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Handhelds KDE Open Source Hardware

Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead 71

Posted by timothy
from the sad-news dept.
sfcrazy (1542989) writes "It's a sad day for free software as one of the most ambitious free software projects, Improv, is officially dead. Along with the board also dies the promising Vivaldi tablet [video intro]. The developers have sent out emails to the backers of the project that they are pulling plugs on these. The end of the Improv project also means a disappointing end to the KDE Tablet project, as Aaron Seigo was funding both projects out of his own pocket (almost exactly $200,000 spent)."
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Improv Project, Vivaldi Tablet Officially Dead

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The cause for the death is not mentioned in the summary, so I'm adding it here. The article says that the reason for the project failing was that "there was simply not enough support to make the project work, despite having fully functional, production ready devices and a strong commitment to succeed".
    • by tomhath (637240)
      Looks like it was a pretty cool product, but it targeted a small and already crowded niche market with shoestring funding. So yea, cut their losses and move on to something else.
      • And yet, people still trot out OpenPandora from time to time. I guess Improv forgot their deal with the devil, or something...

  • GNU/Linux systems just can't seem to get a foothold in the consumer market.

    Android/Linux does, iOS/BSD does, Microsoft even and hold on and get some share, mostly threw force of deep pockets.

    I applaud the idea of trying to get a White box type of tablet. However form factor is a major concern, with tablets and mobile devices. Trying to make a White Box with many ports makes it heavier and bulkier.

    • by tepples (727027)
      Then make a tablet with only USB host, USB device (separate to allow charging while acting as a host), audio, microSD, and Thunderbolt (which should cover everything else). Or is Thunderbolt too power-hungry for a tablet?
      • >Then make a tablet with only USB host, USB device (separate to allow charging while acting as a host), audio, microSD, >and Thunderbolt (which should cover everything else). Or is Thunderbolt too power-hungry for a tablet?

        Thunderbolt seems like overkill for a tablet, but a separate USB host socket in addition to the charging port is a great idea, and an SD slot is crucial in a tablet.
    • Of course, that had nothing to do with anything.

      These didn't even make it to market, due to lack luster funding and enthusiasim. Looks like aprox: $200,000 was spent. That's not nearly enought to get volumes of good parts. The proposed tablet was old when it was announced, as was the dev board.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @01:05PM (#47361387) Homepage

      "GNU/Linux systems just can't seem to get a foothold in the consumer market."

      Actually almost 100% of homes in the USA have GNU/Linux systems. Their TV, Their Bluray Players all run Linux. Tons of consumer devices run linux in homes.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @01:37PM (#47361685) Journal

      Linux is to Android what Linux is to TiVo, it was cheaper to snatch the kernel than write their own, the rest, including the idea of FOSS (look up on Ars the excellent article about Android going proprietary Google is pulling a EEE on Android) they didn't want.

      So to make your sentence accurate it should read, Google does, Apple does, Microsoft does, which explains it all...money, money, and money. The public has shown repeatedly they don't give even a single fuck about walled gardens or openness, hence the runaway success of iPad, so if the ONLY feature you can tout over the other guy is "freedom"? You are fucking dead, or like OpenPandora on life support.

      • ...it was cheaper to snatch the kernel than write their own...

        Never mind that attempting to write and use their own kernel would amount to suicide by stupidity.

        • It seems to have worked out pretty well for that other big company that makes phones.
          • by dimeglio (456244)
            Apple borrowed BSD for iOS, Microsoft borrowed Digital VMS for NT, Google borrowed Linux for Android, and Blackberry borrowed QNX for BBOS. Unless I missed some other big company, looks like no one really started from scratch.
  • KDE, Canonical, and GNOME have all made this huge push into stupid design decisions lately. Canonical with Ubuntu Phone/Tablet and Mir, GNOME with GNOME 3 and treating the desktop like a tablet, Mozilla with FirefoxOS, and KDE with this sort of stuff.

