Electrical Schematics and Donations progress, winter Activities

In this article we will report electrical schematics and donations progress and our current activities. Those of you who are following our twitter account and facebook page have already received updates about our work.We are mainly, but not only, focused on software development. In a nutshell, our developers are testing current Linux distributions, setting up the best emulation environment for a Qoriq T2080 machine using Qemu and even experimenting with Yocto Project in order to evaluate a custom made distribution.

 

Working on PowerPC GNU/Linux distro’s

Let’s start with the distributions first. As you may know, we stated from the beginning that our intention was to help to maintain Debian for 64bit PowerPC (ppc64) and include it as the default Linux OS for our notebook. This idea is still our goal but we have found more good options such as Lubuntu, openSuse and even Gentoo. In relation to this, our testers are creating a list of actively supported Linux distributions working on PowerPC and are evaluating the installation procedure, their performance and keeping trace of the issues found.

debian buster/sid ppc64

debian buster/sid ppc64 multiarch ppc32

debian buster/sid ppc64 multiarch ppc32

debian buster/sid ppc64

In addition to that, we found an interesting resource at http://bgafc.t-hosting.hu/oses4ppc.php where you can find a list of available Operating Systems for PowerPC.

Kernel 4.14 and Video Cards on PowerMac G5

Another good finding was done by one of our members when compiling a custom and experimental kernel using 4.14 sources and GCC 7.3 on Gentoo in a PowerMac G5. As he reported,  “gcc 7.3.0 is definitely an improvement! Both 2D and 3D acceleration do no longer freeze the card (AGP Radeon 9650 + 9800) on a G5. Also Firefox runs pretty stable now and less sluggish too (could be ’cause it’s running on accelerated Xorg now)”. In addition to this, we are testing newer PCIe video cards on a PowerMac G5 , using the Open Firmware command “boot-device hd0:,\\”, so without using yaboot and without tbxi.

Testing an emulated e6500 core in Qemu

Another effort is being done to setup a virtual environment to emulate our future notebook using Qemu. This is important as it will enable the development of software and to test, for instance, the u-boot boot process. Most importantly, it will allow any interested person to play around with our target platform and configuration, even if owners of x86 hardware only. Sadly there isn’t a ready-made QEMU machine configuration that fits perfectly our specifications, but that’s the reason we are working on this task in the first place. So far, it seems feasible to fire up a machine based on a e6500 CPU using QEMU version 2.11 using the built-in u-boot, but we still have issues making it boot a linux partition. It seems that lately the QEMU development mailing list (https://lists.nongnu.org/archive/html/qemu-devel/) is putting a great effort in putting the PowerPC emulation in a much better shape, making us confident that the upcoming 2.12 will be a life changer for reaching our goal (https://wiki.qemu.org/Planning/2.12). Stay tuned.

Yocto Project for PowerPC Linux Image

Recently, we are experimenting with Yocto Project creating a Linux image. We are evaluating this possibility as it could be an additional option for setting up a fine-tuned OS when the hardware arrives. Currently it runs an LXQT Desktop Environment and includes applications such as Otter browser, The Gimp, kvirc, qBittorrent, Audacious, Mpv, Qps and Speedcrunch. Now we are focusing on having working kernels for a Mac Mini G4 and PowerMac G5.

Custom PPC Yocto PowerPC

Custom PPC Yocto PowerPC

 

