Six Clicks: More Linux single-board computers

Six Clicks: More Linux single-board computers

Summary: There are many great Linux-powered single-board computers, starting with the new Raspberry Pi B+.


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  • Raspberry Pi B+

    DIY and gadget fans alike love the Raspberry Pi. Now, they'll have more to love with the new Raspberry Pi B+.

    For the same $35 price as the original Model B, the Model B+ still uses the ARM-based Broadcom BCM2835 chipset, 512MB of RAM, and 700MHz low-power ARM1176JZ-F applications processor.

    The improvements come with a more space efficient microSD card slot in place of the SDCard slot. It also has four USB 2.0 ports instead of the Model B's two. The new single-board computer (SBC) also has 40 general purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins. The Model B has only 26. The B+ also has a single four-pin port for both both audio and video output. The audio circuit should also deliver cleaner sound with a new low-noise power supply.

    Last, but not least, the B+ uses a half to full watt less power. If you're been working on Raspberry Pi projects that require long battery life, this is the SBC you've been waiting for.

  • HummingBoard SBC Family

    OK, let's make this clear from the top: SolidRun's three HummingBoard SBCs are more expensive than the Raspberry Pi. The least powerful HummingBoard-i1 starts at $44.99 without a $10 power supply, while the top-of the-line HummingBoard-i2eX begins at $99.99 and goes up to $116.99, but, again, without a power supply.

    On the other hand, what you get for your money is an SBC with a much more powerful processor and more RAM. It ranges from a Freescale i.MX6 with one or two Cortex-A9 cores running at 1GHz, with a C880 GPU for the two lower-end SBCs and a Vivante GC2000 for the high-end i23X. The bottom-end i1 comes with 51MBs of RAM while the other two models come with a GB of RAM.

    For storage, the i1 and i2 use a MicroSD slot while the i2Ex adds a mSATA II interface. The former two use fast ethernet for network connectivity and come with two USB 2.0 ports; the i2Ex supports gigabit ethernet and includes four USB 2.0 ports.

    The vendor states that all three support Android 4.4.x, Yocto, Ubuntu, Debian, FreeBSD and others.

    Put it all together and what you get are powerful SBCs for users who want to tackle projects too big for a Raspberry Pi.

Topics: Tapping M2M: The Internet of Things, Hardware, Linux

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  • Rasberry Pi

    If you buy a Rasberry Pi (computer not the food), what can you do with it and how easy is it to get an operating system running?
    Pollo Pazzo
    • Raspberry Pi

      Go here:

      Under the downloads tab you'll find OS images for a SD Card, including NOOBS, which allows you to choose and change the installed OS when the machine boots (pretty awesome). Under the resources tab you'll find lots of stuff you can do with one.
  • What puzzles me about many modern day Motherboards....

    Simple Question.

    Why USB 2.0 ?

    I have noticed this in Chrome Products in particular. You may get one USB 3.0 if you are lucky most notably the LG Chrome Base but USB 2.0 seems deemed to be acceptable. Why ?

    Regretfully my 2011 iMac has only USB 2.0 ports with USB 3.0 not being introduced until the 2012 iMac. I demand maximum speed which is why I run the whole OS X Mavericks installation from an external Buffalo Thunderbolt Mini Station fitted with a Crucial M4 512GB SSD leaving the default internal HDD inside the iMac for Back up.

    SSD performance running off USB 2.0 is throttled somewhat however is noticeably better than HDD.

    SSD performance running off USB 3.0 is excellent and ideal for running OS X from externally.

    I digress. USB 2.0 is from the dark ages and on todays Motherboards it is not unreasonable for the consumer to expect USB 3.0
    • A few misconceptions here.

      Ssd over usb2 is faster than internal platter using sata2.

      No it isn't. The ssd may have a higher read/write than the platter drive, but usb2 is such a bottleneck that the speed won't get there. Usb 2 doesn't have a real world 480Mbit/s and is hurt badly by additional connected devices.

      Faster off of thunderbolt?
      Half and half. As your imac has sata2, then you do get theoretical faster hdd read, but write will be the same either way as the SSD only writes at 95 Mbit/sec and if you were daisy chaining, you may be better off just using the internal sata.

      Internal drive as backup
      The only real concern here is that the backup cannot be remote of the machine - power surge/liquid/fire/theft will all affect the backup.

      Finally usb3.0 as best solution
      In the case of the imac, even with usb3.0, thunderbolt would be a better solution. I agree that new devices should come with usb three by and large but probably not most of these smb's - the additional controller cost wouldn't benefit those running off of SD and usb sticks. I've only found 2 or three usb3 sticks that have chips capable of usb3. (The sandisk extreme is fantastic at £20 for 32gb)
      • Speeds….

        All the above is based on my observations with OS X Mavericks.

        External Thunderbolt with SSD does perform better than the Internal SATA2 HDD. I have Windows 8.1 running in a virtual environment on Parallels Desktop 9. (4 CPU's, 4GB RAM and 512mb Graphics allocated)

        On the Internal SATA2 partition performance of the virtual machine is acceptable with some multitasking limitations.

        However running off the External Thunderbolt SSD the performance of the virtual environment is on par with a physical installation and handles multitasking with ease.

        Furthermore I have found performance running OS X Mountain Lion on an External USB 2.0 SSD to be surprisingly acceptable. Although SSD performance is severely throttled running through USB 2.0 it is useable and multitasking is possible.

