PowerPC Notebook Block Diagram done!

Three months have passed since the kick-off of our campaign, and it is now time to share a status update.

We reached the amount of €7100 thanks to more than one hundred donors that contributed, in some cases with more than one donation. We are thinking about how to boost the donations to achieve the €12600 final goal. We have seen that a good number of donors are new followers of the project, so it seems that our communication activities successfully attracted new people. We now want to go even further, so we kindly ask everyone to share more and more our project, for example supporting its advertisement in online tech magazines and forums, websites and other media. To promote these activities, the project was presented last week end at two Linux Day events in Italy, one in Milan by Roberto I. and one in Bolzano/Bozen by Diego M. The very same week-end ACube advertised the project at the very successful Amiga32 event in Neuss (Germany) and many people have shown their interest. On November 11th, Philippe F. will give a presentation at the Alchimie 12 event in Tain l’Hermitage (France).

Do you want the electrical schematics to be ready by Christmas? The solution is only one: prepare yourself for an active contribution, either by donating, and by involving more people!

PowerPC Notebook block diagram

PowerPC Notebook block diagram

Regarding the work in progress, ACube is working on the electrical schematics design and sent an early block diagram that was extensively discussed with our hardware core team of volunteers. After this discussion, in particular regarding an NDA component, we have arrived to a final version agreed by both sides: almost all components are identified. We are including PowerPC Notebook block diagram a block diagram of our PowerPC Notebook motherboard (without integrated circuit names). We will disclose all integrated circuit names when we will reach the required amount of donations to complete the electrical schematic, as agreed with ACube. Then, we will publish design files when a design phase is completely finished and tending to be error-free and fault-free. Before that, anyone wanting to actively collaborate in the design review can join and participate in our project and association.

In a nutshell, we are working hard to promote the campaign, and ACube is on track to accomplish phase one of the project. We see the light at the end of the tunnel! Keep it up!

Lastly we want to remember the importance of small recurrent donations. The possibility of having many people helping with a small amount of money monthly is very interesting for us as this will guarantee the constant work of the hardware designer.

Electrical Schematic engineering task started! thanks to ACube Systems

Thanks to the already received donations ACube has received a payment to start the study of the components list. In relation with this, Power Progress Community has provided a possible component list based on non NDA chips to manage usb3, sata3, audio and others. Electrical Schematic engineering task started! Starting on Monday 7th August, ACube is analyzing that information and will produce feedback and suggestions.

Milano, 10th August 2017, Power Progress Community association is announcing the official collaboration of Acube Systems SRL through a contract signature to create the electrical schematics of the GNU Linux PowerPC Notebook. The project involving both organizations will create a PowerPC laptop featuring an MXM video card whereas the current phase is expected to produce the complete electrical  schematics for this computer.

Electrical Schematic engineering task started

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sumofmarc/7841135420

Power Progress Community wants to thank again for the big and passionate collaboration of all the volunteers and donors that made this happen. “As the expected period to complete the electrical schematics is 10 weeks, now it’s in our hands that means also in donors’ and collaborators’  hands to reach the 12600€ goal in less or equal time.” stated Roberto Innocenti, president of Power Progress Community association.

ACube Systems was already collaborating in the preliminary tasks and supporting the association. Enrico Vidale, CEO at ACube Systems said “Since a long time we wanted to build a PowerPC laptop. Thanks to the Power Progress Community, the dream will become true. We are excited about the future!

Power Progress Community is a non-profit association composed by people contributing on a voluntary basis, and inspired by the Open Source Hardware and Software movement. The mission is not focused on selling products, and the contribution to the “PowerPC Notebook” is an example. The Power Progress Community is working to establish and consolidate a potential purchasing group big enough to motivate a manufacturer to start the building process. In addition, the Power Progress Community association is supporting a crowdfunding campaign for designing and prototyping the laptop, as well as encouraging the open source developers in supporting the PowerPC platform.

ACube Systems S.r.l., a world-renowned company, was established in January 2007. The main goal of ACube Systems is to create and promote innovative hardware and software products thanks to an in-house research and development team supported by collaborations with some well-known Italian and international teams.

The Power of making Progress is in the hand of our Community.

