The work on our most complex Open Source Hardware Linux board started – meet the Tukhla iMX8QuadMax SOC based board to be designed with KiCAD

We started working on our most complex OSHW board with KiCAD.

iMX8 is broad range of very different ARM architectures under same name which some people may find quite confusing.
Here is the table chart:

You can see by yourself:

  • iMX8X is quite humble with up to x4 Cortex-A35+Cortex-M4F cores, something less capable than Allwinner A13 or STM32MP1XX
  • iMX8M, Nano/Mini/Plus is x4 Cortex-A53 + Cortex-A7/M4F something in the range of power of Allwinner A64
  • finally iMX8QuadMax comes with different configurations, but the high end is Octa-core with x2 Cortex-A72 + x4 Cortex-A53 + x2 Cortex-M4F and is more powerful than the popular Rockchip RK3399

Why we did started working on such monster?

Company from EU which values the OSHW recognized the absence of high end open source Linux board and asked us to design one. They offered to cover all associated design costs. They specially requested this to be not yet another RK3399 board, but based on SOC with proper documentation and software support. NXP’s high end iMX8QuadMax matched their requirements perfectly.

Currently all powerful Cortex-A72 comes from Chinese or Korean origin and are always closed projects, the only published info in best case is PDF schematic which can’t be verified i.e. the final product may or may not match what they publish. The popular Raspberry Pi go even further and their “schemaitcs” are just connector diagrams.

This is how the Tukhla project was born, it will have:

  • MIMX8QM5AVUFFAB Octa-core SOC with: ( x2 Cortex-A72, x4 Cortex-A53, x2 Cortex-M4F, x4 GPUs with 16 Vec4-Shader GPU, 32 compute units OpenGL® ES 3.2 and Vulkan® support Tessellation and Geometry Shading, Split-GPU architecture enables 2x 8 Shader Cores, 4k h.265 Decode, 1080p h.264 encode)
  • x2 LPDDR4 x32 databus RAM memory with up to 16GB of RAM configuration
  • PMU taking all power lines from single 12V/4A source
  • micro SD card
  • eMMC Flash with differnt sizes
  • QSPI Flash
  • x1 SATA for external HDD/SSD drives
  • x2 single lane PCIe with M2 connectors for NVMe
  • HDMI input 1.4 RX with HDCP 2.2
  • HDMI output 2.0 TX with HDCP 2.2 4K
  • USB 2.0 OTG
  • USB 3.0 HOST
  • x2 Gigabit Ethernet
  • x2 MIPI CSI camera connectors

The price of MIMX8QM5AVUFFAB alone is around EUR 100 in small quantities and currently LPDDR4 4GB cost EUR 35, LPDDR4 8GB cost EUR 50, LPDDR4 16GB cost EUR 180.

So with BOM over EUR 200 this board will not be affordable for the most of Raspberry Pi $35 price range users.

This board targets professionals, who need high performance board and being not dependent by Chinese SOC vendors. With all hardware open, which gives them security for their business as the design is public.

iMX8QuadMax SOC is available in automotive AEC-Q100 Grade 3 (-40° to 125° C Tj), Industrial (-40° to 105° C Tj), Consumer (-20° to 105° C Tj)

Some of the features like HDMI input are not present in the Chinese SOCs at all.

iMX8QuadMax may have DSP and incorporate Vision and Speech Recognition interactivity via a powerful vision pipeline and audio processing subsystem.

The Software support include: Android™, Linux®, FreeRTOS, QNX™, Green Hills®, Dornerworks XEN™.

iMX8QuadMax is fully supported on NXP’s 10 and 15-year Longevity Program

Tukhla means Brick in Bulgarian (and other Slavish languages) and it will be the OSHW building block for whole range of different solutions.

How long it will take to finish this design?

We honestly don’t know. It took more than month just to capture the schematic in the state it is now:

There is long path now to create and verify all component packages (just the SOC is in 1313 BGA ball package), verify the schematic signals, place the components on the PCB, route high speed signals manually.

It may be 6 months or more. We got unofficial info that NXP engineers spent more than year to make the NXP iMX8QMax demo board.

