesn't do what you want? for example, it doesn't boot off of the USB-to-SATA device that your customer has asked you to connect up.

so it's actually really really important to have full source code and toolchain. without them, anyone wishing to make use of all this low-cost hardware in order to set up a business or remain competitive simply... can't even consider it.

Long time contributor (-1, Offtopic)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252749)

Pah! A mere whippersnapper!

Re:Long time contributor (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252939)

ahh, these 5-figure contributors. in myyy daaay, we dreeeaamed of having a 5-figure slashdot number :)

Re:Long time contributor (1)

Phil Hands (2365) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253039)

Quite -- what do you need 5 for? ;-)

So, did you lose track of your original log-in or something Luke?

I had somehow assumed that it was you that pointed me at /. in the first place.

Re:Long time contributor (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253079)

Quite -- what do you need 5 for? ;-)

So, did you lose track of your original log-in or something Luke?

I had somehow assumed that it was you that pointed me at /. in the first place.

*lol* - bloody hell, a 4-digit slashdotter. yeah i didn't actually create a login, took me a while...

Re:Long time contributor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253037)

Yeah, I think I count six digits in his ID! Kids these days.

F/OSS-friendly ARM SoC manufacturers (3)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#42252917)

I made a "Ask Slashdot" about the topic a month or so ago hoping to raise some discussion about it, but apparently Slashdot editors didn't like the idea, possibly because I lambasted the Allwinner A10 quite clearly. To keep this comment short I'll just drop a few select quotes from the wiki pages:

Integrate G2D support for 2D acceleration, right now Mali drivers sometimes are slower than FBDEV in 2D tasks ( http://linux-sunxi.org/Mali400 [linux-sunxi.org] )

,

* No output modules support apart from cedarfb which uses raw framebuffer access (not compatible with xf86-video-mali and any other driver/device that wants to write raw at the same moment). * No support for GUI of the VLC, only command line VLC is supported * 1080p and such movies with high bitrate sometimes buffer too slow and frames are dropping. * No support for OSD because of lack of YUV420 ( http://linux-sunxi.org/VLC [linux-sunxi.org] )

, http://linux-sunxi.org/XBMC#Optimize_XBMC_for_the_Allwinner_A10_SoC_used_in_most_media_players_and_tablets [linux-sunxi.org] ,

Disadvantages Allwinner's CedarX technology and libraries:

        Allwinner's own CedarX proprietary libraries have no clear usage license, so even if the source code for some versions is available the terms-of-use is unknown in open source software.
        The Android glue code is implemented as a "media player" (parallel to Android's Stagefright multimedia framework) instead of as standard OpenMAX (OMX) components and API's.
        This "media player" has limitations when it comes to playing back content pointed to by Android URIs and some web-based content.
        There is no glue code for any other multimedia frameworks on GNU/Linux systems. The use of OpenMAX (OMX) instead would have rendered this a non-issue, with existing projects like GstOpenMAX (GStreamer OpenMAX). ( http://linux-sunxi.org/CedarX [linux-sunxi.org] )

All these things quite well show the lack of commitment and complete blindness towards all the possibilities these kinds of SoCs could enable if only the software and the licenses were up to snuff. This brings me to the question: why choose the A10 when there are SoCs that atleast support the standard way of accelerating video through OpenMAX and/or GStreamer? Who does everyone seem to use Mali-400 when it's apparently very poorly supported? Is there any manufacturer who is even PLANNING to some day do a SoC with properly maintained and supported software package -- or better yet, release the programming documents to the wild so people can implement F/OSS software packages?

Re:F/OSS-friendly ARM SoC manufacturers (3, Interesting)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253009)

All these things quite well show the lack of commitment and complete blindness towards all the possibilities these kinds of SoCs could enable if only the software and the licenses were up to snuff. This brings me to the question: why choose the A10 when there are SoCs that atleast support the standard way of accelerating video through OpenMAX and/or GStreamer? Who does everyone seem to use Mali-400 when it's apparently very poorly supported? Is there any manufacturer who is even PLANNING to some day do a SoC with properly maintained and supported software package -- or better yet, release the programming documents to the wild so people can implement F/OSS software packages?

MALI's not actually owned by ARM, afaict, it's still licensed by ARM from Mediatek. the engineers *inside* ARM have been banging on at ARM to get this resolved. the management are not listening.

why use the A10? because it's around $7.50 in very large volumes, that's why. all its competitors are around the $11 to $12 mark. the other reason is: allwinner are actually trying, within the best of their ability and understanding, to actually work with the free software community. some things they Grok, others they don't. it's challenging, but it's exciting.

