56 Replies Latest reply on Dec 6, 2013 3:38 PM by agrahambell

    New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

    jamodio

      Yet another ARM Cortex board ... The pcDuino com ... getting one to see how compares with the Rpi ...

       

      Atr least I didn't have to wake up in wee hours like a year ago to get one.

       

      Cheers

      Jorge

        • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
          John Beetem

          Nice board!  I found a link to sparkfun.com if others are interested.

           

          Initial impressions: kind of like Cubieboard, but with a lot less I/O.  Unfortunate that they didn't bring out SATA, as that would have made it a better "PC".

           

          I'll be interested how it stacks up against the new BeagleBone.  Yes, pcDuino has twice the DRAM, but BBone has tons of I/O pins and some very interesting peripherals like PRUSS.

           

          The real deciding factor on all of these is software support.  I think the RasPi community is doing the best in this regard for most users.  OTOH, if you need reliable USB or Ethernet you're better off with BBone.  Plus it's the only one with chip documentation openly available AFAIK.

            • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
              jamodio

              I agree, I received the Cubieboard not long ago, but didn't have time to play much with it. They had some issues with the USB power cables they shipped but few days ago I received a new one.

               

              I agree with your comment about the coming bbone, TI so far has open documentation and good support, I'm still waiting to see what happens with the guys that were trying to put together the wandboard which has the Freescale SoC which has documentation available.

               

              Can remember the name but there was somebody here in the forum looking to put something together with the Freescale chip.

               

              I believe we are going to see an increasing number of boards out there, no doubt the most popular for many continues to be the Raspberry Pi, it is still a good choice for many applications and for quick prototyping. Where I'm right now (sort of a technology incubator) there is a group of folks using it for a prototype to hook up vending machines to the Internet, but the final product will most probably be a microcontroller based board.

               

              -J

            • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

              jamodio wrote:

               

              Atr least I didn't have to wake up in wee hours like a year ago to get one.

               

              admit it, you missed the experience :-P

               

              I got a Sabre-Lite with the quad-core freescale chip, and it's rather nice. Also got a Olinuxino-maxi and while it's noticably underpowered compared to the rest it's certainly better on the IO front.

               

              Just waiting for some of these A10 boards to become available in a place that doesn't require three arms and four legs for shipping to the UK

                • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                  jamodio

                  OK I checked the Wandboard and the only ones that seem to have stock in the USA is DigiKey but they are jacking up the prices, the dual is about $115 USD + SH when the regular price listed on the wandboard site is $99, which is pricey but still acceptable but $115 is too much.

                   

                  I've three Olinuxino's, the maxi and maxi and micro with the Freescale chip and the A13-WiFi. Love them !! Not easy to compare with the Rpi but as you say for IO stuff they are good enough and reasonable priced by distributors, Mouser sells the micro for $29.

                   

                  The pcDuino arrived few days ago but didn't have a chance yet to test it, in person looks bigger than I expected. I like that they used a AXP209 for power management, but I do not like (as I still do with the Rpi) the idea of using the microUSB connector for input power, I still believe is a bad idea.

                  Since it runs Android it has a couple of pushbuttons for Home, Back, Menu, but where they placed them is kind of awkward, Back and Home are right between the USB host connectors. Has some I/O but not much better than the Rpi, but is a plus that there are some analog inputs, but don't get too excited according to the user's guide two of them are only 6 bit.

                   

                  I have to go to Austin tomorrow for SXSW Create and a hardware Meetup and probably family will keep me out of the office/lab on Sunday, so I'll probably have more comments during next week when I get a chance to fire it up.

                   

                  Cheers

                  Jorge

                    • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                      morgaine

                      The Wandboard is indicated as ex-stock at Mouser UK , both the Solo and the Dual versions, and I was happily going through the process of ordering a Dual.  Then I got to the delivery options page, and discovered that the GBP price, UK site, and "Stock 182 Can Dispatch Immediately" does not mean that it's in stock in the UK.  Everything is dispatched from Texas.

                       

                      Those with previous experience of Mouser will of course chuckle, but laughter wasn't my response.  I cancelled, since I want next-day delivery.and sub-orbital courier wasn't being offered.  (Actually, just on principle.)

                       

                      Sabre-Lite is the obvious alternative and is ex-stock at Farnell UK, but at £128.06 it's well outside my "below the radar" cut-off point for snap purchases. That's encroaching on low-end full PC territory.  Atom then enters the picture, as well as fully cased commercial products.  A prototyping board at that price requires well considered justification.

