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Re: Good ARM board for Debian?

On Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 4:09 AM, Jerry Stuckle <jstuckle@attglobal.net> wrote:
> On 9/26/2013 5:13 PM, Jerry Stuckle wrote:
>> Hi again, all,
>> Well, it looks like for several reasons the RaspberryPi won't work for
>> this project.  Can anyone recommend other ARM-based boards which run
>> Wheezy well?
>> This is going to be a used as a monitor/controller, so major speed isn't
>> a factor.  It will mainly be using SPI and GPIO ports, plus ethernet for
>> communications.  Other things like graphics, USB ports, etc. are not
>> important for this project (but their presence doesn't rule the board
>> out).
>> Also the ability to run their ARM version of Wheezy under QEMU is
>> important for development.
>> I appreciate any recommendations.
>> TIA
>> Jerry
> Let's try this again.  I'm still looking for a good ARM board for Debian.  I
> thought the Olinuxino A10s board would work until I found out recently that
> Allwinner has stopped making the SDK as of last February.

 ignore that.  it's irrelevant.  unless you're ordering 100k+ units
you'll never get direct support from allwinner, they're overloaded as
it is.  you're using completely the wrong criteria.

 you _should_ be asking the question "how long will the sunxi
community support the A10s" and the answer to _that_ will be "as long
as there are people using them".  not "as long as allwinner is doing
an SDK" - fuck the SDK: it won't help you anyway.

 what you *should* be asking is, "what's the lifetime of the A10s
processor" and "can i buy as many as is needed, for as long as is

 also you should be asking "can i get a replacement within the
expected lifetime of the product i'm putting out the door?"

 and the answer to _that_ depends on the volume you're going to be
ordering.  if it's "quantity 1" then for fuck's sake just get an A10s
and be done with it :)  if it's "quantity 10,000 over a period of say
7-10 years" then you've flat-out ZERO chance of getting ANYTHING, with
the possible exception of Freescale iMX products, which have a
guaranteed production life [as long as freescale stays in business
that is].

 so if you wait - as you've been doing - the products will go
end-of-life on you, and you're screwed.  if you buy into one system
you're screwed, because you don't know when they'll go end-of-life.
if you buy long-lived products you're _still_ screwed because a) they
cost more b) this is a volatile market where one minute a planned
product (e.g. iMX7) is to be cancelled and the next minute it's on.

 ... there _is_ a possible solution which solves this conundrum, as
long as you're happy to get a base-board made up which satisfies the
SPI requirement [or do
whatever-you-wanted-to-do-with-SPI-in-a-different-way], and that's to
get an EOMA68 CPU Card.  the first one in the series uses an allwinner
A20 CPU.  details and links here:
http://eoma68-a20.qimod.com/improv.html - if you would like an order
code that will get you to the front of the queue please contact me
off-list for instructions.

 the advantage of the EOMA68 standard is that it *doesn't matter* what
the CPU is.  as long as you stick to the standard (in the design of
the base-board) you can continously upgrade the CPU Card on a rolling
basis.  EOMA68 was designed with at least a decade of lifetime in it,
in order to provide stability in markets where a single Soc can shine
for 6 months and even cause major recessions in the electronics
industry in china [this has happened twice, now: the most severe was
the introduction of the $7 Allwinner A10 when all other competition at
the time was around $12 with fewer features].

> No more updates
> for Linux, and it looks like this chip is going by the wayside.  We need one
> which will be around for a while.

 tough.  you're looking at ARM consumer-grade SoCs.  if they're around
for longer than 9 months you're doing well.  the only exceptions are
TI and Freescale "long-term" Industrial SoCs.

> We looked at several boards, including the rpi (problems with the ethernet
> interface because it feeds into the USB port, and poor support for
> commercial applications) and Beagleboards (lawyers and management don't like
> the licensing requirements).
> So it's pretty much back to square one.  This will be a dedicated system.
> Minimum needs are:
> 500Mhz ARM (faster is better),
> 512Mb RAM (1GB would be better),
> 100MB Ethernet,
> SD/Micro SD card 4G or greater (a second slot would be nice so one for
> software, one for data),
> 1 SPI,
> 3-4 GPIO.
> Video/USB keyboard/mouse are optional but could be used for development.
> Once installed, the system will be remote, accessed by ethernet (TCP/IP).

 existing systems: with the exception of SPI the EOMA68-A20 CPU Card
would do the job [and that can either be replaced or substituted].

 upcoming SoCs: you might find that the ATSAM5 series fits the bill.
they're based around a Cortex A5.  i can introduce you to someone at
atmel if you need more information.  the ATSAM5 *just* about fits the
requirements, but fits them very nicely.  disadvantage: it's very new.

> Client would like to keep the cost below $50 US in quantity (i.e. 250-1000).

 then the TI SoCs have automatically been eliminated, on price alone.
you'd also be pushing the boundaries on freescale SoCs but there may
be some that are still in the running.

> An advantage would be full details (schematics, board details, etc.) so the
> client can have their own boards designed if necessary.

 i'm happy to send you privately the schematics of the EOMA68-A20 CPU
Card as long as you don't distribute them, and also point you at open
hardware designs of feature boards, including ones that are GPLv3'd.
which... i might as well do here.  here's two extremes: anything in
between is possible.  the router's a full-on 4-port gigabit switch
plus VGA _and_ SATA port jobbie.  the micro-engineering board (altium
files available at the links below) has been superseded by improv
(which i understand has been GPL'd and is done in KiCAD).  improv and
the MEBv1 are *really* basic: just access to the interfaces of EOMA68
via connectors - that's it.


more info available if you need it.


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