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 TPD 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.

  1. render powerpc notebook

    Donation Campaign for PCB design of the PowerPC Notebook motherboard

    €12,592.16 donated of €19,000.00 goal

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.

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

    €12,592.16 donated of €19,000.00 goal

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.

  1. render powerpc notebook

    Donation Campaign for PCB design of the PowerPC Notebook motherboard

    €12,592.16 donated of €19,000.00 goal

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.

Open Hardware Schematic Published in Alpha version

Above all, one of the greatest problems preventing us from finalizing these schematics was the missing chassis required to take a series of very important design decisions. Finally, very recently, a chassis was selected and is now in our hands, paving the way to accomplish the goal.

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/curtiskennington/3642074604

In April we asked your opinion on either publishing an unfinished work or wait for better quality schematics. The Core Team chose to wait and “Send the information (the work in progress pdf of the schematic design) only to the 132 donors and kindly asking them to not publish”.

At the end of June there was an important meeting between Acube and the designer to discuss the suggestions from our Hardware team, and another topic was how to adapt the schematic to the new chassis. In fact we have prepared the next steps for the PCB design.

So now we have this modified block diagram that could have further few minor changes.

PowerPC Notebook Block Diagram – June 2019

Currently, the designer is working to update the schematics. This task is expected to be completed on August.

In the meantime, the Core Team we voted again in June and this time we have decided to publish the pdf of the current version of the schematic. That does not contain the updates we are expecting in August.

In other words, the schematic that we have uploaded to our repository is the same pre-release version that we have sent to the donors at the end of March 2019, and it should be noted that it is an alpha version. The only difference from the donors’ version is that it contains the recently selected Open Hardware license that is the Cern Open Hardware License v 1.2 (Cern OHL).

We have selected Cern OHL because it is specific for open hardware and it covers aspects regarding hardware production. It has the same viral effects that other open source licenses have but taking into account that there is a licensor of the hardware and another part that is manufacturing it.

The current version of the schematic is published in our repo in gitlab.

https://gitlab.com/oshw-powerpc-notebook/powerpc-laptop-mobo

March 2019 Schematic Updates

In our last post we stated  “we hope to publish the initial schematic design before the end of February 2019”. Unfortunately a series of problems arise that we will try to explain in this status update.

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

As you may probably know, at the end of the first donation campaign we received four incremental releases of electrical schematics from the designer, the last one on the 11th of January 2019. We started a validation task at each release prior to their publication and each time we ended up sending back the schematics because we thought some design decisions had to be improved. These hardware reviews are quite complicated, and we would need additional volunteers, possibly hardware engineers able to properly address the task. Please, contact us or fill the collaboration survey if you can contribute.

At the same time, we were continuously evaluating various notebook chassis options, striving to find a suitable chassis that could fit our motherboard that has a MXM video card. The goal here was to identify an empty chassis that could be bought without a motherboard and with a life cycle of at least two or three years, which is the envisioned time-frame covering our laptop project.

The hardware designer that was paid thanks to donors is stuck waiting for the final notebook chassis as he requires the pinout specifications to finalize the design.

These are the reasons why the development of the electrical schematics is frozen since the 11th of January 2019. As a result, also our collaborators that have volunteered to validate the hardware schematics are stuck, as well as our selected product maker ACube Systems.

Identifying a suitable chassis is taking an unexpected amount of time and it is terribly delaying the second campaign aimed at the PCB design. Last year we had a meeting among both Power Progress Community associated members and the core group that is coordinating the project, and we all agreed to start the second donation campaign only after publishing the schematics resulting from first campaign. However, the amount of accumulated delay arise doubts among the participants on how to solve the current impasse, and we decided to ask the donors to give their opinion about whether to start now the second campaign (link) or keep waiting the publication of the result of the first campaign. If you are willing to actively support the project, feel free to express your opinion about the matter.

Our hardware volunteer team and ACube Systems are still reviewing the next round of documentation for selecting some key components that heavily depend on the selected chassis.

So far we have identified some potentially suitable chassis. However, some of them are designed to host a separated board to manage the batteries, a board that does not exists in our design, and some chassis have a dedicated space for a separated ethernet board, and again, others do not have a thermal design compatible with the heat generated by an MXM video card. The problem here is that the hired hardware designer stated very clearly that he is not willing to make an extra work to alter the initially agreed design features of the main board to accommodate it in a chassis requiring a very different internal layout. In other words, splitting functions in separated boards is out of question.

At this time the key question is: how much time is required to identify the correct notebook chassis?

Unfortunately, given our very limited spending resources and the experience we had so far, we are not able to make any speculation at this point. We strongly believe that it would be better to make a wise choice requiring more time, rather than an hasty solution now, because any wrong decision would risk to compromise the feasibility of the entire project.

