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Rhombus Tech A10 EOMA-68 CPU Card Schematics Completed

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the soon-for-the-carputer dept.

China 155

lkcl writes "Rhombus Tech's first CPU Card is nearing completion and availability: the schematics have been completed by Wits-Tech. Although it appears strange to be using a 1ghz Cortex A8 for the first CPU Card, the mass-volume price of the A10 was lower than other offerings. Not only does the A10 classify as 'good enough' (in combination with 1GB of RAM), Allwinner Tech is one of the very rare China-based SoC companies willing to collaborate with Software (Libre) developers without an enforced (GPL-violating) NDA in place. Overall, it's the very first step in the right direction for collaboration between Software (Libre) developers and mass-volume PRC Factories. There will be more (faster, better) EOMA-68 CPU Cards: this one is just the first."

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155 comments

More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270029)

My prediction: this will FAIL just the way linux on the desktop FAILED, the way Netbooks FAILED, the way the "OLPC" FAILED and the way the Raspberry Pi and all other "cheaper is better" open sores efforts have FAILED. You freetards just don't seem to get it. NO ONE WANTS YOUR CRAP SOFTWARE. You losers can't even GIVE IT AWAY. LOL. Time for the lot of you to go back to square one in your lives. Maybe take up knitting instead of trying to play "engineer" like the big boys.

Think different.
Think BETTER.
Think Apple!

Apple is a litigous scam company that never (-1, Offtopic)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270067)

invented anything.

Re:Apple is a litigous scam company that never (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270575)

Would you like me to call you a waaaaambulance, freetard?

Allwinner Tech (2, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271695)

Allwinner Tech is one of the very rare China-based SoC companies willing to collaborate with Software (Libre) developers without an enforced (GPL-violating) NDA in place

Allwinner Tech is the company behind the ARM-based SoC that have powered many many tablets and smartphones

And they only charge $7 per Cortex A8-SoC

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270225)

Difference is, Apple has a lot of money to throw around for advertising/marketing. Doesn't mean they have better product. Also, you have get Apple's blessing (aka more money out of pocket) to work on it.
There is still such a thing as having choices, which is alot of what all the things you call fail are all about. Apple, it's there way, or not at all.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270511)

Difference is, Apple has a lot of money to throw around for advertising/marketing. Doesn't mean they have better product.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Look around the budget end of the processor/computer market and there's some incredibly useful bits of gear. Allwinner is making a mint from having the A10 in a huge variety of devices, from USB-sized computers to development boards like the Rhombus. If you Google Allwinner, Rockchip or Mediatek you'll see thousands of sub-$100 devices with >GHz processors, more RAM than a desktop from 5 years ago and more imaginative form-factors than will ever exist in the Apple monoculture.

Having all this innovation out of Apple's radar means best-of-breed versions will be more likely to gain competitive advantage and prosper.

Rhombus Tech may well fail, but if it does it'll be because it's competing with better or cheaper devices like the $49 Cubieboard [liliputing.com] , not because it was sued into oblivion by an aggressive, predatory monopolist wannabe.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (1)

otuz (85014) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271355)

It wasn't always so. They were nearly bankrupt at one stage and still managed to become one of the biggest companies ever.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271943)

They do, I admit, make hardware of excellent build quality. But the strength of the company is, as you say, in their branding. They don't sell hardware, they sell a lifestyle and an image.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

JimCanuck (2474366) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270299)

Think different. Think BETTER. Think Apple!

Ah because Apple laptops have always been second rate and Apple attempted to cash in on the Thinkpad brand and IBM's "THINK" slogan by using "Think Different" as a slogan.

Because even Apple cannot get past the fact Thinkpads and IBM are better then they'll ever be.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270741)

Umm... You do realize Thinkpads haven't been associated with IBM for several years now, right? (google: Lenovo)

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270835)

"think different" is that grammatically correct?

I think the marketing department needs to learn to "write good"

P.S. Eat a bowl of dicks fanboy.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271759)

Different is being used as a noun, not an adverb. It is grammatically correct.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271867)

So is semantic nonsense better or worse than syntactic error?

And if you give me some argument about how "It's putting forward the idea that you think about the concept of differentness", I'll strike you across the face with a PowerMac 8600 and garrot (garrot is being used as a verb, not a noun) you with an ADB mouse.

OTOH, if the exhortation is "when you think Apple, don't think 'better' - just think 'different'", I'll only drop a Mac Plus on your foot.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270845)

You do realise that their famous 1984 advert was a long-term business plan, not satire, don't you?

  Conform consume work obey reproduce follow repeat obey buy Apple.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271151)

Conform consume work obey reproduce follow repeat obey buy Apple.

IIRC, those words were lifted right out of John Carpenter's movie "They Live, We Sleep", excepting "buy Apple". Every time, I am reminded about the globalists that seek total domination over the people, excepting their minions. Too bad. Apple has proven itself to be just as much an evil globalist corporation without a shred of humanity, just like Google.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271549)

just like Google.

obvious troll is obvious. get bent.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270947)

I used to be an Apple fanboi. From 1990-2000 I was all about Apple. Then, I got tired of making excuses.

Now, I'm platform agnostic. I have three macs, one Linux, one Windows and one Solaris machine under my desk.

LK

Re:More open sores FAIL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271377)

That's too many boxes...I have a mac running a windows and a Linux VM via VMware Fusion... So far don't have much of a need for Solaris, but if I find I need it I can easily spin up another VM.

Re:More open sores FAIL. (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272333)

VM's are very useful for some things but they still are not a replacement for an actual box. I love them for modelling network infrastructures where I need multiple OS's talking to each other. For a lot of things I still like to rely on a physical computer.

In other words, your mileage may vary.

WHAT? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270077)

Too many links... no intro telling me what this is.

For those who want to know... it is a PCMCIA (PC-card) sized integrated computer designed to compete with the Raspberry Pi... supposedly cheaper and faster. Raspberry Pi does have one major advantage though: it is in production and shipping whereas this is still in the schematics stages. So... nothing to see here...

Re:WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270237)

says who? My order has been delayed 3 times. I ordered months ago and a new version is already in production. I still haven't got my old version.

change suppliers (2)

Chirs (87576) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270389)

Some of the suppliers are shipping right now....others are playing games with ship dates.

Re:WHAT? (2)

complete loony (663508) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270311)

Plus the raspberry pi has all of the I/O ports you need to actually use it. This CPU card might form the core of another product, like a tablet, but as a minimum you'd need a docking station to connect to everything.

Re:WHAT? (4, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270597)

This CPU card might form the core of another product, like a tablet,

or a laptop, smartphone, PDA, workstation, desktop, power-saving server, router, All-in-One LCD computer, Media Centre, IPTV, All-in-One keyboard computer, upgradeable camera, upgradeable videorecorder, games console, and many many more that have been discussed and we're always on the lookout for more - feel free to make suggestions on this page:
http://rhombus-tech.net/community_ideas/ [rhombus-tech.net]
http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/EOMA-68#Example_Motherboards [elinux.org]

it's also worthwhile pointing out that we've added a DIL2-44 (2.5in IDE size) expansion header which gives access to the more common "engineer's" GPIO functions, such as an extra USB 480mb/sec, as well as AC97/I2S, dual-channel LVDS, VGA out and more; as well as adding a more "factory-style" FPC-45 which provides access to the kinds of functions that you'd see in commercial IPTV and other products (Dual Transport Streams; GPS; Smart Card, TV-IN and so on).

obviously, that "factory / engineering" mode, you'd not be able to get the standard 5mm height PCMCIA case on, but that's ok, because it's either factory-installed or being used for engineering, R&D or educational purposes. i've documented the full pin-outs here: http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/orders/ [rhombus-tech.net]

but as a minimum you'd need a docking station to connect to everything.

not "everything": that would mean that without the docking station you'd not be able to gain access to the HDMI port, USB-OTG port, SD/MMC socket or the Audio Jack :) but i believe i know what you mean. you mean like this?
http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/EOMA-68/MiniEngineeringBoard [elinux.org]

Re:WHAT? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270313)

No, it's not designed to compete with the Raspberry Pi.

