Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back

Hi all,

Yes, I'm alive. I'll develop later a bit on what's happened for the last year, but first I'd like to apologize to all those disappointed by the sudden stop in A320/x760+ development. I was certainly forced by the circumstances, but that doesn't change the fact that some of you donated money and you probably feel it's not been put to good use. If you want your donation back, please email me.

Now for the blast:

  1. I have now sometime to work again on dingux.
  2. Someone from ChinaChip, from the team that developed the A320, contacted me.
  3. They want to support dingux development for the A330.
  4. They will provide hardware info on the A320.
  5. They will provide hardware info on the A330.
  6. They will provide couple of A330 machines.
  7. They already provided schematics and some source code for the x760+.
  8. They will try to provide a second x760+.

Bam.

The A320 is legacy and is no longer being manufactured (plus there seem to be quite a bunch of knock-offs), so they want to focus on the A330. The A330 is based on an ARM SoC (CC1800) for which, as far as I know, there's not already a linux port (as opposed to the Ingenic SoCs)... so this might be a bit off my skills. We'll see. The x760+ is no longer produced so it might not be possible to get another one (remember, I already have one purchased with donations), which would be helpful because there are two x760+ LCD types.

Having the schematics and example source code for the x760+ should make it much easier to get dingux up and running on it.

Hate to say this, but don't hold your breath. Now I have some time and I'm very motivated (the ChinaChip support is a blast), but my personal situation might change at any time and the job that pays the bills will always be the topmost priority.


And on the personal side (feel free to stop reading here): what's happened in the last year?.

By the time I was forced to put dingux on hold my company was struggling to survive, and downsizing like mad, up to the point that the I was the entire development department. Soon I became also the administrative, customer relations, manufacturing, and installation/repair department. Really. My gmail inbox just collapsed and at a certain point I just gave up trying to reply messages. I'm really sorry if some people felt ignored.

I was working on the hardware and OS of an OMAP3530 based facial biometrics access control system which was itself a quite complex project and wasn't expected to yield some income in the short term, so future looked grim. Then, all of a sudden, two customers (the local government of two small villages) contacted us regarding an outdoor wireless mesh PA system we used to develop and sell. There was an special stimulus plan from the spanish government which would provide financing for those two installations. This was unexpected, since the local governments are literally struggling to pay wages and as a contractor, you're lucky if you get paid six months after invoicing, but the stimulus plan changed the whole thing. It was evident that this was a one-time chance to get good, immediate revenue with a nice profit margin (not really, but we would be using stock that would otherwise have zero value), so I sort of finished the biometrics thingie as fast and as good as I could and jumped on to it.

That was about april.

To make things more fun, there were two choices: either use the v1 system, which had some problems, or finish the design of the v2 system, which would work much better, be easier to maintain, and allow to use all the existing equipment stock. So, I don't fucking know why, I went with the second, and from april to june (remember, at that time I was pretty much the whole company):

  1. Designed a new 200W class D weathertight amplifier. S/PDIF over RS422 and streaming over ethernet inputs. It has two microcontrollers inside, a PIC24 and a LPC1768, and I had never worked before with the later, though had some exprience with the luminary cortex-M3 parts.
  2. Built 20 units of the above, together with another 20 units of a specially modified wireless mesh node. I mean I literally built them. Ordered all the parts, soldered each and every component on the PCBs, machined the 20 cases and assembled it all. Well, actually my wife helped a lot by soldering most of the 0603 caps and resistors.
  3. Loaded my car with all the equipment and went on to install it. Climbing on top of a crane to put it on the top of the 14m poles and on roofs. Fortunately I'm not afraid of heights.
  4. Bought the two computers for the control centers, installed the OS, control application and configured it.
In retrospective, I just don't know how I could do it all myself. One man band working 16 hours a day. I guess it was a combination of good engineering and luck, lots of luck (never ever had a first prototype errorless and straight to production). The installations were finished on time and are being used now to do all the public announcements. Now that I think about it, in between all that, I had also to do some repairs on another old installation and fix some issues in the biometrics thingie. What a madness.

