Candidate at FunkyPrize the Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook project

On the 29th December 2017 we submitted our project “Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook” to the Italian “FunkyPrize”. Funkyprize is an award established in 2014 in memory of Marco Zamperini, an Italian professor that knew how to push the younger generations to an informed and cutting edge use of new technologies. The FunkyPrize aims to help filling the gap created by its premature disappearance, encouraging those who intend to pursue its mission, for a more mature, aware and widespread use of the Internet in Italy, and for developing the potential of the Internet as a tool for improving the quality of life and creating new forms of participation in the social and economic life of the country.


Guidelines that constitute the “Manifesto” of FunkyPrize.

Digital must improve people’s lives
Digital is connection, exchange and cooperation
Exchange and cooperation generate innovation
Innovation is creative use of what already exists
Digital is here and now

Below you may find the submitted text.

Activity description:

We are in the process of building an ethical purchasing group aimed at commissioning a notebook based on the PowerPC platform. The design will be Open Hardware compliant as much as possible, and the notebook will support Linux natively.

The choice of a small and local producer for making this notebook is both an ethical and forced choice, as on the Italian territory it was the only PowerPC experienced company matching our criteria based on the paradigms of an economy based on the human beings and not on a pure financial gain. We strongly feels that where you can find passion and cooperation making money is not the reference value, and for the selected company it is enough to gain just a little margin, solely aimed at maintaining the company running.

The community that is shaping around this project is much more than a classical ethical purchasing group as, in addition to collecting the necessary fundings for producing the notebook, is actively contributing to making possible that GNU/Linux and other operating systems will be fully supported.

The choice of the PowerPC platform is justified by an interesting technological situation: PowerPC CPUs that are produced today have good computational power with regards to the power consumption, they are well supported by the Linux kernel, and many Linux distribution supports the PowerPC architecture. The biggest challenge is a total lack of visibility, as the biggest information technology firms do not use PowerPC in their mainstream products, resulting in the general public completely ignoring their existence. Just count the number of companies, association and groups dealing with the -now mainstream- ARM platform: there is way too much competition in this field, and surely there is no need for new supporters.

Our community is aimed at advertising the notebook project in order to build a group enough big to be able to actually realize the project.


Social media:

Why we think our project is near the FunkyPrize Manifesto

We are building a vast group spread over the 5 continents, a group of creative people having a very heterogeneous background and knowledge and that is willing to collaborate for a common goal: designing and building a notebook  following the Open Hardware philosophy. This is a courageous project, some say a little bit crazy, a project that little or nothing has to share with strict market principles followed by mainstream firms.

Having people spread in the world collaborating on a voluntary basis was made possible by a shared vision: everyone can contribute its own knowledge and competence, share views and experience with others to reach the goal of building a notebook perfectly suiting IT enthusiasts that see in the Open Hardware a viable path for innovating. Altogether we learn the pleasure of discovering al technological aspects that are precluded to the general public when buying a ready-made off-the-shelf notebook, and discovering at the same time the pleasure of sharing such experience and pushing for a virtuous behaviour that has generosity at its core.

In the community there are people taking care of carefully selecting the most suitable hardware components that are well supported by the Linux kernel, and that will guarantee -as much as possible- a resulting open project. There are also people designing a suitable netbook chassis that will not change every six months, others that are taking care of translating into multiple languages posts and texts published on the website, and people taking care of advertising activities on various social media, and others that stimulate discussion and bring life into task-based sub-groups. Other are working on the software side, contributing in keeping the PowerPC ported softwares updated and preparing how-to guides describing how to install Linux on a PowerPC hardware. Others contribute financially to the project, currently focusing on supporting the engineer that is designing the electrical schematics of the motherboard.

All involved people contribute for what they can, having all in mind that their contribution will be preserved, shared and why not, extended by others.

This self-built community of enthusiasts was first established around the PowerPC notebook website built using wordpress, its mailing lists and a series of questionnaires built using limesurvey used to extend step-by-step the number of people involved.

We present on the social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and for working we rely very much on Slack, and some mailing lists. We periodically organize meetings on IRC, and when we need to have voice meetings, we use tools such as Skype, Hangouts, Meet and Zoom, and we rely a lot on the Google Docs platform for preparing documents and presentations.

For what it concerns the 3D modelling of the notebook chassis, we are mainly exploring the use of Blender and FreeCad, as well as tools such as FormZ, or the fascinating online modelling tool Clara, that allows for multiple users to interact with the same model in real time.

For the modeling of electrical diagrams the designer uses Orcad (there is KiCad as open source software for designing electrical diagrams and pcb, you can only partially import Orcad projects)

Overall, the centre of our activities is focused on interacting constructively with human beings. For us the primary goal is treating ourselves, ensuring that passion -our real fuel- will guide the project, a passion that shall always be rewarded.

Also those activities aimed at collecting the necessary fundings for the professional design of the motherboard schematics is managed following the above-mentioned approach, the same will goes for the interaction with the relations with the produced and the engineer: all participants are constantly stimulated for their passion. Only for a small number of activities for which there is no alternative we rely on commercial, proprietary, closed solutions, such as the forced use of PayPal for managing the donations.

All around these activities we founded a not-for-profit organization that has subscribers for the 5 continents and that is called Power Progress Community that has today legal head office in the town of Rozzano, nearby Milan, Italy.

Our recipe for innovation is a very much close mixture of research, design and development, where every interested member may actively contribute. All solutions should share an Open Hardware approach, a philosophy where electrical circuits are modifiable, reparable, and where hardware parts are managed by closed source drivers, and that sees on the GNU/Linux kernel a reference.

For every activity we try to engage with other associations and projects that are able to understand and share our approach, trying to receive and implement all advices and complementary visions that may enrich our solutions and attitude.

We do not take decisions based on the usual market paradigm where earning is the driving force: we do not want to build a blazing-fast notebook packed with eye candy solutions, we are trying to innovate instead a vision and we use the most suitable solutions to achieve it.

It is of fundamental importance for us to produce following the best possible working conditions for the people in the production line, and the carefully selected Italian producer is willing to follow this path. Once the design and production schematics will be made openly and freely available on the Internet, we will push for letting our experience fully shared, contributing in lowering the producing barriers, thus allowing more and more producers to -possibly- start new production batch, even allowing them to modify and further customize their products, all-in-all hopefully leading to new jobs.

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