Caramel2 boards and fc-host-tools-r14

Mychaela Falconia mychaela.falconia at
Sun Dec 6 19:20:32 UTC 2020

Hi DS!

> This is excellent news! Congratulations of the successful production of
> this new board :-) Do you think you could perhaps post a couple pictures
> of the board in action (such as with the LCD and keypad connected)?

My photography skills are pretty much non-existent (I am a programmer
and a gadget-maker, not a photographer), and because I refuse to use
sheeple phones, the only kind of camera I can use is the standalone
kind, the non-phone kind.  I do have a non-phone camera which I use to
take various pictures which I post, but my skills with it are abysmal
(again, programmer/gadget-maker, not a photographer), so a lot of the
time my pictures come out very poorly.  Here is one such poor picture
I just took:

The utter mess you see in this photo is how this Caramel2+Luna setup
is currently laid out on my bench.  The keypad board is on the edge of
the photo frame on the left, the DUART28 adapter board is on the edge
on the right, Caramel2 and Luna LCD boards are in the middle.  The
board was on when I took this photo, running FC Tourmaline firmware in
bigcolor-vo config, and the LCD was displaying the normal idle screen
of the phone UI - but it is almost invisible in the photo, one can
just barely make out the big TI logo that appears as the idle screen
wallpaper by default.

Unfortunately I am not able to get better photos: for moral reasons I
cannot allow anyone with a sheeple phone into my sanctuary, and I don't
have anyone around here whose skills with a non-phone camera would be
significantly better than mine.

However, if you (Das Signal) would like to educate our community a
little better as to what our Luna development platform looks like and
what TI's prototype UI looks like running on this platform, perhaps
you could make some pictures or videos using your Luna1 setup.  Yes, I
realize that you don't have a Caramel2 board yet, you only have your
original Caramel1 aka iWOW DSK board, but there is really little

A little clarification may be needed for other community members trying
to follow: Das Signal and I have been playing with our Luna LCD setup
since around May of this horrible year, using iWOW DSK boards (the
original dev board nicknamed Caramel) of which there are only two in
the world.  I wish I could say that I created my Caramel2 invention (a
semi-clone of iWOW DSK) in order to make our Luna platform available
to more people than just me and DS, but the unfortunate reality is
that there does not seem to be anyone else on the whole planet besides
our dear DS who would have enough interest in following my work to
actually get a handset UI development board.  The sad reality is that
there is just one person on the entire Earth who does any actual work
on FreeCalypso (that's me), there is just one person who finds my work
interesting enough to closely follow it hands-on (that's our dear DS),
and there is absolutely no one else whose interest extends beyond
passively watching from the sidelines.

If I see no realistic chance of anyone other me and DS desiring to
acquire a development board that can run our work-in-progress handset
UI, why did I expend the time, money and energy to design and produce
these Caramel2 boards?  The answer is mostly political.  Since the
very beginning of FreeCalypso I have always felt it was important to
offer a moral alternative to ubiquitous SIM900/SIM800/etc type of
modem modules.  Everyone and their dog are now building "half-free"
smartphones in which the AP part is free, but the cellular modem
module is a 100% closed proprietary black box - everyone other than
me, people who don't have the kind of strong moral convictions that I
have, have now established a "canon" which no one ever dares to
question: the idea that if you need cellular network connectivity in
your gadget design, you just take an off-the-shelf 100% closed and
proprietary black box module, and stick it into your design.  I always
wanted to offer a moral alternative in the form of a packaged modem
module that is just as much of an off-the-shelf product as the
proprietary ones, a module which you can incorporate into your own
design just as if it were SIM900/SIM800/etc, but which has the moral
distinction of published circuit schematics, chip datasheets and
firmware source code.

I've been wanting for years to produce and make available such a
morally-proper SIM900etc-replacing modem module, but no one ever
funded that quest.  And then lo and behold, almost exactly one year
ago in December of 2019 I accidentally discover the existence of the
extremely obscure iWOW TR-800 module - it is basically the exact same
thing for which I had been unsuccessfully seeking funding for years,
except that it has even more Calypso signals brought out than what is
needed for an AT-command-controlled slave modem.  There was just one
problem: these modules were made by iWOW Connections Pte Ltd and not
by Falconia Partners LLC.  Keeping their existence/identity secret for
much of this year was an emergency short-term action which DS and I
took while working out a longer-term strategy, but trying to keep the
secret forever was not a viable approach: the #1 enemy of FreeCalypso
(the Virginian IP thief-in-chief) already discovered their existence
apparently even before DS and I did.  So I decided to grab the bull by
the horns and adopt the pre-existing iWOW TR-800 module into our
FreeCalypso family by rebranding it, turning iWOW TR-800 into
FreeCalypso Tango by way of a sticker that is applied to the outside
of the module at the same time when it is reflashed to FreeCalypso fw
on my "factory" programming station.

But if we are going to market these Tango modules as a bona fide
FreeCalypso product, then we need to provide the same level of support
for them as if we had designed and produced that module from scratch
ourselves, or viewed another way, provide at least the same level of
support (or better) as iWOW provided before they discontinued and
disavowed their product.  This level of support primarily means
providing a development board that brings out or exercises every
module signal in some way, just like iWOW's DSK board - thus the most
natural approach was to produce a semi-clone of iWOW's DSK.  Caramel
was our nickname for iWOW's DSK board, hence our semi-clone thereof
got the name Caramel2.

So now you know why these Caramel2 boards have been produced - it was
a move to save face in the presence of the discovery of the existence
of iWOW-made TR-800 modules, along with the tandem move to rebrand
these surplus modules into FreeCalypso Tango.  But while the primary
driver behind the creation of Caramel2 was political, there are a
couple of practical (non-political) side benefits from the existence
of this new FreeCalypso dev board:

1) While being similar in functionality with only a few losses (no
JTAG, smaller flash and RAM), Caramel2 is much cheaper than FCDEV3B,
allowing a more affordable FC dev board option.

2) In the unlikely event that someone other than me and DS does wish
to play with our handset UI functionality, this Caramel2+Luna option
is now available.

One downside which you should be able to see from the poor photo
linked above is that the complete Luna setup is currently very messy.
The ribbon cables that connect our LCD and keypad add-ons to the
expansion interface on the Caramel2 motherboard are very bulky and
very messy, and the whole arrangement of these separate boards on the
lab bench is also a mess, there is no clear natural order in which
they should be arranged.  These ribbon cables with custom crimp
terminations are also insanely labor-intensive to produce.  But please
remember that both the LCD add-on and the keypad add-on were
originally made to connect to iWOW's DSK board through those exact
same ribbon cables, well before Caramel2 was conceived.

If we had a line-up of people wishing to acquire FreeCalypso handset
UI development boards, it would make a lot of sense to produce a more
integrated dev board that incorporates the Tango module seat and other
Caramel2 peripherals, the LCD module and the keypad button matrix all
on the same board, eliminating the more general expansion interface
and the ribbon cables for this special-purpose application.  But if
there is no one in the world besides me and DS who would ever be
interested in playing with such a toy even if one landed on their lap
at no cost to them, why does it even matter...

Hasta la Victoria, Siempre,
Mychaela aka The Mother

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