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Linux Powers Lilliputian PCs 193

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the zero-u-form-factor dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Gumstix is launching a whole line of dinky little PCs little larger than a Big Red Plenty Pack. The first Netstix model targets server, sniffing, and network simulation. The next model will be USB-powered, followed by models with SD/MMC slots and built-in WiFi. They come with Linux 2.6.17, and lots of room for user applications."
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Linux Powers Lilliputian PCs

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  • want one^h^h^h 1000 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chriss (26574) * <chriss@memomo.net> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:11PM (#16158045) Homepage

    Nice: 200MHz XScale, 64 MB RAM, 16 MB Flash (3MB occupied by OS), 100MBit Ethernet, CF-II slot, 1-3/8 * 4-1/8 inches (35 x 103mm). Even nicer: the next version with integrated WiFi. All done by a company of 26, with no intention to grow, but to automate more if more work has to be done, so prices will fall.

    Not so nice: $186.5 for one, $165 in volumes of 1000. I know, this is still very cheap for something in "industrial size", but too much to build one into my door bell, one into each phone, one into each light switch (the joy of being unable to turn of the light due to an 500 error), one into the fish tank, one into the fridge to finally order milk like we have been promised for years.

    But give it some years, and I will have a log of how many minutes I brushed my teeth based on the report my eToothBrush send wirelessy to my server.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by chris_mahan (256577)
      I'm sure the adult industry will find innovative uses for a device of this shape...

      Damn, did I just post that from my company computer? (sig in training)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by gardyloo (512791)
        I'm sure the adult industry will find innovative uses for a device of this shape...

              I *knew* that "embedded linux" sounded a bit strange for some reason . . .
      • a variant on the following

        http://www.holio.net/dildocam.html [holio.net]
    • by Sqwubbsy (723014) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:49PM (#16158194) Homepage Journal
      Why would you use a whole computer when all you need is a signal and a transmitter?

      Of course this reminds me of the story about a guy giving a speech at a chipmaker convention reminiscing how 25 years earlier a guy had given a speech at the same hotel saying the microchip industry will never be that big because you don't need a chip in every doorknob.
      And here, 25 years later, every doorknob in the hotel had a chip.
      Go figure.
    • compared to devkits for equivalently powered devices it's extremely cheap. About one tenth the price of a typical devkit. And the gumstix has a much better development environment. If you need Linux in a small place with just a little bit of storage and a few I/Os then gumstix is relatively affordable choice.

      I am going to chalk up the price as a "very nice" instead of a "not so nice". Not so nice would be it's limited amount of I/O and that you can't combine multiple expansions on one system (except in only
    • by zobier (585066)
      You might like one of these [umass.edu] then.
    • by el_womble (779715)
      These things facinate me, but I want something slightly different.

      Something this small and cheap I don't mind if it only has a single application like a web server, or mail server or home security monitor... so why does it need an OS on the scale of Linux?

      I'd rather see an app cartridge, which can access an SD or similar for data, and have loads of the buggers, no mulitasking or SMP overheads, just one program running at full machine speeds.

      Can you imagine having a compiler on a stick? You fire code in on U
      • by arth1 (260657)
        The problem I have with this device is the same as I have with most miniature devices -- they're incomplete, and what you need to add to them is bulky.

        I'd prefer a slightly larger device that has power and storage built-in.
        If using external power, at least a power brick that stacks with the unit.

        Regards,
        --
        *Art
    • by dmayle (200765) *

      Not so nice: $186.5 for one

      I know what you mean, I've been looking for relatively cheap systems borads. I mean, with the price of fullblown laptops hitting $600 (with 512MB RAM, 40/60GB HD, etc.), I have a real hard time imagining $200 for something like this.

