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Posts Tagged ‘arm’

$1 RDA5981 WiFi IoT Arm Cortex-M4 SoC is Designed for Smart Home Devices, Smart Speakers

January 11th, 2018 9 comments

RDA Microelectronics processors are found in a few cheap smart and not-so-smart phones, as well as the even cheaper Orange Pi i96 board. But the company does not only design cellular chips, but their portfolio also includes solutions for the Internet of Things and TV & radio tuners.

RDA5981 is a WiFi IoT chip specifically designed for smart home & audio application, such as smart speakers, and it’s found in devices running Baidu DuerOS, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. The company explains it can be widely used in televisions, set-top boxes, smart appliances, wireless monitors, and other products.

RDA5981A Block Diagram

RDA5981 A/B/C processor specifications:

  • CPU – Arm Cortex-M4 @ up to 160 MHz with integrated MPU and mbed uvisor
  • System Memory  – Up to 448 KB SRAM for network stack and application, external PSRAM interface
  • Storage – Up to 32Mbit SPI flash
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi
      • 2.4 Ghz 802.11b/g/n WiFi up to 150 Mbps with 20/40 MHz bandwidth
      • WPA, WPA2, WEP, TKIP,CCMP security
      • STA, softAP, P2P, STA+softAp, STA+P2P modes
      • A-MPDU, A-MSDU, HT-BA
    • TCP/IP stack with SSL (TLS?)
  • Host Interfaces – SPI / UART (AT command set) / USB2.0
  • Peripherals – GPIO, 2x UART, 2x I2S, 1x I2C, 8x PWM, 4x SPI, 1x SDMMC, 1x USB2, 2x ADC
  • Security – Hardware crypto accelerator AES/RSA, true random number generator (TRNG), and CRC accelerator
  • Misc – Watchdog, 16×16 bits eFuse configuration
  • Package – 5×5mm2 QFN package, 0.4mm pitch QFN-40

The company provides support for FreeRTOS and mbedOS5.1 for the chip. You could get a very basic datasheet from the company’s product page, but if you don’t want to leave your contact details, there’s even more information on Electrodragon Wiki.

The features looks interesting and could become a competitor to Realtek RTL8710AF or even Espressif ESP8266, especially Electrodragon sells their RDA5981X1 WiFi module based on RDA5981A for just $1.92 plus shipping.

Specifications for the module:

  • SoC – RDA5981A with 8Mbit internal flash, 288+160 KB RAM
  • 24 castellated pin exposing
    • Up to 16 free GPIOs
    • 2x UART up to 4Mbit, 3x ADC, 1x USB, 1x I2C, I2S in, I2S out, 1x SPI, up to 4x PWM, etc… (Pins are multiplex with up to 6 different function per pin)
    • VCC (3.0 to 3.5V), GND
    • Reset
  • Dimensions – 17.60 x 15.50 mm

The module also comes with a red breakout board (with 2.54mm pitch) included in the price. The company says RDA5981A IC itself sells for around $1 with price obviously depending on quantity.They also mention the SoC still have bugs without expanding. The board can be programming with AT commands or using mBed as explained in the Wiki linked above.

RDA5981A “Arduino” Development Board

There’s also an RDA5981 board with Arduino header, which I could only find on Taobao for under $50. Somebody also setup a new Github account with more information, and beside the RDA5981A/B/C models listed in the datasheet,  there seems to be an RDA5981AM chip as well. All RDA5981 variants are shown to be suitable for smart home, but RDA5981C can also be used for smart speakers and WiFi toys, maybe because it comes with 32 Mbit SPI flash? We’ll have to see how things evolve, and whether the solution will gain traction.

Via Olimex

Companies Address Concerns related to Speculative Execution Exploits: Meltdown and Spectre

January 4th, 2018 17 comments

Yesterday, news surfaced about a “bug” in Intel processors that could be fixed at the operating system level at the cost of a decrease in performance for some tasks, from a typical, and barely noticeable 5% hit, to a more consequent 30% hit for some specific tasks, and as we discussed yesterday I/O intensive tasks are the most impacted by the changes.

