The future of Bifferboard(?)

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Ole Andre Rodlie

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Nov 9, 2012, 7:53:57 AM11/9/12
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Hi, I know I'm late too the party. Just finding the device when business
are shutting down.

My company will still release products based on the Bifferboard, mostly
due to the investment we have put in our product (and problems finding a
hardware replacement). I have contacted the manufacturer and made a
deal. Currently we will only stock small quantities for our own
use/products, but if the community wants devices (dual-only) we can
probably supply these next year.

Regards

Ole Andre Rodlie

biff...@yahoo.co.uk

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Nov 10, 2012, 8:25:18 AM11/10/12
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On Nov 9, 12:56 pm, Ole Andre Rodlie <ol...@dracolinux.org> wrote:
> I have contacted the manufacturer and made a
> deal.

You're not the only one either doing or thinking of doing this, as
other people have
contacted me via PM. I hope you can coordinate using this group - I
still check
it regularly, so you can post any questions here and I'll try to
answer them.

best regards,
Biff.

Ole Andre Rodlie

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Nov 10, 2012, 3:34:13 PM11/10/12
to biffe...@googlegroups.com
That's great, that will ensure the future of the Bifferboard. I'm open
for any collaboration etc.

Regards

Ole Andre Rodlie


Christian Vieira

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Apr 23, 2013, 7:35:44 PM4/23/13
to biffe...@googlegroups.com
Im computer engineering and I can draw the schematic and made the PCB layout too. So, I propose a collaborative open source hardware (creative commons)/firmware and software project called openBBoard, but with some improvements like add a CPLD or FPGA to increasing the number of digital I/O's and serials interfaces, SDCard (in PCI bus) and others stuffs. What do you like? There's a commercial opportunities too? Maybe... but I like try.

I invite all interested and if someone can contact-me, please send-me a full specification of old BifferBoard describing all characteristics and features. The datasheet and Reference Manual of the processor would be great!
Chris
chr...@gmail.com

Andrew Scheller

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Apr 23, 2013, 8:02:24 PM4/23/13
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> Im computer engineering and I can draw the schematic and made the PCB layout
> too. So, I propose a collaborative open source hardware (creative
> commons)/firmware and software project called openBBoard, but with some

Seems to be lots of similar projects popping up on Kickstarter?

> I invite all interested and if someone can contact-me, please send-me a full
> specification of old BifferBoard describing all characteristics and
> features. The datasheet and Reference Manual of the processor would be
> great!

Did you check the wiki? ;-)
https://sites.google.com/site/bifferboard/Home/hardware-specification

Lurch

Christian Vieira

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Apr 30, 2013, 1:10:59 PM4/30/13
to biffe...@googlegroups.com, ya...@loowis.durge.org
Well,

My initial intention is revival Bifferboard defunct project and turned on into the open hardware/software umbrella license. I don't wanna making money selling a close project. However, I will need extensive forum members collaboration to check the schematic, PCB layout details, Bill Of Materials, etc...

If anyone here has interested, please feel free to contact-me!

Chris
chr...@gmail.com

biff...@yahoo.co.uk

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Apr 30, 2013, 4:18:43 PM4/30/13
to Bifferboard

On Apr 30, 6:10 pm, Christian Vieira <chr...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Well,
>
> My initial intention is revival Bifferboard defunct project and turned on
> into the open hardware/software umbrella license.

Great.

> I don't wanna making money selling a close project.

Right there is your first problem. You need to make some money
otherwise you cannot provide PCBs assembled or otherwise for the
considerable number of people (i.e. 99% of users) who don't want to
(or can't) do all the assembly work themselves. Just the simple
problem of getting the CPU chips at a reasonable price will require
collaboration and someone has to organise that, and yes, I'm afraid
they need to make some money or they will give up after a few months
and go and do something else!

> However, I will need extensive forum members collaboration to check the schematic, PCB layout details, Bill Of Materials, etc...

There is your second problem :-). You don't need the schematic
though. RDC themselves provide a reference design for the CPU which
would be the best starting point for a new board. They may supply it
if you contact them. I think it comes on Orcad files, if I recall.

best regards,
Biff.

