dpawson
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:38 pm

http://is.gd/jtq6Tg
\"\"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\"

Dave

Johannes
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:06 pm

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. There have been too many open source hardware projects which never got beyond ambitious plans to get excited about another one, especially when it\'s a \"me too\" project. Right now even the Pi has yet to prove mass marketability at the target price, but at least there are working alpha boards.

There are some interesting aspects about their project beyond the higher performance that one would expect from a later design, for example their approach to enabling different hardware configurations. It looks like they\'re aiming to create a standard for embedding ARM systems.

I wish them the best and look forward to seeing their first hardware, but I\'m not holding my breath.

obarthelemy
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:23 pm

With all the $100 Android tablets with terrible screens and batteries out there, someone\'s bound to realize that they could as well take away the screen and battery away and make a $30 Linux PC.
I\'m rooting for one with good IO, and maybe built into a keyboard. As the Pi shows, it\'s not quite easy or quick to do though.

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Jessie
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 7:15 pm

If they wait long enough it will be easy to make a more powerful computer for $15. Getting one out soon after the R-Pi would be one hell of a feat though.

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scep
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:00 pm

Good luck to them - the more the merrier! Small, cheap computers will become common over the next few years and this can only be a good thing.

I would say, however, that what makes the Rasberry Pi exciting for me is not just what it is but also the team and the story behind it; the nod to the 8-bit days; and how it ties in with the current ICT/Computing in UK education thing. It\'s going to be massive.

Disclaimer: I\'m biased :D

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emercer
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:31 pm

I\'m all for it, it may (or may not) drive the price of beefier systems down, but it will certainly lower the bar for acquiring a basic, internet-capable system.

kme
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:41 pm

I think the entire thing is BS.[quote]The Allwinner EOMA-PCMCIA-compliant module will have the following features:

* Approximately Credit-card size format (56mm x 90mm)
* An Allwinner A10, 1.5ghz ARM Cortex A8
* 1gb of RAM
* at least 1gb of NAND Flash (possibly up to 16gb)
* Operation as a stand-alone computer (USB-OTG powered)
* 2160p (double 1080p) Video playback
* MALI 400MP 3D Graphics, OpenGL ES 2.0 compliant.
* HDMI, Micro-SD, Headphones Socket,
* EOMA-PCMCIA-compliant interfaces (RGB/TTL, I2C, USB2, SATA-II, 10/100 Eth)
* Expansion Header (similar to Beagleboard, IMX53QSB, Origen etc.)[/quote]For $15? No way.

jamesh
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:46 pm

I\'d be interested to know which SoC they are using - as the price the foundation pays for the BRCM2835 is very competitive....I\'m guessing it doesn\'t have GPU of the same standard (if it has one at all given its all OSS!).

On these SoC, the Arm bit is the cheap bit.....
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jamesh
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:49 pm

Crossed posts with KME there.

No way can they buy the chip and build it in to a board and get that sort of pricing. No way at all.
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Johannes
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:01 pm

The design is different. They want to bring all interfaces out to just one high density connector. The SoC does all the work and provides all the interfaces. They\'ll need the SoC, RAM, flash memory, the PCMCIA connector, the board and birdseed. The SoC is allegedly available for $7 and already used in existing products. A full system will consist of this computer and some sort of dock to plug it into, to provide the standard connectors.

Edit: Forgot the flash memory.

jacklang
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:03 pm

Its said to be an Allwinner A10 with the hardware being done in China

kme
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:12 pm

@Johannes: every single solution they have selected is more expensive than the corresponding R-Pi solution - maybe except the RAM, but there is no description on how they implement that. However if they use standard DDR3 (and they claim DDR3) SODIMM, I\'d VERY much like to see where they find space for the 200 traces... Let alone the claim of PCMCIA-II height of the board - with a RAM slot too? Also the male + female PCMCIA connector is anything but cheap.

They haven\'t a single schematic - only endless ramblings from product sheets. The most solid thing they do present is a Linux kernel compilations guide for the Cortex A8 - and this one they have lifted off Debian!

Put on top of this they are taking preorders... It\'s just a scam.

Johannes
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:44 pm

@kme, just like it is with the Raspberry Pi, their advertised budget isn\'t going to be all you\'ll pay. In case of the Raspberry Pi, you will at least need the power supply. In their case, you\'ll need at least one form of dock to plug the computer into (and a power supply). In a sense this is cheating, but it also makes their design concept very flexible: Need only USB and Ethernet for a NAS? No need for a dock with HDMI. Need more USB ports? Add a USB hub to the dock. Etc.

They\'ll certainly solder RAM chips directly to the board instead of using a slot. Perhaps there are stacked configurations of this chip too.

They don\'t take preorders, just preorder pledges.

That said, I\'m not getting excited until I\'ve seen at least a prototype. I just think they have some interesting ideas and if they can pull it off, then it\'ll be a success.

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walney
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:10 pm

There was a tweet about this on the 12th. See : http://rhombus-tech.net/

kme
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:18 pm

@Johannes. The board is useless without a port dock and I don\'t really see the point in having multiple variants of port dock. It certainly ruin the economy to produce and administrate multiple such.

Soldering the RAM directly on the board only helps with the physical height - where are they going to find space for all these traces? Switch to a ten layer board? For a $15 board? No way. And a 1 GB PoP for a $15 computer is plainly amusing :-)

obarthelemy
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:10 pm

I\'m looking at it the other way round: since there are $100 tablets (including a $35 screen and a $15 battery), there can be a $50 ARM computer without those, and, with luck, with a bit more IO. Some Israeli company came up with a similar $99 ARM PC last month, I\'m sure the same can be done for half the price in China. A clear sign of what\'s to be expected is the $99 Apple TV. It\'s weird other suppliers haven\'t done their usual \"half-price, more ports, whatever OS\" knock-offs. Last but not least, I got an Hercules eCafe netbook for $150 retail, I\'m sure screen+battery+keyboard+trackpad made up more than half that price.
What\'s not really believable for that particular project is the engineering and timescale. It really feels like the guy shat up the project last month after hearing the buzz around the Pi, and is chasing random buzzwords (PCMCIA ? really ?) without regards for engineering. The copy-pasted mash-up of ICs on their site masquerading as a board is very misleading. Plus he seems to be going after every possible form factor before having even finalized *one* product.
So, I wouldn\'t hold my breath for that specific one, and certainly wouldn\'t give these guys any money yet (I would give some to Pi, but they won\'t take it ^^). IMHO, a similar product is bound to happen shortly, but I\'d look at the usual suspects (Asus, Foxcon...).
But, in the end, it\'s a really interesting development. ARM PCs can do what 90% of end users need. They\'ll be missing a well-polished OS and most Apps to start with, but I\'m hoping some ecosystem will arise, maybe around Ubuntu One or more probably Android, if Android finds a way to gracefully handle keyboard and mouse instead of touch.

Morris
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:19 pm

I\'ve found a mock-up design of the future board (see link below). They only use one side of the board, have 2 NAND and 2 DDR3 chips. I guess they use 4 Gb DDR3 parts to achieve 1GB capacity.
In order to hook this card to the network, you\'ll need a docking with the necessary RJ-45 Ethernet stuff.
That\'s a pitty, but on the hand it\'s no surprise when you stick to the PCMCIA size restrictions ...

http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/news/

obarthelemy
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:23 pm

Yep the ICs fit.
And the traces are such a small detail, right guys ? ^^

Wooloomooloo
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:30 pm

It\'s rather amusing to read all the rather ill-informed but oh-so-righteous indignation going on in this thread. Now just to be clear, I\'m in no way associated with those guys or able to vouch for their honesty, all I did (apparently alone) was to read up a bit on their website and mailing list archive, following that almost-missed tweet reply earlier which of course immediately had my full attention once I realized what it was about.

In short, their SoC indeed seems to be an Allwinner A10 chip, actually a 1.5ghz Cortex A8 ARM Core, with a Mali400 GPU - which allegedly does hardware accelerated four times HD playback, at 2160p, which I have to say does sound pretty good. Again, I\'m not an expert, but apparently this kind of GPU is ticking in the Samsung Galaxy S II phones too, and that sounds like some serious endorsement.

Regarding the RAM layout - I don\'t see what the big deal is. Yes, the PCB certainly will be multi-layer, but nowhere near 10 layers are necessary. While PoP mounting is certainly highly convenient, discrete RAM chips get mounted side-by-side ARM chips on tiny PCBs day in and day out. You have to know what you are doing, match trace lengths (see the wavy bits on the RasPi board) and that\'s that.

I see quite a bit of misunderstanding about the price as well, in both directions. I\'m not sure they realize the RasPi\'s price is actually the final retail web-shop price, while the price they quote is probably more like the price of BOM+manufacture of that board, in really large amounts - without any additional costs applied. It may not come in at 15$ flat as they quote in the end, but I for one believe them: it has been asked before how experienced we believed the RasPi management was in what it does here - frankly, I\'d give those Allwinner guys 2 or 3 point more, simply because they sound like they actually do this kind of thing for a living, elbow-deep in the intricacies of the Chinese electronics industry. Then again, this is just the impression I had reading their stuff, and I have no idea how honest they may or may not be.

Finally, there seems to be a misunderstanding here about their aim as well: while the RasPi is meant to be an end-user product for tinkering and learning, their board (while definitely also usable as such with a simple break-out board) seems to focus on creating a high-performance modular ARM core PCB as a sub-assembly of various other products (from tablets to NAS etc.) and not so much a product in on itself (this also being the reason why I tend to believe their pricing - It wouldn\'t work otherwise).

Ultimately, I have this to say: I\'d love (and hope) to see programming re-introduced to youngsters, but ultimately I\'m here because the Pi is as cheap as it is - let\'s be honest, it\'s revolutionary by its price, definitely not by its tech. And I applaud the stated goal, but as long as I can get even more performance for even less, I\'m definitely just as interested in what they can say and/or sell.

