A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
What is it?
Our second board, codename Tritium, is a single board computer for customers seeking cost-effective and higher performance solution in the same form factor as the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.
Tritium acts as a drop-in hardware replacement* that offers more memory, more storage, more GPU throughput, better 4K30 resolution and video capabilities, more IO bandwidth for USB and Ethernet, and Android 7 Nougat support. It is designed completely with open-market components allowing for customization of board features for specific applications. Central to this platform is Allwinner's popular and tested H family of system-on-chips built on the 40nm fabrication process.
* shared hardware form factor, not boot and Linux kernel compatibility
Tritium can be used to tinker with electronics such as Arduino, teach programming in a variety of languages, build media centers with up to 4K video playback, create digital signage solutions, play retro games, establish bi-directional video calls, and unlock many other possibilities. It is available in 512MB 32-bit 1080P, 1GB 32-bit 4K30, and 2GB 64-bit 4K30 configurations while utilizing a large existing collaborative hardware ecosystem for creators to build new and exciting products and services.
Why is this project important?
The Libre Computer Project is a brand rather than a manufacturer. We carefully select manufacturing partners and designs to make sure that the platform as a whole will meet our requirements for open-source support and maintenance. We shy away from proprietary interfaces, vendor lock-in, and "secret saucy" magic because we feel strongly that those things are only redundancies hindering progress.
We are expanding our lineup to cover popular solutions in use today. We want to continue to simplify education, accelerate product development, and facilitate the inception of other technologies. Reducing barriers to entry is part of our mission.
Together with our partners, it is our goal to provide reliable and long-term supported platforms that you can depend on to create even more innovative products and services. We are open to cooperative ventures with companies willing to offer the same level of care and attention to their products throughout its lifecycle.
What are the differences between the rewards?
There are three different boards and they share the same layout. The only difference between them are the main System-of-Chip (SoC) and the amount of RAM. They all operate at 1.0GHz.
Tritium IoT: Allwinner H2+, 32-bit, 512MB DDR3, Mali-400MP2, 1080P60, Linux
GenBasic Omni Remote Air Mouse Keyboard and Touchpad
What technologies does it use?
Allwinner's H2+/H3/H5 series of chips are built on the 40nm fabrication process just like the system-on-chips used in Raspberry Pi 3. The H2+ forms the basis of the IoT model and H3 SoC offer higher HDMI solution, slightly better media support, and faster IO interfaces but utilizes slightly slower and older ARM Cortex-A7 core designs. The Allwinner H5 SoC in the 2GB board offers 64-bit capabilities just like the Raspberry Pi 3's BCM2837 and cryptographic acceleration.
What about software support?
For Linux, the software support is behind Raspberry Pi slightly but Linux mainline is very active due the contribution of the linux-sunxi community and Free Electrons. Linux-based distros will definitely favor the Raspberry Pi although this board has a greater lead on Android and can easily be supported by existing distros. We will provide extensive software support for this platform alongside the existing open source community. Please read the software section further down for more information.
What about the proprietary ARM Mali-400/450 GPU?
The ARM Mali-4xx series of 3D accelerators is among the most popular 3D GPU IP due to its age, cost, and software support, albeit proprietary in nature. ARM inherited most of the design from its Norwegian acquisition of Falanx Microsystems but never open sourced the software IP. The 3D GPU utilizes compiled binary firmware tailored to specific SoCs. The GPU does not feature a 2D display engine and the binary must be tied into different display engines via customizations from the SoC vendor. The firmware connects to a passthrough kernel driver and this is the mechanism of 3D enablement for our board in our operating system images.
Initiatives to develop an open source driver never achieve the critical mass to provide resources to drive adoption by the community like with freedrino and other drivers. Due to the number of deployments with this 3D GPU series, we know that having this would open new possibilities. We really want this to happen and have contributed resources to this effort. We will continue contribute resources when presented the opportunity to affect meaningful progress on this front.
What is "libre" about it?
Libre implies having the freedom to do as you wish. In the software world, libre means having the source code with a license permissive of changes. In the hardware world, libre means having the the ability to make and modify the hardware. Libre should not be confused with gratis. We are designing libre hardware while promoting libre software. The components we use are open-market items. Unlike the Raspberry Pi 3, there are no exclusive sold components that prevent you from designing, customizing, or improving on your own version of this board.
Tritium's SoCs upstream has been maintained by the linux-sunxi community and they have made great progress on the H2+, H3, and H5 SoCs with most of the work already upstreamed in Linux 4.12. The Tritium board device trees will be upstreamed as well.
How does it compare to other boards?
Being a cost-effective product, it compares favorably to the Raspberry Pi 3 in applications where price, IO performance, and fewer blobs are critical factors. While it does not perform as well as our AML-S905X-CC platform that was Kickstarted a few months ago, it does offer a CMOS camera interface for simple camera and vision applications. The four USB 2.0 ports, ethernet interface, MicroSD card slot, and eMMC interface all have independent bandwidth for maximum IO performance.
Can I use this in commercial applications?
The board can utilize a lot of existing hardware infrastructure already in place since it shares its form factor with the Raspberry Pi 3. Software tweaks are definitely needed to port existing projects to this platform.
The boards can be ordered with header pins either on the top or on the bottom for more flexibility and integration with carrier boards. They can be customized to use any of the 3 SoCs and anywhere from between 256MB to 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Customization requests start at 500 units depending on the changes needed or complexity.
Will it run existing software?
Depending on the board, you can run ARMv8 (2GB Board only), ARMv7, ARMv6 compiled code compiled on Linux. However, it requires a different boot loader and kernel to be installed on the MicroSD card for existing Raspberry Pi images to be bootable. We will provide tooling on Github to do this. If the software on the image is tailored to the features of a specific board, software work will need to be done to utilize the features of this board instead.
Android based on Android 7.0 has been running on the 1GB H3 board and Android 7.1 has been running on the 2GB H5 board via eMMC and MicroSD card. The latest mainline Linux together with a device tree will work on this board. Some features of the board are still not in mainline per the linux-sunxi mainlining page. We hope to have the dts for all three boards in mainline by Linux 4.16.
Will it be compatible with existing add-ons?
Tritium has a 40 pin GPIO header that maintains as much compatibility as possible with the existing standard set forth by the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. The placement on the header of I2C, SPI, PWM, UART, 5V, 3.3V, and GPIO are equivalent. Raspberry Pi ecosystem has quite a few years of support from numerous vendors and we can only play catch-up at this point. Most Raspberry Pi HATs can be supported by the hardware but the software bits to get them working on this board is simply not there yet.
Why did you not add onboard WiFi or Bluetooth?
The certification process for single board computers with radios is incredibly painful and long. We want to make this product as convenient as possible to procure in any country so we refrained from adding radio components. Additionally, the performance of onboard radios are generally poor while USB dongles are cheap, certified in many countries, and offer better performance.
We recommend using USB or carrier boards and mezzanines to add functionality to the base hardware. This reduces design and certification cost on both our side and customer side.
How far along is this project?
The product design, initial software support, and testing have been completed by our internal team. Your contributions will be used towards the manufacturing and distribution of the boards.
During our last Kickstarter, we let people get multiple rewards and it was a logistical nightmare. To reduce the headache this time around, we will not allow for multiple rewards.
Risks and challenges
We have 50 years of combined experience in the EDM and semiconductor industries. It is our goal to create a hardware ecosystem that brings synergy with the open source community to unleash next generation products and ideas. Time is everybody's most valuable asset so we help reduce time to market with standardized designs and a collaborative ecosystem.