Posts Tagged ‘bluetooth’

$49 STEVAL-WESU1 Wearable Sensor Unit Reference Design is Based on STMicro STM32 MCU

May 23rd, 2016 1 comment

STMicroelectronics STEVEL-WESU1 is a wearable open source hardware reference design and development kit comprised of a board with STM32L1 ARM Cortex-M3 micro-controller, BlueNRG-MS Bluetooth LE chip, and sensors, a battery, and a watch band.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

STMicro “WESU” specifications and features:

  • MCU – STMicro STM32L151VEY6 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 MCU @ 32 KHz to 32 MHz, 512KB flash, 80 KB SRAM
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.0 LE via BlueNRG-MS BLE network processor
  • Sensors – 3D accelerometer + 3D gyroscope (LSM6DS3), 3-axis magnetometer (LIS3MDL),  MEMS pressure sensor (LPS25HB)
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for recharging
  • Debugging – SWD connector for debugging and programming capability
  • Power
    • 100 mAh Li-Ion battery included, UN38.3 tested and certified
    • STNS01 Li-Ion linear battery charger
    • STC3115 Fuel gauge IC
  • Watch strap with plastic housing included
  • Certifications –  FCC (FCC ID: S9N-WESU1), IC (IC: 8976C-WESU1), RoHS

The kit can be controlled by ST WeSU app for Android and iOS, and developed using BlueST SDK, available on Github. You can also get all hardware files (Gerber, schematics, PCB layout, BoM,…), documentation, as well as firmware and source code on STEVAL-WESU1 product page.

Click to Enlarge

Android app Screenshots – Click to Enlarge

STEVAL-WESU1 can be purchased for $48.95 directly on STMicro website, or via distributors such as DigiKey or Mouser.

Via Time4EE

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LimeSDR Open Source Hardware Software Defined Radio Goes for $199 and Up (Crowdfunding)

April 29th, 2016 11 comments

Canonical and Lime Micro showcased SoDeRa software defined radio (SDR) a couple of months ago, with a promise to launch a crowdfunding campaign later this year. They’ve fulfill their promise, and launched the open source SDR, renamed to LimeSDR, on Crowdsupply.
LimeSDR_BoardLimeSDR board specifications:

  • FPGA – Altera Cyclone IV EP4CE40F23 Altera FPGA compatible with EP4CE30F23
  • System Memory – 256 MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • RF
    • Lime Microsystems LMS7002M RF transceiver with continuous coverage of the frequency range between 100 kHz and 3.8 GHz; 61.44 MHz bandwidth
    • 4 x TxOut and 6 x RxIn U.FL connectors
    • Power Output (CW): up to 10 dBm
    • Wi-Fi, GSM, UMTS, LTE, LoRa, Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID, Digital Broadcasting, configurable through apps.
  • USB – 1x micro USB3 via CYUSB3014-BZXC Cypress Microcontroller  for control, data transfer and power
  • Misc – Status LEDs, RGB LEDs, 4x switches
  • Power – USB or external power supply
  • Dimensions –  100 mm x 60 mm

The board interfaces with systems running Snappy Ubuntu Core, and you can enable wireless protocols the easy way by simply installing the required app with snappy. If you implement a new protocol, it can also be easily shared through snappy apps.

LimeSDR with Aluminium ENclosure with 4 Antennas

LimeSDR with Aluminum Enclosure with 4 Antennas

Potential applications include radio astronomy,RADAR, 2G to 4G cellular basestation, media streaming (DVB, ATSC, ISDB-T), IoT gateway, HAM radio, wireless keyboard and mice emulation and detection, tyre pressure monitoring systems, aviation transponders, utility meters, drone command and control, test and measurement, and more.

It’s not the first FPGA based SDR system that’s available to hobbyist, so the company compared it to other platform such as HackRF One, BladeRF, and others, include ultra-low cost solution based on RTL-SDR.

HackRF One Ettus B200 Ettus B210 BladeRF x40 RTL-SDR LimeSDR
Frequency Range 1MHz-6GHz 70MHz-6GHz 70MHz-6GHz 300MHz-3.8GHz 22MHz-2.2GHz 100kHz-3.8GHz
RF Bandwidth 20MHz 61.44MHz 61.44MHz 40MHz 3.2MHz 61.44MHz
Sample Depth 8 bits 12 bits 12 bits 12 bits 8 bits 12 bits
Sample Rate 20MSPS 61.44MSPS 61.44MSPS 40MSPS 3.2MSPS 61.44MSPS (Limited by USB 3.0 data rate)
Transmitter Channels 1 1 2 1 0 2
Receivers 1 1 2 1 1 2
Duplex Half Full Full Full N/A Full
Interface USB 2.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.0 USB 2.0 USB 3.0
Programmable Logic Gates 64 macrocell CPLD 75k 100k 40k (115k avail) N/A 40k
Chipset MAX5864, MAX2837, RFFC5072 AD9364 AD9361 LMS6002M RTL2832U LMS7002M
Open Source Full Schematic, Firmware Schematic, Firmware Schematic, Firmware No Full
Oscillator Precision +/-20ppm +/-2ppm +/-2ppm +/-1ppm ? +/-1ppm initial, +/-4ppm stable
Transmit Power -10dBm+ (15dBm @ 2.4GHz) 10dBm+ 10dBm+ 6dBm N/A 0 to 10dBm (depending on frequency)
Price $299 $686 $1,119 $420 ($650) ~$10 $299 ($199 early bird)