While Intel (and Arm) are impacted, AMD claims not to be, and the issue was reported by major news outlets and likely impacting the stock price of the companies with Intel stock losing 3.39%, and AMD stock gaining 5.19%, so obviously every company felt the need to answer, starting with Intel’s response to security research findings:

Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a “bug” or a “flaw” and are unique to Intel products are incorrect. Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits.

Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available.

Intel believes its products are the most secure in the world and that, with the support of its partners, the current solutions to this issue provide the best possible security for its customers.

This looks like damage limitation, and I guess more info will be released once the fixes are all released.

But the most detailed report is by Google, since Project Zero found three variant of two vulnerabilities – Metldown and Spectre – related to speculative execution, a technique to predict (and run) likely future instruction in order to boost performance:

We have discovered that CPU data cache timing can be abused to efficiently leak information out of mis-speculated execution, leading to (at worst) arbitrary virtual memory read vulnerabilities across local security boundaries in various contexts.

Variants of this issue are known to affect many modern processors, including certain processors by Intel, AMD and ARM. For a few Intel and AMD CPU models, we have exploits that work against real software. We reported this issue to Intel, AMD and ARM on 2017-06-01.

The three variants:

Variants 1 & 2 are referred to as Spectre, and variant 3 as Meltdown, with the latter easier to exploit.

The Meltdown attack uses exception handling or suppression to run a series of transient instructions

Yesterday, we learned AMD was not impacted, but Google clearly mention they could exploit AMD processors too, and that’s because AMD is only subject to Spectre. So AMD responded too:

It is important to understand how the speculative execution vulnerability described in the research relates to AMD products, but please keep in mind the following:

  • The research described was performed in a controlled, dedicated lab environment by a highly knowledgeable team with detailed, non-public information about the processors targeted.
  • The described threat has not been seen in the public domain.

and provided a table showing how AMD processors are impacted:

Google Project Zero (GPZ) Research Title Details
Variant One Bounds Check Bypass Resolved by software / OS updates to be made available by system vendors and manufacturers. Negligible performance impact expected.
Variant Two Branch Target Injection Differences in AMD architecture mean there is a near zero risk of exploitation of this variant. Vulnerability to Variant 2 has not been demonstrated on AMD processors to date.
Variant Three Rogue Data Cache Load Zero AMD vulnerability due to AMD architecture differences.

So it looks like only variant 1 is a potential issue, and operating systems will have to be patched.

Arm’s turn:

Cache timing side-channels are a well-understood concept in the area of security research and therefore not a new finding. However, this side-channel mechanism could enable someone to potentially extract some information that otherwise would not be accessible to software from processors that are performing as designed and not based on a flaw or bug. This is the issue addressed here and in the Cache Speculation Side-channels whitepaper.

It is important to note that this method is dependent on malware running locally which means it’s imperative for users to practice good security hygiene by keeping their software up-to-date and avoid suspicious links or downloads.

The majority of Arm processors are not impacted by any variation of this side-channel speculation mechanism. A definitive list of the small subset of Arm-designed processors that are susceptible can be found below.

The currently popular Cortex-A7 and Cortex A53 cores are not impacted at all, but some others are:

Processor

Variant 1

Variant 2

Variant 3

Variant 3a

Cortex-R7

Yes*

Yes*

No

No

Cortex-R8

Yes*

Yes*

No

No

Cortex-A8

Yes (under review)

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A9

Yes

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A15

Yes (under review)

Yes

No

Yes

Cortex-A17

Yes

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A57

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Cortex-A72

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Cortex-A73

Yes

Yes

No

No

Cortex-A75

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Variant 3a of Meltdown is detailed in the whitepaper linked above, and Arm “does not believe that software mitigations for this issue are necessary”. In the table above, “Yes” means exploitable, but has a mitigation, and “No” means “no problem” :). So only Cortex-A75 is subject to both Meltdown and Spectre exploits, and it’s not in devices yet. Like other companies, Arm will provide a fix for future revisions of their processors.

