User: Password:
|
|
Subscribe / Log in / New account

Hardware Hacks: The Raspberry Pi is everywhere (The H)

The H has a new section on the uses of open source software on open hardware. The first article is about Raspberry Pi. "FishPi – Developer Greg Holloway is building an unmanned, autonomous boat controlled by a Raspberry Pi. The solar powered FishPi is being designed with the goal of being able to cross the Atlantic Ocean all by itself. At the moment, Holloway is building a 20-inch long proof-of-concept vehicle and he has not yet tested it for actual seaworthiness, but the plans are to eventually produce a kit that can be sold to interested parties. Holloway expects the finished product to be able to sustain long-term operations and perform observations and data logging, aided by two-way satellite communication."
(Log in to post comments)

Hardware Hacks: The Raspberry Pi is everywhere (The H)

Posted Jul 16, 2012 22:36 UTC (Mon) by fsphil (guest, #44932) [Link]

Just this weekend a Raspberry Pi was launched on a balloon in the UK. It transmitted live images over radio and reach an impressive height of very nearly 40km.

The full report can be read at http://www.daveakerman.com/?p=592

Hardware Hacks: The Raspberry Pi is everywhere (The H)

Posted Jul 17, 2012 11:12 UTC (Tue) by btraynor (subscriber, #26672) [Link]

In addition, The RaspberryPi community has already built up a large repository of information on the elinux.org wiki here:

http://elinux.org/R-Pi_Hub

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 17, 2012 19:20 UTC (Tue) by jmorris42 (guest, #2203) [Link]

Translation: Somebody is doing some minor project that if using any other small ARM board wouldn't be notable outside their specialty, but by choosing the Hypatastic Pi every tech publication and blog feel compelled to cover it.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 20, 2012 1:26 UTC (Fri) by shapr (guest, #9077) [Link]

I'd say the hype comes from these projects being done with a $35 widget. $35 fits into the budget of almost everyone.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 20, 2012 17:23 UTC (Fri) by intgr (subscriber, #39733) [Link]

I don't see how that's relevant though. They replaced a $150 component with a $35 one, but the rest of the hardware probably costs 2 orders of magnitude more anyway.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 23, 2012 0:21 UTC (Mon) by gdt (subscriber, #6284) [Link]

Sure there's hype.

But outside of the hype it is clear that the Pi has quickly become the single board computer of choice, just as Arduino has become the microcontroller of choice. Sure, you might by something else, but that would be because you considered the Pi/Arduino first and it didn't fit the task.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 23, 2012 1:32 UTC (Mon) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

and a lot of it does come down to price.

sure, overall the cost of the computer board may be a small part of the overall construction cost, but if it's a hobby, it's still cash out of your pocket (and if you are looking at adding a computer to something you are already doing, be it model boats, rockets, or whatever, your view of the costs related to those things tends to ignore those, as you would be spending that sort of money on your hobby anyway, even if you didn't add the computer)

If you're looking at a commercial product, the $100+ difference in per-unit costs is a LOT.

the fact that 'developer' boards are considered 'cheap' at $2K each is highway robbery by the chip manufacturers., yes they don't sell a lot of them, but they had to develop the 'developer' or 'prototyping' board anyway for their internal people to test the chip on, once they have done that development effort, the incremental cost of producing more boards to sell to the public is minor (and tending towards insignificant with more flexible assembly lines)

so being able to get a functioning computer for $35 instead of a developer board for $2K (or in the case of ARM, a stripped down system board for $150+ that needs another $100+ board to talk to a network, and a $100+ board to talk to a display... etc) is huge

The arduino is a joke as a computer nowdays, but it's so cheap (along with easy to do simple things with), that it gets used a LOT and considered by people who wouldn't even think of using a computer in something at the traditional prices.

At $35 the RPi board is in the same price range as the Arduino (and it includes USB, network, and display!!). It's not yet as easy to program to do things, but I'm expecting that there will shortly be simple software packages to configure Linux on the RPi to drive Arduino add-on boards, and once you can drive those boards from within Perl or Python, and not have to do the compile/load/test cycle of the Arduino, I would expect that the RPi will make a HUGE dent in the Arduino community.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 23, 2012 10:55 UTC (Mon) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

>the fact that 'developer' boards are considered 'cheap' at $2K each is highway robbery by the chip manufacturers., yes they don't sell a lot of them
I know for a fact that most manufacturers barely make a profit on developer boards. Quite often the final dev. boards are different from production devices (they might have easy-to-use JTAG, GPIO lines, expansion slots, etc), so you need special manufacturing for them - and that is expensive.