                       

                      So, no i.MX6 for me at this point.

                        • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                          there's a distinct lack of options for getting hold of a lot of these boards in the UK, the A10S & A13 olinuxino have been a/w delivery for an age, sabre-lite appears to be the only iMX6 available locally.  By the time you add shipping cost and time delay to get things from the other side of the planet they start looking much less attractive too.

                           

                          Sure you can use Mouser/Digikey, but as you've found they really ship from the US.  I looked at getting a Boundary iMX6 nitrogen_6x board, they use Arrow and when I finally made it through the impenetrable wall that Arrow puts up in front of non-US customers, a $200 board was working out at around $450 - or twice the price of a sabre-lite from farnell. So you get a board with the connectors all on one side, but still not worth that much ot a price jump.

                           

                          I'd really like to see farnell stock something like the cubieboard / wandboard / marsboard / odroid etc.

                           

                          but anyway, for ths price of a sabre-lite, you can get four and a bit BeagleBone Black's, the downside is that you don't get a sata interface.  Now a cubieboard with ballpark specs similar to BBB, but twice the ram and a sata port for $5 more sounds really good, just that getting it here is painful.

                           

                          One option for US sourced stuff is to register with a us-uk forwarding service. You do have to be willing to wait a few days, but can then ship stuff to your US address for buttons and they then forward it to you for a total cost that's a lot less than most direct-ship prices I've seen.

                          A friend did this recently in order to be able to buy something from Amazon US - $30 part, $100 ship to UK, $5 ship to the other side of the US, $25 to ship all the way back across the US and on to the UK. Totally nuts.

                           

                          The thing about an Atom board is more about what you want to do with it - want GPIO then it's not the right choice, but if all you want is a cheap PC....

                           

                          Right now, in the UK, BBB wins. Partly because it's easily available - if you know where to look, they still show stock today .  Someone making cubieboard available in the UK, next day, could change that playing field again.

                            • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                              morgaine

                              selsinork wrote:

                               

                              The thing about an Atom board is more about what you want to do with it - want GPIO then it's not the right choice, but if all you want is a cheap PC....

                               

                              Actually, about a billion industrial computers might argue with that assessment.

                               

                              Although it has started to change in recent times as ARM application processors have fused with microcontrollers to create highly integrated SoCs, for many decades what is now termed "application processor" was handled by x86 devices embedded on industrial computing boards using a variety of form factors.  One very common one is PC/104 which has a very long history and continues to serve the needs of industry well.  With I/O boards being separate from CPU boards in PC/104, the industry developed an extremely diverse ecosystem of I/O boards to cover every nook and cranny of the industrial control space, thousands of them.  Other form factors inhabited the same niche too.

                               

                              I still have some of the old PICMG standard enclosures, passive backplanes and plug-in CPU cards gathering dust here.  In its time PICMG was a very robust standard for industrial rackmount control equipment, although in my case I was just capitalizing on its redundant industrial power supplies to improve computing availability.  It was entirely common for such enclosures to contain 16-20 slots worth of I/O boards controlled by 1-4 plug-in CPU boards.

                               

                              So really Atom is just the latest member of a family that has been the bedrock of industrial computing and control for a very long time.  (Other names in the same space are AMD's Geode and Via's CoreFusion.)  "x86 for embedded" doesn't get much press compared to ARM these days, but that's mostly a matter of perception.  If one takes a peek behind the forbidding door marked "industrial computing", x86 is very active in the sector.

                                • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                  Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                   

                                  Actually, about a billion industrial computers might argue with that assessment.

                                   

                                  I don't disagree with any of what you said, it's just been my experience that when you start talking about industrial computing you either have a very expensive custom industrial board that just happens to have enough passing resemblance to a PC to be able to run windows.. Or, you have a cheap commodity PC with a card in it that likely costs many times more than the PC itself.

                                  (In my line, this could often take the form of something like a GPIB card connected to a bit of equipment worth several millions of times the cost of the PC).

                                   

                                  So I'd suggest that, while you're correct, you've also went way past the point of an Atom based PC that costs less than a Sabre-Lite.

                                    • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                      morgaine

                                      selsinork wrote:

                                       

                                      So I'd suggest that, while you're correct, you've also went way past the point of an Atom based PC that costs less than a Sabre-Lite.

