A10-OLinuXino-LIME EUR 30 Open Source Hardware Linux SBC first prototypes

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In September we blogged about upcoming LIME. Now the first prototypes of A10-OLinuXino-LIME are assembled.

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This is little compact board with dimensions only  84 x 60 mm a bit bigger than credit card size, but full of features:

  • A10, Cortex-A8, 1Ghz, NEON, VPU, GPU
  • DDR3 512MB
  • microSD card
  • optional 4GB NAND Flash
  • SATA + power supply
  • HDMI 1080p
  • USB-OTG
  • USB Hosts x2
  • Ethernet 100Mbit
  • Lipo battery managment and connector
  • 200 GPIOs on 0.05″ connectors
  • PWR jack +5V only

When we designed it this time we selected proper enclosure from the start:

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And here is the final result:

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Once everything is tested with the software we will continue with mass production and if everything goes smoothly we will have LIME in stock in December.

Price will be EUR 30 for the base model without NAND Flash and enclosure. The Plastic box will be available for +EUR 5.00

A13-OLinuXino board routing progress

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We decided to re-format the PCB in standard Nano-ITX form factor 120×120 mm.
The high speed DDR3 memory part is completely routed now, the board will be 4 layers, so generally most of the work is done.
Now the peripherials have to be routed and next week we may be ready for prototype PCB run.

iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini specifications changed

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Our first intention was iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini to have just one USB host and no Internet connection, but after discussion both here on blog and on OLinuXino Yahoo groups, we came to conclusion that: 1 USB host is not enough, Linux board without Internet access is not very usefull (well the interest for Micro prove me wrong here, but anyway we do not need to have two Linux boards with no Internet – Mini and Micro!).

So after evaluation of different options we add GL850G USB hub to iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini which increase the number of USB hosts to 3, and we spared one internal ON-board USB host where to connect the nice RTL8188CU WiFi modules which will add WIFI to iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini! The WIFI module will be optional, so you can order iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini or iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini-WIFI later with on-board WIFI module.

We run prototypes and will test them in 1-2 weeks, if everything works as expected the production is to follow and these boards will be ready in stock mid July.

iMX233-OLinuXino-Micro Doube Side Design works at full speed

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Our first attempt to route DDR memory at 2 layers in iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini didn’t went very well as we wanted to put all components on one layer thus to make manufacturing with single reflow for lower cost.

Unfortunately the board didn’t work reliable at higher than 64 Mhz DDR data bus clock as with the 2 layers design we couldn’t make all signals lenght same, but split it on two groups, anyway. We decided on iMX233-OLinuXino-Micro to try again 2 layer design but this time to put the DDR memory under the iMX233 chip and to make signal paths not even but very short. After all this is just 133Mhz not 1333Mhz as it will be on A10-OLinuXino ;)

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We routed the board and run prototypes which got assembled on 23th of May 16.00 oclock, so we could’t test them until today due to our Holidays.

Today we run the tests and board works great at 133Mhz DDR clock.

First the board was designed with USB-mini connector for taking 5V power supply, then I told our developers to change it to standard power supply barrel jack, but they didn’t understood correctly nor I have double check the PCB files before we ran the prototypes, so now first prototypes have USB-B connector for power supply :D, don’t worry it will be fixed in the production run, which is to follow. Also these prototypes were produced in Green color instead Red as they will be in production.

The CAD files of this working 2 layers design are uploaded on GitHub.

We are about to run few other tests tomorrow and put this board on tail for mass production. This means we will have these boards in stock about end of June (or earlier ;) ).

A13-OLinuXino 1Ghz Cortex-A8 development started

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We got last friday 4 samples of Allwinner A13 ICs and AXP209 and we begin the new board design.

We also got finally the A13 datasheet and there is GREAT news inside it, Allwinner A13 operates in INDUSTRIAL temperature range also, so -25+85C is what this chip can work and there is no problem to be used in INDUSTRIAL applications too.

