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Posts Tagged ‘raspberry pi’

Raspberry Pi Bootloader License Precludes it to Run on Competing Broadcom BCM283x Boards

July 19th, 2016 17 comments

Yesterday I wrote about ArduCAM Raspberry Pi compatible module, that packs most of the features of Raspberry Pi Zero or Pi Compute module into a 24x24mm board, and is based on Broadcom BCM2835 processor. One person also started a thread on Raspberry Pi forums about the tiny module, and one of the Raspberry Pi engineer and forum moderator replied that will would breach the bootloader license.

Raspberry_Pi_Bootloader_LicenseThe important part is the sentence highlighted above:

This software may only be used for the purpose of developing for, running or using a Raspberry Pi device.

ArduCAM module is only Raspberry Pi compatible, so it would indeed breach the license, and you can get into troubles if you planned to use that module in a commercial project, especially in countries where IP protection is taking seriously.

This raises a few questions. First why did the Raspberry Pi foundation chose that restrictive license? The obvious answer would be to protect there investment, but it’s also possible that since the bootloader and firmware is related to the GPU, video codec license may also have been a part of the decision.

The other issues is that after ordering 5K Broadcom BCM2835 processors for the first run of their ODROID-W module, Broadcom decided not to sell the processor anymore to Hardkernel subsequently. The exact reason is not known, but there are speculations that it was because of the Raspberry Pi foundation, and the license above may have been a reason for it. So could this also happen to ArduCAM? In theory yes, but If I’m not mistaken the company is based in China, and there are multiple smaller distributors, but it may not be quite as easy for Broadcom to block them.

The final question I has is whether it could possible to legally use the board without using the bootloader. Maybe… thanks to Kristina Brooks work on an open source bootloader for Raspberry Pi, released under BSD and GPLv2+, and not including any “Raspberry Pi only” conditions. There are some serious caveats such as no support for video codecs (licenses are part of it too), and while it can boot Linux, some things are broken.

If you are based in mainland China, and your customers are all based there, you probably don’t have to care about any of this, but in the western world, commercial projects should probably keep using official Raspberry Pi parts, or other solutions not involving Broadcom processors, nor official Raspberry Pi OS images.

ArduCAM has designed a Tiny Coin-Sized Raspberry Pi Compatible Module

July 18th, 2016 10 comments

Now you can design your own custom hardware and leverage Raspberry Pi software, by integrating Raspberry Pi Compute module (and soon Raspberry Pi 3 Compute module) into your custom designed baseboard. But if you’d like something more compact, and even more compact than a Raspberry Pi Zero or RPi Compute module, ArduCAM has been developing a 24x24mm Raspberry Pi compatible system-on-module powered by Broadcom BCM2835 processor.

ArduCAMNanoPi_Module_Raspberry_Pi_Zero_Raspberry_Pi_Compute

ArduCAM “NanoPi” Module vs Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Compute Module

ArduCAM has also designed a small adapter board “UC-343 Rev. A” for the module with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Broadcom BCM2835 ARM11 Processor @ 700 MHz (or 1GHz?) with Videocore IV GPU
  • System Memory – 256MB/512MB LPDDR2
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • USB – 2x micro USB ports including one for power only
  • Camera – 1x MIPI CSI connector supporting 5MP or 8MP Pi cameras (dual camera support)
  • Expansion –
    • AV output header
    • 16-pin and 8-pin headers (unpopulated) with GPIOs, 2x I2C, UART, 2x SPI
  • Misc – Power LED
  • Power – 5V via micro USB port, or battery header
  • Dimensions – 36x36mm (Module only: 24mm x 24mm)
  • Weight – 5 grams
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Since it’s compatible, it should run any operating system or program supported by Raspberry Pi Model B, Zero, and Compute module. They have even posted a demo video last month using the module connected to UC-343 demo baseboard.

I’ve not been able to find availability nor pricing information, but since it’s starting to show up on some shops without price, it should be available very soon. ArduCAM website only seem to have the announcement, but no further details. If the module gets a little too popular, it could also end up being killed, just as what happened to ODROID-W board, as Broadcom may refuse to sell the processor.

Via Amornthep on Facebook.

Smaller & Faster than Raspberry Pi Zero: Meet NanoPi NEO ARM Linux Development Board

July 7th, 2016 71 comments

Raspberry Pi Zero has two noticeable attributes compared to other Raspberry Pi boards: it’s smaller and it’s cheaper. FriendlyARM has now designed another model for their NanoPi family, that about 12% smaller, although not quite as thin at all due to its Ethernet jack and USB connector, and much faster than Raspberry Pi Zero, with NanoPi NEO board powered by Allwinner H3 quad core processor.

