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

    €4,053.65 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.

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

    €4,053.65 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 .

Orcad source of Electrical Schematic v0.6 published and other news

Finally we have published on our gitlab repository the Orcad source file with the latest version (v0.6) of the Electrical Schematics.

This file is at base of the PCB Design which is currently being worked on using Mentor Xpedition. The previous version of the schematics required some updates in order to accommodate minor changes to match the Slimbook chassis internal spaces. In addition, the schematics are now compatible with the I/O expansion board and the position of the external ports found on the “Elipse” chassis model, that was kindly provided by Slimbook.

After achieving the goal of Phase 1A (thank you all!!), we have just started Phase 1B of the donation campaign targeting the “Fast SI bus simulations”, in other words, an in-depth analysis of the integrity of signals of the PCB that came out from the previous campaign.

After discussing with the engineers currently working on the PCB, we were told that publishing an incomplete and potentially buggy PCB does not have much sense, as there might be major problems that will be solved after carrying out the SI bus simulations. At the end of these long discussions, we agreed on publishing the PCB only after reaching the end of Phase 1B, when all checks will be done.

At this point we cannot fix a deadline for publishing the PCB, as the end of the work on the PCB largely depends on when we will reach the goal of Phase 1B donation campaign and when the SI simulation will help solve all electrical problems that may come up.

The tentative deadline for Phase1B is 16th October so there are two weeks left to donate the remaining 4000 euros (around 4700 USD). If we will reach the goal, the PCB with SI bus simulation should be ready by the end of November .

Open Source Summit + Embedded Linux Conference Europe 27 Oct 2020

Continue reading

Signal Integrity Analysis of the PCB Design

On the 8th of September 2020 we have reached the previous goal targeting to collect the needed donations to complete the design our Open Hardware PCB (Printed circuit board), a big thanks to all supporters!

In the last 9 days, we received more than 2000 euros.
It allowed the campaign to reach its goal 7 days prior to its deadline, wonderful! Thank you all!

Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This new campaign (Phase 1B) aims at the “Fast SI bus simulations”, in other words, it will pay for an in-depth analysis of the integrity of signals of the PCB that came out from the previous campaign. We have started the collection of donations right after reaching the 100% of the previous campaign.

The PCB Design , designed with Mentor Xpedition that came out from the previous campaign will be published here soon, a first public draft should be ready by the end of September.

After the in-depth analysis of the integrity of signals of the PCB will be performed, thanks to the current Donation Campaign, an updated version of the PCB will be published.

Our Speak at OpenPOWER Summit NA 15 Sept 2020

On 15th September at OpenPOWER Summit NA, there will be many interesting speaks and projects, our speak will be at 5:35pm ( Europe/Rome Time Zone).

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.

August full activity in PCB Design

Picture of Albrecht Fietz da Pixabay

The PCB design is in progress even if August is a holiday season in Italy. ACube Systems was able to engage an engineering firm available to work in August to develop the PCB based on the electrical schematics, a pretty difficult task because everyone is on holiday at this time in Italy. 

In addition, Slimbook has provided us additional parts of the schematics useful for reviewing the connection of our motherboard design to the native Eclipse Expansion I/O Board. Resulting from these efforts, we can confirm our envisioned tentative schedule that set the delivery of the PCB design by the end of September 2020.

Interview with Riccardo Mottola, the main contributor to the ArcticFox web browser

In our PowerProgressCommunity association website we just published an interview with Riccardo Mottola, the most active developer contributing to the most advanced browser available for the PowerPC big endian platform

We have just published in our repo arcticfox 27.10.2(beta) compiled for PPC64

arcticfox 27.10.2(beta) PPC64 running on Debian PPC64 on G5

Freedesktop for Big Endian ported 350 package out of 470 to PPC64 big endian

Another step ahead on freedesktop-sdk on ppc64 big endian: libvpx and nss are gone. From 470 packages almost 350 are passed. Now the big challenge starts with ffmpeg, some sdl2 related component and mesa extension.

Suggest a Name for our PowerPC Notebook motherboard

Its time to give a name to our motherboard, we already have in our PPC forum few suggestions, please add yours.

Extended time for Donations

Thanks to the donations already received, the work on the  PCB design can move forward and we estimate it could be completed by the End of September 2020. The timing is somehow unfortunate, as August in Italy is time of vacation, nevertheless, we will do our best to avoid interruptions. The date of publication of the PCB design will heavily depend on the results of the internal review process once we receive the first draft, hopefully it will not take long. The design of the PCB is meant to fit inside the Slimbook Eclipse body.