Installing and running /e/ pro-privacy open source Android on Open Source Hardware Laptop TERES-I

e-teres1

Few days ago customer asked if we can ship our Open Source hardware DIY Hacker friendly laptop TERES-I with /e/ pre-installed.

For these who has not clue what /e/ is: The /e/ ROM is a fork of Android with focus on privacy. It’s open source  pro privacy compatible with most existing Android applications. The /e/ is alternative to the Apple/Google duopoly on the smartphone.

I have seen Mr. Gael Duval tweet about the /e/ support for TERES-I from March this year, but shame on me I wasn’t try it yet, so I though it’s good time to give it a try.

The install instructions here and are very clear. Unfortunately when I followed them there was no result other than displaying this spash screen for Pine64.

e-splash

After waiting some minutes I decided that something is wrong and decided to write the image instead with dd command with balenaEtcher.

The image written with balena had same splash for a while then show /e/ install screen:

eboot

Be prepared to wait few minutes then the setup screen is shown, it’s same as first Android installation even you can choose Bulgarian language:

e-lang

After setting up the date/time, your WiFi connection etc you got the home screen:

e-teres1

Settings show that TERES-I now run Android 7 (Nougat):

e-settings

If you setup account you can go to app store:

EKYmZK3XYAEMgH-

Overall /e/ is running fine on A64 TERES-I and people who are used to Android environment, but do not want to be spy by Google service.

 

 

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.

New Universal System On Module in SO-DIMM 204 pin form factor

SOM204-EVB

We have now several SOMs for A13, A20, AM3352, RK3188.

Each of them with different layout and pinouts as our initial intention was to expose all possible features of every processor.

The experience we got from selling the SOMs for the past 5 years is that 99% of customers do not need all specific interfaces, but few common interfaces.
For instance very few customer need 12 UARTs and 6 I2C in their design, but almost all need Ethernet, HDMI, SATA etc.

Another important point is that soon or later the project they working on scale up and they need more memory or more processor power and with the current SOMs they have no option but redesign.

Every big customer need longevity assurance. They do not want to change their design every couple of years when the SOC manufacturer obsolete their processors, they do not want to re-design every 6 month when new processor with 4-6-8-10-12-24 cores appear to the market with preliminary buggy software support.

So with the years one another idea evolved – we should try to make one universal SOM layout with known interfaces on known pinout, so if customer need more memory he just switch to SOM with same pinout but more memory, if need more power he switch to SOM with same pinout but more powerful SOC.

We have experience with Allwinner, Rockchip and TI, so we considered these processors as potential new SOM SOCs:

A20, A64, RK3399, AM335X

After long discussions we decided that the universal SOM should have these signals:

  • USB-OTG
  • USB-HOST1
  • USB-HOST2
  • HSIC
  • USB3
  • PCIe
  • Ethernet1 Megabit/Gigabit
  • Ethernet2 Megabit/Gigabit
  • WiFi+BLE
  • SATA
  • SD-CARD
  • CAN
  • IR
  • CSI
  • HDMI
  • VGA
  • Audio In
  • Audio Out
  • SPDIF
  • UEXT1 -> SPI1, I2C1, UART1
  • UEXT2 -> SPI2, I2C2, UART2

     

The first SOM204 we made is obviously for A20.

Here are the schematics of A20-SOM204 and SOM204-EVB.

Here is our A20-SOM204 prototype:

A20-SOM204

Features are: 1GB RAM, 4/8/16/32/64GB eMMC Flash, Gigabit Ethernet interface, 2K EEPROM,
Optional features not assembled by default: SPI Flash with hardware WP, Second Megabit Ethernet.

With this SOM we tested A20 with two Ethernet interfaces: one Gigabit and one Megabit working together. The practice prove A20 can have two separate working Ethernets, but there is one issue both share same clock, so if the both Ethernet works together they can be only Megabit.

The second SOM204 module we work on is with A64.
The features are 2GB RAM, 4/8/16/32/64GB eMMC, Gigabit Ethernet interface, 2K EEPROM
Optional features not assembled by default: SPI Flash with hardware WP, Second Gigabit Ethernet (USB-Gigabit), SATA (USB-SATA), CAN.

