Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Overo Computer On Module!

Gumstix has come out with the Overo Fire COM - Gumstix now is calling them "Computer on Module" to differentiate what is the motherboard and what is the daughterboard - must have been some confusion between the computer board and expansion boards.

The Overo Fire COM is the top of the line in the Overo series, at least at the moment. It contains not only built-in Wifi 802.11b/g capabilites but also BlueTooth capabilities on board. This feat of magic is provided by a Marvell W2CBW003 integrated circuit (can be seen on the left side of the board in the picture) which connects to an external WiFi and BlueTooth antenna (not supplied) through a u.fl R.F. connector for each one. Even though the WiFi/BlueTooth radio Integrated Circuit package is only 12-mm x 12-mm in size it packs a great deal of capability. For those in the know - this is the same radio integrated circuit that is on the Beta Overo board and all the software drivers already exist in the operating system installed on the Overo boards. Couple the WiFi and Bluetooth capabilites with the TI OMAP-3530 processor on the Overo Fire COM and you have one very capable device in a very small form-factor! The only thing missing is a video out source on-board to make this a completely self-contained computer system! For video and USB access you will need one of the expansion boards mentioned below or build your own custom interface board.

I have discussed some of the capabilities of the TI OMAP-3530 processor in a previous posting so willl not delve into that portion again - I do want to talk a little about the Wi2Fi (Wireless 2 Wireless ) capabilites on this board. The W2CBW003 high-level block diagram is to the right.

Even though the block diagram shows 802.11a/b/g that is not the case with the W2CBW003 - it does not have 802.11a capabilities. I suppose this block diagram is used for a different radio integrated circuit and someone just got lazy! (grin). Not having the 802.11a capability will, in my opinion, limit the usefulness of this combination as more 802.11a access points are becoming prevealent - especially in areas saturated with 802.11 b/g and wireless phones, baby monitors and the like exist. Hopefully Gumstix will realize this fact and talk to Marvell about a WiFi/Bluetooth integrated circuit combination that is pin-to-pin (or should I say "Ball-to-Ball in reference to the methodology of mounting the integrated circuit to the circuit board) compatable so it is a direct replacement for the current 802.11 b/g configuration - I don't believe Marvell has such a device out yet but judging from the block diagram they may be working towards that goal.

The Overo Fire COM is the same physical size and electrical connection specifications as the original Overo Earth board so will work with the Summit Expansion board. Speaking of expansion boards Gumstix has come out with a few more in different configurations for the Overo COM series:

The Summit expansion board:
This is the first expansion board available for the Overo COM series - I have already discussed this board earlier so will not bore with details (grin). One thing I will say is it is the least expensive of the expansion boards and packs a good number of interfaces on-board for general purpose use. The only exception is a built-in ethernet connection but that is now covered by the Tobi board (see below).

The Palo-43 expansion board:
The Palo43 is a new expansion board for the Overo COM series of processor boards and works with all of the Overo COM boards. The Palo43 contains an LCD interface which will drive the Samsung P/N: LTE430WQ-F0C (available from Gumstix at a very reasonable price in single-unit lots) and a touch-screen controller to interface to the touch-screen resistive overlay on the Samsung LCD display. The board also contains most all of the interfaces contained on the Summit board thus it gives you the capabilites of the Summit expansion board with a self-contained LCD Touch-Screen capability. The Palo43 does not have a video output like the Summit expansion board (for obvious reasons). A second difference is the physical locations of the different interface connections - they have been moved to each end of the board to allow the additional circuitry needed to drive a LCD display. Since these systems are targeted at development this is usually not an issue (grin). One interesting note - the description of this board lists it's size as 80-mm X 39-mm but that is not the case given the size of the ports are the same as on the Summit expansion board.
UPDATE: The powers that be at Gumstix have determined there were some errors inadvertently incorporated within the description of this board. The actual size is 118.3 x 67.25mm and is reflected on the Gumstix website as well. Talk about quick response!!! Less than one day! These guys really do care!