We are not a private company aimed at making a profit out of this project in order to survive, in fact we don’t sell anything. We are a group of hardware enthusiasts more or less structured in a  non-for-profit association. We are doing our best to face strong limitations to achieve what we knew since the beginning was a very difficult and complex goal.

Taking all of this into account, we think that publishing to a wider audience now a very incomplete electrical schematics could impact way too negatively our project and the donors expectations. On the other hand, we are conscious that we are delaying for way too long the promised outcome of the first campaign and this fact too have a great impact to our credibility.

We are moving forward extremely slowly, that’s for sure. You know the requirements and the extremely limited actions that we can make, mostly due to extremely tight financial constraints.

After all what was said in this status update, we delivered to the donors the current version of the schematics, stressing on the fact that they should be considered only a draft not yet ready to be shared with a wider audience

In the end, we still strongly believe in the project, we are facing a contingent problem (the chassis) that it will be soon or later be solved. If you can help you are more than welcome.

Stay tuned.

Bookmark the date for PCB donation campaign start

Bookmark the date of our PCB donation campaign (details below), now that the electrical schematics that came out of the first donation campaign are in our hands.

The schematics are now under review by our hardware volunteers and at the same time, during this month, we have been preparing the steps to certify our hardware design as Open Source Hardware following the OSWHA Certification procedure.

Open Hardware Compliance

OSHWA Certification

OSHWA Certification Process

Through our OSWHA colleagues, we contacted the NYU Technology Law and Policy Clinic. They helped us for free to see how we could certify the motherboard project as Open Source Hardware. Students and Professors of the Clinic have analyzed how to find the best path to achieve OSHWA certification. In the meantime we have contacted the chips vendors to verify their agreement to distribute as Open Source Hardware our electrical schematics and the future PCB design. Among others, NXP has answered positively. With the Law and Policy Clinic we have extensively studied the practical implications of the requirements for the OSWHA Open Hardware certification, and cross-checked our approach with OSWHA personnel.

So most of the datasheets of the chips used in our schematics are freely downloadable as you can see below.

An important part of being considered Open Hardware compliant ( OSHWA Open Hardware certification), imply that everything that is under our control and  that is useful to produce our motherboard, should be publicly disclosed, such schematics, PCB, Gerber-files and all their accompanying information.  Still is Open Hardware If we have done what was in our power to use open components, but a third-party sources impose us restrictions to share some information related to their components used in our design.

Bookmark the date of our PCB donation campaign

Bookmark the date

Bookmark the starting date of the PCB donation campaign: mid-January 2019.

That is going to be the time when we will make publicly available the reviewed electrical schematics that we were able to obtain thanks to the previous campaign. If you have reserved some donations to our project for the Christmas you can donate using the old donation campaign, will be automatically transferred to the PCB campaign, or you can wait until mid-January when will start of the PCB donation campaign. Please if possible “alert” even other passionate people about the imminent campaign.

Finalized list of components

Having received the finalized version of the electrical schematics – we are currently revising them prior to publication- the list of components is now also finalized, even if the revision could imply few minor changes.

The laptop external connectors, that depends from the notebook chassis, are not final due to the interdependence with the laptop chassis, will be added later when the notebook chassis will be finally selected.

You will find the details related to a significant part of the  selected components in the datasheets accompanying the electrical schematics that will be made publicly available in mid-January, despite sometimes a login could be required.

Here is a preview of a part of the components:

CPU: NXP T2080: Datasheet ( login needed )

Sata3 Controller: Marvell  88SE9235

USB3 Controller: Renesas μPD720201 Datasheet

PCIE Switch: Diodes Pericom r PI7C9X2G404SL

HDMI Transmitter: ON Semiconductor CM2020-01TR datasheet

Power Convertor: LTM8064EY#PBF datasheet

Smart Battery Charger Controller: LTC 4100 datasheet

Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver with RGMII Support: Microchip KSZ9031RNX datasheet

MXM3.0 Compatible Connector: JAE MM70-314-310B1-2-R300  datasheet

Others:

Frequency Synthesizer : DT9FGV0641 datasheet

100V UV/OV and Reverse Protection Controller with Bidirectional Circuit Breaker: LTC4368 datasheet

4-channel I2C-bus switch with reset: NXP PCA9546A datasheet

 

block diagram

PowerPC Notebook motherboard Block Diagram

PowerPC Notebook motherboard Block Diagram

We finally found a viable solution for the notebook chassis

Acube Systems, the company carrying out the electrical schematics design, is also investigating a possible motherboard layout that would fit into an existing notebook chassis. However, this research is delaying the publication of the electrical schematics, the goal of the first donation campaign. This –initially unplanned– activity is a necessary step that is required to properly launch the second donation campaign, the one aimed at the PCB design that should take into account a target notebook chassis. The main problem facing the second campaign is going to be the high temperature generated by the MXM video card, that, together with the CPU and other onboard chips, will require a properly designed thermal dissipation mechanism in order to obtain a stable system. Once the few remaining aspects will be cleared up, most probably by the end of October 2018, we will be ready to publish the electrical schematics, and after that, we will be ready to launch the second donation campaign.

