SolidRun's New SFF HummingBoard PC Is A Modular Raspberry Pi Clone With Upgradeable ARM Processor

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2014 - 02:21 AM |
Tagged: solidrun, SFF, Raspberry Pi, iot, i.mx6, Freescale, Cortex A9

SolidRun recently launched a new small form factor PC called the HummingBoard. The new kit is an open source hardware platform that can run a number of open source operating systems. It mimics the physical form factor of the popular Raspberry Pi and as a result is compatible with much of its accessories including cases and add-on boards.

 

The HummingBoard is comprised of two main pieces; the carrier board which hosts all of the I/O ports and pin-outs and the removable microSOM (Silicon on Module) which is a smaller circuit board housing the processor and system memory.

 

SolidRun HummingBoard i2eX Small Computer_Angled.jpg

 

SolidRun currently offers two reference versions of the carrier board, a base design and a higher-end model with beefier I/O. The HummingBoard Carrier is an open source design and the company allows hardware hackers and product developers to use their own custom carrier boards based on the reference design. Each carrier board has a special connector that the Micro SOM plugs into.

 

SolidRun MicroSOM.png

A microSOM (System on a Module) includes the CPU, GPU, RAM, power management, networking, and I/O connectivity hardware.

 

SolidRun currently offers up three microSOMs for use with the HummingBoard. The microSOMs use Freescale i.MX6 series SoCs (PDF), offer up to 1GB of RAM, and host the power management and networking hardware. Depending on the microSOM chosen, users can get a single or dual core CPU paired with a GPU that is at least OpenGL ES 2.0 compatible (the highest end model supports OpenGL ES 2.0 Quad Shader) and video encode/decode hardware units. The HummingBoard is upgrade-able and may support a microSOM with a quad core CPU in the future (a quad core microSOM already exists but is not currently supported by the HummingBoard).

 

SolidRun HummingBoard i2eX.jpg

 

Users can purchase the HummingBoard as a combo (carrier board+processor module) or in individual pieces. Specifically, SolidRun sells the HummingBoard i1, i2, and i2eX. Both the i1 and i2 use the base carrier board while the i2ex uses the pro version. The i1 comes with a single core i.MX6 CPU, GC880 GPU, and 512MB of system memory. The i2 ups the amount of RAM to 1GB and CPU core count by using the Freescale i.MX6 Dual Lite. Finally, the HummingBoad i2eX features a faster clocked dual core CPU (i.MX6 Dual), GC2000 GPU, 1GB of RAM, and significantly more I/O thanks to the higher-end carrier board and processing capabilities.

 

At a minimum, users can expect HDMI video out, 10/100 Ethernet, two powered USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card slot, a coaxial S/PDIF audio output, PWM mono audio, a 2-lane MIPI CSI 2.0 camera interface, and GPIO header. On the high end (HummingBoard Carrier Pro/HummingBoard i2eX/custom configs), the HummingBoard supports Gigabit Ethernet (limited to 470Mbps by the SoC), PCI-E 2.0, mSATA II, two additional USB 2.0 ports (via internal header), stereo audio output, microphone input, an IR receiver, and a Real-Time Clock (RTC) with battery backup.

 

SolidRun is aiming the HummingBoard platform at Internet-of-Things, home automation, and other embedded device developers. I believe that it will also appeal to hobbyists and Linux software developers.

 

SolidRun HummingBoard i2eX_IO.jpg

 

The HummingBoard is rather expandable and is nearly a drop-in alternative to the Raspberry Pi. The open source nature (though, like the Raspberry Pi's BCM2835, the SoC is not fully open source) is nice, and the modular/upgradeable design is sure to appeal to hardware enthusiasts. The HummingBoard starts at $45 and tops out at $99 for the highest end i2eX. It is more expensive than the Raspberry Pi, which is the platform it is most likely to be pitted against, but it features faster hardware (especially the CPU and its ISA: ARMv7 versus ARMv6) and is priced competively with devices like the BeagleBone Black and SolidRun's own CuBox lineup.

 

The small form factor (and "single board PC") market has really ramped up the last few years and it is exciting to watch it all unfold. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more SFF PC coverage!

