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Linux Hardware

PCMCIA Computer Project Aims Even Higher (and Cheaper) Than Raspberry Pi 161

Posted by timothy
from the concept-that-can-be-turned-into-an-idea dept.
lkcl writes "An initiative by a Community Interest Company Rhombus Tech aims to provide Software (Libre) Developers with a PCMCIA-sized modular computer that could end up in mass-volume products. The reference design mass-volume pricing guide from the SoC manufacturer, for a device with similar capability to the Raspberry Pi, is around $15: 40% less than the $25 Raspberry Pi but for a device with an ARM Cortex A8 CPU 3x times faster than the 700mhz ARM11 used in the Raspberry Pi. GPL Kernel source code is available. A page for community ideas for motherboard designs has also been created. The overall goal is to bring more mass-volume products to market which Software (Libre) Developers have actually been involved in, reversing the trend of endemic GPL violations surrounding ARM-based mass-produced hardware. The Preorder pledge registration is now open (account creation required)." Of course, the Raspberry Pi is not only only much further along, but has recently announced an expansion module (the Gertboard).
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PCMCIA Computer Project Aims Even Higher (and Cheaper) Than Raspberry Pi

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  • Great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:36AM (#38408316) Journal

    I'll buy one of each.

    • Re:Great (Score:4, Informative)

      by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @12:50PM (#38408918) Homepage

      good man! feel free to fill in the preorder form http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/orders/ [rhombus-tech.net] i'm a bit reluctant to do it on your behalf [aitch tee tee pee slashdot dot org slash tilde hatta]

      please do bear in mind that in the early stage we're *not* going to sell completely untested cards in mass-volume right away, that would be foolish. we're going to follow the process that Dr Schaller has been doing on the development of the GTA04 - http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/GTA04_revisions [openmoko.org] as have various other projects, OpenPandora included.

      so, early alpha boards go out to people prepared to take a risk, but who have the money spare (under $100, gosh, wow, break the bank why not) to consider "what the heck, this is cool, let's support this initiative" but at the same time have some expertise in embedded GNU/Linux development, and they might actually get something that works perfectly first time, and they're the ones that got it, before anyone else.

      beta boards go out to people who want something that, hardware-wise, is pretty much guaranteed to work 100%, but maybe the software's not all there, and they might have to (gosh) get involved and help write it.

      stable boards go out to people who really would "just like something that works, thank you, where's the debian distro image, where's the instructions for putting everything onto an sdcard, heck, where can i buy a pre-loaded MicroSD card so i don't have to do that, even".

      so it's a known trade-off: the principles of Software (Libre) Development as applied to hardware: release early, release often. exactly the sort of thing that you never normally see in the development of hardware products, and i think it's pretty damn cool to be able to witness and be part of something that *isn't* GPL-violating. at bloody last.

      • by tftp (111690)

        good man! feel free to fill in the preorder form

        How can I even consider buying the product if your "web site" (which is just a Wiki) doesn't offer specifications, interfaces, power needs, thermal considerations, mechanical drawings, software, and many other things that are required to seriously consider using your product? Have you passed FCC testing, for example? If not then you probably can't sell the thing to the public at large.

        It may be that your company just wants to announce a product and have t

        • by lkcl (517947)

          tftp, thanks for the heads-up. insight: i'm using openscad and mm3d: solidworks had better have the source code available before i touch it. that may give you a clue :) i'm a software (libre) developer, so this initiative is targetted at software (libre) developers. hence the quite deliberate decision to use ikiwiki as an open web site. i did actually add a CSS file, that's quite... that's quite something, that is, in software (libre) terms :)

          specs are on the page; interfaces are on the elinux.org wiki

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Okay I'll bite....why? What's the point? Not the third world, as they are bypasssing our " program it yourself" early 80s phase and going straight to smartphones, see several Indian and Chinese companies that are trying to outdo each other in dropping smartphones for the third world for examples, and the first world? We have more damned chips than we know what to do with, so why?