As mentioned in the comparison table, LimeSDR is open source hardware and you’ll find the Altium schematics & PCB layout, as well as the manufacturing files in LimeSDR-USB github repo, Altera Quartus FPGA project, Cypress FX3 firmware, source code for the drivers and GUI, and more in the various repo available on myriadrf github account.

So far, the project has raised close to $70,000 out of its $500,000 goal. A $199 early bird pledge should get you LimeSDR board, as long as you are part of the 500 backers (200 left), after which you’d need to pledge $299 for the board. Unless you provide your own antennas, you may want to add $85 to your pledge to get the four antennas and cables, or if you want a complete system with the board, antennas, enclosure, and “turnkey support”, go for the acrylic or aluminum kits for respectively $499 and $599. Shipping is free to the US, and between $15 to $35 to the rest of the world, with delivery scheduled for November or December 2016 depending on the pledge.

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Zidoo X1 II 4K Android TV Box (Rockchip RK3229) Review

April 11th, 2016 11 comments

After skipping MXQ-4K TV box review due to severe issues with video playback, Zidoo X1 II is actually the first device powered by Rockchip RK3229 processor that I’ve fully tested. I’ve already taken pictures of the box, and opened it up to check the board in Zidoo X1 II unboxing and teardown post,  and confirmed 4K videos could play pretty well from my USB hard drive using Zidoo Media Center after disabling Media Scanner process. So today, I’ll review other parts of the firmware, as well as video playback with ZDMC 16.0, Zidoo’s fork of Kodi 16.0.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The device only has two USB ports, and I used one for a USB hard drive, and the other for RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse,  a USB keyboard, and the RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad via a USB hub. I also connect HDMI & Ethernet cables before powering up the device by plugging in the 5V/2A power supply. A typical boot take around 24 seconds which is quite impressive for a $50 device, and faster than most other devices I’ve tested.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The company is now using ZIUI launcher in all their devices, and it’s exactly the same as in my reviews for Zidoo X5 and Zidoo X6 Pro. Since RK3229 is a lower-end processor with a Mali-400MP2 GPU, they’ve decided to use a 1280×720 user interface, instead of the now usual 1920×1080 interface, for better performance. Bear in mind that it does not affect the resolution of videos, which are always played at the video output resolution. Speaking of which, the system automatically detected LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV and set the resolution to 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz.

Another difference is that while now most new devices are running Android 5.1, and soon Android 6.0, Zidoo X1 II is running Android 4.4. That means the settings now have the old black background, and some interesting options include:

  • Wireless & Networks – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Data usage, and a “More” section with five sections: Airplane mode, Tethering & portable hotspot, VPN, Mobile networks, and VPN. The mobile phone options can useless, as there’s no support for 3G dongles.
  • Device
    • USB – Connect to PC
    • Sound – Volume for media, notifications, and alarms, as well as the Sound Devices Manager to select between Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream
    • Display
      • Daydrean
      • Font size
      • Screen Scale
      • HDMI Mode:
        • Auto
        • 4096x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 3840x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 1920x1080p @ 60 Hz, 50Hz, 30Hz, 25Hz, 24Hz
        • 1280x720p @ 60 or 50 Hz
        • 720x576p/i @ 50 Hz
        • 720x480p @ 60 Hz
    • Storage – Unified 5.75 GB internal storage partition. I still had 2.82 GB free at the end of the review with all apps and copied files

About_Zidoo_X1-IIAll other usual options are still present including Location, Language & input, Date&time, Accessibility, Printing, and so on.

All features worked well including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. I’ve never seen HDMI output revert to some other video output and/or refresh rate as on Amlogic S905 platforms. Zidoo devices are shipped with some black edges on the sides to compensate for overscan, so if your HDMI monitor supports underscan, you’ll have to adjust the “Screen Scale” to 100% to make sure all the screen’s real estate is used.

The  “About device” section reports “Zidoo_X1 II” model number runs Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.10.0. The firmware is not rooted.

The IR remote works OK, but range is limited to 6 to 7 meters, as at around 8 meters I started to get missed key presses. The IR learning function is also working well, and I could set the remote to memorize my TV’s remote control volume and power keys. I still used NEO A2 air mouse for most of the review, as it’s much more user friendly in Android, and to type username, passwords, and so on.

Google Play Store worked very well, so I could install all apps required for review, and I did not need to waste my time side-loading apks. I also installed the free version of Riptide GP2 via Amazon Underground.

