For me, a build bot has to be ultra powerful. The thing I'm usually building has 40k+ files and the linker dies unless I have more than 4gig of ram. This VIA or a Raspberry PI just isn't going to cut it as a build bot.
Used Google cache to read the blog. This is what was written in the blog:
So, now it’s time to take it to the next level – I’ve paid for the beaglebone to go into a colocation rack in Telehouse North, with a friendly colocation company called Jump Networks who were happy to help out with the experiment, and who only charge for £50 + VAT for installation and a very low monthly cost for hosting the equipment, as little as £5 per month – perfect for an ARM server.
Sorry about that, the blog is hosted on linode, who had scheduled a reboot for tonight, which turned into a 2 hour outage...
The colo I picked only charges for electricity and excess bandwidth, which is why I picked them.
It cost £50 to install, and £12 a year in hosting costs for electricity and bandwidth, but the host I'm using says they'll have to introduce a minimum charge of about £5 per month if lots of people start doing it with these micro servers.
Dell makes ARM machines? Do tell. I already have headless build bots for x86 (new Mac Mini) and PowerPC (old Mac Mini), which are perfect in form factor for this. I specifically want an ARM machine to add to them.
This is about the price-range I would like to see for a ChromeOS box.
Put it in a box I can hide behind a standard monitor, let me reuse the old mouse and keyboard and I can finally throw away the Windows XP PC my in-laws are using for Chrome and Freecell. And use 1/10th of the power.
I'd rather pay more for a high-end Cortex A15-based ChromeBox. Browsing will be very slow on an ARM11 chip, especially if you use it in "desktop mode", which will make it feel even slower compared to using it in a mobile phone. Also, it better have a good GPU, otherwise it won't even support resolutions higher than 800x480 (this one might).
But I do think ChromeOS devices should be somewhere in the $200 price range (or free with contract if you want LTE and plan on using it on the go).
In 1989 I ran a Unix system with 1000 users on hardware less powerful than this, why this kind of horse power cannot run something as simple as a web browser says more about the inefficiencies inherent in current operating systems and programming methods than they do about the hardware.
"why this kind of horse power cannot run something as simple as a web browser"
Web browsers aren't simple. Every web page is a complicated nest of sizing constraints and it seems like hardly a CSS property is added without making that worse. And then IE4 had to come along and make all of these sizing constraints dynamically changeable. And then we wanted fancier font rendering, so glyphs weren't free or even cheap anymore.
And I'm just talking text & tags here, not even remotely about anything like OpenGL or video, just core browser stuff.
You can render web pages on mere dribbles of power with Links/Lynx, but it's not some sort of mere coincidence that the result is a much degraded experience, it's actually fundamental to what a web browser is nowadays. I mean, look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTnIxIA5KGw And that's a simple webpage.
> as simple as a web browser says more about the inefficiencies inherent in current operating systems and programming methods than they do about the hardware.
No. This is simply not true, at least at the extreme you are suggesting.
What I have open on my quad-core 8GB RAM desktop right now:
two Eclipse sessions; One emacs server, with about 20 client windows; Firefox, with 30+ tabs; 20 or so console sessions; five PDFs of documentation; an IRC client; an image viewer and a Jabber client. All of this is spread over two big monitors, with antialiased fonts, fast scrolling, lots of undo history and all sorts of good things.
The truth is that expectations have changed. Say all you want about having 1000 users on a single core, but users today are getting a much richer environment, and capabilities that we only could have dreamed of twenty years ago. This isn't waste or inefficiency, it's using what we have.
Web browsers are also far from simple. High resolution graphics, interactive sites, multiple format support, dynamic content loading, antialiased fonts and all these other things do add up. Compare that to what a user was doing on a tiny slice of a machine 20 years ago. I'd call it progress.
You can still run a lot of users on "modest" hardware. Dave Richards posts regularly about his terminal server work for Largo, Florida. 250 users running GNOME, firefox, libreoffice, etc. on one server with 64GB of RAM may not be up to 1989 standards, but it isn't shabby.
Now go read the hardware compatibility list: http://www.menuetos.net/hwc.txt. It only apparently supports 4 network cards, 2 audio cards and a handful of video cards, and all of them are very old tech.
It's essentially a niche operating system, and isn't going to do 1/10th of the stuff that one written with "bloatware" is going to be capable of. I mean, look at what it has for a browser: http://www.menuetos.net/098b3.png
People should read your comment a few times to let it sink in.
But, iRobot, why should we care about efficiencies? Energy grows on trees.
I predict we are going to see many, many more ARM devices. And Apple is going to lead the way.
This is going to bother some people who like to write bloated, inefficient code. Their focus is on multi-core and concurrency. But to do simple things (retrieving text, images, audio, or video via http, sending/receiving email, etc), one does not need that much power.
The rise of ARM will create opportunity for a different set of programmers who are more efficiency-conscious.
You're entirely right, but Wondermedia/VIA actually have a moderately good history with their GPL source for ARM system-on-a-chips.
Although most end vendors of devices using the WM8xxx line of chips are GPL violators (direct-from-China business models where noone cares), Wondermedia themselves have been supplying GPL source via Harald Welte of Gpl-Violations (formerly also employed by VIA):
My vision for these boards is not to display graphics, but to send/receive data from the internet and a local network. I'm not going to use a Pi to watch movies or some other resource-intensive task. I'd just as soon use the power of GPU that comes with Pi for some other task besides video.