  1. Design PowerPC notebook Motherboard

    Donation Campaign for the Electrical Schematics of a PowerPC Notebook motherboard

    We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source. This first phase will achieve the identification and design of all aspects of the motherboard thanks to a contracted professional electronic engineer.
    €7,755.36 donated of €12,600.00 goal

    Read More

First engineering task to be started soon

First engineering task to be started soon

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

After reaching the 4000€ milestone we are ready to sign our first contract with ACube Systems. This will allow to start the engineering work and we want to thank all the donors for making this possible! All supporters are contributing to keep us moving enthusiastically forward. Of course, we still need to achieve the 12600€ goal to end up the analysis phase and to produce the complete electrical schematics and deliver an extensive documentation, but we feel confident in our long term success.

In the meantime we are making progress on our T2080  CPU based development boards. We are working on  booting them  with a Radeon graphic card, so please, if some  uboot expert  like to contribute, please contact us .

Regarding the Radeon card, a few days ago ACube confirmed the inclusion of an MXM connector in the notebook. This is a very good point, as it gives us the possibility to deliver the basis for an upgradeable laptop.

Finally, we would like to end this article reminding that any  help is more than welcome. New members joined us to collaborate with the hardware team (i.e. the above mentioned boot process) and many people are contributing in spreading our campaign in the  social networks. We need to reach more donors as they will help us reaching our goal and to release a truly Open Source PowerPC Notebook. So please, tell everybody about this project on forums, social networks, and why not, have a chat about it with your friends during these summer evenings.

News to share from our “social” pages:
http://twitter.com/powerpcnotebook
http://www.facebook.com/powerpcnotebook/
https://plus.google.com/communities/103352717884355831498
https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7300932

If you like to collaborate with us or give us some suggestions you can fill our survey.

In any case if you subscribe the newsletter you will receive updates from us.

 

  1. Design PowerPC notebook Motherboard

    Donation Campaign for the Electrical Schematics of a PowerPC Notebook motherboard

    We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source. This first phase will achieve the identification and design of all aspects of the motherboard thanks to a contracted professional electronic engineer.
    €7,755.36 donated of €12,600.00 goal

    Read More

donation campaign for the Electrical Schematics of a PowerPC Notebook motherboard

  1. Design PowerPC notebook Motherboard

    Donation Campaign for the Electrical Schematics of a PowerPC Notebook motherboard

    We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source. This first phase will achieve the identification and design of all aspects of the motherboard thanks to a contracted professional electronic engineer.
    €7,755.36 donated of €12,600.00 goal

About the Linux PowerPC notebook project

We really want to make it happen: a PowerPC notebook released as Open Source.

To achieve this goal a series of tasks must be performed, such as designing a custom motherboard that would fit into an existing mainstream notebook chassis.

Since October 2014, when the project was launched, the number of people showing interest had been steadily increasing, and we are now quite a few experience volunteers, some of whom are able to contribute in reviewing and checking aspects of the required electronic design. Unfortunately, after all this years we are stuck, because of the lack of either spare time, or engineer capabilities and professional skills.

In order to solve the situation, in 2016 we approached the Italian firm ACube Systems a company that have some experience in designing PowerPC motherboards. We were lucky, as we found a group of passionate people that shared the long-term advantages of the Open Hardware philosophy, and their prior experience in designing a variety of PowerPC motherboards makes them an ideal choice as a partner. Together with ACube we will be able to get the electronic design done, but a professional electronic designer has to be paid.

At this point the group involved in the project decided to get serious and launched a fundraising campaign to pay for the required job.

Continue reading

The fundraising of the PowerPC Notebook reaches a 20% of its goal in six days

The fundraising of the PowerPc Notebook has reached a 20% of its goal in six days. This is a good starting point but we need you to spread our project to achieve our target.

Remember this campaign is trying to lead to a fully open source hardware. Releasing a complete laptop product as Open Source is an important step that people will forward across the globe. So this project is important to spread the open source philosophy. Do not miss this opportunity. Donate now!.

In another vein, we are tracking the campaign and following what people says in social networks. Some of you have expressed some concerns because there is no refund if the campaign fails. As we have explained in the FAQ of the campaign page, if we cannot reach the sum of 12600€ we will use the money to fund a similar project in the scope of the association (Power Progress Community) mission. As is stated in the statutes (ART 3):

“The Association promotes and disseminates software (especially open source software), and open hardware (with focus on, but not limited to, PowerPC and OpenPower architectures) with the aim of sharing knowledge and expertise.”

