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.

 

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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

Club 3D launches Worlds First USB 3.0 to 4K Graphics Adapter

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Mobile | July 15, 2014 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: displaylink, club 3d, 4k

Why would you want a USB 3.0 4K display adapter you might ask?  Perhaps you have an ultrabook with limited display outputs that do not output in 4K resolution but somehow you managed to get your hands on a 4K display for work or leisure and have a need for the full resolution.  Club 3D now has a family of USB adapters for you, the CSV-2302 USB 3.0 to DisplayPort 4K, CSV-2301 USB 3.0 to DisplayPort 1600p and the CSV-2300D USB 3.0 to DVI-I graphics adapters.  This is the first implementation of the DisplayLink DL-5500 chipset and it does indeed support 10bit colour if your display can handle it.

The MSRP for this device when it starts to ship in about 2 weeks will be ~$142.

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Club 3D officially launches the next generation of USB 3.0 Graphics adapters capable of outputting high resolutions to DVI-I (2048x 1152p), DisplayPort (2560x 1600p) and the world’s first USB 3.0 to DisplayPort Graphics (CSV-2302) adapter which supports 4K or Ultra High Definition resolution at 3840x 2160p.

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) Port of a desktop computer or notebook is multifunctional and can be used to connect a large variety of (storage) devices, keyboards, mice and and other peripherals like monitors. Back in 2011, Club 3D introduced its first SenseVision USB Graphics adapters. These small external graphics adapters can be used to connect a DVI or HDMI monitor to the USB 2.0 output of a Desktop Computer or Notebook and create a multi screen setup.

The SenseVision USB adapters proved to be very successful across the globe! Not only with travelers but also in (semi) professional environments where more monitors mean more productivity.

The new Club 3D USB 3.0 Graphics adapters are fully ‘Plug and Display’ certified and the USB 3.0 to 4K Graphics Adapter (CSV-2302) is the very first to use the brand new DisplayLink DL-5500 chipset enabling 4K Ultra High Definition output to DisplayPort enabled 4K monitors at 30Hz. The Club 3D USB 3.0 to 4K Graphics Adapter (CSV-2302) is the first device available worldwide with the revolutionary new DisplayLink SoC implemented.

This Graphics adapter uses little resources of your system so it won’t affect performance ensuring at the same time a great image quality. It’s the ideal solution for anyone wanting to expand desktop space in order to use multiple programs simultaneously.

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Features:

  • 3840x2160 output at 30Hz
  • Backwards compatible with QHD and HD monitors
  • DP 1.2 interface (DisplayPort)
  • HDCP 2.0 for protected video playback
  • Integrated DisplayPort Audio

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Source: Club 3D

White Quantum Dots are bright

Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2014 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: quantum dots, WLED, carbon dots

Researchers may have found a less toxic alternative to using quantum dots in displays, the so called carbon dot which is a semiconductor that generate a rather cold light, in that they do not emit much yellow or red wavelengths.  Previously the CDs were used as the white light which shone through QDs but they contain cadmium or lead which tends to be strictly controlled when used in consumer goods.  Nanotechweb is reporting on the successful results of teams which are using cadmium free zinc copper indium sulphide core/shell QDs to produce displays with a significantly higher colour-rendering index than currently available LEDs are capable of, so we may still be on track for better displays in the next few years.

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"By combining carbon dots that emit blue light and zinc copper indium sulphide quantum dots that emit in the green and red regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, researchers in China and the US have succeeded in making white light-emitting diodes with a high colour-rendering index of 93."

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Source: Nanotechweb

If you like your gaming keyboards with light and sound ...

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2014 - 05:13 PM |
Tagged: input, rosewill, RGB80, mechanical keyboard, Kailh

The Rosewill RGB80 is very much a gaming keyboard, the extras like USB pass through have been eliminated as has the numpad.  It also features N-key rollover which can be toggled with a key combo if your computer has difficulty detecting the keyboard.  One unique feature are the switches which are made by Kailh as opposed to Cherry, the switches are similar to Cherry MX Blue with a bump and click when you depress a key, perhaps not the best for typing but perfect for gaming.  In addition to the PC mode there are five available gaming profiles which you can use to store macros and LED colour settings as this keyboard currently supports 228 colour choices with updated software due in the future to vastly increase that spectrum.  Head over to The Tech Report to see more on this brilliant mechanical keyboard.

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"Rosewill's RGB80 is one of the first mechanical keyboards with RGB LED backlighting, which can produce a dizzying array of colors. We've taken it through its paces."

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Take Your Best BF4 Battlefest Battleshots and Win!

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2014 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: giveaway, gaming, ea, dice, battlefield 4, amd

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For the next month, until August 12th, Battlefield.com, AMD and Sapphire will be giving away video cards, DICE giftcards and BF4 Premium memberships to the best screenshots submitted to their blog.

This week:

Daily Prize Package: An AMD Sapphire graphics card, a $50 DICE online store gift code, and a BF4 Premium membership code on your platform of choice.

  • Saturday, July 12 – EXPLOSIONS
  • Sunday, July 13 – HELICOPTERS
  • Monday, July 14 – VISTAS
  • Tuesday, July 15 – INFANTRY
  • Wednesday, July 16 – TEAM PLAY
  • Thursday, July 17 – NAVAL
  • Friday, July 18 – PARACHUTES

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Why not team up with the Fragging Frogs to play BF4 and work together to make the best screenshot submissions you can?

