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. 

  1. render powerpc notebook

    Donation Campaign for PCB design of the PowerPC Notebook motherboard

    €14,180.16 donated of €19,000.00 goal

C-Media supports our Open Source PowerPC design

We announce the cooperation with C-Media. C-Media is a global leading audio IC/software solution provider.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zenmama/13930451071/

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.

Link to download the Datasheet of C-Media CM8828.

block diagram ppc notebook
OSWH PowerPC Notebook Block Diagram – July 2019

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.