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Lob0426
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:19 am

The ALPHA board was lower powered used about 2.25 watts full tilt(switching regulator rather than a linear) and had more GPIO. It also ran on a wider range of power input (6v to 20v). It was a lot better board for developement work and some us "hackers" projects. The foundation had it down in price to the point that with a few changes it would make their $35 price range. Then some people started asking that it be powered off of cell phone chargers, specifically the Micro USB that is becoming standardized in Europe. Then started the redesign that caused some of us a lot of heartache. Many of us stated we were willing to pay a higher price to get what we felt was a superior board for project use. Through this you have to remember the RPF had a different goal. The gerber files and parts list do exist to construct the Alpha boards. The documentation for the boards probably does not exist or is incomplete.

After some of the flurry over the Raspii production models cools a bit, maybe one of these companies could look into producing the Alpha boards? This particular forum is full of feature requests but really the ALPHA board had everything that is missing on the production boards. About the only thing that would be nice is if the 512Mb module was sourced for the ALPHA. The Alpha could easily retail for more than the production boards and still be cheaper than any of the other developer boards available on the market today. The software developed for the production boards will run without change on the ALPHA board also.

Please post in here if you would be interested in the ALPHA board. Maybe with enough interest one of the manufacturers will decide to make a run of them!
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:39 am

It is not for the distributors to decide to make the Alpha boards, it is for the Foundation to decide if they want to make them available.

Personally, my guess is that at this time, and for the forseeable future, they will want to concentrate on seeing the production boards through to a stable supply suituation, and pursuing their primary aim - improving the lot of computer science teaching in schools.

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:47 am

The ALPHA would cost a fair bit more than the RPi, since it is designed as a proper development board (could be 2 or 3 times the price potentially).

Also, I think Broadcomm may have helped out a lot with that board, so it will probably be down to them if they want to produce it or keep it in house.

Anyway, worth an ask I suppose, but I expect it'll come down to cost in the end (is it worth 2 or 3 RPi's, particularly with the RAM cost bump you are asking – beagleboard levels?).
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:27 am

The alpha board is a Broadcom design, not a Foundation design, so that might be a problem. It's also quite a lot more expensive, as it's larger, with more components. GPIO plug doesn't match the release board.
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:09 am

Lob0426, in answer to all your questions you need to ask yourself "does it serve the actual aim of the foundation to do this?".

It doesn't matter that :


You want to pay more for X, Y and Z
You want more GPIO
You want a wider input voltage
You want 6v to 20v when 99% of the target audience have got a 5v supply

They are all things that do not help the core purpose of the Pi.

The Raspberry Pi is not for hackers. It is for children and schools to introduce them to programming. Schools don't care less about any of the features of the Alpha board.

So basically can the foundation further their stated purpose by creating Alpha boards for the tiny minority of people who might want them? The answer is a clear no.

Is a manufacturer going to bother with all the hassle and risk for almost no margin? That's also a no.
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:24 am

The current boards are as they are in order to hit the Foundation's desired RRP. There is plenty of opportunity to produce further designs for additional boards which may include some of what the Alpha boards had but got removed as the projects progressed as well as additional features; I'd like a larger board with mounting holes and connectors more conveniently placed and would be prepared to pay more for that, others want lower or more flexible power capabilities, and all those things discussed in a variety of "Model C" threads.

I don't think it makes sense to build 'Alpha boards' per se but it does make sense to build additional board variants suited to customer or market desires. The Foundation and Licensees have the opportunity and the means to do that but we'll just have to wait to see if they take it and what they provide for.

If they don't seize the opportunities there are hopefully others out there who will. There may soon be 'competition' to the R-Pi from other manufacturers who fulfil specific customer or market needs anyway.

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:45 am

Can what the OP desired simply be achieved by having a daughter board with a 5v switching voltage regulator on and an I/O expander via I2C or similar?

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:05 pm

mole125 said:


Can what the OP desired simply be achieved by having a daughter board with a 5v switching voltage regulator on and an I/O expander via I2C or similar?


To an extent. It would fix the input voltage range issue but I believe the 3V3 regulator ( and perhaps others too ) were switching earlier but are linear now, so making all "switching" for lowest power requires hacking the physical board.

If it were desired ( assuming it's possible ) to fine control powering individual parts of the board to achieve lowest power usage some extensive hacking may be needed. It's usually best to use a board designed to support that in the first place.

