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Posts Tagged ‘raspberry pi’

New Optimized Web Browser Released for the Raspberry Pi

September 2nd, 2014 1 comment

If you’ve ever tried to use a Raspberry Pi to browse the web, you must have noticed how frustrating it can be due to the overall sluggishness of the system. But thanks to work by Collaborra, which optimized Epiphany Web browser for the Raspberry Pi, bringing features such as 720p HTML5 hardware video decoding (no flash support), faster loading and scrolling, etc.., the web browsing experience has much improved, although as you’ll see from the video below, it’s still not quite 100% perfect.

HTML5 Video Playing in Raspberry Pi Optimized Epiphany Web Browser

Embedded HTML5 Video Playing in Raspberry Pi Optimized Epiphany Web Browser

The key modifications brought to Epiphany Web browser are listed below:

  • More responsive UI and scrolling, even while loading a page
  • Progressive tiled rendering for smoother scrolling
  • Startup is three times faster
  • Avoid useless image format conversions
  • Better YouTube support, including on-demand load of embedded YouTube videos to make page load much faster
  • Hardware decoding and scaling of videos (through gst-omx)
  • Reduction of the number of memory copies to play videos
  • Faster fullscreen playback using dispmanx directly (currently a bit buggy)
  • Memory and CPU friendly tab management
  • JavaScript JIT fixes for ARMv6
  • Disk image cache (decoded images are kept in memory mapped files in a cache, saving CPU)
  • Memory pressure handler support

So now time for a little demo…

If you are convinced, and want to try it on your own Raspberry Pi, simply install it from a terminal as follows:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install epiphany-browser

Future version of Raspbian and NOOBS will come with this optimized Epiphany Web browser instead of Midori.

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MIPS Creator CI20 Development Board Formally Announced, Free to Selected Developers

August 28th, 2014 9 comments

Earlier this month, I discovered MIPS Creator CI20 development board based on Ingenic JZ4780 dual core MIPS processor thanks to one of my reader.  Imagination Technologies has now launched the board, which will run Debian 7 first, soon support Android 4.4 and others Linux distributions, and the company places their MIPS board as a competitor to the popular ARM based boards such as the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black. This is the first board part of Prpl initiative for open source Linux and Android software for the MIPS architecture.

MIPS_CI20_Development_BoardAs a reminder, I’ll list the hardware specifications again:

  • SoC – Ingenic JZ4780 dual core MIPS32 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Imagination PowerVR SGX540 GPU. 32kI + 32kD per core, 512K shared L2.
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB NOR flash, 1x SD card slot, 1x SD card slot via expansion
  • Video Output – HDMI up to 1080p
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, Audio In and Out via 3.5mm jack
  • Video Playback – Up to 1080p60
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Wi-Fi + Bt 4.0 module (IW8103)
  • USB – 1x USB OTG, 1x USB 2.0 Host.
  • Expansions Headers – Access to 23x GPIOs, 2x SPI, 1x I2S, 7x ADC on header, including 5-wire touch and battery monitoring function, 1x UART, Transport Stream I/F.
  • Debugging – UART, and 14-pin MIPS EJTAG header
  • Misc – IR receiver, power LED, and button
  • Power Supply – 5V via 4mm/1.7mm barrel connector
  • Dimensions – 90x95mm

One thing I did not mention the last time are the multimedia capabilities of the Ingenic SoC, as it can handle codec such as MPEG-4, H.264, VP8, MPEG-2, and RV9 thanks to the video hardware, “making it ideal for HTPC enthusiasts” according to Imagination. The Linux source code  (3.0.8 and 3.16 kernel) is currently available on github and Imagination plans to up-streamed support to mainline. Graphics support includes Xorg-compliant OpenGL 2.1 and OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0 drivers, which means Linux distributions available for the board should have 3D GPU acceleration. The complete documentation is available on eLinux.

MIPS_Creator_CI20_vs_Raspberry_Pi_vs_BeagleBone_BlackBased on the comparison table above, MIPS Creator CI20 are significantly higher than Raspberry Pi, and even BeagleBone Black, and the board size is about double, so it’s unlikely it will compete on price with either, unless it’s sponsored. Its specs are more akin to the Cubietruck (except for 2GB RAM, SATA support, GbE…) which sells for $89, so something between $70 to $80 could be expected.

