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Re: Debian GNU/Linux on tablet hardware

On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 6:50 PM, Rob van der Hoeven
<robvanderhoeven@ziggo.nl> wrote:

> The FreedomBox project is looking for very cheap hardware. This hardware
> exists today, but it is used for running Android. It would be very nice
> if we could liberate this hardware and use it for our own computing.

 rob - i don't know if you're aware but the conversations with these
factories typically go like this, usually with at least a 48-hour
delay due to timezone differences.

 so the alternative is this: is $15 (in mass-volume) for a device with
a 1ghz Cortex A8 considered sufficiently cheap?

 if "yes" then i am willing to help carry out the negotiations - for
zero monetary up-front cost (because i can get a royalty on hardware
products sold outside of the People's Republic of China) - in order to
_get_ the full GPL Source Code for the device.

  for zero up-front cost i will get you what you seek.  full GPL
compliant source code.  1ghz Cortex A8 device which will be around the
$15 mark, FOB, in large volumes.

 if enough people say "yes, sure, if you manage to pull that off, i'll
place an order for X units at non-mass-volume pricing of $NN", where
NN is likely to be... guessing here (i'll get the factory to confirm
it)... $60 for the first 100 units, then i can move things forward.

 i apologise for the apparent complexity but the alternative is "cash
up-front".  this is at least a way that i can negotiate a "no money
down" deal.  not least because the hard part is not the hardware, it's
the software [which i can handle if there's nobody else volunteering].

anyway, if you're feeling particularly masochistic, feel free to read
on further, to gain some insight into how discussions with factories
in china actually end up going, and why.  please feel free to skip it.

@begin illustration of insane discussions with factory X

[day 1] Q: we would like to buy a sample of your product
[day 3] A: thank you!  here is our bank account details.
[day 10] Q: thank you!  we have received the sample by DHL.  where is
the GPL source code?
[day 12] A: we do not know what you are talking about, sorry
[day 14] Q: linux kernel.  u-boot.  tool-chain.  you know.  you
developed the software, yes?
[day 16] A: sorry, we really do not know.  let us get back to you.

at this point, they go off and contact their ODM, who were the *real*
people who developed the software, but they don't tell you or even
admit that.  when they do "answer", it is actually an answer from the
ODM (!) but relayed via the factory to make them "look competent".
the delays are them talking behind the scenes to the ODM...

[day 25] Q: sorry we did not receive a response.
[day 27] A: apologies, yes, we cannot give you the GPL source code.
[day 29] Q: huh?  i do not understand.  here is the GPL license.  read it!
[day 31] A: sorry, we do not know.  let us get back to you.

further discussions occur whilst they talk to the ODM.  the factory
and the ODM agree a "strategy" to basically tell you to f*** off,
without actually saying "f*** off".  we're now a full month since the
first contact, and the end is *nowhere near* in sight.

[day 32] Q: sorry we did not receive a response.
[day 34] A: apologies, yes, we can only give you the source code if
you order 10,000 units
[day 36] Q: wtf?? did you actually _read_ the GPL??
[day 38] A: sorry, it is not our problem
[day 40] Q: yes it is - would you like me to alert gpl-violations.org?
[day 42] A: apologies - let us get back to you

now, depending on whether you choose the strategy of being carrot or
stick, you can sometimes threaten them to the point where they will
give you the name of the ODM.  sometimes this works, sometimes it

[day 50] Q: sorry, we did not receive a response
[day 52] A: apologies, no we cannot comply with your request.  please
place an order.
[day 54] Q: are you mad??  we're not going to place an order without
the source code!!!
[day 56] A: sorry but ...

and this is where things begin to degenerate.  what the situation is,
we are guessing, is that the factory hasn't actually received the
source code... at all!  and, worse, they negotiated a deal where the
GPL source code was in fact ***SOLD*** to them, on a royalty basis.

thus, the f**** little w****** at the f***** ODM ***** software
company won't _give_ the factory the GPL source code until the factory
has paid them their royalties!

and _that_ means that the factory has to sell at least 10,000 units in
order to get enough profit in order to pay the ODM in order to get the
f*****g source code which they should have f*****g well been given in
the first place.

the only factory who actually sent me the GPL source code got into
deep shit with the ODM _and_ the SoC company for quotes violating the
NDA quotes which is really funny because both the ODM and the SoC
company actually lost the right to distribute that very same source
code _to_ the factory because of the conflicts with the GPL!

hilarious in a sort of "only a geek who knows the GPL" kind of way...

anyway, enough of that.  thank god.

@end illustration of insane discussions with factories

ok, so you skipped it, or can still read whilst manic-laughing
hysterically.  this is why i have been working extremely hard to
negotiate with factories to provide *them* in advance with the
required linux software.

as an example: can you see why it is so utterly utterly critical, to
e.g. the success of the FreedomBox Foundation's goals, that the tables
are turned, and we (Free Software Community plural we) supply *the
factories* with the GPL-compliant Software, rather than letting a
GPL-violating third party somewhere in China do it?

for these chinese "software developer" companies, i've mentioned it
before but it's worth reiterating: they are actually in a very
unstable situation, because the moment their employees finish on one
project, they quit and go and get a job elsewhere for 3x the salary!

the actual number of software developers in china is too low to go
round all the ODMs that want to employ them.  so, once a product goes
end-of-life, you're REALLY in the shit because the developer didn't
take backups, or nobody knows where the backups are, and their only
answer is "well, tough - go buy the next product, that old one is
rubbish now anyway, here's our list of fees and royalties".

it's an insane situation - i'm offering Free Software Developers a
"way out" of this insanity.


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