                                       

                                      Intel isn't predisposed to making CPUs cheap, so you're probably right that prices are going to be at the upper end of what the embedded market will bear.  However, ARM is applying immense pressure there, and Intel doesn't have too many options --- they'll have to  make Atom prices acceptable or they might as well abandon the embedded market altogether.  There's no point bringing a device to market at a price where it won't sell.

                                       

                                      I think that they're going to make the price acceptable, even if only marginally so.  Here is some evidence that they realize their predicament in the embedded space and are prepared to price their embedded CPUs less outrageously than is usual in their other markets --- the open hardware Minnowboard, expected release in July 2013.

                                       

                                      The price is not yet fixed, other than "less than US$200", but I rather doubt that it's going to be $199 because the market wouldn't take that too kindly in these "Pi days", and they know it.  Also, the board provides gigabit Ethernet, SATA, PCIe, GPIO, CAN, I2C and SPI, a combined feature set that is quite uncommon in the ARM ecosystem at present so the spec isn't unreasonable.  It's quite likely to be a better candidate for some applications than Sabre-Lite, depending on price, particularly when good networking is required.

                                       

                                      Atom isn't the only game in embedded x86 town though, as I mentioned earlier.  I expect AMD and Via to respond as well, and others.  There's quite a number of smaller x86 players in this space as well.  I don't expect embedded x86 to disappear just because these are great days for ARM.  It'll respond and adapt.

                                        • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                          Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                           

                                           

                                          Intel isn't predisposed to making CPUs cheap, so you're probably right that prices are going to be at the upper end of what the embedded market will bear. 

                                          Well you can get an atom based board for around 50 quid today. The catch is that it won't have all those useful IO options, you probably get VGA, 10/100 network and a pci slot.  But is it just a cheap PC, economies of scale and all that.

                                           

                                          I did a quick google for PCI CAN & I2C cards, I forget which way round, but something like $499 for CAN and 200 euros for I2C. Both found pretty much exclusively in the embedded/industrial sorts of sites - no economies of scale, silly prices.

                                           

                                          Looking at your minnowboard, that feature set could be copied verbatim from sabre-lite, apart from it's a single core.  So it needs to be a lot less than $199. Sill there are all sorts of advantages to being in familiar x86 territory - just being able to build/debug the code on your normal PC then copy it over is a surprisingly useful thing.

                                           

                                          I already have a couple of Geode embedded systems and the catch is that they're not quite enough like an ordinary PC. So you end up compiling special versions of things specifically for them, they're also twice the cost of that Atom board, slower than the Pi etc.  So outside some niche uses there's no particular advantage.

                                            • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                              morgaine

                                              selsinork wrote:

                                               

                                              Looking at your minnowboard, that feature set could be copied verbatim from sabre-lite, apart from it's a single core.  So it needs to be a lot less than $199.

                                               

                                              The Minnowboard offers gigabit Ethernet, Sabre-Lite only 100Mbps.

                                               

                                              That factor of 10 can make a colossal difference in a network-intensive application, and can place the Sabre-Lite totally out of the picture.  Indeed, it's pretty bizarre I think that a new i.MX6 board pitched at a fairly high price point should choose not to provide gigabit when the SoC supports it, especially when the designers chose the quad core SoC which is the top of the range device.  The design choices don't seem to be consistent..

                                               

                                              Also, since Wandboard offers gigabit Ethernet even in their cheap Solo version, the incremental BOM cost of gigabit clearly cannot be much, reinforcing the oddity of the choice in Sabre-Lite.

                                               

                                              The end result of this is that if the Minnowboard were to be released at the same price as Sabre-Lite, I'd choose the Atom board without hesitation because I consider networking so important.  The only question in my mind is how much higher the price could be before I decide it's too much.  Even then though, my money wouldn't be spent on the Sabre-Lite.  Instead, I'd grit my teeth and order a Wandboard from Texas.

                                               

                                              Although I accept that not everyone feels the same, for me the attraction of gigabit is immense.  All of my current machines use gigabit NICs with the exception of the ARM boards, and I want to correct that.  Even my main Internet link is faster than 100Mbps, although not by much (120Mbps).

                                               

                                              For a specific application, the slower network speed might not matter of course, as the requirements dictate what is satisfactory and what isn't.  But when buying a general purpose prototyping board with no specific application in mind, over 100 quid for 100 meg LAN is just not good enough for 2013! .

                                               

                                              Morgaine.

                                                • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                  Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                                   

                                                  The Minnowboard offers gigabit Ethernet, Sabre-Lite only 100Mbps.

