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New Crowdfunding Campaign Offers Modular EOMA68 Computing Devices (crowdsupply.com) 122

A new crowdfunding campaign by Rhombus Tech "introduces the world's first devices built around the EOMA68 standard," which separates a "modular" CPU board from the rest of the system so that it can be easily used in multiple devices and upgraded more simply. Rhombus Tech is now offering a 15.6-inch laptop, a laser-cut wooden Micro-Desktop housing, and two types of computer cards, both using A20 dual-core ARM Cortex A7 processors. The cards are available with four flavors of the GNU/Linux operating system, and they're hoping to receive RYF certification from the Free Software Foundation.

"No proprietary software," explains their campaign's video. "No backdoors. No spyware. No NDAs." They envision a world where users upgrade their computers by simply popping in a new card -- reducing electronic waste -- or print new laptop casings to repair defects or swap in different colors. (And they also hope to eventually see the cards also working with cameras, phones, tablets, and gaming consoles.) Rhombus Tech CTO Luke Leighton did a Slashdot interview in 2012, and contacted Slashdot this weekend to announce: A live-streamed video from Hope2016 explains what it's about, and there is a huge range of discussions and articles online. The real burning question is: if a single Software Libre Engineer can teach themselves PCB design and bring modular computing to people on the budget available from a single company, why are there not already a huge number of companies doing modular upgradeable hardware?
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New Crowdfunding Campaign Offers Modular EOMA68 Computing Devices

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  • Any windowed equivalent since the 98SE interface, fine. The main thing is how easily it plugs into HDTVs, existing i86 machines, or any thing with power and a screen. When I travel and stay in homes or hotels, that would make life easier.
    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      Any windowed equivalent since the 98SE interface, fine. The main thing is how easily it plugs into HDTVs, existing i86 machines, or any thing with power and a screen. When I travel and stay in homes or hotels, that would make life easier.

      yeah by default i'm installing XFCE4 but in the future with more powerful SoCs coming out all the time the sky's the limit. ok in the future i'd really like to see schools, libraries and hotels have EOMA68-compliant HDTVs that you can pop your own computer card into. might not be a realistic vision for libraries (they might *rent* you an "approved" EOMA68 computer card though, just like a book...) or hotels (would need to become as prevalent as memory cards) but for schools, yeah it's on the scenarios in

  • by James Ogden ( 3973531 ) on Sunday July 31, 2016 @04:32AM (#52615527)
    The reason that this isn't already a common approach in the industry is that forcing constraints on form factors for SoC devices has some intractable issues. If you have a powerful SoC it demands high power and needs to dissipate heat; so the upper bound of what you can achieve in the packaging and with the connector will be rapidly met u.nless it is massively over specified, and then it will be large and expensive. Also, display technology is not fixed in time, parallel interface signals are already quite out of date as an interface specification , although the actual limit here will probably be down to the PCMCIA connectors impedance discontinuity and consistency after numerous insertions when more modern differential display protocols are adopted. It is a laudable aim, but I doubt this will save the planet from computer waste.
    • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Sunday July 31, 2016 @09:35AM (#52615973) Homepage

      The reason that this isn't already a common approach in the industry is that forcing constraints on form factors for SoC devices has some intractable issues. If you have a powerful SoC it demands high power and needs to dissipate heat; so the upper bound of what you can achieve in the packaging and with the connector will be rapidly met u.nless it is massively over specified, and then it will be large and expensive.

      we're dealing with that by setting a hard limit for the [re-used, pin-incompatible] PCMCIA "Type I" and "Type II" sockets which are 3.3mm and 5.0mm respectively: the hard limit for these two thinner card types is 5.0 watts. so at around 3.0 to 3.5 watts there's still absolutely no need for fans or any kind of special thermal considerations: passive cooling is all that's needed, and the SoC happens to be in contact with the stainless steel case, which happens to be in contact with the aluminium of the keyboard (in the case of the laptop).

      just over that (up to 4.0 watts) and it is possible to use exactly the same graphite paper that's been developed for mobile phones. cheap, readily-available.

      at around 4.5 watts it would be necessary to seal the package and flood it with thermal gel.

