with the postmen ringing at bells more or less anywhere around the world, I would take some time to make clear few points, and the format of Questions and Answers maybe the most appropriate, so you can jump to the next if not interested to one of the topics.
Q: The packages are hitting mailboxes, so this was not a scam?
A: What kind of fool could think about put together a scam scheme valued less $140k (after commissions), spending dozens of thousands dollars on R&D in advance? A scam to make sense costs nothing and gain much more than the money a common family could spend in very few year living a normal life. Don't ask my opinion about who wanted to spread this idea, because it will be the same you could have if you think about it.
Q: Why don't you tell the truth: when you really shipped the stuff?
A: The products you are getting in hands have been dispatched from the production to distribution by the day November the 23rd, and this was the promise. All the parts that were not ready by that day will not be included in the packages you are receiving.
Q: That's was a month ago! Why we are getting the stuff only now?
A: The delays are all related to the transfer of the goods around the world. September to December is peak season for the goods leaving China and this year the situation is even worse, because the Chinese New Year is coming very early, so the buyers push for earlier fulfillment of orders, plus the majority of the companies around the world didn't make large stocks during the summer but placed the orders very late, willing to spend more for the air cargo, rather then invest large capitals in stock shipped by sea with the risk to be unable to sell it. Adding the fact that new strict policies about batteries and liquids from the airlines have increased the security controls, the whole parcel's handling system is literally collapsed.
Small parcels, valued less than $800USD, travel quickly because can avoid the custom's procedures. Large shipments, weighted over 100kg and valued over $800USD, must be handled by agencies holding and export license and processed on FIFO basis. This requires longer time, but the real obstacle are the carriers. As by rule all the packages of a shipment must fly together, and this is understandable because it will be a mess to join together packages that fly separated, larger shipments could take several days before find a space in the belly of a cargo. Last month for example my friend Alberto, who had about 1,500 books packed in 12 boxes weighting over 300kgs, saw his shipment with UPS standing by at the Hong Kong airport for 12 days, waiting to get on a flight to US. It's all in the online tracking and all what we can do is seating there, consuming the F5 button and cross fingers hoping for the next flight.
Also some mistake from this side contributed to the delays. The smARtBUS QUAD and smARtBUS QUAD POWER are basically the same product, with the second loaded with the components for the power regulator. When packed, only the code and a look trough the semi-transparent anti-static bag show the difference. Trying to catch the time, someone made a mistake and actually sent all the parts of one kind to Europe and all the parts of the other kind to US. Only when they have started to put together the kits it came out the problem and they had to exchange the missing parts. Luckily the shipments between the two sides are not complicated like those from China, but this was anyway an additional cause of delays.
Finally, I have to admit that's not easy at all. Pack standard orders it could be a kind of easy. Pack hundreds of orders all different took a lot of time, from a lot of people. I saw myself the orders packed in China handled buy 4-5 girls who spent almost a week. And those were less than 150.
The delays are anyway compensated by the shortest time of final delivery. Most of the orders for US and EU have been suffering the delays in the transfer from China to the local warehouse, but the final part of the trip requires only 1 to 3 days. If everything was shipped from China, as originally stated in the project's page, this was going to cost much longer time, in some unfortunate case even more than 2 months, or forever if the package was lost. For at least 80% of you, this solution represented and absolutely advantage.
Q: Why didn't you simply kept us up to date with these information?
A: Because I believe at this point it's totally useless. Anything I will say it will be in any case and anyway marked as a lie.
It doesn't matter the fact that since the beginning of this project I've never stated a single lie. There are people that have just decided to put their frustrations on me and to attack everything I say or do. They have (good for them) time to waste and hate in their hearts, so they will just attack me on anything I say or do, regardless the fact that they are the only and real liars.
So what the point of write an update reporting “guys there is this package stuck in that airport” just to give them material to change the way they like and use it against me? Much better to put my time and my brain on something useful like one more example code for the wiki, for example.
The fact is that in this “connected world” the truth is not anymore what represents the real life and the facts but what is stated by the one who has most followers or more time to push on his opinion.
