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Posts Tagged ‘diy’

MNT Reform DIY Modular ARM Linux Portable Computer To Feature NXP i.MX 6/8 SoC

October 20th, 2017 6 comments

The first usable DIY ARM Linux laptop that I can remember is Novena, unveiled in 2014, based on Freescale i.MX 6Quad processor, and fairly expensive at close to $2,000 since it was a nice product. Recently, we’ve had more affordable options with products such as Olimex TERES-I laptop (Allwinner A64), and the second version of Pi-Top laptop shell for Raspberry Pi 3.

There may soon be another option as MNT Media and Technology (Lukas F. Hartmann) partnered with an industrial designer (Ana Dantas) to work on “Reform”, a DIY and modular laptop / portable computer powered by NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor, and eventually i.MX 8 hexa core Cortex A72/A53 processor.

Click to Enlarge

They are the prototype stage right now, and mostly looking for feedback. The preliminary specifications and features of the Reform portable computer include:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus quad core Cortex A9 processor @ up to 1.2 GHz, with Vivante GC2000 GPU . Update planned to NXP i.MX8 hexa core processor
  • System Memory – At least 4 GB of RAM (4GB in prototype)
  • Storage – micro SD card slot (for uboot), SATA SSD slot (120 GB in prototype)
  • Detachable display housing with standard screws
    • 10″ 1920×1200 color panel with HDMI to dual LVDS adapter
    • Future E-Ink option
  • Custom designed keyboard with Cherry ML switch,  swappable keyboard PCB, 3D printed key caps. Currently based on Teensy LC Cortex M0+ Arduino compatible board.
  • Exchangeable pointing device (trackball / trackpad). Currently also based on Teensy LC board
  • USB – USB 2.0 ports
  • Expansion – PCIe slot (tested with Penguin Wireless N Mini PCIe card)
  • Battery – 3,000 mAh @ 7.4V LiPo battery good for about 2.5 hours
  • Modular Chassis for motherboard, battery, SSD storage, input device controllers
  • Dimensions – 28cm x 17.5cm x 5.5cm
  • Weight – 1.5 kg

Note than some not-so-flattering features like 5.5cm thickness and short battery life are just for the prototype, and will be optimized if the computer gets manufactured. They used TinyRex Ultra development kit in the prototype, and will likely use the system-on-module found in the kit in the final product, especially VoiPAC has plans to make an i.MX 8 version.

Lukas could run Debian Linux, and successfully tested LibreOffice, Blender, GIMP, Inkscape and Audacity. GPU acceleration and hardware video decoding also work, as tested with respectively Quake 3 Arena and mplayer (H.264).

Going forward they’ll work on improving the design with a slimmed-down baseboard, an integrated charger/power brick, and better modularity management. Once everything is ready they’ll either launch a crowdfunding campaign, or take pre-orders with price likely in the 500 to 700 Euros range. All details can be found on Reform product page.

Via ARM Netbook Mailing List and Liliputing

STEGO BOARD Enables Neat Prototypes with Development Boards and Accessories (Crowdfunding)

October 13th, 2017 1 comment

If you’ve ever created a quick prototype for your own use, or for your company, you may have based it on a development board, and added some extra modules or add-on modules, as well as potentially accessories such as hard drives or power supply. Software is complete and it works, but it may look like a mess, and transporting it may cause cables to disconnect or other problems.

STEGO BOARD should help in this case. It’s some kind of mounting systems compatible with the most common boards like Raspberry Pi 3, Rock64, or ASUS Tinkerboard, mini-ITX motherboards, mini PCs with VESA mounts, 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives, and so on. So you can create prototypes like the ones below.

Six different products are available:

  • STEGO BOARD 102 – 2 layers of the smaller board with 106 parts (stands, screws, zip ties). Can be used with mini PC, development board, up to 2 SATA drives
  • STEGO BOARD 103 – 3 layers of the smaller board with 144 parts. Up to 3 SATA drives
  • STEGO BOARD 104 – 4 layers of the smaller board with 206 parts. Up to 4 SATA drives
  • STEGO BOARD 105 – 5 layers of the smaller board with 246 parts. Up to 5 SATA drives
  • STEGO BOARD 400 – Larger board with 220 parts can be be used for up to 4 SATA drives, mini ITX motherboard, graphics card, etc…
  • STEGO BOARD 400+ – BOARD 400 and 102 together

They also have 3D printers accessories to create prisms and cubes with the STEGO BOARDs, as well as hard drive caddies, power supply brackets, and cable guard. The developers also released a Windows based simulator to create a virtual prototype.