Power handling has been nicely implemented, although currently without the sleep timer available on other Zidoo boxes. A long press on the power key on the remote control will show a configuration menu allowing you to set the behavior of the power key: Power off directly, Standby directly, or Ask me. I’ve used “Ask me” option, and a short press on the key will shows three options: Power off, Standby, and Reboot.  Once you select an option a 5 second counter will start, permitting you to change your mind by pressing any key, before completing the action. The remote control can also be used to turn on the device from power off or standby mode.

I’ve also measured power consumption with and without USB hard drive (HDD) in three power modes:

  • Power off – 0 Watt
  • Standby – 1.1 Watt
  • Idle – 3.3 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 0 Watt
  • Standby + HDD – 1.3 Watt
  • Idle + HDD – 5.0 Watts

So the system do not draw power in power off, and overall power consumption is quite low, as expected for a Cortex A7 processor based device.

The TV box stays rather cool, and I measured 38°C and 47°C max on respectively the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 6.1.2, and after about 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2 the temperature went up to 45°C and 53°C. Performance was also stable throughout, and the system does not appears to be throttling, or at least not in a noticeable way.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Zidoo X1 II performance, and the experience was stable and fluid most of the time, except for the occasional slowdown when installing apps in the background from time to time, and a few random reboots which still happened three to four times during testing.

Video Playback in ZDMC / Kodi 16.0

As mentioned in the introduction, I could play 10-bit H.265, 10-bit H.264 videos from a USB harddrive using Media Center apps, but only after disabling Media Scanner. Otherwise, I would have frequent slow-downs and audio cuts, and the system was continuously scanning my driver. The 100Mbit connection does not allow playback for some of the videos with very high bitrate, so playing from an hard drive is the only practical way, unless you copy the videos to internal storage (limited to up to 5GB depending on the installed app) before playing them back. But in this review, I’ll test ZDMC (Kodi 16 fork) from a SAMBA share over Ethernet, except for high bitrate videos where I’ll revert the the hard drive, and prefix the result with “HDD”.

I also set “Adjust display refresh rate” to “On start / stop” in Kodi to test automatic refresh rates, and for some reasons if I set the video output to 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz, the refresh will match the video, but if it was set to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz, it would play all videos @ 30 fps.

I’ve first played some videos part of Linaro media samples, Elecard H.265 samples, and low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Looks OK, but the first few seconds of the video are not shown
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK (software decode)

The first few seconds are likely missing for all videos (not only the real media ones) due to automatic refresh rate, but I did not notice it. If I disable “adjust display refresh rate” option I can see the full video. It’s just a small issue however. I also noticed there’s no option to adjust the video zoom (using the video icon on the bottom OSD), as it will show the 3D settings most of the time, which is more annoying.

I then switched to videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother, and no audio
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – HDD: OK

The next steps was to test audio capabilities using PCM (stereo downmixing), and HDMI pass-through in Kodi.

Kodi_HD_Audio_Pass-through_SettingsI also added the results I got with Media Center in the table with the results.

Video PCM Output
PCM Output
(Media Center)
HDMI Pass-through
HDMI Pass-through
(Media Center)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1) Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1) Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1) Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK OK OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK OK OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK OK OK
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK Continuous beep Doby TrueHD 7.1 ch. B (with some audio cuts) Doby TrueHD 7.1 ch. B
DTS HD Master OK OK DTS HD MA 7.1 ch, but with some audio cuts OK
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK DTS 5.1 only DTS 5.1 only

So that means if you just connect the box to your TV, and play videos with Kodi, audio should be fine, but with other players, videos with Dolby Atmos audio may not play properly. If you connect it through an A/V receiver you may experience some audio cuts, at least with my model (Onkyo TX-NR636), and DTS HD HR 7.1 channel audio is only passed-through as DTS 5.1 ch.

4K videos did not play quite as well with Media Center, but the results are not that bad:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, after the first few seconds of dropped frames and audio cuts.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK (however, the system hung when I attempted to stop the video).
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 3 to 4 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – Network: Not very smooth, and audio loss after a while. HDD: OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video is not very smooth and massive audio delay (4K H.264 @ 60 fps not supported by RK3229 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Network: Video not smooth, and audio loss. HDD: OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – HDD: Video will freeze from time to time (very short), and many audio cuts
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: Not smooth (and part of Rockchip marketing materials)

Two Blu-ray video samples (sintek-4k.iso, and amat.iso) could play well, as were the MPEG2 1080i videos. 10-bit H.264 is a selling point of RK3229, but the two Hi10p anime videos had the same issues as usual with video artifacts, but audio and subtitles working fine.

I discovered that my A/V receiver will display a 3D icon when 3D MVC videos are played, so even through my TV does not support those, I can still find out when 3D signals are outputted correctly.


3D stereoscopic videos (Over/under and SBS) won’t show that 3D icon however, but I still played then to check whether the system could decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – stays in UI, audio only
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – stays in UI, nothing happens
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – OK, with 3D icon shown on Onkyo receiver
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – OK, with 3D icon shown on Onkyo receiver

Various VOB/IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD/DViX, and MKV videos could play fine, and I also play a 2-hour video over SAMBA using WiFi instead of Ethernet, and the video plays smoothly until the end.

