[Arm-netbook] The future of EOMA-68

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton lkcl at lkcl.net
Tue May 5 10:42:17 BST 2015

On Tue, May 5, 2015 at 9:54 AM, Simon Kenyon <simon at koala.ie> wrote:
> On 05/02/15 08:51, gacuest at gmail.com wrote:
> I have seen that are developing several EOMA-68, but all have very little
> power or are old (like A20, JZ4775 or IC1T). This makes that many people
> that are looking for powerful hardware is left out of the EOMA-68 market.
> What is the future of EOMA-68? Any EOMA-68 with a powerful hardware (like
> Tegra X1 or Intel Bay-Trail)?
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> this is NOT a troll

 understood and accepted.  you're asking hard questions, and that's appreciated.

> i think it was sometime in 2011 that the eoma-68 concept was defined.
> i do realise that luke and others have put a lot of effort into this but it
> has been a very long time and i still can't buy anything
> is it not time to reevaluate the project, its goals and objectives?

 i'm tempted to say that a decade-long project by definition doesn't
need its goals and objectives to be re-evaluated, however this hasn't
been the case.

 the first - key - mistake made was to add SATA to EOMA68, not just
because the allwinner A10 had it, but also because the idea was, at
the time, to make EOMA68 more of a "computer" standard.  part-server,
part-desktop, part-embedded, part-portable device and so on.

 then as the market in low-cost SoCs progressed, and more were
evaluated - Texas Instruments AM Sitara beaglebone/black SoCs, Ingenic
SoCs, Allwinner's "tablet" specialised SoCs, Rockchip SoCs - it was
noted that *absolutely none of them* had SATA, and even fewer had

 so given that the cost of the SoCs, some of them, are as low as $USD
2.00 (literally $2.00 - as in $2 and zero cents) if you have to add a
USB Hub IC ($1) and a USB-to-SATA IC ($1.50) it *entirely* defeats the
object of the exercise in putting down the low-cost $USD 2 SoC in the
first place.

 so... SATA had to go.  that was the first specification change.

 then, somewhere along the lines - about 2 years ago - joe and henrik
kindly had a discussion about UART and TTL voltage reference levels.
i still to this day don't quite see why just a simple zener diode
won't do the job (henrik "Gets It") but hey, rather than have the
argument, i decided it was safer to change the spec... again... rather
than have it fail BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED...

 ... and replaced one of the 4 0.5A 5V *input* pins with a "TTL ref
voltage" *OUTPUT* pin.

then i realised that, actually, many people who'd said "what about
SD/MMC" and "what about SPI" and "what about UART" were actually
right, so i made *ANOTHER* change to the spec, this time:

* reducing the RGB/TTL from 24 to 18 pins (freeing up 3 pins)
* putting in SPI in place of the RGB/TTL pins removed
* replacing SATA (4 pin) with USB2 (2 pin) leaving 2 further pins free
* one of those was turned into a PWM
* the other was turned into a 2nd EINT (IRQ-capable) GPIO.

so now we have something that's, instead of being "general computer",
"general server", "general desktop", is more "embedded devices",
"portable devices"...

... but how long did it take - and how much money - to make these decisions?

*four years*, simon, and it's cost so far around $USD 25,000 possibly
as much as $USD 30,000.  which is a hell of a lot of money to spend as
a learning experience on something as "simple" as a standard.

so the short answer is, i've done a *hell* of a lot of thinking, and
am *constantly* re-evaluating the project, its goals and objectives,
and, fortunately, each time i do that, the answer comes up "yep it's
on track".

the one thing i do have to do is take a deep breath and commit to this
first crowd-funding campaign.  i'm... not hugely happy that the cost
of USA-based manufacturing is a whopping $25 per product extra ($12
for assembly of the micro-desktop instead of $3, $12 for assembly of
the eoma68-a20 pcb instead of $3, and $5 for the PCBs themselves
instead of $1.50 but to be fair the contract manufacturer has
amortised the $1,000 laser-cut steel mask for solder pasting into the

but, thinking about it over the past couple of days, i figured "well,
if that's the cost then that's the cost", and we go ahead anyway.


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