EOMA-68 [elinux.org] is a new form factor to fix the current rat race of upgrading to new devices, cracking the bootloaders, and just about time you get things running smoothly with open source software, *boom* it's obsolete; there's a device twice as fast at the same cost, and if you buy it, you're back to square one.

It's designed to serve as a computing core that can be dropped into various peripheral shells (e.g. netbook, phone, tablet, or settop box) and swapped amongst them at will; once you find that perfect shell (for me, the Fujitsu U2010 laptop is the closest yet, and I'm considering gutting one and converting it to EOMA-68), you can swap in e.g. ARM or MIPS cores, or even a passthru card to let your desktop drive it for debugging etc. -- you don't get stuck with the factory CPU (an aging 1st-gen Atom in my case), but left hanging on because nobody makes that lovely hardware with anything else, or because new models have a signed bootloader that has to be cracked to own your own hardware. It's also made to run entirely on open-source software -- neither of these were design constraints for the Pi, which is a computer in its own right, rather than an interchangeable component.

Re:WHAT? (1)

caballew (2725281) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270391)

I wish I had several right now. Alarm system, zone control of HVAC system, cheap simple merchandise kiosks, virtually anything you prototype with the Arduino or Netduino that you could develop into a small run custom product; the possibilities are limited only by imagination.

Re:WHAT? (1, Offtopic)

caballew (2725281) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270477)

This epitomizes Apples slogan - Think different. Think BETTER

Re:WHAT? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271531)

Which makes it quite amusing that this also is the anti-apple - free and open and designed so that you won't need to buy new shit every year.

Re:WHAT? (2)

couchslug (175151) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271351)

It's about time we had a standard "form factor" for such a core card.

Standard form factors have been great for desktop consumers as they facilitate upgrade, repair, and re-use.

Re:WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271585)

For me it looks just like another standard for a computer-on-module which is nothing new e.g. http://us.kontron.com/products/computeronmodules/ and others.

Re:WHAT? (4, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270525)

no intro telling me what this is.

apologies. it's the first in a series of CPU Cards, based around a mass-volume modular computing initiative that allows both china factories and software (libre) developers the opportunity to work together to create desirable, affordable mass-volume computing appliances. at the risk of melting your brain with another link, here's the news article which provides some background as to why the project exists: http://www.itwire.com/opinion-and-analysis/open-sauce/52054-british-company-looks-to-create-cheap-open-platforms [itwire.com]

allow me to go over what you wrote:

it is a PCMCIA (PC-card) sized integrated computer

correct. it can operate stand-alone via USB-OTG power, if needed. without the case on, there's access to the remaining interfaces of the A10 that we could not fit onto the 2 ends of the CPU Card.

designed to compete with the Raspberry Pi...

incorrect. this is more a commercial venture than an educational venture, with volumes approaching several million units a year. our goals almost accidentally encompass those of the raspberry pi (hence the reason why the developers were a bit rude to me on their forums a few months back: they feel threatened, unfortunately. can't be helped... *sigh*).

supposedly cheaper

incorrect. this perception is based on a misinterpretation that unfortunately was propagated through more channels than we have resources to spend time chasing down and correcting.

and faster.

correct. it's a 1ghz Cortex A8, whereas the rbpi CPU is... a 700mhz(?) ARM11. it's therefore guaranteed to be at least twice as slow.

as the scope of the rhombus tech project goes way beyond just this one CPU Card or just one device, we'll be constantly on the lookout over the next decade and beyond for upgraded CPUs, and for new products to create. we'll also review the standards: EOMA-68 is just the first. i'll risk being responsible for causing brain-melt and provide you with another link, if that's ok. http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/EOMA-68 [elinux.org]

Re:WHAT? (1)

makomk (752139) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272087)

The Raspberry Pi developers are rude to everyone on their forum, even their own customers.

Re:WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270527)

The mailing list had some interesting discussions on the secrets, patents and companies behind this project

http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/2012-May/003950.html [phcomp.co.uk]

The supposedly "Open" EOMA-68 standard is a repurposed PCMCIA connector and PC-Card that is actually under "an undisclosed patent and the project had to make sure that everything produced fell under that patent so an undisclosed fee could be charged."

Re:WHAT? (3, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270883)

The mailing list had some interesting discussions on the secrets, patents and companies behind this project

http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/2012-May/003950.html [phcomp.co.uk]

The supposedly "Open" EOMA-68 standard is a repurposed PCMCIA connector and PC-Card that is actually under "an undisclosed patent and the project had to make sure that everything produced fell under that patent so an undisclosed fee could be charged."

i notice that you're posting as anonymous coward. we had some trouble with a particular individual who promised to deliver, reneged on that promise and caused us a great deal of aggravation. the patents were mentioned very early on in the project and were raised again much later, during a fire-fighting exercise dealing with the shit raised by the vindictive pissed-off and self-serving individual.

to explain: the patents are there to protect people from physical harm due to the possibility of idiotic companies creating non-interoperable products that could potentially short-circuit things e.g. a lithium battery. if the scope of this project was to sell only 50,000 units maximum, we would not bother with the patents. however, given that the volume of units is expected to reach several million per year, there is no way in hell that we can leave this to "self-policing".

look up the story that i told about my uncle, Anthony Pickford, who was Smith Kline Beecham's Director at the time when some moronic companies in the UK started importing "clones" of one of SKB's drugs. the clone drugs were *KILLING* people; SKB had to move very quickly. they managed to solve it by suing the Inland Revenue when Customs and Excise refused to comply with a 3rd party discovery request for the Import Records. the case was taken very swiftly to the House of Lords, where, fortunately, SKB won and was able to obtain the records, contact the importers and get the killer drugs stopped. if they did not *have* the patents, there would be no way that they could stop people from being killed.

sometimes, patents can be used for good reasons. for someone who hates software patents and patents in general with a vengeance, that's really saying something.

so, anonymous coward: if you've got questions, anonymous coward, fucking well ask them and stop making accusations, please.

Re:WHAT? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271553)

If cloned drugs are killing people, it is up to the authorities to deal with it... Not some company who's primary goal is removing cheaper competition via any means available.

Don't try to make out that this company was in any way concerned about deaths, they were only concerned about their bottom line. They only intervened because it was hurting their profits, that the cloned drugs were killing people is entirely secondary and a useful excuse for going after the sellers.

Re:WHAT? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271753)

If cloned drugs are killing people, it is up to the authorities to deal with it... Not some company who's primary goal is removing cheaper competition via any means available.

I am not familiar with this bickering, but if what you allege is true, then it does spell doom for this and similar project
 
I am not a fan of patent holders turning into patent trolls - and I am talking as one who owns 3 patents and never use my patents to threaten anyone - unless they sue me first :)

Re:WHAT? (2)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270665)

Uh, the Pi is meant an educational and hobby platform. It has a bunch of slots and connectors. This thing is obviously a commercial product without a lot of slots or connectors that's meant to be embedded in a larger product.

Not being an embedded systems person, I'd be grateful if somebody linked examples of the kind of system that uses this kind of CPU card.

Re:WHAT? (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270893)

Uh, the Pi is meant an educational and hobby platform. It has a bunch of slots and connectors. This thing is obviously a commercial product without a lot of slots or connectors that's meant to be embedded in a larger product.

Not being an embedded systems person, I'd be grateful if somebody linked examples of the kind of system that uses this kind of CPU card.

can't do that. can link you to planned and discussed products though:
http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/EOMA-68#Example_Motherboards [elinux.org]
http://rhombus-tech.net/community_ideas/ [rhombus-tech.net]

the first will be a laptop. we have a deadline to meet of 10th october to get 25 prototype samples ready, for our client. yes. really. that soon.