The Tobi expansion board:
The Tobi expansion board is the third in the Overo COM series of expansion boards. Like the Summit expansion board it contains Audio Sterio Input and Output connections, High-Speed Version-2 USB-OTG and USB Host ports, a HS Version-2 USB Console port, 5-VDC Power Connector and the 40-pin connector location to access the different interfaces provided. In addition to all of the above interfaces the Tobi also has a 10/100 megabit, full-duplex Ethernet port on board as seen on the right side of the circuit board in the image to the right. You can check out the specifications for the port here: LAN9221 The physical size of the board is: 105 x 40mm.

Update: As of this moment (June 5, 2009) there is an Interference between the Overo Air COM and Fire COM modules with a component on the Tobi board. In other words you can not use a Overo Air COM or Fire COM with the Tobi board until Gumstix resolves this issue. What does this mean? You can not have 802.11b/g and Bluetooth capabilies on the Tobi board. If those are not a problem you still can use the Overo Earth COM and Water COM on the board without any physical component interference issues. In my opinion (for what it is worth) this really blows! I would want ALL capabilities available (wireless, bluetooth and ethernet) on the board for a full fledged computer in a very very small space, but that is just me.

Now - as of the date of this posting the Overo Fire and Overo Air (same as the Overo Fire but uses the TI OMAP-3503 instead of the TI OMAP-3530 processor) are out of stock. I suspect this will be cleared up in short order as I suspect there will be a good demand for the two COM boards as people find out about their capabilities and the fact they have WiFi and Bluetooth hardware already on the boards! Given the Overo Fire COM utilizes the TI OMAP-3530 which has video DSP hardware capabilites and OpenGL built into it things will get very interesting in the upcoming months as programmers start to bring out the capabilites of the Overo Fire COM board! These are indeed exciting times!
Mine is already on order!!!
If you would like to see more about this and the other Gumstix boards checkout this link:

As a matter of interest I have been in contact with the CEO of Gumstix and he is expecting the Overo Air and Fire boards to be available next week (April 13th, 2009) or there abouts.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now there is an Overo Water board out!

Stop the press! Stop the PRESS! (always wanted to say that)...

There is a new Overo board out - it is called "Overo Water"... Hmmm - seems like there is an Alchemy Theme going here! The Overo Water board is built on the same board as the Overo Earth. This is possible because the difference between the Overo Earth and Overo Water boards is the TI OMAP Computer on Chip integrated circuit which has the same pinouts.

The Overo Earth board comes with the TI OMAP-3503 integrated circuit with the RAM and FLASH memory contained in an integrated circuit mounted on top of the TI integrated circuit, called a "Package on Package" or POP configuration. The Overo Water board comes with the TI OMAP-3530 integrated circuit with the memory in the same configuration.

There are a good deal of similarities between the two TI integrated circuits but there are also some very distinct differences:

To the right is the hi-level block diagram of the TI OMAP-3503 integrated circuit. Most, but not all of the functionality of the integrated circuit is accessible on the Overo Earth or Overo Water board - this is because of the actual physical size constraints of the two boards - there just is not enough real estate to have all the capabilities available external to the TI OMAP integrated circuit. This is really not a limitation to the capabilities of the computer board as most of the really useful functionality is directly or indirectly accessible on the expansion board (Summit Expansion board) and if the Summit board does not make the specific function you are looking for accessible but it is available on one of the two 70-pin connectors on the computer board you can either fly-wire the connection on the summit board (really tricky to do) or have a custom board fabricated with the functionality accessible (pricey but possible).

The hi-level block diagram for the TI OMAP 3530 looks a great deal like the TI OMAP 3503 (after all they are in the same Applications Processor Family) but you will notice there is a dedicated Video processing section in the TI OMAP 3530 that does not exist in the TI OMAP 3503! This difference is BIG as it allows the Overo Water board to perform some video magic the Overo Earth would have problems with!

