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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Dreamed Developer Board

It looks like every single developer board out there lacks something and still not a single one, not the Raspberry Pi, not the Beaglebone Black, literally none of them, has a not great, not good, even decent GPU support. Update here a complementary post form an Open Source drivers Developer.

The Open Source World VS any GPU

It's unbelievable how many Open Source Hardware and CPUs producers there are out there and with ARM in first place, but even same producers do not ever let Linux fellas develop for them ... free men/women work they don't want because keeping their little messy driver and schema secret or protected via some NDA is the rude reality we face since basically ever. Only Intel seems to have open source drivers, but not open source schematics, and I am looking forward to their new embedded effort starting with Galileo on Arduino but still, that will be a huge step forward for the OS community, and still a wall to break for the community itself.

A Bold Approach via Kickstarter

Sir Francis Bruno and his team went out with a Complete Verilog implementation of a 2D/ 3D graphics processor capable of OpenGL and D3D w/ full test suite idea, based on some hardware they've been working since a while and 20+ years of experience on top of GPU and Graphic Cards.
Their mission and idea has been described in this post from Brian Benchoff too and I could not find rather hilarious the amount of free complaining their goal received.
So here the deal, with $200.000 USD they'll finalize, cleanup, and put in the Open Source world an embeddable 2D graphic card which is what most Linux users would love to have in order to fix all flicking, bad reverse engineering, missing updates, or slow rendering in their desktop environment ... but they complain it's too much ...
For $400.000 they'll release a full OpenGL and Direct 3D ... look, I don't even know where to start building such thing so I am the last one to judge this goal but regardless, is not that we ever had an option, right? Open Source does not mean these guys will put themselves down for few bucks without eating, testing, thinking about their families just for the cause, right? So once again, no idea how people could complain about this.
For $600.000 USD they promise performance improvements, something that will come regardless once everything is Open Source and available to the community, right ? Last, but not least, with a $1.000.000 USD they'll go further releasing a universal shader version of the whole refactored package:
This is our ultimate stretch goal and requires a complete redesign. It's something we have been wanting to do for years, but didn't have the resources. This would allow us to create a complete open source implementation of a modern day graphics accelerator. If we receive more than the above, it will allow us to devote more time and effort to the project and we'll be able to release code sooner.

I Have Backed Them!

And Kudos, because if until now nobody has ever done this is probably because:
  • it is actually not simple at all, I'd love to read all complains about the stretch goal but also see any of them doing this for less!
  • it does not pay back once everyone else could improve without royalties
  • it requires a huge amount of time (they say Q2 2015, I think that's optimistic)
  • it's like putting themselves under all Open Source world reflectors where they cannot fail, if the goal is reached, or they probably won't find a job anymore in this field
  • more I have no competences to even judge
Last thought on that would be: isn't Kickstarter excellent exactly for these kind of goals where alone is not possible due amount of resource and time required?
I'd rather bake more projects that make the real difference instead of yet another key-ring with a led light or we won't make huge progresses in the Open Source, and its embedded, scenario ... too much penalized, in my opinion, by this, and only this, HUGE gap that nobody is trying to close (or even worst, judged if trying).
I really hope they'll reach the ultimate goal, a real mini computer, with graphics and games included, with linux on top, and a fully open source hardware acceleration: still a myth at the end of 2013, only Android and its binaries are somehow working ... not Linux, no drivers and no interest for it.

Which Board Do I Dream

Well, these are features I'd buy without even thinking, for a reasonable price:
  • Dual Core (or more) CPU with a decent amount of cache and at least 1 Ghz clock, as it is for the A20 or greater
  • 2GB (or more) DDR at least @ 400Mhz as it is for the Utilite
  • 2GB (or more) Nand as it is for pcDuino
  • GPU with OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL with 64MB (or more) of RAM
  • an SD card compatible with at least 32GB SD class 10 (or better) as the BBB or any other
  • an HDMI output (audio on it) as many current boards
  • a small factor size as the MarsBoard, BBB, or RPi
  • en Ethernet, as many of this
  • a Wi-Fi as the Arduino Yun has already (Bluetooth would be a plus)
These are in my opinion the bare essential to have a competitive Desktop/Server embedded system capable of much more than just watch TV or switch on/off some led but irony wants that nt a single board out there has these features all combined.
Today, such board would cost around $70, as it was the first Beaglebone at the beginning, and it was a success!
Intel, I am looking at you, hoping those GPU drivers, will be Open Source too ;-)

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