Video Card works on NXP T4240QDS devkit

The Borea team  tried to setup a desktop based on the NXP T4240QDS development system. After not too much of a struggle he managed to get Gentoo Linux up and running with LXDE, and using an ordinary off-the-shelf ATI Radeon PCIe card and the T4240’s native networking using DPAA, so with no PCIe ethernet adapter. The Borea team used a vanilla Linux 4.14 kernel, a standard PowerPC Gentoo distribution and additionally, Cairo Dock to test the nice GPU effects to check if 2D acceleration was working. The result performed surprisingly well, and without any instability issues! For example, VLC was able to play FullHD Xvid content using 2 cores out of 24 available running at 1,6 GHz with Altivec enabled. LibreOffice 5.4.5.1 works nicely too. Unfortunately getting any web browser running seems to be a bit of a challenge. Firefox 54.x compiles, but gives a segmentation fault at startup, Firefox 58 does not even compile at all, but the team had just a quick try on that. Some packages runs into illegal instructions,  most probably due to incompatibilities with the Power8/9 ISA, or probably not all apps correctly support Altivec ABI. Some work has to be done on these issues, but the overall impression using a T4240 in a desktop environment felt quite fast indeed.

Gentoo ppc64 on NXP T4240QDS

Gentoo ppc64 on NXP T4240QDS devikit

We will be attending “Les journées du Logiciel Libre” on March 24th

Finally, we will attend the meeting “Les journées du Logiciel Libre” (“Days of Open Software”) the 24th and 25th of March 2018 in Lyon (http://www.jdll.org/). We will make our presentation named “Portable Open Hardware” on the 24th of March 2018 at 12h30 at the”Maison Pour Tous”, Salle des Rancy 249 rue Vendôme 69003, Lyon. See the map at https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/49680968

 

Les journées du Logiciel Libre

Les journées du Logiciel Libre

BSD Mag

Don’t miss the latest issue of BSD Mag including an article by Saulo Paiva explaining our Open Source Power Notebook project and an interview with Roberto Innocenti.

Our PowerPC Notebook project on BSD magazine

Our PowerPC Notebook project on BSD magazine

FunkyPrize participation

On the 29th December 2017 we submitted our project “Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook” to the Italian “FunkyPrize”. Funkyprize is an award established in 2014 in memory of Marco Zamperini, an Italian professor that knew how to push the younger generations to an informed and cutting edge use of new technologies. The FunkyPrize aims to help filling the gap created by its premature disappearance, encouraging those who intend to pursue its mission, for a more mature, aware and widespread use of the Internet in Italy, and for developing the potential of the Internet as a tool for improving the quality of life and creating new forms of participation in the social and economic life of the country.

Sadly, we have not been selected as a finalist for the prize 🙁

Here you can find more info about our participation in FunkyPrize.

Funky Prize

Funky Prize

Electrical Schematics Ready! waiting for the last 25% of donations

We just want to remember that our campaign is not targeted to make a product. We aim to create a freely available, well-documented and production-ready electrical schematics, allowing anyone to produce and, why not, customize a PowerPC based hardware.

At the time of writing this,we have reached the 75% of the required amount of money and with your (little) help we can make it happen.

When achieved the goal of this phase ( currently we are at 75%) we will balance the designer and he will transfer us the Eletrical Schematics,as we are agreed. After the needed reviews we will release this work to the Community.

If you are thinking on helping us, instead of one-time donation, you may want to consider a recursive, monthly donation. This could have a smaller impact to your account. Moreover, monthly donations allow us to better plan our activity, and most importantly, they let the engineer know the remaining period for reaching the final goal.

Please, spread our project and help us to make possible this amazing Linux PowerPC Notebook.

Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve?

The 2018 is approaching and we are reaching our first campaign goal. We are now at the 64% of the requested amount thanks to more than 100 donors. If you would like to receive the Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve, please help us adding the remaining 4600 euros. Meanwhile we continue doing our best in all areas to push the project forward, so please, have a look at the following activities demonstrating how seriously we pursue our goals.

Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve

Electrical Schematics as a present for the New Year’s Eve

Open Source Summit, France

We participated at the Open Source Summit in France where Fadi Osman was attending the event. The Alionet (OpenSUSE) group kindly hosted us, we were able to distribute many flyers, as well as give out a printed version of our presentation, and we answered many questions at their booth.  People were curious on why we were with the OpenSUSE group, and Fadi explained the scope of our association, the notebook project and the need for a Linux distribution.

