Ever wanted to run Linux with an exceptionally small footprint? Then [Reimu NotMoe] From [SudoMaker] There is something for you! He found an incredibly small Linux-enabled chip in the BGA, and designed a self-contained miniature SoM (System on Module) breakout with power management and a casted pad. This breakout has everything you need for your Linux in a 16x16x2mm footprint. For reference, a 16mm square is the size of the CPU in a raspberry pie.
This board is not only tiny, it’s also thoughtful, which helps you keep the BGA-packaged Ingenic X1501 anywhere with minimal effort. With the help of castlet pads, this SoM is easy to hand-solder for development and reflow for production. An onboard switching regulator works from 6V to less than 3V, making it an effective battery-powered Linux alternative. It can even give you up to 3.3V / 1A for all your external devices.
The great part so far – the X1501 is surprisingly friendly and NDA-free. Datasheets are created for capture, with no “confidential” watermarks – you get an accurate 730-page PDF. Thanks to this openness, the X1501 can run mainline Linux with minimal modifications, with most peripherals already supported. Also, there is an Efuse-based secure boot if you need to protect your software from cloning.
More after the break.
What’s so great about the X1501? The Ingenic X1501 is an adorable little BGA with built-in RAM – no high-speed routing issues. Of course, you only get 64M RAM, but you can reduce Linux a lot – half of that RAM is free for your own use. You can do a lot with a small amount of RAM in Linux, as we have seen with $ 15 Linux computers this year.
We’ve seen ingenic chips make Linux a much cheaper product, from game consoles to smaller hackable security cameras. If your MCU is tired of giving you headaches, you probably want to take advantage of all the interfaces, libraries, languages and frameworks that Linux has to offer. This SoM development is easily a wonderful stepping stone.
You get a 1GHz MIPS32r2 core, with an additional 300MHz core for all your real-time work; The 2MB internal flash fits with Uboot and a Linux kernel so that there is plenty of space. You can connect a microSD card for further storage. You also get support for all interfaces, including USB, SPI, I2C, and SDIO, as well as analog and digital audio. There are some DMA hiccups, but some that can’t be solved with some time and community.
Speaking of a community- [Reimu] Says he made this board for crowd supply, so keep an eye out. If anyone is interested in helping to polish the kernel quirks, there are definitely a few developer-targeted units on the table! Once crowdfunding is complete, all design files will be open source – otherwise, such boards would be trivial to clone others. If you want some great project ideas for such a module – how about a small Linux-powered mobile phone? It has an Ingenic X1000 inside.
Do you want to know how such boards are made? We’ve seen a fascinating article about taming small ARM chips with custom PCBs and Linux!
– ReimuNotMoe (@ReimuNotMoe) May 30, 2022