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SoC: Back and forth!

Discussion in 'Pyra News' started by EvilDragon, Feb 4, 2014.

  1. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon Administrator Staff Member

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    Wow, FOSDEM really was impressive this time.

    There were so many people interested in the Pandora and Pyra, it's amazing.

     

    And even though the time for my talk was a bit too short, I think I made myself mostly clear about what I want.

    Well, and if not, then you can always ask here at the boards - and the blog entries will probably clear up some more mysteries as well :)

     

    Productive discussions about the OS have started on the boards as well and I will take care about new forum sections for that tomorrow.

    Thanks a lot to anyone who wants to help out here :D

     

    One question I've seen quite a few times was "Why use the OMAP5? It has a PowerVR chip, which doesn't have OpenSource drivers!"

    As mentioned, you should take part of the Pyra development and production process - and of course, also of the things that already happened in the past.

    Especially, since that basically answers the above question as well - so follow me on a journey...

     

    From OMAP5 to everything else and back

     

    Back in 2011/2012, when the OMAP5 had just been announced, we decided to use it for the successor. It was, once again, faster than anything else.

    But it seemed like TI would never even release the OMAP5...

     

    Early 2013, TI still couldn't give any clear dates - and now Samsung, NVidia, MediaTek, etc. were all catching up.

    It was clear for me that I WILL work on a successor - and it was pretty clear that the most complicated things to source would be the SoC and the LCD.

    So I started as early as I could and contacted various other companies.

     

    Samsung was the first company I contacted, since the German Headquarters are in Munich, just 45 minutes away from me.

    The german team did pay me a visit and they really liked the Pandora and the idea to use a Samsung SoC for the successor.

    They did their best to convice the Korean HQ, but without success. Samsung did not want to sell us their SoC.

     

    So I continued to search for companies.

    I contacted the Freescale distriubtor, as their Cortex-A9 SoCs can be bought without any registration and in small quantities - but unfortunately, they decided to not produce a Cortex A15.

    Next stop: MediaTek. Asian company, so probably easier to get than from the huge global players.

    However, MediaTek only offer Android drivers, and they do not plan to support Linux - well, not for our small quantities anyways.

    So they decided to not sell them to us as well.

     

    I knew from some developers that Rokchips English design manuals were never really usable - so even if we could get the chip, we couldn't make the hardware design without a good manual.

     

    I tried to call nvidia a few times, but the German Headquarters never really picked up the phone.

    Thanks to some contacts I had, I finally got the right persons from nvidia worldwide headquarters on the phone - however, only to get another "no".

    They explained to me that in order to be able to use the Tegra, I need to let the hardware be designed and produced by a contracted partner company from them.

    That's certainly not what we want - and my guess is that no company would do such a complex design as we need for such a low quantity anyways.

     

    Things didn't look good here. There were still a few more companies who licensed ARMs big.LITTLE architecture, so I contacted them one after another.

    Most of them were in industrial / automotive business, and they planned to have their SoC ready in 2016... a bit too late for us.

     

    Then TIs distributor contacted us - apparently, the OMAP5 was finished and will go into mass production in November 2013.

    We can still get it if we want.

     

    Well, we talked about the various options.

    PowerVR doesn't have the sourcecode released - but then again, all other GPU drivers in SoCs are closed source as well.

    I know a few will now shout "But for MALI there's an OpenSource driver available!" - well, yes and no.

    Yes, there's a driver available - but it's for the old MALI GPU. Not a single Cortex-A15 SoC uses the old one.

    And it's unknown when and whether there will be an OpenSource driver for the new Mali as well.

     

    TI offers Linux drivers. for their SoC and for the PowerVR.

    One thing that's good about the PowerVR is that the kernel part of the driver is not closed source - which means:

    While you need a binary blob for the 3D driver, it can still be used on any compiled kernel or OS.

     

    So when PowerVR stops development for the SGX driver, it doesn't mean we cannot update the kernel or OS.

    We can. Only the 3D driver will not be updated anymore.

     

    While a fully OpenSource driver would be nice, there just isn't one out there on an ARM SoC.

    We can't fix bugs in the 3D driver, but we won't be stuck with an outdated kernel ever either.

     

    You can see that on the current Pandora:

    There's a small application available which lets you change the 3D driver version on-the-fly in the running OS.

    Each version has different bugs, advantages and disadvantages - but they can be run, regardless of the kernel version.

     

    We had a long journey, and I talked to various SoC manufacturers - and TI turned out to be the only feasable for us.

    I'm pretty sure even though it has its flaws, it will be a neat chip for our next handheld.

    The horsepower I've seen so far is impressive!

     

    Oh, and about "Why not using an Intel?"

    Well... to be honest: I rather be safe and sure than risky and sorry.

    When we decided what SoC to use, no one knew if the mobile market will ever switch over to Intel.

    There are many Android games out there that probably wouldn't work anymore - and we would also lose all the optimized ARM emulators out there like PPSSPP or PCSXReARMed.

    Yeah, I know, it exists for x86 as well - but it's probably not as optimized and therefore drains more battery...

