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back to article Intel's homage to Raspberry Pi: The much pricier Minnowboard

The huge popularity of the British-designed Raspberry Pi has caught Chipzilla's attention, and so you can now buy a similar bare-bones x86 PC named Minnowboard with a similar caseless design running an Angstrom Linux build. minnowboard Intel's Raspberry rival The system runs a 1GHz Atom E640 processor with integrated graphics …

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Bronze badge

4"x4" is not small. Might as well save money and get a much better iTX board.

Besides, 200usd for an Atom based anything is way too much.

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Mushroom

Just insane.

For $200 you can get an entire ION system ready made from the local electronics retailer.

If they're trying to charge $200 for just an Atom board with no spiffy GPU, then they are simply on crack.

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Anonymous Coward

UEFI -- "Open Source"???

Intel just doesn't get it. There is no way I am going to use UEFI boards, especially on embedded equipment, while the liklihood of backdoors remains present...

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Re: UEFI -- "Open Source"???

Dunno about back doors, but I'd be more concerned about having to deep throat Microsoft just to be "allowed" access to my own goddamned property.

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Re: UEFI -- "Open Source"???

Even if it's back door free and you can disable "Secure" Boot, it's still very likely it has tons of security critical bugs in there. UEFI is _huge_ compared to the BIOS, or to OpenFirmware which has the same functionality for a tiny fraction of the code. Although UEFI is in theory open source, it's hard to debug it since if you make a goof your hardware will likely be bricked.

So please Intel, stop riding a dead horse. UEFI is not going to rid you of all your legacy stuff (Windows wouldn't run then anymore) and soon it'll turn into it's own much bigger legacy.

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Re: UEFI -- "Open Source"???

the UEFI firmware loaded on the MinnowBoard is not signed and allows any software to be booted without a signature. in addition the SPI flash has an onboard header which allows for UEFI to be reprogrammed or replace with CoreBoot....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: UEFI -- "Open Source"???

"UEFI firmware loaded on the MinnowBoard is not signed "

Ssshhhhh you're not allowed to point out facts, it gets in the way of the 'tards hysterical rants...

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Devil

Re: UEFI -- "Open Source"???

> Ssshhhhh you're not allowed to point out facts, it gets in the way of the 'tards hysterical rants...

UEFI brings NOTHING to the table here. What few real limitations are present in legacy PC firmware are negated by things like SSD and MicroSD and just partitioning your disk.

On the other hand, buggy UEFI implementations (like Samsung) have a tendency to brick themselves.

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Clueless

Intel are just as out of touch with consumers as Microsoft. Watching them desperately flail around with their olde world paradigms is too embarrassing to even be funny, it's just incredibly sad.

Less power, Intel, less, and lower prices while you're at it.

Will they ever learn? Probably not. It's hard teaching old dinosaurs new tricks.

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Re: Clueless

Not sure if they are clueless. I still need to dig into the specs and do a lot of comparing, but it looks like the thing can be hijacked into some applications where the Pi is not powerful enough and the "Commercial Options" makes the price tag...interesting.. even if you got to do a lot of developing/soldering( yes, that forgotten art still exists..) yourself.

Maybe El Reg could get their incrowd to do a Pi for Slice comparison?

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Re: Clueless

Exactly, the price point is insane. Atom boards and CPU (and AMD E's) can be had for 50-70 dollars. Yes they are a little larger, need ram adding and probably use a bit more power but 200 bucks is silly. If it was 50-70 it would probably sell, maybe even quite well. If it has usb 3 and gigabit ethernet it could probably be a decent 'dumb NAS' (i.e. no parity raid) along with streaming some media assuming no transcoding. For that money I could just buy a netbook, hell I can wait till black friday and buy a laptop for 200 bucks, with windows and much higher specs.

There probably is value in it being fully open. There also probably is some value in it being x86 (a lot perhaps) but it is all dependent on the price. People found a way of forcing the pi to do a lot because it was crazy cheap, almost buying one on a whim and pushing themselves to find out what they could do. Whilst the minnow is probably benefits from a higher IPC and should have far better IO, it costs a lot comparatively so they really are limiting its sales and audience with that.

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Re: Clueless

no soldering required... the expansion header has GPIO,I2C, SPI , PCIe , LVDS, CAN bus, SATA, and USB available.....

http://www.elinux.org/Minnowboard:Expansion_Interfaces

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Re: Clueless

"There probably is value in it being fully open. "

I can't find the schematics or design files on the minnowboard.org site or the elinux.org wiki. Anyone got a pointer?

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Re: Clueless

The key will be how blob free it is :)

As a device aimed at embedded developers it's probably decent, as an attempt on the kingdom of pi it is lacking, primarily in the price department. It would be interesting to see what they could do if they started a non profit to develop something like this and didn't try and milk it for cash. Given the amount they spend on advertising and brand development it might pay off. If they could do it for 60 bucks and create a large supporter base it could do well for them, albeit within a specific set of people.