      Also, display technology is not fixed in time, parallel interface signals are already quite out of date as an interface specification , although the actual limit here will probably be down to the PCMCIA connectors impedance discontinuity and consistency after numerous insertions when more modern differential display protocols are adopted. .

      right. i spent five years analysing this and the impedance of PCMCIA (which, again, just to emphasise, we are *NOT* electrically or electronically compatible with: EOMA68 merely REUSES the PCMCIA connectors, housings, sockets and assemblies) is 100 ohms.

      the EOMA68 standard uses RGB/TTL because that allows you to go all the way from 320x240 up to 1366x768 which works out to be around 80mhz. 80mhz over 100 ohm impedance is just about acceptable: you remember those "gold shields" on PCMCIA? those were designed to reduce EMI. the cards we're using for the initial prototypes have the metal case covering the entire connector, both sides.

      why use RGB/TTL? this is covered in the eco-computing white paper in detail, section on "interface selection" http://rhombus-tech.net/whitep... [rhombus-tech.net] basically if you consider the cost of 320x240 LCDs and take a look on http://panelook.com/ [panelook.com] they're peanuts cost and they're *all* RGB/TTL. if you added a converter IC it would be a massively-disproportionate percentage addition to the BOM. however if you go up to a 1024x600 which costs $18 approx and you add a $1 SN75LVDS83b LVDS converter IC.... that's not so bad, is it?

      • Not trying to be rude.

        Even with open source software, the modern desktop/laptop needs have long since surpassed those specs.
        1366x768 is very much on it's way out. (THANK GOD) It's a horribly small resolution for the majority of current gui's and websites even though it's technically 720p hd. Still usable though if you force your users to run fluxbox or similar. 2gb of ram is pretty tiny, usable but tiny. 4gb SHOULD have been your MIN amount. Otherwise your system will be limited to running JUST a single mod

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Chris ( 4631445 )

          Your missing the point and value of this project entirely. We're giving the community and users control over the design of there computing devices. Right now we're stuck behind crappy poorly supported proprietary systems full of backdoors and malicious code. Modern Intel and AMD systems, televisions, every Android device, most Raspberry Pi-like boards, tablets, and even routers have backdoors and other malicious features.

          You can't replace wifi cards in most devices these days because manufactures like Intel

        • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Sunday July 31, 2016 @03:46PM (#52617167) Homepage

          Not trying to be rude.

          no offense taken: this is the internet... it's slashdot.... what you wrote is actually really helpful as a counterpoint: chris answered i think really well https://news.slashdot.org/comm... [slashdot.org]

          , bill yourself as a fully open and environmentally friendly alt to the raspberry pi and similar.

          *deep, deep breath*..... AAAAAAAAAAAgh no :) *shudder* no, no, nOooo, and no.

          ok to explain my reaction, there: those are all SBCs (single-board computers). after six months of supernova-style popularity, they're dead. each manufacturer of each SBC has to scramble like mad to bring out *the next* SBC using whatever processor they can get their hands on, and the next, and the next, in a desperate cat-and-dog bitch-fight of popularity and unethical abuse of the word "open". ... am i painting a broad picture here of the *really* stark contrast between the approach taken by the embedded "educational" SBC clone market and what we're doing with EOMA68?

          by total contrast we're creating the beginning of a comprehensive eco-system of hardware re-use which *happens* (through direct correlation) to both save money for end-users and also reduce e-waste.

          but more than that: if we took the EOMA68-A20 board and turned it into an SBC, it would *INSTANTLY* be perceived as being a tired total waste-of-time banana pi or cubieboard clone... when in fact the irony is that those products exist *because* of the reverse-engineering and persistence that i applied to Allwinner to obtain GPL compliance. the sunxi community then helped take that initiative over, they've been working non-stop now for years to pressurise allwinner, and i've been helping quietly in the background ever since.

          this project has a completely different focus in other words, where it succeeds if there is a *huge* compatible eco-system (tablet, laptop, router, camera, gps, media centre, lcd tv, games console - everything you can see on here http://rhombus-tech.net/commun... [rhombus-tech.net] and many more) and a huge compatible range of EOMA68 Computer Cards (and an FPGA card and a Pass-through Card and a DisplayLink Card) with a wide price-range and crucially a decades-long-term "just plug it in, it will work" *stable* standard. ... massive, massive difference.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          1366x768 is very much on it's way out. (THANK GOD)

          No it's not, unfortunately. It's just that people stopped trying to race to the bottom and produce only sub-$500 laptops that we have more options now (i.e., try to make more than a couple of bucks on a PC).