     

    It was too risky for a small company like ourselves - so it's best to stick to ARM right now.

     

    Well, that's it for todays post.

    I'll probably post more stuff next weekend.

     

    See you at the boards :)
     
    Link, Farox, Trip and 11 others like this.
  2. ShleeDragon

    ShleeDragon Pro-Catflip

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    The TI OMAP5 sounds like a perfect choice... The only whine of record is the GLES2 vs GLES3 SOCs but that's a dragon we cannot and shouldn't chase.

    There will always be something better.. and the third gen can support it :)

    Thanks for the history behind the choice.

    Dual A15s at 1.7GB are going to offer us some amazing options.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2014
  3. rohezal

    rohezal Advanced Member

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    With the 2 GB RAM and 2x17 ghz I think I can use with a docking station as my main pc for work :) .
     
  4. vcoleiro1

    vcoleiro1 Advanced Member

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    ED, out of curiousity, what does a SOC like the OMAP5 cost these days.  You don't often hear about SOC costs in the media.
     
  5. rand

    rand Member

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    preorder link? :p

    I'd actually want to pay now and be guaranteed a place like 9 or 10 in the queue to receive a p2 years from now when it ever releases.

    EDIT: Ugh, I'll be waiting forever. My classic pandora has a broken nub and cant read voltage, does this mean I am ineligible for 1 Ghz upgrades from the dragonbox website?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2014
  6. TrashyMG

    TrashyMG Moderator Staff Member

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    Unlike last time there will not be any pre-orders until it's ready for production. As EvilDragon stated in the FOSDEM video.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2014
  7. ekianjo

    ekianjo Hardcore Member

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    Yeah, that's something very wise to do.  
     
  8. ShleeDragon

    ShleeDragon Pro-Catflip

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    What? ED doesn't want our interest?
     
  9. ekianjo

    ekianjo Hardcore Member

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    ED said he will need funding when it comes to mass production, but not before :) In the meantime, buy Pandoras :)
     
  10. Foxgod

    Foxgod Active Member

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    I am glad the Omap exists, otherwise we would have no Pyra.

    Tnx for the update and good luck!
     
    Farox likes this.
  11. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    Meanwhile, is there anything we can do to convince IT to open source PowerVR? Or at least for them to be more cooperative to RE efforts. Maybe an on-line petition or mass email campaign?
     
    Kevin Osuna likes this.
  12. vcoleiro1

    vcoleiro1 Advanced Member

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    Speaking of PowerVR , wasn't Imagination launching there own MIPS based SoC this year. I wonder whats happening with that?

    Not that it's relevant.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2014
  13. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon Administrator Staff Member

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    That's not TI, that's Imagination you need to convince.


    And I doubt a bunch of people can do something here.
     
  14. ekianjo

    ekianjo Hardcore Member

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    I don't want to discourage you, but when have you seen mass email campaign/petition achieving anything ? I've seen tons of petitions for tons of different things and the usual result is "none". 
     
  15. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    I wrote IT, not TI, and it stands for Imagination Technologies, not Texas Instruments :)



    I have seen many successful mass campaigns, achieving lots of things. The only thing that is guaranteed to have no result is doing nothing.

    I think we should at least try. Even if it does not achieve anything, it will give us good karma in the FOSS world just for trying.
     
    Link, sswam, Kevin Osuna and 2 others like this.
  16. ShleeDragon

    ShleeDragon Pro-Catflip

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    EvilDragon: Is anything happening with that "modular" design stuff?
     
  17. ekianjo

    ekianjo Hardcore Member

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    Would you mind sharing any example ? Because I have honestly never heard of any.  
     
  18. Klumpen

    Klumpen Hardcore Member

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    My city wanted to sell the water supply to private companies without anyone noticing it, some got wind of it and started a campaign against it. We won.

    Mine and another city did the same thing for not expanding the ending contract with a bad energy provider for the citys power supply, the guys in the other city won, mine had not enough people interested in it or too lazy to give their vote, probably thinking what you just wrote..

    Look at the whole Xbone desaster, it's influenced by people as well although in another way.

    The only way to be sure to achieve nothing is not even trying, like wb said, EDs Gmbh and as many of it's customers as possible should at least try it, mentioning, that it will boost their sales too after all.

    If it doesn't work, we at least tried.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2014
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  19. _wb_

    _wb_ Microbe Staff Member

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    I have been participating in several mass campaigns related to releasing political prisoners etc, where you send emails to ambassadors and politicians etc. Very often this has lead to results (ridiculous charges got dropped, prisoners got released, etc).

    I organized an on-line petition myself in 2007 because PhD students in Belgium were getting significantly different wages depending on the financing agency. The petition demanded an upwards harmonisation of the wages (equal pay for equal jobs). It was signed by about 2000 PhD students and other university employees. As a result, from early 2009 onwards, hundreds of PhD students have seen their monthly wage increase by up to 200 EUR.
     
    Link, darkborn, sswam and 3 others like this.
  20. ShleeDragon

    ShleeDragon Pro-Catflip

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    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2014

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