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Posts Tagged ‘open source’

Learn the Basics of Humanoid Robots with InMoov Finger Starter Kit

August 22nd, 2016 2 comments

In a not so distant future, most humans will live off their government provided basic income, relaxing and drinking their robot brewed, drone delivered beer or soda, opened and served by their humanoid robot maid. Well, maybe… In the meantime, it might be interesting to learn how to make humanoid robots such as InMoov, but since it’s quite complicated, it might be better to start small… with a single finger.

Robot_Finger

That’s exactly what InMoov Finger Starter Kit offers you to do in order to understand the basics principles of the complete robot. The kit includes:

  • 1x 3D printed base support in ABS
  • 3D printed finger parts in ABS
  • 1 meter braided 200 LB tendon
  • 1x 5cm filament for peg/pin use to assemble finger joints
  • 1x wheel horn adapter (Servo Pulley)
  • 4x screws to fix the servo to the base support.

You’ll also need to provide your own Arduino Uno (or Leonardo or Duelaminove..) board, and servo such as HK15298 or the cheaper MG995. More details and assembly instructions are explained on the kit’s tutorial page. Once assembly is complete, you can run a simple sketch to see the finger moving, or a more advanced one to control it with your voice. It can also be interfaced with muscle or ultrasound sensors.

If you already own a 3D printer, you could also print them yourself. Once you can confident enough, you could move to the next stage, and build the complete InMoov open source robot shown in the video below.

The starter kit was actually showcased in 2013, but I’ve only come across the kit via Tindie, where it is sold for $37. You can also buy it directly from InMoov website for 34 Euros.

Project OWL Open Source Hardware Ophthalmoscope is 25 Times Cheaper than Commercial Products

August 12th, 2016 3 comments

Medical grade equipments are usually very expensive, partly because of their complexity, but also because of certifications,   legal reasons, and low manufacturing volumes. That’s where open source hardware can make a big difference, and there has been several open source hardware prosthetic hands or arms such as Openbionics hand, but Ebin Philip and his team has tackled another issue with Project OWL, an open indirect ophthalmoscope (OIO) designed for screening retinal diseases, which normally costs between $10,000 to $25,000, but their open source hardware design can be put together for about $400.

Open_Source_Hardware_Ophthalmoscope

The design features a Raspberry Pi 2 board connected to a WaveShare 5″ Touchscreen LCD, a Raspberry Pi Pi IR Camera (M12 lens mount) with 16mm FL M12 lens, a 3 Watt Luxeon LED, two 50x50mm mirrors, a linear polarizer sheet, a 20 Dioptre disposable lens, and various passive components.

Project_OWL_Prototype

OIO (OWL) Prototype development

While the Raspberry Pi board is not open source hardware itself, Ebin has shared the CAD files for the design, as well as the schematics and gerber files for the RPi shield used in the project on Hackaday.io, where you’ll also find some details about the project log. Assembly instructions are currently missing however. One of the software side, the image are processed through OpenCV to remove background image and reflections.

The main goal of the project is to detect retina problems on diabetic patients in rural areas:

Currently there are over 422 million people worldwide suffering from diabetes. 28.5% of them suffer from Diabetic Retinopathy. 50% of diabetics are unaware about the risk of losing their vision. The number of cases of diabetic retinopathy increased from 4 million in 2000 to 7.69 million in 2010 in US alone. Early detection and Treatment can help prevent loss of vision in most cases.

Detection of Diabetic Retinopathy, requires expensive devices for Retinal Imaging , even the cheapest of them costing more than $9000 each. This makes good quality eyecare, expensive and inaccessible to the less privileged. The key idea in the development of OIO (code-named Project OWL) is to provide an affordable solution to help identify DR and hence prevent cases of “avoidable blindness”.

I’m unclear whether this tool is also appropriate for other tests such as dilated fundus examination, or to check the optical nerves for glaucoma patients, etc…. But if it can be used or adapted for such purposes the implications would even better greater.

