Crowdfunding Initiative to Open AMLogic AML8726-M3 STB Source Code

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.

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22 Replies to “Crowdfunding Initiative to Open AMLogic AML8726-M3 STB Source Code”

  1. @Tsvetan
    You still get the hardware, but indirectly yes.

    Even if you go through Geniatech, I’ve read you need to pay $3000 to get the source code.

    The problem is that there isn’t probably any Chinese companies that do not violate GPL.

  2. Peter,
    I have to say that like Tsvetan, I am very, very skeptical of this entire initiative, on various levels. You see, I am a Linux kernel contributor. And the way I see it, you are offering to buy the GPL source code that I in part wrote from somebody else – a GPL violator. This is of course totally illegal and morally objectionable. I am even surprised that Indiegogo would accept this project!
    The way to deal with GPL violators is to simply not buy products from these people – and you are proposing to do exactly the contrary. So, although I have a lot of esteem for you (you have a great website and your articles provide excellent information), as a developer of GPL software I completely disapprove of this.
    BTW, for the same $50000 that you are going to pay this GPL violator, you could hire four very competent GPL developers for a fee of $12500 each to develop a proper version of XBMC for the common MK802 or any other popular, inexpensive Android set top box.

  3. Tsvetsan / AndrewDB

    In a way it is exactly like you interpretate it.

    Now to get something clear. I indeed fully agree, this is not the way it should. I dislike GPL violaters just as much as you do. Now; I am transparant about the concept; I want the sources and use the boxes as the “excuse”. But it is theoretically still the other way around. We buy boxes and because of that we are entitled to the sources.

    Andrew, I understand your vision about; just to ignore GPL violators, this might work in a perfect world. But in a perfect world, there is no hunger, no war, etc …

    There are >16 million people in China, and they just don’t give a @#$%

    To be honest; I am just fed up with it and want to get rolling. I just don’t want to wait for an OUYA with a tegra3 from the western companies with closed crap. A RPi with fake open stuff, etc.

    The Chinese make a lot of cheap hardware (look at all those tablets we are all happily buy) and just copy & paste software and don’t care about the licenses. You can be a moral guy and ignore them, or accept it and make the best out of it.

    I just try to make the best out of it.

  4. Let elaborate on it as I think it might still not so clear 😀

    I contacted a lot of factories, none of them wanted to provide sources even after knowing we might buy some boxes.

    The factory I found recently is actually NOT violating the GPL.

    There are a lot of “chains” in between the factory and end consumer. Now the factory by GPL is required to release the sources to THEIR customers NOT to us end users. The reseller is responsible to get the sources to their customers etc. etc.

    With this crowdfunding campaign we are buying from the factory, for that reason we are the customers and are entitled to the sources. The factory will release the sources as they should, so are acting according the GPL.

  5. This doesn’t really make sense. This is expensive and why buy something for them to release source code. It’s just silly IMO.

    This is a lot better:

    And from what I can see they are prepared to offer a working XBMC solution … not sure if open source or not , we need to ask.
    It also says that developers and welcome which is a positive attitude I’d like to see more of.

    Oh and btw for about the same price as this proposed AMlogic box you get a quad core beast from Freescale with a very good GPU and all that.

    So really, sorry to be so blunt but this project looks useless to me.

    I’m just waiting to get a Hiapad and that’s that.

  6. @Marius

    No worries! If the project is not for you, so be it. Nobody will feel bad about it.

    I have done my homework the last couple of months and am convinced this can lead to a working solution within reasonable time and a good chunk of fun along the way 😀

  7. I don’t believe the factories making these products are the ones withholding the source code. If you pay one to open the code you may be surprised when all you get is the source to a few scripts.

    AFAIK the A10 status…
    ARM Inc is withholding Mali source
    The silicon design firm that did the Cedar accelerator is withholding source
    Some things on the A10 aren’t documented in English, but there is Chinese documentation.
    Some things on the A10 aren’t clearly documented, questions to AllWinner usually clear those problems up

    Paying off a factory will get you none of these. Chasing the Amlogic-8726M3 will fix none of these.

