Open Source, Modular and Upgradeable EOMA68 CPU Card, Laptop and Micro Desktop Launched (Crowdfunding)

Rhombus Tech has been working on EOMA68 standard for CPU modules based on PCMCIA at least since 2012, and after previous difficulties, they showcased a laptop prototype taking OEMA68 CPU cards at the beginning of the year, and they’ve now launched a CrowdSupply campaign selling an EOMA68 CPU card based on Allwinner A20 processor, as well as corresponding laptop and micro desktop housings that are both open source, and upgradeable with faster EOMA68 CPU card once/if they become available.

EOMA68_CPU_Card_Laptop_DesktopCurrent EOMA68 CPU card specifications:

 

  • SoC –  Allwinner A20 dual core ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 8GB NAND flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – micro HDMI Interface (for 2nd monitor)
  • USB – micro USB OTG port
  • Compliant with EOMA68 standard

EOMA68_CPU_CardTwo versions of the CPU card are offered with different pre-installed firmware:

EOMA68_Micro_DesktopWhile you could use the CPU card by itself by powering it via micro USB port, connecting it an HDMI display, and adding USB keyboard and mouse through a USB hub, you may still want to get a housing such as the micro desktop:

  • EOMA68 Computer Card slot (user-upgradeable)
  • Video Output – VGA port (micro HDMI is also available on CPU card)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Storage – One extra micro SD slot on board
  • Power – 7 – 21 V DC via 5.5 power barrel
  • Dimensions – 11.43 x 11.43 x 1.27 cm (laser-cut wooden case)

EOMA68_LaptopThe 3D printed laptop housing is also another option:

  • EOMA68 Computer Card slot (user-upgradeable)
  • Display – 15.6” 1366 x 768 LCD
  • Full-sized QWERTY Keyboard including numberpad
  • 4.3” capacitive touch panel and backlit LCD
  • Storage – 1x micro SD slot up to 256GB (on top of the one in the CPU card)
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports (2 internal, 1 external)
  • Audio – 1W Stereo speakers, built-in Mic, CM108AH USB Audio with stereo headphone jack
  • MCU – STM32F072 Embedded Controller with firmware under GPLv3 license
  • Battery – 10,000 mAh good for 6 to 8 hours
  • Weight –  1.1 kg weight

The full schematics, and 3D printer design files will be made available. There’s are also plywood panels on both sides of the capacitive touch screen.

The project appears to have two main goals which are not met by most products today: First providing a fully open source system without any closed-source binary blobs, and make computer systems that both earth-friendly as the user-serviceable CPU cards are supposed to reduce e-waste, and cost-saving to the end user as they only need to change the CPU card to get a faster device.

While both ideas are noble, but there are challenges. With Allwinner A20 processor going fully open source using Parabola Linux means that although hardware video decoding should work with the open source Cedrus implementation, you’ll lose 3D GPU acceleration at least, and most WiFi dongles will probably not work either.  The Debian image won’t have this problem, but it’s not 100% open source. The idea of keeping the housing for main years, and only changing the CPU card is good, but hard to implement, as what may be acceptable today, may not be in the future. For example the display for the laptop is limited to 1366×768 resolution, and I already know many people who would not this resolution for a laptop, and in a few years the perception is likely to be worse. EOMA68 standards supports USB 1.x to USB 3.x, but both laptop and micro desktop housings appear to be limited to USB 2.0 connectors, so even if you purchase a more powerful CPU card with USB 3.0 interface in a few years, you won’t be able to enjoy the full capabilities of the new card. One solution would be to provide spare parts to repair or upgrade the laptop case, and that’s certainly possibly since the laptop is also designed to be easy assembled by yourself.

Rhombus Tech aims to raise at least $150,000 to fund mass-production for the project. The CPU card goes for $65, the micro desktop housing for $55, and the laptop housing for $500 with other various DIY or full kit rewards also offered. Shipping is free to the US, and adds $10 to $80 to the rest of the world depending on the chosen rewards.

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kdayns
kdayns
4 years ago

agreed, usb 2 and display resolution is a showstopper.
also, why on earth you need numpad and keyboard with very limited space?
I think that those select who neeed it shoud just plug in some external usb numpad.

If they would offer something more powerful I would certanly support them, a20 are you kidding me?

peter
peter
4 years ago

This may be the first time that I back a project via crowdfunding.

TLS
TLS
4 years ago

Good intentions, terrible execution.

Just a small thing like they fact that they use raw NAND flash rather than eMMC is going to cause a lot of problems. It’s not easy to work with NAND flash and if they haven’t developed a good error correction and wear leveling algorithm, they’re going to end up with a lot of RMA’s.

Armer
Armer
4 years ago

Is it feasible to make a 1.1Kg laptop with a 15.6inch display?