Samsung JerryScript is a Lightweight Open Source JavaScript Engine for the Internet of Things

August 2nd, 2016 6 comments

In the old days, micro-controller programming was all done in assembly or C, but in recent years higher level languages, included interpreted ones such as Python and JavaScript, have made their ways into MCUs with projects such as MicroPython or Espruino (JS) often running on STMicro STM32 ARM Cortex M micro-controllers, but also other platforms such as ESP8266.

JerryScriptAs I browsed through the Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2016 schedule, I discovered that Samsung worked on it own implementation of a JavaScript engine for the Internet of Things: JerryScript. It is a full implementation of ECMAScript 5.1 standard written in C that can run on micro-controllers with less than 64KB RAM, and less than 200KB storage (160KB footprint with ARM Thumb-2 compilation).

JerryScript is comprised of two main components: Parser and Virtual Machine (VM), with the parser performing translation of input ECMAScript application into byte-code than is then executed by the Virtual Machine that performs interpretation.

 

JerryScript High Level Design

JerryScript High Level Design

Although JerryScript is designed for MCUs, and is said to be running on hundreds of thousands of smartwatches, you can easily build it and try in any machine running Linux:

You can also compile the code for full, compact or minimal implementation, use the C Api to integrate JavaScript support into your program, etc… Many more details can be found on JerryScript website and Github repository. JerryScript is also used in IoT.js framework for the Internet of Things that currently runs on Linux and NuttX RTOS platforms, as well as STM32F4-Discovery + “BB” (Beaglebone Black?) and Raspberry Pi 2, and will soon be ported to Samsung Artik 1 (MIPS), STM32F429-Discovery, STM32F411-Nucleo, and Intel Edison boards.

 

Embedded Linux Conference & IoT Summit Europe 2016 Schedule

August 2nd, 2016 4 comments

Embedded Linux Conference & IoT summit 2016 first took place in the US in April, but the events are now also scheduled in Europe on October 11 – 13 in Berlin, Germany, and the schedule has now been published. Even if you are no going to attend, it’s always interesting to find out more about the topic covered in that type of events, so I had a look, and created my own virtual schedule with some of the sessions.

Embedded_Linux_Conference_Europe_2016Tuesday, October 11

  • 10:40 – 11:30 – JerryScript: An Ultra-lightweight JavaScript Engine for the Internet of Things – Tilmann Scheller, Samsung Electronics

JerryScript is a lightweight JavaScript engine designed to bring the success of JavaScript to small IoT devices like lamps, thermometers, switches and sensors. This class of devices tends to use resource-constrained microcontrollers which are too small to fit a large JavaScript engine like V8 or JavaScriptCore.

JerryScript is heavily optimized for low memory consumption and runs on platforms with less than 64KB of RAM and less than 200KB of flash memory. Despite the low footprint, JerryScript is a full-featured JavaScript engine implementing the entire ECMAScript 5.1 standard. It is actively used in production and runs already on hundreds of thousands of smartwatches!

JerryScript is an open source project and has been released under the Apache License 2.0. The talk will include a demo showing JavaScript code executing on top of JerryScript on a resource-constrained microcontroller.

  • 11:40 – 12:30 – Read-only rootfs: Theory and Practice – Chris Simmonds, 2net

Configuring the rootfs to be read-only makes embedded systems more robust and reduces the wear on flash storage. In addition, by removing all state from the rootfs it becomes easier to implement system image updates and factory reset.

In this presentation, Chris shows how to identify components that need to store some state, and to split it into volatile state that is needed only until the device shuts down and non-volatile state that is required permanently. He gives examples and shows various techniques of mapping writes onto volatile or non-volatile storage. To show how this works in practice, he uses a standard Yocto Project build and shows what changes you have to make to achieve a real-world embedded system with read-only rootfs. In the last section, Chris considers the implications for software image update. Expect a live demonstration.

