On Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 10:25 PM, Gordan Bobic <gordan(a)bobich.net> wrote:
> with 1024x600 screens (the toshiba AC100, the Genesi-USA Ekiga
> AlwaysInnovating Touchbook) - i wish them every success in their niche
> markets that are catered for by 1024x600 screens.
Genesi Efika MX can take a 1280x720 screen.
really? hoooraaay! wow, wow, and they cost about... $50 instead of
$30. i so don't understand why these aren't fitted as standard.
still, bless 'em. 10in LCD, 800mhz CPU and 512mb RAM - it's...
pushing your luck as a "main development machine"...
> for everyone else, who wants to see full documents and full web
> *without* having to press page-up, page-down, there literally is not a
> single ARM-based (or MIPS-based) product in existence, commercially
> available, anywhere in the world, despite a lot of talk from ARM, and
> also from the major ARM licensees, and despite the production cost of
> ARM-based and MIPS-based laptops being lower than that of an
> equivalent intel-based system.
You'd be forgiven for not noticing the difference. Genesi Efika MX and
Toshiba AC100 both cost me as much as a similarly specced Atom netbook. They
just have 2-4x the battery life and 1/2 the weight and thickness, no moving
parts (especially fans), etc.
i know, damnit!!! and the OLPC XO-1.75, which admittedly uses a
1.2ghz marvell "superscalar" CPU (which makes a biiig difference),
reports are in that running Fedora it *outperforms* an intel atom
> so - please do discuss amongst yourselves, or feel free to
> directly. i'm maintaining a list of links to all the other forums
> this is going out on, at the bottom of http://lkcl.net/laptop.html
> if you would like to recommend an alternative CPU please do review
> and/or edit http://libreplanet.org/wiki/Group:Hardware/Processors
> first (either the page itself or the discussion page).
Funnily enough, I was thinking about something very similar to this just
yesterday. My thoughts are as follows:
I was was actually pondering using an existing Clevo chassis. I thought
about using an M860TU because that has a 1920x1200 (15.4in) screen
available, but this is unfortunately only available with a fluorescent
backlight. That means inverters for the backlight and high power
So now I am pondering using a slightly newer yet very similar
W860CU. That is available with a 1920x1080 LED backlit panel (15.6in). It
wouldn't make much sense to use a higher drain screen when low power is a
key part of the appeal.
yes. that will mean that it probably requires a 3x LVDS IC [big, fat
cable, at least 40 wires] do you have a datasheet around? unless it
runs at 30hz refresh rate, in which case they *might* have only the
one LVDS channel... yep, need a datasheet on the LCD panel.
Looking at my M860TU, any suitably small motherboard could be made to
with a bit of cutting and gluing, and I expect a W860CU would be similar.
There is loads of space available in these machines, and they were designed
to be easy to work on rather than compact. This makes them lend themselves
well to prototyping.
i'm counting on it :)
I cannot emphasise enough that the key here is to get something that is
already well supported by the:
That pretty much rules out the Nvidia Tegra.
Shame, really, it had the
potential to be good, but nvidia are too jelous about their drivers to be
worth bothering with, and their support isn't good enough to offset that as
soon as you are off the straight and narrow.
The closest I have been able to get to finding a decent solution is the
Pandaboard (OMAP4 - Cortex A9 / PowerVR SGX). It has a PowerVR GPU which is
reasonably well understood, there is working XV video acceleration, and
decently working OpenGL ES drivers.
_proprietary_ OpenGL drivers.
With some luck we might get full OpenGL
drivers for it, too, since it is a GPU core virtually identical to what
Intel use (Intel GMA).
ok - i've been researching the SGX hardware, and it is... complex.
i've put in a proposal for funding, here:
and i've been working to get SGX added to the GNU "High Priority" Project
ok, unfortunately, there are two other things that stop the OMAP4
from being used (and the Pandaboard). the first is that you have to
understand that 90% of TI's revenue comes from the military (radar,
sonar) and this helps explain the rather top-heavy Free Software
support as well as the high pricing. the second is that the OMAP4's
DSP speed and capability has hit some sort of threshold which has
resulted in a BXPA "weapons" classification being slapped on it.
thus, even to get samples shipped outside of the U.S. or Europe now
requires permission - and a license - on an individual case-by-case
basis, from the U.S. or U.K government.
the second thing is that the Pandaboard (and the Beagleboard-XM) use
"Package-on-Package" RAM. even TI's own documentation state that the
yields on one memory supplier's 512mb POP RAM have been so rubbish
that they got TWO percent success rate. not to mention the insane
cost of these high-density RAM chips.
