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    MNT Reform: The Campaign is Live hardware crowdsupply.com

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    This project is really cool, I had a short play one of the earlier prototypes at FOSDEM last year and it was great. I’ve followed the project for a while and the teams dedication to open hardware is really impressive.

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      Very neat, but can we refrain from using Lobsters as a marketing and advertising channel?

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        I disagree. This - and other projects like Pine64 - are social movements, attempts to prevent a future bereft of user-repairable, user-hackable, general purpose computing.

        I think the more exposure we give them, on Lobsters and elsewhere, the better.

        Yes, it’s marketing and advertising. But it’s marketing and advertising a better future, that we can all contribute to by the act of simply buying and using a laptop.

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          Conflating conspicuous consumption with promoting the social good is one of the greatest tricks ever pulled by the capitalist.

          There is very little technical information in this post we can learn from, there is just a Buy Now and some pretty pictures.

          You have to look beyond the shiny and consider what negative impact normalizing this has on communities like Lobsters. Sure, these folks might be doing the right thing, but charlatans all appeal to a brighter future and once they get a whiff of the rubes they come.

          There is an entire industry devoted to exploiting communities like ours, let’s not make their job easier.

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            I also want to mention that while the blog post announcing that the campaign is live is relatively light on technical details, the main project page is detailed enough that some of it is beyond my understanding (I’m not a hardware guy, I don’t know what e.g. MIPI DSI is) and gives me some terms/concepts to research.

            As soapdog said, this project has been around for a while, what is new is that it’s ready for people to “buy now”.

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              All sources (KiCAD schematics, µC firmware, 3D case files) are up and freely available under various FLOSS licenses. You don’t have to buy anything from them to support the project or study the sources, learn, adapt and build your own laptop if you so desire. That’s the key difference, and companies who embrace this concept surely should be allowed to make a profit to strive forward.

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                All sources (KiCAD schematics, µC firmware, 3D case files) are up and freely available under various FLOSS licenses.

                Post links to those, or a write-up about them. I’d love that.

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                If I just posted straight politics on Lobsters, e.g. advocating for a Green New Deal, general strikes, socialist revolution, etc. I’m pretty sure people would downvote it as off-topic.

                Short of general societal change away from corporate capitalism, the vehicles we have for promoting potentially revolutionary technology require the exchange of money for goods and services. In other words, advertising opportunities for people to chip in. The alternative is that only the independently wealthy are able to work on and share ethical technology, and that is exclusionary + unethical. Ordinary people need money to live, and open source / open hardware needs to include everyone.

                Could the legal/financial structure of the MNT project be better? Possibly, I am not familiar with MNT’s structure or German law. Certainly there is room for improvement in how business is conducted in the world. We should support public benefit corporations, non-profits, worker-owned cooperatives, unions, anarchist collectives, etc. People starting a new project should consider how their legal/financial structure can systematically support ethics rather than the standard model which only understands profits. But no project will ever be perfect, and we need to support people who use conventional methods in some areas (e.g. business structure) while taking risks in other areas (e.g. open hardware). We can’t wait for the perfect world to exist before we start building a better one.

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                  That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t answer my concern.

                  How do you keep our community from being overrun by hucksters?

                  One of the things that sets Lobsters apart from places like Reddit, the orange site, and so forth is that we generally keep out shilling threads, content marketing, and the like.

                  And yes, while it’s totally fine and even laudable to support efforts like these, doing by sharing what is effectively marketing material and advertising tends to cannibalize communities like ours by turning us into a mere host channel for marketing instead of our normal content. Is there another way I can explain this to make it more clear?

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                    I’m curious - what’s your line here? A lot of interesting technical work is done by for-profit companies, and a lot of that is sold. Are we to refrain from posting anything having to do with a commercial enterprise, even open source projects? Or is it only in the case that the company in question sells services related to the project? Either way, that significantly limits a lot of discussion (of, e.g., Docker, Kubernetes, and even Ubuntu Linux) that would otherwise be definitely on topic.

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                      My sniff test is basically:

                      • Is the submission on a cup-rattling site like kickstarter, crowdsupply, indiegogo, etc? If yes, flag.
                      • Is the submission by a youngish account affiliated with the product or company? If yes, flag if they haven’t been contributing non-product related submissions to Lobsters.
                      • Is there any code or significant actionable technical information to learn from? If no, flag.
                      • Is there a call-to-action on the page to subscribe to their newsletter or pay them money? If yes, almost always flag.
                      • Is the information applicable only to customers of that product? If yes, flag.