                                                  No, SL does Gigabit too. I just logged into one of mine to check.

                                                   

                                                  I agree that 100Mb is no longer good enough, and I'll point out that there's an errata for the iMX6 that means you'll not get gigabit throughput (approx 400MB/s aggregate IIRC), and that's going to apply to the wandboard or anything else with an iMX6. At least until it's fixed, but we have no way of knowing when or even if that'll happen. There have been improvements in more recent versions of the chip, see http://boundarydevices.com/i-mx6-ethernet/

                                                    • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                      morgaine

                                                      selsinork wrote:

                                                       

                                                      Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                                       

                                                      The Minnowboard offers gigabit Ethernet, Sabre-Lite only 100Mbps.

                                                      No, SL does Gigabit too. I just logged into one of mine to check.

                                                       

                                                      Arghhh!!!!!  Entirely my fault.  The Ethernet speeds are quoted (very oddly) as "10/100/Gb", and my mind parsed that as some kind of typo and noted that "1000" was not mentioned.  It's entirely my fault for not adhering to the principle of "Be flexible in what you read but strict in what you write".

                                                       

                                                      I will point out to marketting copy writers though that "10/100/Gb" is at the very least dimensionally incorrect, and you're writing for engineers.

                                                       

                                                      Cool, so Sabre-Lite does gigabit.  That puts a completely different perspective on it, for me.  Let me re-evaluate.

                                                      • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                        morgaine

                                                        selsinork wrote:

                                                         

                                                        There have been improvements in more recent versions of the chip, see http://boundarydevices.com/i-mx6-ethernet/

                                                         

                                                        That site is awesome --- measurement and numbers are the essense of engineering, everything else is wishful thinking and guesswork.  And yes, I'm looking forward to updated tapeouts.

                                                          • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                            Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                                             

                                                            That site is awesome

                                                            If you do decide on the iMX6 route - SL in particular - then the boundary devices blog is a goldmine of useful information.

                                                             

                                                            I tried to post links to all of the stuff I could find in the helpfully named "element 14 development kit for iMX 6Quad" area here http://www.element14.com/community/community/knode/single-board_computers/sabrelite?view=discussions although you have about as much chance of finding it yourself as finding the BBB discussions area...

                                                             

                                                            I'm still hoping to see someome produce a simple BBB / cubieboard style device with an iMX6 on it.

                                                              • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                morgaine

                                                                selsinork wrote:

                                                                 

                                                                I'm still hoping to see someome produce a simple BBB / cubieboard style device with an iMX6 on it.

                                                                 

                                                                I think there's ample room for quite a variety of i.MX6-based boards, each cost-optimized for a specific niche.

                                                                 

                                                                One obvious candidate is an Internet microserver board containing nothing but SoC, memory, LAN, SATA and power.  The BOM cost of such a minimalist feature set would be substantially less than the Wandboard for the corresponding number of cores, maybe even half the cost because the board area could be shrunk and numerous connectors eliminated.  Very much a child of the Pi cost era.

                                              • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                                 

                                                The Wandboard is indicated as ex-stock at Mouser UK , both the Solo and the Dual versions, and I was happily going through the process of ordering a Dual.  Then I got to the delivery options page, and discovered that the GBP price, UK site, and "Stock 182 Can Dispatch Immediately" does not mean that it's in stock in the UK.  Everything is dispatched from Texas.

                                                So I ordered a couple of Wandboard Quads from Future Electronics this week. Much like Mouser/Digikey they ship from the US even when you go through their UK site.

                                                Sabre-Lite is the obvious alternative and is ex-stock at Farnell UK, but at £128.06 it's well outside my "below the radar" cut-off point for snap purchases.

                                                £76.42 for the WBQuad from Future, based on todays exchange rates that's slightly below the $129 list price. I need to add UK VAT onto that, so they come in at £91.70

                                                Currently with free shipping.

                                                 

                                                The downside was a couple of days lost to export compliance paperwork much like mcb1 had when buying his BBB. However once complete, it's valid for three years.

                                                On the shipping side, the package left their Memphis warehouse at approx 04:00 GMT Thursday morning and arrived here at 13:02 Friday.  Ok, that's still going to be 2 days best case, but not too shabby.

                                                 

                                                I considered the CubieTruck, but the cost of getting one locally is £94.99 plus delivery here Cool Components Cubietruck Kit - Dual Core Single-board Computer which really doesn't compare well. I could probably have tried to get one from China, but quoted shipping costs ant times are not good which means the CT looks very overpriced given it's a dual core with otherwise similar-ish specs.