The STEGO BOARD has been launched on Kickstarter and almost reached its $8,850 CAD target. A $39 CAD pledge (~$31 US) should get you a STEGO BOARD 102 kit, while at the other end of the scale, STEGO BOARD 400+ requires a $105 CAD pledge (~$84 US). Shipping adds $17 CAD to $56 CAD, and sadly the company has decided to limit shipping to USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom only. Delivery is planned for December 2017. The 3D printed accessories are available on a separate website.

The New Pi-Top Modular Laptop includes a 14″ Display, Sliding Keyboard, and Better Cooling

October 13th, 2017 6 comments

Pi-Top was first launched in late 2014 via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, as a modular DIY laptop powered by a Raspberry Pi board. It’s equipped with a 13.3” LCD screen with 1366×768 resolution, and uses a sliding top cover placed between the display and the keyboard where you could insert your Raspberry Pi with enough space for extra hardware.

This is a good week for DIY ARM laptops, as after the launch of Olimex TERES-I laptop yesterday, Pi-Top team has announced a new version of Pi-Top modular laptop with an larger 14″ display with 1920×1080 resolution, a sliding keyboard, and better cooling with a passive cooling unit for the Raspberry Pi 3 board.

Pi-Top 2017 laptop specifications:

  • Display  – 14” full HD LCD screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 180° screen angle range
  • Keyboard – 105mm sliding keyboard for internal access (US layout)
  • Touchpad – 104x75mm trackpad with Gesture Control
  • Officially Supported Board – Raspberry Pi 3 with Broadcom BCM2837 SoC, HDMI, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, Audio jack, micro SD slot, camera and display interface
  • Modular Rail for pi-top accessories
  • Power Supply – 18V, 2.5A charger with AU, EU, UK and US adapters
  • Battery – Good for 6-8 hour battery life

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The kit also includes an 8GB class 10 SD CARD with pi-topOS and an SD Card Removal Tool. pi-topOS is a firmware image specifically designed for Raspberry Pi 3 and Pi-Top with components such as pi-topCLASSROOM online classroom management software, pi-topCODER intuitive coding environment, CEEDuniverse educational space exploration game, and pi-topDASHBOARD interface.

While the company only officially supports Raspberry Pi 3, it should be possible to use other boards that are electrically and mechanically compatible to Raspberry Pi 3 board such as ODROID-C2 or ROCK64, but you may have to work on the software side. The most adventurous could also try other boards, as Bero (Linaro) used a 96Boards compliant DragonBoard 820c board in the older version of Pi-Top with some custom cabling.

The new Pi-Top can be purchased for $319.99 including shipping with a Raspberry Pi 3, or $284.99 without. A free Inventor Kit with a breadboard, and various modules and components to get started with DIY electronics.

Olimex TERES-I DIY OSHW Laptop Now Up for Sale for 240 Euros

October 12th, 2017 14 comments

Olimex has been working on their open source hardware TERES-I DIY laptop since last year. The laptop is supposed to come in kit form, so that you can build it yourself. Every board and most parts are open source to let your easily repair it, or improve it by adapting the part to your own needs.

The company has now launched the laptop kit for 240 Euros in black or white.

Olimex TERES-I laptop updated specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A64 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC Flash, micro SD slot
  • Display – 11.6″ LCD display with 1366×768 resolution
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 1.4 port
  • Audio – Via mini HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, 2x speakers, microphone
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi up to 150Mbps, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 2x USB port ports
  • Front camera
  • QWERTY keyboard + touchpad with 2 buttons
  • Debugging – Serial debug via header or 3.5mm audio jack
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Battery – 9,500mAh capacity
  • Weight – ~1 kg

The laptop will ship with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Mate, Firefox browser, Video player, Open Office, Arduino IDE and IceStorm for FPGA development (an FPGA add-on board is planned).

