9 Replies Latest reply on Jun 28, 2016 9:44 AM by lkcl

    EOMA-68 finally ?

      http://liliputing.com/2013/11/improv-is-a-75-modular-arm-based-computer-core-eoma-68.html

       

      Could this be the first actual EOMA-68 turned into a product that you can (almost) buy ?  Have rhombus tech been beaten to the finish line ?

       

      It'll be interesting to see where it leads, now that there's an actual product (almost) available, not sure on the $75 though, it seems that there's probably better value boards available today, and that there's only going to be more of those in the next year.  We've seen mention of an OLinuXino-LIME2 with almost identical specs plus gigabit ethernet, which could possibly be below this price point.

       

      Interesting times for SBC's indeed..  Although I'm not really sure that things like Improv or Wandboard where you have two boards really qualify as Single Board Computers.

        • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
          morgaine

          selsinork wrote:

           

          Interesting times for SBC's indeed..  Although I'm not really sure that things like Improv or Wandboard where you have two boards really qualify as Single Board Computers.

           

          Haha, good point.  Maybe the phrase Modular Board Computers should be coined for these multi-board assembles?  (The 'M' could also refer to "multi".)  "Modular" certainly reflects the intent behind EOMA-68 and EDM.

           

          What's missing in all these cases though are third-party baseboards or motherboards.  There's still no general buy-in for these modular concepts by third parties.  When the baseboards are available only from the same manufacturer as the CPU module, that creates strong lock-in.

           

          Morgaine.

            • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?

              From reading the Wandboard forums and google group, it sounds like there are some other base boards in the process of being designed/manufactured by third parties. Although until they're available to buy it's mostly irrelevant.  As part of the bigger Technexion range there are other EDM cpu boards and carrier boards available, so there is some choice there even if it is all from the same vendor. Wandboard/Technexion do seem to encourage third party take up by making cpu boards and connector kits available, albeit in 10 packs.

               

              As for EOMA.. well there's been lots of talk over the last two years or so, and so far the Improv appears to be the only product. There was mention of a tablet that's going to use it, but again from the same people selling the Improv.  Potentially there's Rhombus and Improv as two distinct vendors of EOMA - assuming Rhombus ever actually manage to cross the finish line and get a product on sale..

                • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
                  morgaine

                  Maybe this is where the open source hardware community could step in and design a modular computer without the hard parts --- because those are inside the plugin-in modules.

                   

                  There's no shortage of dab-hands with Eagle here, and in many other places.  It just needs the itch.

                   

                  Morgaine.

                    • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
                      lkcl

                      Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                       

                      Maybe this is where the open source hardware community could step in and design a modular computer without the hard parts --- because those are inside the plugin-in modules.

                       

                      There's no shortage of dab-hands with Eagle here, and in many other places.  It just needs the itch.

                       

                      Morgaine.

                       

                      now you're getting it, morgaine   and unlike other modular computing units (such as the engineering board style ones mentioned earlier, as well as Q-Seven and so on) the idea is that EOMA68 units will be *mass-volume* and therefore a) lower cost b) easy to get hold of.  my vision is that EOMA68 CPU Cards would be available literally as off-the-shelf units in supermarkets.

                       

                      if you look at the interfaces on EOMA68, you have all the high-speed signals as differential pairs.  a good engineer can do differential-pairs with KiCAD by creating a temporary part that has the exact width of the two tracks needed to be laid out and then dragging that around (this was a tip from an experienced KiCAD user).  the RGB/TTL interface on the current EOMA68 specification maxes out at 1280x800 so the data rate is going to be somewhere around 60mhz for a 60hz refresh rate.  SD/MMC goes up to what... 50mhz at the moment?  you only really have to worry about R.F. emissions at above 400 to 500mhz.

                       

                      so yes, you're exactly on the right track (so to speak).  the whole point of the exercise is that a *really* good computing module is available as a future-proof off-the-shelf upgradeable unit, leaving engineers with the much easier task of creating a simple 2 or 4 layer PCB, confident that they really don't have to do that work again just because processors get faster.