Re:WHAT? (1)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271073)

An ARM laptop? Dare I ask which OS? There might be a market for Windows RT, but I can't see anybody wanting an Android tablet.

Some of the products you link to do look intriguing. I've often wanted an Android tablet. I actually bought a no-name Chinese ICS tablet a few months ago. Had nice specs, including a 10" screen. Alas, the design was very cheap, with a digitizer that required a special stylus and a screen that brook in a few days. It seems that building a reasonably sturdy tablet at a reasonable price isn't that easy.

Re:WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271541)

It's actually quite easy. Getting people to agree on what a "reasonable price" is however is next to impossible.

Re:WHAT? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271565)

I have an android laptop, it now runs much better with a normal linux distribution... Android is really unusable on a keyboard/mouse operated device, but a thin/light laptop running linux with long battery life is actually very useful, and should sell well if released with a non crippled distro and some level of marketing.

Re:WHAT? (1)

fm6 (162816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271967)

Maybe, except they'd have a hard time competing with netbooks running Window 7 Starter. Small, light, stupendous battery life, and only cost about $250.

Re:WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270771)

The Beaglebone from Beagleboard.org flat out kills these (this and Raspberry Pi) devices for performance and support.

Sure, the Beaglebone is ~$99.00, but the premium is well worth it IMO.

Re:WHAT? (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270935)

we'll have a dual-core CPU Card available once we've found both a SoC vendor willing to be open about their CPU design as well as a partner willing to make an at-cost EOMA-68 CPU Card or do a deal of some kind, ok? we'll get there, all right? :) /peace

Re:WHAT? (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271193)

I have a stack of 486 cards that have all but the peripherals. It's made by epson but I have almost zero data on them. I just looked for Epson card PC and found something but it's slim. It's about the same size as a PCMCIA card but it uses a 236 pin edge connector. Maybe EASI interface Embedded all in one system interface

Our company had made an attempt to interface them with the PLC of a joint venture only to have that flop for various reasons. It's a full featured 4mb 33mhz 486 PC that needs a connector for power, drive, vga display, keyboard and mouse, battery. I have one mounted in a development device that I ran DOOM on. Slllloooowwwwllly.

Re:WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271213)

Personally, i didnt and still dont understand the nerd-crowd fascination with the rpi. As a guy who's been into arm tech for years the rpi was a step backwards in every way bar one: its cheap enough for anyone to afford. But as far as what the rpi is, the reasons for a nerd owning such a device are non-existent IMHO. I own too many little arm dev boards and arm-based hackable devices and prior to the rpi there was many sub-100$ boards with significantly more grunt. However, even prior to the existence of the rpi there were a10 (and similar) based boards for only twice the price. So for nerds, why bother with an rpi? its way too under-powered for almost any purpose to the point of being a waste of money.... HOWEVER, as a tech for countries or people for which the price of an rpi is "affordable" piece of tech, i think its brilliant, and for that purpose alone i support it whole-heartedliy - but i wouldnt own one, its useless to me. What i mean by that though is that i would happy pay 3x the price of the rpi to own one of the several a10 based boards on the basis that it would also pay for an rpi + delivery for someone who cant afford such a thing.

Sure they're "twice the price", but for many people thats still spare change in reality. In alot of cases people pay that much a month for their phone contracts, internet access, filling their car with petrol - add your own.

There are many taxes i hate to pay (the microsoft tax for example), but someone who sold me a decent a10 based board (or something similar with a 1g/1g cpu/ram combo), i'd pay for that + the rpi cost for someone else to own the rpi, gladly too. I dont really get why rpi didnt do that (aside from the difficulty of developing two boards though they could have partnered with someone for this) because it would have made alot of sense to me, "buy this awesome board for yourself so someone less fortunate can own a much smaller/simpler one" and do it so that whatever that "awesome board" is, you could develop software for that which would also be rpi compatible..

Re:WHAT? (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271951)

While a lot of hobbyists will be using the Pi, the real target is education. It's cheap enough that when some kid steps on it, throws it against the wall in anger or pulls components off just for fun (I work in a school, all that happens) it can just be replaced. Your a10 board may be only twice the price, but that's a big difference in a sector where the most common cause of equipment failure is vandalism.

Re:WHAT? (0)

pjr.cc (760528) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271235)

(this is a re-post because i didnt realise i wasnt logged in the first time i posted)

Personally, i didnt and still dont understand the nerd-crowd fascination with the rpi. As a guy who's been into arm tech for years the rpi was a step backwards in every way bar one: its cheap enough for anyone to afford. But as far as what the rpi is, the reasons for a nerd owning such a device are non-existent IMHO. I own too many little arm dev boards and arm-based hackable devices and prior to the rpi there was many sub-100$ boards with significantly more grunt. However, even prior to the existence of the rpi there were a10 (and similar) based boards for only twice the price. So for nerds, why bother with an rpi? its way too under-powered for almost any purpose to the point of being a waste of money.... HOWEVER, as a tech for countries or people for which the price of an rpi is "affordable" piece of tech, i think its brilliant, and for that purpose alone i support it whole-heartedliy - but i wouldnt own one, its useless to me. What i mean by that though is that i would happy pay 3x the price of the rpi to own one of the several a10 based boards on the basis that it would also pay for an rpi + delivery for someone who cant afford such a thing.

Sure they're "twice the price", but for many people thats still spare change in reality. In alot of cases people pay that much a month for their phone contracts, internet access, filling their car with petrol - add your own.

There are many taxes i hate to pay (the microsoft tax for example), but someone who sold me a decent a10 based board (or something similar with a 1g/1g cpu/ram combo), i'd pay for that + the rpi cost for someone else to own the rpi, gladly too. I dont really get why rpi didnt do that (aside from the difficulty of developing two boards though they could have partnered with someone for this) because it would have made alot of sense to me, "buy this awesome board for yourself so someone less fortunate can own a much smaller/simpler one" and do it so that whatever that "awesome board" is, you could develop software for that which would also be rpi compatible..

Uh what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270085)

I have never heard of this CPU card, or the company, or why it would matter that the schematics are completed. Modern systems are a handful of high pin count devices, thousands of capacitors, hundreds of resistors and a handful of coils, and a few miles of PCB traces. Schematics are not useful to the average person anymore. All this could mean is that a PCB can be started. So that brings me back to the basics... What is it, by who, what for, and why?

It also bothers me to see "ghz" on a supposed tech site. It's GHz. Giga and Hertz.

What the fuck is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270091)

Anyone care to provide a little background on what this is and why the hell any of us should care? Since, you know, the submitter/editors can't seem to grasp that old journalistic concept of letting the audience know why the fuck they should care.

My head hurts. (1)

Revotron (1115029) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270163)

I tried to read the summary, really I did, but my +1 machete of reading comprehension was rendered useless against the overpowering thicket of overused parenthetical asides and link-whoring.

I was afraid to follow the links (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270199)

I thought they might take me to V14GRA pages.

Wait, this wasn't randomly generated text designed to bypass spam filters?

Huh. Go figure.

68 cores? (2)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270215)

An odd number of cores. Perhaps they have 4 cores, each controlling 16 CPUs. Or 4 cores set aside for other purposes?

Re:68 cores? (3, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270541)

An odd number of cores. Perhaps they have 4 cores, each controlling 16 CPUs. Or 4 cores set aside for other purposes?

68 pins, not 68 cores :) of course, if you'd like to create a server box containing 64 or even 68 EOMA-68 CPU Cards, please feel free to do so! the idea was raised here: http://rhombus-tech.net/community_ideas/cluster_server/ [rhombus-tech.net]

i adapted the EOMA-68 standard after that discussion, and squeezed in 10/100/1000 Ethernet to make it more attractive. the Allwinner A10 doesn't have Gigabit Ethernet, but future CPU Cards definitely will.

