First, thank you to everyone who has shown support thus far for the Talos™ project, and those who have helped spread the word while patiently waiting for the campaign to launch. Your efforts have helped Talos™ reach this critical phase and we are looking forward to achieving full funding.
However, the campaign has just begun, and there is a still long way to go! We have received a significant amount of feedback over the first 48 hours, and have noted several common themes which will be addressed below.
We received a lot of requests for a mid-range, preassembled system less fully loaded than the limited edition $18,000 custom workstation. We listened, and have added a “Talos™ Desktop Edition” machine to our lineup! At $7,500 USD (CPU sold separately, but we’ll install it for you), the desktop edition is significantly less expensive but retains great computing power and flexibility. It is perfectly suited to anyone not able to fully utilize the high-end workstation-class GPU and SAS storage array of the complete, high-end Talos™ Secure Workstation. As always, the Talos™ mainboard respects your freedom and the Talos™ Desktop Edition is no exception.
Another often-made request is for a less expensive mainboard. Unfortunately, as laid out in the presentation entitled “Talos™, OpenPOWER™, and the World Beyond x86” (see below), this is not possible due to a lack of silicon vendor support. Any offerings in a less expensive bracket require that you sacrifice either basic freedoms or raw computing power. In the latter case most such machines fall into the “retrocomputing” realm, only able to handle basic Web browsing and similar consumer-oriented tasks.
Scanning various forums, there seems to be some surprise that a fully loaded workstation with 256 GB RAM, SAS, and a high-end workstation-class GPU retails for $18,000. We would like to point out that the majority of the cost of that machine is in the non-Talos™ / POWER8 components, and that exchanging the Talos™ mainboard and CPU for an Intel® workstation mainboard and Xeon® CPU in a similar performance class would not only severely restrict your freedom, but would only reduce the cost of the assembled machine by a few thousand dollars. The FirePro GPU alone retails for $3,000, and Xeon® CPUs in the same performance class as POWER8 retail at a higher, not lower, cost. Finally, the high-end Talos™ machine is a limited-edition run that includes a customized case, and is aimed at those who want to own a unique, yet fully functional, conversation starter for libre-friendly hardware and the power of open source.
There is no machine like Talos™ in existence, anywhere. The world has already entered the final stages of the computing lockdown predicted over a decade ago. When you purchase a consumer-class machine, you have zero control over the always-on, highly privileged, increasinly network-enabled firmware installed on that machine. Already, there are scandals around manufacturers abusing this high level of privilege to install persistent malware on machines sold to consumers, or simply leave the door open for someone else to do so. We can reasonably expect criminal actors have or will figure out similar methods to compromise these machines without the owner ever being aware. Talos™ represents a unique opportunity to reverse this dangerous trend.
However, consumers have grown accustomed to “inexpensive” hardware whose price doesn’t factor in planned obsolescence or the value of the privacy and security they are giving up. As such, the Talos™ machines may present a bit of sticker shock. Talos™ respects your freedom and does not force you to upgrade every other year to work around security vulnerabilities or other anti-features purposefully introduced to drive new machine sales. With these factors in mind, Talos™ suddenly seems like a bargain. Furthermore, in constant dollars, Talos™ is actually less expensive than similar products from before the computing lockdown.
While POWER9 is a very interesting processor and a worthy successor to POWER8, it will not be shipping in any volume until late 2017 at the earliest, which means machines designed for POWER9 won’t be available until then. Furthermore, the pricing on these new products is expected to be high due to the brand new technologies in them, and ecosystem support will likely be minimal at release. We do not see POWER9 as a direct threat to the POWER8 Talos™ systems at this time, and if the POWER8 Talos™ systems are funded we have every intention to create a POWER9 Talos II™ for release in 2018.
If the POWER8 Talos™ is not funded, the only choice for affordable, secure desktop computing will center around ARM offerings which are currently less powerful than x86 machines from 10 years ago, and are completely useless for developing the modern software our society has grown reliant upon. We hope you will join us in the quest for a better future. As grandiose as it may sound, the future of libre software may well depend on it. Here’s what you can do right now:
Help us keep general purpose computing open, and allow future generations the privilege of true self-directed innovation by supporting Talos™! Please don’t hesitate to give us your feedback or ask questions.