Project sonoko, x11 xterm home-made

Carlo Pisani carlojpisani at
Thu Dec 20 14:00:27 CST 2018

> Can I ask why you are using the board that you are using?

several reasons; we also use a similar board for a NAS, but basically,
we like this board for the PCI bus, and for the JTAG

we happen to have a BDI1000 JTAG ICE with a valid license for
professional debugging software for the PPC/405, so it's really nice
for us

> Is this project to use something you have and make it useful?  Or is it
> meant for others to be able to replicate?

dunno. For us it's useful, and it's a need since we really need three
LCDs connected to two nodes through a KVM in both dual screens and
Xinerama setup (it depends on the context). These two PowerPC nodes
are also connected to a Routerboard (bought yesterday), thus the whole
system is able to bootstrap, well balanced on its load, able to load
its services and it's also independent of everything else on the lan.

PowerPC boards are not able to bootstrap from a harddrive/pendrive
(the kernel's driver for the pATA chip is bugged and doesn't work, the
firmware is ... theoretically able to load a raw file from a

pATA device), they need to bootstrap from the lan, and the Routerboard
is able to provide a good tftpbootp server plus other services to
accomplish the task.

We are also developing a RFID card to unlock/lock the machine (still
experimental, and we are going to use an old 68HC11 board for this ...
it's 80s technology)

It's really a funny project made recycling old parts, and an old Apple
PowerMac chassis. We also really like manually making parts, without a
3D printer. If you look at parts for the PSU, they were manually made
by engraving the plastic! This is part of the fun :D

anyway, I believe the system can be replicated with modern technology,
say ... two or three RPIs in a modern case made by a 3D printer.

> If it's the latter, I'd think that a board that's inexpensive and easy

well, we have a job in avionics, where PPC boards are used. We bought
years ago a couple of boards from Newark and they were 1900 euro each,
plus fees and S/H (FeDex).

Two years ago, I sold the last "codename eBony" (PowerPC460) couple of
boards to a company in China for a super discount (500 euro
both/second hand, instead of 1600 each/brand new). The DHT-boards that
we are using are derived from a similar expensive board. There was a
company in 2001 who made them, but ... it's difficult to find one
nowadays. We had 2 little DTH boards in stock, and we decided to use
for a personal project since they are definitively EOL once and
forever and we don't want to support them in 2019.

Again, the RPI is the super cheap choice since it's easy to be found
(e.g. you can buy from RS, Mouser, et al), and it only costs around 30

> I hate to be cliche, but it seems like a Raspberry Pi (et al) qualifies
> here.  It also seems like it has keyboard / mouse / video ports already.
>   (All be it different incarnations there of.)

RPI is USB driven, not a problem, modern keyboards and mouses are USB,
our is PS/2 but there are USB-to-PS/2 adapter for 5-10 Euro; The RPI
is not VGA, it's HDMI, but yet again it's not a problem, there are VGA
adapters (HDMI to VGA) for the RPI and VGA modules for the expansion
port. This can be evaluated.

For a classic design (the 90s and 2000s design), we want to use VGA
LCDs, VGA KVM, and PCI_VGA video adapters.

> > Currently, the only problem we have is related to the kernel, specifically
> > to support DeviceTree and the 405 CPU which has a weird address alignment,
> > thus it wastes a lot of cycles in kernel space.
> :-(

yup, we are alone. I have already posted on the Linux mail-list, still
no answer.
Not a problem, it simply requires more time.

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