Implication of EOL firmware announcement for APU boards?

Due to statements in https://pcengines.github.io/ and Announcement - Dasharo Universe I get the impression that v4.19.0.1 might be the last APUx firmware update shipped as a pakfire packet, true?

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I don’t think anyone else has anything more than what is in the announcement but reading it I would agree that the existing provision of firmware updates has stopped after 4.19.0.1

Also from the announcement it looks like they want to to have a subscription charging model to get access to future firmware updates.

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Hi,
I’m Piotr 3mdeb founder.

If anything is not clear please let me know. This is first time we had to announce such information. The result is not perfect but we want to learn.

This is one of the options. At this point little bit more than 50% of survey respondents is ok with subscription model. There are also many suggestions how to handle this issue in other ways. Feel free to provide feedback it matters a lot for us.

Thank you for supporting PC Engines and open-source firmware.

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Hello everyone,
We want to express our deepest gratitude to all respondents who took the time to complete our survey. Your valuable feedback has contributed significantly to understanding the community’s needs and preferences. We have closed the survey and are excited to share a summary and some results with you.

We cordially invite you to attend the Dasharo User Group meeting, where we will present the survey findings. Your participation in the mini-conference will provide insights into the community’s opinions and help shape the future of our firmware solutions.

For more information about the event and to register, please visit: Dasharo User Group #1 - Attendize.com

Once again, thank you for your contribution, and we look forward to seeing you at the Dasharo User Group #1 meeting!

Best regards,
Piotr Król

Sorry for the late feedback, I have been a bit busy.

A bit of background first for those not familiar.

Dasharo has been providing the firmware updates for the PC Engines APU systems. They have been sponsored by PC Engines to do this.

In September 2022 PC Engines “decided to discontinue sponsorship for open-source firmware on their devices.”

This was generally announced by Dasharo in Feb 2023 when version v4.19.0.1 was released.

An online Dasharo User Group (DUG) meeting was held on 23rd March 2023 and one section of this was about the “PC Engines post-EoL firmware”.

I attended that online section.

They reported on the results of the survey that they carried out which also covered potential future approach.

They had 100+ answers and respondents reported over 600 PC Engines units for update.
The most valuable features of the firmware were reported as

  • ECC,
  • OpenBSD, FreeBSD, OPNsense and pfSense support,
  • Core Preformance Boost,
  • TPM support,
  • Stability and security,
  • Debian and NetBSD support.

Number of releases expected per year was split as

  • 34% – 4
  • 27% – 2
  • 22% – 1

Remaining % was mostly for > 4

The split of usage of the PC Engines hardware was

  • Personal – 66%
  • Business – 7%
  • Both – 26%
  • Other – 1%

The response about a paid subscription was around 50% yes and no.

Decision of Dasharo was the following:-

Because of feedback we received we opt for donation-only model for now.

  • Subscription model with expressed interest is not economically
    feasible.

What may change our decision in future?

  • More business customers interested in supporting open-source
    firmware updates.
  • Critical mass of users who want to see subscription model.

The top feature requests that were suggested were

  • UEFI Support (including UEFI Secure Boot) – 21%
  • Security updates – 17%
  • Bug fixing – 13%
  • fwupd/LVFS – 8%

The view of Dasharo was that security and bug fixes should be minimal as the hardware has been in production for a long time.
The list of enhancements that will be considered are listed in the Dashara github issues page.
https://github.com/Dasharo/dasharo-issues/issues?q=is%3Aopen+is%3Aissue+label%3Aenhancement

Looking at the issues list it is clear that it covers a lot of other hardware that Dasharo supports beyond the PC Engines APU. I could not easily figure out which might be related to APU systems without reading everyone of them.

The roadmap is to collect donations in Q2 2023. The scope of any work will depend on the donation collected.
The first output would be expected in Q3 or Q4 2023.

In the presentation they listed various options for how to pay the donations but so far this is not to be found on the Dasharo PC Engines firmware web pages.

I am not convinced that the donation approach is going to make much traction if they don’t actually advertise it on their web site.

Will have to wait till later this year to see if anything actually occurs.

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here is what I found concerning donations:

https://docs.dasharo.com/ways-you-can-help-us/

I am not sure if this is for coreboot firmware or for everything dashpro…

Looking through that it looks more like a donation for everything Dasharo based.

For the APU firmware donation the presentation talked about the following donation approaches:-

LiberaPay: https://liberapay.com/dasharo

  • There is only one goal and it is donation for PC Engines firmware
    release.

OpenCollective: 3mdeb - Open Collective

  • There are two goals here, one dedicated to PC engines.
  • We plan to enable cryptocurrencies donations before DUG#2.

Other methods including cryptocurrencies:

  • Ways you can help us - Dasharo Universe
  • If you make crypto donation please send us transaction link, since crypto wallets are owned by NLNet.
  • For other form of donations please leave a note, which describes the purpose, while making donation.

The first link shows that a donation level of €0.50 per week from two people has been provided from a goal of €150.00

The second link shows a donation level of 44.84 Zloty which equates to €9.64 from a goal of 35,000 Zloty (~€7520)

The third link takes you to the location shown by @jon so it can be used but a note has to be provided saying that the donation is for the Open-source firmware for PC Engines hardware through Dasharo.

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@bonnietwin Thank you a summary of DUG#1 presentation, soon it should be available to everyone. Quick clarification about Dasharo:

Dasharo is a registered trademark and product developed by 3mdeb.

Dasharo is an open-source firmware distribution focusing on:

  • carefully selected hardware platforms,
  • zero-touch initial deployment,
  • clean and simple code,
  • long-term maintenance,
  • professional support,
  • transparent validation,
  • extensive and structured documentation,
  • privacy-respecting implementation,
  • liberty for the owners and
  • trustworthiness for all.

https://docs.dasharo.com/osf-trivia-list/dasharo/#what-is-dasharo

About 3mdeb.

This is because many Dasharo features apply to all platforms. If we will do the PC Engines release, it would get all hardware-wise feasible features that Dasharo implements, as well as the potential for getting more over time.

True and I regret we can’t do much more. We are a pretty small company (20+), and priority for us are projects, which bring margins that give us the ability to build more open-source. PC Engines is the company that allows that for the last 6 years and we are all grateful for their impact on the open-source firmware and network appliance ecosystem.

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Looks like pcengines has planned out the shutting down of the entire project. This is really unfortunate, to say the least. Nothing in the market for me is even close to the quality of hardware and firmware your two combined companies have accomplished. On the top, also IPFire made such a great free software firewall.

For my part, I will support as much as I can what your company is doing. You guys are really great.

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HN thread, which deserves bumping, the more vocal community would be about this loss higher the chance we will extend the life of PC Engines hardware. We will try to do something with the PC Engine’s future to at least limit collateral damage, but it requires spreading the word by the community and the commitment of bigger businesses to support, last resort individuals also can vote with money but to make difference there have to be a lot of individual contributors and so far we didn’t get any traction about that.

Yes, I had thought it was just the firmware work that was being stopped but it is the whole of the APU platform systems because AMD have announced EOL for the GX-412TC processor. No more orders accepted after June 2023.

When the lifetime buy of components has all been used up and sold then PC Engines is going to stop existing, from their announcement.

This means that the Lightning Wire Labs Mini Appliance will also stop in its current configuration once any orders they have with PC Engines are fulfilled.

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