    You know what I want out of an open source desktop? A DESKTOP! Seriously. I need a good desktop environment for my COMPUTER where I do actual work. I can't write code on a tablet. I can't write papers on a tablet. I can't do serious design work (anywhere, becau

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      KDE does give you a desktop! And thanks to plasma, other options, but no one took your precious desktop.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        KDE gives us a desktop! Yes! But it also gives us nepomuk, baloo, akonadi, virtuoso... KDE has so much useless bloat on it.

        • Nonsense. No one forces you to use the multimedia applications if you dont want to. I do want to be able to watch a video on KDE, and actually have something where you can do things with multimedia. I don't see how this in any way affects your ability to do whatever you do. The comment made was about the desktop metaphor being abandoned by Unity etc. Multimedia applications work well with a desktop based UI are not opposed to it. KDE does still provide a desktop metaphor. If you don't like the high level of

        • by Etzos (3726819)

          KDE gives us a desktop! Yes! But it also gives us nepomuk, baloo, akonadi, virtuoso... KDE has so much useless bloat on it.

          Baloo has replaced both nepomuk and virtuoso and is far more slim (both code-wise, memory-wise, and CPU usage-wise). And really it's one of the nicest things to have around if you just want to find something fast. Calling something like that (which is providing a feature which every other major desktop has) bloat seems like a bit of a stretch.

          Akonadi isn't really bloat either. It's required to have a truly semantic desktop. Now, that may not be for everyone, but it helps provide a smoother experience fo

        • KDE gives us a desktop! Yes! But it also gives us nepomuk, baloo, akonadi, virtuoso... KDE has so much useless bloat on it.

          No, you are wrong... these things are not useless, they are worse than useless. Each of these fails harder than any stupid kde design mistake has ever failed before. Speaking as a KDE user.

      • They took my email program.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The Free Software world has tried [and failed] time, and time again to produce a decent mobile interface. For its day, GPE was not too horrible, but it was nothing but a copy of other GUIs.

      Android has the first new GUI in ages worth a crap. And it's got plenty of faults.

      Everybody wants to be as cool as android. Keep trying, I guess.

    • Use Mate Desktop or Cinnamon Desktop they both have been aiming for a sane attractive traditional desktop environment ever since Gnome went nuts. Then there is e17, lxde, just open your repository there are far more that i cant remember the names of.

  • It's a sad day for free software as one of the most ambitious free software projects, Improv, is officially dead.

    How is an "open hardware development board" (how hard would it have been to weave that into the summary, by the way?) a "free software project"?

  • Hardware is hard (Score:5, Informative)

    by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @12:48PM (#47361241) Journal

    Hardware is hard. Good hardware is harder.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Read "hard" as "Expensive as Hell"

      • Re:Hardware is hard (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @01:10PM (#47361435) Journal

        Read "hard" as "Expensive as Hell"

        That is part of it yes. It requires a wide range of differently experienced people: low level software, high level software, circuit design, assembly, layout, component sourcing, factory liasion, DFt, Manufacturing etc.

        Then you need to get them all to work together. And you have to pay them.

        The component cost is irrelevant until you get into high volume manufacture.

        • by lkcl (517947)

          Read "hard" as "Expensive as Hell"

          That is part of it yes. It requires a wide range of differently experienced people: low level software, high level software, circuit design, assembly, layout, component sourcing, factory liasion, DFt, Manufacturing etc.

          Then you need to get them all to work together. And you have to pay them.

          ... ynow... one of the reasons i came up with the idea to design mass-volume hardware that would be eco and libre friendly was because, after having developed the experience to deal with both low-level software and high-level software, and having done some circuit design at both school and university, i figured that the rest should not be too hard to learn... or manage.

          you wanna know the absolute toughest part [apart from managing people?] it's the component sourcing. maan, is that tough. if you w

          • I agree. A lot of parts that people may think are easy to get are actually locked up in supplier agreements to mass manufacturers. If you want 3 million next year, thats ok. But 10 this week, no chance.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Not to mention - did you design your product for your anticipated volumes?

