1. Flashing U-Boot on Efika MX Smartbook

    From time to time I read posts where people wrote that their Efika MX Smartbook does not boot any more. The only thing which it does is white power led blinking about twice per second. Standard reply in such case is “send device back to Genesi”.

    Some time ago a friend of mine borrowed Efika MX Smartbook from me. During his experiments he managed to get netbook into such state. I have serial/jtag debug dongle so decided to take a look at it (and unbrick device). I managed to fix it but also somehow broke serial port so can not check why my automate way does not want to work.

    What needs to be done to get Smartbook back to live? Few things:

    Needed steps:

    1. Repartition SD card. You can use any tool for it. All what has to be done is set up first partition at 1MB offset so we have space for U-Boot.
    2. Format partition (if needed) as FAT.
    3. Run “sudo dd if=u-boot.imx of=/dev/sdd bs=1k seek=1” (replace /dev/sdd with your SD card).
    4. Put card into SD slot of Efika MX Smartbook.
    5. Take out keyboard — you need to use small screwdriver to push holes near F1, F6, F10, End keys.
    6. Change DIP switches - they are in a middle of motherboard. You need to reverse default setup.
    7. Power on your Efika. There should be U-Boot output on screen. You may even get system loaded up at this step ;)
    8. Take out SD card and copy ‘boot.scr’ to it.
    9. Power off Efika, put SD card and boot.
    10. Old U-Boot will be stored into NOR flash (output will be visible on screen).
    11. Change DIP switches - they are in a middle of motherboard. You need to reverse them to default setup.
    12. Put keyboard back.
    13. Take out SD card.
    14. Boot your Efika MX Smartbook — operating system should load.

    Some information:

    • old U-Boot got flashed because new one was not tested for NOR boot
    • finding out information for this how to took me few hours
    • this procedure can be done without Efika MX Smartbook serial/jtag dongle
    • similar procedure can be used for Efika MX Smarttop but as I do not have such I can not offer help

    Thanks goes to:

    • Genesi for giving me free Smartbook and serial/jtag dongle
    • Marek Vasut for his work on mainlining U-Boot support for Efika MX devices
    • Matt Sealey for some hints on IRC
    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
  2. Want to buy Android tablet (again)

    During my trip to Linaro Connect 2012q1 I want to buy Android tablet for myself. But this time I decided to spend more time on choosing one to not end with crap like Hannspree Hannspad which I bought half year ago.

    Also situation on market changed. There are cheap tablets worth checking but there are also cheap crappy ones. So let me list what I checked so far.

    Kindle Fire Nook Tablet Archos 80 G9 Classic Archos 80 G9 Turbo
    price (USD) 199 249 259
    RAM size 512MB 1GB 512MB
    resolution 1024x600 1024x600 1024x768
    screen size 7” 7” 8”
    internal storage 8GB 16GB 2 8GB
    external storage none microSD microSD
    CPU OMAP4430 1GHz OMAP4430 1GHz OMAP4430 1GHz
    stock Android version 2.3 customized 2.3 customized 3.2 (4.0 in February)
    community Android version 4.0 4.0 not checked
    locked bootloader no yes (hacked) no
    USB Host no no yes
    HDMI output no no yes

    As you see my requirements are more or less simple:

    • dual core cpu (arm7)
    • 512MB ram (1GB preferred)
    • 1024x600 (or higher) resolution
    • 7-8” screen size (I had 10” and it was too big)
    • price below 300USD

    During CES many vendors presented new tablets but I think that most of them will be released in Q2 or later. ASUS MeMo 370T looks nice for 250USD but it is not on market.

    And I do not want 3G module in tablet — my phone has over 10GB of data limit to use for next months and so far I was not able to consume 1GB per month :)

    Have I missed some devices? If yes then please share information in comments. Just remember that I do not want any of those NotionAdam/Viewsonic/Hannspad ones.


    1. rumours says 1GB in newer Turbo model 

    2. 13GB /data/ so it is hard to put own data over USB 

    3. if you are lucky and find them in store — OMAP4430 1.2GHz otherwise 

    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
  3. Scythe Mugen 2 and socket 1155 mainboard

    When I moved my home machine to i7-2600K I realized out that Scythe Mugen 2 cpu cooler which I was using lacks elements to mount it on socket 1555 motherboard.