Andrew Scheller

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Apr 30, 2013, 6:43:22 PM4/30/13
to Bifferboard
And your third problem is that to get boards manufactured at a
reasonable price[1], you'd need to manufacture large volumes. And you
won't be able to manufacture large volumes unless the board is
popular. And the board won't be popular unless it's *very* cheap to
buy[2]... chicken-and-egg problem.
I believe the original BifferBoard was so cheap because Biff
repurposed a NAS device, which was already being mass-produced by
another company.

And any board based on the RDC SoC will also be very underpowered[3]
in comparison to many of the ARM-based boards that run Linux now on
the market, so it's hard to imagine why people would buy a new
RDC-based board? The only obvious difference is that BifferBoard was
x86-based rather than ARM-based, so may be able to run legacy software
better[4], but with the vast majority of Linux software being Open
Source that's not really much of a stumbling block?

Sorry if I'm coming across as pessimistic - I was a big supporter of
the BifferBoard project before it became defunct[5], but technology
has moved on and it's hard to see how BifferBoard could be resurrected
:-/ Of course I'd love to be proved wrong[6] :)

Lurch

[1] a price at which other people would be willing to buy them
[2] the leading 'competitor' is famously available for just $25
[3] 150MHz CPU and 32MB of RAM, remember
[4] natively instead of emulated
[5] in my mind it more or less became defunct when Biff stopped
selling boards himself - IMHO the inflated prices charged by the other
company[7] put people off
[6] good luck! If you do take this on I think you'll need clear plans
and goals, not vague statements like "maybe add a CPLD or FPGA"
[7] and their lack of community involvement - they never even bothered
adding a link to the wiki to their site!

olear

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Apr 30, 2013, 8:21:23 PM4/30/13
to Bifferboard
Hi, just wanted to add some comments to this thread.

A "better" Bifferboard would be great, I don't know if I have any
spare time to devote to that project since I'm currently using the
"original" and are happy with that.

I have contact with the company/factory that produces the boards, and
they are open for modifications (They pretty much "print" what I
want), and don't demand too large volumes.

As I said in the beginning of this thread, I can supply boards, but
only if there is a demand (I earn more if I use the boards for other
things). The price will then be around 35-45 USD for the Dual-USB with
EU power supply excluding shipping. I'm planning a new order from the
factory this summer. If enough people want it I can add extra boards
on that order.

Regards

Ole Andre Rodlie

Christian Vieira

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May 3, 2013, 5:46:14 PM5/3/13
to biffe...@googlegroups.com
Thanks for reply-me and give-me best suggestions! Maybe I am an another naive "creative-commons/open-source" advocate! Reading your words I believe that your are right! Don't make sense invest time and maybe money to just put yet another Linux board project onto a digital market.

Thanks again for yours true and sincere words.
Christian

Andrew Scheller

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May 7, 2013, 6:54:14 AM5/7/13
to Bifferboard
> Thanks for reply-me and give-me best suggestions! Maybe I am an another
> naive "creative-commons/open-source" advocate! Reading your words I believe

If your "problem" is that the current BiffBoot is only free with a
small f, and not Free with a capital F (i.e. it's not open-source)
https://sites.google.com/site/bifferboard/biffboot-community-editions
then maybe you'd find this thread interesting:
https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/bifferboard/tUV8JscL5xA

Lurch

biff...@yahoo.co.uk

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May 7, 2013, 10:28:42 AM5/7/13
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On May 7, 11:54 am, Andrew Scheller <ya...@loowis.durge.org> wrote:
> > Thanks for reply-me and give-me best suggestions! Maybe I am an another
> > naive "creative-commons/open-source" advocate! Reading your words I believe
>
> If your "problem" is that the current BiffBoot is only free with a
> small f, and not Free with a capital F (i.e. it's not open-source)https://sites.google.com/site/bifferboard/biffboot-community-editions
> then maybe you'd find this thread interesting:https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/bifferboard/tUV8Js...

Some alternatives:
Redboot can be ported without too much trouble. I got this working
with the Bifferboard, and I think someone else did as well. Some
other RDC-based boards use this as bootloader.
OFW (Forth) I also got this working with BB without too much trouble,
however since it's not C, you have to battle with Forth so unless
you're a Forth expert it can be a little daunting. The downside to
this is that it incorporates a lot of functionality and is very heavy
at 500KB. OFW can either be booted by Coreboot, as a coreboot payload
or it can be used stand-alone and become a complete BIOS.
I think someone was working on a port of U-boot, don't know where that
got to (github IIRC).

