Embedded World 2018 is next week in Nürnberg

Embedded_World_2018

Embedded World is next week in Nürnberg. It’s good place to see many semiconductor vendors at once.

This year is interesting to see Chinese companies like Espressif Systems and Rockchip to  exhibit there. I look forward to meet there face to face people I have communicated only by e-mail!

Some interesting booths I put in my “to visit” agenda:

  • Analog Devices GmbH 4A-629
  • Arm Limited 4-140
  • ASIX Electronics Corporation 3-310
  • ATMEL – Microchip Technology 1-500/510
  • Broadcom Limited 3A-135
  • Espressif Systems 3A-623
  • Intel Corporation 1-338
  • NXP 4A-220
  • ON Semiconductor 4A-260
  • Qualcomm 4A-330
  • Realtek 3-341
  • RISC-V FOUNDATION 3A-419
  • Samsung 3A-438
  • Silergy 2-458
  • Silicon Labs 4A-128
  • SIMCom 3-531
  • STMicroelectronics 4A-138
  • Xilinx 3-311

Olimex used to exhibit at Embedded World three years 2014-2016, but in 2017 and this year we are just visitors. The reason for this decision is that Messe Nürnberg obviously has so much work and can’t offer good service for the smallish exhibitors. They make agreements then break them whenever they want and bear no responsibility. In our case February 2016 we made booking for exhibiting in 2017, Messe Nürnberg offered us booth plan and we choose booth with good location. We made agreement and then in July 2016 someone offered them to pay more for the same location and they assign this booth to them and notified us to go whistle. They offered us to choose from what’s left not booked or we can break the deal and we will not PAY COMPENSATION to them! This really pissed me off enough to decide to not exhibit there anymore. For the three years while we were exhibiting it was always one and same story: we order booth and arrangement and when we go to the show we see that they did something different, we complain then they do last minutes updates to fix the problems… For me it was shock to see things like this in Germany, which everyone praise for punctuality and precision. First year I said to myself oh well things like this happen, second year I though ok we just have bad luck, but when the third year the situation didn’t improve I though something is not right.

Otherwise Electronica, Productronica, Embedded World are among the very small amount of still very active exhibitions in EU. All local electronics exhibitions in our Balkan area like the Fair in Plovdiv, Thessaloniki, Belgrade, Istanbul are with declining functionality. They used to be very important events where people learn about new products and can make contacts, now internet made them less useful.

Hackaday conference in Belgrade 26th of May

hackaday-belgrade-header

First Hackaday conference outside US was held in Belgrade/Serbia in May 23rd 2016.

It was very interesting event with lot of talks and good food and drinks.

This year there will be second conference in May 26th again in Belgrade/Serbia. If you wonder why all Hackaday conferences are at one and same place the secret is that Hackaday owner Supply Frame Inc CEO is from Serbian descent, Hackaday have team and development lab setup in Belgrade, so it’s native choice.

Serbia did not join EU yet (hopefully this will happen soon!), so this is not so good news for EU travelers. While I could book my ticket for FOSDEM with Ryanair Plovdiv-Bruxelles and Bruxelles-Plovdiv for EUR 9.95 in each direction (Plovdiv – Bruxelles is 2300 km distance) , there is no such option for Belgrade and normal flight cost EUR 200 although Belgrade is just 550 km away from Plovdiv. This is the magic of the European Union single market and air space! Another issue is the roaming taxes in Serbia are ridiculous and cost something like EUR 3-5 per minute, while all telecom operators roaming charges in EU are less than EUR 0.15 per minute, so be careful when talk in Serbia with cell phone or buy local SIM card.

Hackaday has opened proposals for lectures and start selling early bird tickets for EUR 23.45 I guess this odd number come from $30 converted to USD/EUR exchange rate.

For this event Voja Antonic made special badge in the form of BASIC computer, so with the ticket you will get this beauty:

2018-hackaday-belgrade-badge-front-teaser

 

This is FOSDEM 2018

fosdem1

Last weekend in ULB (University Libre of Bruxelles) took place the biggest Open Source event in Europe – FOSDEM.

With 678 talks, split in 55 devrooms this is something every open source enthusiast waits whole year.