I spent july doing some adjustments to the wireless mesh nets. The customers paid promptly (nice special requirement of the stimulus plan, they must pay you before they get paid by the central government, otherwise... you know... six months to one year), which means we would be able to close the year in the green.

So I needed some rest and time with my family and went on vacation for the whole month on august. The last month I've been working a bit more on the biometrics stuff and developing an asterisk based voice inbox for the PA system, which is a late special request by one of the customers, but makes a good addition to the feature list of the system (which I'm not sure matters at all because I think we're not selling any more for a long time, at least here in Spain). The outdoor IP amplifier is a good piece of engineering and there's a slight chance that could be sold to another company. We'll see.

As I said, we're on the green up to the end of 2010, but there's no income prospect for 2011. So, while now I have some time to work on dingux, and I intend to take it easy for the next months, I will be looking for a new job, new city, new country, not necessarily in that order :-)

28 comments:

  1. hi booboo,

    good to see a lifesign from you.

    Meanwhile the community developed a new Kernel called OpenDingux.

    http://github.com/mthuurne/opendingux-kernel
    http://dingoowiki.com/index.php?title=Dingux:OpenDingux

    your legacy kernel was enhanced with several things, like tvout, swap ...

    http://dingoowiki.com/index.php?title=Dingux:Kernel#Individual_Kernels

    I hope you can join us on irc@freenode #dingoonity channel.

    cheers
    SiENcE

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  2. BooBoo, we wish you all the best and waiting for new progress. Hope, that this personal & job situation will be resolved smoothly. Again, thanks a lot for your job you have done for the community and welcome back :-)

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  3. Hello Bobo

    Chui, a spanish developer, want port PCSX4all (emulator PSX) on dingux but he don't know dingoo's pixel modes and how change it using SDL or framebuffer. Chui interested about other 16bit modes for avoid shifts per pixel: RGB1555

    Please you can help him

    Thanks
    Laurent

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  4. Welcome back, great to see you up and about. The fact that the Gemei A330 is using ARM rather than MIPS can be a great thing, as I reckon more people have experience with ARM SoCs, as ARM is certainly more common than MIPS. Provided that the A330 gets SDL, I reckon that most software already for the Dingoo should merely need a recompilation, which means that upon a possible Dingux release for the A330, a whole heap of software could already be available.

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  5. Hi all
    and welcome back booboo

    I search how to recompile the dualboot-installer image with another button to confirm the flash of my dingoo A320, because my start button is over.

    Anyone can help me ?

    Thanks a lot !!

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  6. @Jean-Loup

    It's not a simple thing since START is translated into ENTER by the kernel, The flashing app uses "dialog", which wants ENTER as a confirmation key. I would have to modify the kernel just for you, and as you may already know, my kernel is now obsolete. And anyway, without a START key I don't think you'll be able to use most dingux software.

    You should try to fix your A320 instead.

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  7. @ booboo

    thanks to reply me..

    I try to fix my A320 but i don't find where is the problem.
    I would like just flash my dingoo for the dualboot with another button like the A button and after i will search in the linux source in google code source project for how replace the command.

    Or another way, it is possible to flash the dingoo with dualboot en command line or in silent mode ?

    thans a lot !!

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  8. @Jean-Loup

    It is possible, and I'd even say it's not too difficult, but what I'm saying is that even if I prepare a dual bool installer for you with a modified kernel with the START key remapped, your A320 will be pretty much useless for most of the available software. I don't see the point in going through all that trouble.

    It should not be too difficult to open up your A320 and just replace the START switch.

