blueadept
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Other ARM hardware?

Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:44 pm

I wonder if anyone else has played around with Linux running on other ARM based boards... The Raspberry Pi is certainly the cheapest, and that in itself is compelling, but it's also the only one intended to run Linux (rather than android, which is of course mostly Linux anyway).. But, being the cheapest, it's also the lowest spec... 700Mhz ARMv6 with 256Megs RAM is absolutely huge for an embedded computer, and as an educational tool... but it's not going to be your next desktop!

So, I've played with the MK802, which is a 1Ghz ARMv7 processor, with 1Gig RAM... it's smaller than the Pi, but it has no GPIO, and no Ethernet, or Audio out, or Composite Video.... it was quite convincing running Android, and Linux too... but without GPIO you would be using up your USB and paying more for some external interfaces. It was also twice the price of a Pi, but if you want to turn your old HDMI TV into a smart TV with Android, it's pretty good... it even has built in WiFi... but if you want to learn about Linux and perhaps control some external project then I'd stick with the Pi

The star of the show is more expensive still, but with 4 cores running at 1.4Ghz, the ODROID-X is an absolute rocket ship compared to the Raspberry Pi... It still only has 1Gig of ram, which is a bit of a limitation for a desktop, but it is certainly the fastest by far, arguably faster than even a dual core Intel Atom.... It even has GPIO, although I've yet to find any documentation for that.... but as yet there is no 3d support, and the sound driver is still a work in progress...

Very pretty tho:- http://www.fsck.co.uk/temp/ODROID_Screen3.png

I think the conclusion is that the Raspberry Pi is probably the best supported hardware, and the most practical for electronics projects & education, certainly the most affordable... and I suppose thats what matters.... although it is worth noting that binaries compiled on the Raspberry Pi (ARMv6) will work on ARMv7 devices... although both devices need to be ARMHF (or not)... so if you are building .deb packages on the Pi, they will probably work on a whole range of ARM platforms beyond the Pi, including Ubuntu's ARM port.

Finally, I know some people were bitter about Ubuntu not being supported on the Pi, you're not missing anything... because only the quad core ODROID could run the Ubuntu desktop properly, and without that, there's not a whole lot of difference between Ubuntu and Debian. If there is the odd package in Ubuntu that isn't in Raspbian, then as long as it doesn't depend on lots of other packages then it's easy enough to build it for ARMHF/Raspbian... even I could do that fairly easily now!

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:26 pm

I've been running GNU/Linux (Ångström distribution) on a BeagleBoard since 2008. It works very nicely even with only 128 MB DRAM. For lots of GPIO and oodles of peripherals -- including on-SoC Ethernet and programmable serial devices -- it's hard to beat BeagleBone. BeagleBoard and BeagleBone have very open chip documentation -- I think the GPU is the only part that's hidden.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:27 pm

Continuing my previous comment, I believe BeagleBoard was the price leader in tiny GNU/Linux boards with graphics until RasPi came along. Now you're usually better off with RasPi as a generic GNU/Linux platform. OTOH, if you want to program at the bare metal the openness of BeagleBoard documentation is a big advantage.

BeagleBone is designed as a hardware development platform, with terrific I/O capability and a growing collection of capes to provide peripherals (HDMI, VGA, LVDS, RS-232, RS-485, CAN) and prototyping. So it's addressing a different purpose from RasPi's focus on learning programming.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:34 am

johnbeetem wrote:Continuing my previous comment, I believe BeagleBoard was the price leader in tiny GNU/Linux boards with graphics until RasPi came along. Now you're usually better off with RasPi as a generic GNU/Linux platform. OTOH, if you want to program at the bare metal the openness of BeagleBoard documentation is a big advantage.