I worked this weekend for the specifications and this is what I came with:

1. A13 Cortex A8 1Ghz processor
2. 512 MB of DDR3 memory
3. 6-16VDC input power supply
4. 4x USB hosts – one reserved for optional WIFI
5. 1x USB OTG
6. VGA
7. Audio Output
8. Audio Input
9. RTC PCF8536 on board for real time clock and alarms
10. SDcard
11. 5x Keys on board for navigation
12. UEXT connector for connecting addtional UEXT modules like Zigbee, Bluetooth, Relays, etc
13. GPIO connector with 68/74 pins and these signals :
– 17 for adding NAND flash
– 22 for connecting LCDs
– 24 GPIOs, 3x I2C; 2x UARTs;  1x SDIO2
– 5 system pins: +5V, +3.3V, GND, RESET, NMI

Another great news which came right on time was that there was leak of A10 Linux 3.0.8 kernel source and Android 4.0 sources http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=25978796&postcount=121 where the support for A13 is not cleaned so we have now linux and android 4.0 sources which support A13 processor, so releasing the proper software for A13 will be easier than I though first.

iMX233-OLinuXino-Micro the EUR 20 Linux single board computer is routed nice and clean

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We finished the iMX233-OLinuXino-Micro routing and the files are push to GitHub.

Tomorrow we will run the prototypes, we were very tempted to see if we can make the design 2 layers first, we placed the memory directly under the iMX233 processor so the signal paths are very short and should be not problem for 133 Mhz, but the cross talk may play bad joke for us with no ground planes to separate the signals. Well crossing fingers and … we’ll see in few days on what frequency it will run.

Meantime the software developers did enormous amount of work. The iMX233-OLinuXino have now Open Embedded Layer and Raivis now is having fun with Linux Kernel 3.3 trying to move the 2.6.x drivers to the latest Kernel.

iMX233 battery power supply tests

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Once we solved all battery power supply issues on iMX233-OLinuXino-Maxi today we tested how it works with our Li-Po battery http://www.olimex.com/dev/battery-lipo1400mah.html

We got very interesting results!

The LAN9512 USB hub + Ethernet takes about 250mA when used, total consumption is around 320 mA when all peripherials are used and Ethernet is working with the 1400mA battery this means around 4 hours of continuous operation on backup battery for iMX233-OLinuXino-Maxi.

Then we disconnected the LAN9512 to see how power hungry will be iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini and whoa during the boot the consumption is around 120mA, then at linux console working with the board the power consumption drop to 75mA! this means about 18 hours work on battery! Then we put the board in suspend mode with the PWR/REC button in this mode the processor is IDLE and just the RAM is refreshing, and the power went down to 30mA.

Now I’m really puzzled does 454Mhz ARM926J processor consumes only 45mA when run at full speed?

On Linux console running “top” show CPU use 3% when you do simple shell commands. So let’s make the CPU a bit busy with:

$ cat /dev/urandom > /dev/null &

$ top

Now we see CPU is used at 100% and the power consumption rise from 75 to 120mA! Ahaaa so Linux kernel does some kind of flexible power management depend on the CPU load, so the power consumption vary. Anyway if we assume the DDR still takes about 30mA the power consumtion of just 45-90mA of 454Mhz ARM9 processor is remarkable (well let’s not forget that iMX233 was designed with portable media player in mind so working on battery was design goal for the engineers who created it, well done!).

Conclusions:

1. on battery with USB hubs ON, Ethernet ON etc. the total power consumption is about 1.35W (4.2V x 0.32A)

2. without LAN9512 USB hubs and Ethernet the total power vary from 0.3W to 0.5W depend on CPU load

3. In suspend mode OLinuXino needs just 0.1W

iMX233-OLinuXino-Micro – 76×42 mm Single Board Linux Computer!

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Today we made the preliminary schematic of iMX233-OLinuXino-MICRO, the smallest OLinuXino single board computer.

It will be 2 layers design in very compact form, on the left side you see the TV-OUT + USB-host where you can connect Keyboard, Mouse or WIFI dongle, on the right side you see the SD-card and miniUSB which is used as power supply 5V connector.

My rough estimations are that the BOM of this board will be around EUR 12 even for small quantities like 100 pcs, our plans are to release assembled and tested module for EUR 19.95.

Two 0.1″ step 30 pin rows connectors have all iMX233 signals and you can use breadboard like BREADBOARD-1 to breadboard your next LINUX project at home :)

Specifications remain iMX233 454Mhz ARM9 processor, 64MB RAM.

The CAD files are on the usual place in GitHub:  https://github.com/OLIMEX/OLINUXINO

OLinuXino board discussion group is at: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/olinuxino/

iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini blank PCB prototypes ready

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The OSHW iMX233-OLinuXino-Maxi was designed on 4 layers and everything worked from the first prototype, so we moved forward and re-routed the iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini version which have no Ethernet on 2 layer to unleash the hobby designs with iMX233.

