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Let me start with a disclaimer. I am a software guy who can write regular c++ or .net programs. I also write programs for arm based hand held devices using QT and C. But my idea on this electronics and ARM hardware part is very poor.

I am just trying to put together a toy handheld hardware for myself using arm kits. I have been looking up & searching google for some stuff like "Arm Development board" , "arm stamp module" etc.,

I understand that arm stamp module is something like a final production PCB. The development board is for some evaluation software development kit.

Just tried looking up stackexchange for

But I want to know how to build my own reader with the following.

  • arm processor
  • usb, rs232/UART, LAN, power adapter
  • keyboard facility
  • some kind of TFT monitor etc.,

Please do understand that I do not want the entire design or whatsoever. But need an idea of

  • How a arm development board (viz. mini6410) will help me in achieving this?
  • or do I need to use something else to design my own arm hardware?
  • or is it like regular circuit design with resistors/capacitors/arm processor/transistors/diodes etc.,?

Am just trying to put the puzzle pieces together and they are not matching to me yet..

Any pointers to good resources to understanding the whole picture would be appreciated.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ what is your real goal here, the nature of your target device, you might as well just buy something a kit with all that put together, or just get a nook color and write your own apps for it. If it is hardware and on the metal stuff you want to learn, then focus on a few bytes out a serial port, blink some leds, etc, displays, lan, etc are all very advanced. take it one step at a time. \$\endgroup\$ – old_timer Jul 16 '12 at 2:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ My goal is to understand the overall concept of where the arm dev board fits and if it can be used for building my own handheld arm computer/device. If this dev board is not for building hardware boards, then what else should I use etc., Ultimately, I would employ someone to do the job, but I should know the basics of this before doing so. \$\endgroup\$ – Muthu Jul 16 '12 at 2:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ again, if you are interested in a high level application then what lies underneath doesnt matter, you can develop the application on a laptop or desktop, etc, no reason to cobble up bits and pieces when everything you need you probably already have (you typed this question on the hardware that can do the job). \$\endgroup\$ – old_timer Jul 16 '12 at 3:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I understand that and already doing a bit using QT platform with linux for a purchased handheld. But as a next step, would like to understand how to build my own hardware to do the same as this would be crucial for my business. It would be enough if there are custom arm linux boards, small TFT monitors, keyboards etc., available for me to buy them as separate components and assemble them together to save cost. That itself would be a great step forward for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Muthu Jul 16 '12 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahh, well lots of research if you go this alone. You need to know what processing power is required, find the chips with that power, examine the reference designs for those chips and derive your design from those reference designs. Same goes for the display, buttons, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – old_timer Jul 16 '12 at 3:18
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Often I have a question, but I don't even know enough about the topic to know how to use the right words to phrase the question. Is one of the following one of the questions you really intended to ask?

  • Which is better, the Micro 2440 "Stamp Module" or the Micro 2440 "SDK-Board" ( both from FriendlyARM ), for running a program I custom-write to display stuff on a touch panel? Both. These two boards are designed to plug into each other; neither one is useful alone. (But perhaps the "Stamp Module" could plug into some carrier board other than the SDK board, as described below).

  • Can I buy a bunch of FriendlyARM Mini 2440 SBC SDK-Board + Stamp Module and FriendlyARM accessories from FriendlyARM, install Linux on it, install my own custom application on that, put it in a box and sell them to customers? Yes.

  • Are there standard ARM Linux boards, small TFT monitors, etc. kind of like the FriendlyARM Mini 2440 SBC, that I could buy as separate components, assemble, then put my own custom application on it and sell to customers? Yes. Some of them are listed at "motherboards that run Linux".

  • Do I need to custom-design my own hardware from scratch? No. While you could do that, another option is to assemble separate components, as mentioned above.

  • If none of the standard ARM Linux board was quite what I wanted, could I save money by hire someone to custom-design a handheld Linux board for me that has exactly what I need, rather than using these off-the-shelf modules that have a bunch of stuff I don't want? Maybe. Because of economies of scale, standard off-the-shelf components are going to be lower cost than custom-designed products produced in lower quantities. It's often lower total cost to use a OTS component rather than design something new, even when the OTS component includes several things you never use. (This is one reason why smaller, lighter products are sometimes more expensive than bigger, heavier products that do more).

  • If the standard ARM Linux boards plus the accessories I need are too big to fit in the handheld shape I want, but only because they include a bunch of stuff I wasn't going to use anyway, could I hire someone to more-or-less copy the design, leave out the parts I don't use, and fit it into the shape I want? Yes.

    • Option 1: prototype with a pile of "open hardware" boards. Once you confirm that the prototype does everything you want it to do (except it's the wrong shape and weighs too much), you or any engineer you hire can copy-and-paste the original schematics into one big schematic, edit that big schematic to cut out all the stuff you don't need, (optionally) cut the schematic into multiple boards, and then lay out one or (optionally) several PCBs in the appropriate shape you need. The engineer can design the PCB so it connects the remaining components exactly the same way, so the software can't tell the difference.
    • Option 2: If it looks like a pile of non-open-hardware boards, all from the same manufacturer, will do what you want, you can ask that manufacturer to design a custom board (or multiple boards) that fits exactly the shape you want. Pretty much any manufacturer is more than willing to produce a customized version of their products, if you pay them enough money for the up-front design and per-board price. If you are lucky you can negotiate that price to something you can live with.
    • Option 3: prototype with a pile of boards, some of them "open hardware" and some of them non-open-hardware from a variety of manufacturers. The engineer designs a "carrier board" so your final product includes the carrier board and a bunch of off-the-shelf components plugged into it -- all of the non-open-hardware components, and perhaps some of the off-the-shelf open-hardware components. Option 3 often gives the fastest time-to-market, because the carrier board does so little that it's much quicker to design and test it than a huge monolithic board.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ David, Thanks. I think I understood most of what I wanted to know. \$\endgroup\$ – Muthu Jul 17 '12 at 1:40

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