Source: SolidRun

A second helping of Raspberry Pi

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2014 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, Raspberry Pi B+, DIY

Tinkerers and developers received a nice gift today, an updated Raspberry Pi B+ which adds extra I/O to the existing platform which will allow you more functionality without needed to relearn how to program it.  The Broadcom BC2835 SoC is still present and still overclockable along with the 512MB of onboard RAM and most important the $35 price tag remains.  What has change is the number of USB ports which have double to four, a click in MicroSD port and an increase in the GPIO header to 40 pin, though it remains backwards compatible with 26 pin by plugging in on the left hand side which means you have not lost the work you put into the previous Pi.  Check out the introductory video at The Inquirer and feast your eyes on the new board layout below.

rsz_b-.jpg

"Although it's not touted as Raspberry Pi Two, but rather "the final evolution of the original Raspberry Pi", the firm has tailored the Model B+ to include all of the additions that Raspberry Pi users have requested."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Raspberry Pi Compute Module Will Work With Custom PCBs

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2014 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, bcm2835, arm

Although the Raspberry Pi's original purpose was as an educational tool, many enthusiasts have used the (mostly) open source hardware at the heart of home automation, robotics projects, and other embedded systems. In light of this success, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has unveiled the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, a miniaturized version of the Raspberry Pi sans IO ports that fits onto a single SO-DIMM module. The Compute Module houses the BCM2835 SoC, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of flash memory and can be paired with custom designed PCBs.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module.png

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module. Note that the pin out is entirely different from a memory module, so don't try plugging this into your laptop!

The Compute Module will initially be released along with an open source breakout board called the Compute Module IO Board. The IO Board is intended to be an example to get users started and to help them along the path of designing their own customized PCB. The IO Board has a SO-DIMM connector that the Compute Module plugs into. It further offers up two serial camera ports, two serial display ports, two banks of 2x30 GPIO pinouts, a micro USB port for power, one full-size USB port, and one HDMI output. The Raspberry Pi Foundation will be releasing full documentation and schematics for both the Compute Module and IO Board over the next few weeks.

Using the Compute Module and a custom PCB, the embedded system can be smaller and lighter than then traditional Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module IO Board.jpeg

The Compute Module IO Board (left) with the Compute Module installed (right).

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module and IO Board will be available as a bundle (the "Compute Module Development Kit") from Element14 and RS in June. Shortly after the development kit launch, customers will be able to purchase the compute module itself for $30 each in batches of 100 or slightly more for smaller orders.

More information can be found on the Raspberry Pi blog. Here's hoping the industrial / embedded market successes will help fuel additional educational endeavours and new Raspberry Pis versions in the future.

Simon Hall Awarded $10K Raspberry Pi Quake III Bounty With His Open Source Graphics Driver Work

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 11:23 PM |
Tagged: videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, open source, graphics drivers, bcm2835

The Raspberry Pi recently passed its second anniversary, but until now the open source software friendly hardware has had to rely on closed source drivers for graphics processing on the SoC's VideoCore IV GPU.This has now changed thanks to work by Raspberry Pi hacker Simon Hall who has ported over the open source graphics stack from Broadcom's recently open sourced BCM21553 SoC for cell phones to the BCM2835 SoC that powers the Raspberry Pi. In doing so, Mr. Hall has claimed the Raspberry Pi Foundation's $10,000 bounty by using the newly ported open source graphics driver to run Quake III Arena at 1080p (minimum of 20 FPS according to contest rules).

Quake III Arena.png

The ported open source driver is not quite as optimized as the closed source version that the Pi currently uses (which allegedly runs Quake III twice as fast), but it is an encouraging start and the base from which the community can flesh out and optimize. The open source graphics driver is likely to be rolled into future OS releases, but for adventurous users that want the open source driver now, Simon Hall has provided step-by-step instructions for getting the driver and using it to run Quake III on the Raspberry Pi blog. Be warned, it is an involved and time consuming process at the moment.

I would like to say congratulations to Simon Hall for the bounty award and thank him for his work in porting the driver to the Raspberry Pi's SoC!

Hopefully this graphics stack breathes new life into the Raspberry Pi and the community takes up the development mantle to improve upon the codebase and pursue new opportunities that the open source nature enables such as a port of Android running on the Pi.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

Raspberry Pi Foundation: $10,000 Reward for Quake III

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 1, 2014 - 03:51 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny and cheap (as in a starting price of ~$28) computer that was originally intended for educational purposes. It is built around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC which itself is based on the ARM architecture. Its VideoCore IV 3D graphics processor relies upon a closed-source driver because, until yesterday, Broadcom had not provided documentation or code. Technically, the code they released is for a different SoC but both Broadcomm and the Raspberry Pi Foundation believe the tools are there to port it over.

And the foundation wants to drum up interest by offering a $10,000 bounty for Quake III running acceptably on the Pi with the ported open source drivers.

rasppie.jpg

If interested, you can look at Broadcom for the documentation and 3-clause BSD-licensed source code. You can also check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation for a blog post which mentions the competition (as well as their 2-year anniversary). GPU drivers are a good thing to be open-sourced. As I have been saying, the further "upstream" a piece of code is, the more it trickles down as a dependency for other software. The vocabulary that software needs to communicate with a hardware platform is quite high up there. Leaving those tools to society is a good thing for society.