Re:F/OSS-friendly ARM SoC manufacturers (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253057)

why use the A10? because it's around $7.50 in very large volumes, that's why. all its competitors are around the $11 to $12 mark. the other reason is: allwinner are actually trying, within the best of their ability and understanding, to actually work with the free software community. some things they Grok, others they don't. it's challenging, but it's exciting.

So, basically, "screw the end-users as long as we can shave $5 off the price."

Re:F/OSS-friendly ARM SoC manufacturers (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253193)

why use the A10? because it's around $7.50 in very large volumes, that's why. all its competitors are around the $11 to $12 mark. the other reason is: allwinner are actually trying, within the best of their ability and understanding, to actually work with the free software community. some things they Grok, others they don't. it's challenging, but it's exciting.

So, basically, "screw the end-users as long as we can shave $5 off the price."

*lol* - well... not exactly. if it was AMLogic for example, who screwed us over with GPL violations, then i wouldn't give a flying fuck if their processor was $5 i *still* wouldn't give them the time of day.

and the main reason for that is because if we propagate GPL-violating source code, it exposes our customers to risk of lawsuits - primary *and* secondary Copyright violations. so, we just flatly refuse to work with GPL violators, now, and that's the end of it.

Re:F/OSS-friendly ARM SoC manufacturers (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42259577)

Allwinner's own CedarX proprietary libraries have no clear usage license, so even if the source code for some versions is available the terms-of-use is unknown in open source software.

This is China, everything is "open source" :-)

Seriously though, expecting them to understand and pick an OS license is perhaps a bit much. Eventually they will probably get it but the idea just doesn't exist in China right now. I remember when I first heard about it and it took a while to realize I should be making use of the GPL or whatever, because before then people just uploaded their docs to a BBS or make a web site and put their code in a .lha file with maybe a little disclaimer if you were lucky.

What do you have against..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42252991)

starting your sentences with capital letters?

http://slashdot.org/~lkcl

I just read through your posts and I can't find one.

Re:What do you have against..... (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253063)

starting your sentences with capital letters?

http://slashdot.org/~lkcl

I just read through your posts and I can't find one.

:)

i reserve them for emphasis, articles, books and proper nouns. it's a hang-over from when i had RSI that was so bad i couldn't open jars and had to use two hands to turn the key to get into my house, back in 1996, reverse-engineering samba and not really getting paid enough to eat properly that winter. that, and i heard that because the human brain sees lower-case more often, it's easier on the eyes. so, i made a decision, and i'm sticking with it. nobody's given me a good compelling reason to change my mind: it's something i'll have to decide for myself.

Re:What do you have against..... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253367)

After all, if you're old enough, you can claim that you were taught to write this way in half-uncial and that you can't teach an ancient dog new tricks. ;-)

Re:What do you have against..... (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253575)

After all, if you're old enough, you can claim that you were taught to write this way in half-uncial and that you can't teach an ancient dog new tricks. ;-)

cool! i'll have to remember that. mmm.... wait... first look up "half-uncial"... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncial_script#Half-uncial [wikipedia.org]

ok, i get it :) naah i don't want to claim to be an "old dog" - i haven't the luxury: things are moving too fast to do that.

Re:What do you have against..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253845)

heh, me too....
except i *do* SHOUT out for emphasis 8^)

my 'reason' is pure laziness... (and -personally- i think that is a *great* reason)

*but* i also give a reason of admiration/homage for john dos passos and his archy and mehetabel (sp?) columns... ...um, except that makes me a cockroach !
*munch*munch*
i'm eating your lunch

(captcha = vomited)

art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

Re:What do you have against..... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#42254317)

it's a hang-over from when i had RSI

I knew a guy ten or fifteen years ago that had had the same problem, were you a Quake player? If so, was your in-game and internet name "crash"? I've lost track of all those guys.