There are also discussions about the final specs of the machine. We cannot give all the details because is the objective of this stage to determine what components to include. So what we can do right now is to clarify that we want to have an MXM connector for the graphic card but we cannot guarantee that it will be finally included.

We are in the good way! Just remember that everything will start after we reach the 12600€ goal and we are very close to that. Do not hesitate to contact us to ask or comment whatever.

The PowerPC Notebook campaign has just started

We are very happy to announce that our funding campaign has just started. Starting today, we will accept donations through our campaign page with the objective of collecting funds to establish a contract with Acube Systems to design the PowerPC Notebook motherboard.

It has been a long way and we feel we are only starting. We wanted to reach this point many months ago but we found some difficulties and we tried to find solutions for all of them. In this time we have created our non profit association (Power Progress Community), we started a preliminary task for selecting hardware components, we have identified people to maintain a Linux distribution, we contacted companies and organizations and of course, we received you support in our website, in our facebook page, in the forum and other social networks.

The PowerPC Notebook campaign has just started

The PowerPC Notebook campaign has just started

After all this work and solving all these issues we are ready to collect the money required to start the engineering process. In the end, it is not the intention of this blog entry to explain all the details here so, we invite you to find all the information in the  campaign page: https://fundraising.powerpc-notebook.org/

Thank you very much for your support and enthusiasm.

Debian 9 and PowerPC

As you probably know, the PowerPC Notebook team had already selected Debian 9 (Stretch) OS, as it seemed to offer a lot of advantages (DFSG, Altivec, compatibility etc…). Because of this, the Debian team has recently decided to remove powerpc (Big Endian) from its release architectures for the upcoming Debian 9 (Stretch) and Debian testing (Stretch) powerpc repositories have been removed. Besides that, they will keep ppc64el (Little Endian) as a release architecture (For those of you who don’t know the difference between powerpc, ppc64el (and ppc64) – check the short summary on the end of this message).

Debian

Debian 9 is coming

One of the reasons of this decision was an apparent lack of porters/maintainers/testers – Although the powerpc Debian team includes some very competent, motivated and reactive people.

Some of us are willing to take the Debian powerpc road,  but we need volunteers, people willing to give some of their time to the Debian powerpc community, to learn, test, fix bugs etc…

This does not suggest we don’t keep a “plan B” – by testing another distribution. It is just that Debian powerpc works well on current 32 bits and 64 bits machines, and we can try to keep this situation.

If you have a 32 or 64 bits PowerPC machine, and want to join us in keeping Debian powerpc alive, contact us on team@powerprogress.org.

Short summary about powerpc / ppc64 / ppc64el :

  • powerpc is the historical Debian PowerPC port (1997).   It works on 32 and 64 bits Big Endian PowerPC (G3/G4/G5 and newer freescale/NXP chips).  That’s what you would use on your PowerMac/PowerBook/Genesi/Amiga machines. Note that is supports Altivec, which accelerates greatly some applications (video, graphics, image processing).
  • ppc64 (Big Endian) was supposed to be used on 64 bits Big Endian PowerPC only (G5 and newer freescale/NXP chips). It has some advantages over the first but currently is not so well supported as powerpc.
  • ppc64el (Little Endian) started with Debian 8 Jessie. It works on newer Power chips from IBM (for servers). Despite some newer freescale/NXP chips can also be used in Little Endian mode  (but without Altivec) they can not be used with ppc64el as this version is compiled with VSX  (Vector Scalar eXtension) enabled.

 

About Open Source Hardware

At the end of this past year we started to consider the possibility of making our motherboard Open Source Hardware (OSH). After discussing the idea with the hardware producer, both sides agreed that this was a good idea. We announced this new challenge at the beginning of the year and now we think is the perfect time to clarify the implications of making the motherboard Open Source Hardware. To explain it better, we are going to formulate and respond to a couple of questions.

What is open source hardware?

It seems difficult to explain what is OSH. A complete and detailed explanation can be found on the OSHWA definition page, but simplifying it even further, we can say that OSH is hardware made in such a way that its design is publicly available. Not only that, the documentation provided to understand and reproduce the device should be friendly, in terms of allowing its edition and improvements. So a PDF file containing the schematics is not enough to describe a hardware device as open source hardware. To open source a hardware project, the complete set of CAD and description files should be provided, enabling for instance the edition of the circuits. Of course if any firmware is used to make the hardware work it should be also available as open source code.