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:55 pm

I have seen that there a are a lot of users who want to have a board with slight modifications. All have different retirements. The problem is that none of these groups is large enough to make a redesign commercial viable.Another problem is that a lot of them are SW people who know what they want but not necessarily are confident enough to develop the hardware.

My problem is that I can develop the schematics and for small designs the PCB. I just don't have the time or the money to make the all these PCBs, debug them, etc. The issue is that SW only cost you time to develop & test. Hardware requires physical investment.(Even the smallest PCB cost about £150 to get made. At least if you want it back with some quality. I have no plan to use any of these 'combined design' PCB services again.)

I am leaning towards "throwing designs out". e.g. I do the schematics do the PCB and throw them in the public domain with no warranty whatsoever. Anybody can pick it up test, debug, give me feedback and I can make a fixed version. (Or it may work first time. Wonders still do happen).

My first board in that series would be a "replace linear regulators with SMPS to reduce power usage by 50%" board. That is very controversial because it would replace the production boards linear regulators. Which means you have to un-solder them!  Which is also the reason why it does not make commercially sense. Not too many people would like to risk their boards unless they really need the reduced power.

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:58 pm

Gert said:


All have different retirements.


I'm sure we will all have different retirements and lots of spare time to spend on raspi then but I guess you meant "requirements"

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:00 pm

You beat me to it. I was just about to post-edit it. Now I can't do that anymore!

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:09 pm

You can edit it as you have admin rights - click on the spanner icon at top of post.
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:31 pm

Gert said:


You beat me to it. I was just about to post-edit it. Now I can"t do that anymore!



Yeah seems this forum has the setting that you can only edit for x minutes after you post (though as JamesH says you have other options available to you )

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:38 pm

You can't edit once another poster has posted, though admin are exempt from this as they are omnipotent, except for the power to produce Pi from thin air.

I do wonder whether Liz and Eben aren't on a skying holiday, and instead are on a secret mission to free Pi, imprisoned by the Chinese.

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:51 pm

Actually, they are on a secret mission TO THE MOON.

To bring back cheese for the cheese eating pixies that are making the boards.

That's why the boards are late.
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:01 pm

JamesH said:


Actually, they are on a secret mission TO THE MOON.


It was my understanding that their lunar excursion was to bring it back so that all those that want an Alpha board could also have the moon on a stick.

But we digress ...

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:52 pm

JamesH said:


Actually, they are on a secret mission TO THE MOON.

To bring back cheese for the cheese eating pixies that are making the boards.

That's why the boards are late.



Ahhhhh!

So thats how Liz "accidently" twonked her knee - she was being chased by the rabid skiing oven for taking the cheese.....



And NO, I don't want the cheeseboard!

I'm just a bouncer, splatterers do it with more force.....

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:01 pm

Lynbarn said:


It is not for the distributors to decide to make the Alpha boards, it is for the Foundation to decide if they want to make them available.


I do not think he intends for them to do so without proper licensing.


meltwater said:

The ALPHA would cost a fair bit more than the RPi, since it is designed as a proper development board


I agree it probably would and demand for it will not reach the level of the production boards.


JamesH said:

The alpha board is a Broadcom design, not a Foundation design, so that might be a problem. It"s also quite a lot more expensive, as it"s larger, with more components. GPIO plug doesn"t match the release board.


Agreed this could be a problem.


MattHawkinsUK said:

Lob0426, in answer to all your questions you need to ask yourself "does it serve the actual aim of the foundation to do this?".


It doesn"t matter that :


You want to pay more for X, Y and Z
You want more GPIO
You want a wider input voltage
You want 6v to 20v when 99% of the target audience have got a 5v supply



I think the answer is Yes if you read his entire post.

The current releases are aimed at the hackers/hobbyist and that is supported in many articles and reviews that Eben has posted and been videoed and on YouTube.

hackers/hobbyist are not their goal but the current target is us and that is why they selected RS and Farnell is to get back to their goal of getting these to schools not developing and producing hardware, The RPF will I think always be involved in the process but I think they are trying to move the logistics of the hardware out of their way and get back to what their real goal is and that was teaching the children to create with a computers not just be a consumers of computers.

RPF needed a cheaper platform to attain their goal, so they were (forced) into developing a platform.