With regards to availability there are good and bad news. The bad news is that you can’t buy it right now, and they haven’t announced the price yet. The good news is that if you are involved in an open source project, you may be able to get it for free by requesting one. Eventually MIPS Creator CI20 should sell via Imagination Technologies e-Store.

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RPiSoC Development Board Based on Cypress PSoC 5LP Features Pmod, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino Headers (Crowdfunding)

August 25th, 2014 No comments

Embedit Electronics, a startup founded by two recent graduates of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA, has designed a board powered by Cypress Semiconductor PSoC 5LP ARM Cortex M3 system-on-chip with programmable digital and analog I/Os. The board can interface with all Raspberry Pi models, Digilent Pmod peripheral modules, and supports Arduino shields.

RPiSoCRPiSoC specifications:

  • SoC – Cypress PSoC 5 with ARM Cortex M3 core at 67MHz , 256 KB Flash Program Memory, with user configurable write protection, and 64KB SRAM
  • Expansions and I/Os:
    • Arduino shield and ICSP compatible headers.
    • 2x Digilent Pmod compatible headers
    • 58 reconfigurable GPIO pins
    • 26-pin ribbon cable connector for use with the Raspberry Pi
    • 8 SIO (Special Input/Output) pins with higher current sink
    • 5-pin MiniProg3 header for programming via MiniProg3 hardware.
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for power, communication and programming.
  • Misc – Reset push button, User accessible LED, Programming switch
  • Power – 5V via micro USB port

You don’t need a Raspberry Pi to use the board, as it can be used in standalone mode, but RPiSoC provides better mode I/O options to the Raspberry Pi. MiniPro3 flash programming hardware is not necessary to program the board, as you can also do so via USB through the Bootloader Host Tool in PSoC Creator, but it could facilitate debugging. Cypress PSoC Creator IDE is only available for Windows, so users of Linux and Mac OS X may need to use a Virtual Machine, or find a Windows machine to program the board.

The project is open source hardware with the schematics, PCB Layout (Eagle) and gerber files available on Github, together with the bootloader code, and the Python API to communicate with the Raspberry Pi.

The promo video below introduces the board, and shows an interesting demo with RpiSoC and the Raspberry Pi working together to control a face tracking motorized webcam, as well as another demo showing RPiSoC being used standalone as an oscilloscope, and more.

RPiSoC board is now featured on Kickstarter, where the developers aim to raise at least $20,000. There are still a few early bid “seats” where you can get the board for $39, after which it will go for $44. If you own a Raspberry Pi Model B+, you may want to add $5 to get a 26- to 40-pin cable. Shipping is included to the US, and $15 to the rest of the world, with delivery scheduled for January 2015. If you like the face tracker demo shown in the video, a $199 perk is also available with a complete kit including a RPiSoC board, a RPi model B+, a micro SD card with face tracking software pre-loaded, power & ribbon Cables, a Raspberry Pi camera modules, the servo motors and mount, and battery pack.

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Raspberry Pi Based Slice, and EzeeCube Quad Media Players Support Internal Hard Drives (Crowdfunding)

August 20th, 2014 6 comments

Slice is a media player based on Raspberry Pi Compute Module, and EzeeCube Quad is media hub powered by Freescale i.MX6 Quad, and an upgrade to EzeeCube based on i.MX6 dual, which was successfully funded. The underlying hardware between Slice and EzeeCube is much different, but both devices have a lot in common. They are both media players currently being crowd-funded respectively in Kickstarter and Indiegogo, both comes with an internal hard drive, run XBMC, targets typical end-users (rather than tinkerers) and are somewhat pricey.

Slice Media Player

When I first saw Slice, all I could see was an Raspberry Pi module, put in a case with an internal hard drive bay, and lots of pretty RGB LEDs, and with an air mouse sold for an inflated price of 114 GBP ($190 US) without hard drive or 179 GBP ($300 US) with a 1TB drive, with admittedly some cheaper early bird pledges, and I did not think many people would be ready to pay a premium price for a device powered by a low-end processor, and decided to skip it. But I was wrong to underestimate to power of the Raspberry Pi brand (R-Pi and Pimoroni members are part of the team), and they’ve already fully funded, after raising over 104,000 GBP (~$173,000 US), and the first stretch goal (Free Wi-Fi!) has been reached.