Granted, it will probably not have a meaningful impact in this case... but there is a chance.

Build your own Pi in the sky; Raspberry flavoured clouds

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2013 - 03:18 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, arkOS, cloud, DIY

Over at MAKE:Blog is an interesting little project for those looking for ideas on what to do with your Raspberry Pi.  Using arkOS, a lightweight Linux-based operating system specifically designed for hosting applications you can build your own private cloud without a huge investment of money.  Once you have the basics running, installing Jacob Cook's open-source Genesis application provides you a web based interface for running all your apps.  If you are relatively familiar with Linux and Raspberry it shouldn't take you that long to be fully functional. 

raspberry-pi-computer.jpg

"Twenty-three-year-old Jacob Cook is on a mission to help you create your own small piece of cloud on the internet, freeing you from other providers for services like file storage and sharing, web hosting, e-mail, calendars, music, and photos."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: MAKE:Blog

Please Tip Your Server of Raspberry Pi. 5V DC Customary.

Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 18, 2013 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, nvidia, HPC, amazon

Adam DeConinck, high performance computing (HPC) systems engineer for NVIDIA, built a personal computer cluster in his spare time. While not exactly high performance, especially when compared to the systems he maintains for Amazon and his employer, its case is made of Lego and seems to be under a third of a cubic foot in volume.

It is a cluster of five Raspberry Pi devices and an eight-port Ethernet switch.

NVIDIA_Pi.jpg

Image source: NVIDIA Blogs

Raspberry Pi is based on a single-core ARM CPU bundled on an SoC with a 24 GFLOP GPU and 256 or 512 MB of memory. While this misses the cutesy point of the story, I am skeptical of the expected 16W power rating. Five Raspberry Pis, with Ethernet, draw a combined maximum of 17.5W, alone, and even that neglects the draw of the networking switch. My, personal, 8-port unmanaged switch is rated to draw 12W which, when added to 17.5W, is not 16W and thus something is being neglected or averaged. Then again, his device, power is his concern.

Despite constant development and maintenance of interconnected computers, professionally, Adam's will for related hobbies has not been displaced. Even after the initial build, he already plans to graft the Hadoop framework and really reign in the five ARM cores for something useful...

... but, let's be honest, probably not too useful.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs

Raspberry Pi Replacing X11 With Wayland/Weston To Get GPU Acceleration

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: x11, weston, wayland, videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, linux, bcm2835, arm

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with Collabora to fund development of a Wayland display server that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi and also allows the continued use of legacy X applications.

So far, operating systems that run on the Raspberry Pi have used X as the display server and window compositor. The Raspberry Pi Foundation wants to move to a window compositor that will take advantage of the Raspberry Pi's Hardware Video Scaler (HVS) and take the burden of window composition off of the relatively much slower ARM CPU. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has chosen Wayland as the display server for the task.

The Raspberry Pi Model A.

Taking advantage of the HVS and OpenGL ES compatible GPU will make the system feel much more responsive and allow for advanced effects (fading, Expose'-like window browsers, et al) for those that like a little more bling with their OS.

The Wayland/Weston display server allows for GPU acceleration and window composition using the Pi's VideoCore IV GPU and HVS (which is independent of the hardware units that run OpenGL code). The display server will feed the entire set of windows along with how they should be laid out on screen (stacking order, transparency, 2D transform, ect.) to the HVS which will hardware accelerate the process and free the ARM CPU up for other tasks.
According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Raspberry Pi's HVS is fairly powerful for a mobile-class SoC with 500 Megapixel/s scaling throughput and 1 Gigapixel per second blending throughput.

Wayland running on Raspberry Pi.jpg

In addition to GPU acceleration, Wayland will allow non-rectangular windows, fading and other effects, support for legacy X applications with Xwayland, and a scaled window browser.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been working with developers since late last year and is nearly ready to roll a technology preview into the next Raspian operating system release. The developers are still working on improving the performance and  reducing memory usage. As a result, the new Wayland/Weston display server is not expected to become the new default in the various Raspberry Pi operating systems until late 2013 at the earliest.

This is a project that is really nice to see, especially since at least a small part of the development work going into supporting the ARM-based Raspberry Pi on Wayland will help other ARM devices and Wayland in general which is becoming an increasingly popular choice in new Linux distributions and the best X alternative so far. Of course, this is primarily going to be a useful update for those Raspberry Pi users that run OSes with GUIs as the responsiveness should be a lot snappier!

If you simply can't wait until later this year, it is possible to install the technology preview (beta) of Wayland/Weston onto the current version of Raspbian Linux by cloning the git project or installing a Raspbian package of Weston 1.0. Blogger Daniel Stone has all the details for installing the display server onto your Pi under the section titled "sounds great; how do i get it?" on this post.

