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$98 Geek Force Mediatek MT7623 Router Board Features 6 GbE Ports, 3 mPCIe Slots for WiFi, 3G, or LTE (Crowdfunding)

February 8th, 2016 16 comments

We’ve seen a few interesting and relatively powerful router board launched last year, with the likes of MQMaker WiTi or Turris Omnia, AsiaRF has now designed Geek Force board powered by Mediatek MT7623N/MT7623A quad core network processor combined with 2GB RAM, six Gigabit Ethernet ports, and optional 802.11ac and 3G connectivity via the three mPCIe slots available on the board. The board also features two HDMI ports, and supports multimedia capabilities such as H.264, MPEG-2, or VC-1 hardware video decoding.

Geek_Force_Board

Click to Enlarge

Geek Force board preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – MediaTek MT7623A or MT7623N quad-core ARM Cotex-A7 @ 1.3GHz with Mali-450MP GPU (MT7623N only)
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 2GB eMMC or NAND Flash + SD card slot up to 128 GB, and maybe SATA via the mPCIe slots
  • Connectivity – 6 Gigabit Ethernet ports (WAN / LAN behavior defined by firmware), 802.11 b/g/n WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0 via MT6625L with IPEX antenna connector for WiFi and Bluetooth, and optional 802.11ac WiFi and/or 3G via mPCIe slots.
  • Video – 2x HDMI, 1x RCA video, MIPI DSI
  • Audio – HDMI, and optical S/PDIF input and output ports
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Expansion
    • 3x mini PCIe
    • 26-pin “Raspberry Pi” header,
    • 10-pin PCM header
    • 10-pin SPI0 header
    • 6-pin Apple Auth CP (I2C) connector
    • 10-pin I2C + I2S header
    • Power header
  • Debugging – 1x 20-pin JTAG connector, 4-pin UART1 connector for serial console
  • Misc – IR receiver, power switch, 1x user switch
  • Power – 12V
  • Dimensions – N/A

The board will support OpenWrt, Android, and Ubuntu Snappy operating systems, likely on top of Linux 3.10 kernel. The SoC also features hardware NAT, hardware QoS, and hard crypto engine, which should all be supported by the board. While the specs indicates either MT7623A or M7623N processor might be used, the pictures shows MT7623N used in combination with MT7530B Ethernet switch. MT7623A embeds the Ethernet switch on-chip, but lacks a GPU, and has less video interfaces.

Geek_Force_Board_BottomApart from the specifications however, the company has not shared much technical information so far, not shown any demos, but I’ve been told a video should come after Chinese New Year holidays. Some parts of the specs are also unclear, for example whether the video interfaces are only output, or if some are input, and it’s not 100% clear the mPCIe slots also support SATA.Potential applications include Internet router, enterprise access point, home security system, home automation gateway, NAS, switch control processor, etc…

AsiaRF has launched a flexible funding Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for production. A $98 pledge should get you a Geek Force board with a power adapter and a “pigtail plus” antenna. There are also various other rewards for 802.11ac, 3G or 4G LTE mini PCie cards add-ons, up to $192 for a Geek Force board with 4G LTE worldwide, and 802.11ac WiFi. Shipping added $30 to the destinations I tried, and delivery is scheduled for June 2016.

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Zsun Wifi Card Reader Can Now Run OpenWrt

January 25th, 2016 12 comments

Zsun Wifi card reader is a tiny micro SD card reader with WiFi connectivity, and while people managed to access the device serial console a few months ago, the plan was to eventually run OpenWrt since it’s based on the popular Atheros AR9331 WiSoC combined with 64MB RAM and 16MB SPI Flash. It would also be one the smallest OpenWrt capable device with dimensions of 30 x 33 mm.

Zsun_Wi-FI_Card_ReaderA team of Polish managed this feat, and have now posted instructions to install OpenWrt, as well as other documentation, for example a description of the board’s GPIOs.

