VIA's entry into the low cost computer market


103 posts   Page 2 of 5   1, 2, 3, 4, 5
by Bakul Shah » Wed May 23, 2012 5:33 pm
tufty wrote:While I agree that they don't seem to have much ofa game plan (the use of *&^%ing android shows that), it seems fairly obvious to me that the embedded market is absolutely not where these devices (or at least the apc) are headed, rather a 'desktop netbook'.

If the apc can be made to run linux (and I see no readon why it shouldn't) with a fast ui (which may be the killer), it could /destroy/ the pi in the educational market. That's not a bad thing, of course.


Netbook's market share has been gobbled up by the iPad and other tablets. I don't think the "desktop notebook" market is all that big. When you add in mouse, keyboard, display, disk, the cost goes up quite a bit. If you just use a touchpad, the device becomes just another tablet. If you use a bigger display, the cost of everything except the motherboard is roughly the same. Couple that with user's performance expectations -- even at a low price they want a quality product that performs well. And ARM performance sucks today and lags behind x86 at any given point in time. And let us face it, Linux is still not user friendly enough (and I say that in spite of having used Unix for 30+ years and I detest Windows). The low power usage matters but only so much if your display is going to eat a lot more. And finally, if Intel/M$ focus their attention long enough on this segment they can easily take it away from these 'desktop netbooks' (just like Intel whupping Transmeta). So I think these "me too" products are not going to succeed when they suffer from such a severe lack of imagination. Of course, my crystal ball is as cloudy as anyone else's and it may turn out I am completely wrong!

But I think the embedded market is potentially much bigger. People can use multiple such devices in their homes, each dedicated to some specialized service.This is where power use & cost does matter. Ability to sense/control real life things matters. This is where ARM can shine. Just look at the number of different uses people are envisioning for the Raspi! In early 20th century people bought one electric motor and attachments to put it to different uses. As the cost and variety of motors dropped, soon it became ubiquitous and new uses were devised. A modern home in a developed country can easily contain 100+ motors. This sort of transformation has already happened with computers and is now accelerating.

Finally, to me computer education is not about writing just software; it is learning how to bend computers to your will to do whatever the hell *you* want and that includes putting them to use for art, design, finance, maths, science, history, industry, whatever. And that includes learning about interfacing with real life devices or things. This is why I am more interested in devices like raspi than say Aakash. The raspi is far from perfect but IMHO it gets more things right and Eben, Liz & co have done a damned good job of grabbing people's mindshare that these me too products don't have a clue about.
Posts: 292
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2011 1:25 am
by Lob0426 » Wed May 23, 2012 6:55 pm
VIA is a relatively large outfit. If they are looking into the low end market then things are changing out there. I think the real sign would be if ASUS or one of the other large builders jumps into the fray. I agree that android was not the best choice but obviously VIA does not agree. But we should still take this as a sign that the market is watching.

Hippy: I agree that USB will work, it is just easier to develop (hack) at GPIO.
The nicest features is the board mounting, connectors on one side and that front panel connector. I believe that connector is for a switch and status lights but we will have to wait to see. A power switch would be really nice. This board will definitely be on my list to look at as soon as someone gets Linux on it rather than android. $49 with PSU that is a comparable deal to the RasPi. Security server, home automation, Internet controller device, etc etc............
512MB version 2.0 as WordPress Server
Motorola Lapdock with 512MB
Modded Rev 1.0 with pin headers at USB

http://rich1.dyndns.tv/
(RS)Allied ships old stock to reward its Customers for long wait!
User avatar
Posts: 1902
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:30 pm
Location: Susanville CA.
by hippy » Wed May 23, 2012 11:35 pm
Lob0426 wrote:A power switch would be really nice. This board will definitely be on my list to look at as soon as someone gets Linux on it rather than android.


I'd bet there's a connection for a push-on-push-off power button on the front panel, standard ATX style. One review I read stated power consumption of 13.5W ( 4W idle ); no idea how correct that is but not too bad for an always on system; flat-out that's 120kWh per year, sub £30 running costs per year.

I'll agree on the "once it get Linux on it". Hopefully that won't be too long coming.
Posts: 762
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:34 pm
by Lob0426 » Sun May 27, 2012 6:48 am
I have plugged and unplugged the Panda board about a thousand times already in two weeks. A button would be nice.
512MB version 2.0 as WordPress Server
Motorola Lapdock with 512MB
Modded Rev 1.0 with pin headers at USB

http://rich1.dyndns.tv/
(RS)Allied ships old stock to reward its Customers for long wait!
User avatar
Posts: 1902
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:30 pm
Location: Susanville CA.
by milhouse » Sun May 27, 2012 8:16 am
Bakul Shah wrote:I like the price


RS Components have confirmed in a tweert that the VIA APC is $49... when ordered in quantities of 10,000.