  8. Marius :
    This is a lot better:
    And from what I can see they are prepared to offer a working XBMC solution … not sure if open source or not , we need to ask.

    This is just the XBMC app running on Android (as it does on almost any recent Android phone/tablet/mini PC), videos don’t play on it. Hopefully there will be a XBMC / OpenELEC / similar build for HI-802, and not rely on the one which runs as an Android app. I’m still undecided whether the HI802 or the Droid Stick A2 with AMLogic AML8726-MX is the one to go for.

  9. @James
    It’s likely HI-802 will have better support (Documentation and software) because it’s based on a Freescale processor, and there’s one of the i.MX6 dev board which appears to be used by Linaro for development.

  10. is it really worth the effort ? with sub $90 quad core imx6 out already and being freescale no chinese SOC/product manufacturers crap to deal with ….

  11. @mac me
    Not ideal for XBMC without hardware decoding, someone mentioned those chips on the XBMC forum I recall and it was pointed out the hardware decoder on the imx6 only supports H.264 video nothing else.

    Amlogic support MPEG-2, MPEG-4, VC-1, Real, H.264, H.264 MVC.

  12. @Dan
    My guess is that H.264 may be the only codec available on low cost development boards such as Nitrogen6X to cut cost (like they did with the Raspberry Pi), but i.MX6 VPU on consumer products certainly support several codecs.

    I could not find information on Freescale, but I found that with one of Freescale’s partners (Source:

    “Video Processing Unit (VPU)of i.MX6 is a high performance multi-standard video codec which can
    decode H.264, VC-1, MPEG-4 SP/ASP, H.263, MPEG-1/2 MP, Divx (Xvid), MJPEG BP (max. 8192×8192)
    up to full-HD 1920×1088 @30fps.”

    This is for Windows Embedded, but it should be as well support in Linux, at least in theory.

  13. @mac me
    There is always a better version ahead. We really can’t keep up with the development, so we shouldn’t. Instead, it is better to extend the lifetime of a particular SoC by creating a strong user base and develop software. Now this can only be done if we have the right building blocks (sources). Look at the Allwinner A10! Is the Cubieboard by now one of the latest? Definitely not, but everybody wants one (I know I do ). That’s because you can use it for so many purposes. All because of the kernel and u-boot sources been released.

    I choose the AMLogic one because of their willingness to open up. Add to that the willingness to open up from a factory, handing over the last pieces and you end up with the same software support as the Allwinner. Actually better/more, because AMLogic released a good working VPU solution for Android AND Linux 😉

    I hope this project inspires people to stand up and take action for other SoC’s as well. There is so much good hardware out there, but most of them die slowly because of the lack of sources.

    About the iMX6 SoC. There are multiple versions, but for GPU/VPU and multimedia support.
    – GPU: Vivante GC2000 (most likely good enough_
    – GPU: Vivante GC880 (you are most likely out of luck)

    The iMX6 has some good potential. Time will tell.

  14. @Technobuddha
    Interested to hear how you get on. Also interest to hear how it goes with everbuying – I read some bad reviews & avoided buying from there, but maybe they were inaccurate…

  15. @Y S
    My understanding is that we’ve got some source code (common kernel and u-boot), but specific configuration files and possibly drivers are missing to develop on the set-top box hardware (MBX – f16ref board).

  16. n2box already runs xbmc on arm devices working perfectly fine, so does the g-box but i don’t think the g-box boots into XBMC treating XBMC as a fully integrated launcher for android. no need ever leave. use you android apps inside XBMC. it’s alright. g-box is good too though i’ve used one and it worked well, great HD. but again, i think that n2box puts xBMC on to the system and g-box however makes you separately download and install yourself.

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