Raspberry Pi Compute Module Will Work With Custom PCBs

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2014 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, bcm2835, arm

Although the Raspberry Pi's original purpose was as an educational tool, many enthusiasts have used the (mostly) open source hardware at the heart of home automation, robotics projects, and other embedded systems. In light of this success, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has unveiled the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, a miniaturized version of the Raspberry Pi sans IO ports that fits onto a single SO-DIMM module. The Compute Module houses the BCM2835 SoC, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of flash memory and can be paired with custom designed PCBs.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module.png

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module. Note that the pin out is entirely different from a memory module, so don't try plugging this into your laptop!

The Compute Module will initially be released along with an open source breakout board called the Compute Module IO Board. The IO Board is intended to be an example to get users started and to help them along the path of designing their own customized PCB. The IO Board has a SO-DIMM connector that the Compute Module plugs into. It further offers up two serial camera ports, two serial display ports, two banks of 2x30 GPIO pinouts, a micro USB port for power, one full-size USB port, and one HDMI output. The Raspberry Pi Foundation will be releasing full documentation and schematics for both the Compute Module and IO Board over the next few weeks.

Using the Compute Module and a custom PCB, the embedded system can be smaller and lighter than then traditional Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module IO Board.jpeg

The Compute Module IO Board (left) with the Compute Module installed (right).

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module and IO Board will be available as a bundle (the "Compute Module Development Kit") from Element14 and RS in June. Shortly after the development kit launch, customers will be able to purchase the compute module itself for $30 each in batches of 100 or slightly more for smaller orders.

More information can be found on the Raspberry Pi blog. Here's hoping the industrial / embedded market successes will help fuel additional educational endeavours and new Raspberry Pis versions in the future.

Simon Hall Awarded $10K Raspberry Pi Quake III Bounty With His Open Source Graphics Driver Work

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 11:23 PM |
Tagged: videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, open source, graphics drivers, bcm2835

The Raspberry Pi recently passed its second anniversary, but until now the open source software friendly hardware has had to rely on closed source drivers for graphics processing on the SoC's VideoCore IV GPU.This has now changed thanks to work by Raspberry Pi hacker Simon Hall who has ported over the open source graphics stack from Broadcom's recently open sourced BCM21553 SoC for cell phones to the BCM2835 SoC that powers the Raspberry Pi. In doing so, Mr. Hall has claimed the Raspberry Pi Foundation's $10,000 bounty by using the newly ported open source graphics driver to run Quake III Arena at 1080p (minimum of 20 FPS according to contest rules).

Quake III Arena.png

The ported open source driver is not quite as optimized as the closed source version that the Pi currently uses (which allegedly runs Quake III twice as fast), but it is an encouraging start and the base from which the community can flesh out and optimize. The open source graphics driver is likely to be rolled into future OS releases, but for adventurous users that want the open source driver now, Simon Hall has provided step-by-step instructions for getting the driver and using it to run Quake III on the Raspberry Pi blog. Be warned, it is an involved and time consuming process at the moment.

I would like to say congratulations to Simon Hall for the bounty award and thank him for his work in porting the driver to the Raspberry Pi's SoC!

Hopefully this graphics stack breathes new life into the Raspberry Pi and the community takes up the development mantle to improve upon the codebase and pursue new opportunities that the open source nature enables such as a port of Android running on the Pi.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

Raspberry Pi Replacing X11 With Wayland/Weston To Get GPU Acceleration

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: x11, weston, wayland, videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, linux, bcm2835, arm

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with Collabora to fund development of a Wayland display server that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi and also allows the continued use of legacy X applications.

So far, operating systems that run on the Raspberry Pi have used X as the display server and window compositor. The Raspberry Pi Foundation wants to move to a window compositor that will take advantage of the Raspberry Pi's Hardware Video Scaler (HVS) and take the burden of window composition off of the relatively much slower ARM CPU. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has chosen Wayland as the display server for the task.

The Raspberry Pi Model A.

Taking advantage of the HVS and OpenGL ES compatible GPU will make the system feel much more responsive and allow for advanced effects (fading, Expose'-like window browsers, et al) for those that like a little more bling with their OS.

The Wayland/Weston display server allows for GPU acceleration and window composition using the Pi's VideoCore IV GPU and HVS (which is independent of the hardware units that run OpenGL code). The display server will feed the entire set of windows along with how they should be laid out on screen (stacking order, transparency, 2D transform, ect.) to the HVS which will hardware accelerate the process and free the ARM CPU up for other tasks.
According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Raspberry Pi's HVS is fairly powerful for a mobile-class SoC with 500 Megapixel/s scaling throughput and 1 Gigapixel per second blending throughput.

Wayland running on Raspberry Pi.jpg

In addition to GPU acceleration, Wayland will allow non-rectangular windows, fading and other effects, support for legacy X applications with Xwayland, and a scaled window browser.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with developers since late last year and is nearly ready to roll a technology preview into the next Raspian operating system release. The developers are still working on improving the performance and  reducing memory usage. As a result, the new Wayland/Weston display server is not expected to become the new default in the various Raspberry Pi operating systems until late 2013 at the earliest.

This is a project that is really nice to see, especially since at least a small part of the development work going into supporting the ARM-based Raspberry Pi on Wayland will help other ARM devices and Wayland in general which is becoming an increasingly popular choice in new Linux distributions and the best X alternative so far. Of course, this is primarily going to be a useful update for those Raspberry Pi users that run OSes with GUIs as the responsiveness should be a lot snappier!

If you simply can't wait until later this year, it is possible to install the technology preview (beta) of Wayland/Weston onto the current version of Raspbian Linux by cloning the git project or installing a Raspbian package of Weston 1.0. Blogger Daniel Stone has all the details for installing the display server onto your Pi under the section titled "sounds great; how do i get it?" on this post.

See a video of Wayland technology preview in action on the Raspberry Pi on the Raspberry Pi Foundation's blog.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.