OpenSUSE booth with Power Progress Community at Open Source Summit Paris December 2017

OpenSUSE booth with Power Progress Community at Open Source Summit Paris December 2017

A funny thing occurred during the event: a laptop was just next to our printed presentation, and people mistakenly thought it was our PowerPC notebook and started going crazy questioning us!

Fadi also had a fruitful discussion with a guy who knew and used PowerPC. He started questioning why we stick to PowerPC, as ARM 64 was more interesting, more easily available, cheaper, and equipped with enough power. Fadi explained to him that Power Progress Community is open to other hardware, but firmly stated that PowerPC still is an interesting platform in terms of computing power, energy consumption, reliability and costs. It just totally lacks any visibility, as big firms are not using it in their famously branded products, and the mainstream public is not aware of its existence. Just count the number of companies, association and groups dealing with the mainstream ARM platform: there is way too much competition in this field, and surely there is no need for new supporters.

Finally, Fadi had the chance to contact a student in industrial engineering and this is quite interesting if you continue reading the next point.

 

Unveiling our new project

A new project just kick off in the Power Progress Community: an open source laptop chassis design. The objective is to create a 3D printable notebook chassis that, of course, will fit our PowerPC Notebook motherboard and any other similar motherboard projects. Take a look at the website (still in an early status), and contact us if you want to collaborate. We would like to invite any 3D enthusiast, such as designers, industrial engineers, students, or simply anyone capable of 3D modelling to be part of this new adventure.

Obviously at the moment this is not the only chassis option for our future PowerPC notebook motherboard but it is better to have this option 😀

Final words

As you can see, we are moving towards our objectives and involving more and more people in our activities. The engineer is getting close to a finalized schematic design. We do really need the help of everyone, do invite your friends and other people who might be interested in donating, and spread the idea to attract new contributors.

If you have not done it yet, it is a perfect time to make a donation and actively contribute to achieve the €12,600 final goal by the end of 2017, and finally make the schematics design a reality!

We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source!

PowerPC Notebook Block Diagram done!

Three months have passed since the kick-off of our campaign, and it is now time to share a status update.

We reached the amount of €7100 thanks to more than one hundred donors that contributed, in some cases with more than one donation. We are thinking about how to boost the donations to achieve the €12600 final goal. We have seen that a good number of donors are new followers of the project, so it seems that our communication activities successfully attracted new people. We now want to go even further, so we kindly ask everyone to share more and more our project, for example supporting its advertisement in online tech magazines and forums, websites and other media. To promote these activities, the project was presented last week end at two Linux Day events in Italy, one in Milan by Roberto I. and one in Bolzano/Bozen by Diego M. The very same week-end ACube advertised the project at the very successful Amiga32 event in Neuss (Germany) and many people have shown their interest. On November 11th, Philippe F. will give a presentation at the Alchimie 12 event in Tain l’Hermitage (France).

Do you want the electrical schematics to be ready by Christmas? The solution is only one: prepare yourself for an active contribution, either by donating, and by involving more people!

PowerPC Notebook block diagram

PowerPC Notebook block diagram

Regarding the work in progress, ACube is working on the electrical schematics design and sent an early block diagram that was extensively discussed with our hardware core team of volunteers. After this discussion, in particular regarding an NDA component, we have arrived to a final version agreed by both sides: almost all components are identified. We are including PowerPC Notebook block diagram a block diagram of our PowerPC Notebook motherboard (without integrated circuit names). We will disclose all integrated circuit names when we will reach the required amount of donations to complete the electrical schematic, as agreed with ACube. Then, we will publish design files when a design phase is completely finished and tending to be error-free and fault-free. Before that, anyone wanting to actively collaborate in the design review can join and participate in our project and association.

In a nutshell, we are working hard to promote the campaign, and ACube is on track to accomplish phase one of the project. We see the light at the end of the tunnel! Keep it up!

Lastly we want to remember the importance of small recurrent donations. The possibility of having many people helping with a small amount of money monthly is very interesting for us as this will guarantee the constant work of the hardware designer.