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.

TERES-I DIY Open Source Hardware hacker’s Laptop update

keyb

It’s have been long time since I blogged about our laptop project.

What is the status – we have first PCBs prototyped and most of parts works fine.

We had to make Matrix keyboard + I2C touchpad to USB converter board. We did this with small AVR.

For this project we couldn’t use any of our standard connectors – we had to source all new: mini HDMI connectors, USB host connectors, power jack, audio jack connectors all they had to be low profile and embedded inside the PCB, hence this off form of the main PCB:

PCB

The LCDs used in laptops are not as the normal LCDs, they are very thin only 3mm or less and as their cable is special as must have as low as possible number of thin wires knitted together in very thin round cable, is has to go through laptop plastic’s hinges and normal cable can’t fit there. This is why all laptop LCDs are not parallel RGB neither LVDS but use eDP interface.

For bad luck A64 do not support such interface so we start to search LVDS/HDMI/RGB to eDP converter ICs. What we found is that Western suppliers solutions (TI etc) are more expensive than A64 chip itself so no go. We found Chinese solution for $1 NCS8801 and we said – well this is our solution 🙂 we made PCBs prototype and sourced few chips then we struggled by the lack of documentation 🙂 The ‘datasheet’ is 30 pages and the only code which is on the net initializes registers at addresses not mentioned in the datasheet, after spending almost 4 weeks on this we gave up and start looking for another solution. We found ANX6345 which is a bit more expensive but has some code in Linux Kernel and seems used with Rockchip ICs, so we hope this to solve LCD issue. We designed new board and got the new prototypes few days ago so they wait open window on assembly line to be assembled, crossing fingers everything to work 🙂

The mechanical parts has their history too. In June we placed orders to several different suppliers for the plastic parts, speakers, touchpads, power adapters, screws, hinges, total 40 different parts which are inside the laptop. The orders were complete in July and consolidated as one shipment on August 6 they were expressed with TNT and 2 days later were at Sofia airport, but the troubles just began 🙂

To import something may seems very easy for outsiders, but has it’s tricks. Usually every component can be classified in several positions in customs tariff, for instance LCDs have at least 7-8 different codes at which they can be imported, like they can be classified as display for computing equipment, as display for TV, as display for signage, as display for metal processing machine, etc etc. The trouble is that all these positions had different import tax 🙂 and of course Bulgarian customs try to force you to pay on the highest tariff code unless you prove them other. Another issue is that there work mostly people with economic education and very few know electronics matter. Import tax starts from 0% for computer parts and go up to 4-5% for TVs and machines, not small amount when you talk for $200 laptop parts! So laptop parts were sitting on customs 3 weeks as customs officers were trying to tariff every hinge, screw, plastic etc part as different product to tariff it with the highest code. Fortunately after 3 weeks of thinking somebody with common sense allowed all laptop spare parts to be imported as such with 0% tax and we got them today, but the fight will continue as this was only 10% of the order which we wanted to receive promptly paying expensive air transport, remain 90% parts still travel by sea and will arrive end of September, so let’s see how they will tariff these when arrive 🙂

We get lot of request when the laptop will be done and we love all our impatient customers 🙂

Guys be sure that we do anything humanly possible to release it as soon as we can, but to design something from scratch which you had never did before is not easy, once we do this I’m sure we will easily make 10 other laptops, but first time is always more difficult, to arrange logistic of so many parts and produce is not less challenging.

 

P.S. I hope you like the “Super” key on our new keyboard above 🙂

Open Theremin – Urs Gaudenz is our hero

theremin

Few weeks ago we spotted on Hackaday the post about Open Theremin, on first look nothing challenging, just classic two HF oscillators with mixer which detects your body/hands proximity to the antennas and change the frequency.
Connected to Arduino and generating variable pitch and frequency tones.

The real gem was in one of the comments. The video how this guy is manufacturing the kits with do it yourself pick and place machine which he built from $50 ink jet printer mechanics.