See a video of Wayland technology preview in action on the Raspberry Pi on the Raspberry Pi Foundation's blog.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

New Hack Allows Kindle Paperwhites To Be Used As Wireless Display For Rasbperry Pi

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2013 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: wireless display, Raspberry Pi, paperwhite, mobile, kindle, e-ink

The Raspberry Pi makes for a cheap and low power media PC, file server, or desktop but the lack of a display means that it is not very portable. Recently a hack was posted online by Max Ogden that enables the Rasbperry Pi to be used on the go by pairing it with an Amazon Kindle and its e-ink display. His wireless display setup was actually based on a previous hack that allowed the Pi to be paired with the 3rd-generation Kindle. Ogden's hack takes things a step further by supporting the latest Paperwhite versions as well as no longer requirig a wired connnection between the display and the Raspberry Pi.

By loading the Raspberry Pi with Raspian Linux and adding a terminal emulator to the Kindle, the Kindle connects to the Pi over an SSH session where the Pi console and any keyboard input can be seen on the Kindle's e-ink display. The hardware needed to make the setup work includes a Wi-Fi hotspot, a Wi-Fi USB NIC, The Raspberry Pi, a supported Kindle, and a battery pack with enough juice to power everything. A wired or wireless keyboard and Wi-Fi dongle can be added to the Raspberry Pi Model B, bu Model A users will need to add a USB hub as the $25 model only supports a single USB port on the device itself.

kindle-table.png

Max Ogden shows off his new portable battery-powered Raspberry Pi with wireless e-ink display.

There are some limitations to this setup. One is a bit of latency between typing and seeing the characters appear on the screen due to the low refresh rate inherent in e-ink displays and the wireless connection. Ogden estimates that this delay is around 200ms, and is noticeably but bearable while typing. The other major limitation is that the display can currently only be used to display the Pi console, and not the GUI of Raspian. For writing code or articles, you could get by with a command-line text editor like nano or vi--at the very least it would be a distraction-free writing environment as you could not procrastinate and browse Reddit or watch videos even if you wanted to (heh).

If you are interested in setting up your own wireless Raspberry Pi display, you should check out Ogdens blog for a list of recommended hardware as well as Rod Vagg's tutorial on configuring the Kindle Paperwhite with the correct software.

This is one of the more-useful Raspberry Pi hacks that I've seen so far. Hopefully, a future hack will come along that will also allow one of these e-ink devices to display the GUI desktop environment and not just the terminal.

Source: Max Ogden

DOS PC Emulator For Raspberry Pi Now Available With rpix86, Now At Version 0.04

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2013 - 07:25 AM |
Tagged: x86 emulator, rpix86, Raspberry Pi, gaming, dos

The Raspberry Pi is proving to be a popular destination for all manner of interesting software projects and open source operating systems. The most-recent Pi project I've come across is a DOS PC emulator by Patrick Aalto called rpix86. A port of DSx86, which ran on the Nintendo DS handheld console, rpix86 is now up to version 0.04 and emulates a 90's X86 computer with enough hardware oomph to run classic PC games!

rpix86 PC emulator_keybsu.png

Rpix86 is an emulator that runs from the console (not within the X GUI desktop environment) on the Raspberry Pi. It emulates the following X86 PC specs:

Component Details
Processor 80486 @ ~ 20 MHz (inc. protected mode. No virtual memory support)
Memory 640 Kb low memory, 4 MB EMS memory, 16 MB XMS memory
Graphics Super VGA @ 640 x 480 w/ 256 colors
Audio Sound Blaster 2.0 (+ AdLib-compatible FM sounds)
Input Devices US keyboard, analog joystick, 2 button mouse
Misc Roland MPU-401 MIDI Support via USB MIDI Dongle

Patrick Aalto added support for analog USB joysticks and foot pedals (4 buttons, 4 analog channels) as well as 80 x 50 text mode (required by some MIDI software and Little Big Adventure's setup program) to the recent 0.04 update. He also stripped out debug code, which cut the program size approximately in half.

The developer has stated on his blog that he is working on allowing rpix86 to be used from the terminal within X and adding support for intelligent MPU MIDI mode. A port to the Android operating system called ax86 is also in the works. You can grab the current version of the Raspberry Pi X86 emulator on the developer's website.

With this emulator, you can run most of the DOS games you grew up with (Wolf3D and Digger anyone?), which is definitely a worthy use for the $25 or $35 Raspberry Pi hardware! At the very least, it is an interesting alternative to running DOSBox, and much smaller and more power efficient than running an old X86 PC dedicated to running classic games. Getting those floppies to work with the Pi might be a bit of an issue though, assuming they are still readable (heh).

Read more about the Raspberry Pi computer at PC Perspective.