                       

                      which is kinda cool.

                    • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
                      lkcl

                      agrahambell wrote:

                       

                      From reading the Wandboard forums and google group, it sounds like there are some other base boards in the process of being designed/manufactured by third parties. Although until they're available to buy it's mostly irrelevant.  As part of the bigger Technexion range there are other EDM cpu boards and carrier boards available,

                       

                      have you ever tried putting EDM cpu boards (or wandboards, or raspberrypi's) into your wallet, pocket, handbag (if you have one)?  would you consider wearing fake-leather-soled shoes, walking around on nylon carpet and consider putting an EDM cpu board into the top pocket of your polyester chequered shirt?

                       

                      would you give an EDM cpu board to your grandma and say "install that, grandma"?

                       

                      or would you give an EDM cpu board to a child with grubby fingers that is happy to grasp the unit by its gold-plated contacts?

                       

                      if the answer is "yes" to any of the questions above, would you seriously expect the device to actually be operational?

                       

                      EOMA68 CPU cards, by virtue of re-using robust and proven PCMCIA metal casework, are resilient to wear and tear, and are light enough (40 grammes) that i have been able to demonstrate bashing them against a desk quite hard and they are still perfectly functional.  they're also thin enough to literally put into the credit-card slot in a wallet (because the PCMCIA specification is exactly credit-card-sized).

                       

                      so yes, if you are an engineer feel free to buy EDM cpu boards and other carrier boards.  as an engineer you have the technical knowledge and expertise to protect an EDM cpu module from wear-and-tear and to take the required anti-static precautions.

                       

                      by contrast: for everyone - and that's *including* engineers - there is EOMA68.

                    • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
                      lkcl

                      Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                       

                      What's missing in all these cases though are third-party baseboards or motherboards.  There's still no general buy-in for these modular concepts by third parties.  When the baseboards are available only from the same manufacturer as the CPU module, that creates strong lock-in.

                       

                      Morgaine.

                       

                      the source code in KiCAD CAD/CAM format for various EOMA68 hardware PCB projects is available publicly under the GPL software license if you look for it on the rhombus-tech.net web site.  unfortunately there was no take-up (no assistance offered by open hardware engineers) when those projects were begun, as it takes quite a lot of committment and no such committment was given.

                       

                      so i was forced, in order to complete the project, to begin using proprietary CAD/CAM tools and to pay professional engineering teams quite large sums of money to get the boards completed.

                       

                      obviously, i want that investment of funds back.

                       

                      you have to bear in mind that i am primarily a software libre advocate (with an incredibly ambitious goal).  it is going to be necessary to kick-start this project with a number of different CPU Cards and different base units before people start to "Get It (tm)".  once there are several examples (on each side of the EOMA68 interface) to play with, people will stop thinking of this as a) vapourware b) yet another SBC project c) will find the KiCAD examples that i began 3 years ago, and will consider completing them or creating their own.

                       

                      if that doesn't happen as quickly as i would like it to, i will (once the project is financially self-sustaining and the personal funds invested have been recouped) release a number of products as full GPL'd Open Hardware PCB designs.

                       

                      so i foresee a future in which there will be plenty of open hardware third party EOMA68 designs out there.  in fact, there is one third party team who has stuck with the project throughout: they are creating a hand-held games console.  http://rhombus-tech.net/community_ideas/games_console/

                       

                      does that help address the point that you raise?

                    • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
                      lkcl

                      agrahambell wrote:

                       

                      Could this be the first actual EOMA-68 turned into a product that you can (almost) buy ?

                       

                      (note: i will be announcing a crowd-funded campaign in the next 2-3 months)

                       

                      things happen when they're ready.  do you use ubuntu or do you use debian?  you're aware that the ubuntu team force-release every six months, whereas the debian team release when the software has been properly tested.

                       

                      it's a similar thing here.  EOMA-68 is a long-term standard that is designed with at least a decade of life (hence why it has the wires which are presently used for USB 3 that will be upgraded to USB 3.1 within the lifetime of the standard).