Re:What do you have against..... (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42254455)

it's a hang-over from when i had RSI

I knew a guy ten or fifteen years ago that had had the same problem, were you a Quake player? If so, was your in-game and internet name "crash"? I've lost track of all those guys.

ha - no :) i was however an avid "descent" and "descent 2" player - i got some 386s and 486s, set up a network in my house and invited friends round. yes that's descent and descent 2 the *proprietary* version, not the free software version.

then i got into "dark reign", and even invented the "zombies-in-the-underground-transport" thing that ended up on the "hints and tips" because it was so successful at creating mayhem: i would go after the artillery because they had a significant latency on load-and-fire which couldn't be stopped, so they had a habit of blowing each other up and everything around them whenever one of the suicide zombies popped up in their midst.

but no - it wasn't the gaming, it was the 16 hour days doing reverse-engineering and packet analysis in cold temperatures and only being 65kg (i'm 6ft 1) that really did it.

Slashvertisements (3, Insightful)

WoOS (28173) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253007)

So first we get an report on the near completion of the EOMA board [slashdot.org] . Three months later, before it has time to prove itself (how many have been sold?), lkcl (probably Luke Leighton) gets into the limelight again with a seemingly not so well thought out proposal to build his own microcontroller [slashdot.org] . Standard quote of lkcl (paraphrased): "I don't know nothing, so I can't discuss how to overcome that well known restriction.". And now, a week later, an - bascially unannounced and unprepared - interview with this self-declared revolutionary.

All to give more spotlight to Rhombus Tech,

This is not News for nerds. This is product placement.

Re:Slashvertisements (3, Interesting)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253027)

This is not News for nerds. This is product placement.

yeah - 'innit great? ... i tell you what: you take over. if you're prepared to deal with the suppliers and the free software community and keep up-to-date with the SoC vendors and so on, knock yourself out - i'm not going to stop you.

Re:Slashvertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253227)

Open invite for hostile takeover of Rhombus Tech? Where do we sign up to bell the cat?

Re:Slashvertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42255015)

how about we don't care about your stupid endeavors. nobody is going to buy this shit, not the 1000 geeks on slashdot, not the mass market. raspberry pi already won the geek market.

Re:Slashvertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42258967)

The raspberry pi and its horrible horrible proprietary GPU driver?

The rpi was the first and took quite a share, it will pass and something else will take its place in time.

Re:Slashvertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42260315)

If you don't care you could find a different story to comment on, and the Raspberry Pi was a cheap toy for many geeks, if something better comes along that is equally cheap and better in some way I'm sure many geeks won't be stopped by already owning a Raspberry Pi.

Re:Slashvertisements (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253349)

Honestly, for me, this is the best slasvertisement yet, if so. Please send more.

I am extremely interested in these (type of) products, the development of them, and any news related to them.

Now if you want bitch about "remote desktop [slashdot.org] " to a linux server, I can agree.

But this, this is why I'm still checking.

Re:Slashvertisements (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253401)

I am extremely interested in these (type of) products, the development of them, and any news related to them.

yeah. i mean - i'm a geek / software person. what the heck am i doing getting involved in hardware? ahh... because nobody else is - not with this kind of goal in mind, anyway, and certainly not with the same business aims.

but.... regarding the processor: we have to be quick! it's not going to be long before 40nm is outdated, and 28nm is "king". 28nm NREs and the whole verification process is... costly.

Re:Slashvertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253531)

It's just more trolling. He was best summed up in the comments in his last article about the microcontroller:

"So basically you have been trolling this thread calling everybody who has pointed out flaws in the grandiose promises that you have put forth "007" in a smarmy and condescending manner while presenting zero facts to backup your arguments and contradicting yourself at every turn.

From your annoying and repetitive use of "007", do you perchance speak with a British accent? Do you appear in informercials at 2AM pushing whatever fake product of the day some insomniac can buy for $19.95? Because that's exactly how you come across in these discussions, and if you actually are associated with this project and aren't just troll then I'd highly recommend that the FSF immediately disavow this project before they end up getting sued when you make off with somebody's money."

Re:Slashvertisements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253805)

Sadly when it fails (and it will), it'll never make the frontpage because the editors love him and his lofty vapourware.

New SOC ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253093)

What can you tell us about the new SOC? I've heard that instead of a separate GPU that it contains more 3d type instructions as part of the native architecture. How long before we actually see these being produced? And which compilers are they targeting for this new instruction set?

Re:New SOC ? (3, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253167)

What can you tell us about the new SOC?

well, people have worked out that it's using ICubeCorp's design.

I've heard that instead of a separate GPU that it contains more 3d type instructions as part of the native architecture.

yes. if you're familiar with MIPS64 and/or ARC (from synopsys) and/or Tensilica's DSPs, it's more like an extended instruction set that gets "farmed off" in some cases to entirely different engines, with their own pipelines. in this case, it's a suite of engines with their own hardware threads.