                                                 

                                                On the Cubieboard front, they now also appear to be available in the UK here http://www.newit.co.uk/shop/All_Cubieboard/Cubieboard2 at what's likely to be a bit less than CoolComponents. No CT on that site for comparison though.

                                          • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                            John Beetem

                                            The MarsBoard looks interesting: Allwinner A10, 1GB DDR, 4GB NAND Flash, SD card, 10/100 Ethernet, Micro HDMI, SATA, 2 USB host, 1 USB OTG, 140 expansion pins on 2mm connectors.

                                             

                                            US$50 including worldwide shipping, according to the web site.  I'll be interested in hearing whether it's reliable and seeing whether a community grows up around it.

                                             

                                            I'm glad to see another board with 2mm connectors -- encourages production of cheap jumper wires.

                                              • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                John Beetem wrote:

                                                 

                                                The MarsBoard looks interesting: Allwinner A10, 1GB DDR, 4GB NAND Flash, SD card, 10/100 Ethernet, Micro HDMI, SATA, 2 USB host, 1 USB OTG, 140 expansion pins on 2mm connectors.

                                                 

                                                Seemingly the marsboard and cubieboard are logically very close - no idea if they're physically identical enough with regards to expansion header pinouts.

                                                 

                                                But back to Morgaines question, can I get one delivered tomorrow ?  No.

                                                Their 'free shipping' is 10-30 days to the UK, possibly faster for between $24.09 and $41.85 depending on which of the five options you pick and 2-4 days being the best. Ok, we don't quite double the cost of the board to get it here, but close.

                                                 

                                                $45 BBB vs $49 marsboard ?  close enough that I'd not care. but I can get a BBB delivered tomorrow for $45 because they're available locally. Marsboard at $90 and a week to get here is a different decision altogether

                                              • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                colecago

                                                I have a pcDuino and I like it.  I like it better than my old 256Mb Pi, thought I didn't spend much time on the Pi before I got rid of it, it was really slow and cumbersome. Not sure how well the new Pi does.

                                                 

                                                I plan on using my pcDuino for a makerfaire project involving a webcam.  I also recently got a BeagleBone Black from a contest on Element14.  After I get my stuff up and running on the pcDuino, I might port it to the BBB because of its smaller size and lower current consumption.

                                                • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                  jamodio

                                                  I've the Wandboard Quad on the bench, worked out of the box !

                                                   

                                                  Added the WiFi antenna, few minutes configuration via the ubuntu system settings, and joined my WiFi network without a glitch.

                                                   

                                                  Very, very impressed with the quality of video, even playing videos through vnc. Nicely done. Blog article coming soon ...

                                                   

                                                  Wandboard-001.jpg

                                                   

                                                  Cheers

                                                  Jorge

                                                    • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                      I'm interested to know if that heatsink is really needed, and how hot it gets... The SL doesn't come with one, so it's intesesting that the wandboard does.

                                                        • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                          jamodio

                                                          Selsinork,

                                                          I believe only the quad has a heatsink, didn't measure it but just running the operating system with a graphics session on the console via HDMI, wireless keyboard/touchpad and another X server for remote VNC access it feels slightly warm.

                                                           

                                                          I had it up and running for over a week without a glitch so I finally decided to give a permanent spot in the lab, so I've got the enclosure ($9 and better stuff than what you get for the same money for the Rpi) and has been up for over 3 days now.

                                                           

                                                          One con about the enclosure is that you lose access to the microSD on the processor board, but you still have accesible the socket on the carrier board which I'm planning to use for a separate /home filesystem. Didn't try yet to use the SATA interface.

                                                           

                                                          Here are some pics of the board in its enclosure.

                                                          Wandboard3.JPG

                                                           

                                                          Very tempted to get another but the Solo model for another project.

                                                           

                                                          Cheers

                                                          Jorge

                                                        • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                          Drew Fustini

                                                          Thanks for very sharing - very cool!  You seem to have all the cool single board computer toys

                                                            • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                              jamodio

                                                              You are welcome Drew.

                                                               

                                                              I do embedded system development and R&D on Internet of Things, so I'm always looking for modular solutions where an RTOS is not enough or needs to be complemented with something that can support eLinux, so yes I've a large collection of sbc's and trying to make some time to start writing some blog articles about them.

