WiFi, tests and CircuitCo (2011-06-17)


Staff member
Mar 4, 2003
Phew, I finally find the time to summarize everything that has happened during the last weeks.

Forgive the delay, I've got so much work currently that I don't know where to start...

Anyways, now that I submitted the newest testing equipment to CircuitCo, I've got a bit time to make a post telling you guys what's going on right now.


You might've seen that there was a WiFi issue last month. A few boards with non-working WiFi slipped through, however, nearly the full batch of 300 PCBs had this issue!

This was totally unexpected. Each shipment from CC brought as different issues, however, only about 10 - 15 boards out of the 300 they sent us were affected. This time, it were a LOT more.

What exactly happened?

Well, these boards had the issue, that the WiFi module initialized fine but didn't connect to any WiFi networks (some did manage to connect with a speed of 1kB/s...)

The module basically handles WiFi completely itself, basically you just communicate with it and connect an antenna. That's all.

Therefore, CC only tested if the modules initialize. If communication works, WiFi should work as well. Well, that worked fine for the first 2000 PCBs. Then it looks they adjusted some parameters in the production leading to a very bad RX. Their test didn't find that issue, as the initialization of the module was fine.

It just seems to not have a proper connection to the antenna - maybe the module is misplaced a bit.

That issue caused the following:

1. New PCBs could not be produced, until the issue had been found. Producing a few hundred boards more where most fail will just lead to much more work, time and money to fix them as well.

2. We had to create enhanced test equipment for CC so they could quickly test various aspects of the PCBs that haven't been tested before.

So what has been done?

I built four testing rigs two weeks ago. These are modified cases mounted on solid ground where CC can just plug in the PCB and click the keyboard on top.

These arrived last week Wednesday.

Additionally, with notaz' help (and thanks to WizardStans post here), I created a new testing setup that CircuitCo will now be using to do all tests.

This should detect almost every issue a PCB has before it gets shipped to us!

The test-SD Card automagically runs the following tests:

1. Send a text on Serial Out

2. Switch on all LEDs

3. Enable TV Out

4. Flash the battery gauge

5. Connect to an SD Card inserted into slot 2 via mass storage mode and USB Host / USB OTG. Create a random testfile on the SD Card and check with md5sum it's correct.

6. Connect to the internet via WiFi and download a file.

7. Flash the bootloader on the NAND.

8. The only not fully automagic test: Test every key, nub, button, touchscreen, etc. Also check the speaker output and the headphone port.

I submitted this final testing card yesterday night.

They now have four complete testing rigs including an SD Card which tests most parts of the Pandora fully automatically.

The already had one that did the WiFi test for two weeks, so they could work on that.

What's the status with CircuitCo?

They started to investigate the WiFi issue a few days ago. I also asked for a status report to find out how many PCBs they have already produced that only needed testing and if they already found something out about that WiFi issue.

Hopefully it's just a bad connection to the antenna, as that would be a quick and easy fix for them.

I'll post more updates as soon as I get them from CircuitCo. You never know with them, though. Sometimes I get replies within one day, sometimes it takes a few days just to get simple questions answered. I'll keep eMailing them as much as I can.

What about the deliveries?

While they have not stalled, they slowed down. So far, we put aside any Pandoras with issues to take care about them later and ship as many properly working ones as possible.

As we had the stallment in the production due to the WiFi issue, Craig finished all the easy-to-build Pandoras last week and is now building the Pandoras that need more work. This is a lot slower, of course, but hopefully CC will have found the WiFi issue and will resume production now that they can properly test every PCB!

My customers also had to wait a bit longer during the last weeks. While I have about 80 Pandoras at home I just need to test and build right now, my main priority were the testing rigs and new testing routines so that CC could start to work as soon as possible on them! Combined with a lot of work in my main job, I had very little time to work on building the Pandoras. 50 of those 80 PCBs need to get new nubs (they still have the old ones on them), the rest is testing and assembling.

As the testing rig is now behind me, I finally have time to continue building the units. And if we're lucky, I already have the next batch of boards from CC when I'm finished with these 80!

What's our conclusion?