    I looked at shops and found out that I need SCCSMG2-1156 (Scythe Mugen 2 mounting kit for Socket 1156/1155) as I have quite old version of cooler (then there was Rev. B released with support for all socket types). But then problem started — no one in Poland had them…

    So I contacted Scythe directly and later after spending 10€ I got mounting kit delivered at Xmas Eve. Took me some days to find time to mount it.

    First attempt ended with lot of curses, angry email to Scythe and stock cooler mounted again.

    But I decided to not give up. Did some extra research and found this YouTube video where I saw that I mounted bolt screws wrong…

    So I did another try. This time it fitted perfectly and I can enjoy silence.

    Next step: replace new case fans with more quiet ones.

    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
  4. Events in 2012 which I will attend

    In March I wrote where I will travel. Decided to write such memo at start of year so it will be more visible what my plans are for 2012.

    In February I will miss FOSDEM because Linaro Connect Q1.12 will start right after it. So at 4th I will fly to San Francisco for a week. But this time instead of flying back home I decided to spend weekend in New York City where I hope to meet some people from Bug Labs company. You know: we worked with each other for 1.5 year and I met only Peter Semmelhack and Ken Gilmer. Also I plan some sightseeing.

    Then a bit of quiet until next Linaro Connect will happen. Probably May but it was not yet decided where and when. As many people I also hope for Asia (never was in this part of world).

    Same month there will be Ubuntu Developer Summit somewhere at west coast of USA. Who knows — maybe it will end in trip around the world in May? Sounds interesting but I think that only sounds as it can be hard to survive due to jet lag.

    Then July/August another Linaro Connect. No idea where, but hope for Europe. In meantime I may or may not attend Ubuntu Rally (Canonical internal event) which will be somewhere in US (as it follows UDS place).

    And end of year will bring yet another Linaro Connect and Ubuntu Developer Summit. Second one in Europe.

    What else? Probably LinuxTag if company events will not be at same time, maybe something local (there are few conferences planned in Szczecin).

    Overall it looks that there will be some travelling — but this year I plan to make more use of free time to see something else than conference centers.

    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
  5. 2011 timeline

    Again we are at start of new year. As usual I decided to write some timeline for 2011 year.

    January

    February

    • FOSDEM as usual. This time I went there with my wife. She saw more of Brussels in one day then I manage during few visits. But she had ‘spouse tours’ in Saturday and Sunday ;)
    • Started using Cyanogenmod on my phone instead of stock Android. Nice improvements and always fresh system.

    March

    • Decided to drop KDE and switched to XFCE on desktop and laptop. Main reason was KMail which started to be too hard to rely on. Moved to Evolution and few months later to Thunderbird.

    April

    • Linaro porting jam weekly event started. It got quiet last months but we will resurrect it!

    May

    June

    July

    • Another Ubuntu platform sprint — this time in Dublin, Ireland. Met some old friends which moved there from Poland. Also spent awesome weekend with my wife and local part of our family.
    • Took 2 weeks of vacations. We went nearly in the middle of nowhere ;)
    • Switched phone operator again. This time it is Orange, PL and I am on prepaid. Number stayed the same of course.
    • Started using Google+.

    August

    • We had first official Linaro Connect in Cambourne, UK. It was kind of conference with lot of hacking time. During it I played with all developer boards which we support and wrote what do I think about them. This post gave me unofficial title of ‘Linaro’s main complainer’ and as a result we can expect some hardware guys presence during next Linaro Connect events.
    • Released some generic Linux cross toolchain for tests which got some use. Toolchain working group has now people working on it.
    • Bought Hannspree Hannspad tablet running Android 2.2 by default. Played with Cyanogenmod7 and Honeycomb on it. Finally got rid of it month later as I got one with shitty screen.
    • Tried Unity but gave up.

    September

    • Modded ATX Power supply which provided 5/12V for my developer boards got fried. Replaced it with industrial +5V/20A one — no boards running at 12V at desk.
    • VPS upgrade from Ubuntu 10.04 ‘lucid’ to 11.04 ‘natty’ ended with not bootable system. All I got was “Error: Boot loader didn’t return any data!” message from Xen. Solved problem, described for users.

    October

    • Bought a bike for me and another for wife. We also got extra seat for our daughter and did some trips in forests surrounding Szczecin. Then it became too cold for family trips.
    • Went to Open Source Szczecin conference to listen what people have to say about some projects. Was quite interesting.
    • Got mx53 Quick Start board from Freescale for my Linaro work.

