back to article VIA bakes a fruitier Rock cake to rival the Brit Raspberry Pi

Computer electronics biz VIA has updated its Raspberry Pi rival APC - a micro-motherboard its maker calls a “bicycle for your mind” - which it brought to market last May. The new board sports a new processor, more flash memory, better video output and, VIA said, more expansion options. VIA APC Rock Rock'n'ruler: The new VIA APC …

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Coat

But what of the

Lizard and Spock versions?

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Meh

I hope

These boards don't go the way of Netbooks, cheap and cheerful working functional computers which have now appeared to morph into £1000 Untrabooks with missing features.

I'm all for competition, but this time next year will we see boards reaching £100+

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Re: But what of the

What about the Spork version?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But what of the

The name's Spork. Titanium Spork.

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Re: I hope

Remember that the first APC was sold at $49 Android PC in July 2012, although that version is still available its gained speed and memory etc and is now $79 or $99 with 'book' case ... so expect a $199 version next year 8-(

Meanwhile the Raspberry Pi 'Model B' rev 2 doubled the memory of rev 1 and is still £30 inc VAT+delivery.

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Childcatcher

Re: I hope

I'm all for competition bar one thing. Raspberry Pi is a charity organisation. They saw a gap in the very low end of the market and plugged it with a cheap board with proceeds heading towards charity teaching people about somputer basics.

All these other companies who saw the success and now want a slice of the Pi are just out to make a profit for themselves. I don't care if it's twice as powerful and at the same cost as the Pi, I'm still getting the Pi because I'd rather support a charity than a conglomerate.

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Go

PC Variation?

How long 'til we can buy a full x86 PC-compatible variation on the concept of these tiny FF machines, so we can build and run compatible software?

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Facepalm

Re: PC Variation?

Beecause the point of these is super cheap & very low power. Intel is neither, even in the Atom world.

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Re: PC Variation?

But VIA have their own x86 processor, which they could build an SoC around.

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Re: PC Variation?

Intel yes, but there are competitors who make compatibles and copies of old discontinued x86 processors for fairly low prices (including the low power embedded versions).

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Boffin

Re: PC Variation?

But none of the x86 compatible processors and chipsets are anywhere near as cheap and low power as ARM, and it is unlikely they ever will be. That's just how it is.

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Happy

Re: PC Variation?

"How long 'til we can buy a full x86 PC-compatible variation on the concept"

Search for Pico ITX and thou shall find (been around a lot longer than the Pi), but do cost more.

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Anonymous Coward

You might be waiting for Scissors

Lizard is generic enough not to cause any issues, but licensing the name Spock is going to be expensive...

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Re: You might be waiting for Scissors

Call it Spok or Sp0x0Ck or something similar to get past the copyright problems from the late Mr Rodenberry's estate...

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Bronze badge

Re: licensing the name Spock is going to be expensive

Why? Do you think the descendents of Dr Benjamin Spock will be awkward about it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You might be waiting for Scissors

Yeah that babycare guy will be really put out ;)

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I like the form factor

Could be used with old PC cases.

However, it is a bit more expensive than the Pi and doesn't run RISC OS (yet?)

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Trollface

Paper covers Rock.

I see what you did there...

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Anonymous Coward

Overcrowded Market

Another product in a already overcrowded market.

We need real innovation at the other end of the spectrum - Information Systems.

Or maybe figuring out how to keep root-kits at bay and securing the OS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Overcrowded Market

Back in 2000 Windows was the only option based on hardware costs. Linux was slow or not user friendly enough. Linux was designed to be extremely portable (Keep Assembly to a minimum to aid porting) and be able to support multiple Windowing toolkits. Fast computers are now very cheap.

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Re: Overcrowded Market

Back in 2000 the only way I could find to run NT at a reasonable speed was to run it inside a VMWare VM on my Linux box. The lab guys I was working with were staggered when they saw how fast their SW worked when running under Linux :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Overcrowded Market

You need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Try comparing something of similar functionality. The latest version of Ubuntu 12 just about runs on my Dual core Centrino Duo laptop. It wont even boot on my 2.4 GHz single core hyper-threaded desktop CPU. Windows XP is happy to boot on my 1.6 GHz atom CPU consuming 2.5 Watts.

Sure command line Linux or something like DSL is nippy but how does it compare on functionality.

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Re: Overcrowded Market

This is very odd. Kubuntu (that's Ubuntu withe KDE4 front end) 12.04 runs fine on my Acer AO725 - dual-core 1GHz C60 processor, 2GB memory. Flash video is a bit choppy, but that's a whole separate issue.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Overcrowded Market

Or I could change to something like Windows 95 on a 25 MHz 486 SX laptop with 4 Meg ram and 120 MB hard drive. I managed to squeze Win 95, Word/Excell/Powerpoint and notepad/command line gcc compiler all in under 100 MB.

I couldnt install a visual IDE such as Borlands or Visual studio since they were over 100 MB by themselves. Because of this I noticed that there are differences in how much of the C standard each compiler implements. E.g. gcc and visual studio USED to handle enumerations differently. With gcc I had to manually define all the incrementing constants using #define.

A Win 95 system crash once a few weeks is not that bad. I cant remember the last time XP crashed, maybe once a year. On the other hand I find Linux going down once in a few months due to bad drivers.

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Re: Overcrowded Market

Of course, if you do google this, you'll find that all reports found that FreeBSD was faster still

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Boffin

Re: Overcrowded Market

It's the chipset, not the CPU. I was able to get Xubuntu 12.10 (Unity? Perish that thought!) running on a 3.0GHz single core hyper-threaded CPU with only 1.5GB of RAM. The chipset on that board is a VIA KM400 with integrated Chrome GPU. Yes, performance is pants, but the point is, it can be done.