Summary (1)

dwillmore (673044) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270219)

Okay, so a company that works to 'serve the community' produces a CPU card in a PCMCIA form factor (though which is electronically incompatable) chose a very inexpensive Chinese processor for their first project. The CPU is 3x the speed of a Rasberry Pi. It has some GPL code provided by the CPU manufacturer--who seems very cool to the OSS movement.

The schematic and layout are out for this card. There is code coming. There will be boards coming. The BOM is $15, but who knows what the shipping cost will be? With shipping, it might not matter what the BOM and sales price will be.

This could be interesting, but we know way too little to make any meaningful statement at this time.

Re:Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270417)

It's PCMCIA simply because hardware (connectors, slots, and rails) is dirt cheap, thus permitting easy bootstrap of this new form-factor with small initial production environment.

It's not so much aimed at competing with the Pi. It's more about separating CPU and related hardware from peripherals, which has three main benefits:

First, it allows hobbyist or small-run production of e.g. tablets, netbooks, or phones, without having to design and build the entire system -- the CPU etc. is purchased as an off-the-shelf unit, greatly simplifying PCB design.

Second, it permits upgrading a given device with new CPUs as they come out, or even swapping CPUs day-to-day (if you're willing to carry a spare CPU card, you can dual-boot your laptop with an Atom card to run x86 stuff (maybe WoW, or whatever those kids play these days), or an ARM card to prolong battery life on long trips.

Finally, you can swap a single card between devices -- so you can use it in a 10" tablet for couch-surfing, then swap it into a 6"-7" tablet or even a phone to hit the road, keeping all the same software and data installed (on the internal flash and the microSD; each device may have additional storage connected by USB or SATA, which of course remains with the device).

Re:Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271567)

All of those things sounds like they are awesome ideas that will greatly appeal to the .1% (or whatever) of the population that are hardcore geeks. The millions of units they are talking about? Not so much. I could see myself playing around with something like that, switching cards for functionality. Not so much between devices to retain functionality, that seems like more hassle than the money I'd save on not having to buy complete devices.

Either way, the vast majority of the world can't even upgrade the RAM in a desktop, much less a laptop, much less open up a tablet or phone to dig around. And it's not because it's hard, it's because it's scary, it's because it's foreign, and it's because it's easier for them to get someone else to do it or just buy another device, since by the time they need to be upgraded they are usually obsolete anyway by modern standards. (It's not only the electronics that differ between this years tablets and those of a few years ago - think screen, connectors, cameras, hardware buttons...)

So while this sounds like a neat idea and can probably gain some traction, you're talking about the wrong usecases for the sort of volume they want to move. Think industrial level here.

who the hell picked that name?! (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270247)

I guess having 2 other major manufacturers of chips is just way too many to keep track of or they'd have realized there's already chips called A8 and A10 from AMD. In fact, I think they just recently released A10 chips.

Re:who the hell picked that name?! (4, Informative)

pnot (96038) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270567)

I guess having 2 other major manufacturers of chips is just way too many to keep track of or they'd have realized there's already chips called A8 and A10 from AMD. In fact, I think they just recently released A10 chips.

ARM Cortex A8 came out in 2010, and AMD announced their A-series in 2011. So perhaps AMD's marketing department should have done their homework, hmm?

Re:who the hell picked that name?! (2)

caballew (2725281) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270663)

ARM processors are developed by ARM Holdings but they don't actually manufacturer them; they licensed to many different manufacturers. That's why you see different manufacturers with the same product because they license the technology and implement it in their own proprietary ways.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_Cortex [wikipedia.org]

Re:who the hell picked that name?! (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270797)

AMD was calling their chips a letter and number since like 1993 or something. But anyway, this one that's being made is a lost opportunity. They could have named it the AMDFU for copying them apparently lol.

Interesting Concept (1)

caballew (2725281) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270275)

I think it's an interesting concept that could lead to developing usable low volume products tailored for a specific need at a low cost as long as the cost of the card ends up being under $20. It will give an architecture to develop hardware devices with an upgrade path for processor and peripherals. It's not for creating a desktop PC for the average user.

http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/EOMA-68 [elinux.org]

Translation of "summary" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270285)

Lkcl xiÄ dÃo:âoeLÃngxÃng jÃshà de dà yÄgà CPU kÇZ shà jiÄ"jÃn wÃnchéng hÃn kÄyÃngxÃng: YuÃnlÇ tà yÇjÄng bÃi wÃnchéng de zhÃhuÃ, jÃshÃ, suÄrÃn tÄ chÅxiÃn qÃguÃi dÃo kÄyÇ shÇyÃng yÄ gà 1GHz de pÃzhà A8 de dà yÄ gà CPU kÇZ, de zhÃliÃng, liÃng jià de A10 dÄ bÇ qÃtÄ chÇZnpÇn. BÃjÇn zÃi A10 guÄ lÃi wÃi âoezÃgÃu hÇZoâ(zÃi yÇ'ngyÇ'u 1GB de RAM de zÇ"hé), dÃn Allwinner jÃshà shà yÄ zhÇ'ng fÄ"ichÃng hÇZnjiÃn de yÇ zhÅngguà wÃi jÄdà de SoC gÅngsÄ yuÃnyà yÇ" ruÇZnjiÃn (zÃyÃu bÃo) kÄifÄ rényuÃn méiyÇ'u qiÃngzhà zhÃxÃng (GPL, wéifÇZn)NDA dà dÃfÄng. ZÇ'ngtÇ Ã©r yÃn, tÄ de de dà yÄ gà bÃzhÃu zÃi zhÃngquà de fÄngxiÃng hézuà zhÄ jiÄn de ruÇZnjiÃn (zÃyÃu bÃo) kÄifÄ hé zhÃliÃng - tÇjÄ zhÅngguà gÅngchÇZng. YÇ'u jiÃng shà gÃng duÅ (gÃng kuÃi, gÃng hÇZo de)EOMA-68 CPU kÇZ: Zhà shà dà yÄ gÃ.âoe

OK, Joe?

What the eff is that? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271773)

Lkcl xià dÃfo:ÃoeLÃfngxÃfng jÃfshÃf de dÃf yÃgÃf CPU kÃZ shÃf jiÃ"jÃfn wÃfnchÃf©ng hÃfn kÃyÃfngxÃfng: YuÃfnlà tÃf yÃjÃng bÃfi wÃfnchÃf©ng de zhÃfhuÃf, jÃfshÃf, suÃrÃfn tà chÃ...xiÃfn qÃfguÃfi dÃfo kÃyà shÃyÃfng yà gÃf 1GHz de pÃfzhÃf A8 de dÃf yà gÃf CPU kÃZ, de zhÃfliÃfng, liÃfng jiÃf de A10 dà bà qÃftà chÃZnpÃn. BÃfjÃn zÃfi A10 guà lÃfi wÃfi ÃoezÃfgÃfu hÃZoÃ(zÃfi yÃ'ngyÃ'u 1GB de RAM de zÃ"hÃf©), dÃfn Allwinner jÃfshÃf shÃf yà zhÃ'ng fÃ"ichÃfng hÃZnjiÃfn de yà zhÃ...ngguÃf wÃfi jÃdÃf de SoC gÃ...ngsà yuÃfnyÃf yÃ" ruÃZnjiÃfn (zÃfyÃfu bÃfo) kÃifà rÃf©nyuÃfn mÃf©iyÃ'u qiÃfngzhÃf zhÃfxÃfng (GPL, wÃf©ifÃZn)NDA dÃf dÃffÃng. ZÃ'ngtà Ãf©r yÃfn, tà de de dÃf yà gÃf bÃfzhÃfu zÃfi zhÃfngquÃf de fÃngxiÃfng hÃf©zuÃf zhà jiÃn de ruÃZnjiÃfn (zÃfyÃfu bÃfo) kÃifà hÃf© zhÃfliÃfng - tÃjà zhÃ...ngguÃf gÃ...ngchÃZng. YÃ'u jiÃfng shÃf gÃfng duÃ... (gÃfng kuÃfi, gÃfng hÃZo de)EOMA-68 CPU kÃZ: ZhÃf shÃf dÃf yà gÃf.Ãoe

OK, Joe?

