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.

 

  1. Design PowerPC notebook Motherboard

    Donation Campaign for the Electrical Schematics of a PowerPC Notebook motherboard

    €14,503.00 donated

    Read More

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

 

PowerPC Notebook Crowdfunding – electrical schematics

The Power Progress Community ( the non profit organization that we have founded in July 2016) will launch a crowdfunding campaign to finance the analysis of the system architecture, components selection and electrical schematics for the PowerPC Notebook.

76477 Demo Circuit-C

The decision has been taken after a voting process, inside our core team, celebrated the third week of March. The majority of the members voted to go ahead with the crowd funding as soon as possible.

This phase will be only the first step to achieve the whole design as the progress of selecting all the required components where taking too much time and energy from the project volunteers. If the funding objective is reached, this task will be done by ACube Systems in a timed boxed period.
Further details about this campaign will be published soon.