This update sheds some light on the complexities of this entire project, summarises the status of the main portions of the project, and announces our travel plans.
We got a great question from a backer, which summarised as, "what’s going on, I thought you had everything 100% ready to go straight into production?" to which the short answer is, in effect, "So I believed!"
The more comprehensive and more accurate answer is: there’s a very sensible cross-industry rule brought in about five years ago into tech-based crowdfunding which I bitched like mad about when it first came in, and it’s that tech projects really need to have a 100% working prototype before going ahead. I remember laughing (in horror) with one battery supplier about a successfully funded Indiegogo project of around $USD 1m where their head-wearable device had not been fully prototyped. They were asking the battery company to give them a battery that was 10 times smaller than the laws of physics and chemistry permit, given that they had chosen (and put into production already!) an ultra-powerful (i.e., power-hungry) 2 GHz quad-core Cortex A15 processor. The only way to fulfill the promised battery life would have been to ask backers to strap a small brick to the side of their heads. That or choose to put up with a five MINUTE battery-life. And this is a 100% successfully-funded $USD 1 million project! The point being: they didn’t do a 100% functional test prior to putting the campaign up on Indiegogo, and none of the backers questioned their technical expertise.
So that’s why I made damn sure I tested everything [in the **one** prototype of each product…] before saying to Crowd Supply, "OK, we can go ahead." The key here is: one prototype Micro-desktop, Laptop, and EOMA68-A20 Card. In other words, it was just a coincidence the 3.3 V power lines from the A20 were just about properly matched with the Micro-desktop’s 3.3 V power line, enough to not cause a current-fight over who gets to drive the microSD card.
Getting a prototype out the door is just one of many, many tasks: now you have to make absolutely sure that absolutely every single one of the components is available, orderable, orderable by you, orderable in sample quantities, orderable in production quantities, orderable in a reasonable amount of time, fits into the case… the list just goes on and on. And it’s not like software: you can’t just make a single simple change and re-test within seconds: a single mistake can mean going back round an eight week redesign loop, and that’s basically what’s been happening for the past few months: I had no idea that the reverse mid-mount Amphenol HDMI connector had gone end-of-life.
Basically this is a huge logistics exercise more than it is actual development: active development of the items ended a long, long time ago. I was aware of what would be involved in getting into production: through these detailed updates you’re also seeing that process as well as getting some insights into what’s involved and what to expect if you ever wanted to do your own tech-based crowdfunding campaign.
Quick status summary of various sub-projects:
some sample 128 MB TSOP-48 NAND ICs tracked down. The fact these ICs have been marked by Toshiba as not recommended for new designs drives home the point about the A20 running out of time.
has been sent for pre-production prototyping as well. This was necessary in order to resolve power-supply fight between the Micro-Desktop and the EOMA68-A20.
be copied cut/paste style to the 15" Laptop PCB1 and that will be pre-production prototyped as well.
We’re now in Zhuhai again - long enough to pack up - and will be back in Taiwan around the beginning of April. As mentioned in a previous update, prototype PCBs were removed from our luggage at Hong Kong customs. We will be collecting them on the morning of March 29th on our return to Taiwan. We’ll be staying in Taiwan for at least a year, as it represents the best location in the world at the moment to complete the goals that have been set.
As always, if you would like to see what’s going on "as it happens," rather than through these updates, and also would like the opportunity to engage (and help out), do join the arm-netbooks mailing list.