Electrical Schematics and Donations progress, winter Activities

In this article we will report electrical schematics and donations progress and our current activities. Those of you who are following our twitter account and facebook page have already received updates about our work.We are mainly, but not only, focused on software development. In a nutshell, our developers are testing current Linux distributions, setting up the best emulation environment for a Qoriq T2080 machine using Qemu and even experimenting with Yocto Project in order to evaluate a custom made distribution.

 

Working on PowerPC GNU/Linux distro’s

Let’s start with the distributions first. As you may know, we stated from the beginning that our intention was to help to maintain Debian for 64bit PowerPC (ppc64) and include it as the default Linux OS for our notebook. This idea is still our goal but we have found more good options such as Lubuntu, openSuse and even Gentoo. In relation to this, our testers are creating a list of actively supported Linux distributions working on PowerPC and are evaluating the installation procedure, their performance and keeping trace of the issues found.

debian buster/sid ppc64

debian buster/sid ppc64 multiarch ppc32

debian buster/sid ppc64 multiarch ppc32

debian buster/sid ppc64

In addition to that, we found an interesting resource at http://bgafc.t-hosting.hu/oses4ppc.php where you can find a list of available Operating Systems for PowerPC.

Kernel 4.14 and Video Cards on PowerMac G5

Another good finding was done by one of our members when compiling a custom and experimental kernel using 4.14 sources and GCC 7.3 on Gentoo in a PowerMac G5. As he reported,  “gcc 7.3.0 is definitely an improvement! Both 2D and 3D acceleration do no longer freeze the card (AGP Radeon 9650 + 9800) on a G5. Also Firefox runs pretty stable now and less sluggish too (could be ’cause it’s running on accelerated Xorg now)”. In addition to this, we are testing newer PCIe video cards on a PowerMac G5 , using the Open Firmware command “boot-device hd0:,\\”, so without using yaboot and without tbxi.

Testing an emulated e6500 core in Qemu

Another effort is being done to setup a virtual environment to emulate our future notebook using Qemu. This is important as it will enable the development of software and to test, for instance, the u-boot boot process. Most importantly, it will allow any interested person to play around with our target platform and configuration, even if owners of x86 hardware only. Sadly there isn’t a ready-made QEMU machine configuration that fits perfectly our specifications, but that’s the reason we are working on this task in the first place. So far, it seems feasible to fire up a machine based on a e6500 CPU using QEMU version 2.11 using the built-in u-boot, but we still have issues making it boot a linux partition. It seems that lately the QEMU development mailing list (https://lists.nongnu.org/archive/html/qemu-devel/) is putting a great effort in putting the PowerPC emulation in a much better shape, making us confident that the upcoming 2.12 will be a life changer for reaching our goal (https://wiki.qemu.org/Planning/2.12). Stay tuned.

Yocto Project for PowerPC Linux Image

Recently, we are experimenting with Yocto Project creating a Linux image. We are evaluating this possibility as it could be an additional option for setting up a fine-tuned OS when the hardware arrives. Currently it runs an LXQT Desktop Environment and includes applications such as Otter browser, The Gimp, kvirc, qBittorrent, Audacious, Mpv, Qps and Speedcrunch. Now we are focusing on having working kernels for a Mac Mini G4 and PowerMac G5.

Custom PPC Yocto PowerPC

Custom PPC Yocto PowerPC

 

Video Card works on NXP T4240QDS devkit

The Borea team  tried to setup a desktop based on the NXP T4240QDS development system. After not too much of a struggle he managed to get Gentoo Linux up and running with LXDE, and using an ordinary off-the-shelf ATI Radeon PCIe card and the T4240’s native networking using DPAA, so with no PCIe ethernet adapter. The Borea team used a vanilla Linux 4.14 kernel, a standard PowerPC Gentoo distribution and additionally, Cairo Dock to test the nice GPU effects to check if 2D acceleration was working. The result performed surprisingly well, and without any instability issues! For example, VLC was able to play FullHD Xvid content using 2 cores out of 24 available running at 1,6 GHz with Altivec enabled. LibreOffice 5.4.5.1 works nicely too. Unfortunately getting any web browser running seems to be a bit of a challenge. Firefox 54.x compiles, but gives a segmentation fault at startup, Firefox 58 does not even compile at all, but the team had just a quick try on that. Some packages runs into illegal instructions,  most probably due to incompatibilities with the Power8/9 ISA, or probably not all apps correctly support Altivec ABI. Some work has to be done on these issues, but the overall impression using a T4240 in a desktop environment felt quite fast indeed.

Gentoo ppc64 on NXP T4240QDS

Gentoo ppc64 on NXP T4240QDS devikit

We will be attending “Les journées du Logiciel Libre” on March 24th

Finally, we will attend the meeting “Les journées du Logiciel Libre” (“Days of Open Software”) the 24th and 25th of March 2018 in Lyon (http://www.jdll.org/). We will make our presentation named “Portable Open Hardware” on the 24th of March 2018 at 12h30 at the”Maison Pour Tous”, Salle des Rancy 249 rue Vendôme 69003, Lyon. See the map at https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/49680968

 

Les journées du Logiciel Libre

Les journées du Logiciel Libre

BSD Mag

Don’t miss the latest issue of BSD Mag including an article by Saulo Paiva explaining our Open Source Power Notebook project and an interview with Roberto Innocenti.

Our PowerPC Notebook project on BSD magazine

Our PowerPC Notebook project on BSD magazine

FunkyPrize participation

On the 29th December 2017 we submitted our project “Open Hardware GNU/Linux PowerPC Notebook” to the Italian “FunkyPrize”. Funkyprize is an award established in 2014 in memory of Marco Zamperini, an Italian professor that knew how to push the younger generations to an informed and cutting edge use of new technologies. The FunkyPrize aims to help filling the gap created by its premature disappearance, encouraging those who intend to pursue its mission, for a more mature, aware and widespread use of the Internet in Italy, and for developing the potential of the Internet as a tool for improving the quality of life and creating new forms of participation in the social and economic life of the country.

Sadly, we have not been selected as a finalist for the prize 🙁

Here you can find more info about our participation in FunkyPrize.

Funky Prize

Funky Prize

Electrical Schematics Ready! waiting for the last 25% of donations

We just want to remember that our campaign is not targeted to make a product. We aim to create a freely available, well-documented and production-ready electrical schematics, allowing anyone to produce and, why not, customize a PowerPC based hardware.

At the time of writing this,we have reached the 75% of the required amount of money and with your (little) help we can make it happen.

When achieved the goal of this phase ( currently we are at 75%) we will balance the designer and he will transfer us the Eletrical Schematics,as we are agreed. After the needed reviews we will release this work to the Community.

If you are thinking on helping us, instead of one-time donation, you may want to consider a recursive, monthly donation. This could have a smaller impact to your account. Moreover, monthly donations allow us to better plan our activity, and most importantly, they let the engineer know the remaining period for reaching the final goal.

Please, spread our project and help us to make possible this amazing Linux PowerPC Notebook.

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

    €13,874.70 donated

    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

    €13,874.70 donated
This first campaign reached its goal! Thank you all!!
And now do not stop donating, even if the next campaign “Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gerber” is not officially launched yet, any new donations made here will be automatically transferred to it.
The next campaign will be launched when we will publish the outcome of the first campaign that will be soon provided by the hardware designer ACube Systems.
See here a dedicated post.

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