Today I had the pleasure of visiting armzone.com in Shanghai. Now if that was like visiting any other hardware or electronics store, I wouldn't be blogging about it. It might actually be that visiting any shop like this in China is a similar experience. But I'll write it anyway, you don't have to read it.
So we were there to buy some S3C2410 based development boards (full-featured, basically PDA development boards, including 65MB SDRAM, 64MB NAND Flash, Ethernet, USB host and device, a CPLD, IDE, 2xSerial, JTAG, SD-Card, ..). The first thing to notice was the price. Including a touch screen LCD panel they were something like USD 180 each. Actually less than any PDA based on them would cost in the western world. Aren't devel boards usually at least one order of magnitude more expensive than the actual systems you're going to design with them?
Then we were looking for some JTAG adaptor compatible with that devel board. The boards ship with a wiggler, which is supported by OpenOCD and also some s3c2410 version of JFlash, but which is slow as hell. Sort of the least interesting option. They had a number of USB and parallel port models available, some of them clones of well-known modules such as MultiICE, some others being developed by themselves.
The main problem was that they all seem to require some RDI server to run on a windows box. Hey, If I'm doing Linux target development on a Linux host system, they ask me to run a windows box just for that daemon? They must be kidding me. So my Chinese contacts engaged in some almost two hour debate on whether he couldn't release the source code to their own RDI server so I can port/re-implement that code on Linux, and why it might be a benefit to them to get that Linux version back to ship with further products. The debate also seems to have included all kinds of other options. Going as far as to the shop wanting to sell us a Raven compatible device, to which we almost agreed, only to learn that he needs a week to produce some more apart from the engineering sample.
One other thing we'd need for the parallel port versions is a PCMCIA parport card. Yes, such things actually exist, and you can buy them even on some Chinese eBay like site whose name I forgot. Rather than buying that, armzone offered us to wait two weeks, until then they will have built (!) their own parport adaptor for only a part of the price. Yes, they would have gone all the way down to molding a case for the parport connector sticking out of PCMCIA, etc. And that for us buying a max of 5 of those cards. Hey, we're talking about electronics / PCB / case design here, not about whether I want ketchup with my french fries!
This seriously made me wonder whether when you buy a car in China they also ask you if they should be personally just for you build a different car radio from scratch. These guys are crazy...