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Just Kidding – Accepting Reality

Just Kidding – Accepting Reality

CRAY Super Computer

I have been kidding myself and any readers here. Not much but a little. SBC (Single Board Computers) are not going to replace a fully loaded desktop or laptop computer anytime soon. If I have left that impression it was only because of my excitement on how well recent edition SBCs perform.

What is missing from the SBC is lots of high speed RAM and its necessary sidekick, high speed NVM (non volatile memory)

I built up an Intel NUC computer a year ago with a core I7 7th generation processor, 512GB Solid State boot drive, Two GB spinning hard drive and 32 GB RAM. Of course it “blows away” any SBC for professional applications like CAD/CAM, video editing, bookkeeping systems, etc.

The NUC OS is WIN10 but it would also be a “killer” Linux OS machine. The Linux OS on most of the SBC’s is not a problem. However, it will limit use of some forms of popular commercial software.

The NUC is far more computer than is needed if all I did with it is check email. If I needed (or just wanted) to use a computer 24/7 as say, a print server, using the NUC is not a good choice of hardware The minimal SBC is the perfect choice.

The intended and actual use is the key. The SBC is a capable choice within its limitations. A 1.4 GHz processor is not a screamer. It spends MOST of its time throttled back to 600KHz. The low power is a feature, not an issue.

That makes the SBC a niche computer. It has its place. Current editions can run as well as low end netbooks and other systems with similar processors and memory. But, they are open designs intended for experiments, writing software, and ease of accessibility to the inner workings. That, and the low cost, is their niche.

BUT (again!),,, There is nothing wrong with pushing those design limits. That’s the beauty. Testing what can actually be done, beyond expectations… Failure is always an option, and is how true limits are determined.

Be a computer test pilot. Push the limits, hard and soft. Accept reality when the edge is found.

Super-computers are a niche application too. They probably don’t even DO email…


A Pie Eater?

When operating, a heat sink (not show) must be applied to the processor.

A friend of mine, Mike S. in Michigan, USA has sent me a new SBC (Single Board Computer) with which to play. It is a super-set clone of the Rapberry Pi (RPi) design. The board layout, size and basic design are equal. But it has much more of everything else.

The SBC is called the Asus Tinker Board S. I will refer to it as the ATB-S. Sometimes just leave off the Asus A (TB-S).

The technical specifications are impressive.

The processor High speed operates at 1.8GHz rather than 1.4GHz and has four cores like the RPi. Also 2GB of LPDDR3 dual channel memory rather than the 1GB of the Rpi.. A big addition is 16GB of onboard eMMC (not available on the Rpi) and an SD 3.0 interface, the place for a micro SD card – same as the Rpi.

There are more features that are an improvement over the present Raspberry Pi

All this comes at a price of course, making the ~$61.00 ATB-S, 1.74 times more expensive than the ~$35.00 Rpi. Not too extreme when considering the improved specifications. What might be deduced here is how hard it could be for the Raspberry Pi to hold it’s long standing price point in its next revision.

As I said, the ATB-S has been gifted to me. Would I purchase the ATB-S given the choice with the RPi? I think it would depend on the application. In an applications where long term dedicated use, like a file server is intended., the answer is probably yes.

For non critical use like learning programming and developing code, the lower cost, lower speed RPi is certainly adequate at a lower price.

However, The price pain point (for me) between $35 and $61 is not severe in a one-off purchase decision. If I were building one hundred kiosks that didn’t need the extra performance, then the answer is definitely NO. So, my answer is, “It depends…”

I have been using the RPi for an email terminal and occasional web browser. The extra performance, I feel, will certainly be noticed. I will soon see…

Is the ATB-S a Pie eater? Ha! Certainly not where the higher price is an important factor. The niche for the RPi is its low cost low, but reasonable performance. Driving cost higher could take it out of the niche. Asus may be exploring where that upper edge price boundary lies.

If a super RPi is produced at the same (higher) cost, the RPi may dominate just because of fan loyalty and its huge SBC market presence. Asus is also a huge brand. I think it could be interesting where the copy-cat format ATB-S will go in the next round. Certainly depends how well the current ATB-S SBC performs for the accountants at Asus. It is already their second edition. (There is a non -S Tinker Board at lower cost.)


Raspberry Pi Printer

Raspberry Pi Printer

I was telling myself I had a pretty good mini PC (computer) in the form of a Raspberry Pi (RPi). It was capable of doing everything I thought a small computer should do. But then, it hit me. Not the computer but a realization.

There was no way for me to send any of my documents from the RPi to a printer. There is no printer set-up in a stock Raspberry Pi. Nothing in the configuration and nothing in the user menu. Well That’s Fine (WTF).

So, I do some web searching to see what others (other folk) are doing. Not too well it seems. Some Noob […] Continue reading » Raspberry Pi Printer

It’s Under Control

It’s Under Control

The Raspberry Pi 3B+ is holding its own as a low cost PC style computer. It is proving practical as an everyday driver (in automobile terms) and of course can be customized to the Nth degree for just about any special embedded control application that can be imagined.

It certainly is not a screamingly fast super computer. That is not its design or purpose. That means there are some practical performance limitations. Nothing that is a show stopper or spoils the ride.

It is in every sense, a “real” computer as we have come to expect. It is also much more than […] Continue reading » It’s Under Control

Raspberry Pi 3 B+

Raspberry Pi 3B+

I’m playing with one of the smallest and most popular PC like computers on the planet. It’s called the Raspberry Pi (RPi). Now available in many editions and and special application configurations.

Why? Just because I can. It’s a very intriguing bit of hardware.

It’s a bare bone credit card size circuit board. It’s primary operating system (OS) is Linux, which I love and understand. It can also be enabled to run on several other OS software. Google “raspberry pi” if you want the complete description of the hardware. No need to explain here.

The best part is the […] Continue reading » Raspberry Pi 3 B+