    November

    • Visited Prague, Czech Republic again. This time for Embedded Linux Conference. Nice time, met friends. There was also general assembly of OpenEmbedded e.V. organization.
    • Linaro Connect Q4.11 took place at same time as Ubuntu Developer Summit. Another visit in Orlando, Florida, USA. This time we got room as usual — at the end of corridor ;) Bought myself Amazon Kindle e-reader which I am now using to read some old Science Fiction books.
    • I got interviewed during Linaro Connect — we were talking about projects which I worked on in past, what brought me to Linux on ARM. Worth watching!
    • Started using Unity again.

    December

    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
  6. I feel the power of i7

    Lot of time passed since last time I upgraded my home computer. Yesterday I moved from P35 based mainboard and Core2Quad cpu to P67 and i7-2600K processor. And 16GB of memory.

    Main reason for change was memory. Building packages on SSD is nice and fast but I hate how system slows down when 3-4GB of data needs to be removed from drive. With 8GB of memory it was hard to fit pbuilder’s instance and all running applications. And P35 based mainboards do not support more than 8GB ;( Why I did not buy P45 based mainboard… They supported 4x4GB setup…

    So I checked what is on a market. Then I waited months for AMD to release Bulldozer processors. Finally they did just to show that it was waste of time.

    Current PC market sucks. Shops do not know what they sell, you need to go to vendors websites for every information. Intel Sandy Bridge platform has very limited amount of PCI Express lines which means that you can not have more than one x16 slot. But shops look at board and write “two/three/../seven x16 PCIe slots” — never mind that it is one of:

    • x16 + x8
    • x16 + x4
    • x16 + x8 + x4
    • x16 + x4 + x4

    And in most configurations x16 degrades to x8 when second slot in use as you need PCI Express switch like NVidia NF200 to “provide” more lanes to get two x16 slots.

    And fun goes even more when you look at those ‘three x16 slots’ mobos:

    The PCIEX4 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX1_1 and PCIEX1_2 slots. When the PCIEX1_1 slot or the PCIEX1_2 slot is populated with an expansion card, the PCIEX4 slot will operate at up to x1 mode.

    I remember board where using such x4 slot killed Serial ATA controller…

    So, after long reading of all those specifications, reviews, I selected Gigabyte P67X-UD3-B3 mainboard. P67 chipset is not newest one but I do not plan to use on board graphics. I have x16 + x8 PCI Express slots (working as x8+x8 when both in use), USB 3.0 ports, firewire (which I never used), 8 Serial ATA ports (4x 6Gbps and 4x 3Gbps ones) and possibility to have 32GB of DDR3 RAM (but this has to wait for cheap 8GB sticks).

    I did one speed test today: tmpfs based build of my cross toolchain packages for Ubuntu. Took one hour for armel and armhf ones. Very nice :)

    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
  7. Used Unity for over a month

    Some of my readers may react like “WTF? Unity again? After writing ‘no thanks’ post?” But yeah — I spent over month using it. And yes — this is going to be past tense during this week.

    In March I got tired of KDE4 and switched to XFCE which served me quite well during Ubuntu 11.04 ‘natty’ cycle. But then I had a feeling that it becomes more and more second citizen in Ubuntu world. All those transitions from GTK+2 to GTK+3 which made some applications look ugly etc.

    Then there was this discussion on Canonical internal mailing list where I wrote what do I think about Unity. It was not polite and I am sorry for that. So I decided to give Unity/2D and 3D a longer try.

    Unity 2D was interesting environment. Some things were not configurable or hard to find without using gconf-editor and had some issues. I reported few bugs and could not reproduce some of them even:

    Also I had one issue with Unity/2D and Psi+ running at same time — was looking like Psi+ opened window, Unity composited desktop but did not noticed that window disappeared in meantime:

    Unity/2D fun
    Unity/2D fun

    But as I have graphics card which knows what OpenGL is I decided to make use of it and switched to Unity/3D. This was real change. More configuration options but you have to remember that you should not touch ccsm (Compiz configuration settings manager) which is the only way to configure it.

    Why ‘do not touch ccsm’ mantra? Because it is easy to break whole Unity setup with it. But as there is no other way… For example I do not like 2x2 desktop setup which was default but prefer 6x1 one. Or when user wants to change keyboard shortcuts or several other things.