It’s amazing how the organizers make such event possible, between 8 and 10 000 people all around the world come together at one place. If you want to meet some open source project, Linux kernel or Linux distribution maintainer there is great chance to meet him/her there.

FOSDEM usually is made in the weekend Saturday and Sunday, but traditionally starts with Friday evening welcome beer party at Delirium cafe. Do not be fooled by the name nobody go there to drink coffee.

fosdem-delirium

Delirium usually can’t hold all people so the streets around it looks like this:

street

Every year this event become bigger and bigger. I was always wondering how they manage to keep their WiFi infrastructure in order with so many people attending. This year for the very first time the WiFi was impossible to connect to, so I guess we reach the infrastructure capacity 🙂

In Saturday the talks started, needless to say for me most interesting was the CAD and Open Hardware devroom.

One of the most anticipated talk there was about KiCad 5 new features.

Wayne Stambaugh the project manager started his talk with red T-shirt from Digikey and announced that Digikey made the single most significant donation to KiCad team just few days before the conference. So he said them “thank you” by presenting his talk wearing their red T-shirt.

wayne

It was very interesting to hear that Wayne got feedback from popular PCB prototype providers, that about half of PCB projects now they receive for prototyping production are made with KiCad! It’s amazing to see the progress KiCad made for the last 4 years!

I personally like more the T-shirt Wayne was wearing when he closed his talk 😉 KiCad team really like the complex boards we design with their product and this was very kind gesture.

wayne2

Another interesting talk was Introduction to LibrePCB . This is the first time I hear about this project and it looks itneresting. The author is obviously capable young man and thinkered a lot about how to make component libraries more easy to use, but while I was watching the talk I was wondering (as many others) why the author just do not join KiCad, which is already well established project and leading as features and completeness. We all know that KiCad team is very small and more people joining the project will make much more sense than to re-inventing the hot water, because you do not like some feature in this popular project. Well this is the open source 🙂 and everyone is free to scratch his own itch, but I would love to see Urban Bruhin helping KiCad to become better instead to duplicate the work creating similar product alone.

Jesús Arroyo Torrens presented Icestudio – graphical way to program FPGAs. I would say this is quite entertaining and easy start for beginners with no previous knowledge about electronics.

main

Juan Gonzalez-Gomez (Obijuan) upgraded this talk with very entertaining presentation about what he did with Icestudio and small funny blocks he created. He is using his daughter as beta tester. I recommend you to watch this talk when the video is available.

Juan and Jesus are part of Spanish community working with FPGAs. You can see more about what they do on this site FPGAwars.

Staf Verhaegen shared his findings about is it possible today to implement ASIC design with open source tools. Very interesting topic, let’s hope the time Makers and small companies will be able to make their own chips with Open source tools is approaching.

My talk was about current TERES laptop status and the experience we got during the development with KiCad. Using FOSS tool like KiCad is great to make OSHW, but if you want to use latest features and the daily builds, they are available only via ppa repository for Ubuntu. This means if you use other distribution you have to build from sources every day. Windows daily builds are not available at all. This confuses many beginners who can’t manage to open our files when they want to study them as they use old builds (official Ubintu repository KiCad version is probably one year old, same for Windows version). My slides are now uploaded at Slideshare.

Other devroom talks I found interesting:

Exploiting modern microarchitectures Meltdown, Spectre, and other hardware attacks 

Programming UEFI for dummies 

Improving Linux Laptop Battery Life

Kodi and Embedded Linux

Linux as an SPI Slave

How to keep your embedded Linux up and running

Drive your NAND within Linux

Image capture on embedded linux systems 

New GPIO interface for linux user space 

It was nice to see three four other talks at FOSDEM by Bulgarian speakers!

Automating Your Lights with Open Source 
Turning On the Lights with Home Assistant and MQTT
Testing Red Hat Enterprise Linux the Microsoft way 

Current meta of video compression and probable futures

Overall FOSDEM is must see event for anyone who is interested in FOSS/OSHW.