I think Gert"s post confirms a demand for the Alpha board not sure he agrees or disagrees.

In short would the RPF agree to licensing if there was a demand and would that demand be large enough to be worth RS or Farnell to produce the board and would that price be any cheaper than current boards available.

My answer is that Farnell sells the beagleboards/beaglebone for more than most other companies, And RPF is not going to spend any substantial amount of dickering on the price of a board that they have already bypassed, and would RPF have the rights to License the Alpha board since it is a Broadcom design, Yes is going to cost more.

Yes I would be interested in one if they ever became available.
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:33 pm

Could a board connected through the GPIO connector have switch mode power supplies on it?  The board would then be powered through this with no connection to the micro USB for power.  The original linear regulators could stay in place but because they aren't powered are doing nothing.  The snag I can see is that the 5V supply would be supplying the 3V3 linear regulator but does that matter if there's power from a separate supply? Or could the board be supplied with 3V3 only?

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:46 pm


....

I think Gert"s post confirms a demand for the Alpha board not sure he agrees or disagrees.....


What I meant is that there is demands for a lot of different variants and/or plug in boards. The problem I see is that the total volume of each individual variant is not commercial viable due to the lack of volume. Neither is the 'the board that does it all' viable as the cost would be very high and users would be reluctant to pay for all the features they don't need.

If I wanted, I could design Alpha boards. I have the skills and the knowledge and a friend who has a small assemble line. But I still would need to get my hands on BCM2835. And it has to be 100% compatible with the production boards as I have no manpower for the software. And I would need a big enough market. And I would have to repeat a lot of the work which Eben has done but I do not have his contacts. And I would need to mortgage my house. Bottom line: No thanks.

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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:03 pm

Rather than answer each poster in this thread:

I think many of you missed the point of this post! This was not a post asking Farnell or RS to produce Alpha boards against the RPF wishes. It was a post asking if this would be considered by RPF to allow either or both companies to produce the ALPHA, If they wanted too. It was not posted in Farnell or RS forums, It is posted here.

It did not ask that the board be sold at the $35 price point. In fact it did not state a price for the production of an ALPHA board at all, that would be up to RS or Farnell in conjunction with the RPF, It only stated that this board HAD been near or at the $35 point before it was totally reworked into the current production boards.

This post specifically stated that it should wait until the RasPi production had "cooled down".

It did not state that the Alpha should replace any production unit boards at all.

It simply asked for people to show any interest in the ALPHA board and only the ALPHA board as an additional production item IF either company felt it would be profitable to do so. And IF the Foundation AGREED to let them produce it.

The production board is what the foundation designed for their goal, the Alpha board was a step along that path. The Alpha board did not completely meet their price point as it did not come in BELOW $35 enough to be a benefit to their main goal (they do intend to give some of the boards away). There is profit built into the production boards or Farnell and RS could not afford to build or sell them. Even though the board is Broadcoms they very well may like to have it produced as it will increase the sales of the BCM2835 chip, that is why they are in business is to sell chips. Again nothing in this post is intentioned at working around the RPF to have anotrher board fabricated or meant to put additional work on the foundation other than possibly giving their permission to ALLOW the production of the ALPHA board which is a proven though possibly undocumented design!

I personally feel that the ALPHA board is superior, for us "Hackers", than the production boards. I also feel that some of the companies that are looking into using RasPi's as the base for prodcing new products may also like the ALPHA board even at a higher price. And all of this could mean more cash in the Foundations pocket to carry out their goal.

So again I ask you to post whether you might be interested in the ALPHA board being produced?

This post was meant to establish if there is an interest in producing the Alpha board which is what all of the software developers are using to get their software ready for the production models A & B. It is electrically similar (not to mean that they are exactly alike they are not) to the production models and the software is exactly the same. Go through this particular forum and see what the requests have been since the specs for the production board had been anounced and you will see that this post is not that far off!
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Re: Would Farnell or RS make the ALPHA board available?

Sat Mar 17, 2012 11:47 am

As has been said, there are probably many variations of the Pi that would sell in small numbers, but not many that would sell in enough numbers to make it worthwhile.

So the production version of the Pi is missing some features that the Alpha had. But the question is: would it be better to produce a model Z with those features, or an add-on board that adds those features to the model A or model B? What are the drawbacks of each route?

My guess (no data, pure prejudice) is that the add-on board route would be quicker and cheaper.

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