Raspberry and other such projects are notable exactly because they aim to make cheap mass-produced dev. boards.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 23, 2012 20:55 UTC (Mon) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

sorry, I don't buy that the boards are really that expensive.

I've done custom development of products and the cost to produce a board and fill it with components is just not that high, even for small quantities (dozens), let alone larger quantities (hundreds or thousands)

the fact that third parties can make such cheap 'dev boards' including paying the profit margin of the third party board manufacturers, shipping between companies, etc.

In my opinion, they should not be looking to make a profit on development boards, they should view them as 'loss leaders', selling them as cheaply as possible to encourage more developers to use them. I'm not saying that they should loose money on them, but they should be at or close to break-even.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 23, 2012 21:23 UTC (Mon) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

They are.

>I've done custom development of products and the cost to produce a board and fill it with components is just not that high, even for small quantities (dozens), let alone larger quantities (hundreds or thousands).
Dev. boards are typically sold at most in the range of hundreds or thousands. And you often need several variations of them. And engineers designing them needs to be payed their salary.

>In my opinion, they should not be looking to make a profit on development boards, they should view them as 'loss leaders', selling them as cheaply as possible to encourage more developers to use them. I'm not saying that they should loose money on them, but they should be at or close to break-even.
They ARE working close to break-even. Dev. boards are simply not a significant revenue source for most companies.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 23, 2012 21:30 UTC (Mon) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

prototyping boards don't need lots of variants, they need one board that exposes all the connections for use/testing.

as for the rest of it, I think we will just have to agree to disagree. I know that they claim to be selling them at cost, but given the ability for others to produce the same thing at much lower costs, I really have to question their accounting.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 9:22 UTC (Tue) by mpr22 (subscriber, #60784) [Link]

Unfortunately, a significant number of SoCs have more functional units than can be simultaneously routed out of a package of the chosen dimensions, and one option on a given set of pins may not play nicely with the device that another option expects to find at the far end.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 22:28 UTC (Tue) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

route the pins out to pads so that the person using the system can wire whichever components up to those pins that they want to use.

It's not like the developer boards offer every possible combination of uses in any case to begin with.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 19:43 UTC (Tue) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

All connections... Do you want a working PCI bus with that? Maybe an actual PCI slot or two? How about additional I2C controllers? Or two RS232 controllers?

There are simply too many choices. And chances are most of the components won't be present in most of the final devices.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 22:30 UTC (Tue) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

PCI is a rare case where there are strict requirements for wire lengths, so yes, if the chip has an on-board PCI bus, the developer board should have a slot.

But most of the low-end chips (<$30) don't have CPI bus connections, buying a >$1K developer board for a <$30 chip offends me.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 22:35 UTC (Tue) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

So now you want two versions: with PCI and without PCI. How about versions with different storage controllers and storage types? Ditto for video controllers or SoC versions.

So you see where it's heading - vendors have to do several versions of developer boards. And they are not exactly cheap to make.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 23:10 UTC (Tue) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

no, I don't want multiple versions with all the different options.

First off, remember that I'm talking about the cheap chips, <$30 or so.

They normally don't have PCI.

I don't want a bunch of options for storage controllers on the board. Instead I want the pins available to wire to the storage controller of my choice. The exception to this is to have something like a SD card available, but it should be done in a way that if some different storage is wired up, jumpers can be cut to disable the SD card slot so the pins can be reassigned to other uses.

The more complex you make the board, the more 'extras' you put on it, the less flexible it is and the more likely it is that someone will want something else (and the more expensive it will be)

KISS, If your developer board has more external components on it than production systems using the same chip, you've done the wrong thing.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 23:36 UTC (Tue) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

>First off, remember that I'm talking about the cheap chips, <$30 or so.
No we don't. Developer boards are also used for high-end stuff like industrial controllers.

>I don't want a bunch of options for storage controllers on the board. Instead I want the pins available to wire to the storage controller of my choice.
Not going to fly. You need to either have some kind of universal bus (like PCI or PCIe) for data transfer which is not usually acceptable or have several versions of SoC with different integrated controllers (and that's what usually happens). Oh, and you'll also want different version with different amount of built-in storage.

>The more complex you make the board, the more 'extras' you put on it, the less flexible it is and the more likely it is that someone will want something else (and the more expensive it will be)
Developer boards are just that - they are used for DEVELOPMENT. They are not intended to be used as general-purpose computers, but instead they are intended to mimic the target system as close as possible but no closer.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 24, 2012 23:55 UTC (Tue) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

> Developer boards are just that - they are used for DEVELOPMENT. They are not intended to be used as general-purpose computers, but instead they are intended to mimic the target system as close as possible but no closer.

that can't possibly work if you are selling an embedded CPU that is going to be used in thousands of different systems. You cannot possibly imagine all the possible system designs that engineers are going to want to put your CPU into. As such, any attempt to mimic all of them is guaranteed to fail.

you can create a reference design of a particular type of thing, but a reference design for a set-top box is likely to be really bad for a tablet developer (and vice-versa)

A developer board is not supposed to mimic a particular target system, it's supposed to give you the minimum needed to get the chip up and working so that you can wire up the rest of the system that YOU (the engineer) are designing so that you can try various things before you have a custom board made.

