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

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  • #61
    While I applaud the effort .....

    The AllWinner A20 is problematic. Aside from the GPL violations and lack of a working Mali drive - the performance of the A20 doesn't match the Galaxy S3 I retired 2 years ago. Not the right amount of processing power IMO.

    starshipeleven - AFAIK Freescale (I used to work there - they've been NXP for ~2yrs) rarely made their own development boards and none were even close to $150. Their LS2085A-RDB board retails for ~$2750. Yes there are i.mx6 & vivante boards around $150 but that's a huge step down in performance from the A20 to a 600Mhz A9 iMX

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    • #62
      Originally posted by stevea View Post
      starshipeleven - AFAIK Freescale (I used to work there - they've been NXP for ~2yrs) rarely made their own development boards and none were even close to $150. Their LS2085A-RDB board retails for ~$2750. Yes there are i.mx6 & vivante boards around $150 but that's a huge step down in performance from the A20 to a 600Mhz A9 iMX
      The SoM I talked about are (also) quadcores 1ghz A9, and a GPU with some kind of open GPU driver.

      I'm not seeing a huge preformance difference between that and an A20 board I have.
      Last edited by starshipeleven; 07-03-2016, 11:33 AM.

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      • #63
        Originally posted by sverris View Post

        Which means, RK3188 might be a candidate for an upgrade later on?
        yeah! tom cubie's team released full CAD files here: https://github.com/radxa/oshw/tree/master/rock_pro

        That would be interesting in general, for your funding campaign, how/when hardware upgrade are coming up...
        good point - good suggestion.

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        • #64
          Originally posted by lkcl View Post
          yeah! tom cubie's team released full CAD files here: https://github.com/radxa/oshw/tree/master/rock_pro
          Fucking great, really, another chip with a mali GPU. (RK3188)

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          • #65
            Originally posted by starshipeleven View Post
            Fucking great, really, another chip with a mali GPU. (RK3188)
            Yes, and one of the very few unexpensive SoCs, you can get smaller quantities.

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            • #66
              Originally posted by robclark View Post

              not sure about the pmic, but hrd/datasheet/schematics/bom/etc are:

              http://www.96boards.org/products/ce/...documentation/ ??
              i evaluated these mmm.... 6-8 months ago because yes i was really excited and hopeful, but ultimately discovered that they've provided the most absolute cursory of minimal information - absolutely none of it useful to create your own PCB.

              let me re-check ok?

              here's the documents:

              Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 410 Processor documents:
              Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.





              nice that they tell us that it's a product, gets some good keywords in there, right?

              lp80-0p436-7_b_apq8016 - just gone over it, it's pretty basic, it would *just* about be enough to use ...

              GPIO pin assignments i'm getting a "redirect error" on qualcomm's web site...

              there's also a section with schematics: schematics look good... no PCB file though: that means about 3-6 months of work instead of 3-6 weeks...

              ok we *need* the datasheet for the PM8916 though. otherwise it'd be necessary to take a risk using more well-known PMICs (easier to get hold of), which means kernel development as well because the linux kernel sources are intimately tied to the board bring-up process... huh, whaddyaknow, a google search "PM8916 datasheet" actually comes up with the goods! i have a feeling i've been over this before... yes i have, now i think about it.

              so that *might* do the trick. we're looking at 3-6 months of full-time work and maybe a couple of $2k PCB production runs to get things right.

              next thing: are samples available? can we get through to qualcomm without requiring an NDA because everything is reaasonably available without one? that's the real question. i mean you _could_ go buying dragonboards and try to use a desoldering station but... don't hold your breath we could get onto taobao and see if there's some "fell off the back of a lorry" PMICs and 410 SoCs available...

              but before committing $2.5k per month's worth of engineering time @ 3-6 months plus $2k per PCB production run i'd *REALLY* like to know that the SoCs and PMICs are gonna be available under contract at the end of that, y'know what i'm saying? look up what happened when hardkernel created a raspberry pi clone - how did that work out for them, ehn?

              so it's hard... doable, not inconceivable from the information that's available... but it's definitely harder than it needs to be. if you know of someone who's got contacts inside qualcomm, or can think of a route in that would make things easier, that would be great and it could be added to the list.

