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OpenMoko Neo FreeRunner, Linux-powered open source alternative to iPhone

July 22, 2008

FreeRunner

It’s mine…My own…My precious…” – The Lord of The Rings

I have always been dreaming to have a smartphone that can connect into both cellular telephony network and wireless computer network. But actually, I don’t need the cellular network support very much since mostly I am in the area covered by Wi-Fi. So Nokia N810 (http://www.nseries.com/nseries/v3/media/sections/products/tech_specs/en-R1/tech_specs_n810_en_R1.html) is a candidate of me. It uses Texas Instruments OMAP 2420 CPU. The WiMAX version (http://www.nseries.com/nseries/v3/media/sections/products/tech_specs/en-R1/tech_specs_n810_wme_en_R1.html) also supports 802.16e/2.5Ghz standard. The only reason I didn’t buy it is that it’s too expensive, $399. Here is a fancy intro to N810: http://www.nseries.com/index.html?l=products,n810,demo

Apple recently anncounted their new 3G iPhone, which has competitive price and awosome features blowing you away. I checked the tech specs (http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs.html) and found it could connect to both cellular telephony network (GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and wireless computer network (802.11b/g), with Bluthtooth 2.0 support.

So after Apple announced this plan: $199 for the phone with two-year $30/month unlimited data plan, Nokia N810’s price fell down to $350. But I want lower.

Beyond the two-year contract to buy this $199 smartphone, I have another concern – Apple don’t wanna open their stuff transparently to you. Almost 20 years ago, just because of this, Apple almost killed itself in the competition with IBM PC, or more precisely, computers using Intel/AMD CPUs and Dos/Windows (Linux came later) operating system. So, as a Linux zealot and a Mac fan, obviously, I will prefer a smartphone that:

  1. is powered by Linux and other open source stuffs
  2. has all technical specifications of the hardware
  3. supports Wi-Fi connection, with optional cellular and BlueTooth support
  4. has bunches of open source applications out-of-the-box, especially Python interpreter, without which I can’t live
  5. is of low price, namely $300 or less

So, I think maybe Neo FreeRunner is more suitable for me. I am a Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate student, so I can pet the totally open-sourced smartphone, with a debug borad. I can debug the phone thru JTAG or RS-232 port. Plus, I have a Python interpreter out-of-the-box. The is phone is totally open, even the circuit schema and PCB layout CAD file.

Neo FreeRunner architechture diagram

The Neo Freerunner is of codename GTA02, acronym of GNU Telephony Appliance. The SAMSUNG SC32442B B54 SoC microprocessor is an ARM920T CPU operating at 400MHz. The 16MB NOR flash can be used to boot the phone (actually, a computer) in u-boot, the bootloader. So can the NAND flash. It has totally 128MB SDRAM and 256 MB flash for internal storage. You can insert a MicroSD card to extend you storage. Can I use USB drive from the USB host port?

PCB board of Neo Freerunner

All chips on the PCB board have GPL’ed drivers working seamlessly with Linux 2.6.24 kernel. The wireless chip set support quad-band GSM but I think the designers made it tri-band of two combinations: 850/1500/1600MHz and 900/1500/1600MHz. The phone goes with a 2.8-inch LCD display of 480 x 640 pixels. The Wi-Fi transceiver supports WEP and WPA. You can hook onto the phone thru a serial port. A NXP PCF50633 04 N3 is used for power management.

debug board

To debug the board, you need to connect the phone with a debug board. And the hook ports (JTAG, RS-232, USB) on the debug board upto your computer.

The price of Neo FreeRunner is set at $399. The price of the optional debug board is $99. i have no idea about the release date. But accouding to community update (http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Community_Updates), mass production has been started. So I hope I can get it soon.

References:

  1. Hardware specifications of Neo FreeRunner, http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Neo_FreeRunner_GTA02_Hardware
  2. Neo 1973 vs. Neo FreeRunner, http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Neo1973:_GTA01Bv4_versus_GTA02_comparison
  3. Openness of Neo FreeRunner, http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/GTA02_Openness
  4. Getting started with Neo FreeRunner, http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Getting_Started_with_your_Neo_FreeRunner
  5. Debug board, http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Debug_Board

Source

In courtesy of Forrest Sheng Bao http://fsbao.net

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. snipersquad permalink
    November 8, 2009 8:55 PM

    nice i

  2. Server Support permalink
    March 20, 2010 10:33 PM

    the web needs more sites like this. I will visit again

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