In any case, needing to buy a >$1K board to mimic the board that will be installed in a <$100 retail product is still wrong.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 25, 2012 10:42 UTC (Wed) by Cyberax (✭ supporter ✭, #52523) [Link]

>that can't possibly work if you are selling an embedded CPU that is going to be used in thousands of different systems. You cannot possibly imagine all the possible system designs that engineers are going to want to put your CPU into.
Again, you're not producing CPUs but SoCs. They are different - a SoC includes not only CPU but also RAM controller, various IO controllers, video chip, etc.

You can't realistically take a chip designed for WiFi routers and use it to develop a media device. So you need to provide multiple variants with different SoCs and different peripheral devices.

> In any case, needing to buy a >$1K board to mimic the board that will be installed in a <$100 retail product is still wrong.
The first pre-production versions of cars cost literally millions of dollars, even if the final versions are sub-$30k. That's the same idea - mass production lowers the price.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 25, 2012 18:46 UTC (Wed) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

> Again, you're not producing CPUs but SoCs. They are different - a SoC includes not only CPU but also RAM controller, various IO controllers, video chip, etc.

but you don't need to make a bunch of different development boards for the same SoC chip.

And if you are not hooking up the peripherals, you just need to expose the pins from the SoC, and since the different SoC chips (with different options) tend to use the same pins for the core features, this means that one board can be used for many SoC chips.

> You can't realistically take a chip designed for WiFi routers and use it to develop a media device. So you need to provide multiple variants with different SoCs and different peripheral devices.

bzzz, wrong, people absolutely take chips designed for WiFi routers and use them to develop media devices and many other things (and similarly, they take chips designed for media devices and use them in routers)

> The first pre-production versions of cars cost literally millions of dollars, even if the final versions are sub-$30k. That's the same idea - mass production lowers the price.

have you looked at how cheap it is to produce small quantities of circuit boards nowdays?

if you have the layout in your computer, you can get boards done in single digit batches for $50-100 each

the automation in manufacturing is such that you no longer have to dedicate a production line to each board design, your parts stuffer robots can handle a wide range of boards one after another (within constraints). The cost per board of this arrangement is higher than with a dedicated production line, but it's at least an order of magnitude lower than it was to produce small quantity boards even 10 years ago.

but the prices of development boards have not dropped significantly in the last 20-30 years. Manufacturers have gotten people used to the high prices of development kits, and since they mostly come out of corporate budgets, there hasn't been a lot of pressure to lower the prices as the costs have lowered. There are some exceptions (TI has had MSP430 development kits for $20 for example), but far too many manufacturers still charge thousands for their kits.

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 23, 2012 8:39 UTC (Mon) by gioele (subscriber, #61675) [Link]

> But outside of the hype it is clear that the Pi has quickly become the single board computer of choice,

How long before the GPU+bootloader binary blob becomes an issue too big to be overcome?

Enough with the Pi Hype

Posted Jul 26, 2012 7:30 UTC (Thu) by gdt (subscriber, #6284) [Link]

The binary blog for the GPU is a problem. But not so much for headless users as those front-and-centre of the Raspberry Pi Foundation's aim -- young hobbyists.

Seriously, have a look at the Pi user documentation. It's all about finding your way around the UNIX command line. That's a huge learning curve to someone who's just plugged in their RPi. The larger the learning curve, the more obstacles to Just Doing Stuff, and the worse the de-motivation.

To attract it's intended audience that card needs to boot into a graphical environment which is both rich (GNOME, KDE) and fast (kernel driver for X and, later, Wayland). That means getting enough info about the registers of the VideoCore to be able to post messages to it to set it up and to run OpenGL ES, both without userspace linkage. None of this means that Broadcom have to make their Secret Source public, but it does require Broadcom to disclose things they have yet to disclose.

(It is very much in Broadcom's interest to talk more about the command posting API. You don't want someone reverse-engineering your card at a register level and then using that information in widely-used software. That just sucks away flexibility for future designs and before you know it you don't have control of your own design anymore. Witness IBM's attempts to move away from the IBM PC/AT design with the PS/2.)


Copyright © 2012, Eklektix, Inc.
Comments and public postings are copyrighted by their creators.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds