After an unfortunate stint of contract work, I'm back in Taiwan. A test production run of 100 units EOMA68-A20 Card is planned. All components for the Micro Desktop have arrived. Mike is checking deliveries made to the factory over the past few months to ensure that all components for the EOMA68-A20 Card have also arrived.
I was doing some contract work in order to earn money, and it massively interfered with my ability to deliver. I will be very forthright in this update. The summary is: I am in a lot of distress.
The money that was raised during the crowdfunding portion of the Crowd Supply campaign and transferred from the US to China just before the US election is sufficient to complete the manufacturing of the Micro Desktop v1.7 and the EOMA68-A20 v2.7.5, and nothing else. Therefore, I have been forced into a position of finding contract work, and the only work that claimed to be ethical was for a company based in Belgium. Given that Mike needed time to purchase components, I figured this was a reasonable decision.
So, I dropped absolutely everything, cancelled the return flight back to Taipei and came direct from IIT Madras, Chennai, with one small suitcase, to help them out. No equipment, no winter clothing, no phone, no means of transport, very little cash, and was expected to pay European-cost-level accommodation up-front, flights and massively-expensive living costs basically on a credit card which I share with my partner (living in a completely different timezone on the other side of the world) and have absolutely no way of telling if it's going to run out or not, from one day to the next.
In the background, Mike kindly sent over a pre-production prototype for both the Micro Desktop and the v2.7.5 Card, by DHL, as there were minor increases in the size of the v2.7.5 PCB that absolutely needed to be checked. DHL of course do not provide a way to pay customs duty, except by contacting them by phone, which I did not have, as you cannot get a SIM Card in Belgium without showing a Belgian Passport. The delivery came through after three weeks, when I was in Spain. On returning to Belgium, finally, after checking that they assemble correctly, we now had to double-check if they work (that an OS boots up), and of course I had absolutely no equipment in Belgium whatsoever in order to do that. No soldering iron, no UART, no PSU, not even a microSD card on which to put an OS, as that was all back in Taipei, in the special box that I keep with all the OSes.
So, whilst 100% full-time distracted by contract work, I had to instruct Mike - in a completely different timezone and over chat messages - how to set up a test environment back in the factory in Shenzhen. This would have taken several weeks. Luckily, after talking with people on the mailing list, Arsejis of the ZeroPhone project very kindly offered to send me a soldering iron, some wire, and a USB-UART, in Belgium. Really, really appreciated.
Regarding the contract work I was doing, I don't believe I'd ever done work for a company that meant so well, yet the reality, despite their good intentions, turned out to be so starkly different, where the engineers are massively disillusioned and completely paralysed (there's no unit tests as "there isn't time to write any"), and they are too afraid to do anything in case it is wasted, and do not receive clear instructions anyway. Experienced engineers, including myself, had been telling them what needs to change: they're ignored (or a "justification" given without an opportunity to make their point). It was not fun; I don't recommend it.
So, if you have been wondering why I have been quiet on the mailing lists, it's because I'd been doing 12+ hour days, sustained, for several weeks. Here's the thing: I now run every decision that I make by the Bill of Ethics. It's very clear: to help someone to do something unethical is itself, by definition, unethical. The company's leadership were unresponsive to efforts to resolve highly unethical behaviour that was causing severe harm to employees. The only remaining action available to me was to cease all work. This happened extremely quickly, so I was not able to take advantage of Arsenij's kind offer of assistance with equipment.
Given the fiasco above, you can see why it is critically important to help continue to fund this project. My partner tells me that she hasn't seen as many donations from TransferWise, recently, and whilst Liberapay are transitioning to a new payment provider, it's still very, very important.
As mentioned earlier, there's enough money from the crowdfunding portion of the campaign to cover the Micro Desktop and EOMA68-A20 cards, but nothing else. Of course, there's also a significant amount of money that has built up from pre-orders since the crowdfunding ended. Per Crowd Supply policy, and as it should be, those pre-order funds won't be released until crowdfunding pledges have been filled. Once released, those funds will go a long way toward manufacturing other items.
The test run of 100 test EOMA68-A20 cards is a critical next step. If it goes well, the remaining 900 will soon follow. However, I won't know an exact delivery date until the test run passes. Obviously, the current expected delivery date of November 1, 2018 is not going to be met. For now, I'm setting the date three months further out, but intend to let everyone know a revised date as soon as there are results from the test run. As always, thank you for your patience and support in this long quest to truly free computing.