March 2019 Schematic Updates

In our last post we stated  “we hope to publish the initial schematic design before the end of February 2019”. Unfortunately a series of problems arise that we will try to explain in this status update.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sangudo/

As you may probably know, at the end of the first donation campaign we received four incremental releases of electrical schematics from the designer, the last one on the 11th of January 2019. We started a validation task at each release prior to their publication and each time we ended up sending back the schematics because we thought some design decisions had to be improved. These hardware reviews are quite complicated, and we would need additional volunteers, possibly hardware engineers able to properly address the task. Please, contact us or fill the collaboration survey if you can contribute.

At the same time, we were continuously evaluating various notebook chassis options, striving to find a suitable chassis that could fit our motherboard that has a MXM video card. The goal here was to identify an empty chassis that could be bought without a motherboard and with a life cycle of at least two or three years, which is the envisioned time-frame covering our laptop project.

The hardware designer that was paid thanks to donors is stuck waiting for the final notebook chassis as he requires the pinout specifications to finalize the design.

These are the reasons why the development of the electrical schematics is frozen since the 11th of January 2019. As a result, also our collaborators that have volunteered to validate the hardware schematics are stuck, as well as our selected product maker ACube Systems.

Identifying a suitable chassis is taking an unexpected amount of time and it is terribly delaying the second campaign aimed at the PCB design. Last year we had a meeting among both Power Progress Community associated members and the core group that is coordinating the project, and we all agreed to start the second donation campaign only after publishing the schematics resulting from first campaign. However, the amount of accumulated delay arise doubts among the participants on how to solve the current impasse, and we decided to ask the donors to give their opinion about whether to start now the second campaign (link) or keep waiting the publication of the result of the first campaign. If you are willing to actively support the project, feel free to express your opinion about the matter.

Our hardware volunteer team and ACube Systems are still reviewing the next round of documentation for selecting some key components that heavily depend on the selected chassis.

So far we have identified some potentially suitable chassis. However, some of them are designed to host a separated board to manage the batteries, a board that does not exists in our design, and some chassis have a dedicated space for a separated ethernet board, and again, others do not have a thermal design compatible with the heat generated by an MXM video card. The problem here is that the hired hardware designer stated very clearly that he is not willing to make an extra work to alter the initially agreed design features of the main board to accommodate it in a chassis requiring a very different internal layout. In other words, splitting functions in separated boards is out of question.

At this time the key question is: how much time is required to identify the correct notebook chassis?

Unfortunately, given our very limited spending resources and the experience we had so far, we are not able to make any speculation at this point. We strongly believe that it would be better to make a wise choice requiring more time, rather than an hasty solution now, because any wrong decision would risk to compromise the feasibility of the entire project.

We are not a private company aimed at making a profit out of this project in order to survive, in fact we don’t sell anything. We are a group of hardware enthusiasts more or less structured in a  non-for-profit association. We are doing our best to face strong limitations to achieve what we knew since the beginning was a very difficult and complex goal.

Taking all of this into account, we think that publishing to a wider audience now a very incomplete electrical schematics could impact way too negatively our project and the donors expectations. On the other hand, we are conscious that we are delaying for way too long the promised outcome of the first campaign and this fact too have a great impact to our credibility.

We are moving forward extremely slowly, that’s for sure. You know the requirements and the extremely limited actions that we can make, mostly due to extremely tight financial constraints.

After all what was said in this status update, we delivered to the donors the current version of the schematics, stressing on the fact that they should be considered only a draft not yet ready to be shared with a wider audience

In the end, we still strongly believe in the project, we are facing a contingent problem (the chassis) that it will be soon or later be solved. If you can help you are more than welcome.

Stay tuned.

January Post Update PCB Campaign

Schematics design: February 2019

The schematics are still under review by our hardware volunteers and Acube itself, we hope to publish the initial schematic design before the end of February 2019 in our gitlab repository. It will be a Work-In-Progress schematic design. As the schematic design is a Work-In-Progress we will only publish the pdf.  We will publish the Orcad files when the schematic design will be finalized. In parallel to the schematic design being released to the public, we will begin the PCB Layout Donation Campaign.