Everything started few days after the end of the campaign, when someone who can write on a blog with a large quantity of viewers stated that it was not true what I affirm in the project's page, about our past. It doesn't matter the fact that I've published invoices and pictures to prove my honesty and the fact that he wrote an addendum to the post literally changing they position. Anyways it was the big voice against the small one, so everyone believe the first, always. It's the same concept of: “it's on TV so it must be real” and as Italian I know very well the meaning of this, looking at the past 20 years where the control was in the hands of who control the media, regardless of the disaster caused to the Country.
It was my big mistake, several months ago, to think I could stand those haters with truth and open information. Nobody cares about the good news. Did you ever see a the evening news on TV or the first page of a newspaper opening with good news? They know that will not attract the attention of people. Drama and disasters are attractive and so that's what they talk about. This is the same situation.
It doesn't matter I say that the logo of Kickstarter is green, if I say just once. You will find someone who will state it's RED so many times, and they will even change the color with photoshop and start to add the red colored one every time they will write about it, that at the end you will believe that damn logo is RED. It doesn't matter the fact that you have it in front of you for all the time, and it is green.
Think about the fact that they started, at a point, to say that I was not legitimate to run a Kickstarter campaign. It doesn't matter that I had shown on video the original certificate issued by IRS. Many of you simply believe it because I've just once made the point clear, more than enough. But they wrote so many times the false that you believe it, even you had the evidence slammed on your face. It's funny, if you think about it, but it's real. Your brain makes fun of you all day long, apparently.
This is why I've decided to seat down calm, holding my choice of totally avoid to even just take a look of the comments' board, waiting for the goods to get in your hands.
Q: Does this means that you are not going to share your time with us talking about the project?
A: Absolutely not. You are getting the products in hands and it's now the time to have this project really starting. I will be very active on the forum, the correct one and discussing about the right topics. And the forum will be strictly moderated: any off topic will not pass trough. I want to talk about technology, not bull***ts.
Q: Talking about technology, you wrote about publish the datasheets several days ago but you didn't yet, why?
A: I had the great help of who I think is the best designer dedicated to electronic boards and schemes at this time, and I know his work is getting rewarded in a very important way that I can't disclose but it's important. I'm talking about Alberto of the website pighixxx.com. He designed all the components of the Open System rally well and put together a very nice and usable documentation.
Unfortunately he had some health issue in the first days of this month and he was hospitalized, so unable not only to follow his website, forums, release new designs and so on, but also to send to me the final documents for publishing.
He's getting better and the last time I saw the pages everything it was ready at 95%, so as soon as he can seat in front the computer for a half day, I'm very sure he will send me the PDF and I will immediately share with all of you.
Right now I only wish he can recover promptly, that's the most important thing.
Q: You are delivering 10 months later the original plan, is it?
A: Yes, it's mostly true. And I'm not happy and even less proud of it. Actually there are much more important and overpaid projects on Kickstarter that have delivered with this kind of delay or even more, some haven't delivered at all. Fortunately (for them) they had enough money to spend in PR and marketing, so if a smartwatch it's a year late on delivery it gets honored by the media, while if a small fish, Italian moreover, he's getting late because in the middle of the process he have found and reported clearly issues with the product, he will be anyway the bad guy. We are back to the topic before: it's all about how you spend time end/or money on the media, to make you good or bad. Whatever!
It's still “mostly” true. Because it's also true that several of you have received their starter kits back in April. When I've stated shipping was starting at that time, it was for real and dozen of you have received the pledges that time. If they haven't shared this is their choice, not mine. They maybe didn't feel to be part of a community, and this is my fault probably. I was unable to make this happen.
Q: Are we going to see any benefit, for us, related to this delay?
A: I believe the benefit it's huge. I've published a video few months ago and in that video I've spent several time talking about the improvements I was bringing to the system and the reason of the additional delays.
The original idea it was to just produce the boards as I've made in prototypes, 18 months ago. It was supposed to be a kind of “extended beta test”. The original target of $23k it was meant to this. To produce a small run of boards, making mixed panels of 5-6 different parts each like I did at the time of prototyping, with a lot of manual assembling and large use of the two rework oven I had.
With a thousand of you and almost 35,000 boards to put together, everything has changed. From mixed panels to dedicated panels for each board. From small runs to large runs for everything. This is not the big deal. The people who handle most of these tasks are the same who have been to put together 15,000 Arduino compatible kits in about 3 weeks.
The real lack it was in the design itself. Most of the original designs haven't changed at the core, but all have been improved a lot. And for every design it was necessary to elaborate a proper set of tests for the QC, procedures for manufacturing, finishing and packing.