Smallest_Allwinner_H3_BoardNanoPi NEO specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 @ 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU up to 600 MHz
  • System Memory – 256 or 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port, 2x USB via headers
  • Expansion headers
    • 24-pin header with I2C, 2x UART, SPI, PWM, and power signals
    • 12-pin header with 2x USB, IR pin, microphone and Line OUT signals
  • Debugging – 4-pin header for serial console
  • Misc – Power and status LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via micro USB port or VDD pin on headers.
  • Dimensions – 40 x 40 mm (Raspberry Pi Zero: 65mm × 30mm)

There aren’t any interfaces to connect an external display, so the board can only be used for headless applications. In case you need that board with low profile, you could probably unsolder the Ethernet jack and USB port, or if you buy in quantities, maybe the company could remove those for you.

NanoPi_NEOThe Wiki is still in construction, and for now only in Chinese, but we can find out that FriendlyARM provides Ubuntu-Core with Qt-Embedded for the board relying on Linux 3.4 legacy kernel. However, Allwinner H3 should get full mainline support in Linux 4.7 or 4.8, so I’m fully expecting the board to be supported in mainline kernel in a few months. The schematics (PDF), and header pin assignments are also available in the wiki.

NanoPi NEO is not yet for sale, but considering the larger NanoPi M1 board with the same processor sells for $11 + $5 shipping, I’d expect the new board to go for around $7 + $4 or $5 shipping, about the same price as I paid for Raspberry Pi Zero.

NanoPi NEO sells for $7.99 with 256 RAM, $9.99 with 512 RAM + shipping ($4 to my location).

$99 MATRIX Creator Raspberry Pi Add-on Board Features Plenty of Sensors, a 2.4 GHz Radio, and More

July 6th, 2016 8 comments

MATRIX Creator is a round-shaped add-on board for Raspberry Pi boards with various sensors, a microphone array, an LED array, a Xilinx FPGA, an Atmel Cortex-M3 MCU, wireless connectivity via Z-Wave, ZigBee, Thread, and NFC, as well as various I/Os….

MATRIX_CreatorMATRIX Creator specifications:

  • FPGA – Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA
  • MCU – Atmel ATSAM3S2C Cortex-M3 MCU
  • Connectivity – ZigBee, Thread, Z-Wave and NFC
  • Sensors – Ultraviolet, pressure, humidity, temperature, 3D accelerometer, 3D gyroscope, 3D magnetometer
  • Audio – 8x MEMs microphone array with Alexa support
  • Expansion – 2x ADC, 17x digital GPIOs, SPI, I2C, UART; 40-pin connector for Raspberry Pi 2/3
  • Misc – 35x RGBW LEDs array, IR Rx/Tx, infrared ring for the Raspberry Pi NoIR camera
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I can’t think of the single application that would make use of all features of this board, but the least we can say is that it’s extremely versatile. The developers are providing MATRIX OS based on Linux to run on the Raspberry Pi board including necessary drivers and some samples, as well as MATRIX CLI and MATRIX CV, to respectively manage multiple Raspberry Pi boards and develop computer vision applications.

Documentation has not been made public yet, but the Wiki is scheduled to be up and running on, or before, July 15th, the date when the board will start shipping. In the meantime, some Raspberry Pi 3 based demos are showcased on their website including including a self-balancing robot, a gesture triggered IR transmitter, a face tracking app, and one demo showing the compass driving LEDs.

The board can be pre-ordered for $99 plus shipping.

Via HackerBoards and Harley.

RisingHF IoT Discovery is a LoRaWAN Evaluation Kit for Raspberry Pi

July 5th, 2016 12 comments

There are many current and upcoming long range low power wireless protocols for the IoT, but this morning I learned that South Korea launched a LoRa network (aka LoRaWAN), after another launch in the Netherlands earlier this year. While there are also some LoRa hobbyist kits such as LoraONE and LoPy being worked on, I decided to look on Aliexpress, but only got two products were listed: a LoRaWAN temperature and humidity sensor, and a LoraWAN USB modem. Both of them are made by a company called RisingHF.