              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.
              ahhh not quite. the reason why the devicetree patches are there is because of the open nature of the db600c. linaro will be helping out there (as long as qualcomm continue to pay the $USD 1 million a year membership fees).

              so we will see more of qualcomm's SoCs going forward... *if* qualcomm gets with the programme of cooperating with the largest software project on the planet (the linux kernel), and releases open boards.

              the main linux kernel developers really haven't got time to waste on boards (or phones) that are entirely proprietary, which is why you haven't seen any mainline linux qualcomm SoCs added up until the db600c.

              thanks for encouraging me to go over this, robclark.

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              • #67
                Originally posted by sverris View Post
                Yes, and one of the very few unexpensive SoCs, you can get smaller quantities.
                Yeah, but without GPU man, without fucking GPU.

                What about making a open driver for Mali first? Or they hope that their end-users that can't handle properly a naked board will be able to come up with that on their own?
                Last edited by starshipeleven; 07-03-2016, 02:20 PM.

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                • #68
                  Originally posted by stevea View Post
                  While I applaud the effort .....

                  The AllWinner A20 is problematic. Aside from the GPL violations and lack of a working Mali driver - the performance of the A20 doesn't match the Galaxy S3 I retired 2 years ago. Not the right amount of processing power IMO.
                  hiya steavea, thanks for joining in the conversation. on a number of forums i've covered the GPL violations by allwinner, and gone in-depth on the history of the company, how it formed, and how there are multiple investors who have carved out their own competitive niches *inside* the company, where the VP (who is legally and ethically responsible for the criminal behaviour) is basically tearing his hair out trying to deal with them. they do have an active GPL compliance team: a year ago there were efforts to put the Managers in front of a chinese version of the GPL: many of them were shocked and angry to learn of the conditions that are required for compliance, that they had previously been COMPLETELY IGNORANT of up until that moment. it was too much for many of them: they didn't know what to do, because it would require *retrospective* work that would cost the company money, plus in china it's really really not a good idea to contradict your superiors.

                  the other thing is, the A10 was their first really really successful processor. they "cookie-cut" the design documents and source as a template for future SoCs... and that was the time when there was *one* manager who *deliberately* and blatantly ignored the Director's *EXPLICIT* instructions to be GPL-compliant. this naive and stupid person ordered tom cubie (one of the software engineers who created the cubieboard and later the raxda) to write scripts REMOVING the copyright notices and the allwinner domain name and all email addresses, and many other things which we see evidence of. tom, who wasn't very happy with this, did so in a very clever way.

                  so you can see that there's engineers and managers who know what should be done, and that the VP *also* knows what should be done, but that the various investors - the ones with the money - are the ones *actually* pulling the strings, and we haven't been able to get through to them. why should they care? they're making money, so all of us can basically f*** off as far as they're concerned, y'know what i'm saying?

                  so we're working on a plan - i've been in touch with them for five years now - where we will propose an SoC design to the VP, along with a development strategy, which is TRULY libre and PROPERLY GPL-compliant, with a full BSP just like you get from TI (the beagleboards), full PCB files - everything - that he can then announce in the company, "look, this is the way i want it done from now on".

                  but for this to happen i NEED FUNDING. i need this project up and funded so that i have the money for the plane tickets, but more than that i need a successful set of devices where i have real credibility to say "hey guys this GPL non-compliance is costing me business, y'know what i'm saying? let's get it right *and* make money"


                  now, about MALI: if you know what you're doing and are happy to do it, and you really *need* 3D graphics, you can actually get it up and running. instructions are available online, it's all perfectly doable and i have actually done it in the past. compiled up the xorg-video-fbturbo driver including the mali support, and it all works. it's just that i'm not going to endorse it by actively putting it on the campaign because i have other ethical considerations to take into account.