What would be interesting is if one of these boards would be designed such that, by pure coincidence, it could fit into an Apple form factor (cheap/old/maybe used). I've read that in, e.g., Vietnam, people with soldering irons do all sorts of hackish things to iPhones.
Or maybe a market for curved edge form factor casings develops. Maybe it already exists. But I never saw any Apple-like form factors in the mini-ITX offerings.
Whenever you see something with a cool form factor, it seems it's always a proprietary package, hermetically sealed, not easy to tinker with.
The Raspberry Pi starts up by loading an opaque blob into the GPU, and that then runs the CPU under supervision. ie the CPU is a servant and controlled by the GPU, not the other way around as is normal in the PC world.
So irrespective of your video intentions, you are still at the mercy of a blob.
The "user programs" you want to run are determined by the operating system. And the operating system is determined by blobs, controllers, BIOS and similar gunk.
If for example the Pi blob is such that Linux kernel 3.7 can't run then you are SOL. Or if on a device like this their blob only works with Android 2.3 then you can't run a different version. Or maybe you can't run one of the BSDs.
The video/GPU is especially relevant in the Pi case because it controls what the CPU can do.
Why not just buy any number of Atom or Fusion motherboards out there? Cost is in the same realm as what you're asking for and they already have those slots. Power consumption isn't much more than the ARMs, but there's actual product you can buy today.
VIA: if you're reading this, your address email@example.com is busted :-(
The original email I sent was:
I'm really excited to see the $49 Android PC; it looks like a perfect
platform for a number of projects I've been thinking of.
However I'm worried - most manufacturers offering low-price Android
devices fail to comply with the terms of the GPL.
Will you be releasing the source code to any GPL'd components used by
your system? And will you allow customers to install their own OSs on
the device or will it be restricted to your own build of Android?
Thanks for your time; I look forwards to your reply.
It's more complicated than that, though. You can't just download ICS and drop it on the board. There are drivers to port and middleware integration to do. Someone has to do that. Google did it for OMAP4 (the Galaxy Nexus), but that's it. This isn't an OMAP4 board, and $50 a unit doesn't pay for a lot of software integration work.
This is where the ARM ecosystem tends to fall down. The PC World is built on compatibility. No one can ship a board if it doesn't run Windows (or even DOS, frankly). Graphics cards have VESA and VGA fallback modes so that you can bootstrap a driver installation. And as a result the Linux community can leverage this to provide pretty great support for new hardware, even if it starts out as a fallback or partial implementation for a few versions. None of that exists in the SoC world.
So if VIA or NVIDIA or Samsung or Qualcomm want ICS to run on their chips, they need to do the work. So far they have not. Nor have their customers been willing or able to.
Canonical and others in the Linux community are working on making a universal kernel for ARM SoC's, and they hope it will work on most of them by 2014. That might help with upgrades and compatibility in the Android world, too, especially since they are planning to merge the Android kernel back into the main Linux kernel.
For some unknown reason all those sensor terminals, atms and other smart devices are powered by windows.
Windows is an awful choice since it requires a huge pricey box with fans, since it shows its dialog messages over the interface, catches viruses and yet they stick to it.
It makes me sad thinking about how much money do they waste on it and how MS is able by get their cut while making everyone lives and products worse by using their BS power.
It depends on what you intend to do with it. My mom's computer is due for an upgrade and she would probably be happy with a beefier version of this machine. Swapping the motherboard should be trivial enough and the PC would continue to look familiar, at least.
She's used to Ubuntu and she couldn't care less about the ISA the machine is running. Moving to Android could prove an interesting experience, but I suspect machines like this will have outstanding support for other Linuxes as well and I'd assume Via has a lot to gain by cooperating.
By now, most likely, someone from Microsoft will have called to offer some incentive if Via favors Win8 over Android on the platform. We'll see what happens.
I'm willing to overlook the geek appeal for the low price. I can see myself building a small NAS or media center with this.
I wonder how difficult it could be to install an ARM version of Linux on it. I'm not that interested in the Android aspect of it, besides maybe using it as a cheap tablet replacement (they'd need to upgrade the Android version though.)
The main issue of (amost) ALL these boards is the code. They always use a large part of proprietary bobs, which makes using them a pain.
Even the Raspberry pi has the issue. In particular, if you've a recent GPU you're often doomed. Want video accel? Nope. Proper video support? Update to more recent libraries? Nope again.
Whether "it's expensive" depends entirely on the market. There are markets (developing countries, education) where tripling the total cost of the setup, compared to using a monitor you already have, is significant.
That's not true if you use a pre-certified wifi module. Of course such modules cost half as much as the board, largely because they eliminate the cost of intentional radiator testing. But I agree, USB wifi is so cheap these days it makes no sense to have it built-in.
OK, fair enough. I don't think the lack of a case is a huge deal (zip tie it inside a tiny cardboard box, whatever) but the requirement for a special power supply is significant. In comparison, a raspberry pi can be booted up and used with parts that a typical geek has lying around (micro-usb charger, usb periphs, monitor).
Edit: it looks like it comes with a power adapter, so it's effectively a fully functional computer out of the box (just as much as any system without kb/monitor).