Well, we learnt two things for sure:

  • Don't try to go to China to get stuff cheaper. It's not worth the hazzle. Yes, it's cheaper, but it also takes a lot longer and in the end, it's not cheaper if you sum everything up.
  • If possible, try to work with companies that are sitting near you. The iCP production is happening right round my corner. I can visit them to solve issues quickly and they never missed a deadline and gave me updates on the status whenever I requested it. Craig also made a very good experience with the company that produce the iCP case. No issues like we had with the company in China. The company is also just located round his corner, which made things easier. Additionally, you safe a lot of work and time, because you don't have to worry about costs.

So if a Pandora 2 ever happens (who knows), then we'll most probably work with companies that are sitting near us, so we can visit them anytime and actively work together to create a high-quality product.

This is far away in the future, though. Of course we want to finish the Pandora 1 first and make sure you all get one. This means a lot of work for us, but we won't hide from that!

Pandora OS

Some words on the Pandora OS:

notaz and DJWillis are both working on the next big OS, which should be a lot more stable and have included more recent software. No idea how long it will take, but each day some more bugs are squished.

In the meantime, I am also working with skeezix and some other devs on the next Hotfix for our current OS. The main goal is to improve userfriendlyness.

Hotfix 6 Alpha 2 already includes Tempels PNDStore for easy automatic software installation as well as some improvements of the XFCE default setup (menus, panel, etc.).

These improvements will also be included in the big OS update, so it makes sense we're working on this in parallel.

Some more wishes and thank yous

As I didn't have much time lately (explained above ;) ), I couldn't watch that much over the boards.

I just saw some flaming, trolling, etc. going on.

Well, there's one thing you can be sure of:

If we had a quick and easy way to increase the production speed and deliver all your units at once, we would do so. We are at the mercy of CircuitCo ourselves. We are constantly pushing them as good as we can and we are trying to do as much as we can ourselves (like replacing old nubs, etc.) to save time and money.

The wish to finally have all preorders delivered and have all our debts worked off here is the biggest one we all have right now. Some users make it sound like we're intentionally slowing everything down to sell more Premium units... that's definitely not the reason. In fact, if CircuitCo could deliver way faster, we could easily sell more units for less money and get more out of that than we currently get with the few Premiums...

Also, I've seen some Pandora "Fanboys" flaming normal guys who criticize the Pandora here, as well as critics who try to tell the Pandora fans that the unit is not useful for anything.

Well, both doesn't make much sense. Everyone can have his own opinion about the Pandora. Fans, please understand that not everyone sees the Pandora as something valuable. That's their right, and if they can explain why, there's no reason to insult them.

But critics: Please understand that the Pandora HAS features no other device has, and these features are of interest to the fans. There's no need to tell them this is useless. It's up the them to decide what they need and what not.

Feel free to discuss about the advantages and disadvantages of the Pandora, feel free to criticize the production or anything else, but do that with respect. No insults, no false accusations or anything else.

Wow, that turned out to be a long post. I hope it was an interesting read :)

Finally, I'd like to emphasize that we'll still try anything possible to keep the Pandora going!

We WILL work our asses off, if need be! As long as you want the Pandora, we'll try to get it to you!

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Thank you for the update, Ed. Very detailed and well written.

Hopefully this will relieve some of the tension that some people are having here.
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Thats alot of good news actually, hopefully the wifi issue will be solved soon!

I recently upgraded my preorder and got the Pandora a week ago, this thing is amazing! I didnt wait as long as many others here, but its worth waiting 2 years for something that awesome and unique! Thanks to ED, Craig, notaz, and everyone else who helped to make this happen, BIG thanks!
I can use an external wi-fi dongle so I would be happy to receive a Pandora with no on board wi-fi.

ED, Sony is this something Craig will do? Saves time money etc and I just want my Pandora!
Thanks ED

I don't think many people are working as hard as the team right now.

I am looking forward to the next hotfix/os.
I can use an external wi-fi dongle so I would be happy to receive a Pandora with no on board wi-fi.

ED, Sony is this something Craig will do? Saves time money etc and I just want my Pandora!

Not sure if he still has some of these boards left. AFAIK he shipped them all back to CC.
Brilliant post, very informative and straight to the point, your handling of the flaming issue was very profesional and hopefully this has been laid to rest, i would just like to say lots of people on this forum have been a great help to us and hope to chat more in the future its been a looong ride but also very enjoyable and also if you dont know just ask thats what forums are for.

