Linaro Connect Q3.11

As I did not had a mood to blog during event I decided to write something about after it ended.

First what this Linaro Connect is about… Is it conference or rather an event which has to gather people in one place so they can reach each other easily? From what I saw during last week it is both.

There were several summits which I did not attended so does not have anything to write about them. Inter team meetings during which people were sharing their knowledge about their work and how to use it to improve work of other teams — here the most active were Android and Validation teams (in my opinion). Schedule was full of Android sessions and LAVA was quite often heard word.

For me event started on Sunday as I had taxi at 6:30 in the morning. Then bus, plane and then waiting 2h in terminal 1 of London Heathrow airport waiting for few other guys to appear as we had to share a cab to hotel where I arrived at ~17:00 local time. Yes, my travels sucks.

Went outside with Zygmunt Krynicki to find some place to eat. Found few takeaway only places and small restaurant with India food which was delicious.

Monday started with traditional English breakfast (you know: eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread, baked beans and mushrooms kind of one) which was quite good and we had it daily. When it comes to food at hotel it was good and someone had great idea serving different cuisine each day.

Starting plenary with informations from each team about what do they plan for this week. Then work, meetings, coding, hacking etc. Attended several meetings like binary toolchain discussion with toolchain working group, Matthias Klose from Ubuntu and several people from ARM Ltd which maintain ARM Development Studio 5 (DS-5). Also went for hard float summit with not only Linaro or Ubuntu but also Fedora and Marvell people.

But work is not the only thing we did. There were activities for evenings too.

On Monday we went outside for karting. First we were equipped with proper suit, shoes, helmet and then went for safety instructions.

Racing was fun. Each team were split into two sub teams (as there were two tracks) with 4 people in each. That gave 15 minutes per person, but as one of us decided to not drive second one we had 20 minutes on it.

Was it fun? O yes, it was. Especially outside track where speed was higher and engine more powerful but as steering was tough my right wrist reminded me that RSI problem which I had few years ago (this time pain vanished during night but got back at closing party). Our team took 6th place in total.

Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were “reserved” for team meals. First day we went to Browns and Punter was next one. Food in both was tasty and came in big amounts.

But food was not the only way to spend evening. On Wednesday we went punting on a river in Cambridge. Our punter was presenting us with informations about colleges and bridges we were passing by — things like who created them, when, why etc. Some people took photos but so far I did not traced whom to contact to get a copy.

Thursday we had a dinner in King’s College. Dinning hall looked nice with all those portraits and food was good. Had a nice talk with ST-Ericsson people about their cheap developer board Snowball which I complained about in other post. We got to the point that the CPU on board was created for mobile devices use (that’s why no usb host functionality) and that all those industrial connectors are present because it is more board for prototyping new devices.

Friday was last day. We did some hacking, packed equipment of our room and prepared for closing plenary. At the end we had small party with some activities and food. I left it early — was tired and wanted to discuss with Zygmunt a bit (normally we chat often during company events but this time we got separate rooms).

Return trip was a copy… taxi, plane, bus, taxi. Went home around 22:00 and gave inflated sword (from closing party) to my daughter — she liked it 😉

What is wrong with all those cheap developer boards?

I own several developer boards and used many others. During last two years more and more so called cheap developer boards arrived on market but are they good or not?

This week I am at Linaro Connect Q3.11 now and there are many boxes here with Origen boards so I looked at one of them.

Board looks quite nice — there is CPU module and carrier board. 2 SD/MMC slots, serial, jtag, usb device, usb host (just one), power, audio in/out, lcd connector, few keys and microHDMI (cable to normal HDMI provided). Guess what is missing… Yes, they forgot to put Ethernet on board. Someone may say “but there is WiFi instead” but show me wireless operating at 100Mbps in all situations… I also got information that provided HDMI cable is quite fragile and can break. Normal size video output would fit without problems…

But board design problems are not limited to Samsung one. There is this nice i.mx53 Quick Start board from Freescale. You get VGA output and several other connectors. Nice change compared to other boards is SATA connector. But this also can be a problem cause you have to provide separate power for your Serial-ATA device. HDMI output (with audio) costs extra 49 USD but as this board is really small (3×3″) there was no space for it.

Next one? ST-Ericsson Snowball – board with lot of connectors with huge amount of different signals but without USB host ports. There is one USB OTG port and one USB device. Is USB host cable provided? No, it costs 8.04EUR more. What worries me is lack of USB signals in expansion slots (at least thats how I understood documentation). CPU for mobile phones^Wdevices only?

What we left? PandaBoard from Texas Instruments. I think that this is still best cheap developer board when it comes to ARMv7 cpus. It is not perfect (slow USB, lack of SATA) but things supported by OMAP4 processor are available. Ethernet is on USB but better such then none, 4 USB ports (2 on edge, 2 on expansion) and normal HDMI connectors for video.

Note that I do not compare speed of boards or how good/bad they are supported in mainline kernel — some of those things can not be compared, other are changing daily. For now I am staying with 2 Pandaboards and will wait for other boards to get up to it with kernel support.