Jul 11, 2014, Sebastian Krzyszkowiak
This is the second part of our set of three news articles - "The Past", "The Present" and "The Future".
With the much needed reorganization already finished, the technical work can continue. Let's sum up what's the current status of the Neo900 project.
Neo900 UG (haftungsbeschraenkt), a German limited liability company, is the single responsible entity to run the project. Now after Werner Almesberger joined, the Neo900 core team consists of Werner, Sebastian and Joerg.
Golden Delicious Computers announced that they are willing to do subcontractor work for Neo900 UG, which is the way the project's R&D will work from now on. The core team is in close communication with Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller of GDC to define details of the next prototype.
Approximating from the number of donors, we're right now at around 160 devices secured to build. We take 200 devices as a safe threshold where production becomes feasible, so we're still not past this point. However, there are still a lot of donors who haven't responded yet to GDC regarding the fate of their donation. If you happen to be one of them and you still want a Neo900, please check our page for GDC donors. Don't worry, we will take the original date of donation into account, even for those who received a refund from GDC and transfer that to the Neo900 UG from their own account, so all promised benefits of early donation will still hold.
We are quite certain that we will eventually pass the 200 devices threshold, but there is something else to keep in mind: we now have to begin ordering "risky" components. Risky components are those that are hard to find and/or no longer manufactured and we need to secure them early, in order to avoid nasty surprises later. We will use the number of 100EUR+ donations as guide for how many components we should purchase. These purchases will begin very soon - already in the next days.
If we end up needing more of these components, we will of course try to order them later, but please bear in mind that this may mean "much later" since we also have to take things like volume pricing and minimum order quantities into account, and there is thus an increased risk that we may then no longer be able to obtain what we want.
We would therefore ask you, if you think that you will want to order a NeoN replacement board or a full Neo900 device in the future and have not donated 100EUR+ yet, to consider doing so as soon as possible, so that we can take you into account for our planning.
We have worked hard to streamline the donation process for newcomers as well. Now, as an alternative to IBAN/SEPA bank transfers, you can transfer your donation via PayPal. We're also still investigating the possibilities to offer other payment options.
Werner sure loves diagrams, creating one after another since he joined the team. One of them is describing the desired final architecture of the Neo900 and it is one of our most important and fundamental reference documents. It will be used for example as a reference when creating resp finishing the schematics and layout of the v2 prototype. We will also use it to plan tests and related tasks. Please note that this document is dynamic and will reflect changes to details of the design as they are made.
Click to enlarge. See also Werner's post on TMO
The prototype v2 - which is currently under development with a large part of its specification and schematics already finished - is supposed to be a properly functioning and almost complete Neo900 phone. Almost, because we're going to use an external board (like the BeagleBoard) as its "brain" with power supply chip, CPU, memory, and storage. This way we'll be able to reduce the expense for PCB and components while it already allows us to test most of peripherals, like LCD and dual-touch touchscreen, LED controllers, all sensors, Bluetooth and WiFi module, modem, N900 antennas, etc. And it's also going to already contain most of our unique solutions designed to protect the privacy of the user!
One of the most popular topics associated with Neo900 is the privacy. We have noticed during the past months that our ideas on modem monitoring and mitigation of potential threats from inevitable closed firmware are actually the most discussed aspects of the project - which isn't surprising after lots of recent news on the topic in a post-Snowden era.
We started with the simple idea of providing a new device for the Openmoko/OpenPhoenux and Maemo communities using the N900 case, and things like modem isolation and control over its power just being natural features in our specification - but since then, those aspects became increasingly defining for the project. Now Neo900 is not only a "N900 successor" - Neo900 is also a device with unique privacy guard features built-in on a hardware level. The phone that watches over your privacy.
Further redesign of our website will shift the focus towards privacy even more, exposing more details about our planned solutions and describing the scenarios where (and how) Neo900 protects the user. Meanwhile, see the slides from Sebastian's talk, where we already partially covered this topic.
To read more details about our plans for the future, stay tuned for the last part of this trilogy coming soon. And don't forget to follow our microblog for real time updates!
The Neo900 project aims to provide a successor of N900 Nokia Internet Tablet™ device, with faster CPU, more RAM and LTE modem, basing efforts on an already existing, mature and stable free platform - the OpenPhoenux GTA04, following the spirit of freedom known from Openmoko devices.