I planned to get the Antutu Video Tester 3.0 score, but after 3 unsuccessful tries, including one reboot, and with twice the progress stuck at 91% after reaching 100%. But many of the video did not seem very smooth, but I would not expect a good score anyway here.

DRM info app could not detect any DRM solution installed in the TV box.

Download links to video samples used in this review can be found in the comments section of that post.

Network Performance (WiFi and Ethernet)

I test both WiFi and Fast Ethernet by copying a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal storage using ES File explorer several times and average the results. Zidoo X1 II has a slightly under average WiFi transfer rate in my environment averaging only about 2.74 MB/s. That’s still good enough to stream HD videos in most cases.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Ethernet is even more disappointing as it copied the file at 5.4 MB/s on average. That’s still much better than WiFi, but compared to other devices, it’s clearly in the bottom part.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

However, it’s not because of the Ethernet configuration, as a full duplex iperf test shows about 90 Mbps in both direction, so the bottleneck must be somewhere else.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Command line used in Android:

iperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests


Bluetooth support is another advantage of Zidoo X1 II over the cheaper MXQ-4K TV box. I could transfer some pictures over Bluetooth with my smartphone, and get fitness data from Makibes F68 smartwatch with the corresponding app over Bluetooth 4.0 LE. However, I never managed to find my Bluetooth headset with the device, and a skipped Sixaxis PS3 game controller test since the firmware is not rooted.


Zidoo X1 II only failed to mount the BTRFS partition, and all other partitions on my USB hard drive could be mounted successfully, as well as FAT32 micro SD card.

File System Read Write
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

I used A1 SD bench custom location to test USB throughput for NTFS (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/udisk0), EXT-4 (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/udisk1), and exFAT (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/udisk0), and all had decent read speed close to 30 MB/s, but write speed was rather slow for NTFS and especially exFAT.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

It looks like exFAT is the file system to avoid in Android if you want decent write speeds in any TV box.

The eMMC speed was also good, but the read speed (78.64 MB/s) is likely not valid due to cached read. Write speed was 8.65 MB/s, and should lead to slow down when many concurrent write operation are occurring at the same time. Measuring random write / IOs would also be useful, but it’s not something A1 SD benchmark generates.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Despite the flawed benchmark results, the eMMC should still have a decent read speed considering the fast boot time.


Candy Crush Saga was perfectly playable with the air mouse, but it was laggy once as an app was getting installed in the background.

Beach Buggy Racing was set to “maximum resolution” in the settings, likely due to the 1280×720 framebuffer resolution, and the game was extremely smooth all the time. Riptide GP2 had the same settings, and rendered smoothly for the 15 minutes or so I played it. So performance is OK at this resolution and steady.

Zidoo X1 II Benchmarks

CPU-Z results are toughly the same as for MXQ-4K with a Rockchip RK3066 processor (wrongly) detected with four Cortex A7 core clocked between 408 MHz and 1.46 GHz and a Mali-400MP GPU. Internal storage was much bigger since the company implemented a single partition for both apps and data.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The Antutu 6.1.2 score was also higher with 21,345 points against 19,912 points in MXQ-4K, mostly thanks to higher CPU results maybe because of better cooling, allowing multi-threaded benchmark to run at full capacity.
I had some problems with Vellamo and the Browser test would not run properly (many time outs) as shown with the yellow mark on the top right. Multicore score was 1,244 and Metal 707, and comparable to Amlogic S805 devices such as MXQ S85 TV box with respectively 1,319 and 551 points.

Vellamo_Zidoo_X1_II3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmark score of 2,195 points is also comparable to the 2,308 points in MXQ S85 TV box, but bear in mind that the latter was using 1920×1080 resolution, so the Mali-400MP2 in Rockchip RK3229 is quite weaker than the Mali-450MP GPU used in Amlogic S805 processor.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge


In my experience, while Zidoo provides regular firmware updates, they also launch their product a little too early, with too many bugs, and sometimes poor thermal design. But with Zidoo X1 II, although there are still a few bugs, the firmware features and performance are already quite good, and I did not notice any performance drop off over time. Most part of the hardware are around average  including networking and storage, but it still work well enough to play games, and 10-bit H.264 and H.265 4K video playback is very good for a $50 device, at least once you disable Media Scanner if you have connected an hard drive.