Slimbook Eclipse Notebook
Slimbook Eclipse Notebook

As we were unable to reach the goal by July, we are forced to postpone the deadline of the current Donation Campaign (Phase 1A) to the 30th of August 2020

The plan is to deliver the PCB design with the end of Phase 1A, and right after that start Phase 1B “Fast SI bus simulations” on the 1st of September with a goal of € 5000 (around $ 5600). As a consequence, there will be no interruption in the donation campaign, it will transparently fade from Phase 1A to Phase 1B seamlessly.

We kindly ask all followers, friends, and donors to concentrate their donations before the 30th August 2020, to ensure the end of Phase 1A to avoid an additional delay.

Our PPC64 Big Endian Patches

Flatpak binary is running on Debian 10 PPC64 Big Endian but need the Freedesktop layer to prepare the flatpak packages strating from hundreds of manifests.

Freedesktop stripper now it’s patched for cross-endian check (ppc64 branch) . We thanks Flatpak team for the gentle collaboration and helpful guidelines.

After importing bootstrap on a native ppc64be, the build process stops on package https://github.com/google/boringssl.git it doesn’t have ppc64 support, “magic” debian repo solve a lot of problems related to dep…back on track on porting!

sudo apt-get install python3-grpcio libgirepository1.0-dev python3-cairo-dev libcairo2-dev gir1.2-ostree-1.0 python3-gi gyp node-gyp lzip locales-all

pip install BuildStream
pip install git+https://gitlab.com/buildstream/bst-external
pip install cython
pip install ostree
pip install PyGObject
pip install vext.gi

Once copied the bootstrap to target, rename bootstrap/powerpc64 to bootstrap/current
Execute these commands to compile:

export XDG_CACHE_HOME=<path/to/build/dir>

MintPPC running on the T2080RDB Devkit

We are in close contact with Jeroen, the creator of the Debian based MintPPC distro (see a post about the new 2020 version of MintPPC here). We have successfully tested it on our T2080RDB Devkit that has the same NXP T2080 cpu of our laptop project (64bit, 4 cores, 8 logical core, up to 1.8Ghz).

MintPPC running on the T2080 Devkit, which is based on the NXP T2080 CPU.
MintPPC running on G5

LibreSOC updates

We very much like the work that our friends at Libre-SOC are currently doing. Our approach have multiple similarities as we both aim at supporting a similar effort in pushing Open Hardware further.
Below some update from their team.

Libre-SOC ran its first “hello world” little-endian binary a few weeks ago.  This shows us that Load, Store, Branch (and return) and many other POWER9 instructions are operational. With help from Florent of Enjoy-Digital.fr the next main task is to add Litex integration which will provide access to peripherals, both on FPGAs and in simulation.  At the same time, Jean-Paul from Sorbonne University has been helping with the layout of the 180nm test ASIC

If anyone would like to assist we have funding thanks to NLNet under their Privacy and Enhanced Trust Programme http://nlnet.nl/PET

The NEW 2020 MintPPC version

Roberto asked me to write a little bit about myself and my project. First I want to thank Roberto for the opportunity to speak about what I like doing, which is creating Linux distributions.

I started with Linux around 1999 with an iMac DV and Linux PPC2000 I think it was called. I moved from Yellow Dog Linux to Mandrake / Mandriva and ended up with Ubuntu and Debian. I have been using Debian ever since. Around 2008 I found out that LXDE as desktop is very suitable for old hardware. It even ran fine on my beloved Pismo. At that time I got an idea of porting the beautiful graphical layer that Linux Mint LXDE had to Debian powerpc. The idea at that time was to create a good looking, fast and stable Linux distribution wherein powerpc hardware (like airport cards) works out of the box. I think I succeeded with that then. MintPPC 8, 9 and 11 were released. At that time my first son was born and I had other things on my mind. I had no idea that it was such a success.

MintPPC screenshot

In 2019, as I was sick lying in bed, I found an old PowerBook. I thought, let’s try Debian on this thing, I have nothing better to do. While lying in bed I started reading and found out that people really liked MintPPC! I had no idea! So, then the idea was born to do the same trick again. During my illness I ported Linux Mint Tricia code with old Linux Mint LXDE to PPC. It is now again possible to install MintPPC in 2020. MintPPC comes in a 32-bits and a 64-bits version. Both versions are looking exactly the same. They are now based on Debian sid and code from the latest linux Mint version with an LXDE desktop. It runs pretty snappy on Apple machines, especially at the high end. My project has a website and installation instructions can be found there. It is all pretty straightforward, just like the “old MintPPC”.