Silicon vendors are not the only companies to issue answers, as operating systems vendors will have to issues fixes, and cloud providers are also impacted. Patchsets have been merged into Linux 4.15 as we’ve seen yesterday, Microsoft issued a statement for their Cloud service, Red Hat / Debian and others are working on it, and Google listed products impacted, and even Chrome web browser users need to take action to protect themselves. Android phones with the latest security patch will be protected, bearing in mind that all those Cortex-A53 phones in the wild are not affected at all. It’s worse noting that while Meltdown and Spectre make the news, there are over thirty other critical or high severity vulnerabilities fixed in January that did not get much coverage if any…

Year 2017 in Review, Top 10 Posts, and Some Fun Stats

December 31st, 2017 20 comments

2017 is coming to an end, and as I do every year, I’ll take a look back at the year that was on CNX Software. The pace of development boards launches has not slowed down this year, and we get an even wider range from the low-end with Orange Pi or NanoPi boards, to much more powerful ARM boards, and some new entrants like Libre Computer. The same is true for TV boxes, most of which now support 4K HDR, ranging from ultra cheap models selling for less than $20 to higher end Android TV boxes, while mini PCs were dominated by Intel Apollo Lake models, although some Cherry Trail products were also launched.

Processor-wise, Amlogic launched more Amlogic S905X derivatives with S905W/S905D/S905Z, which are popular in the TV box market. Rockchip’s most interesting processor this year was RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor designed for 4K HDR Android TV boxes, but also popular with single board computers thanks to Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 interfaces that provide good I/O performance. Allwinner H2+/H3/H5 were launched last year, but they kept being used in cheap development boards, retro game consoles, etc.. The company also launched A63 SoC for 2K tablets, and H6 for 4K OTT TV boxes, and we can expect the latter not only to be found in TV boxes such as Zidoo H6 Pro, but in more Orange Pi H6 boards, and likely other products in 2018 since beside media capabilities, the processor also supports Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and PCIe. Intel’s Celeron and Pentium Apollo Lake processors dominated the entry-level Windows mini PCs market this year, and Linux was much better supported than in Bay Trail / Cherry Trail processors, but few manufacturers decided to offer Apollo Lake mini PC pre-installed with Ubuntu or other Linux distributions.

2017 was also an interesting year for the Internet of Things (IoT) with Espressif ESP32 going into full gear, and prices dropping to $5 for maker boards. Other WiFi IoT solutions that looked promising last year such as RTL8710AF, did not really took off in a big way. LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) solutions got even more traction with LoRa dominating, but far from being alone with Sigfox, and the emergence of 3GPP standards like NB-IoT and eMTC.

While I had written articles about 3D printing in the past, it really became a proper category on the blog this year, thanks to Karl’s reviews, and 3D printers provided by GearBest. I’d also like to thank Ian Morrison (Linuxium), TLS, Blu, Nanik who helped with reviews and/or articles this year.

Top 10 Posts Written in 2017

I’ve again compiled a list of the most popular posts of 2017 using the pageviews from Google Analytics, but for a change, I’ll show the results in reverse order:

