Asus Enters Single Board Computer Market with Tinker Board

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2017 - 05:53 AM |
Tagged: asus, tinker board, Rockchip, rk3288, cortex a17, Raspberry Pi, sbc, 4k, kodi, xbmc

Asus is jumping into the single board computer market with its 90MB0QY1-M0EAY0 Tinker Board. With a physical layout matching the latest Raspberry Pi 3, the Tinker Board offers up faster hardware including support for 4K H.264 video decode.

Asus Tinker Board.jpg

The single board PC offers up the following I/O options:

  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x HDMI 2.0
  • 1 x Micro SD (UHS-1)
  • 1 x Micro USB (for power)
  • 1 x Audio (192 Hz / 24 bit)
  • 40 pin header (28 pin GPIO)
  • 1 x CSI (camera)
  • 1 x DSI (display)
  • PWM and S/PDIF solder points

Asus has opted to use a 32-bit ARM processor to power the device rather than the 64-bit SoC found in the Raspberry Pi 3. Specifally, Asus is using the Rockchip RK3288 which features four ARM Cortex A17 CPU cores clocked at 1.8 GHz and a Mali-T764 GPU. The SoC is paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory and wireless radios for 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Compared to the Raspberry Pi, the Asus Tinker Board has twice the RAM and allegedly twice the processing power with GeekBench score of 3,925 versus the Pi’s 2,092. The Mali-T764 GPU is capable of 4K H.264 (and 10-bit H.265) video decoding which makes it better than the Pi which can only do 1080p in hardware. The cores are clocked faster on the Tinker Board but obviously do not support 64-bit instructions. The increase of system memory is perhaps the biggest boon for those looking to use it for a cheap desktop or media streamer. And for those using analog audio, Asus has included its own audio solution that is, at least on paper, much better than the Pi's.

The Asus SBC reportedly uses up to 5 watts of power with an average power usage of 2.25 watts when playing back a 1080p video with a HDMI display attached.

The Tinker Board at launch is compatible with Debian OS and Kodi media playback software.
The physical layout matches that of the Pi meaning it should be compatible with cases and is potentially a drop in replacement for products powered by a Pi so long as it can supply enough power.

It is currently available from British retailer Farnell for ‎£45.83 ($56.91) or ‎£55 ($68.30) with VAT. It does not appear to be avaiable on this side of the pond quite yet but you can import it if you want to get your hands on it.

More competition in the single board PC space is a good thing, but I do wonder how successful the Asus Tinker Board will be. It is faster, but it is also nearly twice as expensive as the Pi. A lot is going to depend on how well it is received by the software and modding communities and how well Asus supports that Rockchip processor with various Linux distributions and applications at launch and over time. The Pi’s VideoCore IV GPU is closed source and getting information from Broadcom is a pain, but at least it is a known quantity at this point and the boards using it (like the Pi) have the market share and community support to get things working with it. I am also curious how well the audio solution works and whether or not the Gigabit Ethernet port can actually hit gigabit speeds.

What are your thoughts on the Asus Tinker Board?

Source: Farnell

Raspberry Pi Foundation Updates Compute Module With Faster Processor

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2017 - 05:11 AM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, compute module, Raspberry Pi 3, broadcom, iot

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is introducing an updated Compute Module that puts the single board computer for embedded devices more in line with the performance of the newest hobbyist Raspberry Pi 3.

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 is a pin compatible successor to the Compute Module 1 (there is no CM2) that, according to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, offers twice the RAM and 10-times the CPU performance.

Compute-Module-Main-500x301.jpg

Note that while the Compute Module 3 may be able to be a drop in upgrade / replacement for devices powered by the first generation CM1, it uses more power, puts out more heat, and is 1mm taller so while it is pin compatible it may not work in all devices if their module slot space, power supply, and airflow / heatsinks are not up to the task.

The Compute Module 3 is a small single board computer with a SO-DIMM connector that can slot into embedded and IoT products. It is powered by a Broadcom BCM2837 with four ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores clocked at 1.2 GHz and a dual core VIdeoCore IV GPU clocked at 400 MHz. The processor is paired with 1GB of RAM. As far as onboard storage, the Compute Module 3 will come in two SKUs: the CM3 with 4GB of eMMC or a CM3 Lite without pre-installed eMMC and solder points for manufacturers to add their own eMMC or micro SD card slot. The VideoCore IV GPU supports 1080p30 decode of H.264. Users wanting hardware decode of H.265 and/or 4K support will have to look elsewhere. As is usual with Broadcom, exact specifications of the BCM2837 (especially their GPU) are kept close and quiet, unfortunately.

