Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pandora updates! Cases ready for action, and OS news!

The Pandora console project is an exciting project that has been victim to the occasional delay, but the last couple weeks have been a source of some exciting news.

The last part to require approval is the case. Regarding the case, mass production has been given the green light, but Chinese New Year holidays have shut down the factory for the next two weeks. The good news is that case production will begin when the Chinese New Year celebrations have completed. Happy year of the Tiger, everyone.

The great thing about open development is that you know everything that's going on. The worst thing about open development is that you know everything that's going on. I choose to focus on the positive, as whining and complaining doesn't really help the developers much.

During the delay, the team has chosen to focus on OS development. The official status page has posted an update (as of Feb. 15th) of the current OS status. Things are still a little rough on the edges, but it appears that the project will have a solid base to work from when the first Pandoras arrive to consumers.

Here is the post:

Keep in mind that this is the CURRENT state. A lot of things will be fixed before you receive your Pandora.



What does it mean?


WiFi does work, but speed is slow due to not finished SDIO implementation yet

You can use WiFi at the moment, but the speed will be low. DJWillis is currently hacking to get proper SDIO working.


OpenGL ES: Works fine, but the X version runs very slow. RAW FB version runs fast.

To play OpenGL ES games or emulators in proper speed, you need to quit X for the moment. Not a serious issue.


Bluetooth: Working fine, proper GUI needs to be implemented yet

You can use the command line to set it up. DJWillis is working on a proper GUI.


Keyboard: Keymappings need to be finished, some keys are not yet mapped correctly

This will be done until first release. Nothing major to do, should only need a few hours.


Touchscreen: Working fine in X. Non-X version has inverted axis.

Apps running in non-X mode will have no usable touchscreen driver at the moment. Should be a quick fix.


ALSA is working fine. Sound working nicely.

Sound is working fine.


Battery is included as standard power information in the kernel.

Just has been added, simply need to test if this works with standard Linux Battery Monitor in XFCE4.


pmenu: Included and works fine.

You can select it as default GUI instead of XFCE4 or Ubuntu Netbook-Launcher.


netbook-launcher: First testing version working fine, needs to be implemented as default third GUI

All left to do is to update the bootup script to include the netbook-launcher. Takes a couple of minutes.


xfce4: Basic system runs, many optimizations can be done

You can properly run and work with XFCE4, the default desktop GUI. Expect many tweaks from the community when it is released, i.e. Pandora specific applets, themes, etc.


You can easily switch between the launchers.

Fully implemented. A switch from xfce4 to pmenu does take about 3 seconds, yay!


Auto-Discovery of PND files works great and without any known issues. Running apps in No-X mode has some permission issues.

To install games, all you need to do is copy the .PND file onto the SD Card and it appears in the menu of every GUI.
The No-X mode needs to be fixed, it only works if you run the app as root, so there are some permission issues. Should't be too hard.


Scripts for low-power mode, backlight off when you close the unit and opening a quick menu haven been coded. However, they have not yet been fully mapped.

At the moment, you need to run those scripts from the command line. Mapping them to some keys shouldn't take too long.


Standard USB-Drivers, SD Card Driver including Automount working fine. Remounting not always working when you remove and reinsert an SD Card without properly unmounting it.

You can use USB sticks, USB Joysticks, etc. and of course SD Cards without any problems.
Just remember to unmount it before removing or it might lead to issues.


Boot time is pretty long at the moment. Remember we're booting up a fully fledged Linux system, not just some simple non-X mini-GUI.

There can be done a lot to increas the bootup time in the future, but we don't know if they make it into the first release.
You can always switch low-power mode which should last at least a week on battery power if you don't want to reboot everytime.
Some devs are also thinking about doing a minimal-gaming OS which will bootup in about 5 seconds. The possibilities are there - just don't expect them from Day 1.


Battery charging does work fine, however, as it is the case with most devices nowadays, the Pandora needs to be switched on to charge (it will automatically switch on once you connect it to the AC). Of course, if it is already switched on, it will stay on. You can connect and remove the AC anytime without having to reboot the running system.

No problem here, however, we plan on implementing a mini-kernel which just does the charging and light up the LED. Once this is implemented, the normal user won't notice the device is switched on. Until that is done, the system will simply do a normal bootup. Not really a serious issue ;)


The complete OS is English at the moment. Also the keymap does not yet support international characters.

It's not yet possible typing characters like ö, ä or ü. As each country needs different special characters, we decided to keep the international version (English) at the moment. It shouldn't be too hard to remap things so you can use the special characters you need, some discussions at the boards once the Pandora is delivered will surely help you out.


MPlayer: X version doesn't run too well yet (stutters and the menu is behind the video windows)

Switching to fullscreen makes movie playing a bit better. pmenu has a better working version included, so in worst case you have to switch to pmenu for the moment to watch movies.


Music Player: Currently XMMS is being used. As it does not feature a flexible GUI, it doesn't implement too nice on 800x480

You can listen to music without any problems. You have playlists, can run it in the background, etc. It just could LOOK better. This will be fixed once we switch to a different player.


Help files not included. AbiWord crashes when you try to open Help files.

As the NAND is limited, we couldn't include any help files. Usually, you get a file not found error. Only AbiWord seems to crash.


Most other apps (Midori,ClawsMail, xChat, Pidgin, etc.) are working fine. Some apps are not optimized for 800x480 usage, so their windows are larger than the visible area.

Everything nicely working. For some apps you need to move the windows around to see all buttons, but this is mostly only the case for their settings dialogues. AbiWord, Midori, ClawsMail, Pidgin, xChat, etc. work fine in that resolution.

So, to sum it up:
You can expect an almost fully working system. You can easily play games by simply copying them on the SD card and inserting it.
You have three different GUIs you can use. For demanding apps (or apps that need a fast OpenGL ES), you need to quit X for the moment. The system will do that automatically for you, but that does mean that all other running apps are being terminated at the moment (but hey, who wants to read eMails while playing stuff like Quake 3?)

Most will work, it is just a bit rough around the edges. But that will be fixed in future firmware upgrades. I'm sure a lot of devs who get a Pandora will also start to work to make things better, so expect a LOT of stuff happening just after release.


Also, here is some more media of note.

Mockup of the Pandora AppStore (name TBD):

Here is a Revision5 board that is labeled by the function of each chip on the board:

Atari ST emulation from Skeezix:

EvilDragon informs us about choosing between different GUIs.

EvilDragon shows us the Amiga Emulator:

LCD Comparison (including the Pandora LCD) again from EvilDragon: