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Posts Tagged ‘open source’

HackaBLE Board is a Tiny, Breadboard-Friendly Bluetooth LE Development Board

November 18th, 2017 3 comments

Earlier this year, I wrote about Electronut Labs’ Bluey development board powered by Nordic Semi nRF52832 development board with BLE, NFC, and a few sensors, and partially open source hardware with the KiCAD schematics and PCB layout available on Github.

The company is now back with another open source hardware nRF52832 BLE board, namely hackaBLE, that’s much smaller (28x18mm), and with 2.54mm pitch castellated pin headers making suitable for use for breadboard, or as a module on a custom designed board.

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hackaBLE board specifications:

  • SoC – Nordic Semi nRF52832 ANT + BLE ARM Cortex-M4 @ 64 MHz processor with 512kB flash, 64kB RAM
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.2/5 LE and other proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless standards via chip antenna
  • Expansion
    • 2x 9-pin castellated headers with GPIO, 5V, 3.3V, and GND
    • 2x 5-pin solder pads for more I/Os
  • Debugging – 4-pin SWD header
  • Misc – RGB LED, and user button
  • Power Supply – 5 V via VDD or Vin pin.

The company explains “hackaBLE use offers more value than just using the BLE module directly – since it incorporates the necessary passive components – including the ones for the buck converter for power saving – and adds an RGB LED and a button for convenience. It’s also much easier to solder than the bare modules.”. More details, including the KiCAD schematics and PCB layout can be found on Github, as well as the PCB footprint for the board for those who plan on making a custom board.

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The company can also provide PogoProg board with 4 pogo pins to program the board through the SWD header, Bumpy SWD debugger, and snapVCC board outputting 5V/3.3V from a 9V battery.

hackaBLE can be purchased from Tindie for $20, and you could also get the $44 premium devkit with hackaBLE and the three boards mentioned and pictured above.

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.

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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

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.

Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Development Kit 2 Becomes Open Source Hardware

October 11th, 2017 2 comments

Oculus Rift DK2 virtual reality headset and development kit started to ship in summer 2014. The DK2 is kind of VR headset that is connected to a more powerful computer via USB and HDMI, includes hardware for positional tracking, a 5″ display ,and two lenses for each eye.

Since then the company has been purchased by Facebook, and they’ve now decided to make the headset fully open source hardware.

 

Exploded view of Oculus Rift DK2 – Click to Enlarge

The release includes schematics, board layout, mechanical CAD, artwork, and specifications under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, as well as firmware under “BSD+PATENT” licenses which you’ll all find on Github.

The release is divided into four main folders:

  • Documentation with high-level specifications for the DK2 headset, sensor, and firmware.
  • Cable with schematics and high level specifications for the cables. Custom assembly that would be hard to recreate from source. Allegedly the most complex part of the design
  • Sensor with electrical and mechanical CAD for the positional tracking sensor. Sadly the MCU firmware for this part has not been released, as it is not redistributable.
  • Headset with mainboard firmware, electrical and mechanical CAD for the headset, as well as artwork for the packaging.

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A Galaxy Note 3 AMOLED display was used for the headset, and an STMicro STM32 microcontroller handles inertial sensor data, and manages microsecond-precision timestamping for all part of the system.

Normally, such OSHW release would enable a willing individual to reproduce the kit him-/herself, but the company explains that some of the components of the kit are very hard to impossible to source today.

Via Twitter, and tip from Harley.

Purism Librem 5 Open Source Linux Smartphone Meets its 1.5 Million Dollars Funding Target

October 10th, 2017 3 comments

Back in the summer, we reported about Purism Librem 5, a privacy-focused, open source Linux smartphone. The hardware has not been developed yet, at the time the company was still considering either i.MX 6 Cortex A9 processor or i.MX8 Cortex A53 processor for the phone, and asked for 1.5 million dollars in their self-managed crowdfunding campaign to get the phone delivered in 2019.

The project was interesting but with the current status for the project, amount to be raised, and delivery timeline, it was a long shot. But it turns out there’s some demands for smartphones outside of Android and iOS ecosystem, and since then, KDE and the GNOME foundation have joined the project leading to more coverage & people getting involved, and Librem 5 phone is now fully funded with 13 days to go.

The processor will likely be NXP i.MX 8M Quad  quad core Cortex A53 SoC, as they’ve found it to be working with Etnaviv open source graphics driver in a development board. It should be combined with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, and a 5″ display.

The GNOME Foundation is said to be “committed create hackfests, tools, emulators, and build awareness that surround moving GNOME/GTK onto the Librem 5 phone”, while KDE will help with porting Plasma Mobile – a free, open and full-featured graphical environment for mobile devices – to Librem 5. That means you should be able to choose between GNOME/GTK or Plasma Mobile envrionments.  Librem 5 will ship with Purism PureOS distribution by default, but the company will work with other GNU/Linux distributions willing to bring support to the device.

Now that the funding target is reached, the phone will happen, unless something goes really wrong. A pledge of $599 should get you Librem 5 Phone with charger, but if you’d like to use the phone as a PC too (convergence!) you could pledge $1,399 for the phone plus a 24″ display, keyboard and mouse, or $1,699 with a larger 30″ display. The other good news is that the $80 shipping fee is gone, and the company has now enabled worldwide free shipping.