How long before we actually see these being produced?

from funding to actual silicon? as we're basically doing nothing more than "take some hard macros, add them, and put it through the verification tools" i.e. there is NO development (because the core has already been done, and proven), we've set a target of 8 months.

actually what we're probably going to do is simply add USB-3 host to the existing 65nm design, bump it up to 8 cores (from 2), and then have a *separate* team design a "USB3 Peripheral IC" with SATA-III, Gigabit Ethernet and so on. even if the two wafers end up on the same chip. what's great about that is that that USB3 peripheral IC is itself a great stand-alone product, so we're talking to a couple of teams (including some open hardware designers) about how to get this done.

And which compilers are they targeting for this new instruction set?

they have a compiler expert from SGI on-board, so they've ported Open64. and it has LLVM support as well. amazingly. open64 is an entirely different compiler, but a long time ago when it was started, they took the gcc front-end GPLv2 source code and used that - just wrote a different back-end. so, for the most part, the options are pretty much identical so you can do "EXPORT CC=..." and go from there.

(something to do with the architecture, Open64 is a better choice for them than beginning from gcc's back-end).

Your English proficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253271)

Why do you seem unable to properly capitalize what you write?

Re:Your English proficiency (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253305)

this is a duplicate - here's a link to the first response: http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3308811&cid=42253063 [slashdot.org]

summary: it's a conscious decision, indicating "informality".

Re:Your English proficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42253355)

But in the real world, how you present yourself is key. This means dressing neat, being organized... and not using lowercase letters.

For the vast majority of people, the lack of capitalization is noticed immediately and reflects poorly upon you.

Re:Your English proficiency (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253369)

But in the real world, how you present yourself is key.

i know - that's why i said that when i write articles and books - "formal" writing - i use capitalisation. it's a conscious choice - one that only i can make.

Styli? (2)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253295)

How much effort is there to get things to work with touch screens enhanced with ntrig or wacom technology?
I like touch screen technology, but at some point you do really need stylus close to a real pen.

Re:Styli? (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42253351)

How much effort is there to get things to work with touch screens enhanced with ntrig or wacom technology?
I like touch screen technology, but at some point you do really need stylus close to a real pen.

oo. intriguing question. hmm, not sure i'm qualified to answer! my personal experience with wacom touchscreens has been limited to the Acer Travelmate C100, which i liked so much that when it fell to bits (i literally wore a hole through the shift key with my left fingernail for example) i bought a C112 as a replacement.

i found that it was quite easy - relatively speaking as far as being comfortable editing xorg.conf files - to set up the wacom drivers and configs etc. at the time i think they were serial devices, so there was a bit of a lag, but you got used to it.

then also i've seen someone wandering around in london victoria station with a tablet that was capacitive *and* had a stylus. i believe the stylus was set up to have the same impedance as a human, or something, but i'm sure i spotted some buttons on the side (like on the wacom electro-static styluses).

so, technically, it looks like it can be done.

Re:Styli? (1)

moonflower1 (2676307) | about a year and a half ago | (#42255005)

The system you probably saw is based on a Wacom digitizer added to a normal capacitive touchscreen. So the stylus is not using the touchscreen but a Wacom digitizer while switching of the touchscreen gesture recognition while being in use. No need to ape a human finger and thus more precise and smaller.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samsung_Galaxy_Note#Stylus [wikipedia.org]

Rhombus Tech (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42254659)

For when your rectangles are too square.

SoC GPU (2)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about a year and a half ago | (#42257277)

Hi Luke, sorry for the late questions - the timezone wasn't convenient.

You mentioned that the Mali and corresponding limadriver wasn't free enough.

Does the adreno from Qualcomm pose similar problems with regards the freedreno driver Or is it more of a problem that Qualcomm won't license it to third parties separate from their SnapDragon product?

What's the status of replicant.us on the allwinner? i.e. to what extent does the A10 solution you are developing fulfil a 'free' platform in a pragmatic sense?

Re:SoC GPU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42259033)

I'm not lkcl but,

I think the limadriver is free enough, but not done yet. Not for a while. Same for the freedreno driver.

I don't know if replicant targets the A10 at all, but while the code currently is crap, you can run a fully free system, albeit without a GPU or VPU.

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