  • 14:00 – 14:50 – Comparison of Linux Software Update Technologies – Matt Porter, Konsulko

The update of software in an embedded Linux system has always been an important part of any product. In the past, however, planning and design for software update was often an afterthought in system design. Further, software update mechanisms for embedded Linux products were typically implemented as ad hoc one-off projects within each product company. As the requirements for products have matured to include security updates at a frequent intervals, software update strategy has become a focal point of product development. This session will explore a number of different Linux software update technologies that are FOSS projects, comparing each for their strengths and weaknesses. In order to better understand the applicability of these technologies, we will also deep dive into both common and uncommon use cases that drive requirements for these software update mechanisms.

  • 15:00 – 15:50 – Building a Micro HTTP Server for Embedded System – Jian-Hong Pan

Apache HTTP Server, NGINX .. are famous web servers in the world. More and more web server frameworks come and follow up, like Node.js, Bottle of Python .., etc. All of them make us have the abilities to get or connect to the resources behind the web server. However, considering the limitations and portability, they may not be ported directly to the embedded system which has restricted resources. Therefore, we need to re-implement an HTTP server to fulfill that requirement.

Jian-Hong will introduce how he used the convenience of Python to implement a Micro HTTP Server prototype according to RFC 2616/HTTP 1.1. Then, re-write the codes in C to build the Micro HTTP Server and do the automated testing with Python Unit Testing Framework. Finally, he’ll explain how he combined the Micro HTTP Server with an RTOS, and lit the LEDs on an STM32F4-Discovery board.

  • 16:10 – 17:00 – Stuck in 2009 – How I Survived – Will Sheppard, Embedded Bits Limited

When developing Linux based products it’s desirable to use the latest version of the Linux kernel – however this is not always possible. In this presentation Will Sheppard will enlighten you with his experiences in developing a product based on a 2.6.28 kernel. Throughout the presentation he will share with you the reasons why you can be stuck with an old kernel, the issues this causes and the surprising and unexpected benefits that also arise. The presentation will also give you an indication as to how far the kernel has developed since 2009 and perhaps some hope if you too are also stuck working in the past.

  • 17:10 – 18:00 – Power Management Challenges in IoT and How Zephyr RTOS Meets Them – Ramesh Thomas, Intel

An OS that runs on tiny IoT devices is already meeting several challenges. These challenges are due to the limited resources in these devices and the diverse nature of the applications and the ecosystem. These same reasons make adding an effective power management infrastructure extremely complex. These devices that run on tiny batteries for extensive periods, mostly unattended, have a very critical need to conserve power.

Zephyr is a RTOS from Intel, designed for IoT and wearable devices. It is open source and supports x86, ARM and ARC SoC platforms. It has a small footprint and can run with very less memory. Power management is built in the core of its scheduling and idling design. It exports infrastructure for PM services to implement custom power policies.

This presentation will give an insight into the Zephyr power management design and the philosophies behind it.

  • 18:10 – 19:00 – BoF: Linux Device Performance Framework – Michael Turquette, BayLibre

Complex system-on-chip processors provide performance levels for their devices and peripherals. The same chips also provide interconnects with performance knobs connecting these devices. For years, Linux has not provided a way to express the relationship between a device and its performance states, nor a uniform method for drivers to change these states. There are many solutions to this in downstream vendor trees. Let’s fix that.

The purpose of this BoF is to start a discussion around the topic with a wide audience, solicit feedback on the currently proposed approach and move forward with consensus. This BoF will discuss the types of performance states that need to be modeled, existing Linux driver frameworks that can be re-used, new code that needs to be written and how Device Tree plays a role. Will we write a new DVFS or Interconnect Framework? Attend and find out!

Wednesday, October 12

  • 09:00 – 09:50 – Supporting the Camera Interface on the C.H.I.P – Maxime Ripard, Free Electrons

Every modern multimedia-oriented ARM SoC usually has some kind of camera interface to be able to capture a video (or photo) stream from an external camera. The framework of choice to support these controllers in Linux is the Video4Linux subsystem, also called v4l2.

