[Libre-soc-dev] [libre-soc-dev] Alex Oliva's intro, and RFC on mission

Alexandre Oliva oliva at gnu.org
Sat Nov 21 14:49:44 GMT 2020

On Nov 21, 2020, Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton <lkcl at lkcl.net> wrote:

> On 11/21/20, Alexandre Oliva <oliva at gnu.org> wrote:
>> I wanted users to be able to trust the hardware, not just customers.

> this ultimately means that we have to take responsibility for actually
> creating and selling products that meet those requirements.

To make sure that happens in 100% of the cases, yeah, that would be the
case, and we'd have to not sell components to any customer.

But that's not what I'm aiming for.

My suggestion is just that we add ' and users' next to customers in our
mission statement, so that:

(i) there's no doubt that we'd like the trust (and freedom) to be
extended to downstream users, not just our direct customers.  With an
analogy to free software licensing, that we wish to maximize global
trust, rather than focus on maximizing trust for our customers, even
when that could be detrimental to their customers.

(ii) upon reading this mission statement that encompasses the goal of
being trusted by end users, our potential direct customers could be
scared away if their plans were to use our products to abuse downstream
users.  I'd be happy to discourage them, even if we don't have any means
to stop them.

(iii) that potential contributors, who might not have the purpose of
serving end users in mind, take into account, when joining, where it is
that we stand in this regard, and explicitly so; that may spare us from
future disappointments and disagreements.

> users today don't give a ****.

As true as that is, it's also nearly irrelevant to me.

I wish to be reasonably sure that *we* do.

That *we* are doing this so that *they*, the users (ourselves included),
can benefit from this, even if they don't care.

Knowing and signaling that that's what moves us may help us avoid
derailing, or finding out, perhaps too late, that we're working at
cross purposes.

Leaving primary purposes unstated and implied, while other purposes are
explicitly stated that might conflict with them, doesn't come across to
me as conducive of positive outcomes.

I haven't seen any objections to the notion that enabling end users to
trust our products is as much part of our mission as enabling our direct
customers to do so; indeed, I've only seen statements that that is
already implied, either by the meaning of 'customers', or by the code of

Is there any objection to making this understanding explicit?

>> If our hardware ends up used to build perfectly inescapable jails,
>> that's the opposite of the outcome I'm aiming for.

> at the SoC level we simply cannot stop that from happening,

That's ok.  It's not the point.

I'm not aiming for guarantees to users either.

I just want to know where *we*, collectively, stand on this matter.

I've learned that leaving such purposes and underlying motivations
unstated may lead to surprises and disappointment down the road.  I'd
rather avoid that if I can help, and I honestly expect (hope?) us all to
agree on this point, to an extent that it's so obvious that it didn't
occur to anyone that it might be useful to explicitly state it.

Alexandre Oliva, happy hacker  https://FSFLA.org/blogs/lxo/
   Free Software Activist         GNU Toolchain Engineer
        Vim, Vi, Voltei pro Emacs -- GNUlius Caesar

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