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The Intel Edison: Linux Maker Machine in a Matchbox (linux.com)
87 points by JoshTriplett 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments

The Edison is a great piece of hardware completely hamstrung by the idiotic yocto linux distribution and tool chain. Despite being "x86" it's near impossible to add custom drivers or rebuild the OS. What's the point of being "x86" if you can't make use of the ecosystem? The Rpi has much better support. Don't waste your time. Intel isn't serious about these products, can't be bothered to actually support them, and won't open them up for use outside of their walled garden.

Hear, hear. I've tried on multiple occasions to use Edisons in my projects, and the tooling is awful. Intel's communication with the hobbyist community is even worse. It's hard to understand how there isn't an Intel-supported Ubuntu or Debian distribution for Edison.

Despite being "x86" it's near impossible to add custom drivers or rebuild the OS. What's the point of being "x86" if you can't make use of the ecosystem?

Edison isn't supposed to be a hub; it's a lightweight and specialized piece of hardware that can be customized to travel and explore and communicate high-load (poll-heavy) data gathering situations to a hub. Having x86 in octopus tentacles that can efficiently communicate with the x86 hub brain (which is where your heavy OS/custom driver code should be stationed) means you actually can make pretty good use of the ecosystem, and create projects that can get real-time data online quickly.

Darn, I got excited for a bit because I hated how I had to do a bunch of ARM nonsense to bring up my Pi gadget.

What's Yocto and what are they doing wrong?

I'd suggest Yocto is the de facto standard for this kind of embedded device. It's a bit complex behind the scenes but general building and updating packages is fairly straightforward.

Bringing up the edison is very easy. The bootloader supports DFU, so you can simply connect USB, reset, and flash the system images.

If you're coming at it from a higher level, it has a node.js and ssh services running by default, so it's easy to start tinkering.

Buildroot is good too and seem fairly simple. I used it for RPi project and comes with support for many boards.

There's nothing with wrong with yocto itself, it's a build system which allows to create a custom Linux distribution.

It's the way Intel dealt with whole thing, that makes me cringe. It's poorly organized and unaccustomed to any serious changes.

Yocto is a bit like gentoo for exotic architectures. It allows you to create your distribution by cross compiling everything from source, and applying multi layered patches. It is a buildroot with steroids.

> idiotic yocto linux distribution

Never used it, but from what I see on embedded conference talks, it seems to be widely deployed.

Indeed. In terms of getting a consistent system where you can pull in packages and drivers from different places while still being able to tweak everything in an embedded system, it's the best option out there. Not that it's a great system (bitbake, the meta-build system, is a bit of an arcane horror. If I were to reinvent yocto, I would use something like nix, which bitbake sort-of tries to be like but fails).

I can also mention buildroot [1] which seems to be a lighter, simpler project for this.

[1] https://buildroot.org/

Buildroot is harder to manage in my experience, yocto's layers are pretty killer in terms of seperating your code from vendor code. But yes, it's also an option.

How is it harder? It's a genuine question, not a rethorical one. Never used Yocto, but buildroot allows you to stack multiple filesystem layers on top the one produced by buildroot.

Unfortunately intel devices are too expensive as compared to ARM and other SoCs. For most use-cases you can find an ARM board in $5-$20 range. Intel does offers higher compute power, but most applications do not need it. Their only advantage is being x86, on which you can run a closed-source operating system like windows. But then I donot see why one would prefer windows over Linux on an IoT device.

You can run Windows 10 IoT Core on a Pi 3.

You can, but you probably don't want to. At least that was the case when it initially became available on the Pi.


I could. Why should I?

> The makers will be able to download and use the first public release of Windows 10 IoT Core at no cost, although this require access to a "development machine" with Windows 10.

Can I have a Windows that is really a core (memory usage)? Can I flash it by the means of a simple 'dd'? Requiring a Windows to develop is a big no for many.

> I could. Why should I?

Probably to get automatic security updates so you don't have a million hacked IoT devices on your network...

I don't think security is something automatic, but I'm open to other opinions about this.

If a firm is not willing to update my device anymore, why does an "automatically updated base" make me more safe? Without updates to the upper layers of the software stack I'm still vulnerable..

Is there a real advantage over Yocto plus un update mechanism such as rauc [https://github.com/rauc/rauc] or mender [https://github.com/mendersoftware/mender] ?

I struggle to imagine why Windows would be better than a Linux distribution for updates

Windows on ARM story is not that good either. Memory requirements are higher as compared to linux, and it supports only a limited subset of ARM SoCs

I have worked closely with Intel Edison for quite some time. For $50 it's quite alright, if you take built in wifi onto account.