This talk will walk through the v4l2 stack, the architecture of a v4l2 driver and the interaction between the SoC driver and its camera’s. The presentation is based on the work Free Electrons has done to develop such a driver for the Allwinner SoCs, as part of enabling the C.H.I.P platform with the upstream Linux kernel.

  • 10:00 – 10:50 – How to Develop the ARM 64bit Board, Samsung TM2 with Exynos5433 – Chanwoo Choi, Samsung Electronics

In the last period of twenty years ARM has been undisputed leader for processor’s architecture in the embedded and mobile industry. With its 64 bit platform, ARM widens up its field of applicability. The ARMv8 introduces a new register set, it is compatible with its 32 bit predecessor ARMv7 and suits best those system that try to be amongst the high end performance devices. Tizen OS is an open multi profile platform that can run on TV, mobile, cars and wearables. Samsung TM2 board based on Exynos5433, which patches has been recently posted to mainline, is an ARM 64-bit board supported by Tizen 64-bit. However, during the bring-up, the kernel developers have faced many challenges that will be presented in this session. The presentation will go through a number of issues and the way they have been solved in order to make Tizen run on a 64 bit platform.

  • 10:45 – 11:35 – Devicetree Hardware Autoconfiguration – Hans de Goede, Red Hat

One can buy 7″ android tablets for around $35 now, assuming one gets the standard Q8 Allwinner based model, these are actually supported by the mainline linux kernel now. These tablets use a standard case + SoC + display, which get paired with a different touchscreen-controller, accelerometer and wifi chip for every other batch.

This talk will outline my experience in making a single devicetree file covering all variants using an in kernel hardware auto-detection module which creates and applies devicetree changesets depending on the detected hardware. This talk will give the audience an idea what is and is not possible wrt dynamic devicetree usage as well as give does and don’ts for people who want to use dynamic devicetree themselves.

  • 11:45 – 12:35 – Wyliodrin STUDIO: An Open Source Tool for IoT Development – Alexandru Radovici, Wyliodrin

Have you been using your development board (like the Raspberry pi for example) as a glorified computer? Are you tired of needing to hookup your boards to a display and keyboard any time you want to program them?

Wyliodrin STUDIO is a software development tool especially created for the design of IoT projects. It comes as an open source Chrome extension so that programmers can use it independently of their specific OS platform and with little setup overhead.

Wyliodrin STUDIO abstract away many of the issues regarding setting up your development boards and allows programmers to directly focus on their projects. It offers a friendly programming environment with many of the features of advanced IDEs, like Eclipse. For beginners, Wyliodrin STUDIO offers a large range of tutorials to help people take their first steps in IoT development. MagPi gave Wylidorin STUDIO a 5/5 rating.

  • 14:00 – 14:50 – ASoC: Supporting Audio on an Embedded Board – Alexandre Belloni, Free Electrons

ASoC, which stands for ALSA System on Chip, is a Linux kernel subsystem created to provide better ALSA support for system-on-chip and portable audio codecs. It allows to reuse codec drivers across multiple architectures and provides an API to integrate them with the SoC audio interface.

This talk will present the typical hardware architecture of audio devices on embedded platforms, present the ASoC API and how to use it for machine drivers, which are used to glue audio codecs with the processor audio interface. Examples, common issues and debugging tips will also be discussed.

  • 15:00 – 15:50 – Cameras in Embedded Systems: Device Tree and ACPI View – Sakari Ailus, Intel

Cameras in embedded systems are often collections of different components rather than monolithic devices such as USB webcams. They consist of sensors, lenses, LED or xenon flashes and ISPs, each of which are individual devices with their specific drivers.