There are four methods to flash OpenWrt:

  1. Solder on an Ethernet jack and flash from the original uboot (hard but safe)
  2. Reflash the bootloader from the original firmware to one that supports upload over serial (less soldering but fatal if you mess up)
  3. Reflash the firmware from the original firmware using mtd_write (easy but you have to do it right on the first try)
  4. Attach a programmer to the flash chip (impossible to mess up)

I’ll reproduce the method with mtd_write here, as although you may potentially brick your device, it’s the easiest (no hardware hack):

  1. Download OpenWrt for Zsun binary images
  2. Start a TFTP server on your computer. If you use a Linux computer, you can use dnsmasq as follows:
  3. Login to the board, and download the necessary files to zsun’s /tmp directory:

    You may also want to copy mtd_write to /tmp, and kill all unnecessary process to be extra safe.
  4. Now you can flash the firmware to “uImage” and “rootfs” partitions:

    Bus error” looks like an error, but in this case it just indicates flashing is complete.
  5. Restart the device, and after a longer than usual very first boot, you should have access to OpenWrt. Have fun :)

Zsun_WiFi_Card_Reader_Pin_DescriptionsSo once you’re done what you can do with the device. Some ideas of the developers include just serving files over WiFi, using it as a WiFi AP/client/repeater, as the brain for an IoT project, mesh networking, PirateBox, mini Tor server, and more.

Zsun WiFi card reader can be purchased for as low as $10.99 on Banggood, and can be found on others shops for $11+ to about $15 such as DealExtreme, GearBest or Aliexpress.

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FOSDEM 2016 Schedule – Open Source Hardware and Software Event in Europe

January 13th, 2016 3 comments

FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting) is a 2-day event that usually takes place on the first week-end of February in Brussels, but this year it will be on January 30-31. The event brings thousands of developers, hackers, and other person interested in open source technology who present their projects and share ideas. FOSDEM 2016 schedule is now available, and There will be 557 speakers, 612 events, and 50 tracks this year including 7 main tracks: Distros, Enterprise, Hardware, Communications, Miscellaneous, Office, Systems Administration, and Virtualization.

FOSDEM_2016

So I’ve had a look at some of the talks, especially out of  “Embedded, Mobile and Automotive” and “IoT” devrooms, and prepared my own virtual schedule although I won’t be able to attend.

Saturday

For many years MIPS processors have been involved in the embedded market, particularly in areas related to networks and storage. With the success of the mobile market, and the great evolution of the world linked to the “makers”, other architectures (such as ARM), they have reached very large levels of diffusion.

Meanwhile, the MIPS architecture has evolved, introducing innovations and improvements to adapt to both the processor market from performance, both to the world of micro-controllers. The future of MIPS is a new family divided into several generations evolving.

During the presentation, after a brief and simplified introduction to architecture, will be shown the technologies available at the time and what will be the future developments.

The presentation will also show some reference platforms (ex. Imagination Creator CI20), and how to work to integrate and port on these platforms. Application examples with Yocto and buildroot, to switch to a full distribution (Debian). Finally it will also present a perspective on the use of MIPS in embedded designs.

AsteroidOS is a free and open-source smartwatch platform based on OpenEmbedded, libhybris, BlueZ5 and Qt5. The OS currently offers a basic user experience on the LG G Watch. This technical talk will briefly introduce the philosophical background of the project and more deeply its architecture’s details in order to attract developers, porters and curious.

This talk will successively be focused on how to boot an Android Wear watch, on how to gain hardware acceleration on that kind of hardware, on how Qt5 and OpenEmbedded are used and on the future of AsteroidOS.

AsteroidOS uses similar technological choices as those of projects like SailfishOS, NemoMobile, Mer, WebOS-Ports or Ubuntu Touch but adapted to the needs of smartwatches. The architecture of those project will briefly be compared during the presentation.

Based on Migen, MiSoC is a library of cores and a system-on-chip integration system to build gateware for various applications. MiSoC is lightweight (runs on FPGA devices as small as Spartan-6 LX9 with 32-bit RISC CPU and SDRAM), portable (demonstrated on Xilinx, Altera and Lattice devices) and high performance (e.g. contains the fastest open source DDR3 solution we are aware of). Designing and integrating cores is facilitated by Python and Migen features. Current MiSoC applications include LTE base stations, video processing (Numato Opsis) and experiment control system (ARTIQ).

Nemo Mobile is a long time FOSS operating system. Created in 2012 as continuation to Meego Community Edition, it has been actively developed since then. The newest iteration of it is to use Glacier UI as its renewed User Interface, along with its Qt Components. These components are now used in the NemoTablet adaptation using Raspberry Pi2 as underlying hardware and its plethora of possible peripherals to create a true DIY tablet derived from SailPi project.

