Extended time of PCB Donation Campaign and motherboard design update

We are near the 50% of the goal of the PCB Donation campaign, and we thank each of you that allowed reaching what many thought was impossible, “the key to what you do is in the heart of what you believe” (cit. by Mario Luis Rodriguez Cobos)

Like anybody else, most the volunteers, collaborators and donors involved in our project, we all have some very negative impact from the covid-19 that lead to a massive slow down of the donation rate.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On the other hand, many people are taking the opportunity of being in a lockdown at their homes to spend more time with their families, with their hobbies and to develop their aspirations. For many, it meant to spend more time thinking, developing and using Open Source Software, thanks to the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, customize and improve their software. For others, it meant to have more time for developing Open-Source Hardware, Open Source Design of the mechanical aspects, and other important social, cultural, scientific activities, and eventually, to give them back for free to the community.

However, the financial impact of the situation meant to have less cash in our disposal, others are the current priorities in our lives.

After some internal discussions, we decided to postpone the deadline of the Donation Campaign to the 30th of June 2020, hoping that we all will be back soon on track, and meanwhile we will try to do our best to keep the project going.

Next round of the updated Block Diagram and Electrical Schematics

Since January, we have transferred to ACube Systems 8500 euros (roughly 9200 USD), so the design is in progress for a while now. 

We have recently received from the engineers a newer revision of the Electrical Schematics that takes into account the recent developments, and it is currently under evaluation prior to its publication, most probably in a week or so.

Among a series of minor revisions, we have upgraded the Pericom PCIe Packet Switch from the previous model PI7C9X2G608GP to the more powerful PI7C9X2G612GP that offer 12 lanes instead of 8 lanes. This switch connects the  motherboard to the Eclipse Expansion I/o Board via a PCIe, and allows to drive the Ethernet port based on the Realtek RTL8111F chip, the SD-card reader based on the Realtek RTS571x and to connect two USB3 ports. 

The new revision of the schematics also brings an additional USB 2.0 Hub managed by the MicroChip USB2514 that will be connected to one of the T2080 USB 2.0 ports. To this USB Hub, we will connect the SK5126 Keyboard matrix and with an SD card reader controlled by the Realtek RTS571x of the Eclipse Expansion I/O Board and with the M2 WLAN and M2 LTE.

The Microchip Ethernet Transceiver KSZ9031 is still present from the previous revision, and it is connected via the RGMII0 port of the T2080 using an 8 pins header.

A MicroSD port will be connected directly to the T2080 eSDHC controller interface.

Below the new updated Block Diagram.

April 2020 Block Diagram of the Open Hardware PowerPC Notebook Motherboard

Overall, the above mentioned changes will decrease the number of components in the motherboard, will reduce the production costs, and will shorten the debug time.

Unreal Engine PowerPC64 Building progress

Recently, new collaborators joined the ongoing activities and are helping the laptop project and other side activities in our association. As an example, thanks to these recent collaborations we made progress in the compilation of the Unreal Engine on PowerPC 64 Big Endian, a great piece of software we are working on in order to have it running on our notebook.

Piece of script with download and build of clang

The first step is to get a clang toolchain needed by the Engine builder script. As a PowerPC toolchain is not available from Epic repository we have to build it by ourselves.

The main script that does all the job is build_linux_toolchain.sh located at the path Engine/Build/BatchFiles/Linux/Toolchain/DockerOnWindows/build_linux_toolchain.

Based on ppc64le branch this script downloads and builds gcc 9.2.0 through crosstool-ng and then do the same for clang. Our reference version is 8.0.1 from the official git repository https://github.com/llvm/llvm-project.git.

We have some problems during final toolchain copy, when gcc and clang libraries are moved to one common path (sysroot). After this action the binaries inside sysroot generate a segmentation fault.

You can find our fork and ppc64 branch here https://github.com/robyinno/UnrealEngine/tree/4.23-ppc64 (to access it you need to accept Epic Games EULA). We created a dedicated wiki UnrealEnginePPC64 Wiki 

If you like to collaborate, contact us.


Finally, we encourage any of you to donate to the campaign to keep the project going, and to advertise the campaign in all social media. 

Progress on PCB Design and on Software

Updates on Schematics are being transposed to the PCB design

In February the designer analyzed the Pericom PI7C9X2G608GP PCIe Packet Switch with the direct support of Pericom staff. Now, the Pericom PCIe Packet Switch is fully tested and all the needed setup is completed, so the designer has completed the inclusion of  all required information in the updated version of the schematics and is starting to unravel the PCB. 

