We announce the cooperation with C-Media. C-Media is a global leading audio IC/software solution provider.
In this post we want to explain one of our latest achievements. During the present year we have been looking for an audio chip to be included in our motherboard. We found that the CM8828 HD-Audio controller and CM9882A Codec family was a good candidate. After some discussion with them explaining our project, they decided to support us. Furthermore, they have sent the Evaluation Board to Acube.
Maybe more important is the fact that C-Media will provide the needed chips for the production of our notebook. They know that their chips will be in our Open Source Hardware motherboard and will provide us with the needed information to write drivers as may be needed. In addition to this, we have ordered three pci sound cards based on CM8828/CM9882A to test with our T2080 Devkits and for Acube developments.
In the end, all these little steps are very interesting for our project, as this audio chip has high end specs but the most important point is that we have a direct and good communication with the manufacturer. We want to thank C-Media for supporting our project and believe in Open Source Hardware.
Above all, one of the greatest problems preventing us from finalizing these schematics was the missing chassis required to take a series of very important design decisions. Finally, very recently, a chassis was selected and is now in our hands, paving the way to accomplish the goal.
In April we asked your opinion on either publishing an unfinished work or wait for better quality schematics. The Core Team chose to wait and “Send the information (the work in progress pdf of the schematic design) only to the 132 donors and kindly asking them to not publish”.
At the end of June there was an important meeting between Acube and the designer to discuss the suggestions from our Hardware team, and another topic was how to adapt the schematic to the new chassis. In fact we have prepared the next steps for the PCB design.
So now we have this modified block diagram that could have further few minor changes.
Currently, the designer is working to update the schematics. This task is expected to be completed on August.
In the meantime, the Core Team we voted again in June and this time we have decided to publish the pdf of the current version of the schematic. That does not contain the updates we are expecting in August.
In other words, the schematic that we have uploaded to our repository is the same pre-release version that we have sent to the donors at the end of March 2019, and it should be noted that it is an alpha version. The only difference from the donors’ version is that it contains the recently selected Open Hardware license that is the Cern Open Hardware License v 1.2 (Cern OHL).
We have selected Cern OHL because it is specific for open hardware and it covers aspects regarding hardware production. It has the same viral effects that other open source licenses have but taking into account that there is a licensor of the hardware and another part that is manufacturing it.
The current version of the schematic is published in our repo in gitlab.
In the last weeks we created a custom desktop theme for LXQT and continued giving more stability to the current version of the distribution. At the same time we are trying to add more productivity applications but we are finding several problems. One of them is caused probably by the nvidia driver when Shotcut is launched, see here for more details and contact us if you think you can help.
Yocto LXQT PowerPC Desktop
Finally, we are updating our distribution from Yocto 2.4 Rocko to Yocto 2.6 Thud. We hope to have an stable version soon and thinking about giving access to a reduced group of people to test it.
Linux Day: Bergamo – Italy
The local Linux user group “BGlug” kindly accepted to include a speech about our activities during the LinuxDay of this year that was hosted at the local university of Bergamo (see picture).
The building of the University of Bergamo, where we had the speech.
Many students from the local vocational school on information technology, telecommunications and electrotechnical engineering attended the presentation, together with some other people interested on the “Open Hardware” approach that we adopted. Many interesting questions rise from the students, and given the young age of the guys, nobody seems to ever heard about the “Power” architecture.
The audience -mostly young students- attending the presentation.
The complete lack of knowledge about alternatives, led to a discussion that shifted towards the importance of supporting non-mainstream technologies other that x86/x64 and ARM. The “Open Hardware” approach, and the freedom to its outcome also seems to have drawn much attention, as for a student it is very clear that freely study and, why not, change an existing fully fledged project is an ideal situation.
Linux Day: Bolzano – Italy
The experience at the LinuxDay in Bolzano (Italy) was quite good.
There were about 50 people attending the event, organized from the local Linux User Group and hosted at the local University. We had a 25 minutes time slot, our presentation was therefore quite short but got some Q&A from the attenders. Most of the audience didn’t have a technical background being just FOSS fans.
LinuxDay 2018 Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
Main question subject was the actuality of the PPC technology and its openness. The project timetable and the financial approach also rised some attention.