Bruxelles is excellent location and offers lot to see, both Wizzair and Ryanair offer low cost flights to this destination and I don’t know where else you can drink beer from half meter glass (not half litter but half meter!) so looking forward to see you next year there!

half-meter

 

Sitara System On Modules expands with new processor AM3359 and SLC NAND Flash option

AM3352-SOM-EVB-1

We have more Sitara SOMs in stock:

  • AM3352-SOM with AM3352CZBZ100 running at 1Ghz
  • AM3352-SOM-IND with AM3352CZBZA100 running at 1Ghz (-40+85C)
  • AM3352-SOM-512-IND with 512MB SLC NAND Flash on board
  • AM3359-SOM-IND with AM3359CZBZA80 running at 800Mhz(-40+85C)
  • AM3359-SOM-512-IND with 512MB SLC NAND Flash on board

Sitara internal bootloader do not handle well big NAND Flash memories, so for the moment 512MB is what we can use with current design.

SOM204 version with eMMC will be available by the end of this year and it will allow up to 64GB eMMC Flash options.

 

FOSDEM 2018 the biggest European even for Open Source technologies is approaching!

Screenshot from 2018-01-23 11-08-37

If you have not been to FOSDEM yet you don’t know what are you missing 🙂

Thousands of people who support Open Source meet together for weekend in Universite Libre de Bruxelles, share ideas and talk on interesting topics for the community.

Here is the list of all dev rooms which will be available. Needless to say for us most interesting is the CAD and Open Hardware dev room.

Looking forward to see you there!

TERES I DIY Open Source Hardware Modular Hacker’s Laptop update

teres

TERES-I DIY laptop first shipments started in September last year and we quickly sold the first initial production run. Immediately we start to get valuable feed back. Meantime the spare parts now are online and can be ordered.

FEEDBACK

Some of the feed back was quite pleasant like this one sent from Martin Krastev:

Здравейте,

Този път ви пиша не с въпроси по подръжката, а като потребител на Терес с
няколкоседмичен опит и впечатления ; )

Знам, че по идея Терес-А64 е бил замислен като хакерски ноутбук, но вече
седмици го ползвам като машина за разработка:
1. Освен проектите, по които работя, Терес сам си компилира и
компилаторите, които ползвам — 2-та ГБ памет наистина правят паралелното
компилиране възможно, та дори да е само -j2 или 3 (нещата, които компилирам са сравнително тежки, и по-голяма паралелност вече опира до суоп файла).
Така че голямо благодаря за ъпгрейда на паметта!
2. Въпреки нищожното охлаждане на чипа, Терес успва да държи по-голяма част от времето 1152МХц, което беше много приятна изненада за мен.
3. Клавиатурата се оказа доста ергономична, въпреки че в началото имах
опасения, че ще е малка.
4. Избора на чип от програмна гледна точка също се оказа удачен – някои
прозиводители на А53-базирани чипове орязват архитектурни фийчъри (демек – инструкции), но allwinner не са от тях (за изненада! ; ) Това ми позволява да не се тервожа, че код писан за по-глеми армове може да не тръгне на Терес.
5. Батерията носи добре на натоварване – дълги компилации не угасват по
средата! : ) А и шината за sd карти държи прилична скорост – напъно
сравнима с вътрешния флаш (при прилична карта, разбира се), така че и
проблемът с допълнително дисково пространство за големи проекти е решен.

Ами това е засега! Исках само да ви кажа, че с Терес сте в правилната
посока, тъй както сте създали напълно ползваем работен ноутбук за арм
програмисти, което си е постижение!

Поздрави,
Мартин

Google translate does satisfactory translation so I would not challenge my English translation skills 🙂

ISSUES

There were two issues we couldn’t catch during our tests and went with the first lot to our very impatient customers:

1. LCD backlight, some LCDs cause the backlight circuit inductor L11 to resonance at annoying audible high pitch harmonic frequency caused by the 300Hz PWM.

zoomIMG_20171219_083219

According to best Murphy’s law practices this problem didn’t show at the first few laptops we build and tested, but when we shipped the first lot some people complained back about it, so we had to find quick solution.
1.1. adding bigger capacitor 100 uF in parallel to C204 was solving completely the issue, but the boards were already produced and shipped to customers;
1.2. adding double adhesive tape which to press the L11 to the plastic cover solved the issue in most of the cases, if this was not enough sealing the L11 with superglue also stopped the noise, which was caused by L11 vibrations, needless to say this was quick dirty and messy fix