The schematics will be updated later including all laptop external connectors actually present on the laptop chassis, due to the selection of the chassis to use is still pending.

We plan to begin the PCB Layout Donation Campaign before the end of February 2019.

You can find more information related to the chip components inside the schematic design you can find in the previous post

Sfscon Bolzano – Italy – November 2018

At 16th November 2018 at Sfscon.it we have made our project presentation speech in the bigger room with the presence of around one hundred people ( even though it was late and it was the penultimate) .

We have talked about the steps done by us for our project of Open Hardware PowerPC GNU/Linux based Notebook. We have disclosed a preview of our electrical schematics and informed about the next steps.It was for us an honour to present our project near important speakers and just before Simon Phipps  which is the President at the Open Source Initiative (OSI). We thanks so much IDM Südtirol and Linux User Group Bozen-Bolzano-Bulsan of the Free Software Conference Bozen, South Tyrol, that are the organizers for such an opportunity. You can find the program of the Sfscon 2018 at this link.

SFScon18 – Free Software Conference 2018

Stand at Paris Open Source Summit (POSS) – France – December 2018

Power Progess Community was represented for the first time at the Open Source Summit held from December 5 to 6, 2018 in the vicinity of the French capital

The annual Open Source Summit event focuses on the promotion of free and open source softwares in the Paris region, bringing together both the various associative communities and companies.
We had for a first presence many visitors interested in our initiative.

We’d like to thank the team at Parinux.org and Franciliens.net to allow us to participate to the POSS event. Open Source Summit – Paris – December 2018

POSS 2018 – Eduard that inform about our PowerPC Notebook project

Open Source Laptop Chassis Design

Thanks to some collaborators there is a first setup of the design of a future Open Source laptop chassis design, done in FreeCad. You can find the design in our repo.

If you like to collaborate to the Open Source Laptop chassis design please contact us.

For more information you can check in the dedicated site

Building in the Minicloud

We want to thank the University of Campinas in Brazil for their support and for the excellent service (called Minicloud) they are offering. The Minicloud provides free access to POWER virtual machines that can be used for development, testing or migration of applications to POWER. The virtual machines of Minicloud run on OpenStack, which supports running a large number of virtual machines on a single scale-out Linux server. We are using their infrastructure to build our Yocto based distribution. Currently we are upgrading all the project to Yocto 2.6 and this task is being performed in a Minicloud VM. If you have a project which follows the basic rules explained before, you can ask for an account here https://minicloud.parqtec.unicamp.br/minicloud/ .

Bookmark the date for PCB donation campaign start

Bookmark the date of our PCB donation campaign (details below), now that the electrical schematics that came out of the first donation campaign are in our hands.

The schematics are now under review by our hardware volunteers and at the same time, during this month, we have been preparing the steps to certify our hardware design as Open Source Hardware following the OSWHA Certification procedure.

Open Hardware Compliance

OSHWA Certification

OSHWA Certification Process

Through our OSWHA colleagues, we contacted the NYU Technology Law and Policy Clinic. They helped us for free to see how we could certify the motherboard project as Open Source Hardware. Students and Professors of the Clinic have analyzed how to find the best path to achieve OSHWA certification. In the meantime we have contacted the chips vendors to verify their agreement to distribute as Open Source Hardware our electrical schematics and the future PCB design. Among others, NXP has answered positively. With the Law and Policy Clinic we have extensively studied the practical implications of the requirements for the OSWHA Open Hardware certification, and cross-checked our approach with OSWHA personnel.

So most of the datasheets of the chips used in our schematics are freely downloadable as you can see below.

An important part of being considered Open Hardware compliant ( OSHWA Open Hardware certification), imply that everything that is under our control and  that is useful to produce our motherboard, should be publicly disclosed, such schematics, PCB, Gerber-files and all their accompanying information.  Still is Open Hardware If we have done what was in our power to use open components, but a third-party sources impose us restrictions to share some information related to their components used in our design.

Bookmark the date of our PCB donation campaign

Bookmark the date

Bookmark the starting date of the PCB donation campaign: mid-January 2019.

