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Thread: Pandora developer answers our questions and talks about open source and homebrew

                  
   
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    Pardora Pandora developer answers our questions and talks about open source and homebrew


    The Pandora is a mixture between a PC and a gaming console. That's why it has gaming controls (Buttons, DPad and analogue nubs). It is fast enough to emulate many other systems, run a full desktop, access the internet via FireFox and play games such as Quake3. However, it is not as big as a netbook. Believe it or not, it will fit in your pocket. It's a bit bigger than the Nintendo DS.

    The screen is an impressive 800*480 resolution LCD and the battery life is a sensational 10+ hours. But the most interesting part is probably that it isn't designed by a large company, it was designed by the suggestions and requests of hundreds of people on the gp32x forums. Over several months those suggestions were fine tuned in to what you see today, a completely new open source handheld.

    The Pandora is running an OpenSource OS: it's basically Ångström-Linux with some Pandora-specific changes. The source code is here: (git.openpandora.org).

    Specs:
    • Texas Instruments OMAP3530 processor at 600MHz (officially)
    • 256MB DDR-333 SDRAM
    • 512MB NAND FLASH memory
    • IVA2+ audio and video processor using TI's DaVinci™ technology (430MHz C64x DSP)
    • ARM® Cortex™-A8 superscalar microprocessor core
    • PowerVR SGX530 (110MHz officially) OpenGL ES 2.0 compliant 3D hardware
    • integrated Wifi 802.11b/g (up to 18dBm output)
    • integrated Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (3Mbps) (Class 2, + 4dBm)
    • 800x480 resolution LTPS LCD with resistive touch screen, 4.3" widescreen, 16.7 million colors (300 cd/m2 brightness, 450:1 contrast ratio)
    • Dual analog controllers
    • Full gamepad controls plus shoulder buttons
    • Dual SDHC card slots (up to 64GB of storage currently)
    • headphone output up to 150mW/channel into 16 ohms, 99dB SNR (up to 24 bit/48KHz)
    • TV output (composite and S-Video)
    • Internal microphone plus ability to connect external microphone through headset
    • Stereo line level inputs and outputs
    • 43 button QWERTY and numeric keypad
    • USB 2.0 OTG port (1.5/12/480Mbps) with capability to charge device
    • USB 2.0 HOST port (480Mbps) capable of providing the full 500mA to attached devices (examples include USB memory, keyboard, mouse, 3G modem, GPS)
    • up to two externally accessible UARTs and/or four PWM signals for hardware hacking, robot control, debugging, etc.
    • un-brickable design with integrated boot loader for safe code experimentation
    • Power and hold switch useful for "instant on" and key lockout to aid in media player applications on the go
    • Runs on the Linux operating system (2.6.x)
    • Dimensions: 140x83.4x27.5mm
    • Weight: 335g (with 4000mAh battery)

    We had a chance to ask Michael Mrozek of the Pandora development team to answer some of questions. We ask questions ranging from, what is Pandora, is there support, how long its been in production, what is their goal and many other hard questions. So whether you're interested in just reading the interview, a BIG fan homebrew/open source or just curious about what Pandora is...I'm sure this will grab your interest:

    Please introduce yourself, your role and a little bit of information as to what Pandora is.
    I'm Michael (known as EvilDragon in the community). And I guess I have - as everyone else - multiple roles in the Pandora project. I am one of the initiators and do a lot of support and talking to the community. But I also do some things like repairing broken units, soldering the LCD cables, etc. I am also helping out with the software, doing some scripts, working on updates and so on.

    So yeah, I do various things here

    To those who don't know what the Pandora is:
    Basically, it's a small mini gaming computer handheld slightly bigger than the NDS Lite (it's just one cm wider and a bit thicker). It runs using Linux, features gaming controls as well as a keyboard and a hires touchscreen.

    What are the teams goal(s) for Pandora?
    The basic idea was to create a gaming handheld which is perfectly suited to emulate an Amiga - since we all grew up with it. So we needed perfect gaming controls, mouse support as well as a keyboard and a hires display. And it needed to be powerful enough.

    During development, we realized it was much more than just a handheld which can be used for gaming: It was fast enough to easily run a full Linux X Server. Therefore, you basically have full computer desktop in your pocket. You can run FireFox together with built-in WiFi and browse the web - or you can play Quake 3 or emulate Mario64 or classic consoles and computers. Or play various Linux games, like Battle for Wesnoth, FreeCiv, SuperTux, etc. Basically, it has become a mixture of an UMPC combined with a gaming console.

    Another primary goal was keeping it completely open: You can download the software for the OS and send us patches, if you want to improve it. Everyone who wants to help out can do so

    What kind of support or feedback have you gotten from both gamers/supporters?
    Most of them really like what we're doing. We received a lot of eMails from people who received their units already that it really was worth the long wait! Of course there are also some who are angry that the development and production took so long (or still takes so long) - but we're no pros, we are doing everything to speed up the production, but we also need to be very careful - if something is wrong an we produce thousands of broken units, it will cost for us to fix them.

    Up until now we have 700 units shipped and there were only some issues and RMAs, so I think that worked out pretty well.

    What about companies such as big name publishers? Any support from them in the near future?
    Some did contact us, yes. But they need a lot of shipped units - they won't do anything before at least 20,000 are out there. So it will surely take a while until they will publish something - if they ever will

    After all, the device is primary based on fans of classic games and homebrew - or Linux fans, who want to have a Linux PC in their pocket.

    Speaking of support, what games or softwares will be available when the Pandora is launched?
    Besides a standard Linux OS with web browsers, AbiWord and normal desktop tools, there were a few emulators and homebrew games available already. It has changed - since the release of the unit, A LOT of stuff has already been ported - and hopefully more to come.

    Like any electronic hardware, there is R&D put into a device and it takes a bit of time. How long did it take for the team to iron out and finalize how Pandora will run and look?
    Oh, it really took a long time... I think from the first idea until final production, it has been about 3, 5 years...

    What has been the biggest obstacle in producing the Pandora?
    That's a hard question, as there were many different obstacles we had to solve... like WiFi not working (just after production started), the bank froze our account at one time since there was about 1M USD coming onto the account within a few days (they thought this was fraud), problems with the nubs, and so on.

    Quite a few things happened.... I really can't say which was the biggest one.

    The big question is, when is Pandora expected to release and the price it would cost gamers?
    The price is 330EUR (incl. VAT) or 277 EUR/$349USD (without VAT). At the moment, we're still working on producing the and delivering the first batch, but preorders for the second batch are already being taken.


    The core team: Craig Rothwell, Michael Weston, Michael Mrozek, M. Fatih KILIC

    Thank you Michael for taking the time to answer our questions. And a big thank you to the Pandora team for supporting and helping the homebrew scene!

    Homepage: Pandora
    Last edited by bandit; August 20th, 2010 at 16:17.
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