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Thread: Hardware Review: ISEE IGEPv2 embedded computing platform

  1. #1
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    Hardware Review: ISEE IGEPv2 embedded computing platform


    What is it?

    The IGEPv2 is a fan-less, low-power computer system featuring an OMAP3530 processor.

    The Verdict:

    The IGEPv2 is a car PC hacker’s dream platform. It's a true power-sipping design with enough processor to handle most embedded car PC functions. The real benefit to the IGEPv2 is its flexibility. However, the fact that it doesn’t run windows adds complexity to the software installation process and restricts front end options. The fact is, unless you are a Linux programmer the IGEPv2 may be more trouble than its worth.



    What's in the box?

    The IGEPv2 board.

    Description:

    The IGEPv2 is the latest of a batch of ultra-portable, low-power embedded systems available to consumers. Measuring it at 3.7 x 2.5 X 0.7 inches, the IGEP has connectors for everything an installer could need to run the device as a primary car PC. Included is 1 DVI over HDMI port, 1 micro SD port for external storage, 1 USB OTG port, 1 USB host port, 1 stereo audio-out and 1 line-in port. Also included is a built-in wireless b/g card, built-in Bluetooth, and a RJ-45 Ethernet port. As if that weren’t enough the IGEPv2 has a RS232 serial debug port and several connectors for daughterboard add-ons. Conceivably, you could use the IGEP with any existing hardware you have.




    The IGEPv2 comes with an embedded Texas Instruments OMAP3530 processor running at 720mhz. While nowhere near top of the line, the processor will adequately perform tasks. The IGEPv2 has 4GHZ of flash NAND memory. This allows a portion of the on-board memory to contain the operating system files and boot configurations. The IGEPv2 features an OpenGL ES 2.0 capable graphics accelerator. While it’s certainly not capable of running HD video, it’s more than capable to run front ends like Open Mobile and MeeGo. That is of course, if you can figure out how to install them. Because the IGEPv2 is built on ARM architecture, it will not run your standard windows operating systems and front ends.


    Without windows as the standard go-to operating system for car computer installations, IGEPv2 is capable of utilizing several other alternatives. The IGEPv2 comes with a Linux distribution named Poky. While not pretty, poky is capable for use as a front end in itself. It loads quickly and has an easy to use (if not generic) interface. Honestly though, most purchasers of the IGEPv2 will use one of the many alternatives such as Ubuntu Linux, Android, Windows Embedded, or MeeGo. This flexibility is truly the key benefit of a device like the IGEPv2. Advanced users and people familiar with linux technologies can design and build a custom version of software which will allow them to optimize the lower-class specifications of the board. For my review, I allowed the users of the mp3Car forums to decide which operating system to install, and they chose Ubuntu Linux. Installing Ubuntu was not easy. There are instructions installers can find through the manufacturer website that show how to easily install Ubuntu via SD card. The problem is to the best of my knowledge, these instructions are incomplete. After several days of attempts, I finally caved in and got my Linux buddy to build and install for me.


    Once installed, the IGEPv2 can run Ubuntu smoothly. There are moments where you can tell the OMAP processor is being tested, such as during video playback or loading a large flash file, but the overall experience was pleasant. There shouldn’t be a problem running Open Mobile. The main problem with running Ubuntu on the IGEPv2 is wifi and bluetooth connectivity will not work as there are currently no drivers available.So with software installed, you have yourself a neat little Car PC, barring you can overcome a few other drawbacks. Because the IGEPv2 requires a clean 5v, you still will need some sort of automotive power supply in order to power it. The obvious benefit of usually only 5v is the power savings. I can run my IGEPv2 in car for 5 days without worrying about my battery not starting. But I think the device should have some method of 12v-5v voltage regulation on board. The second omission on the IGEPv2 is the lack of any kind of battery. This means your system will require a pretty reliable internet connection to show the proper time and date. This problem becomes more prevalent when you figure that some front ends and their associated plugins require clock-based functions. The last and perhaps smallest issue is that the host USB port requires a self-powered usb hub. I was unable to use my single-cord usb keyboard and mouse combo until i connected a 12v powered usb hub in front of it.

    The Positive:

    • Small form factor and built for low-power operation
    • Flexible software options
    • Various expansion options
    • 100% silent, fanless operation

    The Negative:

    • Requires an automotive power supply for the 5v
    • Software installation is for the advanced only, few front end options
    • No CMOS battery
    • USB Host mode requires a powered usb hub

    The Verdict:

    The IGEPv2 is a car PC hacker’s dream platform. It's a true power-sipping design with enough processor to handle most embedded car PC functions. The real benefit to the IGEPv2 is its flexibility. However, the fact that it doesn’t run windows adds complexity to the software installation process and restricts front end options. The fact is, unless you are a Linux programmer the IGEPv2 may be more trouble than its worth.