In units of one or two the price probably won't be quite so likeable.

As for the VIA APC itself, I think it's a bizarre design that highlights VIAs legacy of designing PCs motherboards and treating ARM the same as x86. A much more complex board design - just look at the number of ICs compared to the Pi! - for only marginally more functionality and in the case of the GPU, a lot less performance but admittedly double the RAM, which is nice.

As for the lack of a power switch on the Pi, it would be nice if someone could create a USB cable with an inline push-to-break switch on the power line! Could be a nice little earner for the Foundation if they can knock one up... :)
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:59 pm
by hippy » Sun May 27, 2012 8:52 am
milhouse wrote:As for the VIA APC itself, I think it's a bizarre design that highlights VIAs legacy of designing PCs motherboards and treating ARM the same as x86. A much more complex board design - just look at the number of ICs compared to the Pi!

How more complicated is hard to tell, the Flash, RAM, and "BIOS" are all separate and there seems to be separate controllers for LAN, USB and VGA. The rest seem to be for power supply regulation or driver IC's.

I couldn't see anything particularly "bizarre" about going that route. The R-Pi is simpler simply through a different design, using more integrated components, by not having certain things, and being prepared to sacrifice performance for cost.

http://static.techspot.com/images2/news ... mage-1.jpg
Posts: 762
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:34 pm
by milhouse » Sun May 27, 2012 9:03 am
hippy wrote:
milhouse wrote:How more complicated is hard to tell, the Flash, RAM, and "BIOS" are all separate and there seems to be separate controllers for LAN, USB and VGA. The rest seem to be for power supply regulation or driver IC's.

I couldn't see anything particularly "bizarre" about going that route. The R-Pi is simpler simply through a different design, using more integrated components, by not having certain things, and being prepared to sacrifice performance for cost.


Bizarre, in the sense that it requires a BIOS, which is somewhat anachronistic and seemingly unnecessary for a product that, like the Pi, also aims to be low cost (the only real difference in performance is the Pis superior GPU, and the APCs increased RAM - VGA is handy, but not essential).
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:59 pm
by hzrnbgy » Sun May 27, 2012 11:26 am
How is the APC BIOS different from the RPi GPU Boot ROM? Aren't they basically the same i.e. initialize some basic hardware so the device can boot from an external storage
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:55 pm
by milhouse » Sun May 27, 2012 11:33 am
hzrnbgy wrote:How is the APC BIOS different from the RPi GPU Boot ROM? Aren't they basically the same i.e. initialize some basic hardware so the device can boot from an external storage


Assuming the BIOS functions in a similar way to a PC BIOS, it just seems an unnecessary (and costly) addition, as indeed is the Flash storage, which in combination with the BIOS may make bricking a possibility. Perhaps the way the Raspberry Pi boots is a unique feature of the Broadcom SoC, but its undoubtedly a cheaper and more hacker/tweaker friendly solution.
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2012 12:59 pm
by tufty » Sun May 27, 2012 11:50 am
milhouse wrote:
Bakul Shah wrote:I like the price

RS Components have confirmed in a tweert that the VIA APC is $49... when ordered in quantities of 10,000.

In units of one or two the price probably won't be quite so likeable.)

Via, however, have announced that you will be able to buy direct from the apc.io site (i.e. direct from via), at a price of $49. No "but you have to order 10,000 to get that price". Who to believe, who to believe...

Simon
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:32 pm
by hzrnbgy » Sun May 27, 2012 12:24 pm
milhouse wrote:
hzrnbgy wrote:How is the APC BIOS different from the RPi GPU Boot ROM? Aren't they basically the same i.e. initialize some basic hardware so the device can boot from an external storage


Assuming the BIOS functions in a similar way to a PC BIOS, it just seems an unnecessary (and costly) addition, as indeed is the Flash storage, which in combination with the BIOS may make bricking a possibility. Perhaps the way the Raspberry Pi boots is a unique feature of the Broadcom SoC, but its undoubtedly a cheaper and more hacker/tweaker friendly solution.


You brick the APC if you manage to kill the BIOS. Same is true for the RPi, you brick it if you managed to kill the GPU/SoC. At least for the APC, you can always replaced the BIOS chip as its socketed (it is probably a cheap EEPROM which means its programmable and hacker friendly). On the Pi, good luck replacing the SoC or even changing the boot ROM.

With the included flash, at least its good to know that the APC comes with a working storage device. With the Pi, SD cards are a hit or miss affair. The APC would boot out of the box (it comes with a PSU and a flash storage). With the Pi, buy an SD card (and pray that it works), buy a PSU (and pray that it works too), and bring out your keyboard (and pray that it also works).
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:55 pm
by obarthelemy » Sun May 27, 2012 12:28 pm
You're comparing apples and oranges. The Pi's equivalent of the BIOS if the FAT boot partition on the SD card. What's easier to do: change/reflash the APC's BIOS chip, or re-write the Pi's SD card ? The equivalent of breaking the PI's SoC is... breaking the APC's SoC.

