A reconfigurable Linux computer that connects to the real world: ARM + FPGA + Wi-Fi + 180 I/O

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Aug 05, 2016

Project update 21 of 60

Manufacturing Timelines

Hello snickerdoodlers,

I usually write these updates in the ‘plural’ first person (i.e. we/us), however that wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the team in this case.

The lack of recent communication with you – our backers, contributors, community members, and friends – falls solely on my shoulders…and for that, I am sorry. It simply isn’t right to keep the people who’ve believed in us, supported us, and made this project possible in the dark. And, as with everything in life (and in life itself): the journey, not the destination, is what really matters.

The honest truth is, unbearable workload aside, it simply isn’t mentally or emotionally easy summarizing and sharing things with all of you that I already know you don’t want to hear. Every day that passes knowing we haven’t delivered on what we promised hurts more than it did the day before. And while the rest of the team and I continue to relentlessly pour our entire minds, bodies, hearts, and souls into this endeavor, it somehow never quite seems to be enough.

But every day I wake up determined and energized to do everything I can to accomplish what we set out to do. Each seemingly insignificant task contributes to a greater effort in ways that are often invisible at the time they’re being worked on, but that – in hindsight – play a critical role in the project’s success. And knowing in the back of my mind that there are people out there relying on, depending on, and expecting performance and greatness from us keeps me driven to pursue excellence in everything I do.

As far as updates go, here is where things stand:

snickerdoodle – As you can probably imagine, this has been by far the most difficult item to coordinate, and is the main reason I didn’t send an update (much) earlier, as I was hoping…and hoping…and hoping the day would come when I could 100% commit to a build/delivery schedule. Without going into a ton of detail on every single component issue we’ve had to work through, that day has arrived…sort of.

The snickerdoodle pre-production & production schedule is as follows (with parenthetical commentary):

8/5 – krtkl checks snickerdoodle Rev 4 .eco files (production snickerdoodles will start at Revision 4)

8/6 – krtkl regenerates gerber files, orders Valor DFM from CM (we could bypass the DFM check and “roll the dice,” but at this point it’s not worth saving the extra few days and dollars to risk something going horribly wrong with the fabs and potentially derailing everything – or, worse yet, having an issue slip through the cracks, only to emerge later when there are thousands of units in the field)

8/8-8/10 – Valor DFM engineering

8/11 – Response and corrections on Layout per Valor DFM report

8/12 – krtkl formally releases final snickerdoodle Rev 4 files and orders fab from CM

8/15-9/9 – Offshore PCB fabrication time - 1500x snickerdoodle Rev 4 fabs (note: we are working through a domestic/local CM to have the PCBs fabricated offshore and assembled onshore in order to mitigate as many potential quality issues as possible while still making it economically practical to deliver flawless hardware in a timely fashion)

9/12 – Release #1 kits arrive at CM (2x distributors, 2x manufacturer direct – sounds easy enough, but orchestrating this has been nothing short of a complete circus act)

9/12-9/15 – PCB shipping time, part kits built at CM

9/19 – Release #2 kits arrive at CM (2x distributors, 2x manufacturer direct)

9/26 – Release #3 kits arrive at CM (2x distributors, 2x manufacturer direct)

9/30 – 500pc release #1 of snickerdoodle assemblies

10/7 – 500pc release #2 of snickerdoodle assemblies

10/14 – 500pc release #3 of snickerdoodle assemblies

Per the above schedule, fulfillment of the first production snickerdoodle production units is scheduled for the END OF SEPTEMBER.

One important note: We are still awaiting final confirmation on delivery of a component that – if not delivered on time – could send the entire production schedule up in flames. This is now 100% my personal responsibility and I’m doing everything I can to work around issues with logistics, pricing, politics, corporate vacations, and 20 other “areas of concern” to make sure this doesn’t grind everything to a halt. I fully expect a resolution to this sometime next week.

Some additional notes on snickerdoodle… Going forward, we are planning on making the “entry level” snickerdoodle $65 with 1GB of RAM by default. In addition to simplifying support, the supply chain, production, pricing, etc., this has proven to be the most popular configuration from day one. Additional notes on forward-looking pricing can be found further down in the update.

