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That Open, Upgradeable ARM Dev Board Is Trying To Make A Comeback

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  • #51
    Originally posted by lkcl View Post


    at the same time i'll likely have found an appropriate quad-core processor, because i will have gone into Allwinner's offices with a big baseball bat and bludgeoned the engineers over the head with it until they give me the GPL source code. if they don't (or they throw me out of the offices) I'll use the RK3188 because Tom Cubie kindly released the Radxa Rock PCB CAD files so i can easily rework that into an EOMA68 form-factor (i'm 20% the way done with that already).
    Which means, RK3188 might be a candidate for an upgrade later on?
    That would be interesting in general, for your funding campaign, how/when hardware upgrade are coming up...


    • #52
      Originally posted by lkcl View Post

      dude. i'm almost shocked you've seen the *hardware* level security vulnerabilities that were discovered in qualcomm processors, right?

      but you know there's more to it than that (otherwise i would have put in a qualcomm processor already into an EOMA68 Computer Card). to develop a hardware board you need the following things:

      * NDA (this can sometimes be optional)
      * Truck-load of cash paid up-front for illegal access to GPL-licensed source code (this can sometimes be optional)
      * A Reference Design (often these can be found on the internet) with full schematics and PCB CAD files
      * A copyright-legal "Board Support Package" of some description (often includes a full OS)
      * An Evaluation Kit of some description (often sold at extortionate pricing, but they're getting better these days)
      * a Technical Reference Manual
      * a full Datasheet
      * access to the Power Management ICs (Intel forgets about this)
      * access to samples, low-volume quantities, medium-volume quantities, high-volume quantities and to receive pricing on ALL of those as well as lead times and availability
      * a guarantee from the SoC manufacturer that they will EVEN SUPPLY YOU (or a way to get hold of the SoCs without their consent, such as off of or aliexpress)
      * access to tech support (this can be optional)

      ... by now you should be having that familiar feeling of either glazed eyes, bug-eyes, sinking "pit of the stomach" butterflies or just plain outright shock at the sheer overwhelming number of things needed to have to sort out BEFORE YOU CAN EVEN START to evaluate whether a particular SoC is suitable.

      once you've made that evaluation, you can start to do the design work. if you have a Reference Design this will take you about 4-6 weeks, otherwise if you haven't it could take several months. depending on the complexity of the IC (how many pins and how small) you have to shell out either $USD1700 for 5 samples if it's a 4-6 layer PCB or if it's 10-14 layers that could be well in excess of $USD 5,000.

      make one mistake in the board layout and you have to do that ALL OVER AGAIN. this is hardware, not software. it cost us ten grand to do the first revision and the guy f****d it up. they charged us 5 grand for the next one because they were so embarrassed.

      anyway, let's evaluate one of the qualcomm snapdragon processors.

      * NDA: they won't even answer my enquiries, and i don't agree with signing NDAs for libre projects anyway. it sends the wrong message to endorse such behaviour. as a fabless semiconductor company you sell hardware. you don't sell INFORMATION about hardware.
      * Truck-load of cash: well, they're not getting that from me, it would be ecologically irresponsible, and i have better things to do
      * A Reference Design: not available. so we might be able to reverse-engineer things but it's put the project into "Months to develop" category
      * A copyright-legal "Board Support Package": not readily available. Linaro have something remotely approximating a BSP in the form of the "Dragonboard" but only for one of the qualcomm SoCs
      * An Evaluation Kit: unofficially available from 96boards - the dragonboard. cheap, too, which is better than most
      * A Technical Reference: NOT AVAILABLE. oh dear.
      * A full Datasheet: NOT AVAILABLE. oops.
      not sure about the pmic, but hrd/datasheet/schematics/bom/etc are: ??

      and I've already seen devicetree patches for db600c, so I guess you can expect the same to be available for more of qcom's SoC's going forward.