          If you hunt for cheap laptops, 1366x768 is very much a common resolution. But now you can pay a little more, like say $1000, and get a laptop with a 1080p screen.

          It's just that a few years ago, $1000 laptops weren't an option because few people were makin

  • Sounds interesting, but I'd have to see a complete proposal before I'd chip in. I'd want to see the schedule, the budget, the resources, and the success criteria to know if the project succeeded. The summary sounds way too grand, so I think I'd want to see it broken down into pieces that are small enough to understand, too. Also important to make sure nothing is overlooked, such as sufficient testing. Be fine if the same organization that helped check the proposal evaluated and reported on the results (perh

    • The same kind of approach could be adapted to the slashdot situation, breaking features

      Unfortunately, SlashDot stopped there.

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      Sounds interesting, but I'd have to see a complete proposal before I'd chip in. I'd want to see the schedule, the budget, the resources, and the success criteria to know if the project succeeded.

      most of the information you've asked for, because this is a *genuinely* open and transparent project, is on http://rhombus-tech.net/crowds... [rhombus-tech.net] - including the BOM, a full risk analysis, and much more. having been around for a long time, long enough to have seen the openmoko fail, and the pi-top team break their promises, and the shit-storm that resulted from the purism team's deceptive marketing, and the difficulties that the openpandora team had with R.F. and firmware: if you have any specific advice, TELL

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        Excellent and substantive response, though you ["ikcl", but not sure of your relationship to the project] sound a bit defensive about it. Considering the mixed success history of such projects (which both of us referenced), I certainly understand why. (However, just to refer to another, I think Diaspora may have been the best idea to die for bad planning combined with overfunding from the crowd. Not sure if it should be "literally die", because that depends on the relationship of Diaspora to the visionary's

        • by lkcl ( 517947 )

          Excellent and substantive response, though you ["ikcl", but not sure of your relationship to the project] sound a bit defensive about it. Considering the mixed success history of such projects (which both of us referenced), I certainly understand why.

          yeah no i get it. here's the thing: i am happy to admit that i don't know what i'm doing: that's why i'm inviting people to participate and point things out. if it succeeds, it succeeds as a *group* project, and that's really valuable. the approach that i'm taking seems to be working: we got this far, y'know?

          I followed http://rhombus-tech.net/crowds... [rhombus-tech.net] and read some more, but it seems to me that your approach is too orthogonal to what I'm trying to describe. You have lots of detail about how you think you can deliver a certain product with certain capabilities within a certain budget. Those numbers seem too fuzzy for me to trust the totals, and I couldn't find the schedule. Other places it felt like you were diverted by details that should not be relevant at this relatively early stage.

          i'm talking to the factory owner online, and planning to go to taiwan (and then to HK and Shenzen) in september. leading up to christmas the factories are *stupidly* busy, which is why i will go and

  • Magnavox (at least I think it was Magnavox, it could have been Zenith), a long ago TV manufacturer, came up with a modular TV set just at the time when solid state devices were starting to take hold of the market. They envisioned a TV where each separate module could be replaced when it failed (tuner,sound amplifier, etc). It was so complex that almost no one could work on it. It was easier to just throw out the TV and buy a new one. Technology seems to go from very complex and expensive to "use and th
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Wasn't there a brief modular TV trend in the early 90s where the idea was that the TV was a monitor and you bought components like a stereo, or probably more correctly, they were thought of as stereo-type components to be added to the component stereo system?

      I think it was at about the peak of VHS as a technology, when TV broadcasts were in stereo and VHS had hi-fi stereo audio and better TVs had at least composite if not SVHS video.

