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Comment: Re:BBB (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47442275) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

The comoditization of embedded hardware designed happened over a decade ago. Have you heard of Kontron? PC104? Com Express? You seem to have missed the 2000's.... this is nothing new. These days it is amazing what is put on a DIMM module - far more than the Beagle Bone and Pi toys provide and at far lower unit prices.

The commoditization of these designs depended on several factors happening all at once.

First, processor power had to pass a threshold. Having a processor that is fast enough to handle an embedded system running a custom operating system (or more likely just a simple set of interrupt handlers and startup code) is a lot slower than the processor needed to run a full fledged kernel like modern Linux. The custom Software saves huge amounts of unit-cost, at the cost of time-to-market.

The second item that was needed was price point. Even $45 per unit is still high for the BBB black, but the RPi at $35 is pretty close. Even the BBB is close enough to work with.

Third, mainstream OS support. This is critical, because it turned a legion of higher-level programmers into embedded programmers. This, again, helps to reduce TTM

Last, the availability and maturity of simple to wire peripherals, and the availability of software libraries for using these peripherals. This is probably the most key part because you now have the ability to buy a modular set of components, and wire them all together with very little, if any, electronics knowledge and get a working system. Again, it all drives TTM, and in todays world TTM is everything. Just ask Microsoft how their tablet and phone business' are doing to find out how important TTM really is.

Comment: Re:Solaris not well supported by OSS toolchain (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47442215) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

An MSP430 has idle currents measured in uA, and a chip costs in the region of $1.50, with no external components required. BBB isn't useful in applications that require running off of a watch battery for a year, and isn't cheap enough to consider adding as an additional component in consumer electronics.

and the MSP430 doesn't have enough horsepower for most things I want to do, and even if it did, the additional resources needed to design with it, and the additional time-to-market that these would introduce make it non-viable in todays world. As I said, time-to-market is everything. MS didn't get where they are because they made a superior product, they got there because they had a working product when the market opportunity arrived. Short TTM doesn't guarantee success, but TTM that is too long guarantees failure...

Comment: Re: Not France vs US (Score 3, Interesting) 258

Maybe not. The law says they need to charge shipping costs, so unless their couriers are charging them Ã0.01 they are probably not complying. They are just hoping that it takes the authorities a long time to get around to forcing them to charge the real price, which will be obfuscated as much as possible, by which time the will have forced even more of the competition out of business.

This actually presents an interesting problem. Many carriers contractually require that shippers not disclose the discounts they are being given. That means that if Amazon discloses the discounted shipping rates they are paying, then they loose their discounts, and everyone pays retail. This basically royally screws the shippers, and the consumers. As usual, the French have completely failed to think through the consequences of their actions. It continues a fine decades long tradition of fucking up in the name of protectionism. Its the reason, they have double and triple the rate of unemployment of the rest of the world.

Protectionism only works if your society is close to export parity. If you can afford to close your borders completely without collapsing your economy, then protectionism will work (and you actually don't need it under those circumstances). Whenever there is an imbalance, protectionism screws up the local economy. If there is a trade deficit, then your economy hemorrhages money until everyone is broke and in debt. If there is a trade surplus, then protectionism shuts it down, as no one wants to buy from the over-priced asshat who actively blocks foreign competition. With parity, you can afford to significantly reduce trade in both direction (and you will), but any other time its a bad idea.

Comment: Re:BBB (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47428141) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

I'm sure that TI will be making 335x until people stop buying them. TI generally doesn't EOL parts like that. But putting whole BBBs in products seems a bit risky for a lot of other reasons.

As opposed to undertaking to spin your own processor board? The BBB is a complete functional platform that is cost competitive for all but the largest quantities, and shows all the signs of being at the beginning of its life-cycle. Its undergone 2 minor revisions in 12 months, and there are several active design communities. The list of peripherals is growing by leaps and bounds. Lastly, by Beagleboard.orgs own accounting, the demand far exceeds the supply, and people are clearly using them as more than just a prototyping platform.