Mint PPC – June 2020

Since a couple of months I began to develop interest in the powerpc-notebook project. I was very pleased to see that people are trying to get a new PowerPC powered laptop on the market. I was even more pleased to read that the project will be open source and that Linux will run on these machines. Then I read on and found out that Debian is one of the candidates. Wow, that is cool I thought! Well, then I immediately developed my idea to port Linux Mint Debian Edition 4 (LMDE4) to ppc64. LMDE4 is a very nice looking distribution, with cinnamon as desktop manager. Running this on G3,G4 would be almost impossible and maybe it would work on G5 I thought. But with an e6500 core this would make sense absolutely. In a nutshell, that is my idea. I started with Debian sid ppc64 and ported some of the Mint code. We will have to see how well this will perform on the new platform. I am in the early stages so anything is possible.

I think it will be good if there is more choice in distributions for the powerpc-laptop project. Not everyone likes the same stuff. I hope that this laptop project will be successful and that some nice distribution will be placed upon it in the future.

Best regards,

Jeroen Diederen


PCB Ready by September 2020 – more time for donations

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 www.flickr.com aicomputin

The progress of donations is going well and we reached 71% of the goal.

A big thanks to all donors!

New Version of Electrical Schematics

We just received a new version of the schematics (v0.5) that raise the power consumption footprint up to 90W in order to support higher end MXM 3 video cards that may reach a maximum of 55W under heavy load. As an example, the AMD Radeon E9174 (GCN 4.0) has a TDP of 50W.

Electrical Schematic version 0.5 June 2020

We will publish in our repository this new version of the schematics ( pdf format and Orcad source) as soon as we finish an internal round of checks in close collaboration with ACube Systems, as we would like to ensure that it can be considered finalized.

PCB Design Timeline

In the next few days the engineer taking care of the motherboard design will concentrate on the PCB, as the Electrical Schematics are now stable enough.

Thanks to the donations already received, the work on the  PCB design ( done with Mentor pads ) can move forward and we estimate it could be completed by September 2020. The timing is somehow unfortunate, as August in Italy is a month where anybody is on holiday, nevertheless, we will do our best to avoid interruptions.The date of publication of the PCB design will depend on the results of the internal review process once we receive it, hopefully it will not take long. The design of the PCB fit inside the Slimbook Eclipse body.

Slimbook Eclipse Notebook
Slimbook Eclipse body

We will export the Orca electrical schematic design even to EDIF format, to make easier for new volunteers to convert it to Kicad Format. To convert from EDIF to Kicad we have found edif2kicad tools  https://github.com/svn2github/edif2kicad but we are sure you will find other tools or even you will be able to create a new one

In case you are able to convert our PCB Mentor Pads design 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.

More time for Donations

After an internal discussion, we decided to postpone the deadline of the current Donation Campaign (Phase 1A) to the 30th of July 2020

The plan is to deliver the PCB design with the end of Phase 1A, and right after that start Phase 1B “Fast SI bus simulations” on the 1st of August with a goal of €5000 (around $5600). As a consequence, there will be no interruption in the donation campaign, it will transparently fade from Phase 1A to Phase 1B seamlessly.

We kindly ask all followers, friends, and donors to concentrate their donations before the 30th July 2020, to ensure the end of Phase 1A without further delays.

We also kindly invite any of you that is capable of technically reviewing the hardware schematics to contact us, as that will help speed up the design process, as well as improving the overall quality of the final motherboard.

You can now donate from any country thanks to Stripe Payment Gateway

Potential donors from Countries such as Lebanon and China were unable or had serious difficulties to donate via Bank transfer and PayPal. The issue is now solved thanks to the addition of Stripe Gateway among the payment methods, they applied for us a discounted rate being a  non-profit organization and they charge a commission on each donation of 1,2%+0,25€ inside the EU, and  2,9%+0,25€ outside the EU.

Growing Up Collaborations: May 2020 Updates

Picture Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In the last post we mentioned that a new version of the electrical schematics is in the works. After a few rounds of internal reviews and changes, that new version is now finally ready to be publicly shared.

We publish a PDF version of the schematics exported from the ORCAD software that is being used by the designer. You may navigate through the document and investigate each component, but unluckily, due to the complexity of the document some PDF viewer may be unable to correctly visualize its content, if that happens just change the viewer you are using.

After receiving these new schematics, we already requested a new round of changes to the designer, in particular we would like to raise the motherboard power consumption footprint up to 90W in order to support higher ends  MXM 3 video cards that consume a maximum of 55W. As an example, the AMD Radeon E9174 (GCN 4.0) has a TDP of 50W. The idea is to obtain a new version of electrical schematics before the end of May. 