Slice_Media_Player

Slice technical specifications:

  • SoC- Broadcom BCM2835 ARM11 CPU @ 700MHz + VideoCore IV GPU
  • System Memory – 512MB RAM
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC Flash for the OS,  2.5″ SATA hard disk for media files
  • Video Output – HDMI port with 5.1 audio pass through and CEC support
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5mm jack for stereo audio (up to 192KHz 24-bit) or optical output
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet port + Wi-Fi via included USB dongle
  • USB – 2x USB2 ports , 1x micro USB device port to use Slice as mass storage device from your PC or program the flash.
  • Misc -  IR Sensor,  Real time clock with backup battery, 25 programmable RGB LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A (barrel type)
  • Enclosure – Aluminum case with REG LED string (Knight Rider style but multi-color, and customizable)

Slide_Raspberry_Pi_Compute_Module_Baseboard_LEDThe box runs XBMC with a skin that simplifies user experience, and with different color themes and backgrounds. Video files and other media can be loaded to the Slice simply by connecting it your computer via USB and copy/paste files as if it was a simple USB flash drive. You can have a better grasp about the user interface in the video embedded below.

The company, FiveNinjas Ltd, launched a Kickstarter campaign for the project. As mentioned in the introduction, it is already successful with 36 days to go and close to 800 backers, and you can now pledge for one for as “low” as 114 GBP (~$190) without hard drive, and 169 GBP (~$280) with a 1TB hard drive. The perks include the media player, a remote control with a USB RF dongle, a power supply with multiple connectors, an HDMI cable, a USB cable, a n instruction manual, a protective carry bag, and depending on the perk, a 2.5″ 1TB  hard drive. Shipping is free worldwide with delivery scheduled for November 2014 to December 2015 depending on the chosen option.

 EzeeCube Quad

EzeeCube is a much more powerful quad core device, and features stackable layers (EzeeStacks) allowing for a Blu-Ray player, and a total of 10 TB storage.

Rear Panel of EzeeCube Media Hub

Rear Panel of EzeeCube Media Hub

EzeeCube Quad specifications:

  • SoC – Freescale i.MX6 Quad with four ARM Cortex A9 cores @ 1 GHz and Vivante GC2000 3D GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB 64-bit DDR3 @ 1066MHz
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC,  2TB 2.5″ hard drive @ 5400rpm, and SD/SDXC card slot
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (limited to 470Mbps), 802.11n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz), and Bluetooth 3.0
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 with CEC support
  • Audio Output – HDMI and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Containers – AVI, MPEG, WMV, ASF, FLV, MKV/MKA, QuickTime, MP4, M4A, AAC, NUT, OGG, RealMedia RAM/RM/RV/RA/RMV8, OGM, 3gp, VIVO, PVA, NUV, NSV, NSA, FLI, FLC, DVR-MS and WTV
  • Video Codecs – H.264 (AVC BP/MP/HP), MPEG4 (AP/ASP), H.263, VC1, MPEG-2 (MP/HP), DivX/Xvid, and VP8
  • Audio Formats – MIDI, AIFF, WAV/WAVE, AIFF, MP2, MP3, AAC, AAC+, Vorbis, AC3, DTS, ALAC, AMR, FLAC, Monkey’s Audio (APE), RealAudio, SHN, WavePack, MPC, Speex, WMA, ADPCM, CDDA and more
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x micro USB OTG
  • Misc – Reset Button, EzeeStack connector for add-ons
  • Power – 5V power adapter
  • Dimensions – 14 x 14 x 4.5 cm
  • Weight – ~700 grams

The device runs embedded Linux built with Yocto, and a custom version of XBMC.