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Great post, ED. I do appreciate the time you spend writing these posts, and it helps reset my cynic-o-meter, which seems to gradually build up in between the times you make these posts ;)

I'm glad you came to the conclusion to use local companies if you ever do this again. It may cost more initially, but if you have as many issues as the Pandora had it would surely be cheaper in the end. Plus having the factory 'round your corner' will surely help stop you guys getting stressed out.
Thanks again, ED. We're all wishing for success, even when the mood turns sour. A little bit of news goes a long way towards quelling dissension.
DJWillis, Notaz, and skeezix a BIG THANKS to you guys!

Without your talents, it wouldn't matter if batch 4 was being produced at this point. This device is only as good as the OS and software created. Thanks for not jumping ship, and swimming for dry land! :p

Ed, thanks for the long winded post(excellent as always). May I ask what ever happened to CC putting a new guy in charge who was supposed to handle all the ins and outs of this complex board, so that things would run smoother, and you guys would have a "Direct" contact at all times?

Since this WiFi issue has occured, it really doesn't seem like anyone over there is moving any faster, or seems to care that they have created an issue that wasn't there to begin with, and now OP is once again loosing time and money for a mistake that is not of their own making. Does no one take pride in their work anymore and stand behind their product?

Sadly, this is the current state of affairs all over the US currently(and I'm guessing all over the world). Since the economy went into the toilet, I see more and more business really resorting to back alley tactics to get money from consumers and small business. CC knows you guys really don't have many options for anyone else to produce these boards, and it appears to me like they just have no real reason to ramp production, or care that none of their own estimates have ever been met.

I currently bought a new home here in, and during the whole process, tons of hidden fees, and unessary cost came into to play, and the banks and escrow knew I was already "invested" into the process, so they sucked just a little extra here, and there knowing that I would pay, as I was already "pot commited". It is just so very sad to see this almost everywhere, and so many just don't seem to care, and think it is OK to shake down small business and consumers just because they can.

Well, sorry for my long rant. Thanks again Ed, you and OP are doing the best you can in a dire situation, that shouldn't be dire at all, if companies would stand up and take pride in what they are doing(original nub company, mould factory, CC, banks, Paypal)I'm looking at you theiving BASTARDS! Very sad indeed! :(

Ed, thanks for the long winded post(excellent as always). May I ask what ever happened to CC putting a new guy in charge who was supposed to handle all the ins and outs of this complex board, so that things would run smoother, and you guys would have a "Direct" contact at all times?

He's still there, though during the last days, I mostly was in contact with the guy who is actually doing the production, to work on the testing.

I hope to get a better status update soon as well.
Thanks for the detailed update. I guess I have to wait a bit longer for my Pandora (Who would have thought that? ;) ) I lost track of this so sorry for asking but how is the status on the TV-Out cables?
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Thanks for the detailed update. I guess I have to wait a bit longer for my Pandora (Who would have thought that? ;) ) I lost track of this so sorry for asking but how is the status on the TV-Out cables?

Yes, I'd like to know the status of the cables as well please.
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While I have had my Pandora for a couple of months now, I'm still trying to bite my non-existent nails every time I see something else crop up that delays it for others.

Keep strong folks. When this finally gets into your hands you're going to instantly forget anything you went through. Even seeing the problems being solved in the alpha hotfixes is worth the whole process if you're what ED calls a "fanboy". The interactivity of how it's being done, the feedback from the community, the releases and testing being done makes it fun to own it even if you don't use it for anything else. Without being a developer or an OP team member I still feel part of the process asking a question here and there or just by posting something on these boards.

I wish all console/gadget manufacturers were like this. If you get what the Pandora is you will understand what I mean. I've never seen anything approaching this device and the community around it and would gladly start waiting all over if I had the cash to order another. Damn, seeing a full FF 4 (hell, even Firefox 5 beta now!) running on it brings tears of awe/marvel/joy to my eyes because I remember drooling at the sight of an unaffordable laptop some ten years ago and now I have a Pandora hanging from my belt using the, lol, super-tight-fitting-Pandora-body-hugging case :D

Seeing what I've just written here this looks a bit of a useless post but I wish I could really convey how I feel about this project to everyone who is holding on so you might get a bit of a morale uplift if the current issues were getting you down.

P.S. This post was obviously inspired by ED's so I think a big THANK YOU ED, all of OPT and the community is in order here!!

EDIT: lol, two minutes after I made the post it's already marked as "yesterday". Time sure runs fast these days ;)
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