BeagleBone is designed as a hardware development platform, with terrific I/O capability and a growing collection of capes to provide peripherals (HDMI, VGA, LVDS, RS-232, RS-485, CAN) and prototyping. So it's addressing a different purpose from RasPi's focus on learning programming.
Given the Arm side of the Raspi is documented, why do you think the Beaglebone documentation is a big advantage? They both have closed source GPU's.
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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:30 pm

jamesh wrote:Given the Arm side of the Raspi is documented, why do you think the Beaglebone documentation is a big advantage? They both have closed source GPU's.
First, let me say that I haven't done actual bare-metal programming on the BCM2835 or BeagleBoard's OMAP35xx (except for simple LED-fu) or BeagleBone's AM335x, so I don't know if the TI documentation is truly complete. However, I do know my way around a data sheet and a technical reference manual, and it appears that the TI documents are quite complete, except for the GPU. Whenever I've looked up a feature other than GPU in the TI documents, it seems to be there is glorious detail. Also, I was a regular reader of the BeagleBoard Google Group for its first couple of years and the only glaring omission I recall reported is the GPU.

Now, there is much more to a SoC than a CPU and a GPU. There are dozens of peripherals and system control registers and things like bootstrap functionality. This information is not of much interest to someone who just wants to program a generic GNU/Linux box, but does come into play if you want to program at the bare metal, for example if you want to write an alternative operating system or a real-time embedded application.

One of the clear advantages of the TI documents is details on the USB controller, which according to what I've read is challenging with the BCM2835. The TI documents also give detail about memory management and the boot process. I suspect there are plenty of other examples as well. Also, the TI documentation includes a data sheet with full electrical specifications of pins. I don't know how much of this is public for the BCM2835.

Another major feature of OMAP35xx is the DSP subsystem. According to the RasPi Hardware Wiki the BCM2835 has a DSP, but there's no public documentation. OMAP35xx's Image Video and Audio accelerator subsystem (based on a TI VLIW DSP) is described in detail. I haven't played with it myself, but it's there and documented for people who are interested.

BeagleBone has a huge number of interesting peripherals, but they would be pretty useless without documentation. These include built-in Gigabit Ethernet MAC with IEEE 1588 PTP and the Programmable Real-Time Unit Subsystem, which I'd like to check out some time.

I realize that the open documentation issue has been discussed at length at the RasPi forum, and I understand that RasPi cannot publish more than Broadcom allows. But I would like to ask this: would Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson have created Unix if they didn't have the PDP-11 Peripherals Handbook? Would Linus Torvalds have created Linux if he didn't have the IBM PC Technical Reference Manual?

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:30 pm

blueadept wrote: The star of the show is more expensive still, but with 4 cores running at 1.4Ghz, the ODROID-X is an absolute rocket ship compared to the Raspberry Pi... It still only has 1Gig of ram, which is a bit of a limitation for a desktop, but it is certainly the fastest by far, arguably faster than even a dual core Intel Atom.... It even has GPIO, although I've yet to find any documentation for that.... but as yet there is no 3d support, and the sound driver is still a work in progress...
Thanks for that - I have been sorely tempted by the ODroidX but with no 3d or finished sound driver I don't see much point for the board as yet. Might be better off hacking a quad core tablet?

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:16 pm

I think your problem will be exactly the same... this basically /is/ a quad core tablet... It's not that this particular board isn't supported well, it's that the ARM Mali400 GPU doesn't have open source 3d drivers... Linaro said they estimate 3 months for that to be available on Linux, and the sound was estimated at a couple of weeks... and that was a couple of weeks ago!..

Those are components of the SoC, so most quad core devices will be short of the same drivers. Of course, it works fine in Android... so, you could use that.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Tue Oct 02, 2012 8:09 am

There's plenty of others out there, too, mainly falling (in performance terms) inbetween the Raspi and the Odroid - Cubieboard, which has an Allwinner A10, Olimex's A13 board, and so on.

The problem is not the hardware, or even access to hardware at reasonable prices (which appear to be dipping down to RasPi levels, at least for the Allwinner based boards). The problem is that you don't have the community that exists here, and the manufacturers are out to make a profit, not to achieve a particular goal.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:36 am

The problem is that you don't have the community that exists here, and the manufacturers are out to make a profit, not to achieve a particular goal.
Absolutely agreed...