Anyone who was ‘fortunate enough’ to snag a $55 snickerdoodle during the campaign will receive a free upgrade to 1GB. Also, anyone who ordered a “mutt” snickerdoodle configuration (i.e. anyone with a 7020) will receive a free upgrade to snickerdoodle black.

Of course, being our cornerstone technology/product and the gateway to the entire snickerdoodle ecosystem, we will continue to work on driving the “entry price” down over time. This will obviously be helped by higher sales volumes, as we plan to pass along the benefits of economies of scale to those ordering any number of snickerdoodles – whether it be 1 unit, or 100,000.

The “app” – As promised, our entire ethos with snickerdoodle was to make highly advanced technology easy to use, and the app plays a central role in that plan. After getting some great feedback from our Alpha group regarding connectivity and the “out of the box” experience, we’ve made some significant leaps with the iOS app (Android still to come…) and the native interface for getting your snickerdoodle online in as little time and with as little effort as possible. We’ll be releasing a Beta of the app shortly. There are some screen shots at the end of this update and we’ll be posting a video of the app’s functionality on our YouTube Channel in the near future.

This is – and will continue to be – an ongoing effort and I will keep everyone updated on how things are progressing, new functionality/features being added, etc.

breakyBreaky – This one is pretty straightforward. We aren’t expecting any issues with production or parts here, just a matter of getting all the appropriate orders in at the right time/s.

piSmasher – piSmasher is a little trickier… It was our original plan to have a small batch of these assembled sometime in April/early May (the fabs have been ready for a while). However, with attention being given to all the other areas – along with difficulties acquiring several parts in the BOM – things have slipped quite a bit. We just received confirmation back today that the final parts required for the ‘alpha’ build will be arriving ~8/19, meaning we’ll have the first units assembled by ~8/26. Unfortunately, we don’t have a final production schedule nailed down quite yet (at least not with the equivalent level of detail as snickerdoodle’s)…but we’re going as fast as we can.

Right now we have enough parts and fabs to build 100 units – although we’re starting with 10 to make sure everything “works.” One idea we’re tossing around for piSmasher customers: to minimize delivery delays, we may start by getting these first ~100 units out “right away” as part of a piSmasher Alpha program of sorts, along with an option for people to receive snickerdoodles & other components ahead of their piSmashers if they want to cover the extra shipping costs.

We’ll have to see how things progress in the coming weeks before making a final call on that.

giggleBits – This is a tricky one. Due to less than expected demand (I believe ~80 units had been preordered last time I checked) – as well as questions raised by both actual and potential giggleBits backers around its architectural design – giggleBits has unfortunately taken a bit of a ‘back seat’ to everything else. We do not currently have a firm delivery schedule for this product.

If you are a giggleBits backer – or even in you aren’t because it’s missing X, you don’t like how we did Y, etc. – please do reach out and let us know, either directly or via the forum. Likewise, if you have a particular project or product in mind that could use a specific/custom version of this kind of baseboard, I’m happy to discuss it with you.

cookieJar – Not a whole lot has been done on this since the original design, but we should be able to deliver these without too much of an issue. I will add this as an action item for myself over the next week or two to evaluate our options; if this gets screwed up, blame me.

I don’t believe we’ve posted the solid models of this on GitHub as of yet, so perhaps that would get more people interested/solicit some additional feedback…?

copperHead – We’ve already had the molds and first articles produced for the heat sinks – and they look great! I’ll throw an image from the manufacturer onto the end of the post. I expect to receive first articles next week and there shouldn’t be any issues with having enough units to fulfill all our orders (snickerdoodle blacks + standalone heat sinks).

microSD cards – These just need to be ordered and flashed, although we’re looking for a more efficient way to get these processed, as the current procedure is very hands-on and burdensome. Either way, we don’t foresee any issues here.

Jumpers – You wouldn’t expect this to be a problem, but alas… The pins and housings for the 0.1” end of these things have been nearly impossible to acquire on a reasonable timeframe, with lead times of 10 weeks+ being pretty typical. We’re working with the distributor and manufacturer to get these expedited, at which point we’ll be sending them to (another) CM to have them assembled and kitted. It would be pretty stupid/infuriating for such a seemingly simple component to delay the delivery of an otherwise rather sophisticated/complex product, but I’ll keep everyone up to speed on what’s going on here.