The exact ports and I/O from the Compute Module 3 will depend on the device and what manufacturers implement and wire to the connectors on the SO-DIMM slot. However, looking at the CMIO3 development board (96 Euros, $116 USD) shows that the CM3 supports GPIO, USB, micro USB, CSI (camera interface), DSI (display interface), HDMI, micro SD, audio, and networking. 

The Compute Module 3 can run Windows IOT Core or any number of Linux distributions compatible with ARM processors.

The Compute Module 3 is $30 while the “lite” variant without eMMC is $25. A kit including the development I/O board and both CM3 SKUs is $200. NEC has already announced it will be using the new Compute Module 3 in their digital signage and displays. Other applications include Smart TVs, home automation, and industrial control systems as well as hobbyist projects and robotics.

Source: Raspberry Pi

The RasPi gets better looking, or at least the camera does

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2016 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: IMX219, Raspberry Pi

The camera kit for the Raspberry Pi has just received an update, both the IR and visible light modules will now ship with an 8MP sensor, a nice jump from the current 5MP module.  Even better for a system designed specifically for low cost solutions is the news that the price will remain unchanged and the new camera will cost you the same as the previous.  The Inquirer reports that one of the main reasons for the change is that the OmniVision OV5647 sensor previously used can no longer be sourced.  If you use your Raspberry Pi for applications requiring a camera, you should look at your current projects to see if the jump in resolution provide by the IMX219 sensor will benefit you.

raspberry-pi-camera-580x358.jpeg

"Fortunately, we'd already struck up conversation with Sony's image sensor division, and in the nick of time we're able to announce the immediate availability of visible light and infrared cameras based on the Sony IMX219 8MP sensor at the same low price of $25.""

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Source: The Inquirer

Would you like some fresh Steaming Raspberry Pi?

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, kick ass

Not only is powering a Raspberry Pi with a steam engine incredibly impressive, its make a lot of sense to use during the winter in Sweden.  A pair of propane blowtorches is used to heat the water to steam and the pressure created is used to turn a simple two cylinder engine which in turn is used to turn a simple DC electric motor which then powers the Pi.  If the power goes out you might not be able to browse the internet on it, but this Pi will keep running as long as you have water and propane.  You can follow the link from The Register for videos and notes, although they are in Swedish, hopefully Skype add that language to their instantaneous translation service soon.

steam_powered_raspberry_pi_2.jpg

"A Swedish schoolboy has built a miniature steam engine to power his Raspberry Pi. It is a piece of absolute engineering beauty."

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Source: The Register

Raspberry Pi Zero Released for $5

Subject: Systems | November 26, 2015 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, raspberry pi zero

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a new version that lowers the cost of gigahertz-class computing devices to just $5. It is based on a 1.0 GHz ARM11 core from Broadcom that is about 40% faster than the original Raspberry Pi. It also has 512MB of RAM, which is a lot for embedded or hobbyist applications. In fact, it doubles the original Raspberry Pi Model A (and is on part with the Model B). Storage is handled by a microSD card slot, as is the case with every previous Raspberry Pi except the Compute Module.

rasp-pi-2015-zero-top.jpg

They also offer an alternative to the $5 price tag. If you pick up the print edition of MagPi magazine #40, which is the Christmas 2015 issue, you will receive a free Raspberry Pi Zero. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says that they printed 10,000 copies of this magazine. This is probably much more interesting than a CD-ROM demo of Battlezone II.

Due to high demand, I'm not sure when you can expect to get one though.

Source: Raspberry Pi

Western Digital PiDrive Kit Easily Adds 1TB of Storage to Your Raspberry Pi

Subject: General Tech, Storage | October 16, 2015 - 01:05 AM |
Tagged: western digital, Raspberry Pi, external hard drive

Western Digital recently made storage simpler when it comes to the Raspberry Pi micro computer. The aptly-named PiDrive Kit allows you to easily pair the company’s 1TB 2.5” hard drive with the SFF PC.

Released last week, the PiDrive Kit consists of a 1TB laptop-style mechanical hard drive, a custom Micro USB cable, a microSD card, and a 5V USB AC power adapter. The hard drive has a micro USB 3.0 port (though the Raspberry Pi only supports 2.0 speeds) for data and power. One end of the cable connects to the drive. The cable then breaks out into three cables which connect to one of the Pi’s USB ports, the Pi’s micro USB power input, and the USB wall adapter. This allows the drive and Raspberry Pi to be powered off of one USB connection.

WD Labs PiDrive Kit.jpg

Looking up the model number from the WD website, it looks like the hard drives are part of the company’s Passport Ultra line. The biggest bottleneck is likely to be the USB 2.0 interface, especially when it comes to burst speeds though. The included micro SD card (WD does not specify capacity or speeds) can be used to test out alternative operating systems or to test out setting up the external storage in Linux without messing with your main development install.