With Raspberry Pi 2 introduction in February 2015, it was then possible to create an adaptation for it. This enables the myriad of functionality it offers, with its hardware provided. Initial adaptation was done originally for SailfishOS, but Nemo Mobile had the first run and checking that everything worked, before a closed system was installed. Nemo Mobile, however, was then not tried until later. The idea came once the official touchscreen by Raspberry Pi Foundation was released, so that a FOSS tablet could be built by anyone and used. Raspberry Pi 2 has non-free hardware, but Nemo Mobile itself is FOSS completely. As with all other adaptations, the questions regarding hardware freedom limitations rise for a good reason.

Libreboot is a free software BIOS replacement (boot firmware), based on coreboot, for Intel, AMD and ARM based systems. Backed by the Free Software Foundation, the aim of the Libreboot project is to provide individuals and companies with an escape from proprietary firmware in their computing. Libreboot is also being reviewed for entry as an official component of the GNU system.

Boot firmware is the low-level software that runs when you turn your computer on, which initializes the hardware and starts a bootloader for your operating system. Libreboot currently supports laptops and servers, on x86 (Intel and AMD) and ARM (Rockchip RK3288), with more hardware support on the horizon. The purpose of this talk is to describe the history of the project, why it started, why it’s important, where it’s going and, most importantly, to tell people how they can get involved.

Francis also runs the Minifree (formerly Gluglug), a company that sells computers with libreboot and Trisquel GNU/Linux pre-installed.

No abstract, but it’s clear about Olimex’s Allwinner A64 A64-OlinuXino board to be used in the company’s open source hardware laptop.

A brief discussion about the stable release branch 4 of KiCad as well as goals for the next development cycle and beyond.

The WPANKit is a ptxdist based Open-Source 6LoWPAN Board Support Package (BSP). The main focus is to provide a software development kit for the linux-wpan project. The linux-wpan project aims to implement a 6LoWPAN inside the mainline Linux kernel.

This talk will present the WPANKit: An Open-Source Linux BSP to develop 6LoWPAN IoT applications. It contains support for various common platforms such Raspberry Pi’s and Beaglebones. Additional components like the openlabs 802.15.4 transceiver SPI transceiver or BTLE USB dongles gives you a getting started platform into the Linux 6LoWPAN world.

The WPANKit will directly build a current mainline 6LoWPAN kernel, which is the official bluetooth-next tree. This is important, because the mainline 6LoWPAN development is still much in development. Additional the WPANKit offers a large of userspace IoT software collection e.g. tshark for sniffing network traffic, libcoap, etc. On top of this BSP you can develop your IoT application, setting up a Border-Router or help at the current mainline 6LoWPAN Linux-kernel development.

Through the power of ptxdist you can easily add new own packages for cross-compiling. As well we accept patches to integrate new software into the official WPANKit repository, so we getting more and more new IoT capable software into the WPANKit which can be used by other ptxdist users.

An AdaCore intern has rewritten the CrazyFlie drone software, originally in C, into SPARK. In addition to fixing some bugs, this allowed to prove absence of runtime errors. Various techniques used to achieve that result will be presented, as well as a live demo of free fall detection.

This talk will take us through the available FOSS software stacks that are available for automotive. This last year has produced a lot of working software from fiber-optic networking drivers in the Linux kernel, complete In-Vehicle Infotainment stacks, to a newly released Qt Automotive. There has also been a change in available hardware to run this software on, new boards like the Minnowboard Max, Renesas’ Porter board, and even the Raspberry Pi 2. This talk will try and cover the entire software ecosystem and how it matches to hardware, how you can get involved today, and what the future holds.

Turris Omnia aims to bring to the market affordable, powerful and secure SOHO router which is completely open-source and open-hardware. As a operating system it uses our own fork of OpenWrt which has some additional features such as automatic security updates. This talk will cover few topics such as motivation for starting this project and developing of our own hardware and software.

FROSTED is an acronym for “FRee Operating System for Tiny Embedded Devices”. The goal of this project is to provide a free kernel for embedded systems based on ARM Cortex-M CPU family, which exposes a POSIX-compliant system call API. Even if it runs on small systems with no MMU and limited resources, Frosted has a VFS, UNIX command line tools and a HW abstraction layer which makes it easy to support new platforms and device drivers.