The problem for a project like ours is attempting to reach a complete degree of openness. A notebook uses many components which are created by third party companies and, as can be imagined, nearly all of them are under proprietary licenses. In many cases, if you want to use them you have to sign an NDA agreement with their maker (for instance, NXP for a PPC processor). Furthermore, the signature of an NDA means that you can not reveal particular pieces of information in relation to that item.

The OSHWA also refers to this particular problem when explaining the process of awarding a certificate to hardware for achieving the satus of being Open Source Hardware:

“However, that does not necessarily mean that the entire project must or will be open source. If the creators used third party closed components outside of their control, they are unable – and are therefore not required – to open source those components. While it is strongly prefered to use open components when possible, OSHWA recognizes the reality that this is not always possible”

So, what’s our plan?

We want to be as open as possible. We will publish all the CAD files, specifications and any other documentation in a way that could be usable. Of course we will share our source code too (firmware and drivers). On the other hand, we will not be able to make public any third party resources covered by an NDA.

One more thing we will do is give preference to any component that could be considered open source if it accomplishes what we need. However, we need to be practical too, so the selection could be a different component if the open source hardware component lacks desired features.

Finally, where are we in in this process?

As we announced a couple of weeks ago, we have constituted the Power Progress Community association this past summer and the members of the project are currently in the process of joining the assocation by completing our membership application and paying the yearly membership fee (30 Euro). WIth that, Roberto is currently presiding over the association and soon we will have the first NDA agreements signed.

Power Progress Community logo

Power Progress Community logo

Another important point to quickly cover is the list of hardware components for the PPC notebook. The selection of these components is not quite completed yet, but we now feel this aspect of the project is most important so it is currently our main focus. Once the list of hardware components is finalized we will release this information in another project update. Look for that in the very near future.

The Power Progress Community is here

We are proud to announce that our association has been constituted. As you might know, it is an Italian organization so the original statutes are written in Italian and we are working to have an English translation. The contents of that document were discussed at the beginning of July, the conversations were very productive and after some modifications we had the statutes ready for the creation of the association. Moreover,  in that meeting we approved its name and now we are setting up a new Internet domain according to that. After agreeing all this, the association was finally registered at the end of July.

Power Progress Community

Power Progress Community

This fact is very important for us because it allows us to contact other organizations and companies as a real entity and gives us the possibility of signing agreements of any type. Even more, the association is the legal figure we need to start the funding campaign.

And now… we need a logo

We are organizing a contest during August to select the Power Progress Community logo. Everybody is invited to send us an image but we are deciding how to receive them and the voting application to use. Stay tuned to this website if you are interested on participating.

More activities of interest

Continuing with this update, we were doing a survey to check how the community wants to support the project. Over 150 people filled our survey and most of them show interest in funding the project somehow. In addition, there is a group of people which will contribute only if the final specs of the notebook match their expectations. Lastly, a very small group showed only curiosity with no intention of collaborating with money.

Some weeks ago we wrote a post explaining our first Hardware Group meeting. The good news here is that this group is being very active these days and we arranged a new meeting last week focusing on what components could be more open and accomplish our requirements. In relation to this, we are maintaining conversations with two companies that could provide us the enclosures. This is a key point because determines how the motherboard is designed.

That’s almost all, we are moving forward and the crowdfunding campaign is near.

Hardware meeting report

On June 13th, we had our first hardware meeting about the components selection with the hardware producer. There are still a lot of pending points but the discussion was quite positive as a first approach.

Our team during the hardware meeting

Our team during the hardware meeting 🙂

 

There were some agreements in terms of what technologies to use, to discard or even the ones that needed to be followed and investigated further.

We were discussing about the use of a southbrige chip, like the AMD one or some other different chips to manage USB3, USB2, SATA2/3, or even U.2

To make it clear, we are are trying to select chips that permit us to design an Open Hardware motherboard (chips having an NDA that limit less this idea). Moreover, we want components that are well supported by GNU/Linux and other OSs.

After the conversation, we agreed the next tasks to achieve which are the following:

  • Review Power TDP for parts
  • Review cost for parts
  • Select additional parts
  • Check southbridge technologies and select one from the two proposed
  • Check sata3 chips
  • Obtain a complete list of components