In speaking with people on the mailing lists and various forums, we’re getting a lot of questions from people new to the EOMA68 concept. After answering Nick’s questions about how to set up ultra-low-power servers using EOMA68 Computer Cards, he had these kind words to say:
Thanks for your help. I ordered
- Libre Tea Computer Card
- Micro Desktop Housing for Computer Card
I’ve never even seen this board, so why did I order?
I’ve already got a few SBCs here that aren’t quite right. This new computer card is a compact board, with a great specification at a reasonable price. And I’m looking forward to feeling the benefit of these improvements over other SBCs.
- FSF certification. That means a lot of people a lot smarter than me have checked the system. I can expect it to just work.
- The card housing. I can put this in my pocket, without ripping bits off the motherboard.
- That PCMCIA socket. That’s so easy to use - all you got to do is push it in and pull it out.
And of course, it can run my favorite Linux distros.
Thanks for putting together such a great product.
We also have someone who is considering pledging for one of the PFY laptop housings, even though he’s a novice to GNU/Linux OSs in general, he’s read about the hassle-free aspects of Trisquel and libre computing, and would like to give it a go. What’s clear from the questions and answers is that there are several people - complete strangers to both him and to me - willing to help him out and walk him through the evaluation process, give him tips on strategies to use to make his life easier, and to point him in the direction of where he will be able to get ongoing help. We see this a lot in the libre software world, that people are willing to go out of their way to help others make their lives easier when it comes to computers.
I’ve been doing this for years and I have to admit: I don’t really fully understand why, as a world-wide community, we do this for such a long time without really being properly financially compensated for it. Put bluntly and simply: If the world-wide libre software community were actually run as a business, it would have failed decades ago because of the disconnect between the libre licenses and the standard way of receiving software: "contract of sale." With libre software licenses you are actively not permitted under the terms of the license to charge for it! (Update 20 July 2016: As has been pointed out to us, this is in fact false! See the end of this update for a more complete explanation.) You can however charge for putting it on a CD or USB stick, but that’s different and in no way equal to the value of the work actually done. It’s all very odd.
This is the primary reason why the EOMA68 project was started, so that it would be possible for people to sell hardware and to be financially rewarded for doing so. Hardware does require that there be a fair and equitable exchange: hardware costs money to make; factories have to be paid, it’s really that simple. It just so happens that the software pre-installed on it will be hassle-free, and that people will get all the other benefits as well - a great community that supports each other, long-term cost saving because of the easy hardware upgrading, and many more.
As always, given that the factories need to be paid upfront, if you’d like us to be able to go down this path of providing people with hassle-free, long-term cost-saving computers, help us get there by spreading the word and backing the project.
It was kindly pointed out to us that the GPL does allow you to charge money. However, let’s think this through in the context of a capitalist, selfish market where prices are always driven to zero. The original copyright holders on the very first release of GPL software would, thanks to the fact that the software is not available on the market, be in a position to entice ("invitation to treat") people to pay money under a "Contract of Sale."
However the moment the software is released for freely-available download (even if it’s that first release) the incentive to pay is utterly gone. "Why would you pay for something that’s monetarily-zero-cost" is the question in people’s minds that only has an answer in the context of the severe OpenSSL and Bash vulnerabilities we were hit by only very recently, but for those who do not do due diligence on their risk analysis, the answer is always, "We don’t have to pay anything! It’s free!"
Thus, despite the important distinction having kindly been pointed out to us, for which we’re really grateful, the reality is, sadly, that it doesn’t matter. Therefore the original logical and rational conclusion - to move to selling hardware as the only reliable way to fund the software, but more importantly to make sure that the original intent of the GPL is properly respected and achieved. Which we know for a fact that right now it’s not.