That is going to be the time when we will make publicly available the reviewed electrical schematics that we were able to obtain thanks to the previous campaign. If you have reserved some donations to our project for the Christmas you can donate using the old donation campaign, will be automatically transferred to the PCB campaign, or you can wait until mid-January when will start of the PCB donation campaign. Please if possible “alert” even other passionate people about the imminent campaign.

Finalized list of components

Having received the finalized version of the electrical schematics – we are currently revising them prior to publication- the list of components is now also finalized, even if the revision could imply few minor changes.

The laptop external connectors, that depends from the notebook chassis, are not final due to the interdependence with the laptop chassis, will be added later when the notebook chassis will be finally selected.

You will find the details related to a significant part of the  selected components in the datasheets accompanying the electrical schematics that will be made publicly available in mid-January, despite sometimes a login could be required.

Here is a preview of a part of the components:

CPU: NXP T2080: Datasheet ( login needed )

Sata3 Controller: Marvell  88SE9235

USB3 Controller: Renesas μPD720201 Datasheet

PCIE Switch: Diodes Pericom r PI7C9X2G404SL

HDMI Transmitter: ON Semiconductor CM2020-01TR datasheet

Power Convertor: LTM8064EY#PBF datasheet

Smart Battery Charger Controller: LTC 4100 datasheet

Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver with RGMII Support: Microchip KSZ9031RNX datasheet

MXM3.0 Compatible Connector: JAE MM70-314-310B1-2-R300  datasheet

Others:

Frequency Synthesizer : DT9FGV0641 datasheet

100V UV/OV and Reverse Protection Controller with Bidirectional Circuit Breaker: LTC4368 datasheet

4-channel I2C-bus switch with reset: NXP PCA9546A datasheet

 

block diagram

PowerPC Notebook motherboard Block Diagram

PowerPC Notebook motherboard Block Diagram

Electrical Schematics presentations, Yocto/Debian updates, Scratch

Yocto project update

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

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.

Presentations:

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.

The building of the University of Bergamo, where we had the speech.

Among other very interesting topics (see the complete programme here), we introduced the association, who we are, the goal of the laptop project and we explain how we want to reach such an ambitious goal. You may find here the PDF with the given presentation slides.

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 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.

https://www.lugbz.org/events/linux-day-2018/

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

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

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

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.

11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting. Software libre, democracia y nuevos dispositivos: Valencia - Spain

Presention at 11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting. Software libre, democracia y nuevos dispositivos: Valencia – Spain

Coming Soon Presentations

Free Software Conference

Free Software Conference

 

At Sfscon.it – Free Software Conference – our new presentation ” Open Hardware PowerPC Notebook disclose the motherboard design“, Bozen, South Tyrol – Italy 16th November

 

Revivo Scratch project

Revivo con Scratch

Revivo con Scratch

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

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.

Repo.powerprogress.org update

Debian ppc64

Debian ppc64

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.

We finally found a viable solution for the notebook chassis

Acube Systems, the company carrying out the electrical schematics design, is also investigating a possible motherboard layout that would fit into an existing notebook chassis. However, this research is delaying the publication of the electrical schematics, the goal of the first donation campaign. This –initially unplanned– activity is a necessary step that is required to properly launch the second donation campaign, the one aimed at the PCB design that should take into account a target notebook chassis. The main problem facing the second campaign is going to be the high temperature generated by the MXM video card, that, together with the CPU and other onboard chips, will require a properly designed thermal dissipation mechanism in order to obtain a stable system. Once the few remaining aspects will be cleared up, most probably by the end of October 2018, we will be ready to publish the electrical schematics, and after that, we will be ready to launch the second donation campaign.

PowerPC Eletrical Schematics

To get into details, and as already described in the past, finding a notebook chassis was an unexpectedly difficult task, and it was mostly due to a lack of a manufacturer or a notebook reseller willing to provide an unbranded and empty chassis. The good news is that after 3 years of tireless research, ACube Systems finally reached an agreement with a company allowing us to buy and use a notebook chassis without restrictions. The bad news is that under this agreement it was not possible to obtain an empty chassis, forcing ACube to buy a complete laptop, then take the x86 motherboard away (and possibly, reselling it).