  • Firmware is relatively stable and smooth to operate
  • 4K 10-bit HEVC/H.265 and 10-bit H.264 is working very well with Zidoo Media Center, and fairly well with ZDMC/Kodi 16.0.
  • 3D MVC videos are supported
  • Video Output – 4096×2160 / 3840×2160 up to 60Hz, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60, etc.. Automatic frame rate switching is working
  • HD audio pass-through working for TrueHD and DTS HD Master (with some concerns due to short audio cuts I noticed).
  • Fast boot time
  • File systems support – NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT, and FAT32
  • Proper power handling (remote on/off, 0 watts in power off mode, USB ports off in standby, etc…)
  • Unified 5.75 GB partition for both apps and data
  • OTA firmware update, and frequent firmware releases to be expected


  • Some random reboots may occur from time to time (not very often though)
  • Videos may not play smoothly without hack (Disable Media Scanner) if you connect an hard drive
  • Impossible to easily adjust video zoom level in ZDMC/Kodi (3D menu shown by default)
  • Some audio cuts may occur when using audio pass-through (at least with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver)
  • VP9 up to 4K @ 30 fps is allegedly supported by the processor, but not implemented in the box.
  • CPU/ GPU performance does not match the one of recent low cost processors such as Amlogic S905 or Rockchip RK3368.
  • Networking (WiFi and Ethernet) performance slightly below average, albeit still usable
  • Older Android 4.4 operating system
  • System could not find my Bluetooth headset (file transfer and BLE smartwatch are OK)
  • Shape and color of case may not be to everybody’s taste

The review sample was provided by Zidoo, and distributors or resellers may want to contact the company via the product page for inquiries or order in quantities. Zidoo X1 II can also be purchased for $49 on GeekBuying, Banggood, or Aliexpress.

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LONG-CZ J8 Could Be The World’s Smallest Phone

March 31st, 2016 5 comments

Smartphone displays are getting bigger each year, but at the other end of the spectrum, LONG-CZ J8 phone could the world’s smallest at just 68 x 23 x 11 mm, and 18 grams. It takes micro SIM card to make calls, but also doubles (triples?) as a Bluetooth headset and FM Radio.

World_Smallest_PhoneLONG-CZ J2 specifications:

  • Processor – Mediatek
  • Display – 0.6″‘ OLED display
  • Cellular Connectivity – GSM 850/900/1800/1900 via micro SIM card slot
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 3.0
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
  • Battery – Capacity TBD; Up to 5 hours talk time, 96 hours standby time.
  • Dimensions –  68 x 23 x 11mm
  • Weight 18g

The phones ships with a data cable, a user’s manual in English and Chinese, a strap, one ear loop, and two ear caps. Nine languages are supported: English, French, Italian, Russian, Hindi, Russian, Thai, Portuguese, and Spanish. The phone is not quite new, as it has launched in 2014 with a few videos showing the device in action.

I could find LONG-CZ J8 on Aliexpress for $23.99 shipped (and a bit less with Aliexpress app), as well as Amazon US and Amazon UK. It’s allegedly popular with inmates as it can easily be sneaked into prisons, and there seems to be a few other models with the same name but a different case. Do you know an even smaller phone (watch phones excluded!)?

Via MajorDroid

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Categories: Hardware, Video Tags: bluetooth, phone

BBC Micro:Bit Board is Now Getting into the Hands of British Students

March 24th, 2016 6 comments

After several delays, BBC is now giving free Micro:Bit Bluetooth LE enabled boards to UK students with the goal of getting them interested in coding and electronics in a way that’s even easier and cheaper than using a Raspberry Pi board.


Click to Enlarge

Micro:bit specifications:

  • MCU – Nordic nRF51822 Bluetooth SoC based on Cortex M0 core @ 16MHz with 16KB RAM
  • 2x user buttons, 1x reset button
  • 25x red user LEDs  in a 5×5 matrix
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth LE
  • Sensors – Compass, magnetometer, accelerometer
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for port and programming
  • Expansion – 20-pin edge connector, 5x “rings” for 3V, GND, and 3 digital/analog I/Os
  • Power – 5V via USB or battery port to connect two AAA batteries
  • Dimensions – 4cm x 5cm

There are four ways to “code” the board: Code Kingdoms JavaScript  graphical ‘drag and drop’ and text-based programming, Microsoft Block Editor graphical, drag and drop code editor, Microsoft Touch Developer text-based programming language, and Python. I was unclear on how they’d use the rings, until I found this picture showing crocodile clips connected to the board, and Kitronic has made add-ons boards and kits using the 20-pin edge connector.

Micro-bit_crocodile_batteryThere’s currently now way to buy one of those yourself, but if you have kids in the UK, the BBC is giving the board directly to young students, i.e. they don’t belong to the schools, so you might be able to play with it at home. According to BBC News, some people have complained that the board can come to late for teachers to integrate them in the curriculum before the end of the school year, so we’ll have to see how it turns out. Some projects have already been showcased with a school sending a micro:bit at the edge of space.

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Embedded Linux Conference 2016 and OpenIoT Summit 2016 Schedule

March 4th, 2016 2 comments

The Embedded Linux Conference 2016 and the OpenIoT summit 2016 will take place on April 4 – 6, 2016 in San Diego, California, and over 800 attended will meet including kernel & system developers, userspace developers, and product vendors. The Linux Foundation has recently published the schedule, so I’ve had a look at some of the talks, and designed my own virtual schedule to find out more the current development focus although I won’t attend.