It all goes back to time to market. These things allow even relatively inexperienced users to build off a powerful platform and create good-enough-to-market products that can be ready to ship in a fraction of the time. Dev houses using the BBB and RPi as base systems are going to eat everyones lunch. It is the comoditization of embedded hardware design. It was bound to happen sooner or later. the RPi started it, but the BBB brought enough IO channels to really get the ball rolling..

Comment: Re:Save yourself some pain ... (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47428103) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

Citation please.

The vast majority of cell phone makers use ARM based processors, and with Smartphones, battery life is a gigantic deal breaker. This would suggest to me that large numbers of design engineers concluded that ARM was at the very least "good enough" in power efficiency to allow its use.

This leads me to conclude that either ARM is better in this department, or that the difference is trivial enough that other trade offs make it worth it.

Comment: Re:That makes no sense. (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47425331) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

How much does it really matter when a small project will only take 15 seconds to compile on the BBB. So what that a cross-compiler can do it in 2 seconds. it'll still take close to 15 seconds total when you include the time to type the commands to download the executable. Even if it was only 7 seconds, it is still only a negligible gain.

now if you were compiling a kernel, or god-forbid something really big like open-office, or some such then I could understand, but for the vast majority of embedded work, it just doesn't matter. The embedded devices are fast enough.

Comment: Re:Save yourself some pain ... (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47425179) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

If you are building a project which requires some special hardware then you don't have to waste time porting a driver from x86 to ARM, MIPS, Sparc, etc.

In my experience, most embedded machines these days are ARM, and finding x86 ports is more of a challenge. Between the explosion of ARM based cell phones, and the Rpi/BBB, x86 is becoming less and less relevant (and with it MS/Intel)

Active android development is almost all ARM, and x86 is ported as an afterthought.

Comment: Re:With Ubuntu. BBB (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47425135) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

The new BBB version is popular and hard to find but the extra flash is nice.

How many do you want? These are not from Beagleboard, and are not Beagleboard certified, but they can be had in almost unlimited quantities and work as advertised. They are manufactured to the open specs. They are being manufactured by a third party in China in vast quantities for commercial use. They cost more than the official versions mostly because you can actually get your hands on them from these guys in nearly limitless quantities (up to 100+ they have in stock to ship right now, more than that might take a day or two, and order for a couple thousand might actually take them a week, but i doubt it) Rumor has it they are moving more than 100k units/month

Comment: Re:BBB (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47424901) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

Because of the poor reliability of MMC, I prefer to use SSD these days

MMC reliability is fine. I thought I was going to have problems using the MMC on the BBB as well, so I set about beating several of them severely. I setup accelerated read-write-read testing, and started pounding on the BBB internal MMC. with 3 boards at over 5M writes to a single 512Byte block each, none of the devices failed. I read some literature which suggests that the MMC rotates sector usage to even out wear, which, if true, means that you would have to do the equivalent of recording 100,000 hours of HD video before you will burn out the MMC.

The other issue with the Beagle Bone is that the processor is kind of on a dead end in terms of development cycle. That is, TI is not actively developing new OMAPs, but they have been authoring most of the Linux drivers for these chips. TI will continue to produce the OMAPs that are on the Beagle Bone, but I wonder how much they will continue to support driver development for future Linux.

Embedded devices are install and forget machines. It doesn't matter much who supports them or doesn't once they are in the field. As far as unit availability, Special Computing is ramping up production and already surpassed all the other BBB manufacturers combined. Last I heard, they were over 120k per month production, the vast majority of which is going into mass-production doo-hickeys from various manufacturers. Our own embedded system uses 1 or more of them in every unit we sell.

The biggest advantage to the BBB (and to a lesser degree the Rpi) is time-to-market. An embedded system used to take 3 to 4 years to develop from conception mass-pro. With the BBB, we were able to do an entire embedded system, From absolute zero to mass-pro in 18 months. The case took longer to design than the embedded hardware!

Comment: Re:Solaris not well supported by OSS toolchain (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47424749) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

Which to anyone that has actually DONE this sort of development is nonsensical.

