Few days ago we announced that Slimbook will provide the enclosure we need for our Open Hardware PowerPC notebook. In addition to that, we have published in our repository the pdf containing the new version of the schematics. Further updates will arrive during the following days ( the Orcad source files will be available during October)
One of the main points when you are designing a laptop is the relationship between the motherboard and the enclosure. It is not a good idea to design the motherboard if you don’t have the chassis. At the same time, the enclosure has to take into account how the motherboard will be.
Now we are happy to announce that Slimbook will provide the enclosure we need for our Open Hardware PowerPC notebook. ACube and Slimbook are collaborating since the beginning of this year, exchanging information about components disposition and pinouts, thermal dissipation and so on.
Slimbook is having a great success selling their own Linux laptops (such as the ProX) and mini PCs world-wide.
Due to this collaboration we have almost everything we need to achieve our goal in terms of technology.
Electrical Schematics final version
We want to update you that first days of October we will publish in our repository the pdf containing the final version of the schematics. After that, during October, the Orca source will be available as well, tailored for the Slimbook chassis. This means that the design of the PCB will fit inside the Slimbook chassis.
In case you are able to convert Orca source to Kicad you are welcome to do it. If you have any issue when doing so, contact us and we will be happy to provide some help.
New ppc64 applications in our repo
Lastly, we have patched the following applications for ppc64 (Big Endian) : arcticfox, palemoon, mame, fs-uae, libx265, qemu, midori. They run on PowerMac/ImacG5 ( Power4 processor) but also on more recent Big Endian ppc64 processors such as NXP T2xxx and T4xxx.
We are also working on many other complex applications like Blender that require the creation of dedicated groups for the distribution of the necessary effort.
We’re performing tests, reporting bugs and suggesting workarounds to complete the installation of Debian 10.0 using ISOs released by the maintainers of Debian ports for ppc64be.
If you want to join the software workgroup and help these software tasks feel free to contact us.
We announce the cooperation with C-Media. C-Media is a global leading audio IC/software solution provider.
In this post we want to explain one of our latest achievements. During the present year we have been looking for an audio chip to be included in our motherboard. We found that the CM8828 HD-Audio controller and CM9882A Codec family was a good candidate. After some discussion with them explaining our project, they decided to support us. Furthermore, they have sent the Evaluation Board to Acube.
Maybe more important is the fact that C-Media will provide the needed chips for the production of our notebook. They know that their chips will be in our Open Source Hardware motherboard and will provide us with the needed information to write drivers as may be needed. In addition to this, we have ordered three pci sound cards based on CM8828/CM9882A to test with our T2080 Devkits and for Acube developments.
In the end, all these little steps are very interesting for our project, as this audio chip has high end specs but the most important point is that we have a direct and good communication with the manufacturer. We want to thank C-Media for supporting our project and believe in Open Source Hardware.
Above all, one of the greatest problems preventing us from finalizing these schematics was the missing chassis required to take a series of very important design decisions. Finally, very recently, a chassis was selected and is now in our hands, paving the way to accomplish the goal.
In April we asked your opinion on either publishing an unfinished work or wait for better quality schematics. The Core Team chose to wait and “Send the information (the work in progress pdf of the schematic design) only to the 132 donors and kindly asking them to not publish”.
At the end of June there was an important meeting between Acube and the designer to discuss the suggestions from our Hardware team, and another topic was how to adapt the schematic to the new chassis. In fact we have prepared the next steps for the PCB design.
So now we have this modified block diagram that could have further few minor changes.
Currently, the designer is working to update the schematics. This task is expected to be completed on August.
In the meantime, the Core Team we voted again in June and this time we have decided to publish the pdf of the current version of the schematic. That does not contain the updates we are expecting in August.
In other words, the schematic that we have uploaded to our repository is the same pre-release version that we have sent to the donors at the end of March 2019, and it should be noted that it is an alpha version. The only difference from the donors’ version is that it contains the recently selected Open Hardware license that is the Cern Open Hardware License v 1.2 (Cern OHL).
We have selected Cern OHL because it is specific for open hardware and it covers aspects regarding hardware production. It has the same viral effects that other open source licenses have but taking into account that there is a licensor of the hardware and another part that is manufacturing it.
