FOSDEM 2016 was last weekend with lot of interesting meetings and talks!


FOSDEM 2016 was last weekend in Bruxelles! Biggest event in EU this year had a bit less visitors, probably feared by the terrorist news which all TVs are exposing us.

Belgians seems to take this threat seriously as we have seen lot of peoples with automatic guns in military uniforms walking around the city center, but fortunately at FOSDEM we didn’t saw any, neither someone has stop us to check or whatsoever while we have been waling in the city.

Some 8000 different MACs were logged on WiFi infrastructure, so I guess at least 5000 visitors were there.

The picture above shows my captures from the event, buying t-shirt was my way to say thanks to these projects which we use daily both at home and office!


You know you have been at FOSDEM Friday beer party when you wake up next morning and you see (hopefully not permanent) “IloveFS” tattoo on your arm. Here is how the Delirium beer hub was looking like at Friday:


I had lecture about our experience designing A64 board with KiCAD, Riku Voipio took picture of the tail to enter the room and posted on G+


The slides are posted at Slideshare. TL-DR; KiCAD now is solid enough to build complex designs, what we need is little bit of twist to make it even more easy to use and few minor bugs are to be wiped, but overal there is significant progress for one year!

To my surprise KiCAD team emailed me next day and we had a quick meeting with notes they took on all issues I mention on the talk! It’s nice to see such commitement to make the product better!


Another interesting talk in same EDA room was from Clifford who reverse engineered the iCE40 bitstream and made completely FOSS FPGA toolset, which can be used to generate iCE40 based FPGA projects.

I had eye on iCE40 since Antti Lukats posted on Hackaday about his project, but we were quite busy with many other things to may play with it, now we start working on our own ICE40HX1K development board with UEXT for programming by OLinuXino and different extension connectors. The idea is to make entry level board for people who want to make their first steps in FPGA, running Clifford’s toolchain on OLinuXino with this FPGA board connected to it and with different front-end modules like high speed ADCs to make DSO or programmable level shifter 1.2-5.5V which to allow logic analyzer working on different voltage levels, LEDs, buzzers, counters, buttons with tons of examples. I already shoot Clifford e-mail about our plans and looking forward to hear his suggestions as he already have lot of experience with these FPGAs.

Clifford’s work sparkled such interest for iCE40 that now the Lattice demo boards are with 21 weeks delivery time, plenty of time for us to release our own board :))))

Another interesting lecture was about the Rad1o badge for CCC. It was fun to learn for all the difficulties which the development team had to make these happen (including mistakes in the documentation which made them to drill back side of BGA PCB to disconnect solder ball) – they said they would never go through the manufacturing hell again as this production caused them gray hairs although the interest about this badge continues.

Being busy all day long with both design and manufacturing, once I made analogy about the path to design board and then to run this board in production -> it’s like the process to make kid and then to rise it, teach it, make it human being. First job (design) brings just fun, joy and satisfaction, the second is not less interesting but dealing with all manufacturing bugs and troubleshooting the processes is kinda routeen and sometimes even boring :))) but neverthless must be done! Sure we enjoy more designing than manufacturing, but can’t run sustainable business without latter.

A64-OLinuXino OSHW Linux computer is close to complete routing – GitHub update of KiCAD files


Our first complex Linux board done completely in KiCAD is near the finish.

As you can see from the picture above all the complex high speed signals routing is already done.

What left is GPIO, audio etc low speed signals which are easy to complete.  CAD files are updated to GitHub

Our Help Day for September is this Saturday 26th of September in our training building

Help Support Advice Assistance and Guidance on a signpost

Our next Help Day is this Saturday 26/09 at 11.00 o’clock in our training building.

If you need help with your project, or you don’t know how to use some of our boards you can come this Saturday at our Help day.

We got a number of requests to make KiCAD workshop in Plovdiv like the one we did in Sofia at Hack Conf this weekend, so if you want to get familiar with KiCAD you can come on the Help day with your laptop with KiCad pre-installed and to learn how to use it 🙂

We use KiCAD extensively this year and already got more than 20 boards designed with it, so we got some experience we can share.

We will make KiCAD workshop on HackConf 2015, 19-20 of September in NDK, Sofia


We have been invited by Hack Conf 2015 organizers to make workshop and will take this opportunity to make small workshop about the Open Source PCB CAD program KiCAD.

The workshop will get you introduced to KiCAD, the flow of work, component library creation, schematic capture, PCB layout. At the end of the work shop you will be able to make your first small PCB with KiCAD and to prepare files for manufacturing.

Bring your computer with you and download and install KiCAD before you come. KiCAD can be download from

Looking forward to see you there!