Embedded_Linux_Conference_2016Monday April 4

  • 10:40am – 11:30am – Linux Connectivity for IoT by Marcel Holtmann, Intel OTC

There are many connectivity solutions that available for IoT. For example Bluetooth Low Energy, 802.15.4, Zigbee, OIC, Thread and others. This presentation will provide and overview of the existing technology and upcoming standard and how they tie into the Linux kernel and its ecosystem.

  • 11:40 – 12:30 – BoF: A Million Kernel Boots and Counting by Kevin Hilman, BayLibre

The project is currently over 1500 kernel boot tests per day for upstream kernels on a wide variety of hardware. This BoF will provide a very brief overview of and then be a forum for discussion and feature requests, how to participate and next steps.

  • 14:00 – 14:50 – Hello, Brillo by Dave Smith, NewCircle

Brillo is Google’s latest embedded offering, based on Android, intended for low-power devices in the IoT market. But what does “based on Android” really mean? In this session, we will compare the Brillo stack to Android, examining what has been added as well as removed. You will learn how Google attempts to bring secure solutions to IoT using Brillo and Weave—Google’s IoT connectivity protocol. We will also discuss the current status of user space application development on the platform.

  • 15:00 – 15:50 – Reducing the Memory Footprint of Android by Bernhard Rosenkränzer, Linaro

The Android team inside the Linaro Mobile Group has been working on reducing the memory footprint of the Android system – cutting around 70 MB off the memory used by a newly booted AOSP build on Nexus 7.

This talk describes what techniques we have used to save memory without having too much of a negative impact on performance.

  • 16:10 – 17:00 – Bringing Display and 3D to the C.H.I.P Computer by Maxime Ripard, Free Electrons

Every modern multimedia-oriented ARM SoC usually has a bunch of display controllers, to drive a screen or an LCD panel, and a GPU, to provide 3D acceleration. The framework of choice to support these controllers in Linux is the DRM subsystem.

This talk will walk through the DRM stack, the architecture of a DRM/KMS driver and the interaction between the display and GPU drivers. The presentation is based on the work we have done to develop a DRM driver for the Allwinner SoCs display controller, as part of enabling the C.H.I.P platform with the upstream Linux kernel. The work done to make the ARM Mali OpenGL driver work on top of a mainline DRM/KMS driver will also be detailed.

  • 17:10 – 18:00 – Bluetooth on Modern Linux by Szymon Janc

This presentation will help audience to better understand how Linux supports fast changing and evolving technology as Bluetooth. It will provide comprehensive guide on BlueZ 5 Bluetooth stack architecture demystifying transition from BlueZ 4 systems. This includes integration with external components like PulseAudio or NetworkManager. Audience will also have good overview of how Bluetooth on Linux can help building Internet of Things by supporting bleeding edge features like LE Connection Oriented Channels, 6LowPAN, LE Secure Connections and more.

  • 18:10 – 19:00 – BoF: Device Tree by Frank Rowand

The Linux kernel Device Tree continues to evolve. The presentation portion of the BoF will include improvements completed over the last year, the status of partially completed projects, and plans for the coming year. Suggestions for changes and improvements to Device Tree will be solicited from the participants. Come meet Device Tree maintainers and contributors.

Please bring questions, complaints, solutions, reports of what is not working for you, and wish-lists.

Tuesday April 5

  • 9:00 – 9:50 – Implementing Miniature Smart Home by Constantin Musca, Intel

We are at the beginning of a new era of technologies computing where almost every device communicates with each other or communicates with their environment. It is about the so called Internet of things (IoT).

A major line of investigation is the smart home and the benefits of having one and what it takes to make a home “smart”. These solutions are to make life easier and free more time. How cool is to be able to control the temperature, lights, music or garage door remotely.

The smart house system runs on a Brillo OS device which exposes standard peripherals’ APIs and can be controlled through the standard Weave interface using your Google account with commands like: open_garaje_door, set_living_temperature, play_song or close_curtains.

For the moment we only implemented this solution on a miniature house, but we are looking forward to extend it to a larger scale and use it in real

I’ve found a demo of the project, and they’ve actually used a house as big as “standard” apartment… Maybe it’s only considered miniature if you live in the US…

  • 10:00 – 10:50 – Developing a Standard Interface for Drones by Tully Foote, Open Source Robotics Foundation

With the proliferation of a huge variety of drones it is becoming more important to develop standard interfaces which can enable software to be reused across whole classes of airframes. In his work on ROS (the Robot Operating System), Tully Foote has been actively involved in many standard interface proposals and refinements and is the maintainer of many of the core message definitions. In this talk he will review the important aspects of designing standard interfaces using examples from indoor robotics, autonomous cars, and more. The talk will conclude with a proposed standard interface for drones with the hope of sparking further discussion in the greater drone community.

  • 11:20 – 12:10 – Linux Power Management Optimization on the Nvidia Jetson Platform by Merlin Friesen, Golden Gate Research

Powerful cellular System on Chip (SoC) Application Processors with multiple ARM cores and a vast array of peripherals are now readily available for non cellular applications and are finding use in areas such as vision processing, robotics and drones. These devices, due to their use in mobile smart phones and tablets, have highly optimized power management features and come with Linux kernels that complement the hardware.