This talk will cover why the project was started, the approach taken to separate the kernel and user-space on ARM Cortex-M CPU’s without MMU, the collaboration with the libopencm3 project to provide a high quality hardware abstraction layer and the future goals of the project. Of course there will a demo showing the latest developments: dynamic loading of applications and possibly TCP/IP communication.

Sunday

Yocto project has been used at Open-RnD for building a number of IoT related products. The talk will go though the details of integration of Poky build system and OpenEmbedded layers into 3 projects carried out at Open-RnD:

  • an autonomous parking space monitoring system
  • a distributed 3D steroscopic image acquisition system
  • a gadget for acquisition of metabolic parameters of professional athletes

The presentation will approach to building software, automation and upstreaming of fixes. Only widely available hardware platforms such as BeagleBone Black, Raspberry Pi, Wandboard or Gateworks GW5400 (not as widely used as the previous ones, but still fully supported) were used in the project, hence all the points made during presentation are directly applicable by professionals and hobbyists alike.

Tizen is an open source GNU/Linux based software platform for mobile, wearable and embedded devices as well as Internet of Things. Tizen:Common provides a generic development environment for Tizen 3 which key features include, Wayland, Weston, EFL UI/UX toolkit, and a web runtime for safely running standalone HTML5 apps. Yocto Project offers tools to easily expends features of Tizen:Common by creating layers for new profiles. This talk will focus the Tizen architecture and it will provide guidelines for creating and building new Tizen profiles, based on Tizen:Common, using the Yocto Project for devices with Intel or ARM processors. It will also provide information about hidden gems in Tizen on Yocto and practical examples for packaging and deploying HTML5 applications through Yocto recipes for the open source hardware development boards like Raspberry PI2 or HummingBoard (Freescale I.MX6 ARM SoC) or MinnowBoard Max (Intel).

Finally, since Tizen aims to because the OS of everything, we will illustrate this by extending Tizen Distro with new connectivity features provided by IoTivity library, the open source implementation of OpenInterConnect’s standard.

This session will show you how to build your own retro hand-held console that is powered by Java, runs on a Raspberry Pi, and is printed on a 3D printer. Some of the topics covered include:

  • Hacking Java on the Raspberry Pi
  • Rigging input devices with Pi4J
  • Insane performance tuning on the JVM
  • Why your boss [or SO] needs to buy you a 3D printer!

And of course your retro gaming mettle will be put to the test, so make sure to dust off your old 8 and 16 bit consoles to prepare.

How to roll your own build and extend the Fairphone 2 hardware

The kernelci.org project is currently doing hundreds of build and boot tests for upstream kernels on a wide variety of hardware. This session will provide an introduction to the kernelci.org system, some live demos and how to start consuming its results, and be a forum for further discussions.

Distributed boards farms across the world are working together to deliver unified build, boot, and test results for every merge of an upstream Linux kernel tree. A community based architecture agnostic effort, kernelci.org aims to detect regressions in a timely manner and report back to kernel developers with a concise summary of the issues found. On every merge, all defconfigs for x86, arm, and arm64 are built, booted, and tested on over 300 real or virtual hardware platforms. Come join in the discussion and help make Linux better!

Hardware is funny stuff. It is often documented to work one way when it actually works a slightly different way. Different revisions of the hardware may have different bugs that require different sets of work-arounds. Programming it even slightly incorrectly can lead to software crashes or system hangs. Sometimes some versions of the hardware work fine, but the version not on the developer’s desk crashes. Failure modes are often opaque and give no clues for fixing the problem. Writing robust, reliable software to run directly on hardware is hard.

Software simulation of hardware is a technique that, in many cases, can alleviate some of this pain. Teams that develop hardware will often create a simulator as a by-product of hardware synthesis. Not ever developer is fortunate to have access to such tools. Those who do have access often find them slow or difficult to use. After all, these simulators are generally created as an aid for the hardware developers themselves. Much of the benefit of a full hardware simulator can be attained by developing the simulator independently from the hardware development. When the correct techniques are applied, it’s not even that hard.

This talk will present a variety of techniques based on experience with several “home grown” simulation environments. Techniques for both developing and validating the simulator and techniques for integrating simulation in the regular development process will be described.

  • 16:00 – 17:00 – PHP7 by Derick Rethans

With PHP 7 having been released, it is time to show what’s in there. Speed, scalar type hints and spaceships.

