Free hardware designs

Yeeloong2In the recent years the Free Software Foundation has encouraged (computer) hardware manufacturers to start producing free (free as in freedom) hardware. Most hardware produced and sold today has proprietary design (Apple, Intel, etc.) and is therefore restricted/encrypted and hard to use with free software, requiring programmers to use reverse engineering methods and write the code to free up parts of the hardware and optimize it for the use with free software. Free Software Foundation maintains a list of the high priority reverse engineering projects. Free hardware would be optimized for the use with free user respecting GNU+Linux software and should be released under the GNU General Public License (GPL), version 3 or later. Currently there are few alternatives around free hardware designs. In 2012 the Free Software Foundation started a project with the Chinese manufacturer Jiangsu Lemote Technology Corporation Limited for the production of the Lemote Yeeloong netbook. Yeeloong’s used the early Loongson 2F, a single core MIPS3-compatible 64-bit CPU with some custom ISA extensions (not all used in software), therefore a lot of customized software still had to be written for it. For that purpose a special customized GNU+Linux distribution gNewSense has seen the light of day. Since then we have seen other alternatives to free up parts of the hardware. The project Libreboot has written replacements for the standard BIOS using reverse engineering on Lenovo Thinkpad models, such as X60, T60 and X200 which are all obtainable from the U.K. store Gluglug. Another crowd funding initiative called Purism has raised funds and started with the production of the free modern laptops. Michał Tomasz Masłowski has written about Laptops and free software in 2013. There are also Replicant, a free operating system that works as a replacement for Android based devices and libreCMC a free replacement operating system for wireless routers. There are videos (with Slovene translations) from the Libreplanet 2013 conference, where Dr. Richard Stallman talks about the free hardware designs (video part 1) (video part 2) and also explains the idea in his recent articles “Why we need free digital hardware designs” and “How to make hardware designs free“.