However, the bootloader is a trivial thing to produce in comparison
with a hardware design, so it really is the least of the problems.

regards,
Biff.

Louis Santillan

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Jun 13, 2013, 11:27:03 PM6/13/13
to biffe...@googlegroups.com

On Tuesday, April 30, 2013 5:21:23 PM UTC-7, olear wrote:
As I said in the beginning of this thread, I can supply boards, but
only if there is a demand (I earn more if I use the boards for other
things). The price will then be around 35-45 USD for the Dual-USB with
EU power supply excluding shipping. I'm planning a new order from the
factory this summer. If enough people want it I can add extra boards
on that order.


How firm is your order?  What's your current price range?  What's the next step up?  ~$70USD from by Omnima isn't that appealing to me.

-L

biff...@yahoo.co.uk

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Jun 15, 2013, 8:02:41 AM6/15/13
to Bifferboard
On Jun 14, 4:27 am, Louis Santillan <lpsan...@gmail.com> wrote:
> ~$70USD from by Omnima isn't that appealing to me.

olear doesn't say if his price includes VAT. The Omnima prices seem
to, which probably doesn't do them any favours. If you are VAT
registered or outside the EU you can ask them to take that off.
Perhaps you should negotiate with them for a quantity discount if you
are ordering more than one?

Based on the manufacturing cost I (about $26 excluding case and PSU
IIRC) don't really see how you can sell a single unit in europe for
35USD, pay the paypal fees, pack it, deal with any returns and so on
without making a loss. I'll certainly be impressed if he can pull
that off!

kind regards,
Biff.

Louis Santillan

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Jun 20, 2013, 7:11:42 PM6/20/13
to biffe...@googlegroups.com
No replies. :/

So, does anybody then have suggestions for other x86 embedded boards in  the sub $75USD range?  I found some attractive bits hardware.  Most are EOL, however.  And many come without video.  For my prospective application, I need video & BIOS.  The Xcore/Vortex86 options seem appealing.  The bare Xcore board from norhtec (http://www.norhtec.com/products/xcore/index.htm) looks like it might be able to hit the mark in volume quantities.  $110 bare, $120 in Commodore64-like keyboard case (http://www.deviceonchip.com/online-store/xcore-products/keyboard-pc-detail.html).

Any other x86 suggestions?

-L

Andrew Scheller

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Jun 22, 2013, 5:59:31 AM6/22/13
to Bifferboard
> So, does anybody then have suggestions for other x86 embedded boards in the
> sub $75USD range? I found some attractive bits hardware. Most are EOL,
> however. And many come without video. For my prospective application, I
> need video & BIOS. The Xcore/Vortex86 options seem appealing. The bare
> Xcore board from norhtec (http://www.norhtec.com/products/xcore/index.htm)
> looks like it might be able to hit the mark in volume quantities. $110
> bare, $120 in Commodore64-like keyboard case
> (http://www.deviceonchip.com/online-store/xcore-products/keyboard-pc-detail.html).
>
> Any other x86 suggestions?

I guess it falls out of your price range, but there's an interesting
review of the Gizmo Explorer Kit http://www.gizmosphere.org/ in this
month's Linux Format magazine.
MiniITX boards may be cheaper, but I guess they don't count as embedded.
I think for truly low-cost, the only real options at the moment are
all ARM-based rather than x86 (AFAIK - but this is an area I haven't
really researched).

www.linuxdevices.com used to feature some interesting bits of hardware
(and is where I first discovered the BifferBoard) but it seems to be
no longer active :-(

Lurch

Razvan Dragomirescu

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Jun 25, 2013, 6:33:41 PM6/25/13
to biffe...@googlegroups.com
LinuxDevices.com is now LinuxGizmos.com (same owner, different domain).
 
R.

--
Razvan Dragomirescu
Chief Technology Officer
Cayenne Graphics SRL



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Louis Santillan

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Jun 26, 2013, 8:51:10 AM6/26/13
to biffe...@googlegroups.com
Most modern boards are quite bit bigger & more power hungry than bifferboard.  Also, many are based on various generations of Atoms.  Geode LX boards are harder to find for some reason.

-L
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