New Open Source Hardware KiCAD project – MOD-MPU9150 9-axis motion tracking device with gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer


MOD-MPU9150 is 9-axis motion tracking device with 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis magnetometer in small 4×4 mm package.

Possible applications: Motion-enabled game and application framework, gesture recognition, portable gaming, 3D remote controls, 3D mice, wearable sensors for fitness and sports, toys, navigation, electronic compass.

Features are:

  • 3-axis gyroscope ±2000°/sec
  • 3-axis accelerometer ±16g
  • 3-axis magnetometer ±1200μT
  • I2C interface

The female connector can connect directly to boards with UEXT creating small wearable devices which can track gestures etc:



PCB files are designed with KiCAD and the project is Open Source Hardware with files on GitHub released under Apache 2.0 Licensee

New KiCAD OSHW PCB project – Getting rid of FTDI – BB-CH340T USB to Serial converter


Many of you probably remember the FTDI nasty drivers they released just to mess up with the FTDI clones.
This caused lot of trouble to people who use FTDI devices, we have been also affected.
We try to buy FT232RL from local distributor and they had no stock, then we look around and found the chips from other supplier, but unfortunately we got clone FTDI chips.
We made production with these chips and sent boards to customers, then at one point of time we start to get complains (only from Windows users) that boards stop working.
All these windows users were affected by the evil drivers released by FTDI which make VID/PID as zero if the chip is recognized to be not FTDI original.

We try to help our customers who have been affected on our forum and got nasty message from FTDI lawers to remove all the help instructions from our forum and pull back all boards which use these clone FTDI chips from customers and distributors. WTF?

No wonder from this moment we took decision to avoid dealing with this cheeky and nasty company as much as possible. Re-designing all our boards which were unfortunate to use FTDI chips.

CH340T is nice alternative to FTDI chips and have same features and even more, but cost exactly 1/10th of FTDI chip price.

BB-CH340T is nice small board which takes power from USB and can provide 3.3V and 5V to target together with Serial Tx and Rx (transmit and receive) signals and GND.

Note that by default neither 3.3V neither 5V is selected.

BB-CH340T is specially made to be used easy with breadboard. The design is open source hardware made with KiCAD and files are on Github under Apache 2.0 licensee.

Our first two small KiCAD OSHW boards are ready!


I wrote some time ago about the importance to use Open Source CAD tools when you want to make OSHW designs.

FOSS CAD tools increase the base of your contributors, you can’t expect to have many people who to contribute back to your project if you make it with Altium or PADS which cost thousands of EURO/USD.
Even Eagle which have low cost entry version cost thousands if you want to use it for more complex designs.

So the decission was taken, but the resistance among our developers was not small 🙂 nobody wants to break his comfort when there are already lot of libraries made and had to be duplicated for the new platform.
It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks 🙂

Situation changed a bit this month as we got two new guys who joined Olimex design team – Todor Bobotilov 25 years old “fresh out of school”, who recently graduated Technical University in Plovdiv with one of the best scores/results from the exams, and Christo Budakov who have 25 years of experience with electronics design and has worked for Bulgarian Academy of Science, and as free consultant last years. They both joined Olimex on March 4th.

So I decided that after the latest announcements for the new features in KiCAD we have no excuses anymore and have to kick Eagle by the end of this year with all our designs. And to start clean the new guys will be thrown in the deep waters from the beginning and they will start working with KiCAD from scratch.

First thing was to install newest and latest although unstabile version of KiCAD to may be up to date with latest developments.

This is easy to do in Ubuntu, you just have to add the nightly builds repo to your apt-get list:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:js-reynaud/ppa-kicad

Then every morning you will be asked if you want to install the newest build. This had some trade offs like latest KiCAD tends to crash every couple of hours for some reason, but this is OK, we know that we work with unstabile version and just have to save the projects more frequently :))))

Another issue – the libraries, we have our own technologycal setup in our production, based on our process we run for many years, this includes how the stencils are manufactures, how the NC files for the machines we have are generated, what component pads to be used, what drills, annular rings, etc we have to use to suit our PCB design and manufacturing process to achieve the best yield in production, in most of the cases this have nothing in common with the recommended by vendors PCB land pads and dimensions.

Christo started working on the libraries slowly while making new boards he converts from proven Eagle libraries just the components he uses in his current designs.

This week we got two new very simple boards designed with KiCAD:

MOD-MPU9150 3-axis gyro + 3-axis accelerometer + 3-axis magnetometer compass all in one here is the GitHub repo you can see it how it looks on the picture above.

and MOD-OLED-128×64 OLED 1″ display with UEXT and Breadboard 0.1″ headers, the GitHub repo is here.


you may bet many more and much complicated designs are to follow 🙂

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