efika


9 August 2007: Finally, the Efika left its miserable home for a better looking one! The paper box is now off to the attic and the board is housed in a metal box - basically an external CDROM case. But enough blabla... here are the pictures:


I'm not too proud of the power supply but it was cheap :-)

Here, you can see the inside. There is some free space left but I think it will be important for thermal dissipation: the graphics card is one of the few we can find here and heats up a lot! The fan on the back will help pulling calories out. On the left, there is an integrated power supply, which would be handy - it does not support ACPI but would help keep everything inside the box and allow putting the front panel into place.

A last picture without the graphics card.


12 June 2007: A quick update on some activities here. First of all, the Efika was presented in May at an Open-Source event called FLISOL ("Festival Latinoamericano de Instalación de Software Libre", part of InstallFest - for the Spanish speakers, see http://www.flisol.cl ). My paper was about FreeBSD in general but started by presenting what my setup was made of: I had about enough time to explain that it was running Linux, non-Intel architecture but PowerPC, sub-1GHz core frequency (just 400MHz), a ridiculous 128MB of SDRAM, around 4W for the whole motherboard... when the OpenOffice logo appeared on the screen! They were all glaring at the wall. They hardly noticed a few cables on the table - mainly the KVM for the keyboard support - but were well impressed by the fluency of the presentations, with effects that you usually see on big marketing shows, running on high-end laptops. I must admit that I prepared the document on a standard PC because the RAM limitation does not quite keep up the promise.

This same Efika will be shown this week at another event in the North of Chile and will be used in parallel as a presentation vehicle and a development platform for microcontroller-based systems - the speech will be interrupted at some point to demonstrate live the compilation and test of an application on an AVR microcontroller. Who said the Efika is too small to be useful? 


15 Apr. 2007: With some efforts and dedication, the board is finally up and running with Linux. Finding the right keyboard was a bit tricky but it eventually worked. My advice is to start working with a serial cable and set up sshd as soon as possible. This was a first step to have a reference setup, which allows comparisons for future work. The Linux distribution is from Genesi's web site and is fairly straightforward to install. Just one tip: don't install packages that affect /dev or... your system is dead. Apart from that, you can get in a few hours a nice setup to play with. The most impressive is to run an OpenOffice presentation: this is a "killer app", even though 128MB is a bit tight on the edges to actually generate the document. Displaying a video also seemed to work - still have to try the sound.

 

7 Apr. 2007: Some time ago, I came across the web site of a small manufacturer dedicated to PowerPC boards and devices, named Genesi. Their last product is a board based on the MPC5200, named Efika. The processor is based on the PPC 603e (core e300 or G2) but is really a complete SoC, which requires only external memory to build a single-board computer - the Efika features 128MB. Now that I have gathered all the necessary pieces, I'm off to try it...