  1. Google Assistant SDK Turns Your Raspberry Pi 3 into Google Home (May 2017) – Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant went beyond the companies’own products, and Google Assistant SDK release allowed developers to make their own DIY smart speaker based on Raspberry Pi 3 board, or other ARM Linux boards. I could successfully implement my own using an Orange Pi Zero kit.
  2. Mecool BB2 Pro Review – TV Box with DDR4 Memory – Part 2: Android Firmware, Benchmarks, Kodi (January 2017) – Mecool BB2 Pro was one of the first Amlogic S912 octa-core TV boxes with DDR4 memory, but my tests did not show any benefits over DDR3 memory.
  3. Mecool KI PRO Hybrid Android TV Box with Amlogic S905D SoC, DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 Tuners Sells for $80 (May 2017) – For some reasons, post about VideoStrong/Mecool Android set-top boxes are quite popular on CNX Software, and KI PRO was the first model based on Amlogic S905D processor with support for multiple demodulators.
  4. Orange Pi 2G-IoT ARM Linux Development Board with 2G/GSM Support is Up for Sale for $9.90 (March 2017) – “Cellular IoT Linux board for $10? Where’s the buy button?” might have been the first reaction to many people. But when buyers received their board, it was a struggle and may still be, since it was based on a  RDA Micro processor for phones poorly supported in Linux.
  5. Installing Ubuntu 17.04 on CHUWI LapBook 14.1 Apollo Lake Laptop (February 2017) – People want their cheap and usable Ubuntu laptop, and if manufacturers won’t make one for them, they’ll find ways to make their own. Sadly, CHUWI massively changed the hardware, and it’s not such a good solution anymore.
  6. ASUS Tinker Board is a Raspberry Pi 3 Alternative based on Rockchip RK3288 Processor (January 2017) – A large company like ASUS entering the maker board market, and the solution inspired from Raspberry Pi 3, but more much powerful. That got people interested!
  7. Creality CR-10 3D Printer Review – Part 2: Tips & Tricks, Octoprint, and Craftware (May 2017) – It was the year of cheap $100 to $200 3D printer, but CNX Software visitors were more interested in a better model, and Creality CR-10 review was the most popular 3D Printer review/post this year.
  8. Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App (March 2017) – VideoStrong sells some inexpensive Android TV boxes with tuner under their Mecool, and KIII Pro was their first octa-core model with both DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S2 tuners.
  9. ASUS Tinker Board’s Debian & Kodi Linux Images, Schematics and Documentation (January 2017) – ASUS board was somehow started selling before the company intended to, and while firmware & documentation were there, they were hard to find, so people looked for that information, and found it on CNX Software.
  10. MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware & Kodi 17 (March 2017) – Apparently, I’m not the only to consider MINIX NEO U9-H to be one of the best Android TV boxes, as my review of the media hub was the most read post of 2017.

Stats

981 posts were published in 2017. Let’s go straight to users’ country and city location data.

The top five countries have not changes, but this year Germany overtook the United Kingdom in second position. Traffic from India increased on a relative basis, and Australia made it to the top ten at the cost of Russia. London and Paris kept the two top steps, but Bangkok rose to third position, while last year third, Tel aviv-Yafo went away completely from the list. New York is gone being replaced by Warsaw in 8th position.

The list of the most used operating systems, and browsers is fairly stable, but the trends noticed in past years continues, with Windows share of traffic going down, Android going up, and Linux stable, while Chrome dominated even more, with most other browsers going down in percentage basis, except Edge that is very slowly replacing Internet Explorer, and Samsung Internet that replaced Opera mini in the list.

Desktop traffic still rules, but mobile + tablet traffic now accounts for around a third of the traffic.

Finally, I went to dig into pagespeed data with pages loading in 15.58 seconds on average. I then filtered the countries with more than 5,000 pageviews, and CNX Software pages and posts loaded fastest in Portugal, Denmark, and Macedonia. However, people in Venezuela need to wait close to 2 minutes for a page to load on average, and in China and Iran around one minute.

Next year looks promising, and I expect to test Gemini Lake mini PC, and maybe some ARM based mini PCs or laptops, but I’ll review less TV boxes as due to some new regulations I can’t easily import them. The regulatory framework is now in place for LPWAN standards, and I should be able to start playing with LoRa and NB-IoT in 2018, using local services, or my own gateway(s). I’ll keep playing with development boards, as I’m expecting interesting Allwinner H6, Realtek RTD129x, Hilsicon, and other platforms in the year ahead, as well as various IoT products.

I’d like to come together with some of the devices and boards reviewed in 2017 (and a Linux tux) to wish you all a prosperous, healthy, and happy new year 2018!