                  i just wanted to point that out, because you say "lack of a working mali driver" i assume you didn't mean to say "drive".. it's not actually true, there *is* one, it's proprietary, it works, and the process of installing it is fully-documented.


                  next thing, about performance: you can watch the videos online and assess for yourself (search eoma68 on youtube) - honestly (tongue in cheek here) it's no slower than any modern windows computer for startup times but bear in mind, all those demos are being done off of a low-cost 4 GB Micro-SD card, i haven't set up NAND yet because it's tricky. yes i do need to go and get one of those 128gbyte 80mbytes/sec MicroSD cards just to see what difference it makes. what i'm saying is, there's room for improvement.

                  anyway, the default software we're installing is libreoffice, gimp, a qt webkit-based web browser, xfce4 (because it's not resource-intensive), wicd (to manage network and wifi), hplip (without the proprietary printer drivers) and so on and so forth - it's the sort of thing you'd use in a small office / home office basically. "performance" as such is *not* massively critical. i did however do an update very recently where i compiled up the G2D (xf86-video-fbturbo) accelerated X11 driver because that makes things a bit more "snappy", it includes a demo video https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68/m...s/first-update

                  in essence, then, it's the "Good Enough Computing" principle, where the processor maxes out at 2.5 watts, which is pretty amazing when you compare it to the current x86 processors. 10, 20, 50, 100 watts... it's a bit mad. you'd think that in 2016 that intel would have brought that down to the ultra-low-power battery-operated budget by now, but they can't (in-depth discussion for another time).

                  in other posts (including on here) i also outline why it's been so damn difficult to get off the ground with any other processor. the A20 is "within reach" of the ethics and goals that i've set, basically. i'm not going to include a processor where its team is blatantly GPL-violating, for example. so Mediatek is instantly off the table *right* across the board. the A20 has been around long enough (and i worked in the background behind the scenes to sort out some of the GPL violations) that it now works entirely off of GPL-based compliant source code.

                  in essence: when you've evaluated a hundred SoCs from an ethical business perspective, and found that literally *EVERY* single one of the available products and i do mean literally all of them are "found wanting", the next thing to do is to choose the criteria that would then at least allow *ONE* of them through the net. the A20 was the only one so far.

                  lastly, i leave you with this: bear in mind that this is a modular upgradeable design family. you *will* be able to upgrade in the future to a faster computer card over the next ten years. i need your help getting it off the ground, so you'd be supporting the vision and the ethical way that i'm doing business to help us reach the $150k current target. we have to start somewhere: i've spent five years working out the easiest path that can be achieved on an ethically and environmentally responsible budget.

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                  • #69
                    Originally posted by lkcl View Post
                    so we're working on a plan - i've been in touch with them for five years now - where we will propose an SoC design to the VP, along with a development strategy, which is TRULY libre and PROPERLY GPL-compliant, with a full BSP just like you get from TI (the beagleboards), full PCB files - everything - that he can then announce in the company, "look, this is the way i want it done from now on".

                    but for this to happen i NEED FUNDING. i need this project up and funded so that i have the money for the plane tickets, but more than that i need a successful set of devices where i have real credibility to say "hey guys this GPL non-compliance is costing me business, y'know what i'm saying? let's get it right *and* make money"
                    No wait a sec. The Master Plan is to get to Allwinner proper and convince them to make a GPL-compliant chip?
                    I'm all for it, but I'm a bit skeptical that they would even listen to you.

