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<!DOCTYPE html>
<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">Neo900.org 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">Neo900.org Server Migrated</h3>

    <p>Last week we completed the migration of Neo900.org services,
      including <a href="https://my.neo900.org/">Neo900 Shop</a> to a
      new server.  The old one was running out of space, and
      dangerously approaching capacity, especially
      when <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slashdot_effect">slashdotted</a>.</p>

    <p>If you encounter any problems with the new server,
    please <a href="mailto:contact@neo900.org?Subject=Neo900.org%20Services%20Issue">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="mailto:contact@neo900.org?Subject=N900%20Stock">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="http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=93498">Neo900
       Announcements</a> thread on talk.maemo.org, and access the whole
       up-to-date whitepaper collection from
       the <a href="https://neo900.org/resources">Resources section</a>
       at neo900.org.</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="https://pyra-handheld.com">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="http://fritzing.org/">Fritzing</a> didn't match our
      need for multilayer board support;
      between <a href="http://geda-project.org/">gEDA</a> and
      <a href="http://kicad-pcb.org/">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="http://home.cern/about/updates/2015/02/kicad-software-gets-cern-treatment">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="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CCG4daPvuVI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
      <figcaption>
        <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCG4daPvuVI">Demo of the KiCad router</a>
      </figcaption>
    </figure>

    <p>Moving to KiCad proved to be quite
    an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5oO6fiyB7o">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="https://bugs.launchpad.net/kicad/+bug/1154131/comments/9">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="https://neo900.org/git/?p=ee;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>

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