Once the prevalent solution for supporting hardware variation between different ARM based systems was platform data. Since around 2011 new platform data files have had hard time getting to mainline, the preferred solution being the Device tree. However, Device tree support in the V4L2 framework was not around until over a years after that, additionally help from the V4L2 async framework is also required in order to achieve the same functionality as with platform data.

This talk shows how the frameworks are used in drivers and Device tree source, reviews the status of ACPI and discuss potential future developments.

  • 16:30 – 17:20 – Swapping and Embedded: Compression is the Key – Vitaly Wool

Ever since Linux started running on embedded devices, having a swap for such had been considered a misconfiguration rather than a method for overcoming RAM shortage or performance booster. This attitude started to change with the spread of Android devices which usually don’t have a problem utilizing virtually any amount of memory. An with the introduction of ZRAM the usage of a compressed swap in RAM became more useful and more popular. This talk will give a comprehensive description of ZRAM and its counterpart, zswap, a summary of pros and cons of both. This talk will also cover a brand new z3fold compressed memory allocator which can be used for both zswap and ZRAM, of course presenting measurement results for these, obtained on various devices, ranging from set top boxes to laptops, not to forget Android phones.

Thursday, October 14

  • 09:00 – 09:50 – Time is Ready for the Civil Infrastructure Platform – Yoshitake Kobayashi, Corporate Software Engineering Center & Urs Gleim, Seimens

The Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) – launched in April – CIP defined and started to realize a super long-term supported open source “base layer” for industrial grade software. This base layer aims to be used for current and future industrial systems which supports machine-to-machine connectivity for digital future. This kind of systems, being the field for decades, should have long-term support for security and robustness reasons. In this talk, we will show the first steps on CIP development. This includes initial set of components for the base layer and its maintainers. Are you ready? It’s time to start your development with and for the CIP.

  • 10:00 – 10:50 – Introduction to Memory Management in Linux – Alan Ott, Signal 11 Software

All modern non-microcontroller CPUs contain a memory management unit and utilize the concept of virtual memory. This presentation will describe the different types of virtual memory spaces and mappings used in the Linux kernel, the cases in which they are useful, how they are implemented in the kernel, and how they differ from user space memory. Concepts such as the hardware memory-management unit (MMU) and translation lookaside buffer (TLB) will be discussed, as well as software concepts like kernel page tables. User space concepts such as growable stacks, memory paging, memory mapping, page faults, exceptions, and other memory-related conditions will be covered as well.

  • 11:15 – 12:15 – MinnowBoard Delta: Fishing for Easy IoT Hardware – David Anders, Intel

With the introduction of the Zephyr Project, a small scalable real-time operating system for use on resource-constrained systems, the need for an easy to use platforms to enable Internet of Things development has grown. With the idea of enabling both hardware and software developers to quickly prototype and develop proof-of-concept, as well as transitioning directly to product, the MinnowBoard Delta was designed as an open source hardware platform to highlight the Zephyr Project. This presentation will cover design considerations as well as implementation methods for creating open source hardware specifically for open source software.

  • 12:15 – 13:05 – Cloud Platforms for the Internet of Things: How Do They Stack Up? – Koustabh Dolui, Politecnico di Milano

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), there has been a recent surge in the number of cloud platforms offering their services for data collection and processing from IoT devices. These platforms, open-source and closed, are diverse in terms of ease of use, architecture, data storage, privacy, security and communication protocols. However, how these cloud platforms measure up against each other, given the set of tradeoffs that they present, remains quite unexplored in existing literature. In this presentation, Koustabh will present a detailed study on the architecture that these platforms are based on and how the open source platforms compare against closed platforms. Koustabh will compare the platforms based on a real data-set generated from a sensor network deployed at the heritage site of Circo Massimo, Rome, as a part of an ongoing project at Politecnico di Milano, Italy.