If you think a TDP of 90W is too much for a laptop, I can tell you that while I am typing this post on my laptop (a DELL XPS 15 9570, released in 2018) I have attached a power meter to the power brick and the power consumption bounces between 40W and 90W (dunno why is going up and down, I have only a browser turned on). I have also tried playing some 3D games on my DELL laptop, and the power consumption reaches picks of 110W, and sometimes even higher, up to the limit of the power brick, which is 130W.

The current version of the  motherboard, as you can see in the electrical schematics at pages 3 and 4 of the PDF, there are two SO-DIMM DDR3L slots that can host DDR3L non-ECC (max 1866 MT/s, PC3-14900). We opted for non-ECC modules as they are way easier to find on the market and are less expensive than ECC ones, so it will be easy to have 32GB of RAM (2x16GB), up to a limit of 64GB of RAM, if you can find 32GB SO-DIMM modules.

PowerPC Notebook Block Diagram May 2020

In the block diagram and in the schematics you can find a GPIO Extender. This element will be extremely useful for debugging only the prototypes, and it will be removed in the production units.

Thanks to the project’s supporters  (here a list of donors) and in spite of the current difficult times due to the coronavirus impact on everyone’s life, we reached 60% of the goal of the current step, making us confident that it will be possible to obtain the PCB design in a reasonable time frame.

Still, we still have to raise the remaining 40% (€7600 / $8400) to reach the current goal and we kindly ask any of you to continue supporting the donation campaign.

We also invite anyone that is capable of helping us in the technical review of the hardware schematics to contact us, as that would help us to speed up the design process as well as improve the overall quality of the final motherboard. 

We finally would like to stress that the PowerProgressCommunity association behind this project has the long-term goal to lower the existing barriers for accessing and sharing technological knowledge. Being able to freely share a laptop motherboard schematics will dramatically improve the current situation where access to these kinds of data is difficult for who is working in the field, let’s imagine how difficult it is for who is just approaching the topic like students and hobbyists. In addition, by stressing on alternative, non-mainstream technologies, will help spread a culture of diversity, so much important in a flattening world where younger generations don’t even imagine that a different architecture from x86 or ARM exists.

Working on U-Boot

Our NXP T2080RDB devkit boots with AMD RadeonHD video cards using GNU/Linux PPC distros. So far we have successfully tested Debian 10, OpenSuse, VoidLinux, and Fienix. However, due to a lack of involved people expert on U-Boot, we are still lacking support for video output during the boot process, just before the linux kernel kicks in. Very recently, a couple of supporters experts in this field contacted us and joined the group. Thanks to their help, we are confident to solve the current situation, and even update U-Boot from the latest sources. Hopefully, we will be able to publish a new post with some good news in the not-so-distant future.

Working on Unreal Engine PPC64 (big endian) on VoidLinux

Thanks to JT from the VoidLinux group supporting PowerPC, we understood that the current problem of ABI we are facing while trying to build UnrealEngine 4.23 on our Debian SID PPC64 system, is that under debian PPC64 the clang compiler supports abiv1, the lld linker does not. As this was just not enough, JT told us that the Mesa library on big endian supports OpenGL 3.2, but unfortunately Unreal seems to require a more recent version of OpenGL.

This ABI build problem can only be solved either by obtaining somehow an abiv2 userland or by replacing the used linker  (e.g. ld.bfd). It is currently difficult to say if UE actually requires it for anything. The old abi v1 is not very good anyway, as it has some awful quirks like function descriptors making library calls slower and making function pointers larger than 8 bytes, requiring a double indirection, whereas the new ABI v2 is much better by design and it works even on big endian systems even if it was designed in 2013 with little endian system in mind.

VoidLinux supports the new ABI v2, so our intention is to setup VoidLinux on our Power9 VM on OSU, replacing the current system based on Debian. Only by solving the ABI issues we will be able to finally build Unreal on a PPC64 big endian machine.

As  the Power9 machine we are using on OSU relies on OpenStack, we now have to create a VoidLinux image for OpenStack.At the moment VoidLinux miss the cloud-init package that is required by OpenStack, so we started working on it by following the cloud-init documentations.

Running cloud-init integration test on VoidLinuxPPC64 running on QEMU on G5 Host

We will appreciate any help from you to support us on this important effort, particularly those of you with some knowledge on setting up cloud-init. An additional problem we are currently facing is that our  member that is working on this task does not have any PPC64 hardware, and is relying solely on a slowly emulated VoidLinux PPC64 using QEMU version 4.2.0 on a  X86 hardware.