The real problem is lack of Intel's support. Edison runs an ancient kernel, the yocto image source is full of hacks, which do not suggest big interest in prolonging the device's actuality. Instead, Intel decided to add Arduino compatibility to a x86 Linux board, god knows why.

> Edison runs an ancient kernel, the yocto image source is full of hacks, which do not suggest big interest in prolonging the device's actuality.

This killed it for me. I have one through Hackster.io and the first two projects I attempted bogged down in "need to compile this common package from source and hack it up to try to get it working" land. Meanwhile on a Raspberry Pi the same packages are an apt-get away.

I've been asked many times why someone would choose an Edison and the best answer I have is "if you really, really need to use an Intel board" and even then there are better solutions from them.

You can buy ESP8266 boards with wifi built in for less than $3, so wifi doesn't justify the price tag. The Edison is certainly a lot more more powerful, but most IOT applications simply don't need that power. And if you do, Raspberry Pi Zero is still far cheaper.

But this actually proves your larger point that Intel just aren't that interested. If they were, they would sell Edison at a loss for $5, which would spawn huge community support around them.

Intel they are suffering the classic innovator's dilemma, where competitors grab the low-end with products so cheap that no-one cares about their inferiority. The competitors then slowly improve their products (see the ESP32) and gobble up most of the market. Inel will rule the high end for a while yet, but I think they recognise they have already lost the low end.


I'm assuming you already know, but in case you don't, there's now the Pi Zero W. Less than £10, but it's a Pi Zero with wifi (802.11n) and Bluetooth (4.1) with integrated antenna.

Even better the ESP32.

It's 512 KB are more than enough for most applications.

After all it was enough for having MS-DOS, Turbo Pascal development environment back in the day, just as example.

Having built custom hardware breakouts for the Edison. I'm more more inclined to go for a Raspberry Pi.

The straw that broke the camel's a back was the connector between the Edison and the board. It is a nightmare for prototyping. It pretty much requires a pick'n'place to get it right.

Broken out headers for rapid development are a must in any device that claims to be for Makers.

> Having built custom hardware breakouts for the Edison.

There exists a breakout board for the Edison by Intel:

> https://www.arduino.cc/en/ArduinoCertified/IntelEdison#toc4

There also exists a kit with Arduino headers if this is what you prefer:

> https://www.arduino.cc/en/ArduinoCertified/IntelEdison#toc3

For those that may not know: last year Intel released the Edison's successor: Intel Joule (https://software.intel.com/en-us/iot/hardware/joule/dev-kit) based on a newer 14nm Broxton architecture, it should be quite a bit more powerful. It also includes an Intel HD Graphics GPU.

Unfortunately, a bit too pricey in comparison to the ARM ecosystem (the whole dev kit for the cheaper x550 variant is at $287 on newegg).

Too pricey, hard to work with for average Joe because of connectors, expensive "blocks". I can't find any single advantage over countless ARM boards with prices starting as low as 5$..

Especially since the Raspberry Pi at 5$ (or 10$ with wifi) is so popular. A common complaint that I hear about most other ARM boards is lack of support/software, which is certainly not true of the Raspberry Pi/

Twice the cores, roughly twice the single-core performance, twice the RAM, 4GB of relatively fast on-board storage, two wireless protocol interfaces, and you "can't find any single advantage"? Maybe not for your use case, but this is a far beefier board than even the Pi 2, let alone the Pi Zero.

The Pi 2 isn't current, the Pi 3 is available in standard and module (inc a Lite variant without on-board flash).

List price on the Pi 3B is higher than the Edison, and it still lacks the on-board storage. I don't know where you are getting that the Pi 3 has "on-board flash", as all it has is an SD card reader.

The post I was replying to was trying to claim the Pi family provides the same features for much less than the Edison. That isn't the case. The Pis that are cheaper than the Edison are also much less capable, and the Pis that can match the Edison in features and performance cost as much or more than it does.

Edit: clarified that I was talking about the Pi 3B, not the base Pi 3 (which is somewhat cheaper than the Edison).

You completely misunderstand the Pi families and current line-up, and that's caused you to misinterpret my comment.

There aren't "A" variants for the Pi 2 or Pi 3.

