VolksPC - A PC that runs Android and Linux Apps.

This low cost solid state Linux PC can run both Debian and Android applications.
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Vasant Kanchan
Technology
Saratoga, California
United States
1 Team Member

Project Goals

At VolksPC (http://www.volkspc.org) we want to build a low cost low power Linux PC.

Linux desktops have been shipping for a while but we still cannot buy a low cost Linux PC that comes with software pre-installed. Our initial plan was to use an ARM CPU and run a Debian desktop such as LXDE/XFCE. We soon realized that Debian ARM does not support YouTube playback and because of a lack of drivers, HD video playback was just not possible. Android, on the other hand, does this very well and also has many applications not available on Debian, So we went back to the drawing board and came up with a solution that allows both Android and Debian  applications to run simultaneously at native speeds.

VolksPC Hardware

The VolksPC hardware has the following specs:

  • Dual core Rockchip RK3066 Cortex-A9 CPU running at 1.4Ghz.
  • 1 GB DDR3
  • 8 GB NAND Flash (Android)
  • Optional 8 GB Class 10 MicroSD (Debian Wheezy)
  • 10/100 Ethernet port.
  • USB 2.0 x 2
  • 1 USB OTG
  • AV/Headphone Jack
  • HDMI v1.3 digital HD interface
  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • SD /MMC/MS card reader

HDMI cable and 5V, 2A power supply are included in the package. The HDMI interface supports 720P native resolution. Below is an image of  VolksPC hardware showing all the ports.


VolksPC Software

For VolksPC we have created a Unified Distribution that runs Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and Debian Wheezy applications simultaneously. This video clip shows how both Debian LXDE and Android Jelly Bean work on VolksPC.


The Linux desktop on start-up will get the time zone, locale, and keyboard configuration from Android.

The Debian  file system  can reside in internal Flash as a single linuxfs.img  or in external MicroSD. In either case it is upgradebale. Android can be upgraded using the OTG port and RKBatchTools running on  a Windows PC.

Our unified software is  stable and runs well on a RK3066 based set-top box provided by a large Shenzhen manufacturer. Our latest release is based on XFCE desktop.  This short video clip shows our final hardware and software.


Review of Unified Distribution

We only have a few boxes of our final hardware so we don't have enough units to give for testing. We have also ported and tested our software on MK808 mini-PC. Mr Jean-Luc Aufranc from cnx-software was kind enough to review the MK808 running our unified Android and Debian distribution.

Here is a video clip of his review.


Some of the things that he liked:

  • Performance is good- fast booting, fast switching and fast loading of LibreOffice and Chromium.
  • He tested several Android apps such ES File Explorer, Google Play, YouTube and they all worked well.
  • Antutu 4.x benchmark gave a score of 10521 points. This confirmed that Debian did not in any way slow down Android.

Some software issues that he found:

  • He could not login to SAMBA share with ES File Explorer. This will be fixed.
  • Some Debian directories and files are not visible from Android. This will be fixed.

Some stability issues that seems particular to MK808 hardware:

  • Random WIfi disconnects. This is particular to MK808 as can be seen if you Google "MK808 WIfI problems".
  • Random disconnect of USB keybord. We could not duplicate this on our hardware.

The MK808 is a low cost mini-PC with limited ports requiring users to connect to an external hub to provide additional ports. Also the power supply provided with MK808 is not designed to source current required for the additional USB devices causing some instability.

Our final hardware has comprehensive set of ports, Wifi antennae and much better heat dissipation. We have not seen any stability issues in our testing.

MicroXwin Technology

At VolksPC LLC we created the fastest X-Windows implementation called MicroXwin. Here is a clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zttcdPtJN8A) of MicroXwin running on a Raspberry Pi and on a Cubieboard2 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T18FhSTQ08k).

Linux desktop distributions don't have any interest in providing Android compatibility. There are community projects such as Linux on Android which allow Linux desktop graphics to be displayed on Android through VNC viewer. The problem with this approach is that Linux graphics applications must run through several software layers making it very slow.

With MicroXwin graphics technology we can run  both Android and Debian applications at native speeds.

Technical FAQ

What are the benefits of integrating Android with Debian ?

Users can install a lot of applications both  from Android market place and from Debian repositories.

What Debian applications are pre-installed on VolksPC ?

We have a base set off applications such as Chrome Browser, LibreOffice suite, Evince PDF viewer, Mplayer Video Playback, Transmission  bit-torrent client and Pidgin chat client.

Why doesn’t Debian run KDE or Gnome desktop ?

Both KDE and Gnome are big desktops in terms of memory usage. Our  latest unified distribution  is based on XFCE desktop environment.

