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Asking for Hardware

Last week I tried to ask for hardware — 1GB ECC PC-2700 DIMMs, to be exact — and got no response, while Aaron didn’t call for hardware and got a bunch of offers to buy monitors and such.

Now, Aaron has since explained that the problem holding back the resolution of the bug that triggered his "donation drive" isn’t a lack of hardware, but a lack of a specific setup and workflow. And it looks like the resolution of the bug has been attempted. Pretty cool stuff — but it’s not the bug resolution that I’d like to write about here.

First off, a "hardware pool" for KDE developers has been tried before. Several years ago (I tihnk it was) Scott Wheeler tried to set one up. The idea would be that spare hardware would get passed around or sent to KDE developers who needed something extra. The idea never took off, and eventually the plan shut down. There were three reasons for this, basically:

  1. Sending hardware around is really darn expensive. By the time you’ve covered postage and insurance, it can be nearly as expensive as just buying something locally. So it’s expensive to send stuff.
  2. Customs are a nightmare. Switserland doubly so. I remember long ago someone sent me a spare Palm Vx from the US. It was a used device, and the Vx at that point was already no longer on the market here. Dutch customs assessed me around 50 EUR in import duty. So it’s expensive to receive stuff.
  3. There are remarkably few hardware requests. Apparently KDE developers work within the constraints of what they have, rather than what they would like. A few times I’ve blogged about left-over hardware that I would give away (in spite of points 1 and 2) and got no response. Maybe my leftover hardware (usually around 3 years old) is just too crappy even to give away.

There are a few exceptions to #3. There was a donation drive to get Krita developers some specific hardware. Maemo devices have been distributed to the KDE community at various events in order to drive enthusiasm and interest for the devices. Those are unusual cases, though.

Now, there is an organization that can help with hardware needs. It’s KDE e.V. The association’s mandate is to support the community. That includes providing hardware if needed. Let’s look at this from two sides:

For the potential hardware donor, KDE e.V. accepts donations in cash (tax-deductible in Germany) and in special cases could receive hardware, too. There are two ways to help KDE e.V. You could donate directly to KDE e.V. and add a note describing what the donation is for. (For legal and tax reasons there is no guarantee that the donation will be used as requested) You could also join the game and systematically support KDE e.V. in its work. Resources that KDE e.V. gathers (e.g. money) are put to work supporting the community. That is usually in the form of travel and lodging for events and workshops, but could cover other forms of support as well.

For the potential hardware recipient there are standard procedures for requesting support. There are forms on the KDE e.V. website. If you need something special (e.g. a second video card and a monitor) then you can ask the board beforehand if that falls within the mandate and if so, request reimbursement afterwards. As a general rule, I think that peculiar or special hardware has a better chance of being supported than general upgrades and hardware requests with a strong and specific KDE purpose are more likely to go through, too. Ask first.

So yeah, if you need a bi-polar defrobnicator to bobulate your Plasma widgets, then by all means do two things: ask if KDE e.V. will help you out there, then blog that you need such a thing and encourage people to donate to KDE e.V. for one. Then wait, buy the stuff yourself, and do cool things.

As far as my desire for more memory for my SPARC workstation for KDE package builds on that platform, well, I think the board of KDE e.V. (myself included!) would answer "too niche, too expensive for the projected benefit of all two KDE4-on-SPARC users."