There's the Pi Model A and Pi Model B, A+ and B+ (which are slightly upgraded versions of the original Pi), the original Compute Module ("CM1", based on the Pi but in an SO-DIMM format with 4GB eMMC Flash), the Pi 2, the Pi 3, the Pi Zero (upgraded to v1.3), the Compute Module 3 and 3 Lite ("CM3" and "CM3L" based on the Pi 3 but in an SO-DIMM format, with and without 4GB eMMC Flash respectively), and the latest addition, the Pi Zero W (Zero with built-in Wifi and Bluetooth).

The Pi 3, CM3, CM3L, Zero, and Zero W are what I'd consider current. But you can still get Pi 2, or the A+, on RS for example.

In the UK, the bare Edison module is £47.34 on RS. The bare CM3 (with the 4GB eMMC) is £26.99, the CM3L is £21.99. The Pi 3 is £32.99 (which is directly usable as it has ports already on it.)

I'd bet you a Pi Zero that the Pi 3 would piss all over the Edison in sysbench CPU if you ran both the Edison's 2 main cores against the Pi 3's 4 cores.

Is Atom/Edison suddenly back after the announcement of the Compute Card at CES? Does anyone really care about either at this point?


Ended up dropping it in favor of the rPi-- the primary reason was that the sdcard (I was using the arduino-compat board) just randomly sets the filesystem to readonly anywhere from minutes after boot to days.

It's also expensive relative to the rpi3 when wifi's built-in. The community is alright, intel's responsive but it's not similar in any fashion wrt size and established articles on how to get stuff to work. Their flash update program also rarely ever worked for me.

It's so sad this thing is $50, because I don't think there's anything that comes close to being the same size. While a subjective conclusion, I think the SD card version is cute (for example, https://wi-images.condecdn.net/image/7aDlgBynO8X/crop/1620/l... and http://cdn1.alphr.com/sites/alphr/files/images/dir_414/it_ph...).

That said, once attached to the necessary peripherals, overall size would increase, which is sort of annoying, and makes the price tag even more irritating.

FWIW, there was a small craze of Wi-Fi SD cards a few months/years ago, and the Linux systems on (one of?) those was reverse-engineered to some extent. IIRC with one of them you could only connect to it via Wi-Fi (which generally isn't 100.00% reliable); the SD pins proved too difficult to commandeer.

The orangepi zero is 48mm x 46mm (~1.9 in sq), so pretty small.

Has both regular 100mb Ethernet and WiFi.


$9 total, shipped to the US.

You're right, but have you seen the Pi's Compute Modules?

The CM3 is the size of a stick of DDR2 Laptop RAM and has 4GB eMMC on it, for nearly half the price of the Edison module. http://i.imgur.com/TrEAklB.jpg

Not SD card sized, but still pretty cute.

Intel edisons are not great for power constrained solutions since they either have full power or are off. Would be really nice to have the ability to scale the CPU frequency for lower power situations

Interesting analysis of fuzzing on Edison (previous generation?) [1]. For my uses, the ARM boards like ODROID and Raspberry Pi have superior value. But it's good to see Intel competing here.

[1] http://lcamtuf.coredump.cx/edison_fuzz/

The only reason I would go x86 for a project is if the thing runs DOS.

That being said, has anyone managed to get FreeDOS on the edison?

It's nice it has storage, WiFi, bluetooth all rolled in. The $50 isn't actually the part that ruins it for me, more of the extra I'm guaranteed to spend more money on any and all extras I'd need.

I get these are much more powerful, but I'd love to see a Quark X-based board to compete in price/capabilities with a Pi.

The ESP32 is a better (support, reliability) and cheaper alternative when what you really need is wifi/bt/gpio.

Could the Intel Edison be used to make a laptop?

It has no video hardware, so it couldn't drive a monitor / panel for a laptop. It's more like an Arduino than it's like an RPi.

Sorry for being pedantic here, but despite lack of video hardware I would argue it has a lot more in common with the PI than an Arduino. It runs Yocto Linux and you can pretty much use the full suite of Linux tools to program it.

That's fair, I didn't mean to suggest that it wasn't a general-purpose computer running Linux, just that it wasn't really built to be used as a desktop. That said, I'd personally choose an RPi Zero W (which isn't much larger, costs 1/5th the price, and can drive a monitor, if you need it to).

It could also be run headlessly and combined with a Pi. The Edison running an X client (server) or RDP server, the Pi connecting into it.

Ah ok, I missed that, thanks for explaining!

blackbird_tm is right that there is no high-res display capability, but if you are ok with alternative methods of interaction, such as audio, OLED display, VNC, web, etc., it could be used as a "computing device." You could also use a USB video card from what I've heard, but of course that would be a rather lame laptop. It has a fair amount of storage, decent CPU, and runs Linux well in my experience.

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