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Tiny $14 ARM9 module runs Linux

Jan 22, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Acme Systems has opened pre-orders at 10 Euros ($14) for a tiny DIY-oriented module called the Arietta G25 built around Atmel’s 400MHz ARM9 SAM9G25 SoC.


Tux Case

Back in 2006, Italian embedded Linux manufacturer Acme Systems shipped a penguin-shaped Tux Case for its original Fox single board computer (SBC). The new, 25 x 50mm Arietta G25 computer-on-module (COM) is equipped with the same Atmel AT91SAM9G20 processor used by an updated Fox G20 SBC, as well as a newer 24-Euro Aria G25 COM that is more closely related to the Arietta G25 (see farther below). The Tux Case is still available, as well.

Whereas the 40 x 40mm Aria G25 is aimed at OEM developers, the 20 x 50mm Arietta G25 was developed for the DIY crowd, better known these days as “makers.” The module is designed for compact, low-cost, low-power, embedded gizmos, better known today as Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The fully open source Arietta G25 will ship “before June,” says the company. The pre-order price of 10 Euros — or 27 Euros with WiFi and a 4GB microSD card (with EmDebian Linux pre-installed) — will last only until the end of the month. Pre-order prices will rise each month until the module ships at the still tempting final price of 20 Euros.



Arietta G25
(click image to enlarge)

Atmel’s AT91SAM9G20 arrived in 2008, improving on the SAM9260 with larger memories, including 64K of internal SRAM. Unlike the newer SAM9G45 processor, it offers only one bus interface instead of two.

The Arietta G25 module is equipped with 128MB of DDR2 RAM and a 32GB-ready microSD slot. There’s no Ethernet port or video interface, but one of the USB interfaces supports an optional WiFi radio that adds 7 Euros to the price, plus another 7 Euros for the antenna.



Arietta G25 detail images showing WiFi option (right)
(click images to enlarge)

 
All the other I/O is accessed via a 2×20-pin header connector. This includes three USB 2.0 ports, one of which is available with an optional, 7-Euro USB-to-serial interface. This can be used to link the debug port to a PC USB host port and access the Linux system console using a terminal emulator program, says Acme Systems.

For those desiring network access to the Arietta board without adding the optional WiFi adapter, it’s possible to do so using one of the module’s USB ports. In an email, Acme Systems co-owner Sergio Tanzilli wrote: “It is possible to have a LAN link with the PC using the USB device port, as with the BeagleBoard. I used Codiad and Shell-in-a-box to have a web editor, a file manager and a Linux session directly inside the browser. We are thinking to design a POE version.”

Additional I/O includes three UARTs, I2C, SPI, A/D converters, and PWM interfaces. The 3.3V DC-powered module operates between -20 to 70° C.

MicroSD cards containing the Debian Linux image are available in 4GB (10-Euro), 8GB (14-Euro), and 16GB (18-Euro) capacities. Fully open source firmware, software environments, and toolchain will be available from Atmel, “Linux sites,” and various Acme Systems repositories on GitHub, says the company. Schematics for the Arietta G25 will be posted soon.

Specifications listed for the Arietta G25 include:

  • Processor — Atmel AT91SAM9G20 (1x ARM9 core @ 499MHz)
  • Memory — 128MB DDR2 RAM; microSD slot for up to 32GB, with bootable Linux OS card
  • Wireless — optional WiFi (802.11b/g/nm, RaLink RT5370N) with optional antenna
  • I/O (via pin connectors):
    • USB 2.0 high-speed host
    • USB 2.0 high-speed host/device
    • USB 2.0 full-speed host
    • 3x UARTs
    • I2C
    • SPI, with up to 3x chip selects (5 to 50 MHz)
    • PWM (up to 6x lines)
    • A/D converters (4x channels @ 10-bit)
    • Serial debug port
  • Other features — user-configurable LED; supports placement of 20×2-pitch, 2.54mm (100mils) pinstrip
  • Power — single 3.3V DC supply (not 5V tolerant)
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70° C
  • Operating system — Linux 3.13 (bootable image for EmDebian Grip Linux 7.3 “Wheezy”)

The Arietta G25′s OEM-focused cousin, the Aria G25, is already selling well in China, Tanzilli informs us. The larger COM has the same SAM9G25 processor, but offers an option to expand to 256MB of RAM. It appears to lack a microSD slot, but adds a 10/100Mbps Ethernet PHY. Like the Arietta G25, the Aria G25 supplies three USB host ports and adds additional UART, I2C, and SPI connections, as well as 60 GPIOs.



Aria G25 (left) and Terra baseboard
(click images to enlarge)

 
The Aria G25 is also available with an optional Terra baseboard. Among other features, the baseboard provides a microSD slot, real-world LAN and USB ports, and a SIM slot with an optional quad-band GSM/GPRS modem. It also has connectors that support up to four optional Acme Systems Daisy daughtercards, including a stepper motor driver, GPS and sensors, serial breakouts, wireless modules, and a small LCD display module, to name a few. A metal frame enclosure is also available, among several other Terra options.

 
Further information

The Arietta G25 is available for pre-sale through the end of the month for 10 Euros, with prices edging upward each month to the final 20-Euro price when it ships in May. Prices for other options are listed above or at the Acme Systems Arietta G25 product page. The company will sell the module exclusively through its website until October, at which time “bulk empty PCBs” will be “available for autonomous manufacturers.”
 

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