          If you plan to sell 10,000 of them, you need to THINK about 10,000 units. What parts to order, can you even get them in 10,000 quantities, and will you get the requisite support? I mean, if you're planning 10,000 units, you need to also make sure that the vendors are willing to support you by getting you the information you need.

          A while back, in the Tegra 2 days, nVidia will NOT talk to anyone with less than 1M units. It doesn't matte

    • Hardware is hard. Good hardware is harder.

      Yeh, IMO were not going to see a really serious open hardware till some really nasty DRM/Trusted computing evil comes along and turns peoples minds to it.

      • >till some really nasty DRM/Trusted computing evil

        DRM is evil, but trusted computing is a tool. It is no more evil than the user.

    • You keeep using that word . . . I do not think it means what you think it meanz . . .

      hawk

  • Open hardware sounds cool, but as others have noted, good hardware design is both difficult and expensive. Considering how rapidly the components advance (CPU/SoC, I/O, displays, etc.), it would be hard for a small shop trying to live up to competing demands of "quick to market," "affordable to produce," "doable without a larger company's backing" to compete seriously against the likes of, say, Google's partners. Of note, even Google outsources the hardware.

    But then there's the software. What does a "generi

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      For several of android tablets there are some working linux distributions (that may or not have working all hardware), even without counting ubuntu touch. But the point on that tablet was that it had open hardware too, ubuntu touch solves the drivers problem taking directly the manufacturer's android drivers, so closed hardware also leads to closed source running there too, with potential backdoors (like the ones found in samsung devices [replicant.us]) builtin.
    • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @03:01PM (#47362605) Homepage

      Open hardware sounds cool, but as others have noted, good hardware design is both difficult and expensive. Considering how rapidly the components advance (CPU/SoC, I/O, displays, etc.),

      aaaah gotcha! that's the _whole_ reason why i designed the long-term modular standards, so that products *can* be split around the arms race of CPU/SoC on the one hand and battery life / display etc. on the other.

      and the factory that we are in touch with (the big one), they _love_ this concept, because the one thing that you might not be aware of is that even the big guys cannot react fast enough nowadays.

      imagine what it would mean to them to be able to buy HUGE numbers of CPUs (and related components), drop them into a little module that they KNOW is going to work across every single product that conforms to the long-term standard. in 6 months time there will be a faster SoC, more memory, less power, but that's ok, because *right now* they can get better discounts on the SoC that's available *now*.

      on the other side of the interface, imagine what it would mean to them that they could buy the exact same components for a base unit for well... three to five years (or until something better came along or some component went end-of-life)?

      it took them a while, but they _loved_ the idea. the problem is: as a PRC State-Sponsored company they are *prohibited* from doing anything other than following the rules... i can't tell you what those rules are: they're confidential, but it meant that we had to find other... creative ways to get the designs made.

      We're in a world where a first generation Nexus 7 tablet sells for $140 or less. At Walmart.

      yeah. now that prices are dropping, just like the PC price wars, the profits are becoming so small that the manufacturers are getting alarmed (or just dropping out of the market entirely). those people are now looking for something else. they're willing to try something that might get them a profit. what should we tell them?

      anyway: thank you for your post, darylb, it provides a very useful starting point for some of the key insights i want to get across to people.

    • It was an opportunity to monetize KDE through hardware sales and Mr Seigo seems to have sunk his own savings into the venture.

      Whether KDE has the resources to refocus on porting to existing devices such as Nexus, Galaxy Note and Surface Pro tablets remains to be seen.

  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @02:45PM (#47362451) Homepage

    short version: the plan is to carry on, using the lessons learned to
    try again, with a crowd-funding campaign that is transparent. please
    keep an eye on the mailing list, i will also post here on slashdot
    when it begins.

    http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipe... [phcomp.co.uk]

    long version:

    this has been a hugely ambitious venture, i think henrik's post explains much:
    http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipe... [phcomp.co.uk]

    the - extremely ambitious - goal set by me is to solve a huge range of
    issues, the heart of which is to create environmentally-conscious
    mass-volume appliances that software libre developers are *directly*
    involved in at every step of the way.

