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28 January 2013, 12:44

AMD Gizmo: Coreboot BIOS on budget hobbyist motherboard

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AMD's Gizmo
Zoom AMD Gizmo: Developer board with G-T40E, two 1GHz Bobcat cores and a Radeon HD 6250.

Source: AMD
AMD is inviting developers to join GizmoSphere, a new community centred around a small motherboard that uses AMD's x86 combi processor, the G-T40E; the board has been developed by US company Sage Electronic Engineering and is manufactured by Pounce Electronics. It seems that AMD has taken some inspiration from the Raspberry Pi, although the starter kit does cost $199 before taxes and without shipping. For this price, however, customers will receive a complete package that includes the motherboard as well as a suitable power adapter, a PCB for experimentation (Explorer Board) with an LCD display, a number keypad and, most importantly, a JTAG debugger module – as well as all required leads. The Gizmo board is currently only available to order via email in the US, but the developers say that they are working to make it available via online vendors "soon".

Zoom Gizmo in detail
Source: AMD
One interesting Gizmo feature is the SageBIOS coreboot firmware that can, the developers say, boot operating systems such as Linux and Windows. SageBIOS is a distribution of the free software, GPL-licensed Coreboot which allows motherboard developers to ship boards with a substantially freer firmware.

The G-T40E is an embedded version of AMD's C-60, which has been used in netbooks. Instead of a TDP of 9 watts, AMD lists only 6.4 watts of TDP for the G-T40E. For the entire Gizmo board, AMD promises a TDP of about 10 watts, including the A55E chipset (Hudson) and add-ons such as the Realtek sound chip, a gigabit Ethernet controller (RTL8111DL) and 1 GB of DDR3-SDRAM. The developers say that the APU offers 52.8 GFlops; of these, 44.8 GFlops are contributed by the Radeon GPU's 80 shaders, which can be used via OpenCL 1.1 if the operating system offers the appropriate drivers. Running at 1 GHz, the two Bobcat cores' SSE units offer 8 GFlops at single precision.

As well as the LCD display and keypad, the Explorer Board also offers interfaces such as SPI and I2C, GPIO pins and a stepping motor controller.

Board with display and controller
Gizmo Explorer Board with LCD and stepper motor controller.

Source: AMD

The package also includes a 30-day trial version of the SageEDK development environment, which is particularly helpful for troubleshooting and testing when combined with the SmartProbe debugger module. The purchase price includes 20 hours of use. On the GizmoSphere web site, AMD also hosts "mini contests" and plans to present projects and provide support.

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