VoidLinux PPC64 running on QEMU under X86 host

In search for additional systems supporting the ABI v2, we have investigated also Adelié Linux that recently released version 1.0RC1 in February 2020 for PPC64. Unfortunately, it does not have any cloud-init package built in.

Collaboration with Libre-SOC

We very very much like the works our friends at Libre-SOC are currently doing, and our two projects seems to have multiple point-of-contact, therefore we approached them in order to establish a good relationship aimed at supporting  the common Open Hardware effort.

Libre-SOC is a Libre Hardware-Software project that aims to deliver a physical POWER compliant SOC that comes complete with a CPU, GPU, VPU, and DDR controller. All the software and hardware from the drivers down to the RTL and VLSI cells are libre-licensed. Libre-SOC is also providing the necessary drivers amongst which include Kazan (a Vulkan 3D driver) and the full on-board boot ROM firmware source, as well as a full zero-ROM cold-boot method for added trustability.

The intended market includes customers who desire acceleration in the embedded space without relying on ARM or 3rd party proprietary drivers that have been known to break in the past.

The first iteration of Libre-SOC targets a single-core at 180nm. Subsequent generations target SMP cores at a smaller node size, for typical use in SBC designs.

Interview to Roberto Innocenti about our project thanks to Charbax of ARMDevices

At the end of April, thanks to Charbax of Armdevices.net, there was an interview with Roberto Innocenti, the first creator of the idea of building a PowerPC laptop and co-founder of the PowerProgressCommunity. The interview was about the laptop project and other activities carried out by the not-for-profit association. Below you may find the topics touched in the interview. We think that the interview is interesting and contains many hints on the approach we are following, even if the spoken English of Roberto is sometimes difficult to follow. During the interview one person asked about the Manjaro distro for PowerPC, and after some check, it seems that  such a distro lacks a PowerPC support.


0.13 Self-introduction of Roberto Innocenti
0.45 Power Progress Community non-profit association
1.34 PowerPC notebook project
3.15 PowerPC architecture history
6.13 OpenPOWER Foundation
7.11 Why NXP CPU and not IBM
9.40 PowerPC on Linux
11.35 Linux distributions runnable on PowerPC
13:36 Future of embedded PowerPC
15:21 Cell processor interesting facts
18:27 Schematics and diagrams of PowerPC notebook project
19:31 NXP CPU specification
20:13 Upgradable AMD Radeon MXM GPU
21:02 Contribution of Power Progress Community and ACube Systems Srl
22:24 TDP, commercial usage and capabilities of NXP CPU
27:40 Supported kinds of storage
28:28 More about AMD Radeon MXM GPU
30:14 Old PowerPC MacBook performance compared to PowerPC notebook dev kit
31:41 Is Roberto Innocenti is better than Steve Jobs? 😉
32:25 People behind the PowerPC notebook project
34:07 PowerPC compared to ARM
37:35 More about OpenPOWER Foundation
40:43 Donation campaign details
43:52 Slimbook Eclipse chassis
46:50 What about small-desktop/NUC style device?
48:44 Estimated price of PowerPC notebook
51:55 Manufacturing of components
52:50 COVID-19 situation
56:23 Young people involved in PowerPC notebook project
57:11 Diversity of hardware designing, production and distribution
1:04:50 Transparency of NXP CPU
1:06:13 More about manufacturing of components and dependence on China
1:09:21 Ubuntu and Debian on PowerPC
1:11:03 Manjaro and other Linux distributions on PowerPC
1:12:30 Current phase of donation campaign
1:14:00 Potential successor of NXP CPU

Educational Activities

Under these complicated times due to the many restrictions imposed by coronavirus  schools are closed, at least in Italy. As a consequence, students heavily rely on digital peripherals to keep up with lessons, and when trying to keep a social life with their friends. Not all families can afford a PC or a tablet for every child, and sometimes students are forced to study long documents on their mobile phones, when they have one. We are contributing  to help the online education system run by Schools by providing recycled notebooks, and we named this project “Relive with Scratch” (“Rivivo con Scratch” in Italian).

At Schools with our project “Relive With Scratch”

Regenerated notebooks are those we have collected during 2019 and 2020 (all based on more or less old x86 cpus), and initially meant for the coding courses using the Scratch software and for learning math with Gcompris. To better suit the activities of the students,  we opted for providing a Linux system equipped with  ChromiumOS that has small footprints which is suitable for our old regenerated notebooks and moreover works well with the Google Gsuite which is heavily used in the classrooms, especially in the primary schools which is the main focus of our project.