  • 14:30 – 15:20 – GPIO for Engineers and Makers – Linus Walleij
We will go over the changes to the GPIO subsystem in the recent years, including GPIO descriptor refactoring, new support for things like open drain, some words on device tree and ACPI hardware descriptions, and we will discuss the new userspace character device ABI for GPIO chips and how use cases such as those presented by the maker community or industrial control clients can benefit from it. We will also talk a bit about the future direction of the subsystem.
  • 15:30 – 16:20 – FDO: Magic ‘Make My Program Faster’ Compilation Option? – Pawel Moll, ARM

Feedback Driven Optimisation (FDO), also known as Profile Guided Optimisation (PGO) is a well known code optimisation technique, employed by compilers since mid XX century, yet not widely used in the wild these days. It relies on providing runtime-captured information about code execution (eg. “branch taken or not?”) during next code compilation, improving quality of decisions made by compiler heuristics.

To be fair, there were good reasons for its demise which I hope to discuss, mainly time and complexity overhead and deployment difficulties, but there is some hope on the horizon, coming with new approach, called AutoFDO and originating at Google, based on statistical profiling (namely Linux perf + extra tools) and source code level attribution. I’ll discuss existing support for it available in mainline GCC and LLVM and give examples of real-life, successful deployments.

If you’d like to attend the event, you can do so by registering online, and paying the entry fee:

  • Early Registration Fee: US$550 (through August 1, 2016)
  • Standard Registration Fee: US$650 (August 2, 2016 – September 3, 2016)
  • Late Registration Fee: US$850 (September 4, 2016 – Event)
  • Student Registration Fee: US$175 (valid student ID required)
  • Hobbyist Registration Fee: US$175

Jiayu S3 and S3 Plus Smartphones Get Android 6.0 Firmware Releases with Source Code

July 27th, 2016 1 comment

Jiayu S3 and S3 Plus are your typical Android smartphones powered by Mediatek MT6752/MT6753 octa core Cortex A53 processor with 3GB RAM, 16GB flash, and a 5.5″ touch screen display. The news here is that Jiayu Germany (a reseller, not the manufacturer), and Team M.A.D (Mediatek Android Developers) comprised of XDA members, have releasing three custom ROMs based on Android 6.0.1 for the smartphone: Cyanogenmod13, Paranoid Android (AOSPA) and AICP (Android Ice Cold Project), which contrast with my Iocean MT6752 smartphone still stuck on Android 4.4.4.

Jiayu_S3I’ll reproduce the technical specifications of Jiayu S3+ phone for reference:

  • SoC- Mediatek MT6753 Octa-core 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 processor @ 1.3 GHz, with ARM Mali-T720 GPU
  • System Memory – 3GB RAM
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC + micro SD slot up to 64GB
  • Display – 5.5” IPS capacitive touchscreen display; 1920×1080 resolution
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi , Bluetooth 4.0, GPS / A-GPS, FM Radio
  • Cellular Network
    • 2G – 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    • 3G – UMTS/WCDMA 900/1900/2100 MHz; TD-SCDMA 1900/2000 MHz
    • 4G – FDD LTE B3/B7/B20;  TDD LTE B39/B40/B41
    • Dual micro SIM cards
  • Audio – Speaker and microphone, 3.5 mm audio jack for headphones
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Camera
    • 13.0MP rear-facing with flash light and auto-focus
    • 5.0MP front-facing camera
  • Sensors – Gravity sensor
  • Battery – 3,000 mAh Lithium battery.
  • Dimensions – 152 x 75.5 x 8.9 mm
  • Weight – 158 grams

The phone normally runs Android 5.1, and ships with the battery, a USB cable, a charger, and a user’s manual.

Beside the firmware release, you’ll also find the source code for Linux 3.10.65 and “Device” source tree for both phones, as well as proprietary vendor files on MediatekAndroidDeveloper’s Github account. Sadly there’s no Wiki or documentation at all, but it should be possible to build it from source if you are familiar with CyanogenMod.

Jiayu S3 does not appear to be for sale anymore, but Jiayu S3+ is still sold for $155.99 on Banggood, and Aliexpress.

