Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Raspberry Pi versus the Cubieboard

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of stimulating the teaching of basic computer science in schools.
The Raspberry Pi has a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC), which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor (The firmware includes a number of "Turbo" modes so that the user can attempt overclocking, up-to 1 GHz, without affecting the warranty), VideoCore IV GPU, and originally shipped with 256 megabytes of RAM, later upgraded to 512MB. It does not include a built-in hard disk or solid-state drive, but uses an SD card for booting and long-term storage.
It's 700MHz Broadcom BCM2835 ARM11 chip means it's a little underpowered to run Windows (not to mentioned totally unsupported) but it can run a lot of different stripped down Linux distributions like Debian or Fedora. The current recommended distro is Raspian and you can download a Raspbian image directly from Raspberry PI and write the image to an SD Card using Win32DiskImager.
The current browser available is Midori but it slows down with any complex JavaScript or sufficiently complex HTML DOM. Honestly, it's not a laptop or living room PC and it's not trying to be.
The PI can handle only 100mA of draw on each of the two USB ports (get it? ~500mA for the PI and 100mA each for the two USB ports) and some devices pull more than 100mA. Some keyboards have little USB hubs of their own, like the Apple Wired Keyboard and they can't be driven by the PI alone complaints of this flaw have been talked about in the forums. Expect to need a USB hub for any external drives or devices. The Belkin USB 2.0 7 Port Hub is recommended. I also ended up getting a cheap Mini USB wired keyboard and cheap USB wired mouse. The Pi may be £22 but you'll spend another £50 on parts. Check list for approved peripherals.
It's modest, but it's overclockable. I took it from 700Mhz to 900Mhz just by running sudo nano /boot/config.txt and changing arm_freq=700 to arm_freq=900 as well as adding sdram_freq=500. If you mess it up, just edit the file on the SD Card on another computer. Be aware you can also "overvoltage" but you'll void the warranty immediately.
You can run an XBMC fork called RaspBMC that puts together a Debian Linux distro with most of the power of the well-known and open source XMBC media center system. Most importantly, it has AirPLay support so a RaspBMC-running Raspberry PI can be the easiest and cheapest way to throw wireless video on your giant TV from your iPhone or iPad. It doesn't do MPEG2 but it does play MPEG4 and h.264.
With the addition of the GCompris software suite you've got dozens of games and activities that cover everything from math to reading, science to geography.
The Pi runs MAME and SCUMMVM well although complex games might run slower with audio drops and if you check out the forums you'll find a very interested community with ambitious plans.
The raspberry Pi community is having lots of fun and device's constraints over it's small price, make it a forgivable machine. David Airlie has written a blog post also writing about how this open-source Raspberry Pi graphics driver isn't too good due to the big firmware blob The firmware blob, including the OpenGL ES implementation, leaves little room left to be able to do much.
Cubieboard. Compared to the Raspberry Pi, Cubieboard is loaded. The specs includes: 1G ARM cortex-A8 processor; Mali400, OpenGL ES GPU; 512M/1GB DDR3; HDMI 1080p output; 100M Ethernet; 4GB Nand Flash; 2 USB Host, 1 MMC slot; 1 SATA; 1 ir; and 96 extend pin including i2c, spi, lvds, sensors. You can even buy a simple, transparent case for only USD $4.00. The Cubieboard can run Android and your favorite Linux distribution, which means that it can help turn your TV into an Android TV (output via the HDMI port), give you a standard Linux desktop computer, or a network attached storage (courtesy of its single SATA port and Ethernet port).
The Raspberry Pi has a head start interms of open sourced projects which some people are interested in trying out them selves. Its education electronics projects was the main motive for initial sales though the tinkering Pi community has excelled it to a media center allow you current apple phone to control to merge with it. Perhaps this ability to play HD video and old games which is the limit of its capabilities, might be the root of its demise. The next contender the Cubieboard is clearly a step up to what I see as a budget PC market. Almost parallel to the EEE PC mini note book for which size and portability mattered until the tablet reduced that need. The project PC's seem to favor the media center crowd to initiate the introduction. The hobbyists who use the arduino are more likely to continue with the raspberry pi because of its ease of use. While I am sure more complex computer boards will be in the pipeline, mimicking the media centers and games consoles of normal manufactures of regular technology. The Raspberry would be the first and hopefully british companies or young engineers will be inspired to carry on the tradition of creating ground breaking inventions...

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