                                                               

                                                              Cheers

                                                              Jorge

                                                                • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                  Drew Fustini

                                                                  That sounds like a fun career

                                                                   

                                                                  Off-topic... when I advocate OSHW, one of the points I makes is that it enables a professional engineer to modify a devkit or SBC to optimize for their use case.  Do you ever do this?  It would be interesting to have some examples to back up this theory.

                                                                   

                                                                  thanks,

                                                                  drew

                                                                    • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                      jamodio

                                                                      Drew Fustini wrote:

                                                                       

                                                                      That sounds like a fun career

                                                                       

                                                                      Off-topic... when I advocate OSHW, one of the points I makes is that it enables a professional engineer to modify a devkit or SBC to optimize for their use case.  Do you ever do this?  It would be interesting to have some examples to back up this theory.

                                                                       

                                                                      Yes it is a lot of fun, never took a job that I didn't have fun doing it

                                                                       

                                                                      About your question, it depends on the application and the volume. Most of the time we look for off-the-shelf modular solutions that can help  doing quick prototyping, proof of concept development and small production runs, in those cases it is not worth the extra time adding  uncertainity, risk and cost driven by a new set of design files, parts procurement, pcb fabrication, assembly, etc. When you get a ready made SBC you have a high probability that it will work out of the box at no additional cost, and if it doesn't work you return it and get a new one.

                                                                       

                                                                      Now if the application requires a lot of customization, the volume justifies the extra design and production costs or you are trying also to increase reliability, having an OSHW design gives you a better starting point than starting from scratch, but again it has a lot to do with the application and the costs.

                                                                       

                                                                      One of the great benefits of OSHW besides that you can modify an existing design, is that you can learn a lot by looking at the deteails on the design files, for example on dense pcb layouts a bga fan out and scape routing strategy that you know it worked, or placement of decoupling caps, parts used on the design like a PMIC that you can consider using in your designs, etc.

                                                                       

                                                                      Also having full access to design files helps to perform a more educated analysis of a particular SBC, most of the time in serious engineering you can't keep folks happy with the taste of the sausage, we really want to know what is on it and how it is made.

                                                                       

                                                                      My .02

                                                                      Jorge

                                                                        • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                          morgaine

                                                                          jamodio wrote:

                                                                           

                                                                          Most of the time we look for off-the-shelf modular solutions that can help  doing quick prototyping, proof of concept development and small production runs, in those cases it is not worth the extra time adding  uncertainity, risk and cost driven by a new set of design files, parts procurement, pcb fabrication, assembly, etc. When you get a ready made SBC you have a high probability that it will work out of the box at no additional cost, and if it doesn't work you return it and get a new one.

                                                                           

                                                                          Do you get any sense of the embedded industry moving (or even wanting to move) towards modular standardisation of the EDM, SOM or even EOMA-68 kind?  Unfortunately, I don't.  Almost everyone seems so intent to go their own sweet way through proprietary form factors for entirely isolated competition that the concept of partial cooperation on standards to create a massive global ecosystem appears to be entirely foreign to the sector.

                                                                           

                                                                          I find it very blinkered.  The few companies that are bucking the trend have almost no mindshare and so the few modular systems remain niche and expensive.  As a result, there isn't even a cost carrot to break the vicious cycle.

                                                                            • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                                              Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                                                               

                                                                              Do you get any sense of the embedded industry moving (or even wanting to move) towards modular standardisation of the EDM, SOM or even EOMA-68 kind?  Unfortunately, I don't.

                                                                              EDM seems to have some mindshare, but the wandboard seems to be the cheapest and most powerful example.  I know some folks here like EOMA, but I'm skeptical. EDM clearly isn't gaining acceptance, so what killer feature would EOMA have that EDM doesn't in already existing products ?

                                                                               

                                                                              Perhaps we should be aiming for R-Pi form factor instead

                                                                              • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                                jamodio

                                                                                Nope, I don't see any clear signs of any coordinated effort to generate an industry standard for modular SBCs, also I don't know how feasible that could be with such a diverse universe of SoC or application processors.

                                                                                 

                                                                                What I see as modular is something that can be taken as a "module" and integrated into another board for a specific application, good solutions are those where most of the interesting signals/interface/power are brought to some sort of expansion connector.

                                                                                 

                                                                                The Raspberry Pi for example is not good at all, I'd say that the Beagle Bone [Black] is one of the best given that strikes a good balance on type and quantity of signals in a pair of standard and cheap header connectors.

                                                                                 

                                                                                The Wandboard is on the other side of the spectrum, almost all signals are on the connector to the motherboard but it is not as cheap or standard to be integrated.