      I'm sure this will find a teeny tiny niche like Beagleboards or Arduino, which i'm trying to get the local college to use for th

      • by lkcl (517947)

        allo mr hairyfeet - good question. much of the reasoning _is_ "for the hell of it", but it is definitely more than that. what i haven't mentioned is that my associates have contacts with very very large PRC manufacturers. we really really are in a position to go, stage by stage, from a prototyped system all the way to massive-scale production that would dwarf even Dell (because companies such as IBM and HP actually use one of the PRC manufacturers that we are in communication with). now this is *not* "b

        • by Raenex (947668)

          If you're going to right paragraphs of text it would help if you used conventional capitalization. I know it's common in the instant/text/tweet messaging world to forgo them, but they really help with readability in longer texts.

          • by Pioto (933065)
            If you are going to write a response to nit-pick someone's grammar, spelling, etc... you should check yours first!
            • by Raenex (947668)

              I do check, and I missed it, and it was an honest mistake. That's a huge difference from intentionally not following the basic convention to start sentences with capitals.

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          Don't be discouraged. Every post on slashdot has to have a number of folks who disagree. I think the idea is wonderful and will probably buy a few when they're available at retail.
  • Exciting (Score:2, Interesting)

    This is really exciting. Personally, I can't wait for the Raspberry Pi to start shipping and I will definitely get a few, but if Rhombus can pull this off, that will be fantastic, too!

  • Why PCMCIA? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcmm (768152) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:39AM (#38408332)
    Why use the PCMCIA form-factor? It appears they aren't actually using it for PCMCIA. Is it very difficult to design a connector, or is it to do with using existing manufacturing tools originally designed to make PCMCIA cards?
    • Re:Why PCMCIA? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:44AM (#38408354)
      PCMCIA seems to be what happens when a marketing droid forces design constraints on something. "It needs to be the size of a credit card"! If if smaller and thicker, connectors would have been much sturdier.
    • PCMCIA has been obsolete for like 15 years replaced with identical form factor Cardbus cards. Not only that but Cardbus has been obsolete for 5 years replaced with Expresscard, which itself isn't that popular because most people use USB for add-on peripherals these days.

      So really they are comparing it to an old obsolete format.

      • by Phoghat (1288088)
        +1 Insightful

        PCMIA ? Didn't that die out with the passenger pigeon?

    • by mikael (484)

      I'd guess it's for upgrading a laptop. PCMCIA would give the board a chunk in memory-map space, as well as being in a robust form-factor. USB dongles tend to end up having damaged connectors to the point they are unusable.

      • by bcmm (768152)
        It's just the form-factor/connector. TFA says it won't be electronically compatible with PCMCIA and will be physically keyed to not fit in a PCMCIA slot (though otherwise identical).
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think they're just using the physical PCMCIA connector, not the PCMCIA pin-out. I think it's so that the entire thing can be plugged in to a variety of hardware devices: small form-factor computers, TVs, tablets, whatever. There are benefits to that approach. Wouldn't it have been nice, for example, if you could have upgraded your original iPad by simply ejecting the motherboard and inserting a new one? There might not have been any reason to replace the screen and battery. This sort of modular appr

      • by lkcl (517947)

        I think they're just using the physical PCMCIA connector, not the PCMCIA pin-out. I think it's so that the entire thing can be plugged in to a variety of hardware devices: small form-factor computers, TVs, tablets, whatever. There are benefits to that approach. Wouldn't it have been nice, for example, if you could have upgraded your original iPad by simply ejecting the motherboard and inserting a new one? There might not have been any reason to replace the screen and battery. This sort of modular approach resolves that. And it opens up opportunities for hardware manufacturers if they know they can get a whole computer in a known form-factor. It would relieve them of an otherwise huge part of the product design.

        exactly! now, why did you say this as an anonymous coward? :) the problem with the above is that what end-users would love is exactly what consumerism hates! planned obsolescence is what it's called, i believe. we don't like that sort of thing round here, y'all :) hence the initiative is being done under the umbrella of a Community Interest Company, because it removes the absolute requirement to maximise profits over-and-above-all-else [CICs just have to not make a loss, and there are *no* Shareholders

        • Re:Why PCMCIA? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:39PM (#38409286) Journal

          Then what we really need to be shooting for is CRFF or card reader form factor because frankly i haven't seen any express card or cardbus slots in a while on anything sub $1k but they ALL have card readers now. Sure that doesn't give a lot of space but that is why everything is going nano right? tell them white coats to get on it!

