New FC hardware on the horizon

Mychaela Falconia mychaela.falconia at
Sun Sep 13 10:04:24 UTC 2020

Hello FreeCalypso community,

I've been quiet over the past few months as I've been working on some
new additions to our FC hardware family.  Hopefully soon there will be
two new additions to our family:

1) There exists a certain historically-made Calypso modem module
conceptually similar to Huawei GTM900, but made by a different
historical manufacturer.  This module is so good (way better than
GTM900) that I decided to turn it into an official FreeCalypso hw
product by way of rebranding: I will be making these modules available
for public sale with FreeCalypso rebranding and providing full
technical support for our rebranded modules; our FC-rebranded version
will be differentiated from the original by a sticker bearing our
FreeCalypso trademark (cannot be legally applied by anyone other than
me), and the modules will be flashed with FreeCalypso firmware.

The original identity of the historical Calypso module that is being
rebranded as FreeCalypso Tango will be publicly revealed at the same
time when these FC Tango modules become physically available for
public sale, and that step will in turn happen when I build my
production test fixture that will be used to reflash the firmware and
test each individual unit before reselling it as FC Tango.  Right now
my current estimate is December of this year, i.e., not too long of a
wait left.  Until then, please be patient.

2) I have designed a new development board based around this FC Tango
module, it is basically a board similar to TI's original D-Sample, but
with a Tango module as its core.  This new board will largely supplant
FCDEV3B: it will be fully quadband (as Tango modems are), it has a lot
more Calypso interfaces brought out (one can connect a 16-bit parallel
LCD and a 5x5 keypad), and because these already existing Tango modules
are so much cheaper than new production starting from just chips, the
new board is expected to be much less expensive than FCDEV3B.  The
only major feature that exists on FCDEV3B but not on the new board is
JTAG: it is simply not brought out on the historically-made Calypso
module that is being rebranded as FC Tango.  FCDEV3B will still remain
an active product for those who need JTAG or who prefer it for other
reasons, but for most purposes the new FC Caramel2 board will be the
more preferable alternative.

The new FC Caramel2 board has already been designed and laid out, and
I expect that I will be placing the order for PCB fabrication within
the next week or two, as soon as it passes all needed DFM/DFA reviews
by my board assembly people.  Assembled Caramel2 boards will probably
arrive at FreeCalypso HQ some time in November (or maybe October if we
get lucky), and my hope is that by December we'll be able to make the
big release, with both Tango modules and Caramel2 boards becoming
available for public sale; all details that are currently kept private
will be publicly revealed at the same time.

The part I am currently most excited about is the anticipated price

* Bare Tango modules (not mounted on development boards) will be made
available for $40 apiece with no MOQ, i.e., anyone will be able to buy
1 piece or 1000 pieces or anything in between.

* For a minimal FC Caramel2 development kit consisting of the C2 board
itself and a universal AC to 3.6 VDC power supply, I anticipate the
price to be somewhere around $150.  The only part which users will
need to provide themselves with this option is their own adapter to
connect to Calypso UARTs, which will be brought out in their native
2.8V (3.3V-tolerant) form.

* For a complete Caramel2 kit including the above plus our official
DUART28 adapter (USB to both Calypso UARTs), I anticipate the price to
be somewhere around $220.  Our DUART28 is a bit more expensive than
competing options because it is made in USA in small quantities -
assembly labor is the dominant cost component - but it is the absolute
best adapter for Calypso targets.  I realize though that some people
may have tight budgets, and may thus opt for a technically inferior
solution that costs less.

What is the purpose of the present announcement when the hardware
won't be available for another 2-3 months and when no significant
technical details are being revealed yet?  Several reasons:

* Based on my prolonged silence, some people may have assumed that I
stopped working on FreeCalypso - and I need to make it clear that
quite the opposite holds.

* If anyone has been wanting to play with FreeCalypso but has been put
off by the high price of our current FCDEV3B, there is now hope that a
much more affordable option may be on the near horizon.

* From watching their two public Redmine issues related to this
article, I get the impression that our colleages over at Sysmocom are
working in overdrive trying to produce their own Calypso development
board based around Huawei GTM900.  I strongly disagree with many of
their design decisions (I advised them on the right ways, but they
stuck to their ways), and right now it looks like they are stuck
thanks to their insistence on using CP2105 rather than FT2232x: it
looks like they are stuck with having no workable way to program that
chip's OTP configuration memory (FT2232x EEPROM programming is trivial
in contrast), and the way in which they are using that chip does
require custom configuration.  If our Caramel2 boards become available
for $220 with the DUART28 adapter or for $150 without it, perhaps the
need for that other GTM900 board will be eliminated?

Hasta la Victoria, Siempre,
Mychaela aka The Mother

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