                      I don’t have so much a problem with, say, a Cloudflare post that really digs into debugging DNS issues or something. But usually, it’s just a slick product page (see the Github/VSCode stuff or this as an example).

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                        That seems like a well-defined line, though one that does exclude a lot of content that makes it to the top of the front page pretty regularly. Might be worth having a discussion about some kind of formal definition of “advertising” that is not allowed here.

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                      How do you keep our community from being overrun by hucksters?

                      By upvoting submissions that aren’t from hucksters.

                      No snark intended there, but I’m sure that you, me, and others here can distinguish between a good open source project like this or Pine64, and a sham product produced by hucksters. We can support the former with upvotes, and downvote the latter into oblivion.

                      If we don’t have the skill and judgement to do that successfully, our community is doomed regardless of what measures we take.

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                        I think I actually understood better where you’re coming from with this comment, for some reason, so thank you for rephrasing.

                        While I don’t think that banning everything that could be considered advertising would be wise, I understand the concern that it could drive out content that lacks a profit motive. And there’s no easy answer. Discouraging or banning self-promotion is one approach, which I believe Lobsters uses to some degree, but sockpuppets, viral marketing and other tricks can get around that. At the end of the day, I think we just have to depend on:

                        • the community to submit and upvote a good mix of content, including some important projects that have commercial aspects, but not too many
                        • the community to invite good people who aren’t hucksters
                        • the mods to put a stop to bad behavior and kick bad actors

                        Going any further than that risks suppressing news about important projects that people like me want to support, and that we may not hear about elsewhere.

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                          Point of fact: this was up on the orange site an hour before it was up here, and as of the time of posting is 28 on their front page.

                          Suppressing news is exactly the point. News is the mindkiller, since it by definition is relevant only due to its novelty. There are entire industries built around news. It’s covered, don’t worry.

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                            Let me get this straight: are you saying that Lobsters posts shouldn’t include news items? I understand the sentiment, but it seems like an extreme position.

                            Someone who does not want to read the news may be better served by disconnecting from the internet and/or powering off their devices. (I took a “technology diet” for a few days at the beginning of the pandemic for precisely this reason, although I came back to an exploding inbox and was immediately stressed out again.)

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                              Yes. I am saying that I believe Lobsters posts shouldn’t include news items. I only grudgingly agree with the news-ish tags of release and event.

                              The core issue with news–its value is predicated specifically on its novelty (literally, how new it is) and not on its quality, topicality, or even base veracity. News is like catnip or potato chips, and tends to get upvotes because people want to “feel informed” or want to upvote a sympathetic headline. “Tech news” tends to bucket into:

                              • product annoucements
                              • product releases
                              • business happenings
                              • politics/culture war/drama
                              • obituaries
                              • meta coverage of other news coverage

                              Further, news articles tend to:

                              • Be written for the casual consumer (because simpler writing means broader audience, and broader audience means more eyeballs, and more eyeballs means more ad revenue)
                              • Leave out useful technical details (how many of the articles on the front page of Phoronix have code or best practices in them?)
                              • Rehash other news sources, creating games of telephone
                              • Contain other content that leads to non-technical discussions and flamewars (a news story about launching contact tracking apps might mention Trump, that in the comments section here turns into a Whole Thing)
                              • Be strictly less useful than the primary source they’re reporting on (in the case of academic work, for example, it’d be a better submission to have the original paper instead of a breathless university press release or sloppy coverage from Ars or New Scientist or whatever)

                              There are many, many sites out there that cover news well. There are not many that focus on technical discussions the way we do.

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                                its value is predicated specifically on its novelty (literally, how new it is) and not on its quality, topicality, or even base veracity

                                And yet a great deal of it has value beyond novelty. This, for instance - along with the start of the campaign came finalized production-ready KiCAD files for the mainboard, finalized 3D CAD files for the case, and some commits to their software which are undeniably technically interesting.

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                                  This, for instance - along with the start of the campaign came finalized production-ready KiCAD files for the mainboard, finalized 3D CAD files for the case, and some commits to their software which are undeniably technically interesting.

                                  If the value of the announcement comes from that, then why weren’t they linked to directly? Why force readers to dig around for them?

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                                    I don’t think it comes only from that - there are a lot of pieces of this post that are valuable to different audiences.

                                    For me, it was useful as news; I knew about MNT Reform, and knew some people who worked on it, but wasn’t following it closely. It was also useful as a sort of “release announcement” for these finalized designs.