The Linux based Nvidia Jetson platform is used in this presentation to give developers a hands on overview of SoC power management and techniques they can use to monitor and improve power consumption in their own designs.

  • 14:00 – 14:50 – libiio – Access to Sensor Devices Made Easy by Lars-Peter Clausen, Analog Devices

The Linux IIO (Industrial IO) framework is tasked with handling configuration and data aggregation from and to all sorts of sensors and data converters including ADCs, DACs, temperature sensors, accelerators, chemical analysis, light sensors, lifestyle sensor and many more. libiio is a system library hides the low-level details of the IIO kernel ABI and provides a simple yet complete programming interface. It implements functionality often required by applications which want to access IIO sensor devices.

This presentation will give an introduction to the core concepts of libiio, it’s API and how it can be used in applications to access sensor devices, enabling attendees to develop their own applications being able to access sensor devices fast and efficiently. In addition it will discuss the existing infrastructure and tools that have been built around libiio.

  • 15:00 – 15:50 – Communication for IoT: MQTT Development and Integration by Rodrigo Chiossi, Intel

MQTT is a lightweight publish/subscribe protocol intended for small sensors and mobile devices. It is designed to work with high-latency and unreliable networks and is the protocol of choice of many IoT solutions, such as IBM Bluemix and Amazon AWS IoT. MQTT is also one of the communication protocols of the Soletta Project, which uses Mosquitto, a compact open source implementation of MQTT, as backend.

This technical talk is focused on the integration between Mosquitto and Soletta. The Soletta MQTT API will be presented along with the process of integrating Mosquitto into Soletta’s mainloop. We then discuss the main limitations and problems of this process, and present the solutions applied. Lastly, we take a look at live demos of Soletta MQTT working with IBM Bluemix and Amazon AWS, with code snippets and development guidelines for those platforms.

Wednesday April 6

  • 9:00 – 9:50 – Static Code Checking in the Linux Kernel by Arnd Bergmann, Linaro

As a maintainer of the arm-soc tree, Arnd is responsible for the quality of a lot of new code that gets merged each release. His dirty secret is that he never runs any of it on real hardware, but that makes static compile-time checking at even more important.

In this presentation, Arnd shows his setup for finding and fixing bugs, and gives an overview of many of the available tools, including kernelc, sparse, coccinelle, clang, checkpatch and coverity.

  • 10:00 – 10:50 – HDMI CEC: What? Why? How?  by Hans Verkuil, Cisco Systems Norway

The HDMI connector features a CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) pin that allows connected devices to detect and control one another. This talk describes what CEC is, why you would want to implement support for it, and how you can use a new kernel framework and API to support this HDMI feature.

This talk will include a short introduction of the upcoming CEC framework and the utilities that use it.

  • 11:05 – 11:55 – Embedded Linux 3D Sensing: Minnowboard Meets RealSense by Miguel Bernal Marin, Intel

Robots and Drones use sensing devices (like cameras, lasers range-finders, ultrasonic sonars) to get information from external environment and it is used avoid obstacles or create maps. The use of 3D depth cameras helps to do these task easily. But the current 3D depth cameras in the market are heavy to load on a drone or the smaller doesn’t have Linux support. In this presentation, Miguel will explain how to use the Intel RealSense 3D camera in a Linux environment using a Minnowboard Max, a small 3D camera that can be used in outdoors. In addition, Miguel will go into detail on how to use it using the Clear Linux Project for Intel Architecture.

  • 13:35 – 14:25 – Survey of Open Hardware 2016 by John Hawley, Intel

This is a generalized talk where we’ll generally compare, contrast and discuss various things that have happened in the last year regarding Open Hardware. In 2016 this will cover things that happened at the last OSHWA meeting, various new devices that are on the market, and generally focus on devices capable of running and operating system, and not micro-controllers.

  • 14:35 – 15:25 – Zephyr Project: An RTOS to change the face of IoT by Anas Nashif

An increasing number of developers need a scalable, real-time operating system designed specifically for small-footprint IoT devices. It needs to be affordable, easy to use and built with input from the developers using it. An open source RTOS can’t just be called “open” – it must live and breathe “the open source way.” Developers should have influence over the direction of the project and be able to impact its software and hardware architecture support. The OS should also maximize interconnectivity between other devices, contain powerful development tools and come with customizable capabilities. The Zephyr Project offers just that.

This class will give an overview of Zephyr Project. Zephyr is a small, scalable, real-time operating system designed specifically for small-footprint IoT edge devices. Its modular design allows you to create an IoT solution that meets all of your device needs, regardless of architecture. It is also embedded with powerful development tools that will, over time, enable developers to customize its capabilities.

Launched in partnership with the Linux Foundation, the Zephyr project is a truly open source solution focused on empowering community development. The goal of Zephyr is to allow commercial and open source developers alike to define and develop IoT solutions best suited for their needs.

