Progress with the new OpenMoko and FIC Mobility office

The final 24 hours of my current Taipei trip have started. This is a good time to reflect on what has happened in those last weeks since July 9.

As with the overall status of the project, I'm still extremely dissatisfied. The frequent reader of this blog will have noticed the last postings on this subject, full of discontent.

So the further we are into this project, the more time we put into it - the further I expect it to produce anything that I would consider reasonable results. Please don't confuse this with the commercial success, or the ability to produce working products. This is an entirely different matter.

To me, it is extremely important to do things systematically, with lots of planning, safeguards, checks, verifiable and reproducible processes, as much automatization as possible, little room for human error, etc. So as long as not everything from hardware to software development, mass production, production testing, distribution/logistics/sales, etc. follow a well-thought-through process, I will not be happy with the results. Because any such "results" are more or less the mere product of luck or randomness, and not a trustworthy basis upon which we can rely on.

So reflecting on those past weeks, I think the following things have made humble and moderate progress:

  • GTA02v2, the second prototype generation of GTA02 was finalized after many issues including unavailability of key components. I'm more than looking forward to see how it turns out
  • DebugBoard v3, the third version of the Neo1973 Debug Board was finalized and is actually also verified and can go in mass production
  • Our internal software team finally has proper leadership and guidance from somebody who is both Taiwanese and has a thorough understanding of Free Software: jserv
  • The new, second (intermediate) generation user interface was implemented and released. It's implemented mainly by O-Hand, since embarrassing as it is, we still don't yet have managed to build a proper internal software development team.
  • The first batch of Neo1973 GTA01 was sold, though with a entirely last-minute, error-prone and way-too manual process for order, payment and logistics.
  • We have found a capable sysadmin for our hosted, publicly-accessible servers. More news about that in September.
  • We have managed to find a extremely valuable senior technical person for our graphics driver and low-level UI work. This, too, will make big news in September.
  • The FiWin (FIC wireless networks) company, home to the team working on the it-exists-but-nobody-publicly-knows-what-it-is HXD8, was merged into OpenMoko and FIC Mobility
  • We have finalized the specification for the workstations of our software developers. It's incredibly complex to find something that's compliant with our requirements (mainboard with Intel 945/965 on-board graphics, Ethernet chip != attansic/realtek, dual core CPU with 2x2048kByte cache) in Taiwan. So now our developers will all get a Q6600 CPU (what nonsense!). I've tested it, and it compiles the GTA01 kernel in 1.59minutes. Guess they'll be happy about that.
  • Realize how many things really are fundamentally wrong internally. What we knew so far about our inheritance was just the beginning ;)

One major thing that finally started to move forward, with something like four to six weeks of completely unnecessary delays, is the new office. After it was decided that we will split FIC MCBU into the independent OpenMoko, Inc. and FIC Mobility (aka Mobile Communications), we also decided to move into bigger, scalable and independent offices.

To our big luck, two thirds of the 7th floor in the FIC headquarters were currently unused, and they're now undergoing quite a bit of renovation and reconstruction. Walls have been removed and brought in, floors have been properly removed and new ones laid - after days of fighting by Sean and myself.

The networking and phone cables get a major overhaul and will be tested. I've also seen the AC for the new OpenMoko server room being brought in. The contract for our own Internet plink has been finalized. The fiber will be put in place within the next week. The core switches have been configured, but we're still fighting very hard to get those damn 10Bit XFP transceivers from Dell.

So the current schedule is to move on August 17, one day after I'll be back from Germany. If that works out, I could spend the weekend 18/19 for doing the final network/server/router/firewall/... configuration.

Obviously, all of this causes quite significant resource drainage for everyone involved. But it's a more than necessary step forward to building an environment that we can actually work in. An environment where our developers have real Internet access, can join IRC channels, and can get in touch with the OpenMoko community without the obstacle of strange corporate policies. An environment where we can have a 'clean start', even in the most literal meaning of the word :)

So all in all, bear with us, have patience. The revolution might take significantly longer than anticipated. But we're still busy doing whatever it takes to get us to the product that the OpenMoko core team set out to build.