VoCore: An OpenWrt Based Coin Sized Computer

Back in May I found out about an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the Vocore computer. It’s a tiny computer (less than 1 inch square) with 10/100M Ethernet, USB, UART, I2C, I2S, PCM, JTAG and over 20 GPIOs running OpenWrt Linux. The heart of the board is a MediaTek 360MHz RT5350 paired with 32MB SDRAM and 8MB of onboard flash. The specs are similar to what the Zipit Z2 has (minus the screen and keyboard). The board doesn’t actually have ports on it but there are plans for a carrier board / dock with USB, ethernet and power pins/port.

I’ve seen many crowdfunding campaigns for various devices that I’ve liked, but never contributed. I’m an instant gratification kind of person who wants the goods right away which means I don’t usually want to wait the 6 months to a year after contributing. I managed to check out the Indiegogo page shortly after the project released an Alpha contribution which would mean shipment of 2 alpha boards in July for a low price and I couldn’t pass it up. Getting an alpha board means testing and likely having many problems but I’m okay with that. In fact, the alpha boards are already having issues not seen in the previous prototypes.

Edit: The problem with the Alpha board has been figured out. A noise removing capacitor in the crystal circuit got moved when changing the layout from a previous version. It’s a simple fix for someone like me with the right right tools. If anyone in the US is getting an alpha board and can’t do the fix themselves or find anyone locally who can, I am willing to do it as long as you pay shipping costs to/from me in Illinois. Just post a comment below with your request and I’ll get a hold of you via email.

I have a few ideas that the board could be used for. One is a wireless print server. Sure, you can buy a wireless printer nowadays for a reasonable price, but I still have a perfectly fine USB printer that would be nice relocated away from my router/server.

Another idea is a wireless security camera/mail delivery notifier. For me, repairing electronics at home means ordering a lot of small parts. My work area is on the second floor which means a trip downstairs to check the mailbox. The postman usually comes in a 3 hour window and it’s a pain to check every so often when expecting a part. The idea is to use a magnet switch in the mailbox to detect opening/closing, take a snapshot with a USB webcam and send an email notification. This can also double as a security cam for when the doorbell rings. If it’s a solicitor, I can ignore them.

When the alpha boards arrive, I’ll do some testing and post some photos. Until then you can keep tabs on the project at Vonger’s Blog.

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