Name that Ware August 2006

The ware for August, 2006 is below. Click on the pictures for a much larger version.

I try hard never to post a ware that people will never have seen by definition–e.g., wares that I make. However, I’m going to make an exception this time, because there is an interesting story behind this one. Perhaps of most interest to readers is that this ware will be open-sourced and soon schematics, layouts, and software development kits will be released. So, I guess the question to readers is: what might this do? What is it for? This will be a lightning competition this time, I think, because in a few days my day-job company that I made these for will allow me to make public the details about this hardware.

27 Responses to “Name that Ware August 2006”

  1. Ryan G. says:

    All I can say is that from the SIM card slot it looks to be at least some sort of cellular device, and the fact that the PCB says “only top port is wired” means that there are two ports. Now, these could either be USB or Ethernet, however given their size and the fact that you can have a mini-usb device (preferrable since this appears to be a small device), it probably is an ethernet port. I’m guessing at the least some sort of wireless bridge, disaster situations? could be some sort of environmental monitor given all the IO and the DragonBall processor.

  2. Justin says:

    It is a DIY mobile computer, probably for VOIP (as it will connect to certain cell-networks).

  3. Is it a cell-phone (G3 or CDPD) to Ethernet adapter? That is, a router that puts a network on a cell phone network?

  4. Ian says:

    Let’s have a look: Dragonball + RLDRAM + flash gives us some smarts. I presume that it’s RLDRAM; I haven’t been able to find the part number, nor do I know what interfaces the Dragonball has.

    The Sipex 5301 hints that the silver ports on the backside are USB. It also looks like there’s an LED directly opposite – activity LED? Also, why spend so much space on USB sockets, and why put them there, where they look relatively inaccessible once a casing is in place?

    Why two USB sockets? Maybe production boards will only have one. The placement still seems odd.

    Obvious SIM card socket, so we’re probably talking to a mobile phone network. I can’t see any RF section – is it offboard? We could be looking at a SIM card backup device or something, but then why spend so much on a Dragonball and RLDRAM?

    Audio section on the topside: codec chip, amp. Doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

    AD7873 (?) tells us that we have a touch screen on that 4-pin connector.

    P500 might be a screen connector.

    I can’t see anything that’s obviously a power connector. I also can’t see where the audio section goes. P401 is still a mystery. Maybe it has the power source, audio ports and RF module. It doesn’t look like the audio devices mount onto the PCB. I’d guess that there’s a daughterboard mounting directly onto P401, but then it would foul the SIM card socket.

    There’s also a mysterious 5301 next to the Dragonball, but no obvious USB port for it.

    J109 is also a little odd. JTAG or flash programming, perhaps?

    The power supply seems very simple. Where are the RLDRAM termination supplies? It *is* RLDRAM, right?

    After all of that, my best guess is a GSM or 3G-enabled PDA. Which would be awesome. I just can’t figure out how it fits together mechanically.

  5. Dan Lane says:

    Is it a Chumby? if it is, then the question of “what might this do? What is it for?” becomes quite difficult to answer! ;)

    Can’t wait to get my hands on some of those!

  6. Zac says:

    I think Simson Garfinkel is right … except maybe it’s a USB connection, not ethernet.

    oh, and I love seeing the creative commons notice on a piece of hardware!!

  7. Ste says:

    I think i have found it!

    it’s a Chumby

    The Alpha chumby hardware sports the following key features:
    266 MHz ARM controller (the MX21 by Freescale) -> ok
    32 MB SDRAM running at 133 MHz bus speed ->ok
    64 MB NAND FLASH ROM ->ok
    320×240 3.5″ TFT LCD with PWM-controlled LED backlighting
    Stereo 2W speakers -> thet audio device…
    Headphone output
    Ambient light sensor
    Bend sensor (to pick up when you squeeze the chumby)
    Two USB 2.0 ports, one on the main board and one on the outerware electronics
    WiFi connectivity via a USB dongle plugged into the main board -> reason for the inward pointed usb port?
    Circuitry to detect the presence of wall adapter power and auto-fallback to backup battery power
    Switching power supply network that can eat between 6V and 14V
    Available microphone input on the chumbilical bus
    Available SPI bus on the chumbilical bus
    Serial debug port set to 115200 8N1 ->J109

    The evidence is ovewhelming if you download the schematics at

    Great hacking potential , even more with sensor pack

  8. Chumby!!! What a nice idea! Hope it will be cheap, I want two!

  9. R says:

    Looks like a security device for online banking with the SIM slot.

  10. I really like the idea behind the Chumby device. And the site design is really well-done, too. I definitely want one to play with — it sounds like a good introduction to embedded Linux work, considering how well-documented the toolchain setup process is.

    A few years ago, I had the same itch — to solve the Clock Radio Problem once and for all. I ended up designing a Windows-based client for a remote radio server (also homebrew). The Windows client is based on a Mini-ITX board, and runs a “virtual Nixie clock” on a $500 Xenarc TSV-700 touchscreen display. The client talks to the server, and the Internet at large, via WiFi. (See the “Equinox” link on the site in my profile — you can actually download and run the client yourself.)

    Basically the same idea as the Chumby, if the Chumby had been designed by Diebold and built by Lockheed-Martin at taxpayer expense. :-P

    Unfortunately, my clock-radio project has only made me want more screen real estate on my bedside table, not less. The Xenarc display is about twice the size of the Chumby’s, but it’s still nowhere near big enough for any real Web-surfing fun, and the radio UI is still awfully crowded. It’s very possible that the Chumby’s less-is-more approach is the smarter one. I suck at both UI design *and* website design, so there’s potentially a lot I can learn from what you guys have done. Take my $150 — please!

  11. Bench2006 says:

    it is a Chumby Openware MP3 Player

  12. MARMELADA!!! I told it first, where was the answer from Dan, Zac and Ste before I wrote mine?! I’m out of this game, this is not fair – again. :o(

  13. sucatreg says:

    It’s a mainboard of something like a small thing that will connect to a gsm network, usb connectivity and sound capabilities. there is no input controller so i think it’s a passive device.

  14. holy **** !!

    a gsm radio
    a wifi port
    can you say wireless gsm voip gateway !!! :)))))))

    and it’s half the price of the cheapest chinese gsm gateway (that has not even ethernet voip output but a plain FXO !) wifi voip gsm !! nice :)

    also if this thing has a touchscreen it’ll make a perfect full-featured mobile orbiter for plutohome (open source home automation) !

    hey .. if it has a quad band gsm radio .. do you think it’ll be possible to knock the radio into nearby HAM bands ?

    will you sell some of those as just the pcb with the BGAs soldered ?

  15. body painting…

    body painting info…

  16. tfJgDGudFa says:


  17. Daniel says:

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Name that Ware August 2006, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  18. Ron says:

    Twitter is on fire talking about the new iPhone 3GS, so it’ll be interesting to see how much sells for this Thursday. Keep an eye on how much the site is going for here:

  19. Great article. The husband and I dumped landlines for voip about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Our friends are cell phone only but we only have prepaid so this works out. Thanks!

  20. Bobby Walker says:

    I don’t usually write on blogs but had to on yours. You have a very easy to read writing style. A lot of people don’t have that touch, they just drone on and on in the most boring way. But not you – thanks! Thanks again!

  21. Hattie Yue says:

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  22. my friend is an expert in VOIP setup and i was his apprentice once;-`

  23. VOIP is very nice specially if you use long distance telephone calls a lot’–