          And while I love your idea of bringing standardization to mobile sadly it will NEVER happen, and here is why: all those PCs companies (with the exception of the fruit company and their world famous RDF) found that with standardization comes commoditization and razor thin margins and they don't like that, hence why there isn't jack shit interchangeable anymore if they can help it. I'm sure they miss the days of "Compaq RAM" that was 3 times the price but you had to buy if you had a Compaq, or Dell PSUs that were just funky enough they wouldn't fit in a normal case, and that is what they have now with mobile. After all how could they gouge you on a battery if you could just run AAAs? How could they get you to buy a whole new unit if the tiniest part fails if you could easily just buy the part and DIY or take it to the local shop?

          Sadly the corps have figured out "designed for the dump" gives them their biggest profits hence why everything is so flimsy and easily broken now. Personally I wish the FOSS guys all the luck in the world, i'd love a cell phone or laptop where parts were as easy to get and interchange as your average desktop but I doubt the corps would ever let that happen, it'd cost them too much profit.

          • by Nethead (1563)

            Hairy,

            They are using the form factor of PCMCIA to use existing parts. They are going out of their way to make sure it can't plug into a laptop PCMCIA slot as the electrical pin-outs are no where near the same. They just want a cheap connector that is small but with lots of pins.

            In the old days we made homebrew computers with DB25 connectors for I/O even though we were never going to use it for serial or Centronics printer connections. It's just a cheap connector available everywhere.

            PS: I just used Ninit

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              I know they are using the form factor, doesn't change what I said. personally i'd love to have all kinds of cool little cards i could plug into a card reader the way we used to use PCMCIA. Nowadays unless you spend out the wazoo they simply don't include anything other than USB and while USB is great (hell my dad now has 23 USB ports on his PC, he believes EVERYTHING should be USB) it would still be nice to be able to just plug in say a little digital tuner card or other device through the card reader that

          • by lkcl (517947)

            Sadly the corps have figured out "designed for the dump" gives them their biggest profits hence why everything is so flimsy and easily broken now. Personally I wish the FOSS guys all the luck in the world, i'd love a cell phone or laptop where parts were as easy to get and interchange as your average desktop but I doubt the corps would ever let that happen, it'd cost them too much profit.

            we've spoken to several of them, already. the profit margins anticipated by the large companies are, exactly as you surmise, too low. thus, we have no competition. question for you: tell me where you can get a GPL-compliant 1ghz+ ARM Cortex laptop with 1gb or 2gb of RAM, anywhere in the shops with a 1280x800 LCD or better for $150 and i will quit working on this and go buy it.

            ok, that's just one point covered - i've said quite enough on this discussion already, i'll leave it for a while, ok? :)

          • by lkcl (517947)

            CRFF? you mean CompactFlash? i'd not thought of that one - damn good idea. let me think... it would be ideal... except it's only 44 pins (it's IDE, basically - see hwtools.net they have converters). 44 pins is not enough. thinking about it, we miiight be able to get two CF slots side-by-side, but who's going to make a double-sized case? naah, 68 pins by a jammy coincidence is just enough, _and_ we can still use the 3.5mm stainless steel off-the-shelf cases. jammy, huh? :)

        • Yeah, I'm sure "planned obsolescence" is the reason why you can't separate the screen from the mobo in the iPad, and not the fact that to make something modular and still sturdy, it would have to be much thicker and heaver, and not really be the same device at all..

          • by mikael (484)

            Having repaired a laptop several times, the screen is the most expensive part. A company called Nextronics used to do a "part-exchange" program. Exchange your old WUXGA screen with them and they'd give you a discount of $200 on the $800 - $1200 for a new screen. Looks like they've gone out of business in that market now.

