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Thread: BeagleBone Black: The Sub-$50 ARM Linux Board

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by c117152 View Post
    You know, I own one myself; Model B revision 000f. Works fine for me. Mind you I did buy an extra 5$ breakout cable\board for my breadboard since I was fresh out of jumper wires... And I don't use the USB much at all. I didn't even have to use the LAN since I have a CP2105 for work already...

    I'm guessing, different use cases?
    Gotta love this "works for me YMMV" argument. I was arguing about the reliability in general. You're using a single anecdote to dismiss my entire point of view. Yes, it's a "different" use case, if you want reliability in general and don't want to take a risk by buying crappy hardware that may or may not work for you. For example you do when building a cluster because the failure rate grows with more nodes. Return to your math homework if you don't know how.

    Quote Originally Posted by c117152 View Post
    I wouldn't even know what to do with a 1Ghz real-time compute. And I do signal processing (and some analysis) with my Pi... Maybe it's for autonomous vehicles or robotics or something...

    Most of these boards are just fine for their peculiar usages.
    So because you don't need faster than RPi hardware, you're wondering why would anyone else need. The fact is, there's Moore's law and also hardware keeps advancing each year. RPi uses over a decade old ARM architecture. It's old. Old manufacturing process, old everything. It's slow by any standards compared to hardware people are used to work with. It's probably very nice for embedded developers familiar with 16-bit chips. However Pi is targeted for educational use and so forth. Some users even waste cycles running JavaScript or Python on it. Can you imagine?

    The reason for RPi criticism comes from the fact that it's a decent board for many tasks, but it also sucks in everything. For example, you want USB, you get less than optimal performance. You want ethernet, again it sucks. You want SD card support, beware it's slow and may corrupt filesystem. You want to use 3 USB devices? You most probably need a powered hub. You want to use VideoCore for something cool on desktop (X11/Wayland) use? Well, tough luck the default software stack doesn't use VideoCore accelerated Wayland for desktop. The only thing it does reasonably well is video decoding. I have nothing to complain when it comes to video decoding. The price is rarely an issue if you get a system that fixes 99% of these problems with $10 more money. If you consider the whole system, the cost of the board is only few % of the total cost. There's shipping, cables, power source, USB dongles, whatnot. For an average user the savings in cost you get from $10 cheaper board don't really justify the shittiness you get with broken hardware and suboptimal performance (compared to $10 more expensive hardware). That's all I'm trying to say. It's a nice board and fast compared to real low-end stuff, but the price difference simply does not justify using RPi in many cases. If you happen to know the use case you have in mind, it's *always* worth checking out other boards, because they're better than RPi in quite many cases.

  2. #32
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    Michael, this article is silly. The Beaglebone black is a microcontroller board that has capability to act as a development board, and as such it should be being compared to other microcontroller boards (such as the arduino) because that's the target audience for this, and in this use case it's the best board on the market, the Raspberry Pi, the chromebook and similar are totally irrelevant to the market as they're not really microcontroller boards, and writing an article comparing them to that is disingenuous at best.

  3. #33
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    I agree that the BeagleBone Black is much better for hobby electronics (i.e., controlling external devices) than the Raspberry Pi. However, the video capabilities of the BBB are rudimentary at best. In other words, it stinks at video playback. The Raspberry Pi is much better for anything more GPU intensive.

    Of course, there will be something that is better than the Raspberry Pi for just about any application. Right now, however, most devices near the price point of the Raspberry Pi are not as flexible as it is. Soon enough, this will change. Of course, we also may see a new iteration of the Raspberry Pi that has the most serious shortcomings (CPU power, SD card interface bottleneck, ethernet interface bottleneck) fixed as the price of more capable hardware falls. Since consistency is important to the developers of the Raspberry Pi, however, I don't expect fast updates to new hardware.

  4. #34
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    I would like to add that another serious shortcoming of the Raspberry Pi seems to be common among most of the very cheap development boards. That is, it lacks good open source drivers for the GPU. Sure, it's great for video playback, but you can't do all the things you would be able to do if the GPU drivers were open source. I'd love to point to something else that does have good open source GPU support, but until you go to Bay Trail devices, which are hardly in the same class (that is they are way more capable, more expensive, and more power hungry), it's tough to find anything satisfactory.
    Last edited by CFWhitman; 02-18-2014 at 03:38 PM.