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.

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"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."

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Source: The Inquirer

Raptr's Top Twenty Games of June 2014

Subject: General Tech | July 12, 2014 - 09:20 PM |
Tagged: raptr

There have been significant changes in the Top 20 list of most played PC games for June. Raptr, the service for PC gamers to update drivers, stream gameplay, and tune settings, records the number of hours played for each game, compiling it into a monthly list. While not sales figures, it does suggest how popular one game is compared to another -- at least if you want to factor in hours played, not just the number of players.

raptr-caas-most_played_june_2014.jpg

By far the most funny increase is Battlefield 3. This month, due to EA's Origin "On the House" program, the three-year-old shooter jumped thirty places, from 42nd to 12th. At the same time, Battlefield 4 dropped three places, from 7th to 10th, leaving it with just a 0.04% lead over its previous version. Jokes aside, this probably means that EA has a significant, untapped user base who would be interested in the Battlefield franchise.

Watch Dogs jumped eleven places, from 19th to 8th, which might sound surprising but was actually predicted by Raptr. The bigger surprise is how high it was in the last ranking, being that it launched on May 27th. That was a lot of usage for just a handful of days, almost as much as Team Fortress 2 had for the entire month.

Of course, League of Legends is still in first place, over doubling the game time of DOTA2.

Source: Raptr

The Third x86-based SoC Player: VIA & Centaur's Isaiah II

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2014 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, isaiah II, Intel, centaur, arm, amd

There might be a third, x86-compatible processor manufacturer who is looking at the mobile market. Intel has been trying to make headway, including the direct development of Android for the x86 architecture. The company also has a few design wins, mostly with Windows 8.1-based tablets but also the occasional Android-based models. Google is rumored to be preparing the "Nexus 8" tablet with one of Intel's Moorefield SoCs. AMD, the second-largest x86 processor manufacturer, is aiming their Mullins platform at tablets and two-in-ones, but cannot afford to play snowplow, at least not like Intel.

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VIA, through their Centaur Technology division, is expected to announce their own x86-based SoC, too. Called Isaiah II, it is rumored to be a quad core, 64-bit processor with a maximum clock rate of 2.0 GHz. Its GPU is currently unknown. VIA sold their stake S3 Graphics to HTC back in 2011, who then became majority shareholder over the GPU company. That said, HTC and VIA are very close companies. The chairwoman of HTC is the founder of VIA Technologies. The current President and CEO of VIA, who has been in that position since 1992, is her husband. I expect that the GPU architecture will be provided by S3, or will somehow be based on their technology. I could be wrong. Both companies will obviously do what they think is best.

It would make sense, though, especially if it benefits HTC with cheap but effective SoCs for Android and "full" Windows (not Windows RT) devices.

Or this announcement could be larger than it would appear. Three years ago, VIA filed for a patent which described a processor that can read both x86 and ARM machine language and translate it into its own, internal microinstructions. The Centaur Isaiah II could reasonably be based on that technology. If so, this processor would be able to support either version of Android. Or, after Intel built up the Android x86 code base, maybe they shelved that initiative (or just got that patent for legal reasons).

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But what about Intel? Honestly, I see this being a benefit for the behemoth. Extra x86-based vendors will probably grow the overall market share, compared to ARM, by helping with software support. Even if it is compatible with both ARM and x86, what Intel needs right now is software. They can only write so much of it themselves. It is possible that VIA, being the original netbook processor, could disrupt the PC market with both x86 and ARM compatibility, but I doubt it.

Centaur Technology, the relevant division of VIA, will make their announcement in less than 51 days.

Source: 3d Center

HSA on Linux

Subject: General Tech | July 11, 2014 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: linux, hsa, amd, open source

Open source HSA has arrived for the Linux kernel with a newly released set of patches which will allow Sea Islands and newer GPUs to share hardware resources.   These patches are both for a sample driver for any HSA-compatible hardware and the river for Radeon GPUs.  As the debut of the Linux 3.16 kernel is so close you shouldn't expect to see these patches included until 3.17 which should be released in the not too distant future.  Phoronix and Linux users everywhere give a big shout of thanks to AMD's John Bridgman for his work on this project.

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"AMD has just published a massive patch-set for the Linux kernel that finally implements a HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) in open-source. The set of 83 patches implement a Linux HSA driver for Radeon family GPUs and serves too as a sample driver for other HSA-compatible devices. This big driver in part is what well known Phoronix contributor John Bridgman has been working on at AMD."

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Source: Phoronix

The PC is still not dead

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2014 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: market share, desktop pc

There has been a 2 year slump in PC sales due to a number of reasons, from a lack of attractive system upgrades to the increasing capabilities of mobile devices but according to Gartner this is coming to an end.  While Acer and the smaller brands and no-name systems continue to see sales declines the major players such as Lenovo HP, Dell, and Asus have all seen increases in the amount of systems they have sold in this past quarter.  The Register quotes Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa in their article, "... we expect to see slow, but consistent, PC growth" as emerging markets augment their low cost tablets with purchases of full PCs. 

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"By Gartner's estimates, worldwide PC shipments were essentially flat for the second quarter of 2014, growing just 0.1 per cent when compared to the same period a year ago. But even that is encouraging, the analyst firm points out, because shipments have declined for the last eight consecutive quarters."

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Source: The Register