      Does anyone know of a source for embedded boards for development that have ethernet/serial/parallel for around the $100 price range? I know it's possible, because you can rip apart most any "broadband router" and get the same for less than $50, b

      • I'm not sure how small you need, but I can recommend the PC Engines WRAP [pcengines.ch] boards. They are 6" square (a fair bit bigger than a gumstix system), but come with a 266MHz Geode (AMD, x86-compatible, 486-class) CPU and 64 or 128MB of RAM. They have a compact flash slot on board, which is bootable, meaning you can add 512MB of flash storage for next to nothing. They even have 3 LEDs on the front that are controlled via the general purpose I/O bus (which means that they can even be controlled by shell scripts in
  • Perfect! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:14PM (#16158063)
    This will be just the right amount of computing power to, say, monitor the tire pressure in my Bronco or use an infrared LED trip sensor to turn on my desktop computer when I walk through the front door.

    I figure you'd need Linux for that, right? Java too, probably?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by QuasiEvil (74356)
      >I figure you'd need Linux for that, right? Java too, probably?

      Well, if you use Java, that's probably bordering on underpowered for either of your suggested applications. :)

    • Re:Perfect! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @11:05PM (#16158671) Homepage
      Heh. Yeah, and VMware to run Windows Vista.
    • by Fred_A (10934)
      Actually it's probably much more powerful than the 486 DX50 I ran Linux on for years (with X11). Apart from multimedia or fancy desktops (which weren't available at the time anyway), there wasn't much I couldn't do on that machine. It had less RAM than that thing too.
    • by Fordiman (689627)
      Feh. You can do that stuff with a much-cheaper PIC.

      This is enough power for analog control of a house's worth of lighting and monitors, based on where you're standing/sitting.

      I mean, remember, it's an ARM. Hz for Hz, they can generally get a little more done than an x86 (Not that they're necessarily better; the whole 'everything on the same bus' thing is a peripheral performance bottleneck).
  • HTTP Client (Score:4, Funny)

    by Phillup (317168) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:17PM (#16158069)
    wget

    Damn... and I thought lynx was hard core!
    • by muszek (882567)
      they mention "links" among pre-loaded apps on their wiki [gumstix.org]. I'm not sure it's the same thing that I think it is, but I know such text browser (kinda cool, supports tables and frames).
    • by Phillup (317168)
      Hm... didn't expect the funny mod...

      Maybe I should have provided a link [gumstix.org]

      Notice where it says "HTTP Client"...
    • by belphegore (66832)
      links works great on the device. I took it out of the "default" software image though to keep size down and leave more free space. Easy to add it back though.
  • This thing looks small and cool enough that you could just make it a portable router and skip the WiFi/ndiswrapper tangle for a Linux laptop?
    • by dubbreak (623656)
      This thing looks small and cool enough that you could just make it a portable router and skip the WiFi/ndiswrapper tangle for a Linux laptop?

      Well they already make wireless ethernet bridges for that (often used on xboxes so you can have wireless connectivity). You could take that idea and go further though: With the processor and mem you could write up a little app to connect to local access points (autocrack wep keys, keep a database of connections etc). Free internet for the computer challenged. Of cou
    • by ncc74656 (45571) *
      This thing looks small and cool enough that you could just make it a portable router and skip the WiFi/ndiswrapper tangle for a Linux laptop?

      Like this [linksys.com], but at twice the price [google.com]?

  • Great (Score:2, Funny)

    by wetfeetl33t (935949)
    Yeah, that's pretty cool, but there are no headphone jacks!
    Oh, wait, I get it....
    • you can add the AudioStix board to it and have audio outputs (and inputs). but it doesn't fit inside the waysmall or netstix case. People have been using bluetooth headsets on a waysmall with batteries added to play music though.
  • by User 956 (568564) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:27PM (#16158111) Homepage
    Gumstix is launching a whole line of dinky little PCs little larger than a Big Red Plenty Pack. The first Netstix model targets server, sniffing, and network simulation.