                                    For people who weren’t aware of the MNT Reform project, it serves as a good introduction to the purpose and goals of the project. It has an interesting anecdote about how some hardware and software people got into the field, which I personally always enjoy, and it recounts the efforts of several talented engineers over the past two years.

                                    The MNT Reform is, in my opinion, a really interesting and important project. Something major changed with it recently, and it seems appropriate to link on Lobste.rs for that reason, since the last mention was six months ago, when things were very different, especially in the software department. It would be pretty weird to link to the project page without linking to this blog post, yes?

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                                  I agrew with the idea that novelty is a bad predictor of most attributes. Especially in this information overloaded world we live in.

                                  Might even be like music, there is continous selection so 80ies music is now both better than it was in the 80ies and better than what’s on the radio.

                                  However, if offers such as this one are interesting to this community the fact that they are available NOW is an important aspect and it is only interesting now.

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                        And let’s not forget the Vivaldi Tablet nor the EOMA68 Computing Devices.

                        It’d be a different story if the link was to technical documentation, rather than some Give Us All The Money page.

                        It’s very easy to promise, not so much to deliver. But fundraisers by definition do specialize in the former.

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                      I posted this because I’ve seen people here interested in ARM based machines and open hardware. Everything about MNT Reform is open hardware and software. They are trying to build an initial batch of machines by crowdfunding, a process that is well known and common for open hardware. It is actually the only viable self-bootstrapping way to create such machines, unless you’re a millionaire funding things from your own pocket.

                      I am quite tired of comments such as “this is marketing and advertising” every time someone tries to post any crowdfunding thing. Do you want open hardware? Do you want to support open hardware projects? Then you need to probably understand that crowdfunding will play a role.

                      This campaign is also the only easy way for people who are interested in such machine to get one. Building from the schematics and source code is not something easy, and will probably cost way more.

                      I posted this because 3 months ago there were well received posts in the past year and people appeared excited by it. This serves as a reminder that they can help fund it now.

                      This project aims to create a repairable, understandable and free machine for your general computing needs. Equating that with “corporate capitalism advertising practices” is wrong and completely missing the point on why it was posted.

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                        I disagree with your post entirely. For the most part, I come to lobsters to read about software and hardware.

                        This is not software or hardware - it’s basically a glorified Kickstarter campaign. If I wanted to buy/consume, I’d use another site.

                        I wouldn’t object if someone posted blog articles detailing the challenges in implementing open hardware, or design files, etc. This isn’t really that - it’s “pay us money and get a possible product” Which is kickstarter all over again.

                        You can posture about the politics of the economy all you want, but this doesn’t seem like an appropriate fit here. On HN and Reddit? Sure - people love to spend and donate to all sorts of political endeavors. This is the first time I’ve seen here a blatant kickstarter-like project. I’m happy they’re doing open hardware, but why am I seeing their store/campaign?

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                      Is there someone who can say something about the hardware regarding performance? Did someone maybe have the opportunity to try one?

                      How does the device handle modern browsing (videos, visualization, badly designed/optimized websites with lots of JS, Slack, Riot, …).

                      Also looking up the mentioned graphics card and CPU I wonder whether that means that both the one on the i.MX8M and the Vivante GC7000Lite can be used or whether I am misunderstanding something here.

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                        i.MX8 == Cortex-A53 == sadness.

                        Cortex-A72 is the minimum usable desktop CPU core. The A53 is an in-order core. It’s really, really not fast.

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                          The i.MX8MQ comes with the Vivante GPU.

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                            Thank you. Somehow I didn’t manage to find a hint of that. I always just find that it support OpenGL 3, Vulkan, etc.

                            Do you know anything regarding its performance for day to day web browsing?

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                          This is neat, but as my friend pointed out: these machines are woefully underpowered for the price point. Several years old hardware at today’s high-end laptop price.

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                            That’s a reasonable point to make. It’s also reasonable to highlight that the CPU and RAM module use a standard open-sourced SODIMM factor and are designed to be replaceable. Once we have decent RISC-V setups available, these can be manufactured and this can be swapped out.

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                            That they care about Genode support is a big highlight for me. Genode allows for the construction of operating systems with an actually decent architecture (3rd gen microkernel, multiserver, built around capabilities) and supports good microkernels (seL4).

                            However, I will play it safe and watch from the sidelines. I almost got burned with the EOMA68 Computing Devices, but a little research uncovered a history of not delivering (do look up vivaldi tablet), I played it cautious by just observing, and it turned out to be a good choice on hindsight.