An Open Hardware project for everyone, a PowerPC Notebook for you. Join now!
Ready to switch to Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC notebooks.
The game has changed, now GNU/Linux is everywhere running on every CPU architectures and devices. It's the right time to make new choices, an Open Hardware PowerPC Notebook designed around GNU/Linux, make it happen!
We are searching people that really like innovation for passion and want to realize this project. Join and strengthen the PowerPC Open Hardware Notebook Team! Subscribe to the newsletter and fill the participation survey.
Our passion on innovation and for our Open Source project have already motivated and joined Acube Systems for the design of the mobo and future production and Slimbook for the notebook body.
Your participation make the difference to complete the design and production.
We are making Donation Campaigns to pay the design of our Open Hardware PowerPC Notebook motherboard designed around GNU/Linux.
We will build a solidarity based purchasing group, with a fair price for everyone (manufacturer and customer).
Thanks to the generous support of our community, we’ve passed the 50% threshold required to start the required actions to produce our 3 prototype PCBs.
During this phase, most of the costs are related to purchasing electronic components, printing the PCBs and starting up the machinery for the assembly line.
ACube is currently selecting the right assembly line for the production of the prototypes, currently quite a difficult task due to the current global shortages of electronic components that makes it difficult to find the right time to order all components. Once all components will be collected, we will be able to work on a tentative timeline for the production of the prototypes. We plan to publish the estimated times as soon as we can. We are very grateful to all our donors, particularly Jeff Moe, who donated 2048 EUR for the prototypes.
Thanks to the already produced Dummy Board, the hardware designer has fixed a few mechanical aspects of the PCB design to better accommodate the motherboard. The updated design sources of the PCB will be published soon in our repository.
Public Vote for the Motherboard name
In October 2020, we started asking the community to suggest a name for the notebook motherboard. People could suggest names via the powerprogress forum and from Twitter. We collected all names and we had an internal round of vote among the core group in order to identify the best possible candidates for launching a public vote. So now you can vote on your favourite name!
Our goal is to collect at least 1000 votes before decide the final name on the PCB.
At the end of February 2021, Guillermo, one of our founding members, was interviewed by Amigawave. For our Spanish speaking readers, you might be interested in listening to a brief overview of the entire history of the Power Progress Community association and its open hardware projects, the interview is available in this recorded live stream on YouTube. In addition to the entire history of our project, you will be able to understand the underlying complexity of a project aiming at building a feature-rich laptop from scratch considering heat dissipation and other design principles.
Amigawave is a YouTube channel very well known by the Spanish retrocomputing lovers. The channel is mainly focused on all flavours of Amiga, but also covers many other retrocomputing platforms. We are fond of that period in computing history. Our followers surely know that, during the 80s and 90s, there was a vibrant diversity of computers and architectures and diversity is one of our objectives.
July 15 – Our upcoming presentation at the British Computing Society
On July 15, 2021 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm (BST) The British Computing Society organize an evening on the theme of POWER & PowerPC, July’s event will be on the theme of IBM’s POWER ISA and PowerPC based hardware. Featuring talks from PowerPC Notebook project and IBM on OpenPOWER.
The title of our upcoming presentation is “Prepare yourself for the Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC Laptop”, the abstract: We expect before the end of 2021 to see the life of the first three prototypes of Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC Laptop. The project started in late 2014, after a brief summary of the previous episodes, we try to describe the scenarios of the immediate future of the project and how each person animated by a certain passion for both progress for all and the sharing of knowledge can be a protagonist in this project.
It is with great joy that we present you the first tangible result after years of spending time on planning, ideas, projects and schematics. Below you see pictures of the dummy board, a non-working prototype that was printed with a two-layers PCB that was paid thanks to the ongoing donation campaign.
The primary use of this dummy board is to perform mechanical checks in conjunction with the Slimbook notebook chassis. The board is not finished yet, the PCB designer still has to mount additional mechanical components such as connectors to ensure the final working prototypes will fit perfectly in the Slimbook Eclipse chassis.
The PCB designer in charge of the job is carefully working to fine tune the gerber design files and already adjusted some minor details, proving that a preliminary dummy board was very much needed.