The current version of the schematic is published in our repo in gitlab.
In 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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 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 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.
In the last weeks we created a custom desktop theme for LXQT and continued giving more stability to the current version of the distribution. At the same time we are trying to add more productivity applications but we are finding several problems. One of them is caused probably by the nvidia driver when Shotcut is launched, see here for more details and contact us if you think you can help.
Yocto LXQT PowerPC Desktop
Finally, we are updating our distribution from Yocto 2.4 Rocko to Yocto 2.6 Thud. We hope to have an stable version soon and thinking about giving access to a reduced group of people to test it.
Linux Day: Bergamo – Italy
The local Linux user group “BGlug” kindly accepted to include a speech about our activities during the LinuxDay of this year that was hosted at the local university of Bergamo (see picture).
The building of the University of Bergamo, where we had the speech.
Many students from the local vocational school on information technology, telecommunications and electrotechnical engineering attended the presentation, together with some other people interested on the “Open Hardware” approach that we adopted. Many interesting questions rise from the students, and given the young age of the guys, nobody seems to ever heard about the “Power” architecture.
The audience -mostly young students- attending the presentation.
The complete lack of knowledge about alternatives, led to a discussion that shifted towards the importance of supporting non-mainstream technologies other that x86/x64 and ARM. The “Open Hardware” approach, and the freedom to its outcome also seems to have drawn much attention, as for a student it is very clear that freely study and, why not, change an existing fully fledged project is an ideal situation.
Linux Day: Bolzano – Italy
The experience at the LinuxDay in Bolzano (Italy) was quite good.
There were about 50 people attending the event, organized from the local Linux User Group and hosted at the local University. We had a 25 minutes time slot, our presentation was therefore quite short but got some Q&A from the attenders. Most of the audience didn’t have a technical background being just FOSS fans.
LinuxDay 2018 Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
Main question subject was the actuality of the PPC technology and its openness. The project timetable and the financial approach also rised some attention.
Linux Day: Milano – Italy
It’s the fifth time that Linux Day Milan give us the possibility to inform and update peoples about our PowerPC Notebook project, we are very grateful for the space and renewed trust they have given us in the years. These year the organizer was the UnixMIB , very active and kindly user group, the event done on 27th OCtober, during the national day of Linux in Italy, was held inside the beautiful spaces of University Bicocca. We had our exhibition space, like some others Linux User Group, where Riccardo, Luigi and myself had the opportunity to talk with attenders of the events.
Linux Day 2018 Milano University Bicocca
During the presentation in the auditorium we have updated about our project and thanks to the generous time available for our presentation (60 minutes) we have the opportunity to answer in details to many interesting questions.
Presentation at Linux Day 2018 Milano
As usual we have recorded the presentation, below.
11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting.
Software libre, democracia y nuevos dispositivos: Valencia – Spain
The experience at the 11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting was very good. There were only 15 people attending the event in a nice small room because this was not a yearly event but a monthly meetup. After an interesting explanation about Free Software and Democracy, we had a 20 minutes time slot to introduce our project but our presentation was interesting for the attenders and then we were answering questions for another 20-25 minutes.
Presention at 11th GNU/Linux Valencia meeting. Software libre, democracia y nuevos dispositivos: Valencia – Spain
The project is targeted at the education and research field, through the reuse of obsolete notebooks
equipped with PowerPC (G3,G4,G5), Intel x86 (Pentium M, Celeron, Core duo) or ARM architecture.
Schools that do not have enough hardware to carry out computer projects, can reuse these notebooks, otherwise intended to be disposed of as WEEE on which they can teach children the basics of coding through SCRATCH (https://scratch.mit.edu/).
Revivo con Scratch
The experiences of the teachers involved in the project will be summarized on the wiki of the Association to be shared and repeated.
Maintenance of DEBIAN packages for ppc64 architecture continues. We are working on optimizing the experience of using FireFox 52.9.0, merging the work already done on the TenFourFox project. Other essential packages are maintained by our collaborators and are regularly added to our repository. Suggest some packages that you would like to see in our repository, and provide the results of your tests.
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.
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.
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!
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