What the eff is that?

I know slashdot doesn't support anything else but ASCII, but the above is absolutely, totally lame !!

Re:What the eff is that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41272339)

I know slashdot doesn't support anything else but ASCII, but the above is absolutely, totally lame !!

Huh? It may not support Chinese, but I always had the impression they could do non-ascii accented letters, such as:
æøå ÆØÅ öäï ñàèòáéóâêôãõ and much more. Not necessary for English text, but people have such things in their names . . .

I'm Surprised RPi's Coattails Haven't Ripped... (0)

Revotron (1115029) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270317)

...from how hard these guys are trying to ride them.

I'm surprised nobody's punched you in the face... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270449)

...for combining ignorance and assholery in one package.

Be an asshole about a ripoff -- just make sure you're not ridiculously wrong, as in this case.
Or make assumptions, taking a risk of being wrong -- and be polite about it.

But no, you gotta go for both. Asking for a face-punch, if you act the same way in person.

Re:I'm surprised nobody's punched you in the face. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270857)

Chill out you fucking psycho Aspie.

Re:I'm surprised nobody's punched you in the face. (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270967)

be kind, please! he made a mistake - it's ok. i've made enough, god knows... :) that's how you make progress.

Re:I'm Surprised RPi's Coattails Haven't Ripped... (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270737)

that's actually an incorrect perception. the rhombus tech initiative was formed quite some time before the raspberry pi was conceived. we've just been applying a different strategy (zero-investment) which has resulted in some raather long delays as we've got up-to-speed.

Re:I'm Surprised RPi's Coattails Haven't Ripped... (1)

Revotron (1115029) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270905)

I'll say. I've never even heard of this project until now (blame my ignorant remark on Slashdot not leading with even a little bit of backstory, as usual.)

Re:I'm Surprised RPi's Coattails Haven't Ripped... (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270959)

I'll say. I've never even heard of this project until now (blame my ignorant remark on Slashdot not leading with even a little bit of backstory, as usual.)

sorry! my fault. i wrote the original submission. it's been a loooong road. i only just noticed that i'd said "schematics" rather than "board layout", thanks (sincerely) to someone's comments here. i kinda assumed that people had been following. and ironically got criticised for putting in too many links in the submission, already. imagine how many slashdotters heads would have melted if i'd done all their work for them by putting in some extra backstory links? :)

anyway: there's a bit more about the background, here: http://www.itwire.com/opinion-and-analysis/open-sauce/52054-british-company-looks-to-create-cheap-open-platforms [itwire.com] - pleaase for goodness sake ignore the mistaken reporting of a "$15" sale price.... but otherwise it's all good stuff.

My brain is melt-proof, don't worry (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271783)

imagine how many slashdotters heads would have melted if i'd done all their work for them by putting in some extra backstory links? :)

Don't worry, just list them all out here

I've been here for a long while, and my brain has yet been melted

List them here, so at least you'll provide us with melt-proof brains a trip to the search engines

Thanks in advance !!

Re:My brain is melt-proof, don't worry (4, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272209)

Don't worry, just list them all out here

I've been here for a long while, and my brain has yet been melted

List them here, so at least you'll provide us with melt-proof brains a trip to the search engines

Thanks in advance !!

:) ok - that first story, the one on itwire, explains what the heck happened and why i started on this path at all. it was a GPL-violating laptop that, embarrassingly, i naively encouraged 20 people to buy the very first samples from a little china factory called "Chitech". i had no idea that the factory hadn't even been *supplied* with the source code, and assumed that they would supply it. when they wouldn't (because they couldn't) in order not to let down all the people i'd encouraged to buy the laptops i had to go into overdrive spending about a month working with frans pop, buy a hand-held oscilloscope and get out the soldering iron in order to reverse-engineer the hardware and create an alternative S3C6410 2.6.24 kernel and a debian installer for the device. at the same time i also began a GPL violations escalation which so unnerved the girls at the factory that they ceased working with the ODM who supplied the GPL-violating design. not entirely the result i was looking for, but hey.

anyway i'd been through this reverse-engineering saga before in 2004 with a bunch of HTC wince smartphones (i used to own 7 HTC smartphones!), so it wasn't as hard this time, but it sank in that this was an absolutely ridiculous way to go about things, and i decided to try to find people to work with to actually create the hardware *itself*. i then looked at modules (like the ones used in the GPL-violating laptop) and, on learning how expensive they were (usually $99-$150) decided there was no way this could succeed using modules.

i spoke about this to my friend and mentor and, slowly we morphed the idea into a mass-volume product, evaluating dozens of possible connectors for re-use, and patented the concept. for the first CPU card, we settled on PCMCIA, as it turned out to be perfect for re-use. also: it turns out that the client whom we've been advising has just taken on the automated assembly of some 20 million 3G PCMCIA modems for one of their customers. this was highly successful for them: they earned an *enormous* sum of money, and they gained the skill, equipment and confidence to make PCMCIA-card-sized devices.... just as we come along with a PCMCIA-sized computer and they're *also* looking to solve the problem of their unprofitable laptop business! ... talk about jammy, or what? :)

anyway, back to the story: we started looking for SoC vendors willing to work with us, even though we had no cash, and started selling the advantages of the story and the opportunity to help our very large mass-volume client and for people to make large wads of cash some time in the future, instead. we had this mad idea of the EOMA-68 CPU Card becoming a de-facto standard which SoC vendors could create as their first BSP, on the basis that it takes all the hard work out of getting any given CPU *literally* straight into a mass-production environment with no additional changes, and happens to be a good format as an engineering board (similar to the origen, imx53qsb, pandaboard etc.)

the funny thing is that over the past 2 years we've learned that it's actually *not* a good idea to encourage anyone to expect an up-front cash payment for "work done": it sends completely the wrong message. for example, we approached over a hundred factories around Shenzen, and asked them if they wanted to convert their products to EOMA-68. they didn't understand. they asked "how many our tablet you want buy?" quite a lot. on average it took about 20 messages to get across to them that we wanted to partner with them. we help improve their products, we supply software services at zero cost and introduce them to our clients on a commission-basis, if they modify the products to our hardware spec without charging us. win-win, and no money changes hands along the way. *eventually* we refined this, and *eventually* we found a factory big enough to cope with the manufacture of a million PCBs per month.

along the way, we set up the rhombus-tech initiative, because it's important that free software developers be involved. that is, after all, the whole point! i *am* a free software developer: i'm pissed off at the GPL violations and the time wasted not just by me but by people like cyanogenmod and so many other teams whose skills and time are spent mostly, instead of working hard to bring out good products that are GPL-compliant *in advance*, have to spent months or even years *retrospectively* getting linux hacked onto already-old and out-of-date hardware. it just makes me extremely angry, enough to want to give people the opportunity to work *with* these mass-volume factories, so that their time as free software developers can be better spent, if they so choose, achieving a higher bang-per-buck ratio and reaching more end-users.

that's the goal, anyway. it's interesting that over the past 2 years, many people simply... haven't got it, and have fought or reacted very very badly when the sheer scale of the project started to become clear to them. that's quite a common reaction to being presented with the possibility of dealing with vast sums of money. i'm having to ramp up my own expectations as well - read all those books like "rich dad, poor dad", "millionaire mind", "bug-free mind" and so on, just to make absolutely sure that there's no vestige of destructive behaviour lurking!