      Now most people use them that way despite the TV industry never giving up i

    • I don't know what brand it was but back inn the early to mid 80s, we had a TV that was ghosting the immage and the sound would cut out at times. The TV repair guy still actually came to the house back then and I watched him work on it. He replaced two modular boards which was new to me because i was use to the tubes. He said the boards would be fixed back at a shop but was in and out in about 30 minutes complete with running test patterns on the screen and some audio thing for the speakers.

      I don't know if

      • All TV's before around 1978 used vacuum tubes and a few discrete components mounted to boards within the cabinet that were all hard wired together. Around the early 80s they got smart and installed anything they could (sound system, receiver, etc) into plug in boards on the main board along with any vacuum tubes needed that could not be replaced with solid state devices.
  • by mafm ( 4203219 ) on Sunday July 31, 2016 @06:22AM (#52615663)

    Currently the CPU in the CPU-cards available in the campaign is an ARM 32 bits ("armhf" for Debian systems).

    In the future, if things go well, there are plans to launch other CPU-cards that meet requirements of low power, hw and sw freedom (not requiring proprietary firmware blobs to run), etc. Other CPUs have been already considered, including different architectures, like MIPS. The housing (laptop, micro desktop, etc.) can be reused, it's just a matter of swapping the CPU-card -- that's one of the main points of this project.

    I'm hoping that there's enough interest in the project and goes ahead, that the ecosystem thrives and other CPU-cards based on free designs like OpenRISC or RISC-V will be produced in the future.

    • ...I'm hoping that there's enough interest in the project and goes ahead, that the ecosystem thrives and other CPU-cards based on free designs like OpenRISC or RISC-V will be produced in the future.

      What, you don't like SoftBank's ownership of ARM?

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      Currently the CPU in the CPU-cards available in the campaign is an ARM 32 bits ("armhf" for Debian systems).

      and a Pass-Through Card just to make sure that people don't get the impression that EOMA68 is restricted to Software Libre, ARM processors *or* processors *at all*... https://www.crowdsupply.com/eo... [crowdsupply.com]

      In the future, if things go well, there are plans to launch other CPU-cards that meet requirements of low power, hw and sw freedom (not requiring proprietary firmware blobs to run), etc. Other CPUs have been already considered, including different architectures, like MIPS. The housing (laptop, micro desktop, etc.) can be reused, it's just a matter of swapping the CPU-card -- that's one of the main points of this project.

      i did a big evaluation here - bear in mind that this evaluation process has been continuous and ongoing for *five years*: https://www.crowdsupply.com/eo... [crowdsupply.com]

      I'm hoping that there's enough interest in the project and goes ahead, that the ecosystem thrives and other CPU-cards based on free designs like OpenRISC or RISC-V will be produced in the future.

      OpenRISC was not designed around a harvard architecture so is extremely unlikely to go beyond around... 500mhz, even if it was in 10nm, due to insufficient

  • Probably interesting for many folks around here... there are plans to submit these projects for the Free Software Foundation's Respects Your Freedom [fsf.org] program (contacts already started).
  • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Sunday July 31, 2016 @06:46AM (#52615709)
    if a single Software Libre Engineer can teach themselves PCB design and bring modular computing to people on the budget available from a single company, why are there not already a huge number of companies doing modular upgradeable hardware?

    Volume is king in electronics. Surely everyone knows that here! In case you had not noticed, a computer is made from -

    • Less than a pint of oil (two pints if the case is mostly plastic)
    • Less than two pints of sand (Much less if no glass in the screen)
    • Not enough steel to make a wing panel for a Fiat Punto
    • Not enough copper to make an ashtray
    • Just about enough aluminium to make a saucepan
    • A couple of kilowatts of energy
    • VERY EXPENSIVE machine tools
    • HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of HOURS of VERY EXPENSIVE engineering time
    • MASSIVE AMOUNTS of special purpose tooling

    The last three items are one-off costs, spread over the entire production volume. If your volume is high, they are negligible, if your volume is low, you are stuffed.

    PCB design is a non-issue - if you don't pay the going rate. PCB test, debugging and verification, not so much. Hint: you cannot do your own quality control - no one spots their own errors.