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  9. i open up my dingoo and i replace my start button but the problem is already here... it's not the component button that disfunction but another case.

    that's why i search a solution to flash my dingoo and installe the dualboot with another method that the start button .

    sorry for the english !! ;o)

    thanks again to take the time to reply me

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  10. welcome back booboo and good luck if you're looking for a new job, new place and new "whatever" ;)
    Thanks for all your stuff anyway!

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  11. @Jean-Loup

    Then either:

    1- A PCB trace is broken or...

    2- ... the GPIO input of the CPU is fried (an electrostatic discharge can do that).

    Either way you're basically screwed.

    If you wait a bit I can prepare a flasher that doesn't need the START button, and I could even provide you with a dingux kernel with START remapped. But remember, as of now my kernel is obsolete and has at least one serious problem (I/O corruption). If you wait a bit longer I might be able to compile a modified version of the OpenDingux kernel.

    Where would you like to have your START button remapped?

    (though I still think we're getting into too much trouble... you should just replace your A320)

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  12. @MiSaTo

    Savings already out of Spain. Selling home. Yeah, we're in for big change. O no. Quien sabe.

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  13. Спасибо за проделанную работу, и дальнейших успехов!
    Thank you for the work done and wish you continued success!

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  14. @ booboo

    I don't know where the problem is ... I'm not more competent in electronic ;o)

    If you can recompile your flasher for ILI9331 with need not start button, i'm interested. after i think i could find how recompile a new kernel linux. and put the L button map to the ENTER_KEY.

    (I know but in this time, i have no more money to buy a new A320, my home need to be repaired and my wife will not be satisfied if i spend money for that... ;o) I should be divorce : it's a solution ;o) )

    Thanks booboo

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  15. Hi, booboo I am happy to read you again! I really can understand you, since "real life" stuff took over for me too...
    but, hey you really look a smart guy for all of the things you mentioned you did! I am sure you will be able to handle this...
    good luck!

    batman52

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  16. Welcome back :)

    One question: the hardware info (CC1800 datasheets, I guess) they'll provide about the 330, will be public or will you have to sign an NDA?

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  17. @A600

    Unfortunately docs won't be public. Would be much better to disclose everything (would certainly speed things up and result in better code), but it is certainly better than having no docs at all.

    Maybe when we're up and running I can try to talk them into releasing it.

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  18. Welcome back dude, we are very happy to see you again.

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  19. Welcome back! Any chance we'll see TV-Out support on the A320 in the future?

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  20. @amidoingthisright

    AFIK, the OpenDingux kernel already supports TV out, which means that even if there were still some rough edges, the hard work is already done.

    I'll look into it.

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  21. I tried yesterday OpenDingux for the first time and I was really disappointed. For example, my PicoDrive port was a lot slower (I had to overclock to 420 when I can play it fullspeed at 360) Could it be due to the alsa implementation?

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  22. @booboo: Sweet.

    Definitely looking forward to seeing what can be done for the Gemei A330 as far as a Dingux port is concerned, too. I actually hadn't heard of it until yesterday (I thought you were talking about the Dingoo A330). If the reviews are good when it comes out, I might get the Gemei A330 instead of the Dingoo A320.

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  23. @A600

    Yes, there are still some rough corners in OpenDingux (but less than in Dingux as of now), and alsa seems to be one of them.

    One of the developers told me that they moved to alsa because so did Qi-Hardware, and the Ingenic drivers were rewritten by them. They're trying hard to fix that, and agree that OSS is legacy but gets the work done, so I don't really know what they'll ultimately do.

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  24. Can you prioritize the Gemei, because I am allmost waiting a year for this.
    Or is it a better option to just buy a Dingoo a320/330?

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  25. @A600

    Please send me an email.

    @Olaf

    Yes, x760+ has priority as of now.

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  26. Hi Booboo

    I don't know if you have got any time to see my problem. but i try in case you have any news.
    If you'll not have time for me, it's not a problem, i will try search another solution.

    but in all case, i want to say thanks for all you do and to take the time to answer me.

    ++

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