                       

                      Have rhombus tech been beaten to the finish line ?

                      if you meant by the improv then no - we were their supplier.  unfortunately they didn't get enough take-up and a MOQ of 2500 units had been set.

                       

                      if you meant "has rhombus tech been beaten to the finish line by a standard similar to EOMA-68" then the answer is a most definite resounding no.  there simply does not exist anything - anywhere - like the EOMA-68 standard.  there does exist this: ICE Computer however:

                       

                      • i don't immediately see any specifications for the standard - perhaps someone could help look for them?
                      • i don't see any mention of invitations to create compatible modules or base-boards,
                      • the bar is set extremely high for the interfaces (eDP and HDMI) which immediately rules out the possibility of a CPU Card with a BOM of $USD 12 to 15 because no $2 SoC is ever going to include the multi-dollar royalties required for outputting data in eDP or HDMI format: it would double or triple the cost of the $2 SoC!
                      • the size of the modules are actually quite large: there's no way you could consider fitting them inside a wallet (i have carried an EOMA68 CPU Card around in my wallet for a while just to demonstrate that it can be done).

                       

                       

                      It'll be interesting to see where it leads, now that there's an actual product (almost) available, not sure on the $75 though, it seems that there's probably better value boards available today, and that there's only going to be more of those in the next year.

                       

                      right.  this is where the point of EOMA68 is most misunderstood by people in the engineering and open hardware community, by comparing EOMA68 CPU Cards to SBCs.

                       

                      if you want an SBC which you intend to use in a short-term product that will never require any kind of upgrades, and has no requirement - ever - to be upgraded, or if you just want something to tinker with that will, after a year, sit on a shelf or be thrown into landfill and you intend to buy another one after a year or two, then please feel free to do exactly that.

                       

                      however if you have any kind of environmental conscience that makes you think twice before throwing away those SBCs that you're no longer using, or if you are designing a product that you would like to upgrade the CPU and RAM on in two or more years time but you don't want the hassle of doing a total redesign, and you really don't think it's okay to spend more money on doing the upgrade, *then* you want to consider investing - and it is a long-term investment - in EOMA68.

                       

                      think about it.  you only need to buy one base unit, and you can upgrade the CPU Card at less cost.  or, you can buy two or more base units and only one CPU Card, and share them between bases.

                       

                      either way you save money... *long-term*... and that also means less land-fill.

                       

                      We've seen mention of an OLinuXino-LIME2 with almost identical specs plus gigabit ethernet, which could possibly be below this price point.

                       

                       

                      yeah, see above.  also you can't put SBCs into a tablet or a laptop, can you.  EOMA68 is designed as an environmentally-conscious mass-volume computing appliance standard.  that means - just as there is on the ICE PC web site (who have $200m investment rather than doing things as a self-bootstrapped grassroots project) - that you will be able to buy these as off-the-shelf units.

                       

                      now, as this is being done by someone who is from the software libre community, that means that every unit that's available in supermarkets will be possible to replace the OS and install Software Libre OSes on it.

                       

                      i have friends who have a stack of tablets a METRE HIGH where they have tried to re-use low-cost china tablets for engineering purposes.  it sounds great: instead of spending $50,000 to design their own hardware and it costs $200 per board because they only expect to sell 500 units, they buy $30 tablets and expect to be able to replace the OS with their own.

                       

                      ... except that they discover that there's endemic GPL violations - mjg59 | Android, GPL violations and Google - and actually putting an alternative OS onto the product is flat-out impossible and requires specialist reverse-engineering skills way beyond their budget.

                       

                      so there is a lot going on.

                      • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
                        clem57

                        What ever happened to the Improv? lkcl do you know?

                        Clem

                          • Re: EOMA-68 finally ?
                            lkcl

                            that is history.  let's discuss what's now and what's future, not the past. i learned that i have to remain 100% in control of the standard and to be 100% in control of engineering direction when it comes to initial product development.  you can pledge some money towards a micro-desktop and an EOMA68-A20 computer card, on http://crowdsupply.com/eoma68 - the micro-desktop is what you are looking for.