Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?

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I've been asked to write some articles about developing an example
Linux-based embedded app on x86 and porting it across to a PowerPC
platform. When I was contacted by the people that want these articles, I
said that I hadn't worked much with PowerPC because PPC-based SBCs are
so expensive that they've generally been thrown right out of the race at
the start. Unfortunately, that still seems to be true.

I've been pointed at the Kuro box,
<http://penguinppc.org/embedded/kuro/ . The price is ideal, but two
factors concern me about this appliance:

1. Lack of detailed documentation. It seems to have very ad-hoc support
in general, at least here in the US.
2. Apparently there is no way to reflash the board if you erase U-Boot.
I'll be experimenting with homebrewed kernels and other flashery, and
that's a totally unacceptable risk.

Could I have a recommendation for a PowerPC-based SBC that meets these
criteria:

* Must have wired Ethernet, at least one serial interface, and an IDE or
removable flash memory interface. 4Mb flash minimum. Host-side USB would
be nice.
* Flash must be programmable over JTAG with simple wiggler type
interface, ROMmed serial bootloader or other inexpensive kiss-of-life
mechanism. Or it can be socketed; I have a very versatile burner.
* Linux port must be supplied or readily available.

* Video interface - preferably VGA - would be nice but not essential.
* Performance isn't critical; 40-66MHz is enough.
* Ideally sub-US$250

It doesn't have to be a boxed appliance like Kuro, it can be a bare
board requiring external PSU etc. Size, power requirements, and so on
are not important at all.

Although the people who commissioned these articles WILL reimburse the
cost of hardware, they will only do so spread over the course of a
ten-article series. I don't want to be left too much out of pocket if
they decide not to complete the series (and I can't argue contract terms
with them because they are the hairiest 15,000lb gorilla with whom you
never wanted to argue).

Thanks for your erudite recommendations :)


Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?

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[...]
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Not sure if it's erudite but have you taken a look at
http://www.denx.de? AFAIK Wolfgang Denk is rather active at RTAI
development and I guess at Linux too. I haven't checked their products
but I guess it is worth a look at.

Regards.
Elder.

Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?
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Yes indeedy.  I have been wanting very much to find out what's actually going
on on this board, or even the pinouts for the serial port, and had no luck.

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I'm pretty much agreeing with this list of criteria; I want one too!  And I,
too, have had no luck at all.

-s
--
   Copyright 2004, all wrongs reversed.  Peter Seebach / snipped-for-privacy@plethora.net
   http://www.seebs.net/log/ - YA blog.   http://www.seebs.net/ - homepage.
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Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?
Hi,

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Sheesh. I'm glad you posted this reply. I was about to put down my
credit card for a Kuro (since it's the only thing that comes close to my
wishlist). I was hoping that support is better for people who've
actually paid.

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I can find plenty of boards that meet all the technical criteria, but
they are all at least twice my price cutoff. This is *precisely* why I
have always wound up using x86 and ARM boards in my designs; the cost of
entry for PPC is just too high.

I guess my next step is to beg vendors of PowerPC SBCs for loaner units.

The crazy part is that the company that's commissioning this can most
certainly (and ultimately will) afford to pay for practically anything
you care to name. But the mechanism by which they pay freelance writers
doesn't have hardware budgeted into it.


Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?
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Is this an official contact, or merely an expert user?

I'm very unimpressed by the quality of this product, incidentally. The
only "expert" feature one can really ascribe to it is that it's
shipped without a hard drive and you have to install the drive
yourself. The only documentation included with it, as you know, is a
pointless series of photographs illustrating how to install the drive.
It's an open-source product; it should come with schematics or at the
very least connector pinouts for ALL headers and information on, for
example, the serial protocol between the MPC8241 and the
slave/watchdog micro. Plus even the "turnkey" software that comes with
it is exceedingly flaky.

I am just in the process of hacking up a USB-serial converter as being
the easiest way of bringing that weird inverted 3.3V debug port into
the PC, but my understanding is that U-Boot is configured to boot the
OS off the hard disk if possible, or off the slenderized flash image
if the HDD is missing or unformatted. Is that accurate? It makes my
life easier if this is the case, since I won't have to touch the flash
image at all.

Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?
Hi Lewin,

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Ask them for the sources of U-Boot they use and see for yourself.  I
just checked the current CVS and can't find a "kuro" (or similar)
configuration - but as U-Boot is GPL they have to provide you with the
sources when asked.

Cheers
  Detlev

--
Question    : If you were redesigning UNIX, what would you do differently?
Ken Thompson: I'd spell creat with an e.

Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?
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Their technical support is to all intents and purposes nonexistent. It
might be better in Japan, but basically this whole thing is just one
step shy of "here's your box, here are some downloads, go away". Most
of the readme files, etc. are in Japanese.

I dumped the first few megs of the hard disk, and it appears that GRUB
is installed. Interesting, I wasn't even aware it had been ported.

I'm still pretty hazy on how the boot process works, because
installing a new kernel DOES involve a firmware upgrade. I'm trying to
work out what's going on right now.

Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?

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There are cheap alternatives, but a little hacking may be required on
your side.

http://www.gc-linux.org /

These guys just ported Linux to the Gamecube, which has a 486MHz PPC
and 40 MB of RAM at less than $100. The only problem still unresolved is
the lack of booting capabilities from a standard CD/DVD or memory
card, otherwise it may be a great cheap PPC platform to experiment
on.



Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?
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I looked at this, but it seems to have all the disadvantages of going
with the Kuro Box and none of the advantages. (Plus, it's a bit informal
for the target audience; that doesn't bother ME, but it could quite
likely bother them).

I'm really looking for something off the shelf. There are dozens of ARM
contenders, it's a mystery why no PowerPC.


Re: Recommend a sub-$250 PowerPC SBC?
On Sun, 07 Nov 2004 14:37:08 GMT, "Lewin A.R.W. Edwards"

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He..He

Have a look at Dream Media's DM7000 Set-Top Box , you can even watch
Sattelite while running the Linux :-)


http://forum.tuxbox.org/forum /

Remember its called Dreambox , the dbox2 is another hardware.

Carsten



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