    • Re:Why PCMCIA? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @12:20PM (#38408766) Homepage

      http://rhombus-tech.net//faq/#index4h2 [rhombus-tech.net] - re-use of *existing* connectors, housings and assemblies keeps the price right down. yes you're absolutely right: expecting a complete new design of connector to be reasonably affordable is impossible.

      the whole initiative is based around leap-frogging over the normal barriers to entry for products. use Software (Libre) Developers for the software engineering. use off-the-shelf parts as much as possible. do a deal with the factory ["we won't charge you for software engineer time if you won't charge us for hardware engineer time"]. use pre-existing casework designs from China-based Industrial Flea Markets (don't get the wrong idea, here - these Markets are the size of football pitches and 7 stories high!) and so on.

      • Re:Why PCMCIA? (Score:4, Informative)

        by tftp (111690) on Sunday December 18, 2011 @12:59AM (#38413836) Homepage

        re-use of *existing* connectors, housings and assemblies keeps the price right down

        lkcl, before you jump into production please make sure that you don't want your SATA and USB work. Because they aren't very likely to; the PCMCIA connector is not a controlled impedance part, and your pinout requires 90 Ohm differential for USB and 100 Ohm differential for SATA. Ethernet is also 100 Ohm, but it has plenty of margin. Even if the board works on the bench, it's not the right thing to do. You need a proper differential connector, something that you can get from Samtec, for example.

        I really don't know how much you are an expert in manufacturing, but I built a number of professional designs, and I strongly suggest that you don't pick an old, obsolete connector just because you think it is cool. You need to consider the other side of the connector. How many PCMCIA cages can you find at Digikey? How many of them are easy to solder by hand [digikey.com]? Hell, this connector would give *me* trouble, and I can solder 0402 all day long under the microscope. This connector has pin spacing of 0.635 mm, and practically none of your customers can solder it.

        I still don't quite understand the business idea of your product. By "business" I don't mean making money; I mean "delivering value," making good things. What value do you expect to deliver if nobody can connect to your board? Your super-small form factor is a problem here. Very few electronic enthusiasts are so much concerned about size and space. They are far more concerned about being able to see the parts without using an electron microscope. If you'd ask me, I'd say you need to think how your customers are going to use your product.

        The talk about standard connectors ... if you want it done right, use COM Express. These modules are interchangeable and your product would actually fit into an existing market. You can actually sell the thing without Slashdot. Inventing your own standard, using an obsolete connector and breaking the electrical signaling requirements will not do you any good. You are not large enough to establish a competing standard, and your design is not as good anyway. But if you don't want to deal with COM Express (which is not a pleasure to solder either, I admit) then just forget the unification and use plain vanilla 0.1" headers for everything except high speed interfaces. Or include a CardBus breakout board with your CPU board.

        • by lkcl (517947)

          http://www.usb.org/developers/usbfaq#sig6 [usb.org]
          http://www.interfacebus.com/Design_Connector_Serial_ATA.html [interfacebus.com]
          the other link i found, on fciconnect, the impedance stated "100ohm minimum".

          so, thank you for pointing out that it's critical to find good connectors!

          we didn't pick PCMCIA because "it's cool", we picked it because it's still a mass-volume part (Conditional Access Modules) but is legacy as far as portable computers are concerned. and because it's user-removable. and because, quite simply, there isn't anyth

          • by tftp (111690)

            yes i looked at MiniPCI, i found _one_ image of a removable MiniPCI with ejector assembly: could i find who made it? could i hell.

            JAE makes these connectors [jae-connectors.com]. I'm afraid you aren't trying hard enough. The job that you are about to undertake requires a lot of effort. You can't just take the path of least resistance.

            COM express - saw that one. it's not user-removable - factory only.

            I'm unsure what you mean by that. I have COM Express boards and connectors right here, and I assure you they are perfectly

  • No competition, yet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LtGordon (1421725) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:46AM (#38408360)
    The Raspberry Pi is expected to ship to mainstream customers early Q1 2012. Per the summary, this group is still in the "could end up in mass production" phase. They can hardly compete if this one isn't being sold.
    • by lkcl (517947)

      yaa, who said anything about competing? :) feel free to buy a 700mhz ARM11 unit for $25 when it's available. we're going in incremental stages. if you've seen what happened to projects like the OpenPandora, the OpenMoko and so on, you'll appreciate why. http://rhombus-tech.net//faq/#index2h2 [rhombus-tech.net]

    • At that price I'm going to end up buying a bunch of each anyway!