so, we've got a number of people who have bought Mele A1000s for $50 instead of $1000 for an Allwinner EVB. they've done a superb job of going from pretty much zero practical experience and knowledge to a highly densely populated wiki in about 3 months, with over 8 OSes supported with easy-to-use and well-documented scripts and recipes for playing with A10 hardware. i'm amazed and really proud of them. once we get some spare cash in, they'll be the first people to receive some of it.

ok, a bit more than i was expecting to write - not just a few links after all. hmm, let's throw some out there:
* http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/ [rhombus-tech.net] (there's a bunch of links at the bottom to various forums)
* http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/orders/ [rhombus-tech.net] (explains what the CPU Card is and how to get one)
* http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/pcb/ [rhombus-tech.net] (there's a bunch of links at the bottom)
* http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/hacking_the_mele_a1000/ [rhombus-tech.net] (OSes, reverse-engineering etc.)

a bit redundant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270435)

but Allwinner Tech is one of the very rare China-based SoC companies willing to collaborate with Software (Libre) developers without an enforced (GPL-violating) NDA in place

C'mon, any volume production pretty much goes to China by default.
More succinct to elaborate only if it's going to somewhere other than China.

Re:a bit redundant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41271609)

This SoC is not only produced but also designed in China. Most competitors are designed in Korea (Samsung) or the US (TI, Qualcomm?, Nvidia?).

Re:a bit redundant (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271793)

This SoC is not only produced but also designed in China. Most competitors are designed in Korea (Samsung) or the US (TI, Qualcomm?, Nvidia?)

Quite a number of SoC (among others) are designed in Israel, Japan and Germany as well

India had, at one time, the potential to become a very strong player in the field. But for some reason, that never came true

Schematics? (2)

tftp (111690) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270447)

If they just completed the schematic drawings this tells me that they are at least half a year away from production - if they are super good designers and if their prototype works right the first time they power it up.

The schematic is often the easiest part of the design. An EMC compliant PCB is usually harder; passing FCC/CE/* EMI compliance is harder; setting up for mass production is not for beginners either. Those guys just made the first step on a long road. And that's exactly why it's so hard to build hardware these days; the progress is so fast that by the time you are ready to manufacture the key parts are obsolete and out of production. Even if the parts are still available your design may be already obsolete because newer, better parts became available. It's either "design it under 3 months" or "do something else with your life."

Re:Schematics? (5, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270723)

The schematic is often the easiest part of the design. An EMC compliant PCB is usually harder; passing FCC/CE/* EMI compliance is harder; setting up for mass production is not for beginners either. Those guys just made the first step on a long road. And that's exactly why it's so hard to build hardware these days; the progress is so fast that by the time you are ready to manufacture the key parts are obsolete and out of production. Even if the parts are still available your design may be already obsolete because newer, better parts became available. It's either "design it under 3 months" or "do something else with your life."

you know what? i'm really glad you raised this point. it's *exactly* why we sub-divided the CPU Card from the actual device. independent development and product life-cycles for the CPU and the device! so yes, sure, the CPU becomes obsolete, but that's ok: you can just buy the latest CPU card... *without* having to throw away the entire product. so you've highlighted the very core of the strategy, here. it's not just about upgradeability, it's about being eco-conscious as well as providing redundancy without disrupting the user.

think about it: yes, sure, we're having a hard time getting the first CPU Card out, but you know what? it's just the first. it took 3 months to source just 5 connectors at reasonable prices (mostly because they are unusual: mid-mount HDMI, mid-mount audio, sub-1.8mm Micro-SD, mid-mount USB-OTG and the increasingly-obscure PCMCIA). but guess what? having found those suppliers, we won't have to do that again for subsequent CPU Cards, and we will have pre-established relationships by the time the 2nd CPU Card comes out.

also, with the 2nd and subsequent CPU Cards, we expect to actually have some profits made so that we can pay good people to work promptly and according to *our* timescales. one of the issues that we have is that we've got this far with *zero* investment. absolutely none. think about that for a moment. no money has changed hands; we are beholden to no-one, yet there are software engineers ready to get the OS onto the CPU Card, but not only that, the CPU Card Schematics have been made.

how is that even possible? we did deals, based on the strength of committment and the desire of our PRC State-Sponsored client to make use of the EOMA-68 solution and concept that we came up with. it's *perfect* for them.

so CE compliance will be covered by our client: they are big enough to be able to self-certify. FCC is more problematic: we're simply not going to even bother unless we receive an order from a USA/Canadian company of minimum 50k units, and the cost of the FCC Certification will be included in the quote. as the USA market is below 1/10th the size of the PRC market, we don't see this as being a problem.

but yes - the key here is that this first CPU Card is a heavy learning curve. we're on the lookout for faster and better CPU Cards, and we fully anticipate - especially with the Linaro-sign-ups such as TI, Samsung and Freescale creating fully open Schematics for the Origen, Pandaboard, IMX53QSB and the upcoming iMX6 - being able to very rapidly adapt those Open Schematics into EOMA-68 CPU Cards. what we would *really* like is for someone else to step forward and do that work, and we'd do a deal with them to introduce their product to our clients. that would be great. we much prefer to do these kinds of "cost-plus" deals. it's fairer to everyone who is involved.

Re:Schematics? (2)

thatseattleguy (897282) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270809)

Wish I had mod points to toss at you for this. Too many here - perhaps understandably - have no idea of the steps necessary to imagine, design, test, troubleshoot/re-engineer, certify, build, and ship a Real Working Product. If they knew even a fraction of what has to happen before something shows up at Newegg, they might have more understanding of why what you're trying to accomplish is so cool and potentially game-changing.

.
Kudos to you and your crew for getting even this far on a shoestring.

Re:Schematics? (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270913)

Kudos to you and your crew for getting even this far on a shoestring.

:) thanks. that's really appreciated. uh, i actually made a mistake: it's the board layout photo i released, not the schematics. biiiig difference.

Re:Schematics? (2)

godrik (1287354) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270863)

Hi,

I reply to this comment because I want you to get the message and I am not sure how to reach you otherwise.

Let me tell you that I am really fond of what you are doing there. I am really interested in seeing "open source" computing hardware becoming a reality. I am a software guy (on the theory side) so I am not sure I can help you. But I really like what you do. Please keep us (slashdot) posted on the development of this hardware.

I'll probably get one when it is released just for fun. (I just got a raspberry pi today for this reason.)These are good toys to make fun code porting/testing projects. Depending on the performance and network capabilities, I might be interested in studying a small cluster of these. It could be fun!

In brief, keep up the good work, that sounds really good!

Re:Schematics? (3, Interesting)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270917)

In brief, keep up the good work, that sounds really good!

thank you, that's really appreciated. can i suggest you join the mailing list or just keep an eye on it via gmane or something, if you prefer? lots of people subscribe "no-mail" then lurk on gmane and they can then post if they want to, without filling up their mailbox. here's the subscription page:
    http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/mailman/listinfo/arm-netbook [phcomp.co.uk]

feel free to ask anything you like, there, ok? or, ah, what might suit you: join the irc channel #arm-netbook on freenode. /peace

Allwinner board. OK (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270561)

It's a schematic (actually, the picture shows a board layout) for an Allwinner A10 (which is a rather impressive ARM-type CPU with peripherals) board in a PCMCIA form factor. Big deal. There are many other Allwinner A10 boards. The Rikomagic MK802 is a small one, and it costs about $60 in quantity 1. It comes loaded with Android, but you can load Ubuntu. If you want this as a "media center" (it can do 1080p HDMI), it's available in various set-top box cases with power supply and remote for around $70. Those can run Ubuntu, too.

It's not clear why you'd want an Allwinner A10 in a PCMCIA form factor. The Allwinner A10 has a sizable set of peripherals on-chip. Ethernet, HDMI, etc. Usually, boards for this part have a whole row of connectors. Bringing out the pins on a PCMCIA connector means you need another board to fan out the peripherals.