    These guys seriously need to take a page out of the book of Apple. Listen guys, it's not "dinky" and "little". You gotta jazz it up a little bit. Throw in some "nano" and a bit of "micro" and "mini" for good measure.
  • by shut_up_man (450725) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:35PM (#16158142) Homepage
    1-3/8 x 4-1/8 inches isn't 35 x 103cm, it's ~ 3.5 x 10.3cm. Otherwise that's a rather enormous teeny Linux server.
    • by mnmn (145599)
      Wow. That sounds like a B50 server at that size.

      Linux is powering smaller and smaller devices.

      I'm counting the days before Linux Inc can power a single MCU on its own.
      • by Fred_A (10934)
        Linux is powering smaller and smaller devices.Coming soon to a review site near you :

        "we just got the super micro nano Linux thingy but apparently it slipped out of the box on to the carpet when we unpacked it and we weren't able to find it again. We'll try reviewing it again as soon as the new unit arrives, stay posted !"
    • by jrumney (197329)
      As my high school physics teacher once said, real men use millimetres. Centimetres are for dressmakers.
  • KuroBox (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @08:38PM (#16158153)
    I just got myself a KuroBox [kurobox.com]. This is a fantastic little thing. It's a full computer (headless). It's excellent for a home file server or web server. Its decently cheap. You add you own hard drive. If you've done a chroot before, you should have no problem setting it up with you own custom linux. I used debian. But you can use Gentoo or others too.
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      that looks absolutely perfect for my NAS i have been planning to set up, it costs about the same as any other NAS unit and it's functions are only limited by what linux can do.
      • by eyeye (653962)
        You can buy a NAS box for a quarter of the price of one of these (not including drive of course).
        • by Lehk228 (705449)
          those cheaper units all had bad reviews, either unreliable or slow, or very noisy.
  • hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jpardey (569633)
    Plug one of those into a midi/usb keyboard, a DSP unit (or a math processor tailored to sound), a card with samples or patches, and speakers, and you'd have yourself a synthesiser probably better and cheaper than anything on the market.

    Then again, you could just buy a used desktop from the local computer shop like I did, which is much cheaper, faster, and powerful, but has the disadvantage of size.
  • How much $$$ ?!?!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bluesguy_1 (705652) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:02PM (#16158255)
    Uhhh.... I can go out and buy any number of devices [openwrt.org] around $50 that will all of this and much more with OpenWRT [openwrt.org]. Granted they aren't as small, but they almost all include 802.11g and several have USB2.0. For the increased capability, and reduced price, it's a far better deal unless you absolutely need something that tiny...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Khashishi (775369)
      You are missing the value of tiny. Tiny means you can carry it with you. Everywhere.
    • by asuffield (111848)
      The company I work for has been looking closely at the gumstix line of devices because they offer one thing that almost all the others do not: access to the processor's GPIO pins for bit-banging sensors. Most of the OpenWRT devices *have* GPIO lines, but you can't connect anything to them without modifying the hardware, and that's just not an option for moderately large runs. None of the devices we want to interact with are smart enough to talk RS-232.
  • i dont get it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grapeape (137008) <mpope7&kc,rr,com> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:12PM (#16158301) Homepage
    What is the benefit of this device? For nearly the same amount you can get a pda capable of running linux that includes a faster processor, an input method and a screen. Am I missing something?
    • by Qzukk (229616) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:31PM (#16158568) Journal
      Am I missing something?

