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authorsn0wmonster <skifree.snowmonster@riseup.net>2017-07-19 18:18:43 (GMT)
committerTomasz Kramkowski <tk@the-tk.com>2017-07-19 18:31:34 (GMT)
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July 2017 News Update
sn0wmonster's debut news entry. Uses "weekly news" class because it's the most commonly used column style class. Not sure what "disco" is. [tk@the-tk.com: commitmsg] Signed-off-by: Tomasz Kramkowski <tk@the-tk.com>
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+Title: Is it time for privacy yet?
+Date: 2017-07-18
+Category: news
+Author: sn0wmonster
+Slug: neo900-update-2017-07-18
+Tags: update, proto_v2, layouts
+body_params: class="weekly news"
+
+Moving forward on layouts for `proto v2`! Migrated to
+`KiCad`! [introducing our new communications officer sn0wmonster]
+{: .lead :}
+
+
+## Is it time for privacy yet?
+
+What do you do when you realize software solutions to closed hardware
+problems don't work? Do you settle for the illusion of privacy? Do
+you sink deeper in sunk costs fallacy and find ways to defend the
+corporations?
+
+My handle is `sn0wmonster`. Some might know me as the founder of
+[`Taskhive`](https://taskhive.io). It's a decentralized, freedom and
+privacy focused freelancer marketplace. It's an experimental software and
+network solution to a social problem. The irony is not lost on me that
+secure software is only as good as the hardware its run on. I concede that
+as far as revolutions go, there is no greater or more important cause
+than that of the fight for open source hardware. Without it, our tools
+of sharing can easily become twisted as weapons against us. Skynet wins.
+
+As far as hardware solutions go, the Neo900 will never be a
+state-of-the-art mobile gaming machine. Nor a bitcoin mining rig. It
+is not designed to artificially restrict itself and require scheduled
+replacement. It is, however, a practical solution to a difficult to
+solve problem.
+
+When I stumbled upon the Neo900 project, it caught my attention by
+promising a basic freedom we all deserve. It promised us the right of
+control of what our devices do. For over a decade, we've waited for a
+proper GNU/Linux hand-held to materialize. We continue to be marketed
+lipstick on a pig as a legitimate solution. Closed-source firmware blobs
+running Android chroot can not be called open any more than a scooter
+can be called a hoverboard.
+
+You can imagine how ecstatic I was to find a true cyberpunk project of
+this nature: taking a system designed to control us, and hacking it up
+to empower us. It's hard not to be a little excited; the Neo900 is what
+hacking is all about.
+
+It goes without saying that the Neo900 project is a first of its
+kind. From its developers it demands focus, constant re-education, and
+an absolute obsession for details. It's not something I felt comfortable
+passively watching from a distance, merely hoping it succeeded. I knew
+I had to get involved somehow. For me, the best way I can do my part is
+to help provide news and announcements to the community at large. I've
+stepped in officially to do so.
+
+I encourage everyone else to find a way to do their part as well, to lend
+a hand -- or a coin -- to seeing this project through to its end. If
+you're not sure what you can do to help, just ask! You can find us on
+[`irc.freenode.net`](irc://irc.freenode.net) in `#neo900`
+
+
+## What has been completed so far?
+
+We updated and released the
+[`proto_v2` whitepaper in January 2017](https://neo900.org/stuff/papers/v2.pdf).
+We will use this design for the new layout. It's essentially the Neo900
+with its brain outside of its body: a `BeagleBoard_xM` that shares
+an identical processor. This makes it easier to work on and minimizes
+failure of `OMAP` integration. It also provides a working testbed and
+development board for our community software developers (`freemangordon`,
+`Pali`, and `parazyd`, to name a few).
+
+We migrated from `Eagle` to `KiCad`. This wasn't easy and it took some
+time to get right. The resulting freedom and more reliable future-proof
+production environment was definitely worth the time invested. Migration
+involved redesigning the schematics (i.e. circuit diagrams) in KiCad
+(thanks `Werner` and `Joerg`!) based on the original Eagle schematics
+made by `Nikolaus`.
+
+To facilitate the migration to KiCad, Werner developed a very nice (read:
+legendary) tool called `eeshow`. It facilitates cooperative concurrent
+schematics design under KiCad. Thanks `Werner`!
+
+We moved from the KiCad footprint editor to `fped`, where `ceene`
+designed our footprints for use in the layouts. Thanks `ceene`!
+
+We use git and eeshow to facilitate collaborative editing. The KiCad
+project files are stored directly in the project git and accessed directly
+with eeshow.
+
+We sourced all the N900 units for the Neo900 pre-orders.
+
+We contracted with a layout technician who will be using KiCad.
+
+
+## What held us back so far?
+
+Long time supporters will remember one of the original project
+co-founders, Nikolaus of GolDeliCo, was originally set to provide the
+layouts using Eagle EDA CAD. Eagle however is only up to that task with
+Nikolaus' own router extension plug-ins written for MacOS. This was not
+optimal, but alternatives seemed less appropriate at the time. Things were
+on schedule and moving along quite nicely. That is, until PayPal reminded
+all of us why they are a poor choice for donations and pre-orders,
+with a surprise account freeze (now luckily solved).
+
+Prolonged illiquidity from Paypal and Nikolaus assigning all available
+timeslots to his other project Pyra, ultimately ended in Nikolaus exiting
+the project for a lack of available time. At this point we were forced
+to reassess our options. We didn't have the proper tools to continue with
+Eagle, which presented a daunting challenge that would involve a complete
+migration to KiCad instead. Thankfully, not only did we accomplish this
+migration successfully, but it turned out to be the right decision,
+evading a pay-to-play change in business models introduced by Autodesk's
+acquisition of Cadsoft-Eagle.
+
+After ages of searching for and negotiating with several
+layout technicians, we've finally contracted with the
+[LNAFIN company](https://www.lnafin.com/figs/LNAFIN-RF-MMIC-PCB-Design.pdf)
+for the `proto_v2` layout engineering. As it turns out, the agreed
+contract was more beneficial than expected: the CEO of LNAFIN is
+interested in supporting open source endeavors. That translates to
+a better deal for us. Critically important, they also support KiCad,
+which is arguably difficult to find. Thanks to `ravelo` for arranging
+the introduction with LNAFIN.
+
+
+## How are the funds holding up?
+
+All pre-orders and kickstarters carry with them that ominous chance of
+failure, but we're proud to say that the current funding is sufficient
+to take us through to assembly and testing of `proto_v2`. Once it is
+sufficiently tested and ready, a kickstarter will be formed to fund
+the necessary production numbers for the final run to production. No
+one wants this to succeed more than we do, and great sacrifices have
+already been made to ensure funds are used appropriately.
+
+
+## What to expect next?
+
+We plan to build up to a dozen of the `proto_v2` units for
+further testing, eventually opening the kickstarter campaign for
+`proto_v3`. Prototype v3 - with luck and absence of Murphy - will be
+identical to the "mass produced" final version.
+
+Testing of `proto_v2` will likely reveal some minor bugs that will be
+fixed before moving on to `proto_v3`, utilizing the already tried and true
+`BB-xM/GTA04` CPU_et_al core.
+
+Expect regular news updates and announcements from here on out care of
+`sn0wmonster`.
+
+Thank you all for continuing to make the Neo900 possible, and please know
+that the fight isn't over yet. When the time comes, we'll need your help
+again, and will continue to use it sparingly.