PS.: Now that it got mentioned, The RasPi doesn\'t exactly have any available schematics either. Does that in itself make it vaporware, and its creators scammers...? Of course not.

obarthelemy
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:41 pm

Regarding the PS:
- the Raspi does have schematics, they are just not public yet. That other board has photo-shopped images of side-by side ICs.
- raspi even has prototypes, alpha, and now beta, boards. The design is proven to be doable, to actually work, and to be within budget. The other board has none of that.
- the raspi foundation has well-known and -established trustees.

Again, I\'m all for the other effort succeeding. It just doesn\'t seem to be anywhere near ready, not even at the feasibility stage (unless you count photoshopping ICs onto a PCMCIA-size background actual work), let alone pricing and availability. I\'m ready to bet we won\'t see anything before summer, and if then, for at least twice the price.

If it does come out, even at twice the price, I\'ll buy !

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Jongoleur
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:58 pm

@Wooloomooloo:

As you say, its a module for a different purpose to the Pi, however, the Rhombus-Tech website ( http://rhombus-tech.net/ )specifically mentions and knocks the Raspberry Pi. I don\'t think folk here are particularly concerned about their quote CPU card, it sounds like its in the early stages of concept/design \"The prototype schematics are presently being developed.\" and also seems like it needs a lot of extra hardware to break out to the real world. Otherwise all there is is a lot of verbiage. It may be a useful module (eventually) for inclusion in another device that provides suitable I/O but it isn\'t really a consumer orientated device.

OTOH, the Pi seems to be turning into a device that is good enough to not only do what it was intended to do, ie provide a cheap general purpose computing platform for children to get to grips with software development without interfering with the family PC, but it also looks like it will be good enough for various maker projects that need more than an PIC or an Arduino but would be too expensive to consider using a Beagleboard or similar.

Another factor that generates more confidence in the Pi project is that we\'ve seen the original prototype running Ubuntu (the USB stick) and the Alpha prototype (the big board solution) running all sorts of environments both Linux and NON Linux AND we\'ve seen the first iteration of the production PCB. Its not just words and an incompletely costed wishlist, but an almost tangible solution.

@obarthelemy:

Yep the ICs fit.
And the traces are such a small detail, right guys ? ^^


Well, I expect that their chums in the PRC will not only provide a Allwinner Cortex A8 SoC cheaply, but will also provide a PCB layout solution too, :-)
I'm just a bouncer, splatterers do it with more force.....

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johnbeetem
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:23 am

It\'s cute, unbelievably cheap, and has a nice form factor. It\'s no more open than anything else, because of MALI. Regarding vaporwariness, at this point it reminds me a lot of Crunchpad. If it ever really happens and someone builds a tablet or laptop around it I\'d consider it. Can I haz 12\" screen?

Johannes
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:42 am

They \"knock\" the Raspberry Pi? I only see an estimated CPU speed comparison. The CPU isn\'t really the strong point of the Raspberry Pi, but that\'s no reason to be so touchy.

I don\'t quite understand the hostility towards that project. Is it that they\'re going the \"made in China\" route? Is it that they\'re not much farther than a concept? If anything that should boost confidence that the Raspberry Pi is much further along a long road and doesn\'t need to spew \"can\'t be done\" at other projects. Are you afraid that some people may hold off on buying a Raspberry Pi because they\'ve been exposed to some other project\'s concept drawings? I don\'t have anything invested in either of these projects. If Raspberry Pis never get to market, my world will keep turning, and the same is certainly true if those CPU cards turn out to be impossible or much more expensive to make. I wait and see. Proof, pudding, eating - you know the drill.

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Jessie
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sun Dec 18, 2011 2:29 am

I don\'t think there is much hostility, just that given the price they have quoted it dosn\'t even seem feasable to get a PCB made for $15. If they get it done then I will be more than happy to shell out for one even if it were $70. At that price it would still be one good value. Even if these guys worked night and day it would take some time to get it ready to sell. The R-Pi project has been going for 4 or 5 years now. When you arn\'t getting paid to work on something like that full-time then it takes a while to make it happen. I wish them the best of luck in making it happen, but we all have plenty of reason to be skeptical of their claims. It is a lot of features for a small amount of coin, and like the old man used to say \"Something too good to be true, usually is.\"

sylvan
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Re: if its good copy it?

Sun Dec 18, 2011 3:43 am

[quote]Quote from Jessie on December 18, 2011, 02:29
I don\'t think there is much hostility, just that given the price they have quoted it dosn\'t even seem feasable to get a PCB made for $15. If they get it done then I will be more than happy to shell out for one even if it were $70. At that price it would still be one good value. Even if these guys worked night and day it would take some time to get it ready to sell.[/quote]

From what I\'ve read on their website and one of the principals posting on slashdot...

The factory is doing / will do all the hardware design and build.

The $15 price is what the factory quoted them per unit in qty 100,000+. There will be other costs so it is unlikely you will ever be able to buy one for $15.

The NRE cost for the first board is $2000. Then it is something like $75 per board for the first 50 boards (or something like that, I don\'t recall exactly). In other words, the first 50 boards will be over $100 per each. If they can get a commitment for enough boards, the price per board drops commensurately.

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