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Re: Clueless

All of the design files will be posted on Friday on the minnowboard.org site.

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Re: Clueless

minnowboard.org is in the process of becoming a non-profit foundation. although Intel has provided a lot of assistance for the MinnowBoard, all of the research, development, and production costs were done by Circuitco. Circuitco is also the manufacturer and board member of the non-profit beagleboard.org foundation.

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Double the price of a standard atom

This is stupid, Lets put everything from a standard atom setup on a redesigned board with Less expandability and double the price.

I want what they are smoking, must be some amazing stuff if makes you this stupid.

What they don't seem to get is that its not really the hardware that is making it really move, its the price. For as little as you pay for a Pi you can risk damage and destruction to the system even giving it to very small child, and not feel it in your pocket book so much when the thing goes tits up in a cloud of magic black smoke.

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FAIL

This kinda reminds me of what happened with netbooks

Take a cheap, basic, well executed idea - and then bolt on more stuff and ruin it.

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Re: This kinda reminds me of what happened with netbooks

The problem with netbooks was precisely the opposite - that we had a great idea in 2007-2008, then it basically never changed, so in 2010 onwards we still had mostly 2008 spec machines selling for the same price. I'd love to have a "bolted on" upgraded netbook with more RAM, new processors and higher resolutions...

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Huh?

Since when did homage mean clueless scorn?

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Holmes

Re: Huh?

"Sincerest form of flattery" context I presume my dear Watson.

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"Magic black smoke"

The "magic" variety is typically blue, although admittedly it's entirely possible Intel might have resorted to practising black magic instead, in a desperate bid to get us to buy this junk.

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Devil's advocate

To be fair to the Minnowboard people, this is way more capable than an Raspberry Pi and it is disingenuous to compare them.

This is actually pretty cheap when compared to similar Atom boards. From what I have seen this is the cheapest Atom board with a debug connector.

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Re: Devil's advocate

Yes, this product is obviously not aimed at the RPi buyers and seems to be intended for the "big boy" embedded systems manufacturers (who will no doubt get some juicy discounts) who produce products for corporations, not hobbyists on a budget.

For them, the Pi is a nice starter board and other products like the BBB (also made by CircuitCo I believe), or the Olimex Linux boards (some with wifi or SATA on board) are much more capable as Linux hosts and a great deal cheaper.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Devil's advocate

"intended for the "big boy" embedded systems manufacturers (who will no doubt get some juicy discounts) who produce products for corporations, "

Given the price...

Why wouldn't potential customers choose an existing iTX or similar x86, if they want Windows?

Why would potential customers be interested in x86, if they're not tied to Windows?

BBB == BeagleBone Black, right?

In a market where Windows doesn't much matter to the customers, x86 doesn't much matter either.

BeagleBone (and similar) could be a much more relevant starting point for low volume builds than the product in this article. For high volume stuff, there are other possible options (and x86 still won't be relevant). Low price custom SoC could be relevant. Intel don't do low price and Intel don't do custom SoC.

Odd.

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Refreshing the parts other SBCs can't reach

> Why would potential customers be interested in x86, if they're not tied to Windows?

Well that's the key, isn't it? Say you're an OEM making annunciators for trains, or portable ATMs, or things that trundle round warehouses following lines on the floor. If your *current* products are based on WinTel technology and you want better, faster, cheaper, more reliable, more power and a board that hasn't recently gone out of production then yes: this could be for you.

If you're upgrading an existing product or giving it a mid-life boost you don't want to spend vast amounts of developer time (and time to market) redeveloping stuff, checking if drivers will still work and integrating peripherals, USB thingies and so forth. You just want to drop in a new "heart" to the machine and get it out the door.

However if you're building a mass-market product where space, power consumption and unit-price are more important and you're writing all the software from scratch anyway, then you probably wouldn't consider this board.

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Re: Devil's advocate

x86 is useful at the low end too. I have a Mac G5 but I can't run BSD because some stuff (mythtv) doesn't compile on a G5. x86 would be hassle free for BSD. Debian is fine, but I wanted to play with BSD too.

I thought Minnow would be more of a server to the Pi's client, but at 200 is way too much and one sata port? What's the point of that? Far cheaper and better to re-purpose a core2 system.

I'm still not sure why a GPU (even a rubbish one) can't be used for the RAID 5 parity checks and the SATA logic be brought on-chip.

It does appear to be aimed at more of the commercial embedded market, but if you wanted millions of the devices, surely you'd pick ARM or mips and save yourself a bundle.

