An interview with the creator of the Tauon PC-1, Volodymyr Mishin
I'll bet you don't roll out of bed and think about making your own PC before breakfast. Even you do, I bet you haven't actually shipped. Here's someone who has.
I reached out to the creator of the Tauon PC-1, Volodymyr Mishyn who kindly took more than a little time to answer some detailed questions about the PC-1, how it came to be, the challenges of a project like this, his future plans for Tauon OS and what is clearly a very personal labour of love.
Many thanks Volodymyr.
Your news blog suggests 30 days to prototype, and 6 months to ship! If that is right, it is very impressive, given the technical and logistical activities that had to occur. Is there more to this story?
I was looking for available options before I started the project. I got myself a couple PI (3B, Zero) OrangePi, C-SKY. And tried to build some kind of educational PC for my kid.
When did you start shipping units? How many units have you shipped?
The first computers were sent at the end of January 2020. Some of them were sent to YouTubers, some were sent as samples to governmental institutions of small countries. Some were sent to my alma mater school.
In total, for today about 500 units were distributed. About half of them for free.
For you personally, what would be a nice number of shipped units for the project to hit?
How big do you estimate the user community is?
Are you where you would like to be at this stage of the PC-1’s life?
There are only 5 people in your team. Alexander must be at school mostly (or maybe remote learning), and Vladimir must find it hard to code in the dark, so there’s really only 3.5 of you. Is this a full time job for all of you?
As so much depends on your personal efforts, the users will want to know: how sustainable and resilient is the company?
At this point, unfortunately, the project completely depends on me. Hopefully in the future with the community growing bigger this would change.
The PC-1 is meant to be a simple, affordable, family computer. Yet, modern PCs and phones are already affordable, and can do everything the PC1 can. If you already have a phone or PC, you don’t really need a PC1. If you have neither, you would be inclined to get a “real” device first, instead of a PC1. So, while you consider this a general computing device, has the truth of this difficult logic meant you are selling more to a niche, not a general user?
The main problem is the huge size of the codebase. Fixing or changing anything in 25+ Gb of sources is not an easy task.
A big part of the effort was put into optimizing AOSP [Android Open Source Project] and "fixing" some (intentional?) bugs in AOSP.
After working on this project, I think here is Google's monetization model: yes, you can use AOSP for free in your project. But it has so many little problems and slowdowns, that it makes your product unstable and almost unusable. Want all this fixed? Pay us money and we will provide patches to fix all these issues.
That is why many Chinese products based on AOSP are so unstable and buggy. Lack of documentation on internal AOSP structure and confusing (intentionally?) comments don't make the task of fixing easier. Some parts of the AOSP seems to be written by undergraduate school students. Making the mouse work properly and adding "Gamepad" mode wasn't easy at all.
Are there less obvious features of Tauon OS that you would like users to know about?
Why did you choose to customise Android, instead of a mainline Linux distro?
Can you point the community to any resources for beginning Android development on the PC-1?
Is there anything else you would like to share?