Knowing how demanding to operate are the real professionl pick and place machines I know what amount of work is to build such thing from nothing, to program and debug it and to actually make it work something useful. This is months of efforts! The DIY P&P which actually works deserves our admirations!

New Product in Stock: Open Source Hardware Simon-85 game assembled and as kit

SIMON-85-KIT

Simon-85 is based on the popular Simon says game and check and train your short time memory. It’s sold as DIY kit but also as assembled and tested board:

SIMON-85-1

To run the game you need USB-A-B cable or LiPo battery. In case you want to use battery you may also need charger for it.

Inside the game there is ATiny85 microcontroller with micronucleus bootloader which allow the board to be re-programmed with Digispark’s Arduino IDE. All sources are on our web and you can download and modify the game yourself. No need for external programmers etc.

When power is applied after 5 seconds the four LEDs will flash for a while and the game will wait you to choose difficulties “Level”. There are 4 levels for sequencies of 10-20-30-40 LED blink patterns. Depend on which button you press BUT1,BUT2,BUT3,BUT4 the game will start at the corresponding level. You will hear Super Mario Bros theme and LEDs will blink then the game will start and you have to repeat the LED blink pattern you see.

If you make mistake the game will over and you can start it again. Each time you complete the pattern correctly the game will flash new one which is one more blink longer. Each new game starts with random pattern so you can’t memorize these.

Simon-85 assembled and tested cost EUR 7.95 the kit is EUR 5.95.

Assembling Simon-85-KIT is good way kids and beginners to learn basic electronics components and how to solder.

OLIMEX Summer of Hacking – 3D printing group first print with DIY Prusa i3

IMGP0173

This is the 3D printing group from OLIMEX Summer of Hacking initiative.

Their job was to assembly Prusa i3 3D printer kit and to learn how to use it. It took them a week to complete the printer.

IMGP0170

It still is a bit bulky but everything functioning correctly!

Today was the day to test it:

The first printed object was Mr. Pacman:

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It worked very well for first attempt! Now is time for calibration and some in deepth experiments with the temperatures, speed of printing and other parameters!

Well done boys!

DIY Air Pockets Machine

Image

When dealing with shipping parcels there is one thing which is always not enough – filling material, it should be light to not change the parcel weight, but must in other hand fill all gaps and hold the materials inside the parcel tight to not break during the shipments.

After searching for professional machine for making Air pocket I found that all of them are

  1. expensive
  2. working with special materials which are also expensive

so I start thinking how to make my own air pocket filling machine.

First thing was to find PE sleeve, it was not hard as around Plovdiv there are about 10 different small factories which produce such PE sleeve, they can even print your logo or something else on it as it’s widely used to pack milk, sugar, and so on food products.

The PE sleeve is sold on KG and very cheap, this roll you see above is 6KG but probably long thousand meter and cost me eur 30.

Then I needed PE sealing machine and sourced one from ebay for $40 with free shipping.

The sleeve should be also filled with air so I got one of these small fans used in bathrooms.

So I was ready to test my “machine”.

Image

First cut one stripe of the sleeve around 1 meter and sealed one end with the sealer.

Then put the sleeve on the fan fixing it with rubber ring:

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As expected the sleeve got filled with air then all I had to do is to seal some pockets with the selaer. You can see the result:

Image

Not bad result for first try 🙂

Now I have unlimited low cost air pocket filler for the parcels we ship.

Incredible 6 parts CNC plotter

Image

Jay made the smallest CNC plotter made by Laser cut parts which according to his blog cost about $20 to re-produce, this is really amazing piece of engineering:

http://plotterbot.com/2013/11/how-to-build-a-tiny-cnc-drawing-robot/

I do wonder if something similar could be adapted for solder paste syringe and to make small solder paste spit machine which to eliminate the need for stencils for prototype runs.

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