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authorsn0wmonster <>2017-07-19 20:18:43 +0200
committerTomasz Kramkowski <>2017-07-19 20:31:34 +0200
commit1b8a8be2f5651e958e4d54ecf58a95ac1de0e8a3 (patch)
parentddaf991d1bfd5203adf2b07bb420a27bcfd5c555 (diff)
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. [ commitmsg] Signed-off-by: Tomasz Kramkowski <>
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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
+My handle is `sn0wmonster`. Some might know me as the founder of
+[`Taskhive`]( 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:// in `#neo900`
+## What has been completed so far?
+We updated and released the
+[`proto_v2` whitepaper in January 2017](
+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](
+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
+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.