Click to Enlarge

Intel Stratix 10 MX FPGA Integrates High Bandwidth Memory DRAM (HBM2)

December 19th, 2017 4 comments

Intel started sampling (Altera) Stratix 10 ARM + FPGA SoC in late 2016, and now the company has announced the availability the new Stratix 10 MX FPGA family wih High Bandwidth Memory DRAM (HBM2). The latter allow Stratix 10 MX FPGAs to offer up to 10 times the memory bandwidth when compared with standalone DDR memory solutions.

The higher bandwidth will be useful for multi-function accelerators for high-performance computing (HPC), data centers, network functions virtualization (NFV), and broadcast applications.

Intel / Altera Stratix 10 MX SoC key features and specifications:

  • Processor – Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 MP Core up to 1.5 GHz
  • Logic Density Range – 1.092M LE to 2.073M LE
  • Embedded Memory
    • 3.5 to 8GB HBM2 high-bandwidth DRAM memory
    • 45 Mbit to 90 Mbit  eSRAM memory
    • 86 Mbit to 134 Mbit M20K memory
    • 6 Mbit to 11 Mbit MLAB memory
  • Up to 7,920 18 x 19 Multipliers
  • Up to 72 Transceivers up to 30 Gbps data rate (Chip to Chip)
  • Hard Protocol IP – 3 EMACs, PCI Express Gen3 X 8, 10/40G BaseKR- forward error correction (FEC), Interlaken physical coding sublayer (PCS)
  • Security – Secure device manager, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) AES-256/SHA-256 bitsream encryption/authentication, PUF, ECDSA 256/384 boot code
    authentication, side channel attack protection

Apache Kafka and Apache Spark Streaming are example of HPC applications that benefit from the higher bandwidth. Intel claims Stratix 10 MX can provide up to 512 GB/s with the integrated HBM2. As shown on the diagram above, HBM2 should also consume less power than DDR4 or DDR3 external memory. More details can be found on Altera Intel Stratix 10 MX FPGA product page.

 

Categories: Intel FPGA Tags: altera, arm, fpga, intel

Holo P2P Distributed Hosting is Powered by Holochain Technology, Leverages Holo Fuel Cryptocurrency (Crowdfunding)

December 14th, 2017 6 comments

The Internet is now mostly centralized, for example most people search with Google, and Facebook dominates the social media space in many countries. That also means access to content can easily be blocked by governments, and many companies will use your personal data to their benefits.

Holo network promises to “take back the Internet” thanks to a P2P distributed web hosting system, where people hosts app from developers in their HoloPort devices, and get paid for hosting crypto apps in Holo Fuel cryptocurrency that can in turn be used to pay for processing power and/or storage on the network, or converted into other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, or fiat money (Dollars, Euros…).

It’s like a new Internet that uses the current “pipes” (i.e. you’d still need Internet through your ISP), but all content would have to be created from the ground up. It basically aims to replace datacenters, websites, and app from larger companies. The first prototype crypto apps include

  • Clutter – a P2P Twitter clone
  • Fractal Wiki – a serverless Wiki of cards within cards within cards
  • HoloChat – a Slack-like multi-channel chat room for teams
  • DPKI – a secure, decentralized cryptographic key management too

App / website developers would pay for Holo network, just like they pay for hosting services currently, and people are incentivized to buy HoloPort hardware as they could eventually get their money back and make some if the system is popular. You’d still use your web browser to access crypto apps (just type an URL) in the Holo P2P network, and other websites in the “centralized Internet”.

Three types of HoloPort – basically Linux computers – are available with HoloPort Nano based on a quad core ARM processor with Gigabit Ethernet, and larger HoloPort & HoloPort+ powered by more powerful Intel processors, and equipped with more memory and storage.

Click to Enlarge

Holo and Holo Fuel are based on Holochain described as “a next-generation platform that is more scalable, exponentially faster, far more energy efficient, and 10,000x cheaper than blockchain”. More details can be found in this document (PDF), and you can checkout the software on Github. The project is still at the alpha stage with the first stable release expected in Q2 2018. The company is now raising funds through and Initial Community Offering (not available in the US), and an Indiegogo campaign where they offer HoloPort hardware as rewards.