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:35 pm

The Panda Board ES runs Ubuntu desktop quite well. It has plenty of documentation, at least I found everything I needed.

The real problem really is the lack of community. I had fits trying to get video exceleration working. The packages were not updated enough to work with a year earlier version of ubuntu. The OMAP extras were clear back to Maverick. I got them working after about a dozen different tries at it. There are a few articles about GPIO pinouts. But again finding a fix for a problem can be a long hard road. The TI boards are really aimed at developers and just do not have any other users in mind.

The TI boards are harder to get and much more expensive. The cost would come down if they had better community support, which would entice more people to use their boards.

Other boards are coming along. It will be interesting to see if they are smart enough to build a good community base.
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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:48 am

Lob0426 wrote:The TI boards are really aimed at developers and just do not have any other users in mind.

The TI boards are harder to get and much more expensive. The cost would come down if they had better community support, which would entice more people to use their boards.
Problem is that the costs would need to come down a LOT before being attractive to non-developers.

Why would a normal user, that isn't into hardware stuff and doesn't care about GPIOs or low power usage, go for an expensive ARM board?
When you can also get an AMD fusion board that runs all operating systems, has superior performance, and open drivers, for half the price?

I see a market for cheap ARM devices like the Raspberry, Cubieboard and Hackberry.
But never saw the purpose of using an board like the Beagle and Panda as normal computer. Way too expensive for that purpose.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:12 am

The conundrum is that to reduce the price you need increased volume, or need to remove features, or find a reasonable balance.

For now TI and its partners at Beagle Board and Panda Board just do not have the right mix for a lower cost board. Add all of the features that are on a Panda Board and you would have a RasPi in a similar price range. Wifi, Bluetooth, 4 USB ports (2 on the GPIO header), switching regulators, Dual core ARM and 1GB of memory. Probably a couple of things I forgot in there. The number of components is like 5 times (394 or so listed in the BOM) what it is on a RasPi. The PCB is at least double in size. They could build a lot less capable "panda" or "beagle" with just a LAN9514, four USB, Single core, the DVI and HDMI connectors and just cut way back all the way around.

It might still be a $100 board but three times easier to buy. And it would still be a very capable board. The Beagle Bone heads in this direction but loses the video capability of it cousins. At that it just barely breaks the $100 barrier. TI's partners could build a very RasPi competitive product, even if they are for profit. My guess is they would be capable of producing a $65 to $75 board. Their overall contact with customers at the forum level would have to be very upgraded from their current presence model.
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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:54 am

Lob0426 wrote: Add all of the features that are on a Panda Board and you would have a RasPi in a similar price range. Wifi, Bluetooth, 4 USB ports (2 on the GPIO header), switching regulators, Dual core ARM and 1GB of memory.
Again, other (non-ARM) boards already have features like that for half the price.

AMD board including 6 USB, VGA, HDMI/DVI, gigabit ethernet, and a dual core CPU is $ 69 after rebate: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813138365
Say $ 75 with RAM.
$ 80 with a wifi stick.

Pandaboard starts at $ 160

Board may have it uses in embedded applications. But I cannot see the advantages of such boards for non-developers, even if they drop the price to $ 100.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:45 pm

Max wrote:
Lob0426 wrote: Add all of the features that are on a Panda Board and you would have a RasPi in a similar price range. Wifi, Bluetooth, 4 USB ports (2 on the GPIO header), switching regulators, Dual core ARM and 1GB of memory.
Again, other (non-ARM) boards already have features like that for half the price.

AMD board including 6 USB, VGA, HDMI/DVI, gigabit ethernet, and a dual core CPU is $ 69 after rebate: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813138365
Say $ 75 with RAM.
$ 80 with a wifi stick.

Pandaboard starts at $ 160

Board may have it uses in embedded applications. But I cannot see the advantages of such boards for non-developers, even if they drop the price to $ 100.
You really cannot compare a PC board when it comes to price. That board does not have memory($25 at least), you would have to add non-volatile storage ($50 to $100) and the power supply alone would cost more than a RasPi. It would end up more than a Panda Board. Granted it is far more powerful than the ARM based boards.