These are just a few selection from the complete schedule. Last year, most FOSDEM 2015 videos were available in mid-March, so I’d expect FOSDEM 2016 videos to be available in about the same time frame.

As usual, the event will be free, and does not require registration, so you just need to show up at the Université libre de Bruxelles in order to attend.

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Broadcom BCM4908 Router SoC Supports 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, and Up to 3.4 Gbps Combined WiFi Speeds

January 5th, 2016 1 comment

While most of us are still talking about megabit per second (Mbps) when it comes to Internet connectivity, some are already enjoying higher maximum speeds of one or more Gigabit per second (Gbps) with services like Google Fiber or Comcast Gigabit Pro (2Gbps) in the US. That means one of the bottleneck include Gigabit Ethernet in most home settings, so to address higher network speeds at home and at the office, Broadcom has designed and unveiled BCM4908 quad core 64-bit ARM SoC for high-end routers that includes an interface for a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet PHY, and supports the company’s BCM4366 wave 2 5G WiFi MU-MIMO for up to 3.4 Gbps combined WiFi transfer rates across multiple devices.

2.5GbE_5GbE_Cables

Ethernet Cat. 5e, 6, and 6A Cables for 1 to 10 Gbps Ethernet

Some key features of BCM4908 processor include:

  • Quad core 64-bit ARM processor @ 1.8 GHz
  • Zero CPU Wi-Fi offload to free up CPU resources
  • BroadStream iQoS acceleration
  • Dedicated security processor to enable hardware VPN acceleration
  • 2.5Gb Base-X Ethernet WAN/LAN port for supporting fast connectivity to multi-gigabit modem or a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device
  • Peripherals – Integrated SATA III, two USB 3.0 ports and three PCIe Gen 2 ports
  • Low power – 28nm processor technology and advanced power management for more than 50% percent power usage reduction  compared to previous solutions
  • Support for Broadcom’s tri-band (AC5300) 5G WiFi XStream 802.11ac MU-MIMO with:
    • 3x BCM4366 4×4 radios, each with an integrated CPU for host offload processing
    • Providing a total of seven CPU cores (“Septacore”) with more than 9.6 GHz of CPU horse power
  • Hardware acceleration for routing and USB storage

Transfers are handled by Broadcom’s Runner network packet processor, which can handle more than 5 Gbps of system data throughput, freeing up the CPU for other tasks.

Broadcom BCM4908 is currently sampling, but other details have not been provided, and I could not find a product page yet.

Via EETimes

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WiTi Router Board Powered by Mediatek MT7621A SoC Now Sells for $79

December 14th, 2015 9 comments

MQmaker launched their WiTi router on Indiegogo in early August, and they raised close to $30,000, enough to go into production. However, some people are understandably wary of crowdfunding campaigns, and likely postponed their decision to see how the project would progress. The good news is that the AC1200 board is now available for $79 + shipping ($9.05 in my case) on Aliexpress.

WiTi_Router_BoardWiTi router specifications have not changed much:

  • Processor – Mediatek MT7621A dual core MIPS 1004Kc processor @ 880Mhz
  • System Memory – 256MB RAM
  • Storage – 16MB SPI NOR flash for firmware, 1x micro SD slot, and 2x SATA 3.0 ports supporting 3.5″ hard drives.
  • Connectivity
    • 2.4 GHz WiFi 802.11b/g/n up to 300Mbps
    • 5 GHz WiFi 802.11a/n/ac up to 867Mbps
    • 2x Gigabit Ethernet WAN ports
    • 4x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports
    • 2x RF Antenna Connectors
  • USB – 1x USB3.0 port
  • Expansion – 30-pin header including USB, I2S, JTAG, UART, and GPIO signals
  • Debugging – 4-pins serial debug port
  • Misc – RTC battery slot, 1x WPS/GPIO key,  1x reset key, LEDs for power, SATA, WiFi (2x), and LAN (4x)
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Dimensions – 16 x 10 cm

The options for 512MB RAM, and four RF antenna connectors are not available right now. A version with 512MB is however sold on Taobao for 520 CNY (~$81). [Update: The 512MB version also shows for $89 on Aliexpress, for some reasons on mobile website only].