                    Also, having some kind of proof of what you said above would be cool.

                    now, about MALI: if you know what you're doing and are happy to do it, and you really *need* 3D graphics, you can actually get it up and running. instructions are available online, it's all perfectly doable and i have actually done it in the past. compiled up the xorg-video-fbturbo driver including the mali support, and it all works. it's just that i'm not going to endorse it by actively putting it on the campaign because i have other ethical considerations to take into account.

                    i just wanted to point that out, because you say "lack of a working mali driver" i assume you didn't mean to say "drive".. it's not actually true, there *is* one, it's proprietary, it works, and the process of installing it is fully-documented
                    Ok for the fbturbo hackish driver, but suggesting a proprietary driver on FSF-approved (hopefully) hardware isn't a bit like blasphemy? I mean wtf man are we at this low level? Where are your ideals now?

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                    • #70
                      Originally posted by wizard69 View Post
                      You never know, Mali drivers could come to the board.
                      the already are - they're just proprietary. full instructions (which will work with the EOMA68-A20) are here: http://linux-sunxi.org/Mali_binary_driver

                      Decent? You got to be kidding this is a grossly overpriced kit. Let's get real, 3D printing a shell is grasping at straws.
                      come on gimme some credit man! you know how much it costs to do injection-molding? it's $20 grand for a *single* piece of metal! it's not the actual CNC machining that's the kicker, it's the cost afterwards of some little chinese guy or gal sitting in a workshop polishing out all of the CNC burrs *by hand* for several weeks, to get the smooth finish that we've come to expect.

                      this is why the lower-cost laptops you see around have that kind-of "sanded" finish, and i've recently seen a dell budget laptop that looked like it was made with a completely different technique involving fibre-reinforced plastic that would likely have been vacuum-formed.

                      doing injection-molded cases - and you never, ever get it right first time - is a trial-and-error process with a $20k price-tag (each time) - no wonder they end up spending $250,000 on casework alone! and that's just for a set of soft-tooling molds that will last only around 2000 to 3,000 units! if you want hard-tooling it's around $250,000 for a single set, and it lasts for only about 100,000 uses.

                      if you'd like to read up about this a bit more you can look at bunnie huang's posts on the novena - he explains some of the things that caused them to have to go through several iterations, and he had to leave several of them off because it was clearly costing too much https://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4146

                      anyway compared to these insane costs, i think you'd agree that going with an initial 3d-printed design doesn't seem like such a strange idea after all! think about it. here's the two choices:

                      (Choice Number 1) - design an eco-conscious laptop which requires $250,000 up-front cash and requires MOQs of 3,000 to justify the costs, and could not be repaired (thus not fulfilling the eco-conscious ethic in many many ways)

                      (Choice Number 2) - design an eco-conscious laptop which requires a budget of $2k for equipment, and can be run off for $36 in *ANY* quantity, and users can repair it themselves....

                      which do you feel would fulfil the eco-conscious ethic more readily? which do you feel that someone could consider doing from their own home or small office and scale up later whilst still also respecting ethical and eco-conscious business practices?

                      we can always go for injection-molding later, but people i've been talking to and who've held the laptop in their hands actually *really like* that it's 3D printed and has bamboo plywood recyclable panels.


                      Most of the ARM chips hitting the market are a bit of a joke for laptop service.
                      i've been at this for five years full-time honestly, if i could get anything better (that meets the ethical business criteria i've set), i would have used it for this first one in the series. over the next decade i'll expect there to be more coming out - double the speed, double the ram, half the power - so this is just the start. we have to start somewhere, and helping us reach this first milestone will help us to be able to *bring* those future SoCs to the tablet.

                      also bear in mind, these are $3 to $7 SoCs. i've tried getting hold of intel x86 processors - they start at $21, their lifetime is actually worse than that of the ARM processors (6-8 months at best), they're way over the power budget, intel doesn't provide adequate support, doesn't provide BSPs, restricts access to the documentation, and they've pulled them entirely from the product range as they've shut down the Smartphone and Tablet division anyway! the ones they were trying to tell me were suitable (longer life-times) are over 1,000 pins, over $200, over 10 watts and just hopelessly inappropriate.

                      but if you do hear of anything *please tell me* - i need to keep on the case here and do a public, documented evaluation of each of them.
                      Last edited by lkcl; 07-03-2016, 04:27 PM.

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