There a many, many, e-book reader devices available these days, and they're quickly becoming pretty affordable. The currently cheapest device in Germany (that I know of) is the TrekStor eBook Reader 3.0, model number EBR30-a, at 59.- Euros via Weltbild or Hugendubel.
The device has an 800x480 7" TFT (yep, no e-ink), 2100mAh battery, it can display PDFs, EPUB, and TXT files (and Adobe DRM crap, which I don't really care about), it has an accelerometer which allows for landscape/portrait switching, it can play MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA audio files (headphone jack), it can display pictures (BMP, GIF, JPG, even PNG, though that's not mentioned in the vendor's specs), and it has 2GB internal storage for books/music/pictures. Uploading of (non-DRM) content is done by a simple file copy, it enumerates as a standard USB mass storage device with FAT filesystem. It's a relatively nice reader for the price, I've read a few PDFs (datasheets, presentations) on it in the subway/train while listening to music from the device and it's quite OK for my purposes. So much for the review part.
However, I didn't really buy it for reading books on it, I was more interested in taking it apart, of course ;-) My hope was that it would turn out to be a really cheap device running Linux/U-Boot which would be perfect for playing around with embedded Linux stuff. Unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky (it seems).
I've posted a few photos of the device and its hardware components on my flickr account and over at randomprojects.org, together with all the information I was able to find out so far. Here's a quick summary:
There are public datasheets for most of the hardware components (see randomprojects.org for links), but unfortunately the most important one (for the CPU) is not yet found/identified. I was told that the CPU/SoC is probably based on an ARM9 (ARM926EJ-S) core and the firmware running on it seems to be some uCos-based RTOS (not Linux, unfortunately).
So far I was not able to find out the vendor name or website of the "FI E200" CPU/SoC (let alone any datasheets), any hints would be highly appreciated. I checked arm.com: Processor Licensees, but the only two companies whose name starts with "F" having licensed an ARM9 core are Fujitsu and Freescale, which doesn't fit, I think?
I could (and probably will) check the PCB for RX/TX lines on an UART and/or JTAG pads (none are obviously labelled), and given that it's and ARM9 core there is a good chance that OpenOCD can be used and that a standard cross-gcc toolchain for ARM will work. However, that is all pretty pointless until it's clear which SoC exactly is used, and thus whether there is already Linux and/or U-Boot support for it and/or whether datasheets are available so that the respective code could be written. Without datasheets, this is going to be a pretty painful experience, not really worth investing much time, IMHO.
If anyone knows more about the vendor/device and respective datasheets, please let me know. Thanks!
Update 2012-04-19: I found the UART TX pin a while ago, a bootlog is available. The CPU and all other chips are also known now: The SoC is an Allwinner Technology F1 E200, the orientation sensor is a MEMSIC MXC6225XU.
Forgot to mention this here: We released flashrom 0.9.4 a few days ago, the latest release of the open-source, GPL'd ROM chip flashing software for Linux, *BSD, DOS, and partially also Windows (work in progress, though).
Here's a quick summary of the release announcement. Some of the noteworthy news items include:
$ svn co svn://flashrom.org/flashrom/trunk flashrom $ cd flashrom $ make
I already updated the Debian package to 0.9.4 (it has also already migrated to Debian testing and Ubuntu), other people have updated Fedora, Gentoo, NetBSD etc. etc.
There's already a huge amount of patches queued for the next release, including support for even more programmers, PowerPC support (tested on Mac Mini and others), and of course the usual "more boards, more chips" items...
I recently got myself a FONIC account for mobile Internet. This (German) prepaid-provider offers a "daily flatrate" for 2.50€ per day. After the 10th day of usage (i.e., 25€) you don't pay any more. This means, even if you need mobile Internet access 31 days a month, you only pay for 10 days. After 500MB/day or 5GB/month you're throttled down to GPRS speed (but you can still connect, and you don't pay more).
$ apt-get install usb-modeswitch wvdial
Recent versions of usb_modeswitch (and matching udev entries) already support the Huawei E1750 out of the box, a few seconds after attaching the device it's automatically switched into modem mode. After this has been done you should have three new serial devices, usually /dev/ttyUSB0, /dev/ttyUSB1, and /dev/ttyUSB2. You'll need /dev/ttyUSB0 for talking to the device using AT commands. The lsusb output should look like this (see here for full lsusb -vvv):
$ lsusb Bus 001 Device 045: ID 12d1:1436 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
(before usb_modeswitch was run, the USB IDs were 12d1:1446)
The required settings for connecting are documented at fonic.de, specifically the APN (pinternet.interkom.de). A username and/or password is not required. You need to provide your FONIC PIN though. Dialing is done using the *99# number and using the ATDT command.