The Allwinner itself is a significant product. (Boards for it, not so much.) At $7 in quantity, and requiring no US intellectual property, it's going into tablets [slatedroid.com] , set-top boxes, and anything else that needs a CPU. This is a serious threat to the price points of Intel, Microsoft, and Apple.

Re:Allwinner board. OK (5, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270817)

It's a schematic (actually, the picture shows a board layout)

shit. you're right. it is! no wonder the other guy said we'd be 6 months from release :) no, it's definitely a board layout. first samples will be available for testing by next week. definitely not 6 months from now.

It's not clear why you'd want an Allwinner A10 in a PCMCIA form factor. The Allwinner A10 has a sizable set of peripherals on-chip. Ethernet, HDMI, etc. Usually, boards for this part have a whole row of connectors. Bringing out the pins on a PCMCIA connector means you need another board to fan out the peripherals.

ah. right. this is covered here: http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture [elinux.org]

we wanted something that is user-installable and user-upgradeable. if we had wanted factory-installable (only) then we would a) not really have bothered at all, given the proliferation of offerings from direct-insight.co.uk and variscite.com and many many others b) we would have created something like the q-seven standard and, again, really to be honest, would not have bothered with that, either, because why create a competing standard?

no, you're missing a couple of points. one is that the A10 EOMA-68 CPU Card can operate stand-alone, powered by USB-OTG, booting from USB-OTG, NAND or Micro-SD as you choose, and having both HDMI out and Stereo Audio. that's not bad, right there.

the other point is that we picked interfaces that happen to be "common buses", that happen to all have backwards-compatible speed negotiation. 24-pin RGB/TTL you can drop down even to as low as 15 pin by ignoring the higher-res bits; you can reduce the clock-rate to run a 320x240 LCD or you can ramp it up to run 2048x2048 @ 30fps in full colour. USB2 goes all the way from 11mbit/sec to 480mbit/sec. SATA-II has down-level negotiation all the way to 150mbit/sec. I2C goes from something like 75khz up to 4mbit/sec or thereabouts. Gigabit Ethernet goes through 10 to 100 to 1000.

so there is a hell of a lot of thought gone into the selection of those interfaces, in order to keep the pin-count down. it was just pure luck that when you added 16 GPIOs and some power and ground that the pin-count came to *exactly* 68. jammy or what. and if you look at that interface set, it's *extremely* flexible and powerful. but i believe i know what you're saying: why didn't you make *all* the pins available? because if you've looked at the cost of user-hot-swappable 100-pin connectors, they're insanely expensive: $12 is not uncommon.

so instead, we're recommending the use of a low-cost STM32F on the other side (I/O Board side). we've tracked down the OpenEC2 project (originally the firmware for the OLPC XO-1) and intend to port it to RTEMS-lite, then extend it to provide Audio Drivers in the form of A/D and D/A converters, amongst other things. ST Micro actually recommend their 75mhz+ CPUs for use as Audio ICs. but it can pretty much cover everything. this practice is standard in x86 PCs (using an Embedded Controller) but is quite rare in the ARM world: normally you'd use the ARM CPU itself to do this job! but, because of the EOMA-68 "break", we can't do that. swings and roundabouts: it'll come out in the wash :)

Re:Allwinner board. OK (1)

quantumphaze (1245466) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272001)

Gigabit Ethernet goes through 10 to 100 to 1000.

Does the Allwinner A10 support Gigabit Ethernet? Or is it the EOMA-68 that allows for future boards with GbE?

Re:Allwinner board. OK (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272319)

Gigabit Ethernet goes through 10 to 100 to 1000.

Does the Allwinner A10 support Gigabit Ethernet? Or is it the EOMA-68 that allows for future boards with GbE?

the latter.
http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/EOMA-68#Table_of_EOMA-68_pinouts [elinux.org]
http://git.rhombus-tech.net/?p=eoma.git;a=blob;f=pcb/allwinner_a10/library/allwinner.lib;h=cd435ae32f3049d7b6dcb524af0fcc6ec1a6b77d;hb=dfaa27a0ec6db9eaaa8abc74c68849caa64b721b#l95 [rhombus-tech.net]
http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/pcb/ [rhombus-tech.net]

look at line 95 down to 113: you'll see that that's an MII interface. MII is only 10/100 (GMII and RGMII are 10/100/1000). another way to tell is from the use of the RTL8201CP (link to the datasheet from the pcb page) which is a 10/100 PHY chip. however the EOMA-68 interface we've specified as being up/down negotiable from 10 to 100 to 1000 so that yes, future CPU Cards can be Gigabit Ethernet. that's mainly so that people can consider making ultra-low-power server farms out of commodity off-the-shelf mass-volume CPU Cards in the future. which i'm really looking forward to.

Re:Allwinner board. OK (1)

fa2k (881632) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272019)

24-pin RGB/TTL you can drop down even to as low as 15 pin by ignoring the higher-res bits; you can reduce the clock-rate to run a 320x240 LCD or you can ramp it up to run 2048x2048 @ 30fps in full colour.

So they design a new modular computing interface for phones, tablets and computers, but it can't even support the current benchmark iPad 2 (2048×1536 at 60Hz, refresh rate not confirmed)?

Re:Allwinner board. OK (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272341)

24-pin RGB/TTL you can drop down even to as low as 15 pin by ignoring the higher-res bits; you can reduce the clock-rate to run a 320x240 LCD or you can ramp it up to run 2048x2048 @ 30fps in full colour.

So they design a new modular computing interface for phones, tablets and computers, but it can't even support the current benchmark iPad 2 (2048×1536 at 60Hz, refresh rate not confirmed)?

yes, that's right. i'm looking forward to our clients being able to clean up in the much more lucrative and much larger Chinese market for lower-to-mid-end "good enough" products, from which we, as Europeans, in our market that is under 1/10th the size of the China internal market, can benefit from vastly-reduced hardware costs for "good enough" computing products.

chasing after apple is known to be futile. however if we can get the retail price down, for any given product, to under $95 (or £95) then that's "throw-away" money. it's "christmas present" money. a friend of mine bought 2 of those little Skytone Alpha 400s for her daughters about 4 years ago. she _regretted_ it, but the thought was there, and two figures is that watershed financial mark that even someone who is struggling to pay the mortgage can seriously consider buying for their kids. ... i don't see apple's top-end products being under $99 any time soon, do you? it's a completely different approach. let apple and microsoft forge ahead, tumbling down the prices of hardware for us. the only thing we have to do: make damn sure that the products made are a leeetle bit better than the Skytone Alpha 400 :) it was a break-through product (375mhz MIPS clone) but... times have moved on.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skytone_Alpha-400 [wikipedia.org]

What is it? (3, Informative)

metallurge (693631) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270647)

It's an attempt to create a standardized form factor for open/modular highly portable inexpensive computing device CPUs. It intends to do for these markets what the AT/ATX motherboard/case design and ISA/PCI buses and Socket 3/5/7 did for the desktop computing market. Additionally, it is doing this with openness (libre open source software stack) clearly an important design criterion, besides the technical/performance ones.

Will it take time to mature? Yes. But less than one might think. It's farther along than might appear.

Will it therefore fail, by missing out on the window for Cortex A8? No. It's modular enough to continue even after the Cortex A8 CPU is obsolescent. The Allwinner A10 was chosen in part because it is currently available and cheap.

This will open up niche markets which the major manufacturers are not servicing. High-resolution debian ARM netbook? Can be done. 7" Netbook? Can be done. Pixel Qi Tablet? Can be done. Desktop ARM terminals? Can be done.

I've been following this project for a while now, and it is going in a direction which I believe in. I am getting tired of proprietary ARM hardware and software.