      Originally posted by lkcl View Post

      * access to the PMICS: NOT AVAILABLE. ah. so how are we supposed to know how to power this SoC up, then?
      * access to samples and volume supplies: NOT AVAILABLE. oops.
      * a guarantee that they will supply you: NOT AVAILABLE. oops.
      * access to tech support: NON-EXISTENT.

      oh and don't forget that this is still a processor that has *hardware* level security vulnerabilities....

      ... am i painting a big enough picture in bright enough colours a mile high, with the qualcomm head office a tiiiny dot in the front and centre of the picture?

      to complain about the fact that i'm using an "old" Allwinner A20 when this... this... minefield of technical and logistical issues has to be walked... meh, come on!!

      the funny thing is, that qualcomm processor could actually be considered - there are people out there on aliexpress and taobao selling it, alongside "solder mask" kits for enterprising smartphone repair shops to be able to replace the processor. you *can* get hold of the processor, you *can* get the linux kernel source code, but it's just such a nightmare logistically and a huge risk... i think i'll wait until qualcomm get PROPERLY with the programme and provide PROPER Reference Designs without requiring an NDA.

      hope you don't mind...


      • #53
        Originally posted by starshipeleven View Post
        Not Alwinner, but Mali the issue. With all half-decent chips from Freescale that have a Vivante GPU and other stuff that has a half-working opensource driver that only needs more help to go full-blown support, they choose a crap chip with a Mali.
        You never know, Mali drivers could come to the board.

        Still, their laptop is the best shot at a good chassis for a decent DYI ARM laptop.
        Decent? You got to be kidding this is a grossly overpriced kit. Let's get real, 3D printing a shell is grasping at straws.

        I'd love to be able to design a different modular board for that.
        I'm with you in this regard. Most of the ARM chips hitting the market are a bit of a joke for laptop service.


        • #54
          Originally posted by kaprikawn View Post

          That's an odd sentiment to express on a site devoted to Linux. How can you have over 750 posts and think that nobody cares about GPL violations? Not all of us are frothing-at-the-mouth followers of Stallman (though there are certainly a few around here). But I think it's fair to say that there are plenty of people who think GPL violations are big deals.

          What at current violations are taking place? Note the word current.

          A real reason to dismiss Allwinner chips is the half assed engineering and design that some of them represent. As has been mentioned nobody really cares about these so called violations by Allwinner. For the most part their software is crap, which sorta matches the hardware.


          • #55
            I really want to see a project like this succeed, but I have no faith in this project.
            Being able to replace individual parts of a laptop is nice, but the parts need to be of high quality for this to make any sense.
            My current laptop is far more durable than this:
            - It has a good full HD IPS screen, I wouldn't want to use a crappy 1366 x 768 TN panel for years.
            - The processor is fast enough for my current tasks, and it should be powerful enough to serve me for the coming years. I fear that this arm chip would struggle with the current websites, office software and multi tasking right now. This will only get worse.
            - It has a nice keyboard and touchpad. I fear that the keyboard and "touch pad" of this housing will be of mediocre quality.
            - It has a relatively well built housing.

            I see myself using my current laptop for years to come, this laptop housing + board, on the other hand would need to be completely replaced because everything is of far too low quality.
            (If you want to sell environment friendly dishes you don't sell cheap disposable plates, you sell plates that people want to keep using.)

            It can't really be used as a game console because of the mali GPU, and it would not be able to compete with a raspberry pi.
            It can't really be used as a desktop (cpu, ram, gpu), and it would not be able to compete with a raspberry pi.

            If the quality is too low, being open won't save it.
            Last edited by JonathanM; 03 July 2016, 08:58 AM.


            • #56
              Originally posted by thinkpenguin View Post
              I don't believe that 3D accelerated graphics is as important as many people into gaming think it is for the average user.
              I think it is unwise to equate accelerated graphics with 3D.
              While that kind of hardware features is often exposed through some form of 3D API, e.g. OpenGL, it has far more applications than actually rendering a 3D scene.

