J1nx (Peter Steenbergen) has spend a lot of time together with XBMC developers to try to bring XBMC (Linux) to ARM based set-top boxes, and initially AllWinner A10 processor seemed like a good candidate, unfortunately due to the lack of proper video engine libraries for Linux, progress on this SoC has been extremely slow. Then when Pivos and XBMC announced Pivos Xios DS set-top box based on AMLogic aml8726-M(1) would support XBMC natively, and the kernel and bootlooader (u-boot) source code was made available both on Pivos github account and AMLogic open source website, AML8726 series of processors appeared to be an ideal solution for this purpose.
Instead of AML8726-M (aka AML8726-M1) which is limited to 512 MB, it was decided instead to use a faster processor AML8726-M3 that supports 1 GB RAM. The STB of choice is based on “MBX – f16ref” which should be some kind of development board. You would think that since a lot of source code is already it should be feasible to simply use the existing source to run it on this hardware. However, some hardware config files (e.g. def_config) are missing, and attempts to reverse-engineer the configuration has failed. This is mainly a problem for u-boot, and to lesser extend for Linux.
This is why j1nx has decided to contact several Chinese manufacturers who would be willing to release the full source code for their STB based on AML8726-M3. After several week, he managed to find one, but there’s a condition: ordering 500 pieces. This is where crowdfunding comes into play with “Open up the AMLogic box” campaign on Indiegogo, where you can either donate or commit funds to buy a STB with the following specs:
- Amlogic-8726M3 Cortex A9, CPU Max 1GHz.
- Mali-400 GPU
- 1 GB memory
- 4 GB flash storage
- WiFi: 802.11b/g/n
- 10/100Mbps LAN
- 2 USB
- Cardreader slot
- Coaxial Jack / Optical Socket / HDMI Socket
- Remote control
Getting the box via Indiegogo will cost $99. You may think it is expensive, but since it is imported into Europe, it will already include VAT, import duties and shipping. With taxes around 35%, this is equivalent to $74 if you buy through websites such as Aliexpress and Dealextreme assuming individual buyers also pay VAT and import duties. It may also be the small price to pay to get a better XBMC ARM Linux media player.
If the campaign is successful, you’ll get the following:
- The Set Top Box with external wifi antenna
- A populated UART connector on the inside
- FULL software build system
- Linux kernel sources and drivers
- The U-Boot bootloader system sources including the proper def_config file.
The UART board (debug board) can be connected the same way as it is in the Mele A1000/A2000, and no soldering is involved.
If you have questions/comments, you can post them below or directly in j1nx’s blog.