We would like to thank Gerard Schneider that kindly offered us a ATI Radeon 7970 MXM card, it will surely help us testing the working prototypes that will be produced later on. We welcome anybody else willing to send us other Radeon MXM cards that may lay unused in a corner, we would like to start as soon as possible to test various GPUs in the upcoming working hardware. [UPDATE 2021-04-22]Unfortunately our notebook board is set to work exclusively with MXM-A 3.0 (type A) with a size of 82mm x 70 mm and with a maximum power consumption of 55W, whereas the MXM card provided by that Gerard Schneider is an MXM-B (type B) with a size of 82mm x 105mm and a maximum power of 200W. Thank you anyway Gerard, your card will be useful to check and eventually fix the video drivers but it will not be used inside the prototypes.
Even if it is “just” a dummy board, this is a great milestone, and we are really happy about it because we can finally touch something with our hands. We would like to thank all the people that made it possible to reach this point, and we really hope that the donation campaign financing the final prototypes will speed up because now we all want to see more!!
Are you willing to help?
Being part of a project like this could be an amazing experience, you meet new people, volunteers of other projects, companies devoted to open source and everyone is willing to help. We are continuously giving examples of this in our blog posts but, in the last weeks, we are especially grateful about the support received from KiCad developers and Slimbook.
Slimbook is a company making a huge effort in promoting an Open Source environment. They produce notebooks, mini-PCs and desktop computers targeting mainly Linux users. As an example of their commitment to the open source community, they have a very have a good relationship with the KDE project and together they collaborate on the creation of laptops meant to use primarily KDE. Despite being a small company, they are having success selling their products worldwide and these are very appreciated by the Linux community. As you may know, we started our collaboration with Slimbook more than two years ago and they have been always quite helpful promptly responding to our requests and providing information about the enclosure design or the related components that will be also used in our notebook (screen, keyboard, dissipation devices, etc.). All their support and time was kindly offered for free. Besides that support, we have received two Slimbook Eclipse enclosures to continue our tests. This will make possible to assemble three prototypes of our PPC Notebook. Again, they did it for free. We have no words.
Export our PCB to KiCad, a difficult journey
At the very beginning of this adventure, we were trying to find hardware experts to design the motherboard but the level of expertise required for such type of hardware made this challenge unachievable for us. Of course, we have experts on that field but the complexity of this design demands quite a lot of time, impossible to carry out solely using the volunteers spare time. So we opted to look for a company experienced in motherboard design and even more difficult, a company that was experienced with the PowerPC architecture.
We were lucky enough to meet ACube Systems and its circle of collaborators. However, as most for-profit companies do, the ACube System subcontractor company had its own proprietary software tools which generates file encoded using non-open outputs formats. In our case we end up with files created using Mentor Xpedition, a software that cannot exporting to KiCad. To convert our Mentor Xpedition source files we were told to import them into Altium, and import the converted Altium files into KiCad.
Unfortunately, the KiCad importer for Altium files is still heavily under development, and it is far from being complete. We contacted the KiCad developers and they kindly accepted to perform some testing with our Altium PCB files and that helped spotting various errors in the conversion procedure. These error were identified by the developer in charge of the Altium import module for KiCad and he is currently addressing the encountered issues. Regarding the BOM (Bill Of Materials) the guys at KiCad recommended to import the Altium schematics to KiCad, and generate the BOM from there.
Obtaining an open source format for publishing our motherboard PCB is very important for us, as it allow anyone to easily access the result of our efforts to deliver a truly and fully compliant Open Hardware design.
After a few attempts, the guys at KiCad suggested another option: instead of converting the original Mentor Xpedition files to Altium, they suggested to load them using FabMaster. In fact, KiCad has another importer dedicated to FabMaster (for the board only) and the result of this import module should be useful to understand the level of accuracy of the Altium importer. In theory, the Altium import should produce better results with respects to the FabMaster importer as it is a newer. We are currently investigating if we can follow this path, as it seems to require a full Xpedition license, therefore we are in the process of contacting the subcontractor engineer to explore this solution.