LoRaWAN_Raspberry_Pi_KitAmong the products offered by the company, there’s a potentially interesting development kit called RisingHF IoT Discovery with the following components:

  • 1x Raspberry Pi board
  • 1x RHF0M301 LoRa Gateway based on Semtech SX1301
  • 1x RHF4T002  adapter for Raspberry Pi and RHF0M301
  • 1x RHF3M076 LoRaWAN USB AT Modem End point to connect to computer. It operates at 434MHz, 470MHz,868MHz, and 915MHz
  • 3x RHF76-052 STMicro STM32L0 + Semtech SX1276 module
  • 1x USB to UART adapter
  • 1x 4- pin dual female splittable jumper wire
  • 1x SD Card
  • 1x Adapter
  • 3x USB cables
  • 1x Ethernet cable
  • 2x Antenna

LoRa_Gateway

So that’s looks like a complete kit to get started with LoRaWAN using the Raspberry Pi boards, and several RF modules powered by Semtech solutions as most competitors do. The main downsides right now are that it does not seem available for sale (even in China), and the Wiki is password protected. The company website also points to OpenLORA and LPWAN IoT technology forums, where it might eventually be possible to get support about the kit, and other IoT products. Some minimal information can be found in the setup guide.

Raspberry_Pi_LoRa_Development_Kit

I’m expecting more information on RisingHF IoT Discovery page, and the opening of the Wiki once the product is launched. [Update: The kit is sold for $385 US (FOB Shenzhen). Sadly, the company only opens the Wiki to people who purchase the kit]

FFmpeg 3.1 adds support for OpenMAX encoding on Raspberry Pi, VA-API H.264 & H.265 Encoding, and more

June 29th, 2016 2 comments

FFmpeg is an open source multimedia framework used by many open source, as well as closed source, projects to handle audio and video containers parsing, hardware or software video decoding / encoding, and more. I also used it a few months ago to test H.265 hardware encoding with an Nvidia GPU using the development branch, but the developers have now released FFmpeg 3.1 “Laplace”, so it’s possible to use a stable release to perform H.265 hardware encoding.

ffmpeg_3.1

Some of the most noticeable features of the new version include:

  • Generic OpenMAX IL H.264 & MPEG4 encoders for Raspberry Pi
  • VA-API accelerated H.264/HEVC/MJPEG encoding
  • VAAPI-accelerated format conversion and scaling
  • Native Android MediaCodec API H.264 decoding
  • CUDA (CUVID) HEVC & H.264 decoders
  • CUDA accelerated format conversion and scaling
  • DXVA2 accelerated HEVC Main10 decoding on Windows
  • Many new muxers/demuxers
  • A variety of new filters

The complete list of changes for FFmpeg 3.1 can be found via the Changelog in Git.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

Raspberry Pi Zero Based Google’s Project Bloks Aims to Teach Programming to Young Children

June 28th, 2016 No comments

Visual programming development tools such as Scratch or Blockly are now becoming more popular to introduce school children to programming, and Google Research is now working on bringing the software visual programming concept to physical blocks “programming” though Project Bloks targeting younger children who may not be able to write or read yet. It might also help older children grasping programming concepts faster than when programming by typing on a keyboard.

Project_Bloks

Project Bloks is comprised of three main hardware components connected together:

  • Pucks – Those are the buttons, dials, switches, and other inputs from the project. Pucks have no active electronics, and even a piece of paper with some conductive ink could be a Puck.
  • Base Boards –  They read a Puck’s instruction through a capacitive sensor, and forward a Puck’s command to the Brain Board.  Each Base Board is also fitted with a haptic motor & LEDs, and can trigger audio feedback from the Brain Board’s built-in speaker.
  • Brain Board – Built around the Raspberry Pi Zero, and adding WiFi, Bluetooth, and a built-in speaker, the Brain Board take care of all the processing, provides the other boards with power, and sends the Base Board(s) instructions to any device with WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity
Brain Board

Brain Board

Children can then assemble Pucks, a Base Board, and the Brain Board together in various forms and shapes to create projects. Google partnered with IDEO to create Coding Kit reference device to show researchers, teachers, and developers how kids could learn basic concepts of programming.

More information can be found on Project Bloks website.

Via HackerBoards

DIY Wireless Window/Glass Mounted Camera Based on Raspberry Pi Zero Board

June 22nd, 2016 2 comments

A few weeks ago, the Raspberry Pi foundation announced a new version of the Raspberry Pi Zero with a CSI camera connector. Since the solution is quite lightweight, Steven Cassidy had the idea to make a WiFi enabled window camera by soldering a USB WiFi module and fitting the hardware to a plastic part with two suction cups.

Raspberry_Zero_Camera_Suction_CupsOnce the assembly is done, you can stuck the hardware to a window or glass of your choice in your home, car, aquarium, etc…

Pi_Zero_Camera_WindowIf you like the concept but would like to have something working out of the box instead of making your own, the Pi Hut has design ZeroView on the same principle, and which will sell for 7 GBP (~$10.3).