              Especially average users under estimate how often applications are actually built on technology that internally uses advanced rendering technologies, often in the form of an OpenGL based scene graph.

              In this particular case we have a laptop class device, most likely without a touch screen.
              But as soon as there is a touch screen, even the average user will expect a "phone like" experience and most frameworks which enable developers to deliver that do require hardware accelerated rendering.

              Originally posted by thinkpenguin View Post
              The average user does not need 3D acceleration provided the desktop environment and applications that are included do not depend on it.
              This might impact the available software way more than one would conservatively guess. See above.

              Originally posted by thinkpenguin View Post
              The other thing is that the reality is serious gamers do not use GNU/Linux.
              Even simple, casual games often employ advanced rendering, e.g. using shaders for effects.

              Not having hardware accelerated rendering might still be OK at this stage, but it is not something that can be ignored for long due to how the software landscape has already changed regarding how users expect UX to behave.



              • #57
                Originally posted by lkcl View Post
                guuys? ahhh, i thought you might like to be made aware that i'm currently tracking about ten different simultaneous discussions.

                this is the only forum where that's happening. you might want to reflect on that before continuing to use such phrases and passing such judgements. it doesn't do you any favours, and it gives the whole community a bad name, as well as affects the reputation of the phoronix forum itself.
                This forum is unmoderated, people are free of expressing themselves without fear of bans and stuff.

                Also, gg at not answering any valid complaint or points I (and others) raised, but just parroting the same bs over and over.

                what i'm saying is that if you set certain parameters - to be ethical and environmentally responsible about the way that you do business for example - it has certain implications which totally rule out and overrule *any* kind of "technically superior" components because the company making them is... just... yeah, you got it i'm sure.
                So, it is more ethically and environmentally responsible making a turd module compatible only with your system that will be dumped asap as better modules come out, using a SoC from one of the crappiest companies around, bought second-hand from thieves or something (as you said "fallen from a truck").

                Yes, please, tell me more how this is better than using a raspi that has near full open support, and that when is removed from the laptop can be repurposed in one of the zillions of projects a raspi can be used in.

                crowd funding is based around "gift economy", it's not a contract of sale, product orders or investment. it's totally different.
                That's donation and non-profit, crowd funding lives off people that pay more to get something in return, and accept a large risk.

                so if you support the *ideas* that i am seeking to fulfil,
                I support the ideas, but the implementation is a turd. This shows bad decision making, why should I trust you with my money?


                • #58
                  Originally posted by wizard69 View Post
                  You never know, Mali drivers could come to the board.
                  I might be dead by then. I prefer hoping on more likely events, like NVIDIA getting full opensource driver support someday, or that an asteroid will hit Trump AND Hilary.

                  Decent? You got to be kidding this is a grossly overpriced kit. Let's get real, 3D printing a shell is grasping at straws.
                  Their laptop design (the shell itself plus the board and stuff) is opensourced, there is no way in hell I'm paying 500$ to their stupidity when I can send the shell design to a serious 3D print shop (with laser printers), source a fullhd IPS screen and slap in an off-the-shelf non-shit board from Freescale I can get for 150$ tops.

                  I don't know how robust the shell is tho, won't be worse than low-end laptops I hope.
                  Last edited by starshipeleven; 03 July 2016, 10:09 AM.


                  • #59
                    Originally posted by wizard69 View Post
                    What at current violations are taking place? Note the word current.
                    read here

                    they are basically stealing all sorts of shit to make their SDK.

                    But the hardware per-se isn't violating anything GPLed.


                    • #60
                      God I missed this piece of comedic gold.
                      Originally posted by lkcl View Post
                      and you're damn lucky i'm a software libre engineer - imagine how this would go down if it was done by an irresponsible profit-maximising corporation that was completely ignorant of and didn't care about keeping the free software community happy and actively involved in the hardware development process??
                      Lucky of getting the design dropped from above without any community involvement?
                      Can you please show me where the community was involved in the choice of the Allwinner A20, and of the choice of not using the 3D GPU in a laptop?