Linux Day: Milano – Italy
It’s the fifth time that Linux Day Milan give us the possibility to inform and update peoples about our PowerPC Notebook project, we are very grateful for the space and renewed trust they have given us in the years. These year the organizer was the UnixMIB , very active and kindly user group, the event done on 27th OCtober, during the national day of Linux in Italy, was held inside the beautiful spaces of University Bicocca. We had our exhibition space, like some others Linux User Group, where Riccardo, Luigi and myself had the opportunity to talk with attenders of the events.
Linux Day 2018 Milano University Bicocca
During the presentation in the auditorium we have updated about our project and thanks to the generous time available for our presentation (60 minutes) we have the opportunity to answer in details to many interesting questions.
Presentation at Linux Day 2018 Milano
As usual we have recorded the presentation, below.
11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting.
Software libre, democracia y nuevos dispositivos: Valencia – Spain
The experience at the 11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting was very good. There were only 15 people attending the event in a nice small room because this was not a yearly event but a monthly meetup. After an interesting explanation about Free Software and Democracy, we had a 20 minutes time slot to introduce our project but our presentation was interesting for the attenders and then we were answering questions for another 20-25 minutes.
Presention at 11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting. Software libre, democracia y nuevos dispositivos: Valencia – Spain
The project is targeted at the education and research field, through the reuse of obsolete notebooks
equipped with PowerPC (G3,G4,G5), Intel x86 (Pentium M, Celeron, Core duo) or ARM architecture.
Schools that do not have enough hardware to carry out computer projects, can reuse these notebooks, otherwise intended to be disposed of as WEEE on which they can teach children the basics of coding through SCRATCH (https://scratch.mit.edu/).
Revivo con Scratch
The experiences of the teachers involved in the project will be summarized on the wiki of the Association to be shared and repeated.
Maintenance of DEBIAN packages for ppc64 architecture continues. We are working on optimizing the experience of using FireFox 52.9.0, merging the work already done on the TenFourFox project. Other essential packages are maintained by our collaborators and are regularly added to our repository. Suggest some packages that you would like to see in our repository, and provide the results of your tests.
It’s with joy that the Power Progress Community proudly announce the complete funding of the Hardware Research and Design phase for the Electrical Schematics. This phase has achieved the identification and design of all aspects of the motherboard reducing uncertainties related to the hardware specifications and, consequently, the production costs.
After reaching the amount of 12600€, the electrical schematics will be delivered to us in a month by ACube Systems. The final design resulting from this phase will be made public as soon as possible.
We are now dealing with the Open Source Hardware Association, asking them if we can certify as “Open Source Hardware” the documentation produced in this phase or, instead, we should wait until the board design will be entirely finalized. What is more important, we now have to choose which Open Source Hardware license to adopt for distributing our Electrical Schematic. If you are an expert on this field, please join us!
We are so very grateful with all the 128 donors that trusted us and actively contributed in achieving this first goal! We also thank all the people that supported us in spreading our project letting us able reaching a much larger audience.
We remind you that this is a first step of a much larger funding campaign planned more than a year ago. We still need new donations, and to do so, we need reaching even more people, so please, do not hesitate spreading the word. We are fully aware on the importance in publishing soon the Electrical Schematics that came out of the first campaign, as we want to show that we are able to respect the promise of delivering a fully open hardware output, hoping that more people will feel confident in further supporting the project.
The list below contains the planned campaigns and their corresponding funding goals:
[Achieved!] Hardware components research, analysis of the architecture, and design of the electrical schematics [12.600 euro]
[Upcoming campaign] Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gerber format delivery of the electrical schematics [11.950 euro]
Production and delivery of five working prototypes [8.800 euro]
Hardware testing using software provided by the producer (ACube) [14.400 euro]
Pre-certification CE certification [12.500 euro].
Please, do not stop donating, even if the next campaign is not officially launched yet. Any new donations will automatically be transferred to the phase 2 donation campaign called “Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gerber”.
We will soon circulate the next issue of our newsletter among subscribers that will contain a very short questionnaire asking whether people are willing to donate to the PCB design donation campaign and their advice on how to carry out a better campaign. This will be necessary to evaluate how much we should “invest” on further publicizing our project for enlarging the involved community and will help us focusing on what we should change in order to reach the goal in a shorter period of time.
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.
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
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 188.8.131.52 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 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
Don’t miss the latest issue of BSD Mag including an article by Saulo Paiva explaining our Open SourcePower Notebook project and an interview with Roberto Innocenti.
Our PowerPC Notebook project on BSD magazine
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 🙁
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.
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.
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
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
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 😀
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!
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
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.
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