The board will ship with two SATA data & power cables, a serial-to-USB cable, one 2.4GHz antenna, one 5.8 GHz antenna, a 12V/2A power adapter, and an acrylic enclosure. The latter not shown in any pictures but it should probably look like the dual HDD NAS shown in the video below.

Documentation and software support is the most important for development boards, and resources can be found in MQmaker’s documentation page with instructions to build the kernel and make your own image, as well as a tutorial to create the NAS shown in the video above, and links to schematics (PDF) and datasheets and MQmaker’s github account including OpenWrt for WiTi board source code. WiTi board has also been mainlined to OpenWrt, although some more work remains for it to be working as well as the provided firmware.  You can ask questions and get support via the forums.

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Quick Start Guide for LinkIt Smart 7688 (Duo) Board

December 1st, 2015 No comments

Mediatek Labs has announced LinkIt Smart 7688 development boards powered by Mediatek MT7688 WiSoC earlier today, but I was selected for a close beta several weeks before the launch, and I’ve had time to play a little with the boards, so today I’ll report my experience getting started with LinkIt Smart 7688 amd 7688 Duo by writing a Quick Start Guide showing how to setup the boards, upgrade firmware, access the serial console, run “Blink LED” sample applications with Python and JavaScript, as well as the Arduino IDE, and connect to the Internet.

Initial Setup

You’ll only need a micro USB cable and a computer with WiFi and USB ports to get started with the board. The green LED (top) for the MCU will turn on immediately, while the red LED (bottom) for WiFI will blink once, and only turn on continuously after 5 seconds, and within 30 seconds after that you should get WiFi connectivity.

LinkIt_Smart_7688_USB_Power

Since you just need a web browser any operating system will do, and at first I used a desktop computer running Ubuntu 14.04 without WiFi (and not working WiFi dongle left), so I wondered if I could access the serial console via the USB connection, and ran dmesg:

The device is recognized as a USB modem, so it was not an option, and instead I fired up my Ubuntu laptop instead. You can still access the serial console over UART with your own USB to serial debug board by connecting TX and Rx to P8 and P9 pins of Smart Link 7688 (DUO) board. I’ll show that a little later in this guide.

The next step is to connect to LinkIt_Smart_7688_XXXXXX access point with your computer, where XXXXXX is your board’s MAC address suffix. Once you’ve connected to this open WiFi network, simply open a web browser, and type mylinkit.local to access LinkIt Smart 7688 webUI and input a root password of your choice.

linkit_smart_7688_setup

Click to Enlarge

This step will work out of the box with Linux, Windows 8.1/10 and Mac OS X operating systems, but you’ll need to install Bonjour Print Service in Windows 7. If you don’t want mDNS, you can also use the default address: 192.168.100.1.

SDK and Firmware Upgrade

Before upgrading the firmware, you’ll need to download the SDK, which Mediatek calls “LinkIt Smart 7688 SDT” from MediaTek Labs website which will contains the bootloader and firmware directories, documentation including a Getting Stated Guide and a developer’s guide, as well as the toolchain.

After signing to the web UI, you should find the “Software information” section where you can see the bootloader and firmware version, and an “Upgrade firmware” button.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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Once you click Upgrade Firmware button, you’ll be able to browse for the lks7688.img file in firmware directory of the SDT, and click on Upgrade & Restart to complete the installation.

If for some reasons you can’t access your board anymore, you can also perform the upgrade by copying lks7688.img file to a USB flash drive and connect it via a USB OTG adapter.

LinkIt_Smart_7688_Serial_Console_USB_OTG

LinkIt Smart 7688 Board with USB Flash and USB to TTL Board (Click to Enlarge)

While the board is running, keep pressing the WiFi button, while pressing the MPU button for a short time, and only release the WiFi button after it becomes solid after around 5 seconds, and the firmware update should start with the red WiFi LED blinking slowly until the update is complete (2 to 3 minutes).

Serial Console on LinkIt Smart 7688 (DUO)

If you don’t get any issues, the easiest way to connect to the board is via SSH:

or

But in case you encounter some problems with the configuration, and want to find out what’s going on you’ll need to connect a USB to TTL board as shown in the picture above. You’ll need to connect GND, Tx to P9 pin and Tx to P8 pin, and configure you favorite console program be it minicom, screen or putty to 57600 8N1.