Re:What is it? (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270755)

I've been following this project for a while now, and it is going in a direction which I believe in.

thank you. i'm very encouraged to hear that.

I am getting tired of proprietary ARM hardware and software.

... you and me both. update from mjg on the Android-related GPL-violations situation of 18 months ago: it hasn't got any better. http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/8991.html [dreamwidth.org]

Re:What is it? (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270803)

"I've been following this project for a while now, and it is going in a direction which I believe in. I am getting tired of proprietary ARM hardware and software."

According to the link, the Allwinner A10 has a MALI GPU, which presently requires a proprietary driver although there's an nVidia Nouveau-like project to produce a reverse-engineered driver, aptly named Lima.

http://limadriver.org/ [limadriver.org]

I agree it's an important project, if only because it would allow hardware computer geeks to continue building their own kit after today's tower and mini-tower PCs go extinct. I'm still waiting for the day I can assemble the equivalent of a full-powered desktop PC in a form factor smaller than a consumer router. Which has me wondering while Intel and AMD aren't doing their own Manhattan project to produce their own full-featured SoCs rather than the more powerful but less integrated APUs.

Re:What is it? (1)

metallurge (693631) | about a year and a half ago | (#41270971)

Mali may currently be proprietary, but I'd say in 6 months to a year, that won't be the case anymore. Just my subjective feeling.

I personally am mulling the notion of ripping out the motherboard from a Thinkpad 600 and replacing it with an ARM motherboard. The TP600 is still a great form factor and case design.

In my opinion, Intel and AMD were both caught flat-footed by the rise of ARM. Both used to build ARM CPUs and both divested themselves of those divisions. D'oh!

I'd say neither wants to kill the x86 goose that lays their golden eggs. They are accustomed to the sort of margins which ARM will never offer. Embracing the creative destruction ARM offers would mean becoming a different sort of company.

Incidentally, FYI AMD is offering embedded versions of their Brazos CPUs.

I cant wait ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41270869)

... to forget about this post.

Interesting possibilities (2)

Reed Solomon (897367) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271093)

Yeah I've been following this for a while as well. I was originally confused by the purpose of the PCMCIA card, but it eventually came through in my mind the idea that the PCMCIA card shaped object is just a REALLY EASILY replaceable motherboard that plugs in to a host device. Granted it's not a PCMCIA card, and it's not called a PCMCIA card.

I like the premise. Buy a barebones laptop shell, plug in the EOMA-68 card device, and boot up. Or plug it into some other type of form factor. Inside of a TV. Inside a media player device. Inside a tablet. So many options. This could be big.

Assuming this uses the Allwinner A10 chip, What is the status of decent hardware video decoding support?

Frankly the fact that they put gigabit ethernet on board is pretty awesome. That's not something that comes with the SoC.

If you did put it in a device shaped like a laptop, would you be able to add more ram, upgrade the wifi card, etc, like a normal laptop or are you stuck with what's on board? Not sure how the card deals with expandability.

Still, if this catches on, maybe RMS will finally be able to move up from his yeeloong lemote

Re:Interesting possibilities (2)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41272293)

Yeah I've been following this for a while as well. I was originally confused by the purpose of the PCMCIA card, but it eventually came through in my mind the idea that the PCMCIA card shaped object is just a REALLY EASILY replaceable motherboard that plugs in to a host device. Granted it's not a PCMCIA card, and it's not called a PCMCIA card.

... now translate that across a language barrier (chinese) and you start to appreciate how effing hard it's been for factories and even our clients to "get it" :)

I like the premise. Buy a barebones laptop shell, plug in the EOMA-68 card device, and boot up. Or plug it into some other type of form factor. Inside of a TV. Inside a media player device. Inside a tablet. So many options. This could be big.

i know, i know! we want it to be. it's got a lot more potential than e.g. the q-seven standard. q-seven is really targetted at x86 and ultra-high-end ARM SoCs: the standard is some 250 pins and requires 4-lane PCI-express, 8x USB2, HDMI, Dual-channel LVDS, SATA-III and many more. that's not... mass-volume: it's too complicated. it's more a modular version of Nano ITX PCs. so we feel that a 68-pin credit-card-sized computer only 5mm high is more... end-user orientated.

Assuming this uses the Allwinner A10 chip, What is the status of decent hardware video decoding support?

*sigh* you have to use libcedarx.a which isn't ideal. there's some people who have done a limaproject-style "wrapper" around libcedarx, with a view to calling the available functions and monitoring what they do, then documenting exactly what it does. i'd *like* to approach allwinner and ask them for the source code to libcedarx but i need a financial opportunity to do so (i.e. "if you don't give us the source code, we can't properly fulfil this order for $NNm of business per month, sorry.").

Frankly the fact that they put gigabit ethernet on board is pretty awesome. That's not something that comes with the SoC.

ah, it's worth pointing out that whilst the EOMA-68 standard allows up/down-level negotiation of 10, 100 or 1000 ethernet, the Allwinner A10 CPU *only* has 10/100. the 4 extra 1000 pins are *unused*. but i put them there for future CPUs.

If you did put it in a device shaped like a laptop, would you be able to add more ram, upgrade the wifi card, etc, like a normal laptop or are you stuck with what's on board? Not sure how the card deals with expandability.

you're stuck with what's on-board. sorry: these CPU Cards are too small to fit in e.g. an SO-DIMM or a NAND Flash "upgrade" module. it *might* be possible at some point to fit in a tiny tiny SATA-based SSD, but don't count on that happening even within 2 years. we figured that just being able to upgrade the entire CPU Card and sell the old one on ebay, donate it to charity, re-use it in a router or as a home server or something, would be attractive enough. it's throwing away the *entire* hardware just because one part of it is either broken or out-of-date, we feel that really pisses people off, so are doing at least something about that.

Still, if this catches on, maybe RMS will finally be able to move up from his yeeloong lemote

yeehawwww :) yeah, finally. i'd like to get RMS on-board with the A10 EOMA-68 CPU Card but there's one small bug-bear: the libcedarx proprietary video library. everything else at least has semi-useable working software (libre) replacements. Henrik managed to reverse-engineer the 1st stage bootloader: it's a 15k boot-up sequence which initialises the DDR3 RAM timings amongst other things. i've also deliberately designed the laptops to use WIFI modules (USB-based MiniPCIe) that require no non-free firmware (e.g. using the ATH9K chipset. you can find them easily on ebay and amazon)

but yes: if not this 1st CPU card then a subsequent one. an OMAP3503, AM 3357, AM3703, Ingenic jz4760 - all of these do *not* require any non-free firmware or proprietary libraries. we're also in communication with ... with.... damn what's their name. they call it a UPU (unified processing unit). ICubeCorp. the IC1. that's it. i'm really excited by what they're doing - it does however have to be done in 28nm, in order to be relevant. they're unfortunately about 4 years behind: they should have released their 700mhz dual-core offering in 2006 and it would have been extremely well received. but today, they need to make it a quad-core 28nm 1.5ghz CPU. we've been advising them of the interfaces that would make its next generation, the IC2, highly successful.
http://vr-zone.com/articles/icube-upu-the-next-step-in-processor-evolution-/14518.html [vr-zone.com]

Imagine... (1)

Sodel (1917500) | about a year and a half ago | (#41271789)

I'm so sorry to dredge up such a tired meme, but you know it has to be said here.

Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these!

In all seriousness, though, I'm really enthusiastic about the philosophy that seems to be behind this project. I'm all about replaceable parts. This would be nothing special if it was another "all in one" SoC, but the fact that it is explicitly a swappable *component* really appeals to me.

I love the open architecture, and I love the open hardware. The PCMCIA form-factor, along with the choice of "lowest-common-denominator" interfaces, give me the warm-fuzzies inside; the last thing we need is another homebrew data bus. I can think of tons of things that cards like these would be good for.

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