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      Volume is king in electronics.

      thanks anne - appreciate the informative post. amazingly the computer cards are around $35 in volumes of 250 which puts them still well within the "affordable" bracket @ a pledge level of $65. which is one key reason why i have gone with the modular strategy - to get the Computer Cards into people's hands at an early phase. it's part of the bootstrapping process to get up to those mass-volume levels where the Computer Cards would only be around $16 in 20k volumes and the Laptop Housing's BOM would be aro

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      VERY EXPENSIVE machine tools
      HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of HOURS of VERY EXPENSIVE engineering time
      MASSIVE AMOUNTS of special purpose tooling

      The last three items are one-off costs, spread over the entire production volume. If your volume is high, they are negligible, if your volume is low, you are stuffed.

      sorry, forgot to say:

      VERY EXPENSIVE machine tools which is why i went with re-using of legacy PCMCIA casework. why pay $250k to get tooling made up and end up having to order 1 million units when you can re-use what already exists? tools costs wiped out....

      HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of HOURS of VERY EXPENSIVE engineering time - or just one person over a looong time, doing things from home, backed by small sponsors, or by working part-time, but also doing things as a modular approach so that the main bulk of

  • "The real burning question is: if a single Software Libre Engineer can teach themselves PCB design and bring modular computing to people on the budget available from a single company, why are there not already a huge number of companies doing modular upgradeable hardware?"

    Well, because it is economical BS. 99.9% of the market doesn't give a damn about modularity (cf. scaling back of the project Ara from Google) or whether or not the device designer had to sign an NDA to get documentation for a chip or not

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Yep. 99.9764% of all consumers care about "price" first and "sustainability and green-ness" absolutely dead last.

      Not one consumer will pay 25% more for a computer that is compostable and will not poison the environment after it is thrown away.

      • by lkcl ( 517947 )

        Yep. 99.9764% of all consumers care about "price" first and "sustainability and green-ness" absolutely dead last.

        Not one consumer will pay 25% more for a computer that is compostable and will not poison the environment after it is thrown away.

        you will be ironically amazed to learn that "eco" correlates *directly* with "price". the more you pay, the more you empower someone to do environmental damage... somewhere and somehow on the planet.

        so i've learned to simply say, "long-term this will save you money! buy a $50 computer card every year instead of a $500 laptop every year! saves you money!!! buy two housings and only one computer card and save 40%!" and many other things (without the exclamation marks...) not even *mentioning* the eco-benef

  • While not impossible, I find it hard to believe. I also have an A20 ARM board, a Lamobo R1 that after I cut physically the damn realtek ship is very similar in architecture to this card. Guess what...it is not open, it needs binary blobs to boot in graphic mode at least. It also quite sad there is still not a more modern ARM SoC besides the A20 that supports SATA directly connected to the CPU.
    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      While not impossible, I find it hard to believe. I also have an A20 ARM board, a Lamobo R1 that after I cut physically the damn realtek ship is very similar in architecture to this card. Guess what...it is not open, it needs binary blobs to boot in graphic mode at least.

      i've outlined the process in some detail in other posts, as to how we manage to apply for RYF Certification. see http://slashdot.org/~lkcl [slashdot.org] and look back in the comments. you should investigate xf86-video-fbturbo - it uses G2D. you do NOT need mali.ko for standard desktop work, and in fact you may end up overloading the processor unnecessarily if you are trying to use the proprietary 3D GPU for nothing more than simple 2D GPU style tasks.

      It also quite sad there is still not a more modern ARM SoC besides the A20 that supports SATA directly connected to the CPU.

      i know... well the R40 is coming out soon.

  • Note that the EOMA-68's HW and SW is Open Source, which means — among others — that:

    • - your EOMA-68 won't sport any hidden feature which you shouldn't know about;
    • - your OS will not stop being maintained at some point just because "the product is not on our catalog any more";
    • - you can actually fix (or have a more technically inclined friend fix) OS or firmware bugs without having to wait until a company issues an update (if it ever does—see previous point);
    • - you have a much better chance o
  • This could be cool for an HTPC emulator kind of thing, there doesn't seem to be much mention of the graphics/video playback capabilities though?

