In Weekly Roundup #51 we’re taking a look at a bunch of new RK3399 SBCs, FPGAs and the world is still AI mad.
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This is a fairly lengthy Weekly Roundup, so sit back and put your feet up.
First up on Kickstarter we have the MyCroft Mark II. The MyCroft is an open source voice assistant which handles all the grunt work on the device itself instead of in the cloud. The Mark II is similar to the Mark I, but now sports a snazzy touch display, SD slot and USB. As yet there’s no indication of what SoC they’re using.
I joined the live broadcast to find out, but unfortunately this wasn’t made clear.
One of their goals of the product is to be completely open. That is: You have complete control over the device and the persona that responds on MyCroft will send you data only you want to hear. Which can be good and bad.
A couple of smaller boards on Kickstarter…
If you’re in to metal detection, then there’s this campaign based on the Analog Devices AD5933 for around 5 euros.
Or yet another breadboard power supply providing 3.3 and 5v rails as well as an adjustable 1.2 to 21v rail from a 7 to 12v DC supply.
And as part of the Make/100 initiative, there’s the PIXO Pixel, which has an on-board ESP32 controlling a 16 by 16 RGB LED matrix.
And there’s the Sensorless BLDC motor controller. This is a modular motor controller based on the humble MSP430, and a bunch of MOSFETs allowing control over a 3.3 to 8.4v, 6A motor. Not sure where the “sensorless” bit comes in, as it has a current sensor, but anyway… Looks good.
Another campaign by Martin Cote, which is an update on his previous IoT motion sensor board. Version 2 has the same hardware as Version 1, but is much smaller and cheaper.
This is an interesting campaign that has been created by Bootlin. A little research shows up that this is the new company name for the defunct Free Electrons. So, what do they want to do in this campaign? They want to free up the AllWinner SoCs completely from all those pesky closed source binary blobs and provide true support for all the AllWinner VPU.
If they can pull this off, then suddenly all those cheap AllWinner based boards from fruit shops suddenly become a whole more attractive.
Over at IndieGoGo, there’s the …
BigClown IoT sensor kit. This kit starts with the “Core” running an STM32 with sub-GHz RF, temperature and 3DOF IMU. They also have the Cloony, no not him, but this, which is the same but smaller. From that you can build up with a variety of modules that provide every sensor you can think of, with their starter kit all the way up to their Premium Kit.
We’ve seen a lot of these in the past, but the ones that end up being good are the ones that provide a full end to end product making it easy for you to get on-board. BigClown have offered me a review unit, so I’ll be putting it through it’s paces when I get it.
Over at CrowdSupply, there’s a few interesting things in pre-launch…
The Infinite Noise TRNG aims to provide true random number generation. Why is this important? A lot of crypto engines rely very heavily on random number generation and computers are very good at being predictable. So a decent TRNG source is critical for security. This board is similar to Peter Allen’s design from back in 1999, so it’s been around for a while. You can also pick this up from Tindie.
Back in my youth, when I was writing firmware for production test environments, I would often use LEDs to send 300 BAUD data indicating any errors encountered. A simple Light Dependent Resistor and RS232 circuit attached to my PC would show up what was being sent. The OpticSpy is doing pretty much that, but this one is claiming to get up to 800kbps.
TinyFPGA BX is yet another fantastic FPGA board from Luke Valenty. This one is based on the Lattice ICE40LP8K. There’s not much to say about this one, except Luke is continually producing some decent and inexpensive Maker products.
While we’re on the topic of Luke, he tweeted the other day that he is designing a Hardware Description Language to make it easier for Makers to work with FPGAs. This is a fantastic idea and I’m looking forward to seeing this develop over time.
The SuperB is simply an ESP32 SoC in an XBee form factor. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to make one.
SiFive is back again with yet another cool product. This time there’s the HiFive Unleashed. The unleashed part comes from, I suspect, the fact that it runs the SiFive U540, which is a quad core SoC running at 1.5GHz. Also has 8G DDR4 RAM with ECC, 32M SPI flash, SD, GbE, FMC expansion header all powered from a 12v DC supply.
This board is a bit of a screamer and unfortunately has the price tag to match. However, it is the first Maker SBC that I’ve seen providing DDR4 ECC RAM.
This next one was mentioned by CNX software
Over at SixFab they have a couple of new IoT boards on pre-order.
The NB-IoT is an Arduino shield running the Quectel BC95-B20, 3DOF IMU, temperature, humidity and light sensors.
While the Raspberry Pi hat is exactly the same, except for an additional 4 channel 12bit ADC and mains rated relay.
The unusually named, and something that I’ll probably mispronounce, Vyasa is yet another SBC based on the RK3288. For US$150 you also get 2G DDR3 RAM, 16G eMMC, SD, GbE, USB, HDMI out and LiPo battery management. There’s also a header allowing expansions for NFC, GPS, Can BUS, WiFi, Bluetooth and even Power over Ethernet.
Over at the Hard Kernel blog, they announced the next ODROID SBC. The ODROID-N1 will be based on the RK3399 hex-core SoC with 4G DDR3 RAM, USB3.0, USB2.0, GbE, the typical Pi GPIO header, HDMI 2.0 supporting 4K, eMMC and even two SATA3 ports. Two! Nice!
Not only that, but their price point comes in at US$110. If they can pull that off, this is going to be one heck of a board.
Not to be outdone, the Pine64 guys have been working hard and have released three new boards.
The first is the Pine H64, which is based on the AllWinner H6 SoC and comes in 1, 2 or 3 G DDR3 RAM, 128Mb SPI flash, SD, eMMC, HDMI 2.0 supporting 4K, GbE, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, 40 Pi GPIOs, an additional Euler GPIO header and a mini PCIe slot.