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Re: Devil's advocate

Simple: It is an x86 based system. It should run basically ANY Linux version you want/use/need/prefer. Or stuff like OS/9 (OS/9000) that is a RTOS system for x86. Or even various Windows systems. In short - CHOICE!

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Crazy price point

A while back I made a list of the sorts of things you could get with around €250--275. It included:

* a PS3 with free game

* a Nexus 7 (which has since been upgraded slightly)

* an ARM chromebook

* An eMMC-based ODROID-X2 (with plenty of change to spare)

* 2x microSD-based based ODROID-U2s

* 4x Raspberry Pi Model B (or 3x plus a network/USB hub)

* 5x Model A Pis (a rough guess, though adding wireless cards might push me over budget)

* Various combinations of {Pi, Arduino} and {gertboard, Pi Face, Slice of Pi, Adafruit, Arduino modules} and {basic electronics kit and tools}

Since then I see that the Parallella boards are available for pre-order, so I could add:

* 2x Parallella boards (with 16-core coprocessor and FPGA)

For what it appears to be (a hobby or "gadget" item), the price is just crazy. The only thing that it has that the other things above don't is PCI Express and SATA (the PS3 and Parallella have gigabit Ethernet and the Chromebook has 802.11n, so fast networking isn't unique to this board). Is that enough to warrant paying twice (or more) the price of most of the other things I listed? I seriously doubt it...

I notice that all the gagets I mentioned (bar the PS3) happen to be ARM-based, so perhaps that shows a bias on my part. On the other hand, it shows the range of products that Intel is competing against in this segment of the market--let's call it the "gadget" segment. As such, this new board would be at the bottom of my list, even assuming it made the list at all.

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Thumb Up

Re: Crazy price point

Parallella, eh? Sounds interesting. Come a long way from the Transputer eval boards, yes we have.

I want a few.

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Re: Crazy price point

It does seem costly. I wonder, where are all the Apple users saying "It doesn't matter that it's expensive, if you complain about that, you must be poor"?

Ah that's right, no one considers that to be a valid argument in the first place.

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Boffin

Intel's got a bad case of "Let's All Follow Microsoft"

WHAT ???!!!

I can buy a complete computer for $199 AND it's expandable AND it can be converted to run Linux.

Here are the specs:

Screen

11.6" (1366 x 768) HD display

High-brightness, 200 nit screen

HD Webcam

Size

285 x 202 x 27.35 mm

Weight

3 lbs / 1.38 kg

CPU

Dual-core Intel® Celeron® Processor

Ports

3 x USB 2.0

1 x HDMI

1 x VGA

2-in-1 card reader supporting: SD, MMC

Memory

2 GB DDR3 RAM

16 GB Solid State Drive*

Audio

Stereo internal speaker

Headphone/microphone jack

Battery

4 cell, 37 Wh battery. Up to 4 hours*

******************************************************************************

Oh, by the way, it's called an Acer Chromebook C7M!

Take your Minnowboard and stuff it, Intel!

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Re: Intel's got a bad case of "Let's All Follow Microsoft"

the MinnowBoard ships with the Linux distribution Angstrom, there has been no intention to support Microsoft every on the MinnowBoard.... only Linux....

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Underwhelmed

I must say I'm underwhelmed. The brilliance of Raspberry Pi isn't performance so much as its the ability to throw a huge codebase at relatively simple tasks with very little development effort. Networking, big displays via HDMI, perl, html, etc, cheap and easy.

Many years ago I was involved in a project which used FreeBSD on a Soekris board. 486 compatible at 133 MHz or so running off compact flash card. Needed a sound card and had trouble finding one that ran off 3.3V PCI. A Raspberry Pi would have been just the thing.

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Bronze badge

Picture says it all.

Fat beardy looking uncomfortable in Teeshirt.

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Missing the point.

AGAIN!

The point of the RasPi is for kids to learn on and it has to be cheap enough so that if it gets broken, no big deal. Any competitor has to be as cheap (or cheaper).

Ergo, this is no competitor. This is yet another small(ish) form-factor bandwagon hopper.

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Re: Missing the point.

I agree, yet intel really do need a competitor. The pi is training the next generation of embedded engineers and on intels biggest competitor.

Intel need to get their game together and offer a similar product at a competitive price, however i feel the sales guys would fear it would undercut existing products so reducing the high margins, without thinking about the long term effect.

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Silver badge

Who is this for?

For hobbyists and embedded systems people?

Hobbyists don't need either the power nor the IO of this board and will not pay USD 200 just to have something to tinker with. But not I'm not even sure that the embedded developers would find it an attractive proposition: that heat sink and the rods indicate that it needs quite a bit of clearance and cooling. In fact the whole thing is the size of a Mac Mini which was impressive when it came out, what seven years ago, but has since been successfully copied and improved upon.