Google Research PRUDAQ is a 40MSPS ADC Data Acquisition (DAQ) Cape for BeagleBone Black & Green

July 21st, 2016 2 comments

Engineers at Google Research wanted to measure the strength of a carrier signals without having to use a bulky oscilloscope or DAQ (Data Acquisition) system,  so they looked into several makers boards to achieve this task, eventually decided to go with BeagleBone Black / Green, and created their own PRUDAQ cape capable of sampling 40 million samples per second, and open source it all.

PRUDAQPRUDAQ cape specifications:

  • Dual-channel simultaneously-sampled 10-bit ADC (Analog Devices AD9201)
  • Up to 20MSPS per channel (40MSPS total) theoretical
  • 0-2V input voltage range (DC coupled)
  • 4:1 analog switches in front of each channel provide a total of 8 single-ended analog inputs. (See here for differential input)
  • SMA jacks for direct access to the 2 ADC channels
  • Flexible clock options:
    • External input via SMA jack
    • Internal on-board 10MHz oscillator
    • Programmable clock from BeagleBone GPIO pins
  • Powered via BeagleBone headers – no external power needed
  • Fully exposed BeagleBone headers on top to connect/stack more electronics or another cape
  • Dimensions – 87mm x 56mm (+/- 1mm)
  • Weight – 29 grams

The complete software and hardware documentation can be found on the Wiki and source code and design files in Github. The software is based on BeagleLogic logic analyzer, and you can retrieve and analyze the data on your computer using the command line with a typical output looking like:

The Beaglebone Black already has an ADC input, but PRUDAQ allows for much faster sampling, suitable to capture radio waves for example. Bear in mind that it’s not really suitable to be used as an oscilloscope due to limitations such as 0 to 2V range, and others. Any specific questions about PRUDAQ project can be asked on PRUDAQ users Google Group.

While the add-on board has been designed by Google Research engineers, it is not a Google product, and it’s made by GetLab, and currently sold on GroupSets for $79 for the cape only, or $159 as a bundle with a BeagleBone Black, PRUDAQ cape, an 8GB micro SD card pre-loaded with BeagleLogic image, one 64GB USB 3.0 Thumb Drive, one BNC-M to SMA-M RG-58 Cable, a USB mini cable, and 3 jumpers.

SiFive Introduces Freedom U500 and E500 Open Source RISC-V SoCs

July 12th, 2016 5 comments

Open source used to be a software thing, with the hardware design being kept secret for fear of being copied, but companies such as Texas Instruments realized that from a silicon vendor perspective it would make perfect sense to release open source hardware designs with full schematics, Gerber files and SoM, to allow smaller companies and hobbyists, as well as the education market, normally not having the options to go through standard sales channels and the FAE (Field Application Engineer) support, to experiment with the platform and potentially come up with commercial products. That’s exactly what they did with the Beagleboard community, but there’s still an element that’s closed source, albeit documented: the processor itself.

Freedom U500 Block Diagram

Freedom U500 Block Diagram

But this could change soon, as SiFive, a startup founded by the creators of the free and open RISC-V architecture, has announced two open source SoCs with Freedom U500 processor and Freedom E300 micro-controller.

Freedom U500 (Unleashed family) platform key specifications:

  • U5 Coreplex with 1 to 8 U54 cores @ 1.6GHz+
  • RV64GC Architecture (64- bit RISC-V)
  • Multicore, Cache Coherency Support
  • High Speed Peripherals: PCIe 3.0, USB3.0, GbE, DDR3/4
  • TSMC 28nm

The SoC supports Linux, and targets applications such as machine learning, storage, and networking.

Freedom E300 Block Diagram

Freedom E300 Block Diagram

Freedom E300 (Everywhere family) platform key specifications:

  • E3 Coreplex
  • RV32IMC/RV32EMC Architecture
  • On chip Flash, OTP, SRAM
  • TSMC 180nm

Three real-time operating systems, including FreeRTOS, have already been ported to Freedom E300 for embedded micro-controllers, IoT, and wearable markets.

