[Tinkerphones] kite

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Mon Apr 23 23:13:25 CEST 2018

On Monday 23. April 2018 18.35.43 H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
> > Am 23.04.2018 um 15:48 schrieb Belisko Marek <marek.belisko at gmail.com>:
> > 
> > Just found this now, looks like interesting idea but I'm not sure if
> > they get ~1M$ ;):
> > 
> > https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2070436562/kite

If people have to read the very long sales pitch to be convinced, then they 
won't raise their $1M. ;-)


> I am also a little doubtful about reaching the goal. The only unique thing
> seems to be the DIY aspect and they have some interesting ideas for
> extensions.

And even then, you have things like the "Other Half" stuff on the Jolla phone 
and also the Hackerbus stuff on the Neo900. The second Fairphone is modular to 
a degree and presumably allows DIY enhancements, although it is probably only 
as modular as GTA02/GTA04 in practice, thinking about the extras that can be 
added to the latter devices.

> But I wonder who would want a kit that is completed in 5 minutes just to
> get another Android device?

It seems like everyone and their dog has a project to "un-Google" Android for 
whatever it is they want to sell to others. Given that they could contribute 
to Replicant and get proper software, I feel obliged to perceive such Android 
offerings as rather "after the fact" efforts to superficially address people's 
privacy concerns.

(It is probable in such cases that until being made aware of software matters, 
it was the hardware partner, who only knows how to flash the Android of the 
day onto the device as it leaves the factory, who had the job of "taking care" 
of the software.)

> Of course it is much more open and documented - approx. the same level as
> we have achieved.

The core of it looks like yet another single-board computer, approximately 
credit-card-sized, which is not a bad thing if it can perform in a mobile 
product. But there is no shortage of single-board computers, system-on-module 
boards, and other such stuff out there. And it takes time for people to 
understand whether there are nasty surprises with the software or chipset in 
each case.

> If we are honest to ourselves, the low activity of this list mirrors the
> low priority that tinkering with a smartphone has in nowadays society.

I think people want to tinker with them in different ways. It seems that huge 
numbers of people have some issues with the software on their phone, be that 
related to a lack of updates, an inability to customise or configure their 
devices, or the lack of opportunity to choose what software actually runs on 
those devices in the first place.

Meanwhile, many people value reliable hardware over the ability to customise 
it, at least if they have to make a choice between these things. So they would 
rather have a package of features that just works than have to take it apart 
and play with the insides or with the casing.

A genuinely open smartphone has the potential to address the software problem 
outright. Instead of people being persuaded to buy yet another Android-minus-
Google thing whose software will eventually force the device to be considered 
obsolete, it should provide a sustainable platform for Free Software. This is 
why the Librem 5 has gained a lot of interest, I think.

Naturally, there are hardware hackers who would also benefit from a genuinely 
open smartphone, such as those who don't like the physical characteristics of 
available products and who want to build something around the core hardware. 
But that can be a very challenging thing to get right, and it was something 
that has affected the appeal of GTA04, I think.

(Consider the things that you need to make a phone with a keyboard and it is 
understandable that Neo900 starts out with the N900. Casework and doing 
mechanically-complicated products can be an expensive and time-consuming 

So I think that there is an audience for tinkerphones, but that audience needs 
to be made aware of what things like GTA04 are good for, and they should also 
be able to participate without having to deal with both hardware and software 
tinkering unless they really have the appetite for it.

Sorry for the long message!


P.S. My experiments with the Ben NanoNote and Letux 400 (mentioned on the 
lenny400 and letux-kernel lists) remind me that it is important to get 
something in front of the right people and to make them appreciate what it is 
good for. The wrong people will just moan about it and not see the point of 

The Ben is a pretty nice thing for experimenting with system-level software 
(although it would be nicer with a conveniently broken-out serial console) and 
for hardware hacking (at least once the potential of the MMC port pins was 
understood). But I think that some ignorant people saw it only as a flawed 
gaming device or something that needed wireless Internet to be a "valid" 
product. So some of the audience just held off for a future version that was 
never made.

Meanwhile, people mess around with countless projects trying to turn their 
Raspberry Pi into a laptop, few/none of which will be able to produce the 
complete device that either the Ben or Letux already are. Had the Ben been a 
development board at the time it was released with a "mini laptop" option, 
people might have perceived it differently and have been falling over each 
other to get themselves one.

Yes, it turns out that marketing is a real thing after all!

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