    • Of course someone is working on something better and cheaper than Raspberry Pi. And of course there will eventually be something better and cheaper than Raspberry Pi. And in ten years, everyone is going to have PC hooked up to their tv. And most people will have one that costs less than $100.

      This isn't a reason to not get a Raspberry Pi, but exciting nonetheless.
  • Lotsa Talk (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There has been a lot of talk about these ultra low cost(and low power) computers recently. But, until something ships, meh.

    Where is my Raspberry Pi?
    Where is my Chumby NeTV?
    So far, the only ones to ship have been the Plugcomputers and they haven't been cheap.

  • by pz (113803) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @11:00AM (#38408414) Journal

    "Mass-volume" pricing is manufacturer speak for wholesale prices, as in buying thousands of units at a time. You expect those prices to be half or less of retail. So a $15 OEM price will be about $30 at retail, generally speaking. That compares reasonably well to the $25 retail pricing of the Raspberry Pi, given that this new board has somewhat higher specs.

    • by lkcl (517947)

      "mass-volume" is code usually for 100k+ pricing. the pricing quote for the raspberry pi is equally based on mass-volume (100k) pricing. the pricing quote for the raspberry pi equally excludes profit, shipping, tax, packaging, delivery, handling, tax, customs duty, tax on customs duty, agent shipping handling fees, tax on agent shipping handling fees, customs duty on tax on agent shipping handling fees and so on. whilst that sounds like a joke it's not: each and every one of those costs _does_ actually ex

      • by jockm (233372)

        I think you misunderstand the meaning of “not for profit”. It doesn't mean you can't make money, or turn a profit, it means that those profits must be reinvested in the activities of the company.

        So of course a not for profit like like Raspberry Pi can have “room for expansion”, and while they cannot have investors who expect dividends or to get a share of the profit; they can have backers who will invest in the company in exchange for access to the IP, or for more favorable sales te

        • by lkcl (517947)

          jock, thanks for the clarification: i didn't explicitly mention it before, but it's worthwhile now, having made the mistake of not mentioning it earlier. the book that i read which describes the differences - patiently and in-depth - is Professor Yunus's book "Creating a World without Poverty". Professor Yunus is an Economics Professor, formed the Grameen Bank, pioneered "Micro Loans", and is the joint winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. his book is just awe-inspiring, but crucially it describes why Lt

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @11:07AM (#38408442)

    ... there's a website that I can order one from at that price, which will deliver with 7 days.

    Until that time it's just vapourware - same goes for the Raspberry Pi, unless you want a keyboard sticker, they've got nothing on the market.

    • by lkcl (517947)

      ... there's a website that I can order one from at that price, which will deliver with 7 days.

      pete: done. we have a deal :)

      please feel free to fill in a preorder which says exactly this. you want "Stage: stable". if you think it would be better to have a stage "7 day delivery at the stated price" then please feel free to say so, but bear in mind that it may be better for you to wait until the product's in Hypermarket Retail Stores and you can buy them off-the-shelf (literally). of course, you miss out on all the fun that way... :)

      • Let's be honest; you haven't provided the information the grandparent post is asking for. No date for "Stage: stable"; no predictable quantity-one price. The Raspberry Pi has made a commitment to a known quantity-one price: $25 w/o Ethernet, $35 w/, shipping date unknown but Feb 2012 looks like a reasonable expectation. The beaglebone has a quantity-one MSRP: $89, and I can order from Digi-Key USA at that price today.

        I have multiple small projects in mind for which this type of system on a card would
        • by lkcl (517947)

          michael, hang on dude! you're asking me to try to run before we walk, ok?

          if you're not familiar with the way this stuff works... ok: the only thing we can do - *right now* - is set an "upper bound" based on known costs.

          so *right now*, and *at this stage*, which is "alpha stage", we can say that, based on the fixed NREs of $USD 2,000, the more people that place preorder pledges, the more that we can subdivide those costs across the total number of people.

