Earth-friendly EOMA68 Computing Devices

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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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Product Choices


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EOMA68 "R/E-volution of Computing" bumper sticker

Parody the parody with an EOMA68 "R/E-volution" bumper sticker: have fun explaining all the jokes to both friends and strangers alike.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton


Christopher Waid


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