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.

 

SPECTRE and MELTDOWN attacks and OLinuXino and SOMs

meltdown-and-spectre-vulnerability

The #spectre and #meltdown attacks were subject to great concerns in the last weeks.

Eben Upton made brilliant explanation of how and why they work in his blog post.

There is already project on Github which can be used to test if your ARM AArch64 processor is vulnerable to such attacks.

As Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A53 are not affected of these attacks this means all our boards with A20, A33, A64 processors are immune.

For A10, A13, AM335X (Cortex-A8), RK3188 (Cortex-A9) we need to do some further investigation.

OLinuXino EEPROM content – one step ahead to single Linux image for all A20 boards

LCD10-METAL-FRAME-1

We are struggling for some time now to make one single image which to work on all A20 boards we have.

Our problem is that we have more than 20 different A20 boards/revisions/ etc and every time we have to add or improve something we have to generate and test enormous amount of images.

It’s not so easy task as this image should run on different boards with differnt memory speed etc settings, different ports connections etc.

To achieve one single image which to boot to all A20 boards our first step is to add some content in the EEPROM which all OLinuXino has.

The EEPROM now contain this info: Header, ID, Revision, Serial number, Configuration, Reserved area for future (MAC etc), Checkcum.

The new image we work on now (based on Armbian with mainline kernel) will automatically recognize the board from the EEPROM content and run.

What will happen if no valid EEPROM content is read (i.e. old boards), there is tool which to be used to write EEPROM content based on board revision.

We are going to release this image soon.

 

A13-SOM-512 Android image for 4.3″ LCD with touchscreen released

A13-4.3-android

We got request from customer for Android image which supports 4.3″ LCD with touchscreen. He did his development with Beagle Bone, but wanted to optimize the cost for production so A13-SOM512 price was very attractive, but default Allwinner Android image although allow you to define smaller LCD resolutions has no working touchscreen calibration for small LCDs, also default Android screen was not set well and status bar was taking big portion of the screen.

Here is the newly released SD-card image for A13-SOM512 Android with 4.3″ LCD with touchscreen display.

A13-som-android

Now you can develop your embedded Andoid application on low cost board with small LCD.

More than 300 pcs A20-OLinuXino-MICRO work hard 24/7 in Traffic light controllers in Moscow

IMG_20171027_142604

We got nice e-mail from Andrey Taranov Head of RnD of Voice-Link JSC, Moscow, Russia to let us know that for the last 3 years more than 300 traffic light controllers are build with A20-OLinuXino-MICRO and work in the field in Moscow.

“They works hard in tough mode, 24/7 and shows good stability. We found your product well done, stable, and we glad to have partners, as you, and plan to cooperate in the future.”

Their product looks solid and impressive.

TERES-I update. First feedback from our customers

magnet

Today we shipped all pending orders for TERES-I and we start to get valuable feedback from our customers!

First thing – we missed the magnet assembly in the instruction manual (blush). This leaded to laptops not go in suspend mode when lit is closed.

We updated this in the assembly manual 1.1 which is now on the web and included in the GitHub too in sources so people who notice typos and want to help improveing the Bulgarian-English language in which the manual is written.

Another issue reported immediately which we missed during our testing is that on small percentage of the laptops the LCD backlight step-up inductor cause annoying sound when LCD backlight is with 50% brightness.

BUZ

It’s a interesting phenomenia as the backlight PWM is 300Hz which is not possible to hear, but when LCD backlight is switch ON and OFF high current surges are happening and some harmonics cause mechanical resonance with this inductor.

The solutions may be few:

  • play with PWM frequency to get away from this frequency which cause the mechanical resonance – pure software approach which need lot of experimenting
  • adding small double adhesive matt on top of the inductor which make contact with the back plastic and this way absorb all vibrations – we start to add this mat as soon as we discover this issue to all laptops no matter if they buzz or not. Not very aestetish but quick and dirty solution:

ABS.jpg

  • Add more capacitors to the PWM power supply which to handle this current surge, adding 100 uF seems to remove the problem, but the first lot was already assembled and many laptops are already shipped – so this we will implement in the second assembly.

 

We have two reports about problems caused by the touch pad after “apt-get update / upgrade” we have to look more closely into this issue. For the moment we do not recommend you to update and upgrade your Ubuntu packages or if you do this and something stop working to revert to the original image – this is pretty easy just download the image write it to SD card, boot and run the eMMC copy script.

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