Here’s the full boot log in LinkIt Smart 7688 board:

Running Sample Code in LinkIt Smart 7688

So now that you should have access the terminal either via SSH or UART, you can run some pre-loaded JavaScripts or Python sample in /IOT/examples/ directory:

Let’s blink the WiFi LED with the Python script:

The red LED should blink around twice per second. Press Ctrl+C to interrupt the program. So what’s the code like?

If Python is not your thing, but you’re quite happy coding with JavaScript (node.js), you can blink the LED too:

The program takes a little longer to start, but it works, and the LED blinks once a second. Here’s the code:

Running Sample Code in LinkIt Smart 7688 DUO

If you have a LinkIt Smart 7688 DUO, you’ll have want to install Arduino IDE. I could not perform this step fully, as I had troubles to connect and upgrade the firmware to the beta board. But here are the main steps:

  1. Download and install Arduino 1.6.5
  2. Start Arduino, and go to File->Preferences and add http://download.labs.mediatek.com/package_mtk_linkit_smart_7688_test_index.json to Additional Boards Manager URLs.
    LinkIt_Smart_7688_DUO_Arduino_BSP
  3. Click OK, and go to Tools->Boards->Board Manager, and scroll down to install Mediatek LinkIT Smart Boards by Seeed Studio and MediaTek Labs.

    Click to Enlarge

    Click to Enlarge

  4. Now select LinkIt Smart 7688 Duo in Tools->Boards, and the serial interface for LinkIt Smart 7688 in Tools->Serial. (It was /dev/ttyACM0 with my old firmware)
  5. Write a short sketch to blink D13 LED on the board:
  6. Click on verify, click on upload, but it’s not done yet as you have to run a python program to send command over the serial interface between MediaTek MT7688 and the Atmel AVR MCU. So connect to the board and write blink_on_duo.py Python script using vi / vim:
  7. And now you can blink the LED with the script:

So LinkIt Smart 7688 Duo is more versatile thanks to its MCU, but it takes some efforts to blink a simple LED.

Connecting to the Internet and OpenWRT Configuration

So far we’ve done everything in the local network using the board as an access point, but many application will require some connection to the Internet. To connect your board to your WiFi router login to the webUI again, and select Network.

Mediatek_LinkIt_Smart_7688_AP_Configuration

Now switch to Station mode, and click refresh.Mediatek_LinkIt_Smart_7688_Station_ConfigurationNothing will happen, but if you click again on the zone right above the Refresh button a list of access point will show up. LinkIt_Smart_7688 is listed here, as I had a LinkIt Smart 7688 DUO running at the same time. Select the access point you want to use, input the password, and click on Configure & Restart.

Now make you sure computer is connected to the same access point or at least is one the same subnet, and go again to linkit.local in your browser to access the webUI, or SSH to the board. In my case I had changed the device name to CNXSoft_linkit and neither mylinkit.local or CNXSoft_linkit.local, or cnxsoft_linkit.local would work, so there may still be a bug here… So instead I check the new IP address via the serial terminal: 192.168.0.105 to make sure the connection was fine, but you can do so with your WiFi router client list too. I also pinged the Internet from the serial console:

Success!

If you want more control of your network configuration you can click on OpenWRT in the webUI, or go directly to http://IP_address/cgi-bin/luci to access LuCI’s web interface for OpenWRT.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

That concludes this getting started guide for LinkIt Smart 7688 and Linkit Smart 7688 Duo boards, to go further you may want to read LinkIt Smart 7688 Developer’s Guide, and tutorials found in the SDT, and build your own OpenWRT image from source code. You can purchase the LinkIt Smart 7688 and 7688 DUO boards for respectively $12.90 and $15.90 on Seeed Studio.

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Turris Omnia Open Source Hardware Router’s Crowdfunding Campaign is Up

November 13th, 2015 4 comments

CZ.NIC is a non-profit organization running the .cz domain of the Czech Republic, and as part of their activities they are also making open source hardware routers such as Turris 1.1 based on Freescale QorIQ P2020 communication processor. I’ve previously written about Turris Omnia router based on Marvell ARMADA 385 dual core processor, and the organization has now launched an Indiegogo campaign where you can get the bare board for $99, and a complete router with WiFi modules, power supply, cables, and enclosure for $189, shipping not included.