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by CFWhitman View Post
    I would like to add that another serious shortcoming of the Raspberry Pi seems to be common among most of the very cheap development boards. That is, it lacks good open source drivers for the GPU. Sure, it's great for video playback, but you can't do all the things you would be able to do if the GPU drivers were open source. I'd love to point to something else that does have good open source GPU support, but until you go to Bay Trail devices, which are hardly in the same class (that is they are way more capable, more expensive, and more power hungry), it's tough to find anything satisfactory.
    Most ARM boards have closed GPU because Samsung, ARM Holdings and other companies hate open source. RPi is nice because you can actually use the closed drivers via an open API, but most other ARM boards rely totally on reverse engineering work because the companies hate open source like the plague and wish it would die a painful death.

  6. #36
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    Default Cubieboard 2

    I thought along the same lines as Michael. Can you make a working desktop computer out of a cheap ARM board? After a lot of reading I bought a Cubieboard 2. Dual core Allwinner, good community and a SATA port. Then I set to work. It was not straight forward but after a few days I had a Debian system running Xfce4. I had the root partition on the internal flash and a 750GB 2.5" SSD configured as swap and /home. I also purchased a quality 3A power supply. It actually worked and I setup network sharing with SAMBA. It even had GPU acceleration. It could play SD video smoothly and full screen. There is a video decoder that works in an XBMC setup, but not under X. It happily fed multimedia files to my wired network and the desktop was fast enough to be usable. Would I use it as my primary desktop? No. It was an interesting project but the hoops you have to go through just to do a dist-upgrade made it just too much hassle to be sensible. I realise I was pushing a square peg into a round hole, but it can be made to work.

    So then I dismantled it and flashed Android to the internal memory and then connected it to a TV, complete with an ethernet connection. Instant smart TV. I added BS Player to the Android for network streaming of multimedia files. I tried various wireless keyboards, but once setup I settled on a mouse on the TV cabinet. I have issues with HDMI and occasional screen blanking.

    Now I am thinking of maybe making a headless private cloud. Something for the future. And more in line with the relevant usage for such a device. A hobby device and a bit of fun.
    Last edited by grege; 02-18-2014 at 08:16 PM.

  7. #37
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    The article says "The BeagleBone Black might be useful for specialized embedded use-cases or penny-pinching Linux hobbyists, but for any real ARM Linux development use or desktop experiments".

    Why is this article making conclusions about desktop performance after actually running only a few floating point heavy benchmarks focusing on scientific computations? Cherry picking results to showcase only the slow non-pipelined VFPLite unit used in ARM Cortex-A8 is not very nice. For example, the TSCP result has been measured but omitted from the article for some reason. FWIW, if one is focusing exclusively on non-vectorized double precision floating point benchmarks, then even Raspberry Pi (which has a pipelined VFP11 unit) is going to show better score than Beaglebone But the typical desktop tasks are a completely different type of workload. And Cortex-A8 based boards, such as Beaglebone Black or A10-OLinuXino-LIME, are much faster than Raspberry Pi thanks to a dual-issue superscalar pipeline, integrated low latency L2 cache and 128-bit NEON SIMD unit.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by grege View Post
    I thought along the same lines as Michael. Can you make a working desktop computer out of a cheap ARM board? After a lot of reading I bought a Cubieboard 2. Dual core Allwinner, good community and a SATA port. Then I set to work. It was not straight forward but after a few days I had a Debian system running Xfce4. I had the root partition on the internal flash and a 750GB 2.5" SSD configured as swap and /home. I also purchased a quality 3A power supply. It actually worked and I setup network sharing with SAMBA. It even had GPU acceleration. It could play SD video smoothly and full screen. There is a video decoder that works in an XBMC setup, but not under X. It happily fed multimedia files to my wired network and the desktop was fast enough to be usable. Would I use it as my primary desktop? No. It was an interesting project but the hoops you have to go through just to do a dist-upgrade made it just too much hassle to be sensible. I realise I was pushing a square peg into a round hole, but it can be made to work.

    So then I dismantled it and flashed Android to the internal memory and then connected it to a TV, complete with an ethernet connection. Instant smart TV. I added BS Player to the Android for network streaming of multimedia files. I tried various wireless keyboards, but once setup I settled on a mouse on the TV cabinet. I have issues with HDMI and occasional screen blanking.