Mainboard

The build instructions can be downloaded here. Hardware design files for all 5 boards for the laptop, and software will soon be all found on Github. Note that the laptop is intended for engineering development and evaluation only, should not be considered a finished product, and may not comply with FCC, CE or UL directives. Olimex had quite a lot of people registered their interests before, so they only expect to be able to fulfill new order within 2 or 3 weeks.

GNUBee Personal Cloud 2 is a DIY NAS Supporting up to Six 3.5″ SATA Drives (Crowdfunding)

October 11th, 2017 20 comments

GNUBee Personal Cloud 1 is a DIY NAS powered by Mediatek MT7621A MIPS processor that supports up to 2.5″ SATA drives, and runs free and open source software. It was first introduced in March of this year through a CrowdSupply campaign.

The developers are now back with GNUBee Personal Cloud 2 (GB-PC2) with pretty much the same features, but instead of being designed for 2.5″ drives, it supports up to six 3.5″ drive that should offer either more capacity, or a lower total price for an equivalent capacity.

GB-PC2 NAS specifications:

  • ProcessorMediaTek MT7621A dual core, quad thread MIPS processor @ 880 MHz, overclockable to 1.2 GHz
  • System Memory512 MB DDR3 (max supported by MT7621)
  • Storage – SD card slot tested up to 64 GB, 6x 3.5” SATA HDD or SSD (recommended RAID 0 or 1 under LVM, MD, or Linux MD RAID 10)
  • Connectivity – 3x Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Serial port – 3-pin J1 connector or 3.5 mm audio-type jack
  • Misc – 2x mainboard fan
  • Power – 12 VDC @ 8A via 5.5 mm x 2.1 mm, center-positive barrel jack
  • Dimensions –  TBD
  • Weight – ~454 g (without drives)

They also added one extra Gigabit Ethernet port for a total of three, and the NAS is obviously larger and heavier than the previous model, as well as requires a beefier power supply. The device can currently run Debian, OpenMediaVault, LEDE, or libreCMC with all documentation, schematics, and source code to be released on Github.

The new GB-PC2 model has also been launched on CrowdSupply with a funding target of $45,000. GnuBee PC2 Starter Kit with two anodized aluminum side plates, six threaded brackets and bracket screws, and 24 drive mount screws requires a $249 pledge. However, you may want to spend $10 more to add the power supply, SD card with firmware image, and USB-to-UART adapter cable for the Delux Kit (Early Bird). Shipping is free to the US, but adds $20 to the rest of the world, with delivery planned for December 31, 2017. Further details may be found on GNUBee website.

MACCHIATOBin based DIY ARM Desktop, DragonBoard 820c based DIY ARM Laptop (Video)

October 3rd, 2017 22 comments

2017 may be the year of the (ARM based) Linux desktop, sort of. We’ve already seen GIGABYTE ARM development PC powered by a Socionext SC2A11 Synquacer 24-core ARM Cortex A53 processor that will be available in December, and apparently working fairly well already.

But there are even more options, as Bernhard Rosenkränzer (Bero) from the Linaro Mobile Group, and unofficial Linaro superstar, has decided to create his own ARM based desktop and laptop, based on respectively MACCHIATOBin board with a Marvell ARMADA 8040 quad core Cortex  A72 processor, and DragonBoard 820c board with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core Krait processor.

Since MACCHIATOBin board complies with mini-ITX form factor, he could simply use off the shelf parts with a standard desktop case with power supply, NVIDIA or AMD Radeon graphics card, 16GB memory modules, and a 2 TB SSD drive. The AMD Radeon card fried due to overheating, so the demo was made with an NVIDIA card driven by Nouveau open source driver. The complete system was actually run on fully open source drivers and firmware, and Linux 4.14 mainline with 2 extra patches.

The laptop leverages Pi-Top modular laptop, but replaced Raspberry Pi 3 board with a much faster DragonBoard 820c board that also includes 3GB RAM, and had an SSD connected over PCIe. I ran OpenMandriva with KDE + Linux 4.11 using fully open source drivers.

Bero mentioned that while it’s quite easy to make an ARM desktop as described above, a way would have to be figured to make it more easily reproducible. I got all the information above from Charbax’s video below.