If you notice on the upper left there is a block that is dedicated to Video processing and Audio processing that does not exist in the previous block diagram of the TI OMAP 3503 processor. This is hardware video acceleration which is completely distinct and separate from the ARM 7 processing core. What this does is allow the video processing to be performed in parallel with the running of applications so speeds up the video capabilities quite a lot! The TI OMAP 3530 has some very impressive capabilities in the video department as compared to most other embedded computer systems:

High Performance Image, Video, Audio (IVA2.2™) Accelerator Subsystem
430-MHz TMS320C64x+™ DSP Core

  • Enhanced Direct Memory Access (EDMA) Controller (128 Independent Channels)
  • Video Hardware Accelerators

POWERVR SGX™ Graphics Accelerator (OMAP3530 Device Only)

  • Tile Based Architecture delivering 10 MPoly/sec
  • Universal Scalable Shader Engine: Multi-threaded Engine Incorporating Pixel and Vertex Shader Functionality
  • Industry Standard API Support: OpenGLES 1.1 and 2.0, OpenVG1.0
  • Fine Grained Task Switching, Load Balancing, and Power Management
  • Programmable High Quality Image Anti-Aliasing

Fully Software-Compatible With C64x and ARM9™

Commercial and Extended Temperature Grades
Advanced Very-Long-Instruction-Word (VLIW) TMS320C64x+™ DSP Core

  • Eight Highly Independent Functional Units
  • +Six ALUs (32-/40-Bit), Each Supports Single 32-Bit, Dual 16-Bit, or Quad 8-Bit Arithmetic per Clock Cycle
  • Two Multipliers Support Four 16 x 16-Bit Multiplies (32-Bit Results) per Clock Cycle or Eight 8 x 8-Bit Multiplies (16-Bit Results) per Clock Cycle
  • Load-Store Architecture With Non-Aligned Support
  • 64 32-Bit General-Purpose Registers
  • Instruction Packing Reduces Code Size
  • All Instructions Conditional

Additional C64x+™ Enhancements

  • Protected Mode Operation
  • Exceptions Support for Error Detection and Program Redirection
  • Hardware Support for Modulo Loop Operation
  • C64x+ L1/L2 Memory Architecture
  • 32K-Byte L1P Program RAM/Cache (Direct Mapped)
  • 80K-Byte L1D Data RAM/Cache (2-Way Set-Associative)
  • 64K-Byte L2 Unified Mapped RAM/Cache (4-Way Set-Associative)
  • 32K-Byte L2 Shared SRAM and 16K-Byte L2 ROM
  • C64x+ Instruction Set Features
  • Byte-Addressable (8-/16-/32-/64-Bit Data)
  • 8-Bit Overflow Protection
  • Bit-Field Extract, Set, Clear
  • Normalization, Saturation. Bit-Counting
  • Compact 16-Bit Instructions
  • Additional Instructions to Support Complex Multiplies

The above information only "touches" on the capabilities of the TI OMAP 3530 integrated circuit - for a complete list check out the TI site here:

This thing is Packed for Graphics processing! TI (Texas Instruments) says it best:

"OMAP3530 and OMAP3525 high-performance, applications processors are based on the enhanced OMAP™ 3 architecture. The OMAP™ 3 architecture is designed to provide best-in-class video, image, and graphics processing sufficient to support the following:

  • Streaming video
  • 2D/3D mobile gaming
  • Video conferencing
  • High-resolution still image
  • Video capture in 2.5G wireless terminals, 3G wireless terminals, and rich multimedia-featured handsets, and high-performance personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The device supports high-level operating systems (OSs), such as:

  • Windows CE
  • Symbian OS
  • Linux
  • Palm OS "

Nuff said! Once I have my hands on this puppy (Overo Water), which is on order and on it's way from Gumstix to me, I plan to do some interesting 2D/3D programming to see how well it handles some games - one of which is Quake-1 ( a very FAST FPS game).

More to follow! Stay Tuned! (always wanted to say that too).