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago


‘you’ll lose 2D/3D GPU acceleration at least’ is not true for A20, please read from here on: http://linux-sunxi.org/User:Rellla/Armbian#xf85-video-fbturbo

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) I really don’t get why people are talking about this Mali stuff all the time. 🙂 2D acceleration is provided by xf86-video-fbturbo, 3D stuff might help window managers (or simply use more primitive ones or turn transparency features off) and then irrelevant OpenGLES benchmarks and games remain that might ‘need’ Mali400 acceleration. Which ‘real world’ applications do make use of OpenGLES acceleration? I only know of Chromium but that needs driver version 4.1 or above which isn’t available for Mali400 anyway. Did I miss something? Running a desktop Linux on this device might be PITA anyway depending… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) I know that there is WebGL. But which browser is able to use Mali400 accelerated WebGL? None to my knowledge. The last time I did some research I found only people talking about Chromium on armhf would benefit the most or at all from OpenGLES acceleration. But Chromium seems to need at least r4p1 for that and all we have for Mali400 are binary blobs up to r4p0 –> no accelerated WebGL anyway. So if you don’t use a window manager that makes use of compositing / transparency (where OpenGLES would help) or are a (retro-)gamer or… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago


According to your own link: ‘Firefox OS shares lower part of Android. GPU/VPU/etc should work. (if porting work is done well, of course)’. Anyway: My initial comment targeted A20 in general. I wouldn’t use any of these small devices running a desktop Linux or Android when they have to run off ultra slow storage since user experience will suck for sure (random IO and especially writes here matter)

TLS
TLS
4 years ago

Armer :
Is it feasible to make a 1.1Kg laptop with a 15.6inch display?

Sure, if you have a tiny battery, no heavy cooling (copper pipes filled with liquid), no fans, no hard drives or optical drives. It won’t weigh much if it’s mostly just a dock for that module.

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

@Armer yes it is – it works surprisingly well for being 3D printed. the screen is 400g in weight, the battery is 240g and takes up the entire left hand side, it’s 10Ah so is 40Wh – it’s actually an E-Bike battery 🙂 – so is good for 8-10 hours (this is a 15in laptop remember!) so with no fans, no bits of metal (no heat-sinks) because this computer card is only 3.5 watts it’s all passively-cooled, and no HDD, it’s very light-weight, the PLA from faberdashery is really strong, but not stressed out because of the greatly reduced weight.… Read more »

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

TLS : Sure, if you have a tiny battery, no heavy cooling (copper pipes filled with liquid), no fans, no hard drives or optical drives. It won’t weigh much if it’s mostly just a dock for that module. the battery is huge, it’s a 10Ah E-Bike battery, 6mm x 160mm x 130mm so is 40Wh, it weighs only 240 grams, the rest you’re right: passive cooling because the CPU Card socket maxes out at 5W (the EOMA68-A20 is 3.5), so no fans needed, no heat pipes needed, and you can use 256gbyte MicroSD cards or there’s room for *internal* USB… Read more »

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

@tkaiser
thumbs-up cnxsoft, yeah basically i’ve just done a video showing libreoffice running, being moved around the screen, it’s pretty snappy: no tearing, i just got xf86-driver-fbturbo compiled up to use G2D and y’know what? it’s pretty good.

update with video will be live soon.

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

cnxsoft :
@tkaiser
AFAIK this still requires the closed-source userspace Mali drivers @ https://github.com/linux-sunxi/sunxi-mali-proprietary/tree/master, so this will be not included in the FSF approved image.

you bet it won’t! anyone who wants to add it, they can do so, we’re not going to stop anyone (we couldn’t if we wanted to!) so feel free… but yeah we won’t be including mali.

we _will_ however be including g2d fbturbo xorg accelerated drivers.

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

peter :
This may be the first time that I back a project via crowdfunding.

wow thank you peter, i really appreciate that. thank you

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

TLS : Good intentions, terrible execution. Just a small thing like they fact that they use raw NAND flash rather than eMMC is going to cause a lot of problems. It’s not easy to work with NAND flash and if they haven’t developed a good error correction and wear leveling algorithm, they’re going to end up with a lot of RMA’s. this is a good point, and greatly appreciated. there’s people working on the mtd NAND driver, and i know that ubifs is the usual default filesystem. it’s *designed* to cope with error correction and wear levelling, from what i… Read more »

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

kdayns : agreed, usb 2 and display resolution is a showstopper. also, why on earth you need numpad and keyboard with very limited space? I think that those select who neeed it shoud just plug in some external usb numpad. If they would offer something more powerful I would certanly support them, a20 are you kidding me? usb2 is what’s available on $7 SoCs at the kind of level that we can get access to without extreme budgets and signing NDAs. bear in mind that this is an eco-conscious laptop: what on earth kind of message would it send to… Read more »

peter
peter
4 years ago

cnxsoft :
@Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton
It’s fine that the card supports USB 2.0 only since that’s the limitation of the processor, but it would have been nice if the micro desktop and laptop boards would have integrated USB 3.x support, as new EOMA68 cards with USB 3.0 could have been used in the future.

That is actually a bunch of good questions to Luke: how about plans for future cards with better processors? Timeline? Which ones? Will there be in general options for (other) hardware upgrades – like for the screen et al?

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

That is actually a bunch of good questions to Luke: how about plans for future cards with better processors? Timeline? Which ones? Will there be in general options for (other) hardware upgrades – like for the screen et al? hiya peter (and cnxsoft) – about USB3 in the housings, i had to keep to a reasonable cost and power budget. the laptop’s PMIC is 15W and it’s single-cell. USB3 is what… 1A per port? USB 3.1 has even 150W provision or something mad? it’s just not practical: i would have had to pull in a huge cascade-effect of extra components… Read more »

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