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authorhellekin <>2016-08-07 23:20:58 +0000
committerhellekin <>2016-08-07 23:20:58 +0000
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+<!DOCTYPE html>
+ <head>
+ <meta charset="UTF-8" name="charset"><!-- pelican??? -->
+ <title> Migrating away from Eagle, to KiCad </title>
+ <meta name="date" content="2016-08-01 13:00:00">
+ <meta name="last modified" content="2016-08-01 13:00:00">
+ <meta name="keywords" content="neo900, eagle, kicad, n900, donation">
+ <meta name="authors" content="hellekin">
+ <meta name="description" content="Neo900 schematics now using free software KiCAD.">
+ </head>
+ <body>
+ <p class="lead">
+ The Neo900 team decided to move away from proprietary software
+ Eagle and converted its schematics production to the KiCad
+ open-source Electronics Design Automation
+ (<abbr title="Electronics Design Automation">EDA</abbr>) suite.
+ </p>
+ <h2>Contents</h2>
+ <p>Before jumping to our main feature on KiCad, let's review
+ Neo900 project updates since June.</p>
+ <ol>
+ <li><a href="#server-migrated"> Server Migrated</a></li>
+ <li><a href="#more-n900-sourcing">More N900 Sourcing</a></li>
+ <li><a href="#neo900-whitepapers">Whitepapers Update</a></li>
+ <li><a href="#feature">From Eagle to KiCad</a></li>
+ </ol>
+ <h3 id="server-migrated"> Server Migrated</h3>
+ <p>Last week we completed the migration of services,
+ including <a href="">Neo900 Shop</a> to a
+ new server. The old one was running out of space, and
+ dangerously approaching capacity, especially
+ when <a href="">slashdotted</a>.</p>
+ <p>If you encounter any problems with the new server,
+ please <a href="">report
+ them</a>!</p>
+ <h3 id="more-n900-sourcing">More N900 Sourcing</h3>
+ <p>After dowsing for a while, our boots in China confirmed the
+ source mentioned previously! We already received 20 more N900
+ units responding to our quality criteria for enduring the
+ metamorphosis into brand new Neo900 units for you lucky (and
+ patient) early birds. 20 more units are on the way, and we
+ expect more to come. We're already at 70 units and
+ counting.</p>
+ <p>Again, if you know where to find some affordable stocks of N900
+ units,
+ please <a href="">contact
+ us</a>!</p>
+ <h3 id="neo900-whitepapers">Whitepapers Update</h3>
+ <p>While we're at it, and to continue building momentum for
+ our <a href="#feature">main feature</a> today, like if you were
+ too early at the movies, let's have a look at what our mad
+ scientists concocted since last June.</p>
+ <p>...</p>
+ <p>You can always follow our whitepapers updates directly from
+ Werner in
+ the <a href="">Neo900
+ Announcements</a> thread on, and access the whole
+ up-to-date whitepaper collection from
+ the <a href="">Resources section</a>
+ at</p>
+ <p>And now, without further ado, our main feature!</p>
+ <h3 id="feature">From Eagle to KiCad</h3>
+ <p>When Joerg took charge of the Neo900 project, the electronics
+ design was made with Eagle, and was updated using that tool ever
+ since. Nikolaus Schaller, of OpenPandora fame, was the Eagle
+ virtuoso, but our communication with his company, Golden
+ Delicious, was hampered for a long time by incompatible tools
+ and workflow.</p>
+ <p>In 2016, Nikolaus faded away from Neo900, absorbed by the
+ finishing touch to his cousin project
+ <a href="">Pyra</a>. Just a few weeks
+ ago he confirmed that he couldn't follow up on the layout for
+ Neo900, which prompted Joerg and Werner to consider
+ alternatives.</p>
+ <p>In the <abbr title="Electronics Design Automation">EDA</abbr>
+ market, besides Eagle, there's Altium. But Altium has the same
+ flaw as Eagle: it's proprietary, and moreover, it's quite
+ expensive. Our rationalizing mind wants to say there's
+ cognitive dissonance in using non-free software for a free
+ hardware project. And in hindsight, this sounds like a good
+ rationalization.</p>
+ <p>Among the open-source alternatives to Eagle,
+ <a href="">Fritzing</a> didn't match our
+ need for multilayer board support;
+ between <a href="">gEDA</a> and
+ <a href="">KiCad</a>, the choice was
+ easy: the latter is much more popular, backed up
+ by <abbr title="Centre Européen de Recherche
+ Nucléaire">CERN</abbr> as part of the
+ <a href="">Open Hardware Initiative</a>, and the community is more active.</p>
+ <h4>How does the move to KiCad influence Neo900 development?</h4>
+ <p>The only major downside comes from the reduced access to
+ Nikolaus' <abbr title="Open Multimedia Applications
+ Platform">OMAP</abbr> know-how, although we hope he will be able
+ to review our work. On the other hand, we're no longer slowed
+ down by uncertainty with regard to the future role of Golden
+ Delicious in Neo900: this used to cause change requests to pile
+ up, and we used white papers as a means of documenting what we
+ couldn't change in the schematics in a timely manner.</p>
+ <p>That gives us wings: with KiCad, we can now provide a more
+ transparent development process and can now operate in a more
+ schematics-centric mode, using white papers only where something
+ actually needs explaining.</p>
+ <p>We found out that KiCad's routing capabilities are superior to
+ Eagle's:</p>
+ <figure>
+ <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
+ <figcaption>
+ <a href="">Demo of the KiCad router</a>
+ </figcaption>
+ </figure>
+ <p>Moving to KiCad proved to be quite
+ an <a href="">improvement
+ over that</a>.</p>
+ <h4>What's the progress on converting Neo900 schematics from Eagle
+ to KiCad?</h4>
+ <p>Progress is surprisingly fast. We already completed the bulk of
+ the conversion, and are now fixing bugs (some discovered during
+ the conversion,
+ and <a href="">also
+ in KiCad</a>.)</p>
+ <p>In the coming weeks we're going to work on incorporating
+ material <em>parked</em> in whitepapers (see above), [maybe leave
+ that alone for now:] define the BB-mX interface for prototype v2
+ (...)</p>
+ <p>Being able to put our schematics under version control moves us
+ away from the Stone Age, into the present. You can watch the
+ evolving contents in our
+ <a href=";a=tree">eletronics
+ engineering Git repository</a>.</p>
+ <p>Thank you for your attention,</p>
+ <p>&ndash; hellekin for the Neo900 team</p>
+ <p>P.S.: Feedback is welcome! Did you enjoy reading this post?
+ What else should it have covered? What do you want to read in the
+ news? You can tell me: hellekin at neo900 dot org, or in the
+ comments.</p>