  • They claim that they removed the Mali GPU from the SoC in order to be 100% free. Is that even possible? Did they get AllWinner to make them a special chip without the GPU? And how are the graphics handled if there is no GPU?

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      They claim that they removed the Mali GPU from the SoC in order to be 100% free

      no we didn't.

      Is that even possible?

      no it isn't

      Did they get AllWinner to make them a special chip without the GPU?

      no we didn't.

      And how are the graphics handled if there is no GPU?

      answered here https://slashdot.org/comments.... [slashdot.org]

    • The FSF-approved Linux distribution (or GNU/Linux, whatever) "Parabola" that they offer won't include the firmware for the GPU, and does all graphics processing and calculations on the CPU. So the GPU is included on the chip but it's not used.
      • by lkcl ( 517947 )

        The FSF-approved Linux distribution (or GNU/Linux, whatever) "Parabola" that they offer won't include the firmware for the GPU, and does all graphics processing and calculations on the CPU. So the GPU is included on the chip but it's not used.

        ... not quite: again, the phoronix thread had people explain this in some detail, it's 200 comments so i won't go looking for it, i have too much ground to cover, but the key discrepancy in what you said is that the 2D GPU is up and running: we're *not* doing "pure framebuffer". so there's far less load on the CPU than would otherwise be expected. see the very first update, in which i got xf86-video-fbturbo up and running on the Parabola-ARM Gnu/Linux-Libre card: https://www.crowdsupply.com/eo... [crowdsupply.com]

  • "They envision a world where users upgrade their computers by simply popping in a new card "

    Intel had the same idea... and it was a giant failure.

    Unless the "card" is a whole new computer that slots into a thin plastic case, this is 100% impossible.

    • by mafm ( 4203219 )

      Unless the "card" is a whole new computer that slots into a thin plastic case, this is 100% impossible.

      In a way, it's basically what you say -- a "card" that slots into thin plastic case... Except:

      • wooden, actually (for the current micro-desktop)
      • and a laptop case which is mostly plastic, only with added components (battery, LCD, keyboard, touchpad and so on) that you don't need / want to throw away when you upgrade the heart of your computer
      • by lkcl ( 517947 )

        wooden, actually (for the current micro-desktop)

        and a laptop case which is mostly plastic,

        ... don't forget *3D printed* plastic.... :) so you can repair it yourself or replace the casework parts if you want a change of scenery.... :)

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      "They envision a world where users upgrade their computers by simply popping in a new card "

      Intel had the same idea... and it was a giant failure.

      i'm not surprised. intel literally cannot make a low-enough processor without sacrificing their pride. they just had to abandon the entire smartphone and tablet market a few months ago because of their pride.

      Unless the "card" is a whole new computer that slots into a thin plastic case, this is 100% impossible.

      it's a whole new computer in credit-card-sized form-factor (5mm x 54mm x 86mm - it's PCMCIA casework after all). it's stainless steel thin casework (0.1mm thick). so... not impossible at all. in fact, so not impossible that i managed to do it on a budget of $20k (which i got down to $1800 by the 3r

    • That's the idea, actually - a whole new computer that slots into the case.

      The sacrifice is performance - if you read comments by the project founder, in order to have tiny swappable cards they're targeting something like a 3.5 watt power draw. So the device is a few generations behind the latest ARM chips, and is running at smart phone power levels. So the big wins are modularity and freedom, the big loss is that your modular 2017 mini-computer or laptop has the computing power of a 2013 smart phone.
  • I have an ANCIENT (>10 years old) Dell XPS desktop machine - and last week, the motherboard failed. Went to Fry's paid $65 for a new motherboard and $120 for a new CPU (which included a new cooling fan). My RAM modules were too ancient to run in the new motherboard - so I spent another $60 for a couple of RAM modules. To my surprise, the original power supply, graphics card, hard drive, DVD drive and case all fitted perfectly - and a simple reboot got me back into Ubuntu as if nothing had happened -

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      I have an ANCIENT (>10 years old) Dell XPS desktop machine - and last week, the motherboard failed. Went to Fry's paid $65 for a new motherboard and $120 for a new CPU (which included a new cooling fan). My RAM modules were too ancient to run in the new motherboard - so I spent another $60 for a couple of RAM modules. To my surprise, the original power supply, graphics card, hard drive, DVD drive and case all fitted perfectly - and a simple reboot got me back into Ubuntu as if nothing had happened - I was back up and running in an hour.