An AmigaOS4 AHI driver for our sound chipset
Our notebook motherboard is open to any operating system supporting PowerPC. Among the operating system that could possibly work, there is AmigaOS 4, a closed-source system that already works on the E-AON AmigaOne X5000 that mount either a NXP P5020 or a P5040, which are both PowerPC Book3e e5500 CPUs. These CPUs can be considered the previous generation CPUs with respect to our T2080 (PowerPC Book3e e6500), one of the main differences is that they lack the Altivec unit, which the T2080 has.
On the April 1st the Dutch developer H. Kanning (nickname “geen_naam”) announced the availability of an AHI sound driver supporting HD Audio compliant chips, and explicitly supporting the C-MEDIA C8828 that we selected for our motherboard. At first we though it was an April fool, but then it was confirmed to actually exists and work, meaning that another operating system is one step closer to being supported. Great job!
At the beginning of March the consultant engineer paid using the donation campaign provided us with the Mentor Xpedition source files of our PCB. Providing source files created with a proprietary software is not ideal, therefore we have worked to convert the sources to the Open Source KiCad format.
To achieve the porting of the sources, we first tried loading the Mentor Xpedition sources using the PCB Design Software Altium, and from there, export the sources to KiCad.
We were pleasantly surprised by members of the KiCad team that promptly answered our call for volunteers able to help us in the source translation process, thank you guys, it was really much appreciated!
In our task, we found a very useful post on the KiCad blog that explains how to import an Altium PCB design file in Kicad.
Apparently the Altium Importer is not available if you start PCB window from the KiCad project manager window, you have to start it from the command line as pcbnew-nightly to get the KiCad import feature for loading alien formats.
KiCad eeschema-nightly currently does not support importing Altium schematics. There is an ongoing discussion, so perhaps there are some alpha/beta-testers of it.
For BOM – we are finding information in the Altium database as well as KiCad. The KiCad export info we obtained in our first attempt is simplistic, and it does miss instance identifiers (c43, u17, r9 sorts of designators, which are present in Altium info). We do not see anything yet about enabling/disabling details types from the KiCad BOM export, so we are unsure whether more detailed columns can be obtained.
You may find the original Mentor Expedition sources in our GitLab repository. We were unable to run the visECAD Viewer as even the provided free license version doesn’t seem to work. In fact, visECAD Viewer appears to be withdrawn from the market and it not anymore available to download, and we did not not receive any answer to our requests of support from the Siemens team.
We were able to view the Altium import with the Altium online viewer thanks to the support of the Altium team.
After all our attempts, we are now pleased to announce that it is now possible to load the source files of the notebook motherboard PCB in KiCad using its kicad-nightly version.
Another recent news about the PowerPC notebook project, is that Slimbook will kindly provide us with two additional Slimbook Eclipse empty chassis. These will be used to test that our prototypes will correctly fit. At the same time, the guys at ACube Systems are investigating suitable MXM video cards mounting AMD chips that could be used in the prototypes. We are investigating how we could collect the additional funding required to pay for the various MXM video cards that will be used for testing and for the two additional Slimbook Eclipse chassis.Thanks to the kind contribution of the donors, the preparation of all components for the prototypes is progressing well.
We would like to reach the 50% of the final goal of the current campaign as soon as possible to avoid slowdowns in the current prototypes production phase. We currently need your financial support more than ever!
We have published the first version of the gerber files of the notebook motherboard PCB on our GitLab repository!
The engineers in charge of the design used the software Mentor Xpedition to carry out the design, and in a couple of weeks we will publish their original sources of the PCB from which the gerber files were exported. The cause of the delay in the publication of the sources is because the PCB simulations still are being performed, and until then the sources -and consequently the gerber files- might change. The simulation of the PCB that was successfully financed with the previous donation campaign is currently being finalized. As nobody in our association has the required tools, ACube Systems is taking care of supervising the entire review process for us.
We are perfectly aware that providing source files created with proprietary software is not ideal, therefore we are investigating how we could provide the PCB sources for the Open Source KiCad software. A first attempt we are testing is to load the Mentor Xpedition sources using the PCB Design Software Altium, and from there, convert the source to Kicad. We are looking for volunteers that could help us in the source translation process.