That said, I think the real point of this product may be in open sourcing all the hardware design. It can't have been easy to get past some managers and does probably open the doors for similar but less powerful boards costing significantly.

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Embedded people

Having been an embedded developer for 30 years, I would say that what people **might** use this for is as a reference design.

If you just wanted to put a bunch of Atom boards in boxes (as you might with a RPi, ATX form factor board or whatever), then there are cheaper options.

The minnow board is pretty cheap when compared to its direct competitors: reference designs with schematics etc. The cheapest I could find elsewhere is around $500.

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Bronze badge

Nice idea

At half the price I'd consider one. As it is, standard Atom mini-itx systems with more RAM and expandability are probably more useful for people wanting a router / NAS / mini server type solution.

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Unhappy

Expensive

I just received an ad from ebuyer.

Asus motherboard, celeron processor, 4Gb memory, 500Gb HDD, DVD drive, case with 500W power supply.

Complete assemble it yourself PC for under £170.

Makes this thing look grossly overpriced.

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Silver badge

Are they just trying the same stunt they pulled against the OLPC?

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Paris Hilton

That was MIT Media Lab, though.

Yeah, what happened to that?

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Anonymous Coward

How much?

Hmmm...

My current robotics project uses an Atom based Mini ITX board with BeagleBone black boards to run functions for sensing and actuators on an SPi bus.

The whole lot including disk and memory cost less than this board and from what I can see there is nothing unique or special about it. If it is to capture the hobbyist market then it needs to be around the $60 mark.

ARM chips run very fast, BeagleBones are cheap as chips and have a lot more IO than a Pi, though I do have a model B sat in the workshop ready for some serious tinkering. If Intel want to send me one then I'm happy to run it through its paces and see what the differences are ;)

Its possible to get Arm boards with built in Gyros and Accelerometers, plenty of IO and a quick enough chip to run in a stack for about £25 each... Pi doesn't really have enough IO. And yes, you do need a lot of IO for robotics...

Intel have long supported open design, The first Pentium Pro servers from IBM were Intel boxes sprayed blue and one of the best engineered desktops was a 486 Intel OEM unit that sold for about half the cost of the components from other manufacturers. Memories eh?

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Trollface

Damn Scott, get yourself an Assange outfitsuit and tie.

This is 2013, we are truly out of the Internet bubble now. No t-shirts!

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Bronze badge

Defeats the object, somewhat...

In my Ham Radio days, there was something very satisfying about communicating with someone on the other side of the world with 3 watts of Morse (HW8, anyone), vs. the 'Big Boys' - Stateside - with 1 kilowatt, huge steerable antennas, and all the DSP they could afford to throw at it.

It's a parallel to what can be done with a Pi. Pi IS limited, but the ingenuity of smart folks relish in the challenges it sets. Case in point being "FishPi". Sure a nice multi - K$ can do it, but a $35 computer???

Brings me back to the days I'd sweat over code in the wee hours, just to get my program down from 1027 bytes (ROM was pricey then, folks!).

Anyway, as pointed out, this box is waaay overpriced, and seems to have suffered from a bout of 'feature-creep' from initial idea - if there indeed was one.

FishPi: http://fishpi.org/

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Silver badge

For $200

you can have a Pi, a parallella 16 core, a big harddrive,keyboard and mouse and turn your TV into a supercomputer- 80+Gflops if you use the Pi cpu as well.

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Unhappy

Hmm,,.

I want news I can make ecstatic erudite comments about instead of whinging & Whining.

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Anonymous Coward

Big Fat Flop

How appropriate for an obese man to present this joke.

This is massively overpriced for small projects, like all Intel CPUs and mobos, and 1GB is very stingy after virtual extensions support was throw in!

Even a small server can need much better I/O support, even for this form factor. I can buy AMD Fusion embedded boards for a fraction of the price, which are significantly better than /all/ of the off-the-shelf embedded Intel Atom boards I am aware of! I seriously question the sense of people who build NAS and servers with Atoms, yes especially off-the-shelf SME boxes.

AMD is probably going to murder Intels' embedded market share when their SoC Fusion APUs are rolled out.

Intel /really/ need to significantly drop their prices and provide /much/ better I/O support, as standard, on it's embedded boards, because having to buy extra cards just to have practical base I/O support, takes the P!

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Bronze badge

Minnowboard?

If this really is intended to compete with RaspberryPi the name is a complete fail.

To be hip and hyped you need stupid name like RaspberryPi, Jelly bean, Ice cream sandwich?

A name where most people would have no idea what you are talking about so just knowing what the name is makes you hip.

Minnowboard - it is a board and kinda like a small weak fish - They stand more chance of selling them if it were called 'Knickerbocker Fanfare'. The price is also stupid but I guess they know they will never sell the volume required to bring it to sub $50 level.

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