    As usual I tried to report what I found:

    Some other things went into #ayatana and #ubuntu-desktop channels on irc where I had several discussions with developers. Some suggested that I must have strange configuration that I have some of my problems. There was even suggestion that I should move to QA team but I hope that no one will take it serious ;D

    After that month I can admit that Unity may be usable for many users but I am not one of them. Idea of switching applications not desktops (via Start+[1-0] keys) is nice but I was not able to fully adapt to it. Mostly because I tend to have several windows of same application (terminal, gvim, web browser) and in such case I had more switching as Unity Alt-Tab switcher makes it even worse (you need to use cursor keys in it).

    Application menus in top panel was one of first things which I removed. When few windows were present on screen I had several focus changes before I went from right side of screen to menu in panel. Why several? Because I am too used to ‘focus under mouse’ way of selecting windows which is not default Unity way. And even with this enabled I did not find out how to disable ‘bring focused window to front’.

    Other thing was side panel (launcher one). There is a way to disable devices icons but no way to disable trashcan or workspaces buttons (which I do not use). Good that other things are configurable — so I set it to 32px width and auto hide if any window wants to take space.

    Application runner is hard to use. Press “Start+A”, type “xkill” and tell me what you see? Probably nothing. So run “Alt+F2” and again type “xkill” — this will work. As interface is same in both situations it may confuse users.

    To add application into launcher panel you have to start it first, then find it on panel, get to context menu (usually right mouse button) and select ‘keep in launcher’ option. Different then in other systems but can get used to it.

    Systray implementation is weird but it will not be changed as there is a pressure to write indicators instead (if you do not know what it is think “panel applets”). In result some of the applications which I used for years became harder to use (Last.fm official client or Psi+ Jabber client). Some of them could get replaced by other ones or dropped.

    What else? Unlocking screen can sometimes take ages^Wminutes. With KDE4 or XFCE I was able to turn on monitor, type password and begin hacking, with Unity desktop I had to remind myself what patience is because often I had to wait 1-2 minutes before ‘enter password to unlock screen’ dialog appeared. Sometimes I even got preview of desktop in meantime (which is privacy unfriendly).

    Next week I will check how KDE4 looks like and will have to decide which environment to choose. Maybe will try GNOME 3 next year? Who knows…

    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
  8. Square board with five edges

    Some time ago I got yet another developer board from Linaro — this time it was i.mx53 Quickstart also known as mx53 LOCO. At that time I only found time to power it on and check does it work at all.

    Yesterday I booted it with Ubuntu desktop image from Linaro but without connecting to display (I have HDMI addon so can use VGA and HDMI outputs). Lot of lights (voltage controls mostly) appeared on board — funny thing is that to power some of them all you need is VGA or HDMI cable connected.

    Today I went shopping… Board comes with power supply (did not used), USB cable and 8GB microSD card. Last item is important as mx53loco boots from it by default — I do not know does it checks SD card too. What I lacked was Serial ATA -> E-SATA cable for my external hard drive. Yes… SATA->ESATA as board has standard connector for connecting drives directly but as it lacks SATA power connector (about which I wrote already) I had to use external case. Good thing is that local electronics shop had those cables available. Disk speed is quite nice:

    Serial ATA disk speed

    Same disk on USB:

    Same disk on USB

    Compare it with SD card:

    SD card speed

    Which interface you prefer for storage? :) I hope that new Efika MX53 from Genesi will have some good Serial ATA storage inside.

    But then I got hit by other issue… Mounting of board started to be a problem. I hope that next version of board will be bigger. This one is too packed — and HDMI addon makes it even worse at it adds 5th edge to square board. In past I wrote a post about perfect developer board and some points apply here. What I do not like:

    • too small amount of space around mounting holes — hard to reach with 5mm key
    • VGA and RS232 connectors forced me to use very tiny screws to be able to mount board to my board plate
    • Power button is hidden behind screw and hard to reach
    • HDMI addon makes use of Reset and Power buttons very hard — have to use pen or stylus instead of finger when cable is connected
    • leds are too bright — will have to put some duct tape on them

    Is there something I like? Of course — I do not want to only complain ;) This is the only cheap developer board from Linaro supported ones with native Serial ATA interface (iirc Samsung cpu could have it but Origenboard does not have connector). Two SD interfaces allow to prototype devices which require extra expansions in case of Beagleboard or Pandaboard. And this is smallest devboard I ever used (cause I never played with Gumstix — but even they usually run in some carrier boards). And compare to Texas Instruments boards it comes with cables and power supply. I plan to make small distcc/icecream farm from my ARM boards and this one will be for use one of nodes.

    Written by Marcin Juszkiewicz on
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