Also this thread is about alternative ARM boards. I built an Intel D945GCLF2 board into a windows home server, so I know what the total cost can easily get too.

ARM boards are coming out now. There are more on the drawing board I am sure. Right now companies are trying to decide what features will draw in the customers and what price points will give them their profit while not turning away too many buyers. A Beagle board at half the price would sell five times as many units. Sourcing parts is cheaper in larger quantities, so more profit. Lower quantities at manufacture equal higher prices. Really if Beagle board took a leap and manufactured a 100,000 units, and sold them at a third less they would make more profit than the quantities they make them at now. The problem is the cost to make that many units at once. That is why the Foundation brought in partners. Their partners have deeper pockets than the foundation will ever have. So a lot more units can be built quicker.
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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:21 pm

Lob0426 wrote:you would have to add non-volatile storage ($50 to $100)
$ 5 USB stick works just as fine as storage for Linux on an AMD board as a $ 5 SD card does on an ARM board.
Only need more expensive hardware and more memory if you want to run Windows.

Also this thread is about alternative ARM boards.
Correct.
Just pointing out that normal users might not care that much if it is an ARM or something else, when they intend to use the board as normal desktop pc.
And it's very hard for an ARM board manufacturer to compete in that market, so that might be why they are not targeting normal users.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:11 pm

It is a fact that the RasPi is not going to be a desktop replacement. It just does not have the power. A Panda Board is kinda iffy as a desktop replacement too. Mostly because there is just not a concerted effort to tailor an OS and software to that purpose. You would have to add increased storage to it for a desktop use also. Besides you can buy a "real" desktop at places like Wal-Mart for under $300 ready to run.

I have not worked with the fusion boards as yet. Some of the PC boards, will not boot well from a USB key. Some will. And if you're like me you probably have stuff like memory to get the board running anyway. But most people do not have this kind of stuff lying around. And though I have fired up numerous computer boards lying in pieces on the bench they really do not work reliably for any time, without a case. Adding more expense.

As to whether ARM can compete in the desktop market?...... The answer is yes it can. In the gaming machine market, probably not. As to Social networking a RasPi would work just fine, at least when an excelerated X is available.
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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:49 am

The MK802 is now available at US$40 (free shipping). For that price, it comes with case, power supply, HDMI cable, USB cable, USB sound adapter, and USB 4-port hub.

[Mod Edit]: the link to the site has been removed because it's a probable scam site. I'm sure no ill intent was meant by the poster so don't worry about it ;-)

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:50 am

That really is ridiculously cheap - I have no idea how they can make and sell it for that price and still make any profit whatsoever.
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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:57 am

It is also fair to say that while the MK802 is vastly better running Android, it has no 3d drivers or GPIO under Linux... so it is very poor as an educational tool, a point I made in my original post.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:58 am

I have a mk802 it can run linux , but it's much better at android
I prefar my RPi's though
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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:14 am

Here's one to keep an eye on: Dual-core A9 with massively parallel co-processor, all open-sourced. Same size as the RaspPi, same power requirement. $99 if they succeed with their kickstarter.

Parallella Kickstarter

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:01 am

Here's one to keep an eye on: Dual-core A9 with massively parallel co-processor, all open-sourced. Same size as the RaspPi, same power requirement. $99 if they succeed with their kickstarter.

Parallella Kickstarter

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:20 am

[mod edit]: link removed at request of poster
what is one of those?
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Max

Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:37 am

blueadept wrote:It is also fair to say that while the MK802 is vastly better running Android, it has no 3d drivers or GPIO under Linux...
It does have 3d drivers and accelerated X (which is more then the Pi has): http://linux-sunxi.org/Mali400

Currently does have some other issues like that it only supports standard HDMI TV resolutions, and not those of DVI displays, making a10 devices less suitable to use as normal computer.
Code managing that is in the opensource kernel module though, so might be fixable.

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Re: Other ARM hardware?

Mon Oct 08, 2012 12:14 pm

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