Also, the APC's flash is so small it can only hold the OS. An SD card will be required too for apps and data, and the jury is still out on whether the APC will be equally, more, or less picky than the Pi about those. Especially if someone ever manages to get a good, stable full Linux to run on it.
Posts: 1399
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:53 pm
by hzrnbgy » Sun May 27, 2012 12:50 pm
Not sure about that. The RPi SoC cannot automagically read FAT partition on SD cards without running some form of boot loader code which I assume is what the GPU boot ROM is for.

From what I've read, the APC comes with an onboard 2GB storage, enough for a small OS.
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:55 pm
by johnbeetem » Mon May 28, 2012 4:51 am
Bakul Shah wrote: And let us face it, Linux is still not user friendly enough (and I say that in spite of having used Unix for 30+ years and I detest Windows).

"Unix is user-friendly -- it's just choosy about its friends."

Seriously, my own experience with Ubuntu is that it's user-friendly enough. I suspect this is true of many recent distributions. I'll use Windows, but in most cases only if somebody pays me to do it.
User avatar
Posts: 942
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:18 pm
Location: The Coast
by obarthelemy » Mon May 28, 2012 5:33 am
I think Linux is OK as long as you've got a reliable distro pre-installed, or if you are very lucky. I'm a Windows nerd, I try out Linux every year, and I always fail at the install or basic config stage. There are always surprise issues :
- last year: grub2 dying... on a clean system, no other OS... spent 3 WE badgering a grub2 dev, gave up and reinstalled Windows
- this year: trying to get dual-screen to work well in Ubuntu. Silly menu bar that I can't put on the right side of the screen, so it sits right smack in the middle, and is a bitch to target when minimized (what fun aiming for 5 pixels on a 1920 screen.. oh noes ! overshot again ! ...must.. drink.. less .. caffeine..). Plus no way I could find to configure 2 screens of different resolutions, so part of my small screen is.. off-screen. Went back to Windows, put the Start menu on the right (where god intended it to be), and with right size screens !
- also this year, had to recompile a kernel to get.. I think it was Samba ? to kinda work on a smartbook... I lost most repos in the process, because they fubar the PC if I do apt-get update. Also, I get several segfaults a week, and at least three during rsync backups. I haven't switched that one back to a regular netbook yet, but I think I should ^^

Compare that to my last Windows 7 install: clone HD from current PC, stick it in the new PC, reboot in safe mode, delete drivers, reboot, wait a bit for the new drivers to install... victory in about 15 mins + 2hrs for HD cloning (cloning done while I was using the source PC) +15 minutes to wrangle an activation code out off MS's support.
Posts: 1399
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:53 pm
by Lob0426 » Mon May 28, 2012 7:40 am
Obarthelemy: after reading that I feel like a linux guru. I am actually getting somewhere with the Panda now. I have had ubuntu on my netbook for a while now and no problems anywhere near that.
learned a few useful things.
In a terminal:
dpkg --configure -a sometimes you run several times over.
sudo apt-get update also may need to be ran more than once
sudo apt-get -f install <pakage> helps cure package dependency problems.
Also learned that ubuntu software center is mostly garbage. I use synaptics package manager or the command line.
512MB version 2.0 as WordPress Server
Motorola Lapdock with 512MB
Modded Rev 1.0 with pin headers at USB

http://rich1.dyndns.tv/
(RS)Allied ships old stock to reward its Customers for long wait!
User avatar
Posts: 1902
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:30 pm
Location: Susanville CA.
by tufty » Mon May 28, 2012 5:02 pm
tufty wrote:
milhouse wrote:
Bakul Shah wrote:I like the price

RS Components have confirmed in a tweert that the VIA APC is $49... when ordered in quantities of 10,000.

In units of one or two the price probably won't be quite so likeable.)

Via, however, have announced that you will be able to buy direct from the apc.io site (i.e. direct from via), at a price of $49. No "but you have to order 10,000 to get that price". Who to believe, who to believe...

Simon

... http://apc.io/faq/
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:32 pm
by Joe Schmoe » Mon May 28, 2012 5:11 pm
Re: The FAQ. I assume you are referring to:

Where can I buy APC?

You can purchase APC directly from this website. We ship all over the world.
How much does APC cost?

The price of APC is $49, plus shipping.

Which certainly implies that that is a single unit price. But, you never know...

But, seriously folks, I think that does mean what it seems to mean.
Never answer the question you are asked. Rather, answer the question you wish you had been asked.