      Your inner geek.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by linzeal (197905)
      If you have ever deployed 1000's of small devices you will know that the less parts and bulk the better. An input screen just begs something to be stolen. We had over a dozen pda's stolen at a dot com I worked for, they were all used for spurious purposes such as mobile inventory. The culprit was found when we sprayed the back of each one with a diluted bleach solution and ran a black light on the desks of the sales force. A man who was making 200k a year cried to us that he took them to give to his fam
    • But now you can build your Beowulf Cluster of these and fit it all into one rack!
    • by theCat (36907)
      Our neighborhood association is looking at installing a "peoples' network" WiFi network. There is a mesh networking stack out of CU for free, but the hardware is a blocker; needs to be small, efficient, and bulletproof so it can live for many years perched atop peoples' homes and in their attics. And it needs to be CHEAP because you need a LOT of these things scattered all over the place to avoid radio shadows. My perfect vision would be a tiny PC like this that would slip into the antenna mast base so you
  • Pocket PC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230)
    Considering you can get a Pocket PC for $100 more, which additionally gives you SD, WiFi, Bluetooth, color touchscreen, microphone, speaker, hardware controls, more RAM, more flash capacity, a faster CPU and an integrated "UPS" that runs for several hours, I don't see these selling too well. There are few applications for the hardware that could not benefit immensely from an integrated display alone. Granted most Pocket PCs do not come with integrated ethernet, but it can be easily added via CF.

    Dan East
  • Framebuffer module (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:22PM (#16158337) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to see them make a simple, stupid framebuffer module for these things - just NTSC or PAL resolution output at 256 colors would be plenty - look at what the old Atari/Apple/Commodore computers could do.

    I want to use these as a very simple display for home automation - hang one on the back of the TV, use a PIN switch video port (or the video input on the TV), run about a 40 by 24 character display - not fancy, but enough for display.

    A frame buffer like that could easily be implemented in a small FPGA now-a-days.

    Of course, a tiny X server or VNC client would be even better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HWguy (147772)
      Actually the processor in these supports an LCD-based frame buffer. They offer boards which can "plug in" that allow you to wire an LCD to them directly. Linux works easily with these - X11 runs. But definitely for hardware capable people, not the casual user.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tmasssey (546878)

      Just *yesterday* I was looking for *exactly* the same thing: a way to hook up a Gumstix to a display. I would like to use it for a home automation project.

      If you use one of the appropriate expansion boards, you can interface a Gumstix to a variety of raw LCD panels: there's even X Windows drivers for it. However, there's nothing for TV out (composite, for example), and there is nothing for VGA out.

      The cheapest LCD touch screen I could find is $56 bucks [mouser.com]. Then you still have to buy a controller board a

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ajs318 (655362)
        Well, most modern TV sets do have an RGB+SYNC input! Portables may be composite-only; but usually, the AV1 connector of any big-ish set (> 50cm. screen) is wired for RGB and composite. AV2 is usually composite-only or SVHS and composite, and sometimes is shared with the camcorder jacks on the front.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by s2jcpete (989386)
      I have been playing with these for a while now. You can hook up a LCD, and tiny X is part of the buildroot. Check out their expansion boards.
    • by belphegore (66832)
      We're working on a TV-out framebuffer card. Right now it's sort of working, but the screen's all purple (I think I'm mapping the Y,Cr,Cb wrong or something). Anyway, I can see a pretty purple penguin when I boot, showing up on my TV screen... The same video chip we're using can output PAL or NTSC (software setting), and can do S-video or composite (hardware connector obviously different). The video card is kind of back-burner behind some other higher-priority stuff though, but it is there "in the lab".
  • by monopole (44023) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @09:39PM (#16158397)
    While this still has to drop a bit in price it points to the next big thing. Bubblepack computing. I.E. PC grade computers (this and the OLPC) with preinstalled distros in bubblepacks on the racks by the checkout counters at Target and WalMart. Buy one plug it in, use it. Store your work on removable flash or USB key. When the unit breaks, fails, or is stolen, toss it in the recycle bin and get another. Zero maintenance, zero support. Within a few years the'll make the standard PC look like mainframes.
  • While the next model apparently will be a USB-powered plugin, the product documentation isn't clear about where THIS model gets its power.

    Does it need a wall-wart, is it powered via power-over-ethernet, or what?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:00PM (#16158469)
    So, are they big endian or little endian?
  • 16MB of flash RAM, with 3MB used by the OS, leaves a whopping 13MB.