Turris_Omnia_RouterTurris Omnia router specifications:

  • Processor – Marvell ARMADA 385 (88F6820) dual core ARMv7 processor @ 1.6 GHz with 1MB L2 cache
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 4GB flash, mSATA slot
  • Connectivity
    • 5x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports
    • 1x Gigabit Ethernet WAN port
    • 1x SFP cage
    • 3×3 MIMO 802.11ac, 2×2 MIMO 802.11 b/g/n (Included in router perk, not with bare board)
    • SIM card slot
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Expansions
    • 2x mini PCI Express slots, 1x mSATA / mini PCI Express slot
    • Headers for GPIO, I2C, SPI, etc..
  • Misc – RTC with battery slot, 12 dimmable RGB LEDs, crypto chip for random number generation
  • Power – Not sure
  • Dimensions – 208 x 135 mm

The router will run a Turris OS based on OpenWRT with features like honey pots, virtual server, NAS, printserver and so on. You can find all open source software projects on CZ.NIC github account, and while the hardware design files have not been released, or I missed it, I’m confident they’ll eventually release them as they are done for they previous Turris 1.0 and 1.1 router projects.

You may want to watch the funny and informative promotion video for the router.

The project has already raised over $96,000 US so far out of their $100,000, and with 60 days to go, it’s pretty certain the router project will be successfully funded. You may have find more details on Turris Omnia product page.

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SolidRun ClearFog Pro and Base Router Boards Feature Marvell ARMADA 380/388 Processor

November 9th, 2015 6 comments

Last month, I wrote about Turris Omnia an upcoming open source hardware router board with 6 Gigbit Ethernet ports and an SFP cage powered by Marvell ARMADA 385 processor. SolidRun has now unveiled ClearFog Pro router board with similar features, but opting instead for either Marvell ARMADA 380 or 388 processor.

ClearFog_Pro_OpenWRT_Router_BoardThe company will also soon launch or lower-end version called ClearFog Base with the less ports, but with the same system-on-module as ClearFog Pro:

  • Processor – Marvell ARMADA 380 (88F6810) single core or 388 (88F6828) dual core ARMv7 processor (Cortex A9 class) @ up to 1.6 GHz with 1MB L2 cache, NEON and FPU
  • System Memory – 256MB to 1GB 16-bit DDR3L (ARMADA 380) or 32-bit DDR3L (ARMADA 388)
  • Storage
    • Pro version – M.2 slot, 1x micro SD slot, 2x mSATA/mPCIE
    • Base version – M.2 slot, 1x micro SD slot, 1x mSATA/mPCIE
  • Connectivity
    • Pro version – 6x switched Gigabit Ethernet ports, 1x dedicated Gigabit Ethernet port, 1x SFP cage
    • Base version – 2x dedicated Gigabit Ethernet ports, 1x SFP cage (ARMADA 388 only)
    • PoE expansion header
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Expansions
    • 1x or 2x mini PCI Express slots (shared via mSATA above)
    • GPIO header (mikroBUS standard)
    • Audio/Telephony – Analog audio/TDM module support
  • Debugging – micro USB port for serial console. Pro version only: JTAG header
  • Misc – RTC with battery slot, LEDs, user push buttons
  • Power Supply
    • Pro version – 9V – 34V DC input; “advanced power control”; fan control
    • Base version – 5V input; wide range ready
  • Dimensions
    • Pro version – 225 x 100 mm
    • Base version – 160 x 100 mm (TBC)
ClearFog Pro Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

ClearFog Pro Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

The boards support Linux 3.x distributions such as OpenWRT and one build with the Yocto Project. The block diagram also shows two SIM card slots not listed in the specs, and which should be on the top right of the processor. The routers board are comprised of a baseboard and the company’s microSOM-a1 based on Marvell ARMADA 380,  or microSOM-a2 with ARMADA 388 processor. The mikroBUS header allows you to use MikroElektronika Click add-on boards just like in HummingBoard-Gate board, and a module with audio and a SLIC would make the board suitable for VoIP applications too.

ClearFog Pro router board can be purchased right now for $170 without power supply, metallic enclosure or 8GB micro SD card, and if you want the full package you’ll need to spend $240, which includes $50 for the case itself. SolidRun did not say anything about price and availability for ClearFog Base board, except it’s coming soon. You can find further details, including documentation and schematics (PDF), on Solidrun’s ClearFog and ARMADA MicroSOM product pages.

Via Liliputing

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