To give you an idea about the difference between the concept of “extended beta” and the actual project, let's take the smARtHOST ETHERNET as example: the final design, that's a version 3 or 4 I forgot, is based on a very common Ethernet controller used in thousands of examples with Arduino. Actually the libraries available online are compatible only with Arduino UNO. If you use a Leonardo or different kind of boards, still compatible with Arduino IDE and programming language, it won't work. At least you will need to tinker with the library and change the code at source level, not just change something in the sketch. Open System it's supposed to allow you to use a smARtCORE U, L or M (Arduino UNO, Leonardo or MEGA compatible) just plug&play. So we had to review the library and to update it in a way that not only made it compatible with the different models of boards, but the selection is actually automatic. So right now you can get the exact same code and upload it in any of the smARtCOREs based on an Arduino compatible MCU (U, L, M, Z) and it will work, without anything to change. This is a main improvement not only for the Open System but for the whole library actually used by hundreds of thousands people around the world (and it's 3 months that we plan to publish it on GitHub but haven't found the time, moreover).
The concept is that you have invested on the Open System and what you are getting (late) is a highly improved product, compared to the original plan. I could handle few dozen of people discussing about the lacks in the original project.
But I believe it was a mistake to send out not well working boards to a thousand of you. It makes more sense, in my opinion, to get later some good value for your money, than quickly stuff that will give you several headaches at least.
Q: So you mean that now every board is finished, perfect and shipped?
A: Perfection doesn't exists. There are already many things that myself I would change in those boards. But for sure the whole Open System works much better than the original.
All the parts of the original project, so all the components of the kits (basically the parts of the All In One) have been shipped but one: the smARtCORE C. This was further delayed by unavailability of the MCU, problem solved with the help of Microchip too late to be part of the shipment before the November 23rd. This board, together with some other component that's anyway free and I will detail later, will be shipped to you anyway later in the next weeks.
This means that all the original Kickstarter project, again beside the smARtCORE C, it's completed and shipped.
Few of the additional boards were not ready to ship by the cut off date, so are in stand by waiting for your choices, as will be detailed later.
Two boards, the smARtHOST BTLE and the smARtHOST RFID/NFC have been dropped and will be refunded.
Q: How about those boards who come from others, or extend the compatibility to other systems?
A: The adapter for Digispark have been shipped together with the kits.
The adapters for FreeSoC and TinyDuino were not sufficiently tested by the cut off time to be able to get shipped together with the kits. Those are freebies and will be shipped anyway at my cost in the next weeks.
Few of you have ordered some shield made by TinyDuino. Those will be refunded in full in the next days. This because we had some misunderstanding with Ken, and I call it as my total fault, and so I've decided myself to just give you back the money and skip any other problem or discussion.
Q: Talking about refunds, you have some promise made on this topic... so?
A: So as I've stated and confirmed, all what it was not shipped is subject to refund.
Due to the delays in the cargo and the long time necessary for the operations, I still didn't get the final reports of what it was shipped to who. As I know there are dozens of orders that have been actually delivered but are still marked as preparation in progress online.
This because, as I wrote in a previous update, the orders were printed and handled on paper, and it's taking time to get these data to match the online status.
As soon as all the data will be complete and clear, I will send individually the information for the refund, if any will be due.
This will not include the parts that are free but not yet shipped, that will be shipped anyway.
Q: What if I like the Open System and I want to actually get the missing parts, and not a refund?
A: It will be an option in the process. We are talking about 1,000 boards on a total of over 35,000, that's less than 3% on quantity and even less on value. Anyway you will be able to choose if get a shipment in the next weeks with the parts you miss of the refund.
It only takes the time to put together the data, that's it.
Q: So to go back to the first question, it was not a scam.
A: No. Never been.
This is the Kickstarter project with the highest amount of updates, the most open information about the good and the bad, unfortunately screwed by few haters who could give more to their families and find another way to seek for that 15 minutes of celebrity that Andy Warhol have granted to anyone... apparently.
I wish you a Merry Christmas, and I'm sorry if some of you will not have the opportunity to spend the afternoon tomorrow tinkering with Open System, but it will be in the next few days for sure and I hope you will have the opportunity to feel how much work there is behind it.
Always thanks for your support,