                                                                                 

                                                                                Olimex is very good on this front for simple applications.

                                                                                 

                                                                                The Cubie board is an interesting option but documentation is very scarce.

                                                                                 

                                                                                I still have the pcDuino on my list of things to test, but this is another Allwinner board so documentation is not good either, and not that many IO and as easy to integrate like the BBB.

                                                                                 

                                                                                You also have to give some points for quality of design and production, and very very important what development tools and support community you have around.

                                                                                 

                                                                                Adding everything up if I have today to pick a winner it will be the Beagle Bone Black.

                                                                                 

                                                                                My. 02

                                                                                Jorge

                                                                                  • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                                    morgaine

                                                                                    You're both confirming the impression I'd gained of the state of play in modular boards.  That's a pity.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    Although we have no power to influence the direction of industry in any significant way, perhaps there is room for enthusiast-level design (or promotion) of OSHW modular systems independent of industry, if only one major barrier could be overcome.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    BGA is the big elephant in the room, a nearly impossible hurdle placed between SoC manufacturers and enthusiasts (yes I know that a few enthusiasts can handle BGA, but that doesn't change the statistics much).  There is however a way of cutting the elephant down to size, and that is to choose a cheap intermediate adapter form that is easier to handle, and then getting the BGA-on-adapters mass produced for not a lot more than the SoCs themselves.  Based on these pre-mounted BGAs, enthusiasts could then take module design in directions where the embedded industry has not found a reason to go.  Coupled with 3D printing, modular enthusiast OSHW computers would then be not too far-fetched an idea.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    The current direction in which every board is different and requires its own case design and mandates almost wholesale reinvestment when you change manufacturers is really bad.  The OSHW community could chose to do better than this, even if industry doesn't want to help.

                                                                                     

                                                                                     

                                                                                    Addendum: I've just realized that this is the Pi group, singularly the wrong place to be having a discussion about OSHW modules. The chances of getting a BCM2835 on a bare BGA-adapter boardlet are not very good.

                                                                                      • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                                                        Morgaine Dinova wrote:

                                                                                         

                                                                                        The current direction in which every board is different and requires its own case design

                                                                                        Consumers want shiny cases, not me

                                                                                         

                                                                                        You're right about BGA, it makes the barrier quite high, both from the assembly side and as jamodio points out from the pcb design angle. Once you designing 6 or 8 layer boards in order to get your signals out from under the BGA you're probably as well thinking about volumes and getting them assembled by someone with the proper equipment.

                                                                                        For a while there Olimex seemed to be trying to support people wanting to hand assemble stuff by using TQFP's where possible, but I see most of their Allwinner based stuff is BGA now.

                                                                                        So while a standard module with all the bga stuff contained would be a wonderful idea, in practise the commercial entities building these things are in it for their own (or their shareholders) gain, so 'value add' and 'lock in' is far more important than keeping us OSHW proponents happy.

                                                                                         

                                                                                        Ultimately, it's not just BGA though. Any sufficiently high density connector will cause problems for enthusiasts, the higher the density the harder it is to handle and the number of people capable of doing it reduces as the cost and complexity of the equipment needed rises.  So a balance is needed, otherwise people just end up buying a commercial carrier for the module anyway, at which point you're back to the argument of 'why bother'

                                                                                          • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                                            morgaine

                                                                                            selsinork wrote:

                                                                                             

                                                                                            Ultimately, it's not just BGA though. Any sufficiently high density connector will cause problems for enthusiasts, the higher the density the harder it is to handle and the number of people capable of doing it reduces as the cost and complexity of the equipment needed rises.

                                                                                            To some extent, high density is a commercial affectation, driven by the need to look modern and high tech and also because real estate costs money.  Most enthusiasts don't need high density though, and as you say, it's just a liability to them.  As long as signal paths are properly balanced and well within all the electrical specs, spread them out to low-density edges of adapters.  Modules and connectors being a bit bigger is an advantage for OSHW.

                                                                                             

                                                                                            And that in turn would obviate the need for the commercial carrier that you mentioned, because the carrier can then also be low-density OSHW.

                                                                                              • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                                                jamodio

                                                                                                I think we can have an interesting discussion somewhere else in the forum about BGA vs ???, there are pros and cons, and as I always say it depends on the application and the target "customer."

                                                                                                 

                                                                                                If you are in this just for a hobby, a DYI project or some basic integration, don't mess with what you don't know how to do or have the tools to do it, you will waste more time and money, just buy a ready made BBB and have fun with it.