    Maybe they should say "enough room for a web browser... maybe."
  • Is that a Linux PC in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

    With apologies to:

    • Mae West, Lady Lou, She Done Him Wrong
    • Madeline Kahn, Lili Von Shtupp, Blazing Saddles
    • Joanna Cassidy, Dolores, Who Frames Roger Rabbit
    • ...and many more... :-)
  • by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Friday September 22, 2006 @01:53AM (#16159154) Homepage
    For these types of items to really take off, they have to be Walmart marketable. The best way to do that is to create a device everyone would want to use. An in-line firewall would be such a good application. One Lan-in, and either USB or Lan out cable, and a small server sitting in the middle acting as firewall, spam filter, pop-up/phishing blocker, and if they could squeeze it in, a virus blocker. Or, better, yet, one device that does each really well and really fast, and then chain several together to do each feature.

    Connect, connect, safe and secure PC. The mass market for these products remains in constructing single, highly specialized but widely sought after features, that require no setup or a completely automated setup. LAMP on a micro-server isn't really that sort of product, even if it would be fun to play with. The market is in daemons on USB, preferably in-line or on its own dedicated node (though that's a bit wasteful, imho) - firewalls, independent shared drives, dns (plug and play opendns via in-line from modem to router), and even time servers (maybe with a little back lit LCD display, and adjustment controls on the outside). These tasks are currently being pushed into virtualization. But moving occasional services into a cheap occasionally used device would be even better.
  • pcengines WRAP (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kirth (183) on Friday September 22, 2006 @03:30AM (#16159351) Homepage
    A bit bigger than that, but I've got me a http://pcengines.ch/ [pcengines.ch] WRAP, 3x100MBit, 1xSerial, 233Mhz Pentium-I-compatible processor, 128MB Ram, MiniPCI-slot and a Compact-Flash slot. Make a perfect firewall.
  • Apparantly it's a big pack of chewing [candyfavorites.com] gum [amazon.com] containing 17 sticks [innermountain.com].

    Sugar, Gum Base, Corn Syrup, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Glycerol, Acesulfame K, Softeners, Mannitol, Red 40 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, BHT (to Preserve Freshness). Would this even be legal in Europe?
  • I wish someone would make a gumstick or kurobox that has sound, which is often neglected on these. I need:

    USB (for an external drive)
    Ethernet (to hook it up to the house network)
    Sound output (soundblaster-era quality is fine enough)
    Cost under $100

    All I want is a gumstick-sized ultra-low power consumption quiet jukebox. Right now I use an old Pentium II that sucks up way too much power. Sound, internet, USB, low power consumption, low price... it's not a tough combination. But I haven't found any out ther
  • Hmm, only 1 ethernet port? Guess I'll have to keep using my old P90 as my firewall/router box. The only fan is on the PS, so it is really quiet. But it does take up a bit of space. I would love a linux-on-a-chip tiny firewall/router box. Yeah yeah, I know. I can probably buy something off the shelf for $40 that will do the same thing. Any recommendations?
  • This is a lot of power.

    There is every reason to think that this machine could do a lot more than power a bronco, or work inside of a toothbrush, or some other retarded and small task.

    In 1997 I learned how to program on a computer that ran on less than 10 mghz and had far less ram and memory than this device. It also didn't have network connectivity or anything like that.

    So, what's my point?

    Basically, I could use this device to do wordprocessing, browse the internet, perform distributed supercomputing tasks
  • I know the Gumstices (Score:2, Informative)

    by Aloriel (934343)
    I did my final project with Gumstices, developing a complete user manual and they are incredible. You can have many kind of software running inside them and the connectivity is also awesome, USB-net, ethernet, bluetooth, wifi, and now gps (and probably more to come). We set up a JamVM to test Java and also C and C++ small programs. Was nice to work with those small pieces of hardware.

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