You’d still need to wait until at least January 2019 to get the phone, but developers can pledge $299 for a development kit with board, display and accessories that will be shipped in June 2018.

Review of Sonoff B1 Smart RGB Light Bulb – Part 2: Sonoff-Tasmota Firmware

October 5th, 2017 1 comment

I’ve already reviewed Sonoff B1 light bulb using the stock firmware combined eWelink app for Android, and as promised in the first part of the review, I’ve also tested the ESP8285 based WiFi light bulb with Sonoff-Tasmota open source firmware, and report my findings in this new post.

Before we can play with the new firmware, we need to install it, and I’ve just explained how to upgrade Sonoff devices to Sonoff-Tasmota firmware either using some soldering skills and a USB to serial board, or some network configuration skills and perform an OTA update using ITEAD Studio/eWelink original firmware update mechanism.

So for this part of the review, I’ll assume we have just freshly update the light bulb with Sonoff-Tasmota using the binary images released by the developer. First, you’ll need to find the IP address of the light bulb with your router or tools like nmap or arp, and access the web interface in your web browser with for example http://192.168.0.108. You’ll probably want to setup a fixed IP address for easier access later on. By default the firmware is set to use Sonoff Basic, but we can go to Configuration->Configure Module, to change that to Sonoff B1, and click Save.

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This will reboot the light bulb with Sonoff B1 configuration, and you should be able to turn on the light bulb by adjusting the Color or Brightness sliders, or pressing the Toggle button.

It works with some lag, one or two seconds, just like on the eWelink app. What you don’t get in the current web interface is the ability to adjust RGB values, so only the white lights can be controlled easily. More on RGB control later. You’ll also lose timer and schedule ability from the web interface, because that’s more of a task for your home automation server using either MQTT or Domoticz whose options are available in the Configuration menu as shown below.

Configuration, MQTT, and Domoticz – Click to Enlarge

I won’t explain how to use those in details, as Karl’s has already written a tutorial using MQTT it with his home automation project with Sonoff-Tasmota (aka arendst’s firmware), and one my side, I have published instructions to setup MQTT and Domoticz with ESPurna open source firmware for a Sonoff POW switch.

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Other menus in the configuration include reset/backup/restore configuration, logging parameters, and other parameters such as Belkin Wemo or Hue Bridge emulation. If we go back the back to the main menu, we have some more buttons beside Toggle and Configuration such as access to the console, which you can use to monitor the output log, and send various commands, including ones to control the RGB lights. For example, I could set to the light to green with the command “Color 00FF000000”, since for Sonoff B1 they use hexadecimal values for Red, Green, Blue, Warm White, and Cold White. You can also use those commands over serial, MQTT, and a web API. For the latter the command

will set the color to red, and return:

Other options include Information with a complete overview of most parameters…

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Firmware Upgrade to do so either from an update server, or a local file, and Restart to reboot the device.

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Sonoff B1 with ITEAD Studio’s stock firmware and eWelink app is pretty much plug and play, and you can control multiple lights from one app, configuring the white and RGB lights, and setting timers and schedules, all right from your smartphone. The downsides are that it requires the Internet to communicate with the cloud service, the firmware and app are both fully closed source so you can’t add features or easily integrate it with your home automation system using standard protocols such as MQTT or a REST API. It does integrate with Amazon Alexa or Google Home however.

Going the open source firmware route is more a hack-flash-configure-get confused-setup-learn-and-play solution. Once you have overcome the steps to upgrade firmware to Sonoff-Tasmota, it’s not at all convenient to control your devices from the built-in web interface, especially if you have many. The firmware has really been designed to use with an home automation gateway like Domoticz, where you can manage with your lights or switches from a single web interface. So you’d have to setup your gateway, and you’ll likely get an Android app with it to do something like eWelink app, except you’ll have much more flexibility. You can get a bunch of lights to change colors in sync with your music (likely with a short delay), turn them on when motion and low light conditions are detected, or when specific persons are detected using face detection, etc.. The limit is only your imagination, and willingness to learn new skills.

I’d like to thank ITEAD Studio for sending a review sample. If you are interested, you can purchase the light bulb directly from them for $18 plus shipping. It can also be found on sites like Amazon US or Banggood.

NVIDIA Unveils Open Source Hardware NVDLA Deep Learning Accelerator

October 4th, 2017 2 comments

NVIDIA is not exactly known for their commitment to open source projects, but to be fair things have improved since Linus Torvalds gave them the finger a few years ago, although they don’t seem to help much with Nouveau drivers, I’ve usually read positive feedback for Linux for their Nvidia Jetson boards.

So this morning I was quite surprised to read the company had launched NVDLA (NVIDIA Deep Learning Accelerator), “free and open architecture that promotes a standard way to design deep learning inference accelerators”

Comparison of two possible NVDLA systems – Click to Enlarge

The project is based on Xavier hardware architecture designed for automotive products, is scalable from small to large systems, and is said to be a complete solution with Verilog and C-model for the chip, Linux drivers, test suites, kernel- and user-mode software, and software development tools all available on Github’s NVDLA account. The project is not released under a standard open source license like MIT, BSD or GPL, but instead NVIDIA’s own Open NVDLA license.

This an on-going project, and NVIDIA has a roadmap until H1 2018, at which point we should get FPGA support for accelerating software development, as well as support for TensorRT and other supported frameworks.

Via Phoronix

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 🙂