  2. #2
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    Good review. I've had the same experience with the igep v2. I love it and hate it. Love it because it has huge potential. Hate it because it is damned difficult to figure out how to install stuff on it and, as you noted, installation instructions are often incomplete, leaving you dead in the water if you aren't Linux geek. In fact, the igep is the reason my custom title reads "Linux loser". I just can't get it to do basic stuff like boot from an external SD card.

    What we need to get serious about, and what I was hoping I would be able to provide the community, is a distro of Ubuntu that has the appropriate drivers and a complete set of instructions or video that show people how to get the thing out of the box and up and running.

    In addition, Meego will/does run on the igep and it should be a good platform for that OS when/if it becomes more useful. So, if you want to work the cutting edge of the car pc scene, get an igep and start tinkering. We sure could use some help.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbyte View Post
    Good review. I've had the same experience with the igep v2. I love it and hate it. Love it because it has huge potential. Hate it because it is damned difficult to figure out how to install stuff on it and, as you noted, installation instructions are often incomplete, leaving you dead in the water if you aren't Linux geek. In fact, the igep is the reason my custom title reads "Linux loser". I just can't get it to do basic stuff like boot from an external SD card.

    What we need to get serious about, and what I was hoping I would be able to provide the community, is a distro of Ubuntu that has the appropriate drivers and a complete set of instructions or video that show people how to get the thing out of the box and up and running.

    In addition, Meego will/does run on the igep and it should be a good platform for that OS when/if it becomes more useful. So, if you want to work the cutting edge of the car pc scene, get an igep and start tinkering. We sure could use some help.
    Thanks man and i appreciate the help you gave me to try to get this thing working. I ultimately wanted to use device to control and communicate with systems in my car while parked, but I think it would take ALOT more programming skill than I currently can muster. Eventually i will attempt to get OM running on it to do a "real" front end test and will post results here.

    BTW, if anyone wants larger pics, wants me to do some specific testing, or has any questions regarding the IGEPv2 please contact me. Provided your not asking me to install an OS on the thing i think i can help lol
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    Hi I'm new here. I am planning on buying this board for our project. I just want to ask if this can act as an FTP server? example My USB flash drive is inserted in the IGEPv2 board and then my mobile phone can access the files inside my flash drive, copy, delete, get, and move. This is via bluetooth. Thanks

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    good review. I agree with your verdict. Here's a couple of thoughts I had while reading:

    * the igep people advertise 4Gb of flash and 4Gb of RAM. This is either a translation error or clever marketing. "Gb" is Gigabit which is different from a gigabyte. 1GB == 1/8 Gb so 4Gb is about 512MB. I was confused at first reading the specs. It's only 512MB RAM and 512MB of onboard NAND. No unicorns or fairies here .

    * There are wifi and bluetooth drivers, but it requires some extra love. You have to download the wifi firmware from Marvell and jam it on the file system. Bluetooth is nothing short of voodoo to get working. It's rather unfortunate.

    * I wouldn't expect anyone short of a embedded Linux hacker to get an OS on it. It's not easy. I've yet to get a full OS of any kind working 100%. Right now I'm pretty close to having Ubuntu working, but I have serious USB driver issues and I've yet to get sound working (possibly issues in my kernel... who knows?)

    * I agree with Bugbyte. It's got huge potential but right now unless you are a Linux Hacker and have lots of time, it may not be worth your while.

    If I can get it working well enough, I wouldn't mind spinning off OS images. That way, all a user has to do is flash the image to an sd card, insert and boot. That will make it a more compelling solution for the general mp3car user.

    Hi I'm new here. I am planning on buying this board for our project. I just want to ask if this can act as an FTP server? example My USB flash drive is inserted in the IGEPv2 board and then my mobile phone can access the files inside my flash drive, copy, delete, get, and move. This is via bluetooth. Thanks
    Welcome. We wouldn't know much about using the igepv2 for anything other than automotive use, which is the focus of this forum. You may want to direct your question directly to the igepv2 folks in their forum. But to answer your question: the igepv2 can do virtually anything Linux can do (which includes being a FTP server), but what I think you are looking for is an bluetooth OBEX/FTP Server.
    Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
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    yah, OBEX/FTP, is that possible with this?

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    FTP works without issue. I presume if OBEX works on Linux (e.g. on Ubuntu) then it *could* work on the igep. It may require you to compile it for the ARM5 OMAP architecture, though.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
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    Quote Originally Posted by grp_cdes View Post
    yah, OBEX/FTP, is that possible with this?
    Supports the full bluetooth 2.0 spec so yes, it should.
    Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
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    ahhh,, thanks for the replies i guess this device is what we need.

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