          *right now* we have approximately 30 pre-order commit

      • by petes_PoV (912422)

        The point about delivery within 7 days is that implies the product is in stock, sitting on a shelf somewhere, ready to be picked, packed and shipped. I've done the early adopter thing (you can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs :)) and generally it doesn't work - you end up as a beta tester and spend too much time working around shortcomings and "version 1" bugs.

        Likewise, I've bought promising sounding products, only to have them disappear (TINI, anyone?) when they should have taken the world b

        • by lkcl (517947)

          pete - i get it, i really do. the thing is, i've been waiting around for companies to stop doing GPL violations, and they're just not getting it. in this article, i haven't described how much of a god-awful mess the situation in china is (see the other article comments a few days back, link at top of page).

          there are plenty of people left in the world who still find what you've done (and i too) really exciting. they _like_ getting their hands mucky :)

          we'll get to where you want to be, i promise. i'm gonn

  • by rossdee (243626) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @11:08AM (#38408444)

    Great, so this low cost computer can be plugged into the PCMCIA slot of a laptop. Or you couyld just use the laptop. Am i missing something here?

  • There isn't many detail now, even their website is just an wiki page. Nevertheless, I hold high hope for this one, living in a 3rd world country, I have always interested in fighting illiteracy and connecting people with the power of the internet. Of course there are many projects like that, both by the government and other organisations, but they aren't very successful. One of the reason for their failure, IMO, is that normal desktop PC requires proper maintenance, especially in remote areas where the weat

    • by unixisc (2429386)
      This stuff about these solutions being good for 3rd world countries is just a fantasy, first thought out by god knows who! The only way it would be of any use to 3rd world countries is if they had high computer literate population - and by that, I mean that an average citizen of one of these countries is as knowledgable as the average /. poster. Only then would it make sense - you give some average citizen in Malawi or Cameroon a PCMCIA or Raspberry Pi, and next thing you know, you have a whole bunch of w
    • by lkcl (517947)

      yeahh i have a friend who went across the border into... i think it was the phillipines. there's something INSANE like a 140% tax on luxury goods. regarding the NGO efforts: you should read professor yunus's book "creating a world without poverty", he says that in comparison to CICs, NGOs have a disincentive to success. very very interesting book. thanks for the support, clarious.

  • I think a computer that can fit in your wallet would be extremely useful. Once ubiquitous they could be carried everywhere by everyone and connected to available monitors. Add secure cloud storage and everyone has a laptop at all times without the hassle.
    • by nyctopterus (717502) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @11:48AM (#38408604) Homepage

      You mean.. like a phone?

      • by lkcl (517947)

        ah, but then can you take the CPU out of the phone and put it into a low-cost beowulf supercomputer cluster? yes, seriously: one of the options that's possible with these little CPU cards, because they have SATA-II interfaces (proper ones) and also use such little power, is to plug them into a massive rack, 1gb RAM, 1ghz CPU speed, NEON instruction set per CPU, hell you'd have an ultra-low-power supercomputer in no time! if only bloody ARM would release information about how to use the GPU on the MALI 400

      • by spasm (79260)

        Seriously. I don't think we're that far away from a 'phone' which gives you a touchscreen gui oriented towards phone/mobile use when unplugged but a desktop gui when plugged into a cradle with a monitor & keyboard attached.

        • by lennier1 (264730)

          Probably more like connecting a wireless display and keyboard to turn a phone into a tablet, netbook or low-power laptop, depending on the situation.

    • by unixisc (2429386)
      iPod touch? iPhone? Android phone or tablet?
  • by lennier1 (264730) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @01:03PM (#38409002)

    I work in a company where some of our products are basically Full-HD TFT displays with integrated ARM-based computers (glorified nettop components) running a company-internal Linux distro.

    Having one of these to replace/upgrade their computer like you'd switch the optical drive in a business laptop would certainly cut down costs.

    • by lkcl (517947)

      I work in a company where some of our products are basically Full-HD TFT displays with integrated ARM-based computers (glorified nettop components) running a company-internal Linux distro.