While interacting with ACube on the simulation process, we were faced with the fact that the verbal agreement we made on the prototyping costs dated back to mid-2017 and the world went through great changes. Back then, they estimated a total cost of €10.500, consisting of a first € 3000 for the initial equipment, and € 1500 for each prototype motherboard, multiplied by 5 motherboards. However, after detailing and updating all involved costs using today’s market quotations, it appears clear that most of the components costs have increased since then, maybe because of the pandemic, who knows. Take for example the NXP T2080 CPU, since 2017 its price has simply dubled, and most of the other components have increased their price too. We discussed extensively with ACube Systems, the initial equipment is still € 3000, but the final cost of each prototype motherboard has increased to € 3000, doubling the initially estimated price of 4 years ago.
Because of this dramatic increase in the production cost we decided to make 3 working prototypes only, that makes € 9000. On top of these we add another € 500 to make a dummy board (not working board), printed with a two layers PCB and all mechanical components correctly mounted. The scope of such a dummy board is to ensure that the working prototypes that will be produced later will mechanically fit in the Slimbook Eclipse. As a result, the ongoing campaign goal will be increased to € 12.500.
We are currently investigating the impact of the increased production costs to the final product, but we do not have an answer so far. We will keep you informed as soon as we have a reliable estimation.
It is a well-known fact that a strong software library is a key factor to the viability of any platform – as could attest any unwilling user of a specific operating system 😉.
Our team is aware of that. Our contributors are strongly focused on compiling and optimizing a broad array of games and productivity applications to the PPC64 Big Endian platform, and you will find all of it in our repo.
Super Mario 64
The timeless sm64 is making its way to our portfolio, delivering countless hours of challenging courses and brilliant colors in a package loved by children and adults alike. Jump around, fly, dive, explore dungeons, lakes, mountains and collect coins and stars to make it to the top.
Super Tux Kart
Super Tux Kart is inspired by the most popular arcade racer in the world. It will keep you busy while you master every turn and try to overtake your opponents. As the developers of the Mascot Kingdom say: “In Story mode, you must face the evil Nolok, and defeat him in order to make the Mascot Kingdom safe once again! You can race by yourself against the computer, compete in several Grand Prix cups, or try to beat your fastest time in Time Trial mode. You can also race or battle with up to eight friends on a single computer, play on a local network or play online with other players all over the world.”
H-Craft Championship is a sci-fi racer with more than 28 tracks and unique driving physics. Get the Championship trophy or push your limits with two time attack modes. You will also enjoy a good time with your family and friends with 4 players sharing the same PC.
Unfortunately, we’ve had to halt work on porting the Unreal Engine. It is a huge task and we’ve faced roadblocks. We are planning to resume the task once we’ve completed the MRs of our port to the mainline of Freedesktop-SDK, required to compile flatpak packages on PPC64 Big Endian.
When it’s business time, beyond the usual Linux productivity suites, we are also offering a PPC64 Big Endian optimised version of FreeCAD, so you can make come true your next breakthrough using the best laptop in the world. FreeCAD is a modeller for CAD, MCAD, CAx, CAE and PLM fitting a broad range of uses in engineering and architecture, and runs the same way in all major platforms, ensuring the full portability of your work.
If you don’t believe source code, I am sure you will believe your own eyes. Visit our YouTube channel and enjoy a bit of PowerPC glory! We are online at (link to youtube)
If you have the chance and skills to help, our warm and friendly community invites you to leave your mark on the future of open computing with your contribution and, as a bonus, you will become a better and more versatile developer. Why?
We live in an increasingly little endian world. With the near-monopoly of x86/amd64 in the desktop/laptop/server computing world, the culture of writing portable and performant multi-platform software has declined. We favour a multicultural world. An environment where multiple platforms have an opportunity to thrive gives us new perspectives to solve computing problems, instead of relying only on the old and tried, leading to a world of opener, safer and better software overall.
