Earth-friendly EOMA68 Computing Devices

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Oct 11, 2016

Post-Shenzhen Reflections

Much of what I write is off-the-cuff, I don’t know what’s going to be on the page until it’s written. So it’s often interesting, even for me, to re-read things my writing. As I was going back over my previous update on my visit to Shenzhen, it suddenly hit me: everything I’ve done over the past five years - the entire EOMA68 design ethos - is vindicated by this one visit to Huaqiang Road. The process of developing electronics products is not greatly improved by coming over here: it’s something that you have to be very, very careful about in advance. You cannot just pick random parts off of Digi-Key and expect them to be available everywhere. Products are successful, in large part, if they are designed around the most commonly-made components.

But, finding those parts can be a total nightmare. Given a process where you to have scrabble through trays of components in search of a single connector, a process that needs to be repeated for over two hundred components, how can you expect to complete the design in a reasonable time-frame such that it would actually be profitable? This is why I designed EOMA68: so that products could be designed once and only once, and then manufactured without disruption or change for ten years.

You might naively think, “okay, I really want to make a custom SBC product: I’ll use Digi-Key instead despite the fact that it’s five to ten times more expensive, surely it will be possible to shave 80% off when it comes to mass-production, right?” You’ll soon discover, as I found out from Mike today, that components found on Digi-Key (with the easy-to-find datasheets) are often cast-offs from production batches made ten years ago that are no longer in production. Mike is constantly approached by Westerners who give him a design full of Digi-Key-sourced parts, expecting him to be able to mass-produce the design and shave 80% off the cost in the process: the reality is that the only place where he can get the parts is… Digi-Key! So the parts, which originally came from China, have to be shipped back to China with the resultant double VAT and double Customs Duty.

I took Mike along to Runde Electronics today, because I wanted to introduce him to them. When I put the early prototype Micro-Desktop and EOMA68-A20 PCBs on the counter at Runde’s booth, a quiet guy at the back piped up and pointed to the PCMCIA parts, “We have those connectors, too, you know”. I was absolutely staggered. They have every single connector and switch that’s needed for the EOMA68-A20, the Micro-Desktop, and the 15.6in Laptop. I asked Mike if this was a normal situation, if he’d ever had a foreign client come over and sit down at only two booths in Huaqiang Road and find absolutely every component needed in only two one-hour visits, he answered resoundingly “No!”

The reason why this happened is very simple: it’s because of the process by which I picked those parts in the first place. I did not sign any NDAs. I did not use Digi-Key, Mouser, or Farnell. I chose extremely common parts where I had very quickly gotten a “feel” for what is commonly available. They are all generic parts. They are all also parts that come from a number of China-sourced Reference Designs.

For example, I picked the CM108AH USB Audio IC because there is a datasheet for it which contains a full schematic which is easily found online. I could have used a “better” USB audio IC, but it would dictate an MOQ of 50,000 units. I then verified that it was mass-produced in huge volumes in USB audio dongles: I distinctly recall buying one ten years ago for $5 USD. The same goes for the GL850G: this hub IC has been manufactured for at least a decade, now. The TDA2822 1W amplifier IC has a datasheet so old it actually has hand-drawn schematics in it. It’s the same audio amplifier that’s been used in cheap transistor radios for over twenty years. I actually had one Chinese designer review the schematics and he said, tellingly, “Ah, you’ve gone old school”.

So, bizarrely, after all that fuss, I’m pretty much done. I may have to go back in a few weeks, particularly for the Chicony keyboard, or perhaps to find a Taiwanese supplier. I found the LCD. Got the battery. Got 99% of the components. Mike’s made the Micro-Desktop and EOMA68-A20 PCBs and is going to get the components for them… We’re on the way.

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Support EOMA68


$65

Libre Tea Computer Card

An EOMA68-compatible computer card with an Allwinner A20 dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of NAND flash pre-installed with the Parabola GNU/Linux-libre operating system. We expect the Libre Tea Computer Card to receive the Free Software Foundation's Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification before the first units ship.


$65

Practically Perfect Computer Card

An EOMA68-compatible computer card with an Allwinner A20 dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of NAND flash pre-installed with the Debian GNU/Linux operating system.


$65

Numero Uno Computer Card

An EOMA68-compatible computer card with an Allwinner A20 dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of NAND flash pre-installed with the Devuan GNU/Linux operating system.


$65

Getting Ahead Computer Card

An EOMA68-compatible computer card with an Allwinner A20 dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of NAND flash pre-installed with the Fedora 24 GNU/Linux operating system.


$55

Micro Desktop Housing for Computer Card

This is a Micro Desktop base unit and power supply unit with a beautiful laser-cut stack of 3mm plywood panels that creates an aesthetically attractive tiny base unit for your Computer Cards. Excludes Computer Card, keyboard, mouse and VGA monitor.


$450

PIY Laptop Housing Kit for Computer Card

This Print-It-Yourself (PIY) kit includes all the parts, cabling and boards (main, power, and controller, assembled and tested), and battery, charger, keyboard, LCD, and CTP-LCD for trackpad that are needed to build a complete Libre Laptop once you 3D print the enclosure from the freely available GPLv3+ licensed plans. Excludes Computer Card.


$500

PFY Laptop Housing Kit for Computer Card

This Printed-For-You (PFY) kit has everything needed to create a full EOMA68 Laptop, including a 3D printed set of casework parts, bamboo plywood panels, tested and assembled PCBs, cables, battery, charger, keyboard, LCD, and CTP-LCD for trackpad. Available in a variety of colors and materials. Excludes Computer Card.


$1,200

Completely Assembled Laptop + Computer Card

A meticulously hand-assembled and fully-tested laptop. Includes your choice of EOMA68-A20 Computer Card and 3D-printed casework.


$10,000

On-site Consultation, Presentation, and Workshop + Laptop + Computer Card

For those people who would like the opportunity to meet the designers and have them personally go over the project's development, history, future direction and much more, a week's time can be made available to meet with you personally, to do a hands-on workshop to help you (and any number of additional attendees) through the process of putting together your own fully-functioning laptop and even take you through the process of building and installing the software. Also included will be one Laptop with a Computer Card which will be assembled on-site. You must provide travel, accommodation, tools and a suitable workshop and presentation space. Contact us directly for details.


$20

PCMCIA/EOMA68 Breakout Board

One PCMCIA/EOMA68 Breakout Board with one surface mount PCMCIA header, and tracks to some convenient 2.54-mm-spaced through-holes. Added by popular demand, for access, tinkering, development work, testing, etc.


$35

Pass-through Card

A simple card that takes in HDMI and USB and passes them on. Turns a Laptop Housing into a portable, battery-powered dock for your smartphone, USB-HDMI dongle computer, and tablet, or a second screen, keyboard, and mouse for your existing laptop or desktop PC.


$15

USB + HDMI Cable Set for Standalone Operation

Includes a Micro HDMI Type D cable and 3-way USB-OTG Host-Charger cable tested and known to work with EOMA68 Computer Cards. These are the cables you need to run a Computer Card as a standalone device without the need for a housing. Also useful with the Micro Desktop or Laptop Housing to add a second screen and extra USB port.

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Credits

EOMA68


Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

Developer

Christopher Waid

Sponsor

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