                                                                                                 

                                                                                                My .02

                                                                                                -J

                                                                                                  • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                                                    morgaine

                                                                                                    jamodio wrote:

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    I think we can have an interesting discussion somewhere else in the forum about BGA vs ???, there are pros and cons, and as I always say it depends on the application and the target "customer."

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    If you are in this just for a hobby, a DYI project or some basic integration, don't mess with what you don't know how to do or have the tools to do it, you will waste more time and money, just buy a ready made BBB and have fun with it.

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    Although I agree that BBB is well in the lead for embedded OSHW capability up to Cortex-A8 level, I was looking beyond that.  It's not like there is a Beagle roadmap catering for all our needs into the distant future, and even if there was, we still wouldn't want to be dependent on a single manufacturer.

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    The community of OSHW enthusiasts would be stronger if it took control of its own destiny than by being mere consumers of OSHW designs that commercial companies feel like providing.  It's just like what happened when 3D printing enthusiasts discovered that they could build their own printers and that this independence from commercial 3D printing gave them immense power and control over their own destinies.

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    Exactly the same would happen if we took computer design and construction into our own hands.

                                                                                            • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                                                              jamodio wrote:

                                                                                              The Wandboard is on the other side of the spectrum, almost all signals are on the connector to the motherboard but it is not as cheap or standard to be integrated.

                                                                                              As I understand it, the wandboard follows the EDM 'standard'.  I'd been kind of hoping it might help drive some more adoption.

                                                                                  • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...

                                                                                    jamodio in that screenshot of your wbquad, you seem to have ubuntu running at something more than 640x480.  Did you have to do anything to get the better resolution ?

                                                                                     

                                                                                    640x480 is the only choice I'm getting, and in any case unity with it's fixed size window is useless at that resolution since the OK button is off the screen so I couldn't click on it anyway.

                                                                                  • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                                    jamodio

                                                                                    Another board from a crowdfunding campaign arrived yesterday, the Iteaduino Plus:


                                                                                    - 1GHz ARM cortex-A8 processor, NEON, VFPv3, 256KB L2 cache

                                                                                    - Mali400, OpenGL ES GPU

                                                                                    - 1GB DDR3 @480MHz

                                                                                    - HDMI 1080p Output

                                                                                    - 10/100M Ethernet

                                                                                    - 2 USB Host, 1 micro SD slot, 1 SATA, 1 USB OTG

                                                                                    - 70 extend pin including I2C, SPI, RGB/LVDS, CSI/TS, FM-IN, ADC, CVBS, VGA, SPDIF-OUT, R-TP.

                                                                                    - Running Android, Ubuntu and other Linux distributions

                                                                                     

                                                                                    It arrived with the USB cable, SATA cable, laser cut acrylic protective "case" with standoffs, a heatsink for the A10, a prick tool to remove the core board, all in a very nice box.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    How much did I pay for it ?

                                                                                     

                                                                                                $39 including shipping...

                                                                                     

                                                                                    SO LONG Raspberry Pi :-)

                                                                                     

                                                                                    IMG_1870.JPG

                                                                                      • Re: New kid on the block the pcDuino ...
                                                                                        morgaine

                                                                                        That looks quite excellent!

                                                                                         

                                                                                        I had a look around their Indigogo project page and the whole Iteaduino Plus package looks amazingly polished and featureful, both hardware and software.  At "$39 including shipping" that seems better value than any other board currently available.

                                                                                         

                                                                                        This video of "ITEAD OS GPIO And UART Operation Demo" shows how slick they've made it --- this is no bare board with the software left for the user to sort out.  And I was tickled by the video showing the GSM module connecting to the Iteaduino Plus through an "RPi compatible 26-pin connector".  That's pretty funny, and makes for good marketing.

                                                                                         

                                                                                        Here is CNXSoft's writeup -- "$59 Iteaduino Plus ARM Linux Board Features Raspberry Pi and Arduino Compatible Headers".  Interesting comment there -- "The baseboard has been designed for both A10 and A20 if we are to believe the silk screen markings, so a version with AllWinner A20 CPU module may be coming soon."  -- Awesome.

                                                                                         

                                                                                        I love the detachable CPU module.  A clear rival to the EDM and EOMA-68 form factors, this modular approach is how all systems should be made, allowing you to upgrade just your CPU and memory parts rather than the whole board.  And with an A20 module likely to come ...