Next Thing Has Released Software and Hardware Files for the $9 CHIP Computer

Next Thing CHIP computer powered by Allwinner R8 module, also referred as “the $9 computer“, had a very successful crowdfunding campaign having raised over $2,000,000 from nearly 40,000 backers. When launching an electronics products on a crowdfunding campaign, many companies claim their device will be open source, only to disappoint once the perks actually ship, and Next Thing made the same promise, except they appear to have delivered as shown in their latest update “Holy C.H.I.P! It’s C.H.I.P!!!” showing the first production samples, and providing links to hardware design files for the Alpha version, as well as buildroot, U-boot and Linux source code.

CHIP Computer Block Diagram as Shown in the Schematics (Click to Enlarge)
CHIP Computer Block Diagram as Shown in the Schematics (Click to Enlarge)

All resources can be found on docs.nexthing.co, but let’s check what they’ve released so far.

Hardware design files on Github include:

  • A Bill of Materials (BoM)
  • Schematics in PDF and DSN formats
  • PCB Layout in BRD and PNG format
  • Pinouts for U12 and U14 connectors
  • Mechanical files in DXF format

So everything appears to be there for an open source hardware board, except the Gerber files, but these could be generated from the PCB layout.

One the software from they setup three repositories for:

It also looks good, especially since the versions are recent, and they’ve certainly been helped in that task thanks to the involvement of Free Electrons engineers.

CHIP_Linux_4.1Most backers will still need to wait until December 2015 and beyond to get the board, but the 1,000 “Kernel hackers” backers should get their board in September 2015, so they’ll be able to play with these and improve the software and possibly find hardware bugs in the early boards, before it gets released to the masses.

Thanks to Brian for the tip.

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KevinmongrolJon Smirläxlmilkboy Recent comment authors
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Not so sure:
http://hackaday.com/2015/06/11/does-the-worlds-first-9-computer-cost-9/
if this will really cost $9 or even worser things may happen (read comments there)…

Just consider the shipping cost ($16+$9 = $25 + free shipping from China) 😉
And add HDMI => $24+$16 = $40…

TC
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TC

waiting for clones 🙂

milkboy
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milkboy

@cnxsoft
looks like c.h.i.p. clone might be coming soon……

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I have trust issues for this project until they explain how they are making it for $9. Without that explanation it is like riding on an airplane. The ticket price may look good, but beware the $200 or more in hidden charges. I suspect Shenzhen is already at work cloning all of the peripherals for 1/4 the cost which will remove them as a subsidy source.

If Allwinner really is selling that module at $5 (which they deny) they are dumb to be hiding that fact. We designing in a Rockchip part right now that could have been an R8.

äxl
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äxl

What about the “Mali-400 GPU” sources?!

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@äxl
The missing Mali code is in user space where there is no GPL obligation to release it. However, without that source CHIP should not be claiming to be completely open source. It is still pretty far open source, but not 100%.

äxl
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äxl

@Jon Smirl
Thanks, Jon. Are the user space files available?
Seems the Realtek 8723BS WiFi module is covered with 8723BE/COM.

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@äxl
CHIP should have the Mali user space binaries. They are provided in the SDK.

mongrol
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mongrol

I presume we can run this thing without mali blobs? Is there any other firmware blobs in the source or u-boot trees?

Kevin
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Kevin

FYI the Git Hub and CHIP-Hardware files are all outdated. I don’t even think the R8M still exists. They’ve moved to the R8 with separate RAM & NAND, but the schematics and .brd files are no where to be found.