      Having one of these to replace/upgrade their computer like you'd switch the optical drive in a business laptop would certainly cut down costs.

      oo - lennier1, i want to talk to you :) i'd love to know how much these cost (the product your company has) because esp if it's gnu/linux based and has a decent amount of RAM i'm sure it would be desirable by many Software (Libre) Developers. please could you email me, to talk more? thanks!

      • by lennier1 (264730)

        It's tied to a lot of paperwork for proprietary hardware but I'll see if I can establish any official contact.

        These systems are used in a variety of ways, airport arrival/departure displays, conventions, concerts, in-store advertising (e.g. fashion shops book advertising slots in nearby stores), events, ...

        Pricing depends on the size of the project/company. A supermarket in a shopping mall (1-5 displays plus license for the necessary application) is of course a different kind of project than, for example, a

        • by lkcl (517947)

          thanks lennier1. yes we have someone in the same line of business, he's looking at placing an order for 1k units, precisely because the cost of development of what is effectively the major bit of the work - the CPU card - is so much lower. then, they can do a 2 to 4 layer board for the remaining bit, covering all the peripherals. that way, they've just got themselves a decent profit-margin back, even on low-volume production runs of their product, because the main CPU card is a "consumer-grade" off-the-s

    • by iplayfast (166447)

      What exactly does a company internal Linux distro mean, when you are selling the displays that are using the distro? I thought the point of GPL was that if you sold the hardware that used the software you also needed to provide the source for the software.

      • by lennier1 (264730)

        It means the company chooses which packages make up the OS that's running on those devices, maintains its own forks where necessary, submits patches upstream and each shipment includes the sources which were used (minus the proprietary applications). Only way of avoiding something like the Gnome3/Unity clusterfuck on a deeper level.

  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:53PM (#38409910) Homepage Journal

    I'm not a programmer or a hardware hacker. I don't know anything about soldering circuit boards. I'm just a guy who likes to surf the net, write stories, play games, hang out on-line, and so on. What is the availability of this $15 device going to mean for me?

    I mean, at least (as far as) I know the Raspberry Pi is going to be producing fully-realized devices that I can buy, plug in a keyboard and monitor and Ethernet cable, and I'm done. It sounds like this project is just about building a circuit board. And while it's nice it will be 40% cheaper and three times as fast, I'd like to know what I could do with it if someone came up to me on the street and handed me one.

    • Modules like these will support and industry of mass produced low cost devices that will interoperate with them. You'll be able to plug the cpu module into your desktop unit or set-top-box at home and surf the net, write stories, play games, hang out on-line, and so on. You'll also be able to take the module out of your desktop unit or set-top-box and plug it into your laptop unit and surf the net, write stories, play games, hang out on-line, and so on.

    • by lkcl (517947)

      I'm not a programmer or a hardware hacker. I don't know anything about soldering circuit boards. I'm just a guy who likes to surf the net, write stories, play games, hang out on-line, and so on. What is the availability of this $15 device going to mean for me?

      I mean, at least (as far as) I know the Raspberry Pi is going to be producing fully-realized devices that I can buy, plug in a keyboard and monitor and Ethernet cable, and I'm done. It sounds like this project is just about building a circuit board. And while it's nice it will be 40% cheaper and three times as fast, I'd like to know what I could do with it if someone came up to me on the street and handed me one.

      if they _literally_ handed you one on the street, you'd be able to plug in a USB-OTG-powered hub, then you could put in a keyboard and a USB ethernet, and also an HDMI monitor, and some headphones.

      if they also included the "micro-header" that is also a planned product, you'd also be able to plug in an ethernet cable (without the USB internet dongle), and you'd not have to plug in that USB-OTG hub, you'd be able to put a standard hub on instead, and also power it from a 5V PSU, and you'd also be able to conn

  • lckl,

    where is the datasheet of the processor?

  • (the most powerful handheld blah blah blah).
    I've got no idea how to design, market, distribute or support a product - which is why I don't attempt to do it. I fully intend to pick up a Raspberry Pi, and to be honest power isn't the reason. The reason I want it is because I believe it a) will appear and b) will be supported.
    The secondary reason is that it looks (last time I looked) like it would become an XBMC reference platform - i.e. if I can't summon the intellectual ability to do something with it, I c

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