Инфорамция как да ъпгрейднем фърмуер на touchpad и бутони:

This issue was completely fixed with adding 100uF to second production lot

2. Touch panel buttons issue. We run out of GPIOs on the keyboard board so ADC was used to scan these two buttons. Again everything was OK when we tested the few laptops we assembled in house, but soon after the shipment people start complaining that sometimes they press left button but laptop register right button and etc, quite annoying!
2.1. the problem was partially fixed with changing the firmware, we posted new keyboard PCB firmware and instructions on GitHub but this not always solved the problem
2.2. the good fix solution was to decrease the resistor values on the PCB and use 1% precision resistors instead of 5% used initially

We do apologize to all customers who had experienced such problem, we guess they are not many, but if someone has still such issue after the firmware upgrade we will send free PCB3 replacement, just please send us your requests to support@olimex.com.

In the current KITS this issue is solved.

SOFTWARE

The initial version of the Linux software was not in best shape, the community helped us a lot and we are now on the third release. Special thanks to Alexey Korepanov for reporting lot of issues and fixes! He also made his own Gentoo distribution for TERES-I at GitHub!

PLASTICS

As you all know we suck at mechanical engineering and we had to find all plastic parts from Chinese laptop supplier. Some people asked about possible 3D designs of the laptop case but we are not capable to do this. So one of our customers Jeff Moe who obviously has mechanical engineering skills decided to re-design the plastics and make them as models in 3D printed format – he sends me pictures of his progress from time to time which I post here. So 3D makers be patient – there will be soon 3D printed designs and replacement parts for TERES!

EDIT: Jeff just noted me that the design is made by Brent MacKenzie from the Colorado Printing Project.

IMG_20180117_222635

IMG_20180118_101726IMG_20180118_182121

IMG_20180118_182208 (1)IMG_20180118_183356

It looks the LCD back plastic he designed is even easier to assembly than the original one.

IMG_20180118_190156

 

WHAT’s NEXT

I will post more in my next post about our progress in turning TERES-I DIY Laptop in portable lab with additonal FPGA board which makes from TERES component tester, Logic Analyzer and Digital Storage Oscilloscope with Sigrok.

A20-SOM204 and SOM204-EVB preliminary info is uploaded on our web

A20-SOM204-T

SOM204 is SODIMM form factor System-On-Module we are working for a while (actually from so long time ago that SOM204-EVB platform is made in Eagle which we dropped to use officially from quite some time ago).

The SODIMM connector has these signals:

  • Power supply: +5V, GND, LiPobattery, RTC_backup, Stepup-Output, Stepup-enable, USB+5V
  • Interfaces: Gigabit Ethernet, Megabit Ethernet, CAN, SATA, PCIe, USB2.0 HOST x2, USB-OTG, USB3.0 HOST, HSIC, UARTx3, SPIx2, I2Cx2, CSI, microSD, GPIOs with interrupts,
  • Display: HDMI, VGA
  • Audio: SPDIF, Line-in/out, Microphone, Headphone.

You can see complete SOM204 platform signals here.

The idea behind SOM204 is to make Universal interchangeable SOM with different performance and resources.

Our first SOM204 module is with A20 processor, it’s now in production and will be available for purchase next week.

The second SOM204 module is with A64, the third is with RK3328 which we expect to be ready for production around June. Next to follow is AM335X which will be ready by end of the year together with RK3399. The goal is to have 5 different modules by the end of the year.

A20-SOM204 comes with 1GB RAM, optional SPI Flash or eMMC Flash up to 64GB, two native Ethernets (this is the only A20 board with dual native Ethernets) Gigabit and Megabit, SATA and so on. The USB3.0 interface and PICe interfaces are not wired. On top on SOM204 platform LCD and additional GPIOs are exposed on FPC connectors:

A20-SOM204-F

A20-SOM204-B

The A20-SOM204 schematic is here.

A20-SOM204-EVB is evaluatuon board with A20-SOM204SOM204-EVB2

A20-SOM204 software is Armbian with mainline kernel and support for all SOM peripherials.

 

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