Do you see the weird drill slots around the mount holes? This briliant ides was proposed on Yahoo Groups OLinuXino forum, we made the board to fit in low cost plastic enclosure, but someone suggested that many would not need plastic box if they want to put this board in industrial enclosure, so mounting holes are necessary. The Maxi and Mini boards are so dense populated that you can see there is not much space for mount holes, then somebody proposed to make this drill slot design which allow mounting but if one want to place the board in box can simple bread them away and put the board in the box. This just show how viable is the open source idea, many heads think better and find smarter solutions than one :)

Now have to test if the DDR RAM will work reliable at full speed with 2 Layers.

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iMX233-OLinuXino-Mini is OHSW as well and the CAD files will be available on GitHub once we debug and make sure everything works as expected.

Cortex A8 in TQFP? sure Allwinner A13

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Allwinner is Chinese SoC manufacturer, they released Allwinner A10 processor end of last year and wiped out the competition.

A10 is Cortex A8 processor running on 1.2Ghz but could be overclock up to 1.5Ghz.
The features are impessive: support for up to 1GB RAM, USB2.0 OTG, USB2.0 HOST x2, HDMI1.3/1.4., LCD, CVBS-OUT, VGA-OUT, SATA,Line-In, Headphone, 10/100M Ethernet, Camera Sensor Interface x2, support for SDIO WIFI, GPS, Gyroscope, Light Sensor, Bluetooth, Compass.
Can boot from NAND FLASH, SD/MMC Card, USB

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as you can see A10 is highly integrated chip and only needs one power supply managment IC AXP209 and Ethernet PHY to make computer.Soon after the launch it wiped all competition and if you now search ebay you will see that it dominates the 7″ tablet PCs as price/performance ratio.

A10 is around $7 for 5 numbers purchase and around $12-14 for smaller quantities.

In April 2012 Allwinner released the A13 strip down version of A10 which is same but without SATA interface and HDMI, targeting purely the Tablet market. The new chip is $5 if you by any chance decide to buy one million chips from Allwinner and can be purchased for $10 in smaller quantities.

You can learn a lot for A10 from http://rhombus-tech.net/ web site (where I first learned for A10 from).

The best of all is that A13 comes in … eLQFP176 package as you can see on the picture above. This is the first Cortex A8 device running at 1Ghz in this package. Which makes it perfect for next …you guess right OLinuXino :)

So I’m waiting first samples of A13 to be on my desk next week and Allwinner promised to send me more info for A13 in May so we can start the new A13-OLinuXino board development.

The best of all is as A13 is very highly integrated we will be able to release the new 1GHz board in the same price around EUR 30, but this time with 256 or 512MB of RAM and 1GHz processor.

What is the trade off with A13? There are few actually:

1. A13 is not in industrial temperature range, which limits it use to 0-60C applications  EDIT: A13 is in industrial temperature range
2. A13 have no ANY official documentation, you can read more for the Chinese SoC business model at: http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/2012-March/002881.html
in short they sell 10 millions of chips per month and do not care than they can sell 1000 more or less if they release proper documentation

So after all iMX233-OLinuXino will be still live and kicking even after the launch of the big brother with A13 in applications where -25+85C temperature range and noise immunity is necessary. Also the absence of documentation with A13 means there will be no linux support for the handy GPIOs, ADCs, SPI, I2C, etc.  like you have with iMX233-OLinuXino.

A13-OLinuXino will be more or less higher performance RPi-like toy suitable for home use, 3D graphics and Flash Games. You can play or write code with A13-OLinuXino as you do on your desktop PC and you will have Android 4.0 and Debian Linux images and sources. A13 actually will be like desktop computer in just smaller package.

As you can see on http://lists.phcomp.co.uk/pipermail/arm-netbook/ forum there is active group of developers who work on A10 up to date linux kernel and drivers. SO things may change in the future and proper documentation and complete linux support for A10 / A13 to be available.

The board preliminary specifications and A13 brief info is on our web: www.olimex.com/dev/a13-olinuxino.html and of course we are looking forward for your comments and suggestions as always. We got very valuable advises when developed iMX233 board and we took most of them into consideration, we’ll do the same with A13.

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