Since the company has already raised close to $150,000 from their previous campaign for the dual core version, they already have the funds for production, which explains why the new Indiegogo campaign only has a $500 funding target… EzeeCube Quad is available for $349 including a 2TB internal hard drive. Shipping is $15 outside of Hong Kong, and delivery is expected for March 2015. There’s also a $49 “EzeeTuner” a USB tuner to watch and record TV on the internal storage (but no mention if it is DVB, ASTC,… or analog TV [Update: I asked and: "Right now only off the air all standard, after we finish testing, we will also support dvb c"]), a $49 Retrogame EzeeStack for Nintendo and Sega game cartridges, and Blu-Ray and 2TB hard drive EzeeStack expansions for respectively $99 and $149. If you had pledge for a dual core version in the previous campaign, and wish to upgrade to a quad core version with 2GB RAM, 2TB HDD, you can do so for $99.

If you had to chose, what would you prefer? The Raspberry Pi powered Slice, the quad core EzeeCube, or none of the above?

Thanks to Harley (again) for the tip.

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Waveshare DVK512 Kits For Raspberry Pi Model B+ Include RTC, Sensors, LCD Display, and More

August 14th, 2014 3 comments

Beaglebone (Black) expansion boards are called capes, Minnowboard ones are lures, and Raspberry Pi model B+ add-on boards can be HATs (HArdware on Top). When I found a kit for the Raspberry Pi model B+ on DealExtreme, based on Waveshare DVK512 add-ons board I thought it might have found a Chinese HAT, but unfortunately it is not compliant with HAT board specifications as it misses an EEPROM,and the dimensions are not the correct one either. Nevertheless, the kit, as well as extra accessories such as a 3.2″ LCD display, can still be interesting.

DVK512 Board with LCD1602 Display

DVK512 Board with LCD1602 Display

The kit on DX comes with the following items:

  • DVK512 expansion board that connects to the 40-pin Raspberry Pi B+ header and features PCF8563 RTC chip with battery, an on-board USB to TTL chip for debugging via micro USB, a character LCD interface, connectors for modules connected via UART, SPIO, I2C or GPIO, various jumpers and user LEDs and buttons.
  • LCD1602 display module as shown above (3.3V)
  • MIX Board to connect to the “GPIO” connector on DVK512, featuring a joystick, a buzzer, a temperature sensor (DS18B20), and an IR receiver, as well as jumpers for configuration.
  • A small “CAR/MP3″ IR remote control with one CR2035 battery (included)

But other add-on board such as a 3.2″ resistive touch screen, a camera module, motion sensor module, ADC and DAC module, 3D accelerometer and modules, etc.. are also available.

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: 3.2" Toucjscreen, DVK512 board, Mix Board, R-Pi B+, and

Top to Bottom, Left to Right: 3.2″ Touchcreen, motion sensor, no idea, DVK512 board, Mix Board, R-Pi B+, and A/D & D/A converter

As usual there’s no information about documentation and software on DX, but waveshare mentions a CD is provided and includes a user’s manual, the schematics (PDF), examples in C (Linux API source code), development documentations (Raspbian configuration, C library installation), and Raspbian images supporting the company’s accessories. C Examples include LED/GPIOs, Logic Level Converter, joystick and keys controlled via GPIOs, LCD1602 display, PWM (Buzzer), RTC, AD/DA, I2C & SPI example controlling the sensor modules, GPS (UART), and more. Unfortunately none of these are available online, so it’s not something you can evaluate before making a purchase.

DVK512 3.2" Display Running Raspbian (Click to Enlarge)

DVK512 and 3.2″ Display Connected to Raspberry Pi B+ Running Raspbian  (Click to Enlarge)

You can find more about Waveshare Raspberry Pi B+ modules and displays on the company’s “development board” page where they sell accessories kit for $40 or $60. I previously wrote about the company’s Raspberry Pi Model B Kit (DVK511) , and although the main expansion board DVK512 has been changed to deal with the 40-pin header, most other modules are the same, except the 3.2″ screen which appears to be relatively new.