 Is this technology same as Linux On Android ?

Linux on Android uses VNC viewer Android application  to display Linux desktop graphics. In our implementation Linux desktop graphics is handled by  MicroXwin which make our solution very fast.

Who  is the default user on Debian ?

Our distribution is set up to auto login into user  called desktop. There is no password prompt.

How is time zone and locale configured for Debian ?

When Debian starts up it reads this configuration form Android settings. So if user changes Android settings it will take effect on the next boot.

Is GPU supported on the unified distribution ?

Android supports GPU and OpenGL ES applications. Debian on the other hand  doesn’t have support for GPU  at this time. We will add GPU support for Debian when there are  more OpenGL ES games available.

Wouldn’t Debian applications run slower without GPU support ?

GPU accelerates 3D rendering but for most 2D rendering CPU works better than GPU as there is significant overhead in setting up the GPU hardware. Also MicroXwin is much  faster than standard X. GPU can accelerate Linux Games but there are not many OpenGL ES games available on Debian.

Why support this project

Linux desktop distributions such as Debian have had limited market success because there are not many commercial applications written for it. Also  x86 computers  with Debain/Ubuntu pre-installed are more expensive than a Windows PC.

With VolksPC we can create a Linux PC that is low cost and has access to a  large base of both commercial and open source applications. We think that this VolksPC unit is perfect for students of science and technology who can learn programming with the tools available on Debian and also have access to games on the Android market place.

With our expertise in Linux graphics (MicroXwin ) we are uniquely qualified to create such a device.

What will the money be used for

Our manufacturer needs a minimum order quantity of 1000 units to ship boxes with our software installed on the internal Flash memory. With your pledges we will be able to do so.

If we surpass our goals, we will invest the funds for even better integration between Android and Linux.

Project Timeline

This is our rough estimates on the various milestones for this project.

  • August 1- Indiegogo Campaign  Begins.  We already have few samples from our manufacturer.  We are finalizing software and continuing with more  testing.
  • September 1- Close of Campaign. At this point we should have final software release ready for manufacturing. Our manufacturing partner will be informed about the expected volume and required deposit will be sent. Manufacturer needs 30 days to get box ready.
  • October 1- November 15 Pledge Fulfillment. We will receive VolksPC from our Shenzhen manufacturer and will start shipping to our backers.

Risks & Challenges

We are primarily a software company and our software has been extensively tested on the several RK3066 based set-top boxes. If there are software issues after deployment users can upgrade both Android and XFCE distribution.

Manufacturing is always a risk and challenge. To mitigate this risk we have based our design on a mature Rockchip RK3066 SOC and a set-top box that is already being manufactured and shipped in high volumes. We are not making any changes to their hardware. The only change we are making is to replace their Android distribution with ours.

Shipping

US shipping is included in the perk. Add an additional $30 for world wide shipping.

Customs Fees & Duties:  You will most likely have to pay duties upon delivery of your perk outside the USA.  These vary by country and we cannot quote them ahead of time.  In the EU expect to pay the VAT and any national sales tax.  In Canada GST will likely be charged.  Please check your local laws.  .

About VolksPC LLC

We are a software company with developers based in Silicon Valley and Bangalore. We created a high performance X-WIndows software called MicroXwin that is 2X faster than standard X.

With VolksPC we want to combine our software expertise with commodity Android hardware to create a unique system that is user-friendly, hackable, fast and can run both Android and Debian applications simultaneously.



Find This Campaign On
$1,519USD
raised in 1 month
2% funded
No time left
$80,000 USD goal
Fixed Funding This campaign did not meet its $80,000USD funding goal by the deadline.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on August 31, 2014
Select a Perk
  • $1USD
    VOLKSPC SUPPORTER

    You want to support our efforts to build a low cost Linux PC.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2014
  • $30USD
    Forgot International Shipping

    If you already contributed for a VolksPC unit but need it shipped outside the USA, select this perk.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2014
  • $99USD
    VOLKSPC WITHOUT SDCRAD

    One VolksPC unit with Android Jelly Bean installed in Flash and without MicroSD card. User can easily add Debian XFCE image to internal Flash. Please add additional $30 for International Shipping

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2014
  • $119USD
    VOLKSPC EARLY BIRD SPECIAL:

    One VolksPC unit with Android Jelly Beans and Debian based XFCE installed. Please add additional $30 for International Shipping

    9 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2014
  • $129USD
    VOLKSPC

    One VolksPC unit with Android Jelly Beans and Debian based XFCE installed. Please add additional $30 for International Shipping

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: October 2014
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