If you are using a Raspberry Pi Model B+ or a Pi 2 Model B and need a hefty terabyte of storage, WD has a simple option that is currently for sale on their website for $52. I’m sure enthusiasts will find uses for the massive storage upgrade beyond what micro SD can offer (at the moment). 

Is it time to dust off the Pi?

Jamming WiFi on the cheap

Subject: General Tech | October 13, 2015 - 05:07 PM |
Tagged: security, Raspberry Pi

With a Raspberry Pi and a cheap WiFi dongle a researcher has shown an effective way to completely block 2.4Ghz transmissions in a 120 metre radius.  By disabling the backoff wait time, aka Short Interframe Space (SIFS), which is accomplished by firmware modification the WiFi dongle will continually resend a frame and block any device with a higher bitrate.  This will block WiFI, Bluetooth and most IoT devices including security systems.  They did not provide the source code used in this procedure, so you won't be able to block your friends for your own amusement but security researchers can reach out to the inventor for access to see if there are ways to circumvent this vulnerability.  The story at The Register also has some information on TKIP vulnerabilities and possible ways to block transmissions on the 5GHz band.

wifi-ant.jpg

"The wireless security boffin presented his work at the BruCon conference last week and revealed his weapon of choice is a bargain WiFi dongle bought off Amazon that, when paired with a Raspberry Pi and a small amplifier, can block 2.4Ghz transmissions for up to 120 metres."

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Source: The Register

Kids these days and their Raspberry Pi's

Subject: General Tech | August 27, 2015 - 06:14 PM |
Tagged: nifty, Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi and its various flavours have been out for a while now and we have heard of a variety of projects developers and hobbyists have come up with but this story from The Register has them all beat.  With a little Googling and a lot of creativity and inspiration there are kids out there creating all sorts of new uses for the little device.  One 11 year old was a little worried about her Grampa and used a Pi along with PHP and HTML to pair a device with a webpage which can bring up a web browser for him, allow simple texting capabilities and to photos to make sure he is still OK.  Others have created a scanner to keep track of scores in netball or to make sure that the sushi they grab from a restaurant's conveyor belt isn't getting too old.   Give kids a chance to create and what they come up with will blow you away.

Raspberry_Pi_Logo.svg_.png

"Completely at home with Raspberry Pis, these kids Google around for the things they don’t know how to do - because when you’re 11, you don’t know what you can’t do. They are inventing the future, and for them it’s just child’s play."

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Source: The Register

Running x86 on the classic Raspberry Pi as well as the Pi 2

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2015 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, x86 emulator, eltechs

Eltechs has been very successful at building emulators for the Raspberry Pi, until now focusing on the newer ARMv7 versions of the low cost systems.  They have just finalized support for previous versions of the the Pi running ARMv6, reputedly at speeds almost matching the code running on native hardware.  If you are developing on the Raspberry Pi or Pi 2 you should follow the links on the Slashdot article as there is currently a sale on the ExaGear Desktop software, $14.95 for the Pi 2 and $9.95 for the Pi.

ED_rpi2_box_01.png

"Russia-based Eltechs announced its ExaGear Desktop virtual machine last August, enabling Linux/ARMv7 SBCs and mini-PCs to run x86 software. That meant that users of the quad-core, Cortex-A7-based Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, could use it as well, although the software was not yet optimized for it. Now Eltechs has extended ExaGear to support earlier ARMv6 versions of the Raspberry Pi."

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Source: Slashdot

Xenon Flashes Make a Case for a Raspberry Pi 2 Case

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2015 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: raspberry pi 2, Raspberry Pi

It did not take long to find a problem with the Raspberry Pi 2. As it turns out, the Pi 2 contains a power regulator chip that is susceptible to bright sources of light. The light will force electrons to move when a metal is struck by enough photons with the correct, per-photon energy, which is its frequency/color, and that will be perceived as a voltage (because it actually does cause a voltage).

rasp-pi-failchip.jpg

In the Raspberry Pi 2, this manifests as a voltage drop and the device immediately powers down. This was first discovered by Peter Onion on the Raspberry Pi forums while he was taking photographs of his Raspberry Pi 2. He noticed that each time he snapped a photo, the Pi would shut down. Liz Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation promptly confirmed the issue and wrote a long blog post explaining what actually happens. She borrows Peter's joke from the forum thread, that the Pi 2 is camera shy, and explains that “everyday light sources” will not cause this to happen. She then explains the photoelectric effect, the role of the above pictured U16 chip, and the issue itself.

I definitely appreciate Liz Upton and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, founded on the premise of education, taking the time to explain their bugs from an educational standpoint. That said, it is easy to lose sight of your goal when you have a product to defend, and I am glad that it did not get in the way.

A final note: this will not damage the Pi 2, just cause it to crash and power down. The only real problem is that shutting down your device mid-task will crash your task. If that is a write to the SD card, that will likely corrupt that write.