The designer has updated the SerDes connections following our suggestions taking into account the notes we have provided, so a new version of the schematics is expected soon.

Arctic-Fox 27.10.1 PPC64 in our Repo

The main contributor to Arctic-Fox – Riccardo Mottola – member of our Power Progress Community association – has released the new version 27.10.1+b0 that we have compiled and packaged in our Debian PPC64 repo. Riccardo says: “Session Store, code greatly improved compared to past releases, performance improvements in both the html engine as well as a new build system imported from Firefox. This release is definitely a great improvement compared to 27.9.19 right at start”

Arctic-Fox 27.10.1 PPC64 running on our T2080-RDB, that has the same processor as our future notebook.

Repository moved to our Power Progress Community GitLab group.

We have created a Gitlab group called Power Progress Community and we moved all our gitlab repositories under https://gitlab.com/power-progress-community. What is important to know is that all URLs have changed and any cloned repository must be rebased. If you have cloned our repositories you should update git remote origin.

Working on Unreal Engine for PowerPC64 Big Endian

We are working on a port of UnrealEngine (UE) to PowerPC 64 Big Endian. We started by forking the PowerPC64 Little Endian (PPC64le) version and we are currently trying to compile the sources. The original PPC64le port for UE 4.23 was developed by Elvis Dowson and Raptor Engineering and can be found at https://github.com/edowson/UnrealEngine/tree/4.23-ppc64le. Access to the UE4 sources requires accepting the Epic Games EULA as described in https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/ue4-on-github.

We have  modified the original scripts to compile for PPC64 Big Endian but so far, we still have to solve multiple errors leading before being able to generate a working binary. You can find our fork and ppc64 branch here https://github.com/robyinno/UnrealEngine/tree/4.23-ppc64 ( to access it you need to accept Epic Games EULA). We are building the source using both a Power9 virtual machine provided by Open OSU and OpenPower Foundation, as well as on our NXP T2080-RDB development kit using Debian PPC64 SID unstable. If you want to help us on fixing the compilation errors, you can start from our UnrealEnginePPC64 Wiki, please contact us.

A screenshot of the ongoing compilation of Unreal Engine on our NXP T2080-RDB developer kit, that has the same PPC64 Big Endian CPU of our future notebook.

PCB design updates and updated components list

As we stated in a previous article, we have already contracted ACube Systems and the PCB design work has started. This post is a first report about the work in progress in relation to the PCB design.

These days, the designer is analyzing the Pericom Switch with the direct support of Pericom personnel.

The Pericom PI7C9X2G608GP is a PCIE Gen 2 Switch that provides one upstream port supporting x4 or x1, and 4 or 5 downstream ports that support x1 operation. This chip has a Power Dissipation of 1.2 W.

In our mobo the PI7C9X2G608GP is essential as it allows to connect one 4x PCIe 2.0 controller of the NXP T2080 CPU with four 1x PCIe chips/cards: M.2 3G/LTE card , M.2 WiFi card, 1x Renesas USB3 Controller and 1x C-Media Audio chipset.

Continue reading

PCB Design Started! Carpe Diem!

Four months have passed since we started our donation campaign aimed at the PCB design and we are now at around €6500 (27%) of the goal €24000 for the entire phase 1 of the design, and we must admit that the rate of donations is slower than what we had hoped for.

Phase 1 is subdivided in two subtasks:

  • 1A) PCB Project € 19000
  • 1B) Fast SI bus simulations €5000

In other words, we reached an encouraging 34% of what is required for subtask 1A.

As we really want to speed up as much as possible the activity, we decided to formally split phase 1, and not to wait to reach €24000 to start the design of the PCB.

To do so, we signed a contract with ACube Systems (company we rely on for the design) just for subtask 1A. Doing so gives the chance to start right now the PCB design. At the time of signing the contract, we paid €6000, the amount required by the designer to start working.

Slimbook Eclipse Notebook

One of the reasons forcing us to speed up the planned activities, is linked to the availability of the Slimbook model “Eclipse” that will not last forever, very much like any other commercially available products such as the electronic components we selected during the electrical schematics design phase. In fact, the electrical schematics are customized for the pinouts of that specific Slimbook model, and the PCB design will be specifically shaped to fit in the Slimbook Eclipse chassis. Because of these constraints, we have to finish the PCB design (phase 1A), the fast SI bus simulations (phase 1B) and the prototypes (phase 2) around this summer.