The crowdfunding effort started on a roll, as Holo has already received over $220,000 in pledges from around 530 backers. HoloPort Nano requires a $99 pledges, while the Intel platforms cost $449 or $999. Currently the pledges are fairly evenly distributed among the three platforms because the idea is that you’ll be able to serve more users with a faster computer, hence earn more Holo Fuel. Altough the start of the Indiegogo campaign is impressive, the whole project is quite ambitious, so we’ll have to see how it turns out. But in the worst case, with the project failing, you’d still have a Linux computer to play with. [Update: Alternatively, if you don’t want to buy hardware for it, but still want to support the project, you could pledge $40 for the Alpha/Beta Tester rewards to get early access to Holo and Holochain app developer tools].

More details may also be available on holo.host website.

Meet the First Windows 10 Arm “Always Connected PCs” – HP Envy x2 (2017) and ASUS NovaGo TP370

December 6th, 2017 30 comments

Qualcomm and Microsoft showcased some Snapdragon 835 based Windows 10 “Mobile PCs” at Computex 2017 last June, and while the press was allowed film the demo, the device could only be operated by a Qualcomm employee.

But both companies and their partners have made progress, and at the Snapdragon Technology Summit, Qualcomm announced “Always Connected PCs” which will run Windows 10, be always on and always connected at Gigabit LTE speeds, and support all-day battery life while keeping thin and fanless designs. all while incorporating Windows 10. HP and ASUS unveiled their very own “Always Connected PCs”, respectively Envy X2 and Novago TP370. What I used to call laptop or in this case 2-in-1 hybrid (laptop) is now apparently called “Always Connected PC”, but in any case let’s have a closer look at both devices.

HP Envy x2 (2017)

Specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Processor @ 2.6GHz with Adreno 540 GPU @ 710MHz
  • System memory – Up to 8GB RAM
  • Storage – Up to 256GB UFS 2.0 storage, micro SD card reader
  • Display – 12.3″ WUXGA+ (1920 x 1280) touch display
  • Audio – 1x combo audio jack; dual speaker; microphone array with Cortana voice-recognition support
  • Backlit Keyboard and touchpad
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi – 802.11a/b/g/n, 802.11ac
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 modem (Gigabit LTE with DL: 1Gbps, UL: 150Mbps; 4×4 MIMO); 1x SIM card reader
  • Camera – 13MP rear camera and 5MP front camera
  • USB – 1x USB-C port
  • Misc – Volume buttons
  • Battery – Good for up to 20 hours of local video playback, over 700 hours of connected standby
  • Dimensions –  6.9 mm thick
  • Weight – 1.21 kg

ASUS Novago TP370

NovaGo-TP370QL specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Processor @ 2.6GHz with Adreno 540 GPU @ 710MHz
  • System memory – 4GB / 6GB / 8GB 1866MHz LPDDR4x (soldered)
  • Storage – 64GB / 128GB / 256GB UFS 2.0 storage, micro SD card slot up to 256 GB
  • Display – 13.3” LED-backlit Full HD (1920x 1080) display
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio – 1x audio jack; dual speaker; smart amplifier; microphone array with Cortana voice-recognition support
  • Backlit keyboard and PTP touchpad
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi – 802.11a/b/g/n, 802.11ac (2×2 MIMO)
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 modem (Gigabit LTE with DL: 1Gbps, UL: 150Mbps; 4×4 MIMO); 1x Combo Nano SIM (tray with needle)
  • Camera – 1280×720 HD camera
  • USB – 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports
  • Sensors – Fingerprint sensor
  • Battery – 52 Wh lithium-polymer battery good for up to 22 hours battery life, over 30 days of modern standby
  • Dimensions – 31.6 x 22.1 x 1.49 cm
  • Weight – 1.39 kg

The 2-in-1 laptop always connected PC will run Windows 10 S by default, but a recommended free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro will be offered. More details may be found on the product page. Windows 10 S only allows the installation of apps in Windows Store, and Microsoft own Edge browser (no Firefox, no Chrome), so most people will likely upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, especially if it is free, and this is probably a condition imposed by Microsoft.

