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Live Interview: Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech 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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Live Interview: Luke Leighton of Rhombus Tech

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  • Re:No shit ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lkcl (517947) <> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @01:51PM (#42252863) Homepage

    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 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.

  • by lkcl (517947) <> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:05PM (#42253009) Homepage

    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:Slashvertisements (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lkcl (517947) <> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:07PM (#42253027) Homepage

    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.

If you are smart enough to know that you're not smart enough to be an Engineer, then you're in Business.