- Robert S. McNamara - quoted in "Fog of War" -
Posts: 2509
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm
by tufty » Mon May 28, 2012 5:40 pm
Indeed. More importantly,

via wrote:...
our hardware will be unlocked
...
install it on a microSD card and re-flash

Which, with 4x usb, vga and the price including a proper psu, could well make it a pi-eater.

Simon
Posts: 1363
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:32 pm
by johnbeetem » Mon May 28, 2012 6:41 pm
tufty wrote:Indeed. More importantly,
via wrote:...
our hardware will be unlocked
...
install it on a microSD card and re-flash

Which, with 4x usb, vga and the price including a proper psu, could well make it a pi-eater.
Simon

IMO it will boil down to how well each community works and how open the documentation ends up being. The two are somewhat related. I'm looking forward to watching what happens.
User avatar
Posts: 942
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:18 pm
Location: The Coast
by Joe Schmoe » Mon May 28, 2012 6:59 pm
Well, yeah, but isn't the real deal the question of whether you can actually order one and get one?

Has anyone here actually ordered one? Did it come in a reasonable time?
If so, then I'm sold. 'Cause the Pi just ain't there yet (and won't be for at least another year, by all accounts (see my thread about "When will things be normal?")

Seriously, can someone report back on how difficult it was to endure the ordering process, and how long it took (from pressing "Send" to doorstep delivery) ?
Never answer the question you are asked. Rather, answer the question you wish you had been asked.

- Robert S. McNamara - quoted in "Fog of War" -
Posts: 2509
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm
by Vindicator » Mon May 28, 2012 7:03 pm
The Rpi and the APC are two different products meant for two different uses but have some commonality between them, I like that the APC has different controllers for USB,Ethernet etc.

The Rpi sacrificed this for cost effectiveness but the Rpi was not meant to be a consumer product to replace their PC, it was meant to be an affordable PC for children and students.

The VIA APC is meant to be a consumer level product.
I do not think a comparison is necessary, they are not competing products, And Android is based of of Linux kernel.
The APC unit would probably be a better product for many of those that just want media functionality except for the 720P limit it has for video, and it may support more codecs than the Rpi.

If Linux is hacked to the APC then server functionality would also be more realistic than a Rpi (more memory, separate controllers,dedicated LAN controller,Etc.

The good news is that this may show the cost of such products is going to come down in price versus current boards like the beagle boards and panda boards, trim slice and Embest boards.

There are plenty of people that are buying Rpi's that are disappointed with them because they just expected too much of the Rpi and maybe this Via APC board can fill that gap.

I wonder how many of these will get on Ebay from the early releases LOL
If you are more worried about ,spelling, punctuation or grammar you have probably already missed the point so please just move on.
User avatar
Posts: 314
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:10 pm
Location: Susanville Ca USA
by Vindicator » Mon May 28, 2012 7:06 pm
Joe they are not available till JULY according to the website, Via is an experienced company and there is probably not a huge waiting list like the raspberrypi had so lets hope it goes smoother.

I am thinking I would like to find the dollars to try one for some of my projects.
If you are more worried about ,spelling, punctuation or grammar you have probably already missed the point so please just move on.
User avatar
Posts: 314
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:10 pm
Location: Susanville Ca USA
by Joe Schmoe » Mon May 28, 2012 7:13 pm
First (and this is my main reason for posting again), I checked their web site and found that it (the APC) is, like the PI, still basically vaporware. They are accepting pre-orders and think they might start shipping in July. That and $5 gets you a cup of coffee...

Second, yes, I agree with everything you (Vindicator) said (in your most recent post) - to the effect that the Pi & the APC are not head-to-head competitors. But the funny thing about that is that, alas, most of us posting on this forum are *not* really the Pi's intended audience. Interestingly, most of us might actually be better served by the APC. Funny, that.

Anyway, if and when the APC becomes non-vaporous, I certainly do think I will be ordering one.

(Same goes for the Pi...)

P.S. I saw that you slipped in ahead of me. But I had composed most of this already...
Never answer the question you are asked. Rather, answer the question you wish you had been asked.

- Robert S. McNamara - quoted in "Fog of War" -
Posts: 2509
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm
by jamesh » Mon May 28, 2012 7:27 pm
hzrnbgy wrote:You brick the APC if you manage to kill the BIOS. Same is true for the RPi, you brick it if you managed to kill the GPU/SoC. At least for the APC, you can always replaced the BIOS chip as its socketed (it is probably a cheap EEPROM which means its programmable and hacker friendly). On the Pi, good luck replacing the SoC or even changing the boot ROM.


Wuh?

So what you are saying is that you can brick the Pi if you kill the SoC. Well, if you hit it with a club hammer maybe. You cannot do it from software. This argument is of the strawman variety.
Soon to be unemployed software engineer currently specialising in camera drivers and frameworks, but can put mind to most embedded tasks. Got a job in N.Cambridge or surroundings? I'm interested!
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Posts: 11527
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:41 pm