 

The first release of the PowerPC notebook will fit into the above mentioned disassembled notebook chassis. In parallel, our voluntary-based mechanical 3D team is assessing the feasibility of an Open Hardware notebook chassis that would fit the PowerPC motherboard layout. Hopefully, ACube Systems will be able to provide two distinct batch of notebooks, a first one using the off the shelf chassis, and –possibly– a second one, later on, using our custom chassis.

 

 

 

 

By VIA Technologies - OpenBook project website, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4122051

IT IS NOT our Notebook chassis. Is by VIA Technologies – OpenBook project website, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4122051

 

 

In any case the Open Hardware PCB and the Open Source Notebook Chassis will be useful for other Open Hardware notebook projects. There is a much bigger community out there that will be able to appreciate our effort!

If you want to collaborate on the 3D design of the Open Source Notebook Chassis contacts us or fill our collaboration survey.

NXP dev board T2080 e6500 with Debian sid PPC64 and RadeonHD

This is our first successful attempt to setup a T2080rdb with a video card.
The RadeonHD 5450 is attached to the onboard PCI Express Gen3 4x connector using a 16x cable adapter.

We are using this board as it uses the same CPU (NXP T2080) as the one selected for our Open Hardware laptop project

You may find more infos about the board here
https://www.nxp.com/support/developer-resources/software-development-tools/qoriq-developer-resources/qoriq-t2080-reference-design-board:T2080RDB

The system is a Debian sid PPC64 with packages available in the following repositories
http://ftp.ports.debian.org/debian-ports/

Few software did not works without applying patches to make them work properly under PPC64 (see Midori, Firefox, Iceweasel, VLC, mplayer), so we setup our own repository
https://repo.powerprogress.org/

 

This the output of the Hardinfo 0.6 alpha benchmarks, compared to a PowerMac G5 (IBM 970) and a three years old intel laptop (i7-4600U).

T2080rdb, cpu T2080 e6500 1.8Ghz, 4 cores, 8 threads, altivec
RadeonHD 5450 1GB DD3, on the oboard PCIe 4x using a 4x to 16x adaptor
Debian Sid PPC64

CPU Blowfish 5.38
CPU CryptoHash 338.35
CPU Fibonacci 2.96
CPU N-Queens 3.63
CPU Zlib 0.41
FPU FFT 8.46
FPU Raytracing 2.85
GPU Drawing 1219.24

PowerMac G5, cpu PowerPC 970 1.8Ghz, 2 cores, 2 threads, altivec
ATI Radeon 9600 PRO 128MB AGP
Debian Sid PPC64

CPU Blowfish 32.81
CPU CryptoHash 78.82
CPU Fibonacci 3.11
CPU N-Queens 26.01
CPU Zlib 0.15
FPU FFT 10.29
FPU Raytracing 12.94
GPU Drawing 699.74

HP EliteBook 840 G1, cpu i7-4600U 2.10GHz, 2 cores, 4 threads
Intel HD Graphics 4400
Ubuntu 18.04

CPU Blowfish 3.89
CPU CryptoHash 341.53
CPU Fibonacci 0.59
CPU N-Queens 5.67
CPU Zlib 0.52
FPU FFT 1.95
FPU Raytracing 2.06
GPU Drawing 7973.70

Now some remarks
1) The Debian Sid was set up on the PowerMac G5 then, the 2.5’HD was attached to the T2080rdb onboard SATA. We used a vanilla 4.17.6 kernel image customized for this board (no patch applied) and a modified Device tree blob stored on the onboard SD card. You may find the U-Boot kernel image (uImage) and the Device tree (uImage.dtb) in our GitLab account
https://gitlab.com/oshw-powerpc-notebook/T2080customizations/
2) Not figured out (yet) how to go online using the T2080rdb onboard ethernet ports.
3) Games such as Chromium BSU or NeverBall simply works. Games such as SuperTuxKart does not start, Torcs is slow and the audio is completely corrupt
4) The T2080rdb works well with the RadeonHD 5450, but many errors floods the serial console whenever trying to plug in other RadeonHD cards (e.g. 4550, R7 250E which is a rebranded HD7750).

