Next Thing CHIP computer powered by Allwinner R8 module, also referred as “the $9 computer“, had a very successful crowdfunding campaign having raised over $2,000,000 from nearly 40,000 backers. When launching an electronics products on a crowdfunding campaign, many companies claim their device will be open source, only to disappoint once the perks actually ship, and Next Thing made the same promise, except they appear to have delivered as shown in their latest update “Holy C.H.I.P! It’s C.H.I.P!!!” showing the first production samples, and providing links to hardware design files for the Alpha version, as well as buildroot, U-boot and Linux source code.
All resources can be found on docs.nexthing.co, but let’s check what they’ve released so far.
Hardware design files on Github include:
- A Bill of Materials (BoM)
- Schematics in PDF and DSN formats
- PCB Layout in BRD and PNG format
- Pinouts for U12 and U14 connectors
- Mechanical files in DXF format
So everything appears to be there for an open source hardware board, except the Gerber files, but these could be generated from the PCB layout.
One the software from they setup three repositories for:
- Buildroot 2015.05 @ https://github.com/NextThingCo/CHIP-buildroot
- U-boot 2015-07-rc2 @ https://github.com/NextThingCo/CHIP-u-boot
- Linux 4.1-rc1 @ https://github.com/NextThingCo/CHIP-linux
It also looks good, especially since the versions are recent, and they’ve certainly been helped in that task thanks to the involvement of Free Electrons engineers.
Most backers will still need to wait until December 2015 and beyond to get the board, but the 1,000 “Kernel hackers” backers should get their board in September 2015, so they’ll be able to play with these and improve the software and possibly find hardware bugs in the early boards, before it gets released to the masses.
Thanks to Brian for the tip.