PowerPC Eletrical Schematics

To get into details, and as already described in the past, finding a notebook chassis was an unexpectedly difficult task, and it was mostly due to a lack of a manufacturer or a notebook reseller willing to provide an unbranded and empty chassis. The good news is that after 3 years of tireless research, ACube Systems finally reached an agreement with a company allowing us to buy and use a notebook chassis without restrictions. The bad news is that under this agreement it was not possible to obtain an empty chassis, forcing ACube to buy a complete laptop, then take the x86 motherboard away (and possibly, reselling it).

 

The first release of the PowerPC notebook will fit into the above mentioned disassembled notebook chassis. In parallel, our voluntary-based mechanical 3D team is assessing the feasibility of an Open Hardware notebook chassis that would fit the PowerPC motherboard layout. Hopefully, ACube Systems will be able to provide two distinct batch of notebooks, a first one using the off the shelf chassis, and –possibly– a second one, later on, using our custom chassis.

 

 

 

 

By VIA Technologies - OpenBook project website, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4122051

IT IS NOT our Notebook chassis. Is by VIA Technologies – OpenBook project website, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4122051

 

 

In any case the Open Hardware PCB and the Open Source Notebook Chassis will be useful for other Open Hardware notebook projects. There is a much bigger community out there that will be able to appreciate our effort!

If you want to collaborate on the 3D design of the Open Source Notebook Chassis contacts us or fill our collaboration survey.

Phase One donation campaign Goal Reached!

It’s with joy that the Power Progress Community proudly announce the complete funding of the Hardware Research and Design phase for the Electrical Schematics. This phase has achieved the identification and design of all aspects of the motherboard reducing uncertainties related to the hardware specifications and, consequently, the production costs.

Phese One Goal Reached!

After reaching the amount of 12600€, the electrical schematics will be delivered to us in a month by ACube Systems. The final design resulting from this phase will be made public as soon as possible.

PowerPC Notebook Eletrical Schematics Funded

We are now dealing with the Open Source Hardware Association, asking them if we can certify as “Open Source Hardware” the documentation produced in this phase or, instead, we should wait until the board design will be entirely finalized. What is more important, we now have to choose which Open Source Hardware license to adopt for distributing our Electrical Schematic. If you are an expert on this field, please join us!

We are so very grateful with all the 128 donors that trusted us and actively contributed in achieving this first goal! We also thank all the people that supported us in spreading our project letting us able reaching a much larger audience.

We remind you that this is  a first step of a much larger  funding campaign planned more than a year ago. We still need new donations, and to do so, we need reaching even more people, so please, do not hesitate spreading the word. We are fully aware on the importance in publishing soon  the Electrical Schematics that came out of the first campaign, as we want to show that we are able to respect the promise of delivering a fully open hardware output, hoping that more people will feel confident in further supporting the project.

The list below contains the planned campaigns  and their corresponding funding goals:

  1. [Achieved!] Hardware components research, analysis of the architecture, and design of the electrical schematics [12.600 euro]
  2. [Upcoming campaign] Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gerber format delivery of the electrical schematics [11.950 euro]
  3. Production and delivery of five working prototypes  [8.800 euro]
  4. Hardware testing using software provided by the producer (ACube) [14.400 euro]
  5. Pre-certification CE certification [12.500 euro].

Please, do not stop donating, even if the next campaign is not officially launched yet. Any new donations will automatically be transferred to the phase 2  donation campaign called “Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gerber”.

We will soon circulate the next issue of our newsletter among subscribers that will contain a very short questionnaire asking whether  people are willing to donate to the PCB design donation campaign and their advice on how to carry out a better campaign. This will be necessary to evaluate how much we should “invest” on further publicizing our project for enlarging the involved  community and will help us focusing on what we should change in order to reach the goal in a shorter period of time.

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.

 

First crowdfuding campaign to start in May

We are happy to announce that we are finishing all the tasks required to launch our first crowdfunding campaign.

As you might know at this stage we will financing the electrical engineering and schematics of the motherboard.  This work will be carried by ACube Systems if the campaign goal is achieved.

The campaign will be hosted in our current website and these days we are closing some requirements for the launch such as the WordPress plugin, text contents, videos and the secure payments integration through Paypal. We expect to have all ready during the second half of May.

crowdfunding

Creative Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/8047889850