I happen to like doing my dev work directly on the BBB. I have a full scale machine that I use as a glorified display, and other servers that house subversion, and other needed resources.

Doing dev work directly on the BBB makes it far easier to deal with debugging problems in the field, because, by definition, I have my full debugging environment with me at all times. My dev environment is always exactly identical to the production environment, so I never have the "it works fine in the lab" scenario.

Sure it may take longer to compile, but I can take a virgin board, and have my dev environment up and running anywhere anytime. Give me any laptop with an SSH client, and I have a full dev environment. It is also much easier to debug embedded hardware problems when the development and production machines are the same.

Comment: Re:Solaris not well supported by OSS toolchain (Score 1) 182

by geoskd (#47424643) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

The GPP is 100% right when he says "Just because you don't understand their needs doesn't mean you need to step in and try to change what you think they need. (Ever think they just MIGHT be smarter than you or know their needs better?)"

Which once again returns us to the basic questions being asked by the would be helpers: "What are you trying to accomplish?" Without that fundamental part of the picture, all but the most generic help is pointless.

To return to the current case in point, Say the person is trying to build a plant monitoring doo-hickey. The choice of platforms depends a great deal on a hundred little specifics. For example, if each device being designed will handle one plant only with just a few sensors, and it is going to run on a non-trivial power source (car battery, wall power, large-ish solar panel, then a Rpi is probably the best choice. If the device is going to monitor a row of plants with sensors, then a BeagleBone is probably a better choice for its expanded IO. If it has to monitor an entire greenhouse with dozens of rows, then perhaps a distributed collection of 1 wire sensors is in order in which case just about any platform will do. If, on the other had, the whole thing has to run on a pair of AA batteries, then you are going to have to roll your own solution, and some kind of FPGA board would be a better bet, since you're going to need to understand where every bit flip is going to keep the power consumption down.

The original questioner did not provide enough details to suggest that they even understand all of the options available, so it quickly becomes clear that further questions are needed to find out what they do and don't know.

Key questions that need to be answered:

What does "low power" mean? 5 watts, 0.5 watts, 50 watts?

What does embedded mean? Is he referring to embedded to mean that it is a headless device? Does he mean that it has to run from a limited power source? Does he mean that he needs a device with GPIOs?

In what ways will the device interact with the world? By Ethernet? by 1 wire? by dedicated GPIOs? Does the submitter even understand this question enough to answer it? I'm not so sure from the way the original question was phrased

How many of these device does he intend to build? Just the prototype? Low volume run (Less than 100 units)? Mass-Pro?

In conclusion, the question was not properly framed, most likely because the submitter did not understand the topic well enough to ask intelligent questions, and samzenpuss sure as hell doesn't understand the topic well enough to properly filter these kinds of questions.

Comment: Re:And how many do they need? (Score 1) 97

It's users are arguably less technically savvy. Can you imagine the cost with establishing a secure 1 million user network, where Linux isn't an OS but more probably some disease that was eradicated back in the 1800s. Training would cost so god damn much, take a year or two. Sure, probably don't need IIS servers. But users need to be on Windows.

But every couple of years, MS hands out a perfect reason to convert: New versions.

The cost of retraining to use Windows 8 for example is probably going to be on par with retraining to use Ubuntu or Debian. It could probably even be reduced for Ubuntu or Debian by using a more windows 7 like GUI to help keep the environment as familiar as possible. Any organization that cites conversion retraining costs as their primary cost justification for staying with MS now is either lying (to cover a conflict of interest, bribe, etc...), or incompetent at doing cost analysis.

Comment: Re:Obviously (Score 1) 538

by geoskd (#47290553) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

If that were true, tuition would be in free fall.

Not so long as the true costs are deferred until the consumer no longer has any choice in the matter. If you didn't have to pay the loans back if you couldn't find work in your field, then the cost would be in free fall because so many people wouldn't be required to pay back the loans.

Demand is kept artificially high by hiding the true cost, false advertising, and a corporate greed machine that is almost custom built to drive wages down, and job requirements up.

If you do something right once, someone will ask you to do it again.