    Now I am thinking of maybe making a headless private cloud. Something for the future. And more in line with the relevant usage for such a device. A hobby device and a bit of fun.
    That should have read 2.5" HDD, but no editing after 5 minutes. I think my HDMI issues were more a cable issue than the Cubieboard, but now I have lost interest in solving that - for the moment.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by grege View Post
    I thought along the same lines as Michael. Can you make a working desktop computer out of a cheap ARM board? After a lot of reading I bought a Cubieboard 2. Dual core Allwinner, good community and a SATA port. Then I set to work. It was not straight forward but after a few days I had a Debian system running Xfce4. I had the root partition on the internal flash and a 750GB 2.5" SSD configured as swap and /home. I also purchased a quality 3A power supply. It actually worked and I setup network sharing with SAMBA. It even had GPU acceleration. It could play SD video smoothly and full screen. There is a video decoder that works in an XBMC setup, but not under X. It happily fed multimedia files to my wired network and the desktop was fast enough to be usable.
    If your primary intended use was a desktop computer replacement, then this kind of hardware was not the best choice. Cubieboard 2 uses a dual-core Cortex-A7 processor clocked at only 912MHz by default (overclockable to 1GHz or a little bit higher than that). This particular configuration together with single-core Cortex-A8 clocked at 1GHz (as used in BeagleBone Black, Cubieboard 1 and A10-OLinuXino-LIME) is representing the current extreme low end in terms of CPU power. You can only go lower with the Raspberry Pi.

    Still that's where the x86 desktop computers were 12-15 years ago. With the right software optimizations/tweaks in place and also picking a non-bloatware desktop environment (XFCE/LXDE/MATE/...), it's definitely possible to use this kind of hardware as a surrogate desktop machine for doing light Internet browsing, typing documents/e-mails and watching movies (with some help from a hardware video decoder). And it's also kind of an interesting challenge to see how much of the performance can be still squeezed out of it.

    The whole point is that the Raspberry Pi, A10-OLinuXino-LIME and BeagleBone Black all have very similar and very low price. For example, the price is ranging from 35,70 EUR to 43,95 EUR (with VAT included) in one of the European web shops right at this moment. The price is the primary factor that makes these boards attractive and competing in the same largely overlapping niches. And a very important thing is that people are less worried about breaking, frying or otherwise damaging all this hardware if the price is low enough.

    Would I use it as my primary desktop? No.
    Exactly. An x86 box is a no-brainer choice if you want a desktop machine, perfectly capable of running all modern bloatware without compromises And as others have already mentioned, these low cost ARM boards have a lot of better uses in addition to just running a Linux desktop system.

    It was an interesting project but the hoops you have to go through just to do a dist-upgrade made it just too much hassle to be sensible. I realise I was pushing a square peg into a round hole, but it can be made to work.
    That's what Raspberry Pi is currently doing a bit better than the others. Their community provides a lot of hand holding and babysitting help for newcomers. They have just a single primary hardware configuration to support. And also quite conveniently, the incompatible with everything else ARMv6 architecture is working to their advantage, suppressing fragmentation on the software side. Basically they just have a single Raspbian Linux distribution dominating, ready made SD card images and even SD cards with the system pre-installed for sale. Makes getting the system up and running really fast. And if you go for an advice to their forum, there are lots of people having exactly the same hardware & software configuration.

    The sunxi community favors software freedom, the Raspberry Pi community favors ease of use. Can't say much about the beaglebone community, but there must be something good about them too. There are many things to learn from each other and improve.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by ssvb View Post
    That's what Raspberry Pi is currently doing a bit better than the others. Their community provides a lot of hand holding and babysitting help for newcomers.
    ...
    The sunxi community favors software freedom, the Raspberry Pi community favors ease of use. Can't say much about the beaglebone community, but there must be something good about them too. There are many things to learn from each other and improve.
    Yep, the community goes a long way, keeping the software up to date too ( Xorg 1.14 + Kernel 3.10.xx + debian stable / 1.15 + 3.13.xx + debian jessy as developer FTW ), and three years later they are still going, and improving: http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/6299

    Yes abandoning X accel to go to Wayland hurts them/us ( in the short term ) but it helps in the long run. And thinking at the long road ahead actually helped me decide to buy one, as all those "cheap but fast" chinese board might be better hardware wise now but I can't really trust them to be there for me 3 years later with up to date software, documentation or english users to help out noobs.

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