PCB Complete sources published! Mentor Expedition, Altium and Kicad formats

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.

our gitlab repository with motherboard design sources

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 In fact, visECAD Viewer appears to be withdrawn from the market and it not anymore available to download, and we did not not receive any answer to our requests of support from the Siemens team.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!

  1. Slimbook Eclipse Notebook

    Donation Campaign for Production of three working Prototypes

    €5,321.00 donated of €12,500.00 goal

PCB gerber files published, Updates on the Prototypes

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.

  1. Slimbook Eclipse Notebook

    Donation Campaign for Production of three working Prototypes

    €5,321.00 donated of €12,500.00 goal

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.

Expanding gaming library, Fosdem 21 and more

Progress on the software front

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

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.

FreeCAD

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)

Exciting, right?

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!

Another success: PCB completely financed! It’s time for the prototypes campaign!

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).

  1. Slimbook Eclipse Notebook

    Donation Campaign for Production of three working Prototypes

    €5,321.00 donated of €12,500.00 goal

Our target is to complete this new campaign by Spring 2021, and we are working again with the patient guys at ACube Systems that will assist us in making the five prototypes.

printed circuit check

These prototypes will be very important as they will be used to

  • put the PCB design to the test
  • learn how to correctly initialize the hardware
  • fine-tune the configuration of U-Boot
  • fit the motherboard in the Eclipse Slimbook body

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!

PCB Design nearly complete, preparing for the next campaign aimed at working prototypes

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.

our PowerPC Notebook Motherboard design screenshot from Mentor Xpedition

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.

We thanks OSU Open Source Lab and OpenPower Foundation to provide us a Power9 VM with 8 cores and 16GB of RAM that permit us to compile Freedesktop-sdk for PPC64.

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 .

Video: SFScon 2020: 202x Open Hardware Concrete Approach

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

Video: our Speak at OpenPOWER Summit NA 15 Sept 2020

On 15th September 2020 at OpenPOWER Summit NA, there was many interesting speaks and projects, our speak

Around 6 years back, we started as a group of FOSS, PowerPC and Open Hardware enthusiasts, with beginning to work on PowerPC Notebook project which was designed around GNU/Linux using Open Hardware. We had very limited funding with limited skills to work. But our enthusiasm and motivation led us to reach fabrication stage for the motherboard. Finally this year we could successfully design its PCB with the help of collaborators and limited funding from donors. There were many challenges faced in this process. Since PowerPC processors have been around for more than 2 decades, but the current implementation on Notebook was difficult to take in the market. Coming to the performance in Big Endian mode is maximized in this with many software need to be patched. In future we plan to upgrade our PCB design to the more recent packaging technology for the processor. Also, with increasing collaborators, it would be possible to design more smaller and cheaper PowerPC board.

Our Speech at Open Source Summit. 15 days to donate 2600 euro left.

Our PPC64 Motherboard Board Design

The tentative deadline for Phase1B is 18th November so there are two weeks left to donate the remaining 2600 euros. If we will reach the goal, the PCB with SI bus simulation should be ready by the middle of December.

In this case in before the end of 2020 we start working on production of the Prototypes together with the Prototypes Donation Campaign.

We have to give a name to the motherboard, suggestions still remain open few days more on our forum.

Our Open Hardware license and endianness suggestions at OSS 2020

We have talked about Cern Open Hardware License and Endianness at Open Source Summit + Embedded Linux Conference on Europe 27 Oct 2020

Cern Open Hardware License

Why not a software license such as GPL?
Hardware licenses are specific for hardware so they are written using the appropriate words: manufacturer, devices, CAD tool…

Why we choose the CERN Open Hardware Licence v1.2?
We think it offers a better protection for the licensor compared to other hw licenses such as TAPR Open Hardware License

So, who are the licensor and the licensee?
– In our project we (Power Progress Community) are the licensor and the licensee is the hardware producer.
The Licensee may manufacture or distribute Products
– Licensee could modify our work but the modification must be available under the same or equivalent license.
Licensor is protected
– Quality and responsabilities of the hardware belong to the licensee.

Other important notes
– Firmware, drivers and any other software would require their own license.
– Intellectual property belongs to the licensor.
– Documentation must be provided in the right format to be modified (using a CAD tool).

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