How much for this board? The 1G will set you back US$26, the 2G US$36 and the 3G US$45. Wow!
Then there’s the Pine64 Clusterboard, which has 7 slots supporting 7 SOPine modules. It also gives you GbE with on-board switch, 7 USB2.0 ports, GPIO expansion header and RTC, all powered from a 5v, 15A DC supply coming from a standard PC ATX power connector.
Their current promotion allows you to pick up a free SOPine module.
Then there’s the upcoming RockPro64 based on the ineffable RK3399 SoC. It’ll come in various flavours with different RAM and eMMC sizes, GbE, USB2.0, USB Type C and a real PCIe slot.
One of the other most noticeable features of the board is the number of MIPI headers; which gives you 3 CSI ports as well as DSI and eDP.
Orange Pi doesn’t really want to be left out of the party and have come out with their version of the RK3399 SBC. For US$109 you can pick up an SBC with a bucket load of goodies like 2G DDR3 RAM, 16G eMMC, GbE, SD, USB2.0, MIPI-CSI, two MIPI-DSI, 40 pin GPIO, 9DOF IMU, HDMI and it starts to get really cool with HDMI in, mSATA and MIC array.
That’s a lot for a little.
And yes the RK3399 party continues with another board from Aaeon in the coming soon category. This one has 2G DDR3 RAM, 16G eMMC, HDMI & eDP out, GbE, all the USB types you can think of, mPCIe slot, RTC and LiPo battery management.
And someone not interested in joining the RK3399 party is the ModBerry guys. If you’re in to industrial projects, then these guys will provide an industrial case with add-ons and cloud offering based on several SBCs, such as the UpBoard, NanoPi NEO2 and Orange Pi Zero. They support almost all the wireless protocols as well as CAN, 1-wire and UARTs.
Over at Tindie, there’s a bunch of cool things.
The EasyVolts was an IndieGoGo campaign back in Weekly Roundup #36. Well now you can pick up version 3 of this handy power supply from Tindie. It is an adjustable power supply that is controlled via USB or UART, providing from 0 to 24V at up to 1A.
Back into the FPGA camp we have the BlackIce II, which is the 4th generation and not the second. This board runs a 100MHz clocked STM32 programmable via the Arduino IDE, but it also has a Lattice ICE40HX4K FPGA. 56 of the GPIOs are pushed out from this and 26 from the STM32, which is, I think, the most I’ve seen in a regular Maker board. It also provides 8 PMOD connectors.
The Maker Uno is an Arduino Uno knock-off that is pretty damn cheap. The changes they’ve made to the original design are removing the DC jack and 5v LDO, adding a piezo buzzer and LED on every digital GPIO, and changing the USB to UART bridge to a CH340 from the FTDI IC. The other big change is the price. Only US$6.00! Nice.
This breakout board looks pretty good. Runs the LIS3LVO2DL IMU which is capable of measuring down to 1mG with a maximum range of 6G. Even has handy mounting holes.
If you want a simple way to power your Arduino via Solar, then the PowerStick looks pretty good. Capable of providing a steady 3.3 and 5v from Solar cell and a 350mAh AAA LiPo. Max current is 300mA on the 3.3v rail.
If you own a Teensy and are using the excellent Teensy OctoWS2811 library, then this board will control up to 8 RGB LED strips from a 5v, 5A DC supply.
If you’re in to gaming then the uGame is a kit running a SAMD21 with 1.4" TFT colour display, speakers, 6 buttons and LiPo charging supporting the ubiquitous Nokia BL-5 battery. Runs micropython with 10 games builtin.
Going back to voice assistants for a while. The Tiny Alexa provides Alexa connectivity using an ESP32 and MAX98357 DAC. Also has LiPo charging and USB to UART bridge based on the CP2102.
Most of the blind controllers I’ve seen so far have to be powered externally via a wall wart or non chargeable battery. This board is a shield for the Moteino PCB, (but could be used on anything really). It provides servo control, relay and LiPo Solar charging. So no more having to worry about finding the nearest GPO.
The PiON is simply a UPS for your Pi. There’s been a lot of them around and this one provides all the good features like; soft start and power off from a 7.2v 700mAh NiMH battery. But this one has a snazzy 3D printed case!
Want to power your snazzy new board, but only have a AAA battery handy? This board from Pesky Products will provide a steady 3.7v at 1A from any AAA battery. This means that you could power most devices that can handle that extra 0.3v, or use it to replace a LiPo.
Another one for those retro gamers out there. If you still own an Amiga then this board provides flash memory that will emulate a 16bit EPROM. You’ll still need a programmer that supports the F2R16 flash chips, but once you have one you can start hacking your Amiga.
Another one from Pesky Products. This breakout for the AD5592 gives you 8 channels that can be independently configured as either a DAC or ADC. Sampling can hit 400Ksps at 12bit resolution from 0 to 2.5v. Pretty handy board.
AdaFruit, Seeed, SparkFun, DFRobot, DigiKey
Over at AdaFruit they have their ItsyBitsy M0 which is a small board based on the SAMD21G18 with 3.3v LDO and pushing out 23 GPIOs.
And over at SparkFun they have the FreeSoC2 dev board, which is a collaboration with Jon Moeller. This provides two ARM Cortex-M3 SoCs. The main one providing 72 GPIOs while the second providing 48 GPIOs and acting as a programmer for the first. The board simulates an Arduino Uno R3 so can be used in the Arduino IDE or you can use the Cypress IDE.