;

The first 8 minutes are about the DIY ARM desktop and laptop, and after they talk about his work with Android (Project Treble and others), the importance of open source drivers, and his political (non-) future 🙂

CrazyPi Board Runs Ubuntu and ROS on Rockchip RK3128 SoC for Robotics & IoT Projects (Crowdfunding)

August 10th, 2017 4 comments

CrazyPi is a maker board powered by Rockchip RK3128 quad core Cortex A7 processor that can take various magnetically connected modules such as LIDAR, gimbal, 4G LTE, etc.., and runs both Ubuntu and ROS (Robot Operating System) for DIY robotics & IoT projects.

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CrazyPi main board specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3128 quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with ARM Mali GPU
  • MCU – ARM Cortex-M3 @ 72 MHz
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3L @ 1066 MHz
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash pre-loaded with Ubuntu and ROS
  • Connectivity – 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi @ 150 Mbps, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Expansion Headers – Two headers with a total of 36-pin exposing 1x HDMI, 1x speaker, 1x microphone, 3x PWM, 1x I2C, 1x UART, 1x SPDIF, 1x SPI, 1x USB
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port ?
  • Dimensions – Smaller than credit card

The full details are not available yet, but the company claims CrazyPi is “completely open source and DIY”, so I’d assume more details will eventually show up on CrazyPi github repo (now empty). A cloud service also allows you to stream the webcam output from anywhere in the world.

Webcam View and Map Generated from CrazyPi Robot Kit

What’s  quite interesting is that the board is designed to be connected to add-on boards, modules and accessories allowing you to build robots:

  • Robotic shield board to control motors / servos
  • Media shield board for HDMI output and use the board as a mini computer
  • 4G LTE module (maybe part of the robotic shield board?)
  • Crazyou 4K LIDAR sensor with SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) function to automatically create map of your environment
  • 720p camera module
  • 2-degrees gimbal
  • 4-wheel robot chassis
  • 2x 18650 batteries and case

Again, we don’t have the exact details for each, but the promo video explains what can be done with the kits.

Crazyou – that’s the name of the company – has launched the project on Kickstarter to fund mass production with a 200,000 HKD goal (around $25,800). The board is supposed to cost $29, but is not offered standalone in the crowdfunding campaign, so instead you could start with a $59 CrazyPi Media Kit with the mainboard, camera and media board. If you want the complete robot shown above, you’d have to pledge $466 for the CrazyPi Advanced Kit reward with the camera module, the mainboard, the gimbal, the robotic shield board, battery case and charger, the chassis, and LIDAR. Various bundles are available to match different projects’ requirements. Shipping to most countries adds around $19, and delivery is scheduled for October 2017. There’s not much to see on Crazyou website, but eventually more details may emerge there.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.

HTTM Backlit Capacitive Touch Switch / Button Sells for about one Dollar

July 27th, 2017 1 comment

You may have some project that requires buttons to turn on and off devices, or perform other tasks like navigating a user interface or playing games. One interesting and inexpensive solution for this could be HTTM (HelTec Touch Model) capacitive touch buttons that include three pins for power, ground, and the button status, as well as a backlight. You’ll find them on many websites, and one of the cheapest option is a pack of 10 buttons going for $9.91 on Aliexpress.

HTTM button specifications:

  • Voltage input range: + 2.7v to + 6v
  • Signal output – Voltage: + 3.3v; Current up to 500 mA
  • Header – 3-pin with GND, VCC, and OUT
  • Backlight color – red, blue (cyan), or yellow
  • Dimensions – 20.4 x 16.6 mm
  • Operating temperature range: -30 ℃ to + 70 ℃

You’ll find more details on the manufacturer’s product page including a user manual (Chinese only), and their DIYtrade page implies they may have versions with up to four keys:

HTTM is HelTec Touch Model shorthand;
□ → Number of keys: S- single key, D- double keys, T- triple keys, F- four keys;
◇ → Version attribute: C- conventional version, S- Special Edition (customized version);
△ → backlight colors: B- blue, R- red, G- green

But I could not find any of those. The company (Chengdu HelTec Automation Electronics Technology Co. Ltd) also makes some OLED displays, which may be worth checking out.

I learned about HTTM button via Pete Scargill’s blog, and he shot a video showing how to use the switch directly connected to a relay board (The demo starts at the 1:50 mark). Since it’s using capacitive touch, he explains you could place one or more buttons inside a box, and it would still work. Those buttons are also likely more durable than mechanical switches.