And oh, one more thing. Ubuntu 12.10 comes across as half-baked to me. Show-stopping bugs still exists in some of the release packages, including crucial ones like Xorg.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Android?

You have to slap "Android" on things these days to sell them. Some people seem to think it is a great desktop OS, even though it is designed for small screened touch based devices that make phone calls.

Personally I think that while VIA has the better board, the Pi has a bigger community behind it. The Pi has pretty much everything most people need, except maybe a few more USB ports.

The biggest uncertainty is what the hardware support is like. Does it have a good distro? stable Linux drivers? the Pi sound drivers aren't perfect but you can play HD video on a Pi very well.

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Re: Android?

sadly the Pi sound drivers make using it for music, and to an extent video, a bit painful on the ears/speakers

I hope they solve this one soon because other than that it rules

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Re: Android?

The advantage the Pi has is, like its inspiration of old the Beeb and the PC, you can stick any OS you like on it - it's open enough to do what you want, write your own stuff etc. VIA seem to be insisting on the Android thing, which will limit the number of developers to just those who use Android.

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Re: Android?

You can install Raspbian on the APC. ( http://www.raspbian.org/ApricotImages )

You can actually install any OS, it's just a matter of dependencies and drivers and so on. The same issues with the Pi. The difference with the Pi is that they're more prepared for this kinda stuff and the user base is big enough to get all of the issues ironed out with the major versions of *nix.

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FAIL

Re: Android?

They are, you tool, its called Windows 8 Embedded, FFS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Android?

Don't you mean "impacted" ? ;)

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Linux

Re: Android?

I imagine this board (which looks interesting, and I'm a RasPi owner who's perfectly happy with it) will be opened up to other OSes at some stage, because otherwise, I don't see the point, for me personally.

One thing I like about my Pi, is the sheer ease of loading the OS I want. Arch (my favourite), Raspbian, RISC OS... it's just a case of flashing a new SD card and swapping it in. I get the idea with the VIA APC, that booting another OS involves rewriting the onboard flash memory, with a risk (however slim) of bricking the machine (though I could be mistaken, as I don't own one).

Frankly, if I wanted a cheap Android machine I could plug into my telly, I'd go for one of these MK802-type sticks which seem to be flooding the market at the moment. As I said, this VIA board looks interesting, but I'd want to be able to change the OS without fear, before I'd look at it again.

Horses for courses, though, and I'm sure this machine will suit some users down to the ground.

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Re: Android?

No they aren't.

Windows 8 Embedded is x86, it's the TIFKAM* equivalent of Windows XP and 7 Embedded.

Windows 8 RT is the ARM version that replaces Windows CE. Unfortunately, if you make something that can run that then MS say it cannot be allowed to run anything else.

* Inaccurate but I couldn't resist

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Trollface

"supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

It comes with a box?!? What's everyone going to do with their 3D printers now?

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Re: "supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

they're too busy calibrating and adjusting their printers to notice this article

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

Skimmers of course, Sister Immacolata ;)

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Windows

Re: "supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

Ahhhh!!! Now we know where HP sold their excess packaging...

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What we would need would be a common hardware standard

So we don't have to port each of our operating systems to each of those boards. Otherwise we'll just end up the same way as home computers.

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Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

<Snark>I'll vote for the hardware that's currently most compatible with Windows-based software</snark>

So, how will that work in the real world?

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Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

Well one idea would be to have simple standards for simple hardware. For example to have a common USB controller like in the PC as well as a common serial port and SD-card. Then you'd have some table in your ROM pointing to the addresses and Interrupts of those devices.

The problem with all those little ARM devices is that you waste so much time having to port and maintain your kernel on each one of those. And even if you have a ported kernel, it's a pain to use another userland with it.

It's like back in the home computer age where you might have had 20 different 6502-based computers, each one with its own hardware, but the same CPU. Hypothetically you could have just added a some routines into ROM, so you could have built platform independent code. The Z80 and the 8086 world on the other hand agreed on their own platforms. The only thing you needed to port CP/M for was the amount of memory you had. DOS didn't even need that and you could just pop it onto any "PC-compatible" computer, provided it had a BIOS.

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Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

> The Z80 and the 8086 world on the other hand agreed on their own platforms.

No they didn't. There were at least as many variations on 8080, 8085, Z80 and 8086 platforms as those for 6502. Both in terms of hardware design and operating systems.

> The only thing you needed to port CP/M for was the amount of memory you had.

What complete nonsense. You obviously never worked with CP/M. The BDOS and CCP were identical for each different machine but the porting to specific hardware was done by writing an appropriate BIOS* to support the hardware. DRI provided an example BIOS.

> DOS didn't even need that and you could just pop it onto any "PC-compatible" computer, provided it had a BIOS.

... provided it had an IBM PC compatible ROM BIOS.

Otherwise, such as for S100 based boxes, or Wang PCs or DEC Rainbows or Apricot PCs or dozens of others, the manufacturer had to develop a loadable BIOS that provided the device independence - just as they did for CP/M.

In fact MS-DOS was initally based on the structure of CP/M and also had a loadable BIOS even when run on an IBM PC compatible with a ROM BIOS. The MS-DOS one was a stub that converted the calls that DOS made into ROM BIOS interrupts. It was only with MS-DOS 5.0 that this became totally dependent on an IBM ROM BIOS and no longer could run on other hardware.

* BIOS = Basic Input Output System.

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Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

Well that's my point, you had a common BIOS! ARM doesn't have it.

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I've got the original APC

The original APC is okay, it has some issues that are quite annoying, like the limited Android OS without the official play market (available with a hack but doesn't work perfectly), limited output on HDMI (720) and kinda just generally not as great as it first seems.

With the number of cheap android sticks and boxes out there right now, APCs offering is too little too late.

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