ASUS NovaGo is expected to be available early next year, while the HP Envy x2 is planned for Spring 2018. I could not find pricing on the official page, but Liliputing reports an “entry-level model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage should sell for about $599, while an 8GB/256GB model will run $799”.

You’ll find various hands-on video for the Envy x2 (2017) model online, including the one from Engadget embedded below.

Top 5 Most Powerful Arm SBCs & Development Boards in 2017 / Early 2018

December 4th, 2017 12 comments

Raspberry Pi, Orange Pi, and NanoPi boards among others are all great and inexpensive Arm Linux development boards that do good enough job for many tasks, but they may not cut it if you have higher requirements either in terms of CPU power, GPU capabilities and performance, I/O bandwidth, and in some cases software and support.

So I’ve decided to make a list of 5 single board computers or development boards that I consider to be the most powerful in 2017, early 2018. I have limited the price to $1,000 maximum, the board must be easy to purchase for most people (e.g. you don’t need to be a tier-1 automotive supplier, or operate your own datacenter), and in case the board is not quite available yet, the likeliness of actual launch must be reasonably high. Those criteria for example exclude Intrinsyc Open-Q 835 development kit since it costs $1.149 and the company may not sell to individuals (TBC). Let’s get started. You’ll find more details for each board by clicking on the headings links.

NVIDIA Jetson TX2 Developer Kit – Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision

Click to Enlarge

The developer kit is comprised of a mini ITX carrier board taking Jetson TX2 system-on-module powered by an Tegra X2 hexa core processor (2x Denver +
4x ARM Cortex A57) with a high-end 256-core Pascal GPU (desktop class with OpenGL 4.5 support), 8GB RAM, 32GB storage, and more.

The company provides a Linux for Tegra and JetPack 3.0 SDK to leverage the board deep learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision capabilities.

NVIDIA Tegra TX2 developer kit sells for $599 on NVIDIA store or Arrow Electronics.

Hikey 960 – AOSP Development Platform

Hikey 960 is a development board that complies with 96Boards CE specifications, and features Huawei/Hisilicon Kirin 960 octa-core big.LITTLE processor with four ARM Cortex A73 cores @ up to 2.4 GHz, four Cortex A53 cores @ up to 1.8 GHz, and a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU. The board is further equipped with 3GB LPDDR4, and 32GB UFS 2.1 flash storage.

The board will be especially interesting to Android developers since it is officially supported by AOSP, and you can work on the latest Android version with a powerful development platform.

Hikey 960 is sold for $239.99 on Seeed Studio, or Amazon.

SolidRun MACCHIATOBin – A Networking Workhorse

MacchiatoBIN mini-ITX board may come with a powerful Marvell ARMADA quad core Cortex A72 processor clocked up to 2.0 GHz, but what makes it stand apart are its storage and networking ports with three SATA 3.0 interfaces, and multiple Gigabit, 2.5 Gbps and 10 Gbps network interfaces. The board ships with 4GB RAM by default, but its DDR4 DIMM supports up to 16GB of memory.

Solidrun/Marvell MacchiatoBIN board can be purchased on Solidrun website for $369 to $518 depending on options (RAM, power supply, micro SD card).

Dragonboard 820c – Linux, 96Boards Compliance & Ecosystem

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DragonBoard 820c is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core Kryo processor with Adreno 530 GPU, 3 GB LPDDR4, and 32 GB UFS Flash. The board complies with 96Board CE Extended specifications, and include Gigabit Ethernet and an mSATA/mPCIe slot not found in smaller boards.