        I have tried the same with a standard HDD and performance is poor. I can only conclude that the SSD performs better running off USB 2.0 due to the lack of moving parts.

        The benefits of SSD are well documented. I fired up an old Early 2006 Mac Mini and it was painfully slow. I carried out an exercise of maxing the RAM to 2GB and replacing the HDD with an SSD I had kicking around. Performance is now outstanding. I am now going one step further by upgrading the CPU from an Intel Core Duo to an Intel Core 2 Duo and further maxing out the RAM once the upgraded CPU is fitted to 4GB.
        • I too have a 2011 iMac.

          I have the 27" iMac 2011 and have maxed out the specs. In fact later today I'll be installing a Panasonic UJ256 Blu-Ray burner.

          I have the thermo sensor installed with a Seagate 3TB HDD and if that fails I also have HDD Fan Control software.

          SSDs are good for some but some of us need more storage. As for a quick boot, the only time I turn off my computers is if it's storming outside or I go on holidays.

          p.s. Also, have a couple LaCie external HHDs and a external DVD burner.

          p.s.s. You can take any of my other computers or tech toys but you'd have a hard time prying my iMac from my cold dead hands.
          Arm A. Geddon
      • One thing to remember about speeds...

        These systems don't have super fast memory busses.

        I think USB 3 would allow the controller to starve the CPU.
        • Agreed. Plus the SoC being used doesn't support it.

          They would have to add an external controller at higher expense and when it was all said and done it probably wouldn't work due to the reason you gave.
    • Simple. The chip being used doesn't support USB 3.0

      There are actually several issues here:
      1. The broadcom chip doesn't support USB 3.0. You would have to add an external IC driving up the cost and power. They don't want that.
      2. The ARM v11 probably isn't a good candidate for USB 3.0 it would require too much of the IC at the given clock rate.
      3. As I have looked at most SoC designs very few support USB 3.0 and I think the reason is performance required is prohibitive for all but multi-core high performance ARM systems In fact quite a few SoC designs only support full-speed USB 2.0 but not high speed.
    • Because if you run stuff off the cloud, USB doesn't matter

      That's basically it. With Chromebooks, you are not supposed to keep and maintain a lot of data locally. Nor should you have to perform regular backups in the traditional sense. And certainly you are not expected to run another OS off an external harddrive.

      For a Windows PC/laptop, especially since Windows 8 was released that has native support for it, USB 3.0 is standard and you'll be hard pressed to find a new machine without it.

      Don't know anything about Macs, though. 'Tis an Apple-free household.
    • Just making assumptions

      Focusing strictly on your question of why 2.0 (or not more 3.0)... Most likely there is a cost issue or performance bottleneck issue. Assuming 3.0 adds cost per connector (which I doubt, but is possible), or that too much 3.0 would bottleneck internally, then there could be an argument to only offer one or two USB 3 (USB is generally controlled in pairs; though more laptops only have 1 USB 3.0 ports these days). You generally don't need that speed just for a mouse, keyboard, printer, wifi adapter, etc. Also, most users generally don't connect multiple external storage devices simultaneously (though as a tech, I have had need to do that on occasion). So, if there is a negative for adding more 3.0 ports, then there's a fair argument to split with 2.0.
  • Doh!

    Image is of the old B, not a B+, which has twin USB towers, extra pins and a different vid/audio jack.
    Tim Carpenter
    • The image is the B+. The two USBs are visible

      @Tim, I don't know what you are looking at but the image I see is the B+. I own a B. The 4 USB jacks are visible and the composite video is missing.
      • I think the image was replaced

        after it was reported to be the wrong one. I remember it being wrong as well.
  • Fantastic article

    I bought my nephew a rev B last christmas in the hope of inspiring some nerdiness - found out from my wife that he's been following a you tube channel for rasp pi!

    When I was looking around, I found no end of full grown power nerds like myself raving about them - but almost no sites set up to easily explain to noobs, which is the whole point? It's like the scalextric set that dad plays with.

    This easily puts a whole host together

    Maybe a follow up article with build and projects?
    • Finding info on Pi

      Check out They sell the products and have instructional videos.
      Roger Ramjet
  • Cubietruck information is wrong.

    ... As the Cubietruck has Gigabit ethernet, and sata for storage. Also, i am surprised that the Olimex lime boards are not featured. These are A10 or A20 based, cost about 35EUR, and are full OSHW. Of the above list, i think that only the arduino is OSHW, but most of the olimex boards are full blown ARM devices which are OSHW.
    • Ah...

      Oh, you mention sata, but then only list microsd as storage. It has 8GB nand, micro-sd and sata :)

      Plus, it's all about community. Rpi and Arduino have huge ones. Odroid doesn't really have one. Parallela or hummingboard, i doubt it. Cubietruck has the linux-sunxi community, which is not as big as rpi or arduino, but pretty active and useful nonetheless. For odroid, the recently started linux-exynos community might end up being useful.
  • Linux appears to be irrelevent to the topic

    You can run any software you want with the hardware.
    Buster Friendly
    • Sounds like you are unfamiliar

      with embed Linux boards...

      These boards (the majority) are designed to run light-weight Linux OSes.
      That is why the title has the "L" word in it. Do you have a problem with that?