There are so many other interested talks that I did not mention in my list, but that’s what happens when you do a schedule.

You can register online to attend both Embedded Linux Conference and OpenIOT Summit 2016. The fees are as follows:

  • Early Registration Fee – US$550 through February 21, 2016
  • Standard Registration Fee – US$650 through March 13, 2016
  • Late Registration Fee – US$850 after March 14, 2015
  • Student Registration Fee – US$175
  • Hobbyist Registration Fee – US$175. You’ll need to contact events [at] to receive a discount code, and you must pay for the fee yourself.


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TinySine Bluetooth, WiFi and USB Relays Come with an Optional Enclosure, Support Android and iOS Smartphones

March 3rd, 2016 5 comments

It’s now fairly easy to find the hardware to create WiFi or Bluetooth controlled relays, but you usually have to design your own enclosure and Android app, and if you’d like something that’s ready to use out of the box TinySine wireless relays such as TSRB430 (Bluetooth) or TSRW430 (WiFi) might be an interesting option. There;s also a version with USB control.

TSRB430_Bluetooth_RelayTSRB430 / TSRB430 / TSRU430 specifications:

  • 4x Omron G8P 30A/250VAC | 20A/28VDC relay; SPST-NO (normally open) types.
  • Connectivity – XBEE module either:
    • Bluetooth Bee module based on CSR BC417143 Bluetooth 2.0 chipset
    • Roving Networks WiFi Bee module with 802.11 b/g radio
    • USB Bee module with a CP2102 USB to UART chip
  • Power Supply – 12V/1A via 2.1mm jack with positive core polarity
  • Dimensions – 122mm x 87mm x  x 31mm (board)

TinySine_Bluetooth_Relay_boardThere are also versions with 2 and 8 relays. I kind of wish they had models taking 220V AC input instead of 12V, as I’ve recently setup a WiFi relay for a water pump with NodeMCU, and I had to use an external power supply making things a little messier than necessary… The case provided is not splash proof either, but at least it can be wall-mounted. This kind of boards are better with some safety certifications such as UL or TUV, but I could not find any references to those on the website.

TinySine App for iOS (left) and Android (right)

TinySine App for iOS (left) and Android (right)

Android or iOS apps are available as apks (Wifi or Bluetooth) or on the Apple Store, and all let you turn on or off the relay, and the Android apps also allows you to set timers up to 24 hours. The company did not feel it important to release the app source code to let their customer easily modify it however… But at least the commands set to control the XBEE module is provided in the user’s manual, so you could always roll your own, or even exchange the XBEE module with another using your preferred standard. A Windows based “test program” can also be used instead

The modules are probably not quite as cost optimized as they could have been, but still relatively affordable with TSRW430 selling for $79, TSRB430 for $69.00, and TSRU430 for $59.95, with all three models including an enclosure. Shipping is not included and adds about$10 for air mail shipping by Hong Kong post. You can also browse their website as they have many models. Alternatively some TinySine relays are sold on eBay and Amazon US.

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Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Board Features a 64-Bit ARM Processor, Adds WiFi and Bluetooth Connectivity

February 27th, 2016 75 comments

The Raspberry Pi foundation is working on yet another model of the popular Raspberry Pi boards, as the Raspberry Pi 3 model B board has showed up on the FCC website. The new board looks very similar to Raspberry Pi 2 model B, but adds on-board WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz only) and Bluetooth 4.0. Let’s play “spot the difference” with Raspberry Pi 2 at the top and Raspberry Pi 3 under.


Raspberry Pi 2 (Top) vs Raspberry Pi 3 (Bottom)

The processor looks the same as the BCM2836 quad core Cortex A7 SoC found on model 2 B, but one redditer claims it could be a 64-bit processor due to some MagPi ad. [Update: that’s the MagPi ad which confirms Raspberry Pi 3 will feature a 64-bit ARM processor @ 1.2 GHz. Thanks Gabe!


We’ll find the WiFi/BT chip antenna on the top left corner, and two through holes on the right of the 40-pin connectors, likely the RUN header for reset that can be found on the RPi2 where the chip antenna is now placed on RPi 3. So the through holes are not new, they’ve just moved it. All connectors have the exact same placement between the two versions. Let’s check out the other side of the board.


Raspberry Pi 2 (Top) vs Raspberry Pi 3 (Bottom)

The wireless module (likely Broadcom based) can be found just above the micro SD slot, and J5 connector is soldered. J5 is the JTAG connector, so it will probably not be soldered with the version that ships. The picture is not very clear but it looks like they’ve used the same Elpida B8132B4PB-8D-F RAM chip (1GB) as on Raspberry Pi 2. So although we can’t be 100% certain right now, the RAM appears to be the same, and the processor is still connected to a similar USB to Ethernet chip, so they’ve probably kept the same architecture, expect possibly for the CPU core. So the only major changes on Raspberry Pi 3 appears to be built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and  64-bit ARM cores (likely Cortex A53).

Via Liliputing and HackerNews

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