We fixed the end of April 2020 as the time-limit for phase 1A, so we have 3 months left to raise the remaining €12500. As you may well understand this goal is quite ambitious, but it is necessary if we don’t want to risk to fail.

Continue reading

PCB for a Happy New Year!

Orcad Source Schematics Published

At the end of August of 2019 we published the first version of the schematics in pdf format. Then, in October we uploaded the second version and after that the 13th of November we released the Orcad source, accomplishing what we promised.

Schematics Source in EDIF published and ready to be converted to KiCad

Now we have exported it 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

OpenStack Debian 10 PPC64 Big Endian created

Continue reading

Our Open Hardware culture around the cities – videos

Video of the Presentation at Vicenza Linux User Group  – Vicenza – Italy – 26th November 2019

Presented by Roberto Innocenti from Power Progress Community and Enrico Vidale from Acube Systems.

26th November 2019 – Picture of a part of the attenders at ViLug at our speaks

It’s the first time that Power Progress Community and Acube Systems present together the project. This presentation is very comprehensive.

We thanks very much LugVi for the perfect organization and excellent work of video editing done with Olive in Flathub and the good participation from very active and expert people in free software and competent in hardware, that come from all the area (Veneto). It was very exiting and a pleasure to answer to all the questions!

Video of our presentation held the 15th November at sfscons.it Free Software Conference in Bozen, South Tyrol – Italy – where we have talked about “The Butterfly Effect of an Open Hardware Notebook Motherboard”.

Professional photographers of Sfscon.it took pictures of us with our T2080 devkit in our table shared with Linux User Group of Bolzano. You can see running DIY wooden desktop case with the T2080rdb devkit and people  interested that talk with us.

You can see our NXP T2080 Devkit and people interested talking with us
People interested in our project with our brochure

Future Presentations:

Our project will be presented at Paris Open Source Summit ( France)  on 10-11th December thanks to the association April that is devoted to promoting and protecting Free/Libre Software.


European Presentations – Autumn 2019

25th October Valencia – Spain

Guillermo is updating about our project on 25h October 2019 at GNU/Linux Valencia Group

For the second time we were giving a talk to the GNU/Linux Valencia Group, a local Linux group located in the city of Valencia, Spain, which is doing a great job promoting Linux and open source in general. Guillermo gave a brief explanation of the project from the beginning to the present, the objectives, technical specifications, other related projects of the Power Progress Community association, FAQs about the project and so on.

In particular the group was updated about everything that has occurred in the project since the last time we visited them. One of the key points was the collaboration with Slimbook, this collaboration started just because of last year meeting with the group as this company is located at the same city and his CEO is one of the founders of this Valencian group. The company will provide the  laptop body and is supporting our team giving all specifications we need.

You can find an article covering this meeting in the GNU/Linux Valencia group page (in Spanish):

Guillermo PowerPC Notebook Project Presentation slides at Valencia 2019

Linux Day Milano – Italy 26th October 2019

This year we have as expositor our running DIY wooden desktop case with the T2080rdb devkit, with our new Power Progress Community T-shirt, with our Posters with our “Revivo with Scratch” manifest , searching notebook to recondition.

People are quite exited using our PowerPC 64 Desktop based on the same CPU NXP T0280 of our future notebook motherboard.

Many young people reach our table and talk with us.

Continue reading

Donation Campaign for PCB design of the PowerPC Notebook motherboard

Open Hardware release of the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design for the motherboard of the GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h6-66RyyzU

The initial 2,703 euro of donations of this campaign arrive most from recurring donations that continue to arrive from the old campaign after reached the old campaign goal.

In short:

Our hardware group identified in early 2017 a desirable list of components and a set of features of the laptop. In June 2017 we launched a first donation campaign that was aimed at paying ACube to design the electrical schematics and a year later, in June 2018 we reached the goal of collecting €12,600 and finally started finalizing the design. Here you may download the resulting schematics of the 1st donation campaign.

As of today, the notebook specifications are the following (subject to change):

Continue reading

The PCB design Donation Campaign has started!

This long awaited campaign finally begins!

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) 

eletrical schematic of powerpc notebook
Continue reading

Slimbook to provide the notebook chassis

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. 

ACube is a well known company with experience in creating PowerPC computers including  Sam460ex and Sam460cr motherboards or the AmigaOne 500 desktop system.

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.