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Lemaker.org is Giving Away Banana Pi Development Boards to Developers and Fans

July 26th, 2014 1 comment

Banana Pi is a development board powered by AllWinner A20 dual core SoC with 1GB RAM, and with expansion headers and a form factor very similar to the Raspberry Pi. It can run Debian, Lubuntu, Android 4.2, Arch Linux ARM, Scratch OS, and OpenSuse, but Lemarker.org community would like more educational materials such as open source software or hardware projects, tutorials, etc.., so they’ve launched a program to give away boards to developers and people who can help writing and maintaining documentation.
Banana_Pi_Board

There are three categories of projects:

  • STEAM – “Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics” educational, open source projects running on the the Banana Pi
  • Hardware or Software Project -  Open source projects based on Banana Pi which could be helpful to the community, including open source hardware peripherals projects;
  • Banana Pi Fans – You don’t need to be as technical as for the two others categories, but you must be committed to write tutorials or user guides, participate to the Wiki, upload video guides, etc.., under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

To apply, you just need to create a poll in the forums in the category that matches your project, describe the project, the licenses used, links to existing documentation if any, etc…Other members of the community can then comment or/and vote for your project for two weeks, and you’ll be send a board if accepted.Current projects include a Self-Managing Uninterruptible Power Supply for Banana Pi, and WTherm web connected thermostat.

Selected applicants will have to bear the cost of shipping via SF-Express, DHL (Priority), UPS, FedEx, or China Post depending on the applicant’s preference.

All details and conditions are available on Apply for Banana Pi page.

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The World’s Cheapest Linux Computer? Pogoplug Mobile Now Sells for $7

July 19th, 2014 11 comments

Somebody asked “Anyone knows a computer cheaper than a Raspberry Pi with a network interface?” on Google+ mini PCs community. Some OpenWRT routers such as TPLink WR703N selling for about $20, or the VoCore Wi-Fi module selling for about the same price (Wi-Fi only) were parts of the answers, and I also mentioned some HDMI TV dongles that now sell for around $35, which is still a little cheaper than the Raspberry Pi model B when one considers shipping. But I found the answer by dhead666 particularly interesting:

Pogoplug Mobile goes for 7$ on Amazon and that includes psu and network cable.
It run Linux great (I’m using Arch) but you will want to have a ttl-usb cable and soldering iron available in case you manage to mess u-boot (go to the doozan’s forums for more info about the u-boot).

Let’s have a look.

PogoplugPogoplug Mobile is not a new device, as I wrote about it as far back as 2011, but it was certainly not selling for $7 at the time.

Pogoplug Mobile has the following specifications:

  • Processor – Marvell Kirkwood 88F6192 ARMv5TE compliant processor @ 800 MHz
  • System Memory – 128 MB RAM
  • Storage – 128 MB NAND + SD card slot
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port

You can find a review of the device, including board and device pictures, on SmallnetBuilder. The product is sold as a backup device connected to a cloud service, but as we’ll see below, you can also install Arch Linux ARM. There are also other Pogoplug models with USB 3.0 and SATA II, but obviously they cost more.

Pogoplug_Mobile_Rear

What about the $7 claim? Pogoplug Mobile can indeed be found on Amazon for about $7, and it’s actually one of the best selling items in the NAS category. I’ve also looked for other models with SATA and USB 3.0, and gotthe following price list

If Amazon US won’t ship to your country, it’s also available on Ebay, but you’ll have to shop around as shipping costs may be prohibitive…

Even at $7, it’s not really a Raspberry Pi killer, as there’s no video output, and it does not seem you have easy access to GPIOs, yet for headless non-embedded applications it looks certainly interesting especially for storage application as it provides Gigabit Ethernet which should be much faster than the 10/100M Ethernet via USB you get with the Raspberry Pi, and it’s a very cheap way to connect any USB hard drive to the network. At this price it’s almost like they sell you the Ethernet cable and power supply, and give you the device for free. The Series 4 are also cost effective if you want SATA, more USB ports, and extra performance with USB 3.0.

To say the least the reviews on Amazon are mixed, with many people saying the device does not work as expected, and they lost their files. Luckily the Pogoplugs are hackable, and instructions to run Arch Linux ARM from SD card are indeed available for Pogoplug Mobile and Pogoplug Series v4, and somebody also managed to boot Debian. There are various instructions from people who played with this extra cheap device on the net.

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