When developer to our platform, you must keep in mind that you are targeting a Big Endian platform. Manual endianness swapping must be avoided. If you are careful enough, you may be able to extract a bit of performance here and there, but you always must maintain specific use cases and ensure proper architecture detection throughout your code, otherwise the code won’t be architecture-independent.
With automatic swapping, the code is easier to maintain and port. POSIX offers tools for automatic endianness conversion. For more details, please check our guidelines.
Our talk at the FOSDEM 21
FOSDEM is a free event for software developers to meet, share ideas and collaborate. In 2021, the gathering will be online. Be part of the best FOSS conference in Europe – it is for free and registration is required.
We will, of course, mark our presence, with our own Roberto Innocenti hosting a talk and showcasing that now it is the time to switch to Open Hardware and raise again the profile of the Power Architecture.
Roberto’s presentation will happen on Saturday, 6th of February, 2021, starting at 12:15 CET and ending at 13:00. We will be seeing you there!
Thanks to the kind contribution of the donors, we just reached the goal of the campaign for financing Phase 1B “Fast simulation bus”.
The PCB (Printed Circuit Board) design is currently being finalized, as soon as we have reviewed it, we will publish it in our GitLab repository. This last phase was of fundamental importance as we could test the correctness of the design, paving the way for the next campaign.
We got through the hardest parts with regards to the Research and Development choices. We past the uncertain ground with its many open challenges and many solutions have been explored. We also past the economical goal of previous campaigns that were quite heavy, and thanks to many people we have managed to get this far, again, thank you all!
We are now ready to launch Phase 2 “Production and delivery of five working prototypes” with a goal of 10500 Euros (around 12720 USD).
So far, we worked with U-Boot on the NXP T2080 RDB Devkit but that is quite different to our motherboard, which is quite more complex. We have to fine-tune U-Boot directly on the final hardware, and the prototypes will be essential for this. In addition, work on U-Uoot is still required even with the Devkit in order to correctly set up the framebuffer. Right now we can access the U-Boot console in serial mode only. ACube Systems will assist us on this task.
The motherboard is designed (screw and ports positions) to fit inside the Eclipse Notebook body that the prototypes should be mounted on.
Moreover, we need to redesign the dissipation heat pipes that will be slightly different from what was originally in place for the Eclipse Notebook.
Maybe some of you didn’t even think it was possible but we are progressing. The journey is still not finished. We need you to tell about this project all around you as we need more interested people, more donations.
2021 is our year! Let’s make this project a reality!
The campaign aimed at the “Fast simulations bus” is nearly complete, and we will receive the resulting PCB design before the end of 2020. As soon as we have reviewed it, we will publish it in our GitLab repository. Here a screenshot with the PCB design currently being finalized.
Similarly to what we did for the current campaign, the next donation campaign for financing the “Production of five working prototypes” will start as soon as the current campaign will reach its end. In coordination with ACube Systems, we fixed the cost of the five prototypes to 10.500 euros, and we aim at delivering them during late Spring 2021.
Freedesktop-sdk for PPC64 Big Endian Compiled!
We have patched freedeskop-sdk to compile perfectly on PPC64 so now we are preparing, according with Freedesktop-sdk teams, the merge requests to send to the mainline repository.
So we have successfully compiled 432 packages that it involves even the last version of go lang.
Now thanks to [email protected] we have a Power8 VM to recompile freedesktop-sdk for PPC64 in Continuous Integration for gitlab freedesktop-sdk pipeline.
As Flatpak binary is running on Debian 10 PPC64 Big Endian and need the Freedesktop-dsk layer to prepare the flatpak packages starting from hundreds of manifests, now we are a step closer to see flatpak packages prepared for PPC64 .
PPC64 Open ISA and A2I Core along with the PPC64 Open Hardware Notebook PCB and Libre-Soc project.
This year IBM released the A2I POWER processor core design and associated FPGA environment. In 2019 IBM opened the POWER Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). The Power Progress Community released the PCB of the Notebook Motherboard based on Power Architecture with Cern Open Hardware License. Libre-SOC is a software-hardware project that aims to deliver a physical POWER compliant SOC that comes complete with a CPU, GPU, VPU, and DDR controller. We will discover these concrete projects