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Mike Riley

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March Modness: Gumstix Overo Earth

March 03, 2009

I originally intended to evaluate Gumstix Verdex Pro configuration, but Don Anderson, the company's EVP of Engineering Services suggested I wait until the Overo motherboard was released.  This turned out to be excellent advice, considering the power and tremendous flexibility engineered into this Linux-based XWindows environment on a chip.

While the Overo Earth can be purchased separately starting at $149 US, it is far easier to work with the chip via the $264 US Overo Summit pack that includes the Overo Earth motherboard, the Summit expansion board, HDMI to DVI cable for video display, mini-B to mini-A and a mini-B to standard-A USB cables, a 2GB microSD card and a 5 volt power adapter.  The center piece of this package is the Overo Earth, a remarkable feat of engineering.  Check out the specs:

  • a 600 MHz OMAP 3503 Application Processor with ARM Cortex-A8 CPU
  • 256MB RAM, 256MB Flash.
  • On board microSD card slot
  • A slew of expansion capabilities for such features as I2C, A/D, UART, SPI, Camera in, MMC, headphone and mic, USB OTG signals and USB HS Host, and more.

What is truly stunning about this design is its size</a>:

The Summit expansion board provides the A/V ports to easily connect the Overo to the outside world.  Specs include:

 

  • Both USB OTG mini-AB and an experimental USB host mini-A connector, as well as a USB serial console.
  • An HDMI port for DVI-D output (the Summit pack includes the HDMI to DVI cable)
  • Standard Audio In / Audio Out jacks
  • Various signals (2 two-wire serial ports, 6 PWM lines, I2C port and an SPI bus) and six A/D input lines and processor control signals.



Mounting the Overo to the Summit unleashes the Overo's accessibility to developers.  Setting up the environment took a bit more time but once connected, the experience was inspiring.  Following the Overo setup procedures outlined on the Gumstix developer website, a technically proficient developer can be up and running in less than 20 minutes.  The Overo employs the Gentoo-like OpenEmbedded cross-compile environment, making application development remarkably easy for such a tiny piece of hardware.



The Overo Summit Pack will make developing on the Overo Earth motherboard considerably easier, but the current version requires some additional setup before one can simply plug in and go.  But once the Enlightenment-driven XWindows desktop appears, enthusiasm overflows with possibilities.  Plus, it's just so cool to realize that a full-blown XWindows-enabled Linux system is executing on such a tiny piece of hardware.  The possibilities for such a small computing platform are potentially endless.  As an example, fellow Dobbs Codetalk guru Mark Nelson mentioned an innovative use of the Gumstix in this post, showing how versatile this tiny Linux embedded system can be.  Developers seeking an ultra-compact Linux-on-a-chip should definitely take a closer look at what Gumstix has to offer.

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