TUXCON FOSS and OSHW conference 2018 in Plovdiv is just 18 days away, so plan your visit properly ;)

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TuxCon 2018 conference about Free Open Source Software and Open Source Hardware will be June 9 and 10th in Plovdiv.

This is community driven event done by volunteers with the support of local IT companies and it’s totally free to participate.

In Saturday 9th of June in the Technical University building there will be two rooms, for lectures and workshops.

Hacking Risc-V core, implemented on iCE40 FPGA and playing with it’s instruction set and making small “monitor” program which allow you to enter programs written on machine code and executed on iCE40HX8K-EVB + iCE40-IO will be demonstrated, so if you want to touch and make your first program on RISC-V “computer” with VGA monitor and keyboard you may find Rangel Ivanov lecture interesting.

Plamen Vaisolov is retro computer maniac and keep working on them, implementing modern floppy disk emulators and other peripherials. He will share his experience with all these who miss Karateka and Load Runner 🙂

Neven Boyanov will talk about his experience with LoRA network and how to start on low budged.

Dimitar Gamishev has two interesting talks, one is for the Open Source Hardware and Software GPS car navigation he made. In the  second he will speak about the home assistants like Google Home and Alexa, how to implement them with small Linux computer like OLinuXino and even with ESP32-Lyra and how to impress your girlfriend by switching on and off appliances and lights with your voice.

There will be KiCAD workshop where everyone (even with no knowledge) will learn how to install, configure and make small robot PCB with KiCAD. Then some general knowledges about PCB materials and how to prepare all files and send to PCB board house for manufacturing. How to select the components, footprints, good routing practices, DRC/ERC checks, Gerber generation and tips how to design your PCBs in way to be produced at lower cost. At the workshop will be our design engineers and you can talk to them directly about issues you encountered when worked with KiCAD or other CAD product.

 

In Sunday 10th of June we will have traditional Soldering workshop at Olimex training building, where we will assembly and program with Arduino small robot which can follow line or escape from labyrinth. This will be the same robot which PCB we will design in the KiCAD workshop in the previous day. We will go detailed through the program and study how modifications affect it.

The workshop with end with barbeque in Olimex backyard 🙂

 

We are looking forward to see you in Plovdiv soon!

Bulgarian Open Source Hardware Smoke and Movement IoT sensor project on Kickstarter

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The Bulgarian Kickstarter projects are rare, this is why it was pleasure to see one there and on top it’s Open Source Hardware and Software project!

The project is announced as Open Source, but the sources are not published yet, although from the description they work on it since 2016, which I reported to the team as mistake.

Not releasing the sources from the start of OSHW project deprives the team from valuable feed back and tips from potential collaborators, but as far I understand this is their first such project, so let’s wish them luck!

This is FOSDEM 2018

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

Open Fest is this weekend! Welcome to the TuxCon-Kitty SMT assembly and programming workshop in Saturday!

OpenFest

Open Fest conference is this weekend 4-5 of November! This is the biggest Bulgarian FOSS event.

Here is the program.

We will run the traditional soldering workshop in Saturday and will solder TuxCon-Kitt boards then learn how to program them. The workshop is free (as in Beer) to participate 😉 i.e. no money will be involved just your enthusiasm and motivation to learn new stuff.

TERES I assembly workshop this Saturday!

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This Saturday 21st of October we will have TERES I assembly workshop!

Customers from Bulgaria who placed orders for TERES I DIY Open Source laptop will have their laptop kits ready and are invited to come and we assembly them together!

The assembly workshop will be in OLIMEX Training Building and will start at 14.00 o’clock.

No need to have Laptop kit to participate, everyone is welcome to join us.

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