Sunday 28 February 2016

Board computers are a bit like girlfriends..

It's true, they are! Imagine you are 20-something and you walk into a bar. Sometimes a girl will take an interest in you, sometimes they won't at all, sometimes the cute ones hide in the corners looking out at you like wallflowers.

Now, in this place there are many different interactions going on with many different people all are interacting in their own ways, enjoying, or not so much. Sometimes a girl will be stunningly beautiful and you drift on a cloud for a moment, seduced. You meet up with this girl, and eventually begin dating. Very quickly you realise that she's a bitch. She never cleans, never works, spends your time, spends your money trying to make it work, time and time again she fails no matter how much you invest and try to tell yourself that 'it will work'. You feel cheated, hurt, used, and lied to. It's a lot like this in the world of single-board computing (or SBCs, or Embedded systems, or SOCs). Small shiny devices full of wonder are presented to us to involve ourselves with and to learn with. Some are cheap, some are expensive, some are simple (and that's good), some are just too complicated and lacking in software & drivers. Some don't even work at all.

Here are some of the computers I have and have used

6 -I even made my own Arduino Shield!

I like all of these boards, they all have their own unique purposes. The arduino uno is good if you want to just take it out of it's packet, write code and send it to the board. C++ is quite a fast learning language to use. The Pro Micro allows you to set it as a HID device which is useful for plugging into a big computer. the 32-bit boards: Pi, Hummingboard, Jetson, are useful for running Linux operating systems, and also then using that to control/read devices. Think of them as tiny, screenless laptops. For sheer processing power (Gpu & Cpu) the Jetson is top, it has good peripheral driver support too. The Pi-2 is the lightest, smallest, and cheapest. I sometimes find myself wishing for more from it though. I wish it had a mini-pcie slot, I wish it had a hdmi-in adapter for the csi port, I wish the usb ports had more voltage power. I'd pay a little bit more for these functionalities. Which leads me to the hummingboard from Israel, which does have a mini-pcie port & powered usb ports. It is a bit larger than the pi-2, and a little heavier due to the chip & heatsink, it also costs a bit more. But it is more powerful on-spec, it is a quad core with 2gb emmc (there are different replaceable options available). The Hummingboard has great potential due to what it is making available in such a small board space, it even has inbuilt wifi + bluetooth 4 (Like the forthcoming Pi 3). For me, at the moment, the hummingboard definitely requires a fully-functional linux distribution which works with all the hardware out-of-box. Ideally, a Ubuntu/Debian-type distribution, which has a decent GUI wifi & bluetooth manager, it needs all the usb ports to function smoothly, the linux software needs to utilise the gpu, hopefully by using ubuntu/debian, there will be good driver support for plugging in devices. It will come with time I am sure, and hummingboard will be a great choice once Solid-Run have figured this out and made a release. Once this is available it will be flying on my drone.

It's all just like girlfriends see. :)


povlhp said...

You forgot the obvious good choices, like ESP8266 boards. 80MHz 32-bit general purpose computer with WiFi for $3. ESP-01 if you can live with one set of i/o ports and wifi. Or what about the cheap STM32 3.3V Arduino boards. 72MHz, 3 UARTS not too much bigger than Arduino Nano.

DalyBulge said...

You are correct Povl, I forgot to include my STM32 72mhz board :) I really like it for it's low price, and learning.