Contrary to Hikey 960 above supporting Android only, the Qualcomm board supports Linux (Debian, Open Embedded, Yocto Project) on top of Android, and also benefits from 96Boards ecosystem in terms of software support, and hardware expansion boards called Mezzanine products.

The board was first spotted in May 2016, and it is now available yet, which has understandly lead people to suspect a case of “Vaporware“, but Bill Davies, responsible for Arrow’s DragonBoard program, very recently responded that he expected the board to start selling in “weeks”, not “months”. Linaro engineers have also been working on the platform, even having some fun with a video game arcade project. So we can probably expect it early next year.

GIGABYTE Synquacer – 24 Cores for your Arm PC

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GIGABYTE Synquacer macro-ITX board won’t beat any single thread records with its SocioNext SC2A11 ARM Cortex A53 processor, but considering there are 24 of those, the board could perform well with workloads that can utilize all 24 cores in parallel.

What really make this board “powerful” however is its flexibility, as it’s an ATX motherboard – compatible with 96Boards Enterprise specifications – that will be sold either as a standalone board, or in a PC tower. You’ll be able to add up to 64GB memory via its 4 DIMM slots, SATA hard drives and SSDs to its two SATA connectors, and add off-the-shelf PCIe cards. It will mostly serve as a development platform to test and support PC accessories, and be a first step in bringing an Arm development computer that can challenge x86 solutions.

The system was first expected in December of this year, but the latest news states shipping is expected to start in January 2018, and reservations can already be made on Chip One Stop.

I’d expect some of the boards here to be dethroned by Arm Cortex A75 solution or other custom ARMv8 cores by the end of 2018. If you disagree with the list, and what are included another board, let us know in the comments section taking into account the limitation expressed in the introduction.

ZeroShell Firewall/Router Linux Distribution Works on x86 Hardware, Raspberry Pi 2/3, & (Some) Orange Pi Boards

November 30th, 2017 12 comments

We’ve just seen pfSense is now available for Arm via firewall appliances such as Netgate SG-3100, but AFAIK there’s no pfSense community Arm firmware images yet. Several Arm SoCs & boards are now supported by FreeBSD, so in theory pfSense could be ported to those, but the page on FreeBSD does not seem to have been updated for a while.

If you want a firewall distributions with an easy-to-user web interface like pfSense, but that also works on cheaper Arm hardware, Linux based ZeroShell distribution could be worth a try, as beside working on Intel & AMD x86 platforms, the developers also provides images for Raspberry Pi 2 & 3 boards, and several Orange Pi boards, namely Orange Pi R1, Orange Pi Zero, Orange Pi PC, and Orange Pi Plus/Plus2. The latter is the only supported Arm board with Gigabit Ethernet.

ZeroShell Web Interface | Net Balancer Section – Click to Enlarge

Some of ZeroShell features include:

  • Load Balancing and Failover of multiple Internet connections.
  • UMTS/HSDPA connections via 3G modems.
  • RADIUS server for providing secure authentication and automatic management of the encryption keys to WiFi networks.
  • QoS (Quality of Service) management and traffic shaping.
  • HTTP Proxy server to block web pages containing virus.
  • Wireless Access Point mode with Multiple SSID and VLAN support.
  • Host-to-LAN VPN with L2TP/IPsec in which L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) authenticated with Kerberos v5.
  • LAN-to-LAN VPN with encapsulation of Ethernet datagrams in SSL/TLS tunnel with support for 802.1Q VLAN.
  • Router with static and dynamic routes (RIPv2 with MD5 or plain text authentication and Split Horizon and Poisoned Reverse algorithms).
  • 802.1d bridge with Spanning Tree protocol to avoid loops even in the presence of redundant paths.
  • 802.1Q Virtual LAN (tagged VLAN).
  • Many more…

Gateway Configuration

You’ll find the complete list of features on the project page. You’ll find live CD images for x86, and micro SD card image for supported Arm boards on the download page, and support is available via the forums. However, I have not been able to find the source code, nor instructions to build from source.

Via Time4EE