Housings & Headers – Aside from nailing down pre-kitted sets of these (to match the number required for full snickerdoodle sets), these are straightforward and available within a couple weeks. No issues foreseen.

T-shirts – Are we still doing t-shirts? I think there were a grand total of 5 ordered before we took them down. We’ll either refund people’s money for these or finish them “when we get around to it”… We certainly appreciate the ‘krtkl pride,’ we’re just a tad busy right now.

Post-campaign pricing – We’re in the process of doing a thorough analysis of our long-term pricing strategy. Pricing for any existing products ordered through Crowd Supply – or via PO/direct purchase – will, of course, be honored until they are changed on the site; the one potential exception being giggleBits, depending on which direction that product ends up going (if things do change, you are always entitled to a dollar-for-dollar refund or credit towards other products or whatever giggleBits “turns into”).

If you’re considering ordering any of the below items in the near future, or if you’re “on the fence,” you may wish to lock them in now. Keep in mind that CS pricing includes domestic/US shipping (so the “real” price of snickerdoodle is \$65 + \$7 shipping), which will be broken out in the future.

To set general expectations:

breakyBreaky and piSmasher pricing will be increasing to accommodate for retail/distribution margins. The exact increase is still TBD but it won’t be anything “crazy” (like 2x).

So that’s it. If you’ve gotten this far… NO, we aren’t giving up. That’s not what we do. We set out to do something, and we are going to do it. You will (eventually) get your snickerdoodle/s. And we will (eventually) build a massive community around snickerdoodle and everything it stands for.

We’ve been told by just about everyone you can imagine – and in every way and for every reason possible – that this isn’t going to work or that we should just give up and do something else…you know, like any reasonable people would have done a long time ago.

Yes, there are 1,000 other things we could be doing that would be WAY less grueling, require WAY less time and sacrifice, and would probably result in eating something other than stale peanut butter sandwiches, soggy salads, and pasta day in and day out. But we’re dedicated to making the possibilities behind what we’ve created as accessible and useable to as many people as possible: makers and hackers, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, kids and grownups, inventors and tinkerers, artists and dreamers, engineers and students, middle schools and high schools, colleges and universities, amateurs and professionals, startups and corporations, researchers and developers…basically anyone who is ambitious and courageous enough to take crazy ideas and use them to build great, world-changing products and projects.

If we could give snickerdoodle away, we would. And frankly, absent some massive government grant, manufacturer subsidy, or altruistic/do-good investor, it simply isn’t possible to get any closer to “giving it away” than where we are right now. Along those lines, I’m still struggling with why it hasn’t been more successful than it has. Is it:

Inadequate exposure/promotion/publicity?
Lack of an existing user base?
Seemingly too complex/complicated?
General absence of “obvious” applications/use cases (i.e. “What do/would I do with this thing?”)?
No confidence that three random guys nobody has ever heard of will actually deliver?
Lack of general and/or ‘next-day’ availability?
The fact that it’s (still) a crowdfunding campaign?
Some combination/all of the above??
Something else entirely??

Whatever the case, and regardless of the absence of overnight “success” (and that things never going as planned), sometimes you can just feel deep down in your gut that you’re truly onto something and that it’s all going to work out – the real test is whether or not you have the intestinal fortitude to stick with it and “stay alive” long enough to see things play out.

In closing, I can’t thank you all enough for the endless support and patience. Going forward I will be sure to send out an update every two weeks until we ship/start shipping, keeping you abreast of any and all new progress, updates, changes, accomplishments, and hiccups.

Even after we (finally) deliver snickerdoodle to the world, we’ll continue to need everyone’s help to spread the word if we’re going to build the thriving community you all expect and deserve. It’s going to be a wild ride and I look forward to taking this crazy journey with you – both the good parts and the bad.

We won’t let you down.

Until next time…

Yours truly,

Ryan Cousins
CEO, krtkl inc.

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