This is the error that floods the serial console:
pcieport 0001:00:00.0: AER: Corrected error received: id=0000
pcieport 0001:00:00.0: PCIe Bus Error: severity=Corrected, type=Physical Layer, id=0000(Receiver ID)
pcieport 0001:00:00.0: device [1957:0830] error status/mask=00000001/00006000
pcieport 0001:00:00.0: [ 0] Receiver Error (First)

Collaborate with us

If you like to help on fix debian packages for powerpc (ppc64 be expecially) or help on improve kernel configuration , u-boot(menu,etc) or others configurations to run more video cards, etc… contact us.

You can even select which type of collaboration you like to make, in case please fill our collaboration survey.

Phase One donation campaign Goal Reached!

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.

Phese One Goal Reached!

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.

PowerPC Notebook Eletrical Schematics Funded

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:

  1. [Achieved!] Hardware components research, analysis of the architecture, and design of the electrical schematics [12.600 euro]
  2. [Upcoming campaign] Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gerber format delivery of the electrical schematics [11.950 euro]
  3. Production and delivery of five working prototypes  [8.800 euro]
  4. Hardware testing using software provided by the producer (ACube) [14.400 euro]
  5. 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.

Outstanding projects for PowerPC 64 big endian

JdLL 2018

As you probably know, we were attending the JDLL meeting (Journées du Logiciel Libre, The days of the open software, https://www.jdll.org/) and we promised to give an update about our participation. This time, our attendees were Phillipe Ferrucci and Fadi Osman. They gave a speech introducing our project and explained all the details. Using Fadi’s own words:

“It was a pleasure meeting Philippe! We also saw the OpenSUSE guys and other people one of which is the inventor of the magnetic stripe. Very impressive!

The Haiku people were very nice and helped us!”

During the speech about twenty to thirty  people were attending. We were asked the usual questions: Why have you chosen PowerPC?  Is PowerPC really open source? …

As usual, we very much insisted on the importance of diversity, and brough the well-known Intel cpu bug, most notably Meltdown and Spectre on the table, and the existence of back doors as a real life example of the issues deriving from the present technological monopoly. We also stated the importance of keeping PowerPC Linux distros alive, especially in their PPC64 variant.

Regarding the second question “is PowerPC open source?”, we explained the work behind the OpenPower foundation. Moreover, one of the reasons we chose PowerPC is also the background of people involved  in the project, in a way or another: most of us are owners of classic or new generation Amigas and PowerPC macs.

Journées du Logiciel Libre

Journées du Logiciel Libre

During the interesting discussion, there was people trying to help overcoming the described problems encountered in carrying out our activities, and made suggestions based on  their very valuable experience and knowledge.

  • Someone suggested to simplify the design by removing the SATA controller and connect the SSD directly using the I/O interface.
  • Another person talked about all the issues that were encountered by the people developing the Pandora console, such as designing its chassis.
  • We got a very interesting and useful information from people who can help us with industrialization issues.
  • Others suggested that more people could be more attracted by an open source PPC raspberry pi format board, instead of a PPC laptop.
  • We also had a conversation with the CEO of Why! which is already one of our main donors and is interested in further collaborating and selling the notebook.

Encourage the continued support of PPC64

Now we want to mention the new proposal from Aaron Smith (another of our main donors in the crowdfunding campaign, as well as the Amiga on the Lake’s CEO). He is asking PPC64 Linux users to help encourage the continued support of PPC64

The Amiga On The Lake company is working to provide a fully featured Linux “version” expressly developed for the AmigaOne X5000 computer. To achieve this goal, Aaron is offering a discount to “any serious developer that wants an AmigaOne X5000 motherboard to develop on”. In addition to that, he is asking all Power Mac G5 owners to actively support the Debian PPC64 development.

Read the full communication here.

Continuing our Yocto Project research

We are still developing a research Linux image based on Yocto Project. We are not sure yet if we will produce a custom distribution using Yocto or, if it will be too much of an effort for us. In any case, the work we are doing is being useful for the entire PPC community. As an example, we found a bug that caused an error building a 4.14 kernel for ppc64. We reported it to the Yocto Project bug tracker and we proposed a patch that was accepted, committed and will be available in the upcoming 2.5 version.