The third SOM204 module we work on is with RK3399.
The features are 4GB RAM, 4/8/16/32/64GB eMMC, Gigabit Ethernet, PCIe, USB3, 2K EEPROM
Optional features not assembled by default: SPI Flash with hardware WP, Second Gigabit Ehternet (USB-Gigabit), SATA (USB-SATA), CAN.

A20-SOM204 and SOM204-EVB will be for sale in November. Prices will be comparable to existing A20-SOM A20-SOM-EVB.

A20-SOM204 is separate product and not meant to replacement A20-SOM neigher we have intentions to discontinue A20-SOM. Both products will be active and in production.

Software support for all SOM204 modules will include Android and Linux.

A64-OLinuXino Open Source Hardware board with 64-bit Cortex-A53 processor is in released

A64-OLinuXino-

A64-OLinuXino-22

A64-OLinuXino OSHW board is now released. Current revision is Rev.C.

Features are:

  • A64 Cortex-A53 64-bit SoC from Allwinner
  • AXP803 PMU with Lipo charger and step-up
  • 1 or 2GB or DDR3L @672 Mhz
  • 0 / 4 or 16GB of industrial grade eMMC
  • SPI Flash in SO8 package with hardware WP (not assembled)
  • USB-OTG and USB-HOST
  • HSIC connector (not assembled)
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • BLE/WiFi module
  • HDMI and MIPI display connectors
  • microSD card
  • Debug console serial connector
  • Audio In and Out
  • LCD display connector
  • GPIO 40 pin connector (not assembled)
  • UEXT connector (not assembled)
  • 5V power jack
  • Dimensions: 90×62.5 mm

For the moment we have three models:

  • 1G0G with 1GB RAM, no Flash, no WiFi/BLE
  • 1G4GW with 1GB RAM, 4GB eMMC and WiFi/BLE
  • 2G16G-IND with 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC with industrial grade components -40+85C

The optional connectors and SPI Flash etc may be assembled upon request for small fee.

A33-OLinuXino OSHW Quad Core Linux SBC prototypes ready for test

A33-OLinuXino-top

We just assembled our A33-OLinuXino prototypes, these have PMU and should not overheat so badly as H3.

A33-OLinuXino-bottom

The advantage to have PMU is also that it have LiPo charger and can run from LiPo battery.

The features are:

  • A33 Quad core Cortex-A7 SoC
  • AXP223 PMU
  • 1/2GB RAM
  • optional 4GB NAND Flash
  • Audion Input
  • Audio Output
  • CSI/DSI connector
  • 40 pin LCD connector for LCD-OLinuXino-XX LCD modules
  • USB-OTG
  • GPIO 40 pin connector

Both H3 and A33 support dual CS DDR memories, this means they can work with the new 8Gb DDR3 ram chips which have two CS lines and H3-OLinuXino and A33-OLinuXino could have 1GB or 2GB RAM as option.

A33 have no Ethernet and HDMI, would be good for handheld video/audio processing devices.

The next revision of H3 and A33 OLinuXino will have eMMC option too.

 

EDIT: 18.00 o’clock update A33-OLinuXino is booting and working fine. As we expected although with same Quad Core Cortex-A7 it do not overheats at all compared to H3. Something is really broken in the H3 Linux clock/power configuration!!!

Android scripts for OLinuXino

Android-bot

The Android images for our OLinuXino boards are not the stock images with the Allwinner SDK, some small things were changed to add support for our WiFi modules etc. We wanted to publish the sources for a very long time, but the files are 6 GB for each board and this is not easy to store and serve.

Now the configs are on GitHub with links to the Allwinner stock SDK sources so if you want to build your own Android image you have these as templates.

Building Android Jelly Bean for A13-OLinuXino-WIFI Step by Step Tutorial

JB

Akshay Mathur sent us very detailed step by step tutorial how to build Android Jelly Bean for A13-OLinuXino-WIFI.

Our first A31-SOM – Quad Core ARM Cortex-A7 System on Module prototypes work fine!