      Sure, the CPU socket had changed - and my decade-old DDR-2 memory wouldn't work in the DDR-3/4 motherboard - but aside from that, modularity worked 100% perfectly. I could have chosen from a dozen different CPU's and a similar number of RAM suppliers and any one of a dozen motherboards - and the outcome would have been the same.

      ... you're aware that intel has moved *away* from socketed CPUs and is forcing BGA onto manufacturers, now? you're really lucky to have been able to find a motherboard that suited you which didn't have the BGA-soldered processor on it.

      So the desktop PC "standard" is already an incredibly modular system. The problem is that (by modern standards) it's physically huge.

      For small systems like IOT devices, the cost of "the computer" including graphics, networking, RAM, long-term-storage is down to $10 or less...so modularity at that scale is just pointless - increasing the cost by adding connectors between the parts is just silly.

      ... and actually causes huge reliability and manufacturing issues. yeah. you get it. which is great to see.

      For systems at the scale of a cellphone, modularity is a tough sell because the physical form-factor has to fit perfectly with the shape of the battery and screen and heat management is a big issue - so making a *usefully* modular phone is challenging.

      dave hakkens is *PISSED*, man. like, really *really* disappointed and betrayed by google. all that money and they *claim* open-ness but actually instead they're jus

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        > ... you're aware that intel has moved *away* from socketed CPUs and is forcing BGA onto manufacturers, now?

        That's funny. Newegg is still full of them. Even if you have to go "higher end", those kinds of components are not going to disappear for the forseeable future.

    • The problem is that (by modern standards) it's physically huge

      Any smaller and it would not hold a DVD drive, an LTO drive and a DAT drive, and still have somewhere to put USB sticks and SD cards, not to mention the place required for SCSI cards.

      As someone who actually saw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v4Juzn10gM [youtube.com] EDSAC working, I think the standard tower PC case is about right, and I KNOW that tape will keep my data for 30 years (I have read my own backups 30 years later), and I know DVDs won't keep my

      • by lkcl ( 517947 )

        The problem is that (by modern standards) it's physically huge

        Any smaller and it would not hold a DVD drive, an LTO drive and a DAT drive, and still have somewhere to put USB sticks and SD cards, not to mention the place required for SCSI cards.

        yeahhh i had to make a decision whether to make the first EOMA standard for mass-volume clients or for mass-volume servers. i figured that with facebook, google and hp and others having the data centre market pretty much sewn up, and them trying to convince everyone that "cloud is good", and having poisoned the word "open" in that area with their "open compute" standard, the chances would be much better if i focussed on "the little guy"... ... that meant using hardware that was simple enough for someone li

  • "Why are you using a shitty old processor like an A20 and exclude the only two good things it has going for it, GbE and SATA?"

    Even the old Raspberry Pi 2 is much faster than the A20, being a quad core A7.
    If they wanted to go cheap and Allwinner, there's the A80, H3 or A64.

    • by lkcl ( 517947 )

      "Why are you using a shitty old processor like an A20

      answered in the update regarding processor selection - https://www.crowdsupply.com/eo... [crowdsupply.com]

      and exclude the only two good things it has going for it, GbE and SATA?"

      answered in depth on the FAQ section - look for "SATA and GbE" and a more in-depth answer on http://rhombus-tech.net/crowds... [rhombus-tech.net] again search for the keyword "SATA".

      Even the old Raspberry Pi 2 is much faster than the A20, being a quad core A7.

      only available from broadcom - a hypocritical company that operates on unethical grounds and maintains cartelling business practices, ships proprietary arbitrary untrusted executables that boot the CPU *from* the GPU, and forces children to purchase licenses t

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