    so, not to be disparaging to any project past or future, but this isn't
    "another beagleboard", or "another raspberry pi beater": it's a way to
    help the average person *own* their computer appliances and save
    money over the long term. software libre developers are invited
    to help make that happen.

    by "own" we mean "proper copyright compliance, no locked boot
    loaders and a thriving software libre environment that they can
    walk straight into to help them do what they want with *their*
    device... if they want to".

    the actual OS installed on the appliance will be one that is
    relevant for that appliance, be it ChromeOS, Android, even
    Windows or MacOSX. regardless of the pre-installed OS, the
    products i am or will be involved in *will* be ones that Software
    Libre Developers would be proud to own and would recommend
    even to the average person.

    by "saving money over the long term" we mean "the device is
    split into two around a stable long-term standard
    with a thriving second-hand market on each side, with new
    CPU Cards coming along as well as new products as well.
    buy one CPU Card and one product, it'll be a little bit more
    expensive than a monolithic non-upgradeable product,
    but buy two and you save 30% because you only need
    one CPU Card. break the base unit and instead of the whole
    product becoming land-fill you just have to replace the base,
    you can transfer not just the applications and data but
    the *entire computer*".

    it was the environmental modular aspects as well as
    the committment to free software *and* the desire to reach
    mass-volume levels that attracted aaron to the Rhombus Tech
    project.

    perhaps unsurprisingly - and i take responsibility for this - the
    details of the above did not translate well into the Improv
    launch. the reason i can say that is because even henrik,
    who has been helping out and a member of the arm netbooks
    mailing list for quite some time, *still* has not fully grasped
    the full impact of the technical details behind the standards

    (hi henrik, how are ya, thank you very very much for helping
    with the boot of the first A10 / A20 CPU card, your post on
    the mailing list last week was very helpful because it shows
    that i still have a long way to go to get the message across
    in a short concise way).

    the level of logical deduction, the details that need to be taken
    into account, the number of processors whose full specifications
    must be known in order to make a decent long-term stable
    standard.... many people i know reading that sentence will think i
    am some sort of self-promoting egotistical dick but i can tell you
    right now you *don't* want to be holding in your head the
    kinds of mind-numbing details needed to design a long-term
    mass-volume computing standard. it's fun... but only in a
    masochistic sort of way!

    anyway. i did say long, so i have an excuse, but to get to the
    point: now that the money is being returned, we can start again
    with a new campaign - using a crowdfunding site that shows
    numbers, and starts with a lower target (250) that offers more value
    for that same amount of money to everyone involved as various
    stretch goals (500, 1,000, 2500) are achieved. these will include
    casework, FCC Certification, OS images prepared and, most
    importantly as far as i am concerned, one of the stretch goals
    i feel should be a substantial donation to the KDE Team in
    recognition of the help - through some tough lessons if we are
    honest - that they have given, as well as the financial outlay
    that they've put forward because they believed in what we're
    doing.

    i'd like to hear people's thoughts and advice, here, because this
    really is an exceptionally ambitious project that no commercial
    company let alone a software-libre group would ever consider,
    precisely because it requires a merging of *both* commercial
    aspects *and* software libre principles and ethics. the
    environmental angle and long-term financial savings are what
    sells it to the end-users though.

  • Improv may be axed but other projects still need money, so if you like free software, donate! http://www.kde.org/fundraisers... [kde.org] https://www.kickstarter.com/pr... [kickstarter.com]
    • by oever (233119)

      I hope this will get the same following as the fairphone did. That project was a good success and has built a user base to grow from. It's especially jarring to great projects like vivaldi fail when government regularly throw away hundreds of millions on failed ict projects.

  • It's sad to hear this but it's exactly what I predicted 2 years ago. I even provided an alternative that would work: use an "Android Core" as the base operating system, instead of Mer Linux, then port KDE to this "Android Core":

    http://www.elpauer.org/2012/09... [elpauer.org]

    Interestingly, this is exactly what Digia did for Qt, with the Boot to Qt (AKA Qt Enterprise Embedded) solution, a while after I made my proposal.

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