I'm using the following wvdial config file:
$ cat /etc/wvdial.conf [Dialer Defaults] Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0 Baud = 460800 [Dialer pin] Init1 = AT+CPIN=1234 [Dialer fonic] Phone = *99# Username = foo Password = foo Stupid Mode = 1 Dial Command = ATDT Init2 = ATZ Init3 = AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pinternet.interkom.de"
For mobile Internet access you would do the following:
$ wvdial pin --> WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.61 --> Initializing modem. --> Sending: AT+CPIN=1234 AT+CPIN=1234 OK --> Modem initialized. --> Configuration does not specify a valid phone number. --> Configuration does not specify a valid login name. --> Configuration does not specify a valid password.
$ wvdial fonic --> WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.61 --> Initializing modem. --> Sending: ATZ ATZ OK --> Sending: ATZ ATZ OK --> Sending: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pinternet.interkom.de" AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pinternet.interkom.de" OK --> Modem initialized. --> Sending: ATDT*99# --> Waiting for carrier. ATDT*99# CONNECT --> Carrier detected. Starting PPP immediately. --> Starting pppd at Mon Aug 1 xx:xx:xx 2011 --> Pid of pppd: 18672 --> Using interface ppp0 --> local IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx --> remote IP address yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy --> primary DNS address 126.96.36.199 --> secondary DNS address 188.8.131.52
If everything worked fine you should now have connected successfully.
There are other alternatives for achieving the same result, including umtsmon (Qt3 in the last release from 2009, looks a bit unmaintained), kppp, the GNOME NetworkManager, and others, but wvdial worked OK for me.
For more details about the Huawei E1750 device (e.g. lsusb -vvv and more photos), see my wiki page at
Update 2011-08-03: My measured download speed for a Debian ISO (over HTTP via wget, at night, roughly 22:00 o'clock) is 350-470 KB/s in case anyone is interested. During this download the blue LED on the stick was enabled, which denotes a UMTS connection (green == GPRS/EDGE, turquoise == HSDPA).
It's been a while since my last blog post, and also quite a while since my last item in the "Testing stuff with QEMU" series, so here goes.
I'm using this QEMU image to do compile-tests on the PowerPC architecture for various software projects, especially flashrom (open-source flash ROM programming software).
So here's how to install Debian GNU/Linux on PowerPC (in QEMU):
See the screenshots for some system info. By default an OpenBIOS firmware and the quik bootloader is used, the emulated "machine" is g3beige (Heathrow based PowerMAC). You can use QEMU's -M and -cpu options to select different machines or CPUs.
Hope this helps.
The main use-case of the device is to help you recover easily from a failed BIOS upgrade (either due to using an incorrect BIOS image, due to power outages during the flashing progress, or whatever). The device only supports SPI chips, as used in recent mainboards (in DIP-8 form factor, or via manual wiring possibly also soldered-in SO-8 variants). It can identify, read, erase, or write the chips.
Of course the whole "toolchain" of software tools I used for creating the hardware is open-source, and the hardware itself (schematics and PCB layouts) are freely released under a Creative Commons license (i.e., it's an "Open Hardware" device). The user-space source code is part of flashrom (GPL, version 2), the schematics and PCB layouts are licensed under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license and were created using the open-source Kicad EDA suite (GPL, version 2).
The schematics, PCB layouts, and other material is available from gitorious:
$ git clone git://gitorious.org/openbiosprog/openbiosprog-spi.git
You can also download the final Gerber files (ZIP) for viewing them, or sending them to a PCB manufacturer.
Some more design notes:
Basic usage example of the device on Linux (or other OSes supported by flashrom):
$ flashrom -p ft2232_spi:type=2232H,port=A -r backup.bin (reads the current chip contents into a file)
Over at the main projects page of openbiosprog-spi at
I have put up a lot more photos and information such as the bill of materials, the Kicad settings I used for creating the PCBs, the Gerber files and the Excellon drill files and so on.
The first few prototype boards I ordered at PCB-POOL.COM (but you can use any other PCB manufacturer of course), the bill of materials (BOM) lists the Mouser and CSD electronics part numbers and prices, but you can also buy the stuff elsewhere, of course (Digikey, Farnell, whatever).
I already hand-soldered one or two prototypes and tested the device. Both hardware and software worked fine basically, you just need a small one-liner patch to fix an issue in flashrom, but that should be merged upstream soonish.
In order to make it easy for interested users to get the PCBs I'll probably make them available in the BatchPCB Market Place soonish, so you can easily order them from there (you do still need to solder the components though). Note: I'm not making any money off of this, this is a pure hobby project.
All in all I have to say that this was a really fun little project, and a useful one too. This was my first hardware project using Kicad (I used gEDA/PCB, also an open-source EDA toolsuite, for another small project) and I must say it worked very nicely. I didn't even have to read any manual really, it was all pretty intuitive. Please consider not using Eagle (or other closed-source PCB software) for your next Open Hardware project, there are at least two viable open-source options (Kicad, gEDA/PCB) which both work just fine.