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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>The Migration Update</h2>

    <p>Summer time!  People travel more, roast a bit in the Sun, enjoy
      some time off.  Well, except Werner, who lives in Winter, and
      the rest of the Neo900 Team who can't stop making progress, as
      good samaritan workaholics we are.  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>We have
      <a href="http://talk.maemo.org/showpost.php?p=1507624&postcount=20">updated
	the <abbr title="Subscriber Identity Module">SIM</abbr> Switch
	document</a> in section 4 to reflect the added
	counter-surveillance monitoring capacity to
	the <abbr>SIM</abbr> cards, and in Appendix A to discuss the
	physical placement of the second <abbr>SIM</abbr> card.</p>

    <p>A <a href="http://talk.maemo.org/showpost.php?p=1507624&postcount=21">new
	paper discusses <abbr title="Input Output">IO</abbr>
	expanders</a>, that provide more <abbr>IO</abbr> than
	the <abbr>CPU</abbr> has, and come with the added benefit of
	simplifying the connections between LOWER and UPPER
	boards.</p>

    <p>Finally
      the <a href="http://talk.maemo.org/showpost.php?p=1507624&postcount=24">Infra-Red
      Subsystem paper</a> was updated to define the <abbr title="Infra
      Red">IR</abbr> transmitter control logic, using a mixed-signal
      array similar to what's used for power selection in
      the <abbr>SIM</abbr> Switch, and to simplify
      the <abbr title="Light Emitting Diode">LED</abbr> driver, making
      its design more robust.</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 was the Eagle virtuoso, with his own
      homegrown set of Eagle extensions to cope with the demanding
      task at hand, but the tools and workflow associated with this
      solution didn't allow for collaborative editing of the
      schematics and layout.</p>
      
    <p>In 2016, Nikolaus faded away from Neo900, absorbed by the
      finishing touches to our 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, although
      it's probably powerful enough to serve our needs, shares a major
      flaw with Eagle: it's proprietary, and moreover, 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 poweful and 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 operate in a more
      schematics-centric mode, using white papers only where something
      actually needs explaining.</p>

    <p>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 improvement over
      <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5oO6fiyB7o">the
	corresponding Eagle experience</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), e.g.,
      define the BB-mX interface for prototype v2 that would save on
      costs and enable testing our circuitry all the same.</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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