A31-SOM

We just assembled our first A31-SOM module prototypes.

A31-SOM-BACK

They have these features:

  • A31 Quad Core Cortex-A7 @ 1Ghz, Octa core Power VR SGX544MP2 GPU, designed for power efficiency, 1MB L2 Cache, 32K I-Cache, 32K D-Cache, FPU, NEON SIMD
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM with 64 bit data bus for fast access
  • optional 8GB NAND Flash
  • Power Management Unit AXP221
  • LiPo battery charger and step up for USB 5V supply
  • micro SD card
  • 3 buttons
  • UART0 console connector
  • all GPIOs and pins on x6 40 pin 0.05″ connectors
  • RTC, Timer, HS-Timer
  • 16-Ch DMA
  • USB-OTG
  • x2 USB Low/Full/High speed Hosts
  • 4SPI, 5 TWI/I2C
  • x6 UARTS
  • x2 PCM
  • x2 I2S
  • ITU601 / MIPI CSI
  • MIPI DSI
  • HDMI 1.4
  • x2-CH LVDS
  • x2-CH RGB LCD
  • IR
  • LRADC
  • GMAC
  • Audio codec
  • 4K x 2K video playback

We need some weeks to test them before run production, so these modules will be in stock end of September earliest. A31-SOM price will start from EUR 44 for 1000 pcs, A31-SOM-8GB price will start from EUR 54 for 1000 pcs order.

We also designed A31-SOM-EVB for A31-SOM modules, which is OSHW mother board reference design and have these features:

  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB-OTG connector
  • 2x USB Host connectors
  • UEXT1 and UEXT2 connectors
  • SD-MMC connector
  • LCD connector compatible with our LCD displays – 4.3″, 7″, 10″, 15.6″, 15.6″HD
  • Audio output 3.5 mm jack
  • Audio input 3.5mm jack
  • 2Mpix @30 fps Camera on board
  • HDMI connector
  • LiPo battery connector
  • RTC CR2032 Li battery backup connector
  • GPIOs on prototype friendly 0.1″ connectors
  • Power jack 6-16VDC

A31-SOM-EVB evaluation board with A31-SOM-8GB on it will cost EUR 97 in single quantity.

Although A31 is only Cortex-A7 you can see here  interesting comparison between RK3188 and A31 video performance.

A31 have better picture and faster video playback than RK3188 which do not have native HDMI but used LCD-> HDMI converter.

A31 supports up to 4K video playback and have 64 bit RAM data bus.

Android 4.2.2 runs fine on A31-SOM and all features are supported.

Regarding the Linux Support, there is more than year and half efforts from Maxime Ripard @ Free Electrons to bring A31 to mainline, but still some major drivers are missing though like Video, Audio and NAND.

Linux-Sunxi tree miss A31 so far, probably because there is no good development hardware for A31 platform – all devices available are either tablets either Android dongles with no Ethernet, GPIOs etc. exposed. Now when this changes perhaps some Linux-Sunxi developers may be interested 😉 we built 5 prototypes and use only 2 of them so we have 3 to send to interested developers.

With the current Linux support A31 is still good for headless Linux server with the Quad cores, 2GB RAM and Gigabit Ethernet.

Linux kernel from Allwinner SDK is also option but it will be step back from mainline. Anyway with the missing Linux-Sunxi support this is also an option for these who need Linux instead of Android.

A31-SOM will be good platform for digital signage, video processing, IP cameras, or VoIP etc.

 

First A80 tablet is now on sale for $177

Allwinner

Nicolas from ARMdevices.net made interesting video about the new tablets with A80 from Allwinner headquarter.

Although officially Allwinner have no “information” about A80 – no datasheet, no pricing etc. It seem they worked silently to release tablet reference design which is ready for production now.

Interesting feature is hardware face recognition in A80 which allow tablet to track your face and if you set it with this feature your video player can stop when you look outside tablet and continue to play when you look back at the tablet screen.

The sell price $177 gives rough idea that the release price of A80 would be about same as the price of A31 when it was first released several months ago, the severe competition keep the price of this Octa core processor reasonable.

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