PowerPC yocto project

PowerPC yocto project

In addition to that, we are currently trying to build Firefox 52 ESR (Extended Release Support). Fully working and well-performing Web browsers are indeed the main headache we have in the software area on the PPC platform. At the moment, there are only a few Web browsers that can be built for PowerPC and Firefox has to be compiled using special configuration flags and source code patches to avoid issues. In order to build it, we are gathering information mainly from Gentoo, Debian, RedHat and OpenSUSE forums and issue trackers. Using this, we were able to compile and run Firefox but we are lacking a JIT JavaScript engine, causing major slowdowns while browsing and we still need to resolve a series of remaining bugs and test the final result properly.

In case you want to collaborate in that tasks you can contact us

Adelie / Alpine PowerPC distro

The maintainer of Adelie is a highly skilled programmer who loves ppc64, a tier 1 architecture for PowerPC.

Adélie and Alpine: PowerPC distros for each endianness

Alpine Linux is a widely-known distribution focused on security and small footprint, built on the musl libc.  IBM has helped port Alpine to the ppc64el architecture (little-endian), and as of Alpine 3.7 it is officially supported. However, Alpine Linux does not support ppc64 big endian, so it is not suitable for computers  such as the Apple PowerMac G5.

Adélie Linux is focused on making an easy-to-use desktop environment that runs on any speed or age of hardware, based on Alpine tools and musl libc. It officially supports the ppc64 architecture (big-endian) and was the first distribution to fully support ppc64 on musl, and to ship the LXQt environment on ppc64/musl.

adeline PowerPC Linux distro

Adelie PowerPC Linux distro

“We feel the future of libre computing lies in PowerPC, and we are excited to see where the PowerPC platform goes,” said A. Wilcox, lead of Adélie.  “Projects like GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook and Raptor’s Talos show a bright future of truly libre and owner-controlled hardware.”

* Alpine Linux (PPC64el) is available at https://alpinelinux.org/
* Adélie Linux (PPC64) is available at https://adelielinux.org/

Compiling PowerPC64 Debian packages on IBM Power8 instance at the Oregon University

Thanks to the OSU Open Source Lab of Oregon University and OpenPower Foundation we obtained the access to the OpenStack running on Power8 server so we have started an Power8 instance with 4 vcpu , 8GB of RAM and we have started to compile PowerPC packages, in particular big endian (BE) packages for Debian powerpc that we publish in our public repo. These compiled packages run on ppc64 G5 machine, and might turn out to be useful for our future Open Hardware Laptop.

We have prepared a Debian 8.10 PowerPC BE instance based on a Power8 based on OpenStack to compile Debian PowerPC BE packages for the “sid” release (unstable).

You can check our project in the OSU Open Source Lab

Thanks to Power8 instance now we can compile big packages of applications in a fraction of time we need with a PowerMac G5 dual core, or with X86.

mame ppc64be compilations

mame ppc64be compilations

In case you want to fix debian packages to run optimized for powerpc64 big endian with altivec please please contact us.

Cloud resources to explore, learn, and develop on POWER

https://developer.ibm.com/linuxonpower/cloud-resources/

Oregon State University

Oregon State University

Power Progress Community Debian repository

Our software working group have patched some Debian sid (unstable) packages, enabling specific optimizations for the ppc64 platform and enabling the Altivec support, if available. The work is also focused on fixing bugs and porting to ppc64 as many packages as possible.  You may find our repository and the instructions on how to try it out at http://repo.powerprogress.org

In case you want to collaborate with us you can contact us

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Firefox Compiled installable from our repo.powerprogress.org

repo powerprogress packages list

repo powerprogress packages list

Presentation of our project at the Monza Linux User Group, Italy

We thanks our friends at Brigx for the warm hospitality at their place in Bernareggio, Monza Brianza, Italy, where we presented our project. The people attending seems very interested on the current activities, and we take the opportunity to thank for their valuable donations.

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!