so, yes, you _could_ base a design around the (vanilla) BBxM or even
the Pandaboard, but... yyeah :)
sorry, gordan, i really _have_ been on this for months :) the
S5PV210 is the lowest "from-scratch" development cost found so far
(ok, not entirely from-scratch - it's actually adaptation of an
existing, proven and well-understood 2009 CPU), and the next suitable
one is the DM3730 / 3725. which, because that's a 2010 CPU, is less
well-understood so the costs are double.
now i _have_ been advised of another two CPUs - one is the nusmart
2816 and the other is the ziilabs ZMS-08. the nice thing about the
ZMS-08 is that it is *already* available in a "system-on-module"
use of this module would mean zero SO-DIMM development costs, meaning
that all that would be required would be a motherboard, and that's
only about $2k-$3k!
i'm investigating its price, availability and Free-Software
compatibility. it has a Cell Processor (8x8 vector processing unit)
and ziilabs apparently are scared witless of being overwhelmed with
whining eemo wannabe-developer support calls if they release the docs
on its instruction set. this is based on their experience,
apparently, of commercial companies (asian factories) being completely
incapable of programming it. do the math on that logic, and you have
to laugh, really, but i _do_ need to come up with a reassuring
The one thing that is currently missing is a LVDS module, but
the list was recently saying that a HDMI->LVDS module will be available
imminently. That pretty much leaves just the battery charging circuit
and Audio IC, LCD brightness control, USB Hub and Ethernet end-point
IC (usually). but yes, pretty basic, and costing about... ok, it's
really hard to create an estimate that goes over $USD 15 in
the power brick, which can hopefully be integrated into all that space that
will be empty in the machine without a big fat motherboard, heatsinks, fans,
etc, so the power lead can just be a simple 2-wire mains one. Nice and
portable (well as portable as a W860CU).
Now, I recognize that 1920x1080 isn't what most people are
wanting out of an ARM laptop, and neither is a 15.6in size, but I like my
pixel density and pixel count. 13in would be better, but that panel is rare
and expensive and the only chassis that takes it is the Sony Vaio Z (at
£2500, not even worth considering).
Now, obviously, even made using off-the-shelf-ish parts like this (you'll
have to work hard to get a Clevo chassis without a motherboard),
yes :) it would mean negotiating with clevo.
but the costs would likely be in the 3-4x what you were hoping for.
Pandaboard is $174.
A Clevo W860CU is not far from 10x that (OK, that includes the motherboard,
CPU, an expensive GPU, RAM, disk, etc, but it'd be difficult to persuade a
distributor to sell you a bare chassis with a battery and screen).
The upshot, however, is that you would likely get 20+ hours of battery life
out of it.
ahh, it depends on the power
The other thing I consider to be a big problem is the amount of RAM
available. Pandaboard comes with 1GB of RAM, which is on the small size if
we're really serious about this. I'd like to see at least 2GB, but I'm not
sure if this is viable with a Pandaboard. I haven't seen any ARM boards with
> 1GB of RAM:
Genesi Efika MX: 512MB
Toshiba AC100: 512MB
POP - this will be eeexpensiiive.
Compulab offerings top out at 1GB
Ideally what I want is something like a Pandaboard with a DDR3
*sigh* yehhhs... but then that means that the motherboard itself
needs to be a 6-layer or even a 10-layer board, as the CPU itself
needs to be on the motherboard. and _that_ means you're now into $40k
development costs (of months). if the CPU itself is on the SO-DIMM
(System-on-Module) and you can find one that suits already, then the
dev costs are $2-$3k (and only a couple of weeks). that's a _big_
But if something like this were available off the shelf, and based
something very well supported by the community already, I'd happily pay a
considerable premium for it.
ok. the plan is to create at least a "generic" motherboard, approx
7cm x 9cm, with flying leads that can go to the connectors, regardless
of how large the case.
that way it would be kiiinda possible to fulfil other laptop specs,
but the kick-in-the-teeth there is the LVDS and LCD power
requirements. the connectors vary *radically*. i know of an IC that
can do up to 30 volts (funnily enough the one used by the ODroid from
) but there do exist LCD screens, esp. the larger ones,
that require more for their LED backlights (36v).
it's tricky! :)
but, yeah, the aim is to fulfil the largest number of peoples' needs
first (weight of numbers) and then branch out from there.