Open source SoCs are made to be customizable to match your applications exact needs, instead of picking on existing SoC matching your requirements but with some uneeded features. SiFive also explains that “storage customers talks about custom instructions for bit manipulation so they can use one not 10 instructions for 10x speed up”. But before you get to Silicon, you’d normally ruin and customize the core on FPGA boards and three boards are currently available for development and evaluation:

  • Freedom U500:
  • Freedom E300 – Digilent Arty FPGA development kit powered by Xilinx XC7A35T-L1CSG324I FPGA, with 256 MB RAM, 16 MB flash, and vairous expension ports. Price: $99
Click to Enlarge

Xilinx Virtex-7 FPGA VC707 devkit – Click to Enlarge

You also have detailed documentation about the SoCs, U5 nd U3 coreplex, the development kits, software and tools, as well as developer forums, on SiFive developers website. You can also directly checkout the code and SDK on github.

RISC-V instructions set is royalty-free, so compared to the entry level $40,000 ARM license for startups using Cortex M0 MCU, it should provide some savings. It does not help with manufacturing costs which should remain the same. but SiFive expects that open source SoC could be manufactured through a “moderate” crowdfunding campaign.  I have not been able to figure out SiFive business model yet, unless they plan on selling their own chips too, and/or provide customization services to customers.

Lots more information can be found on Sifive website.

Via EETimes

AOMedia AV1 is a Royalty-free, Open Source Video Codec Aiming to Replace VP9 and Compete with H.265

July 3rd, 2016 21 comments

The Alliance for Open Media, or AOMedia, is a new non-profit organization founded in 2015 by Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Netflix, and more recently joined by AMD, ARM, and NVIDIA, whose first project is to develop AV1 royalty-free and open video codec and format to provide an alternative to H.265 / HEVC, and a successor to VP9.

Alliance_For_Open_Media_AOMedia

The project is a team effort combining teams working on Daala, Thor, and VP10 video codecs, and while AFAIK, AV1 specifications have not been released yet (target: Q1 2017), the organization has already released an early implementation of AV1 video decoder and encoder under the combination of an BSD-2 clause license and the Alliance for Open Media Patent License 1.0 , which can be found on googlesource.com.

So I’ve had a quick my myself following the instructions, by first downloading one uncompressed YUV4MPEG sample:

and the source code:

before building it:

The last command will install the headers, and aomdec video decoder and aomenc encoder.

We also need some scripts to be placed in the path:

Now we can run the script in the directory for the sample(s):

The command will encode all y4m files in the directory at 200 kbps up to 500 kbps at a 50 kbps increment. Encoding only uses one core, my machine is powered by AMD FX8350 processor, and you can see encoding is currently very slow well under 0.5 fps for a CIF video (352 x 288 resolution), but that should be expected because VP9 encoding is already slow (its successor is expected to require even more processing power), and first software implementations are usually not optimized for speed, they are just meant to show the encoding works.

The test scripts will create a bunch of AV1 video files in baseline directory: husky_cif.y4m-200.av1.webm, husky_cif.y4m-250.av1.webm, etc… as well as husky_cif.y4m.stt with some statistics.

Decoding is much faster as it should be:

You can play back the videos with mpv using aomdec for decoding. For example:

AOmedia_AV1_Video_MPV

New video codecs normally take years to replace old ones, but if it gains traction AV1 will likely be used along side VP9, H.265 and H.264 for several years. Considering software and silicon vendors, and content providers (Google/YouTube, Amazon, and Netflix) are involved in the project, I’m quite confident the AOMedia AV1 codec will become popular, and hardware decoder are likely to be implemented in ARM, Intel and  AMD SoCs in a few years.

Thanks to Ohmohm for the tip.