SBCs

“Over the last year, LinuxGizmos has reported on dozens of new community backed, open spec, hacker- and developer-friendly single board computers that run Linux and Android. We’ve added these to a curated list of earlier boards to publish a catalog of 98 SBCs. The boards included in our survey must be priced under $200 (not counting shipping), have a promised shipment availability by July, and meet our relatively flexible selection criteria for open source compliance”
 
See Catalog of 98 open-spec, hacker friendly SBCs
Thanks to LinuxGizmos for their latest survey of FLOSS-friendly hackable single board computers.

Lowlights for me are that this market is still handicapped by limited RAM and SATA. The only boards that meet my requirements are too expensive to be on their list despite modest capabilities. Sadly, LinuxGizmos has one x86 board that blows away most of the selections. Why can’t board-makers make an ARMed SBC that’s just a little more expandable? It’s not as if a few connectors breaks the bank. People have been buying motherboards with empty connectors for decades. Just make the boards a little larger, please.

Highlights for me include Odroid-C2 which does make a nice PC client and is very suitable for hacking into some project like the Raspberry Pi and the like. It’s one drawback is that it’s still not supported completely by Linux. It needs some magical bits to boot. Then there’s FireFly RK3399 which comes close to what I want for a server except RAM is limited to 4GB and SATA requires use of USB or M.2 PCIe. Other better boards are too expensive to make the list. The doubly priced Marvell Community Board is an example.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.

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25 Responses to SBCs

  1. DrLoser says:

    One other interesting question is — are Google and Citrix at odds with each other?

    Far from it, Robert. They’re hand in hand. Because it makes good business sense for both of them.

    Now then. Once again, you squirming little toad, Robert. Tell us all about the “thin clients” that Google uses in-house.

    You can’t, can you? Because Google doesn’t do that.

  2. Deaf Spy says:

    You really are hopeless at dealing with uncomfortable truths, aren’t you, Pogson?

    Absolutely hopeless.

    Google are already in works to replace Android with something new which shows signs of a properly designed OS, not something hacked on top of the monolithic Linux kernel. Android’s days are counted. It will die a quiet death along with the short-lived devices it runs on.

    I guess the next mantra will be “Clouds run on Linux” 🙂

  3. DrLoser says:

    How many copies of Android/Linux are out there? A few billion now?

    And back to the original question. How many thin clients does Google use? (Remember, that was your claim.)

    You really are hopeless at dealing with uncomfortable truths, aren’t you, Pogson?

  4. DrLoser wrote, “I feel it incumbent upon you to provide at least an estimate, however ill-informed, of the number of “thin clients” in use by Google.”

    How many copies of Android/Linux are out there? A few billion now?

  5. DrLoser says:

    Tell that to Google or anyone else using */Linux.

    I realise the following falls under the same category as “The Pope? How many divisions does he have?”

    Nevertheless, Robert, I feel it incumbent upon you to provide at least an estimate, however ill-informed, of the number of “thin clients” in use by Google. I think I can confidently state that said number will fall considerably short of the number of Apple MacBooks in use by Google.

    By roughly 100%.

    This appears to render your devastating response somewhat moot, I would suggest.

  6. Kurkosdr says:

    By “*/Linux” do you mean Desktop Linux? How is this a thin-client OS any more than OpenIndiana is a thin-client OS?

    Or by “*/Linux” you mean something else? Please clarify. The only common thing OSes based on “*/Linux” have in common is the kernel. What specific “*/Linux” OS do you recommend for thin-clients? Please answer so we can mock you and explain to you why most businesses prefer Citrix.

  7. wizard emiritus says:

    “Tell that to Google or anyone else using */Linux.”

    Like my former place of employ who uses the citrix terminal servers to provide controlled access to Linux hosts Robert Pogson? And we were not doing anything special. The citrix client is implemented on most if not all thin client offerings as well as linux. it is widely used.

  8. Grece wrote, “Considering thin-clients, the ONLY viable software on the server side IS Citrix.”

    Tell that to Google or anyone else using */Linux.

  9. Grece says:

    Considering thin-clients, the ONLY viable software on the server side IS Citrix. Although, the cloud in general is a much better option these days. Namely due to the lower costs and not having to pay an admin $100K a year to manage a few boxes.

  10. kurkosdr says:

    buy = by

  11. kurkosdr says:

    On related news, Intel just unveiled the ultimate thin-client, the Compute Card, which can plug into a special monitor slot and convert it into a computer, which allows users to take their logins and any local data with them, just by removing a card. And you save the redundancy of yet another power supply.

    But it doesn’t have SATA ports. So, while this has the potential to make it big on the business market for things like point of sale systems, kiosks and basic office computers, I bet Intel is kicking themselves for the fact they will lose one sale in Manitoba buy a retired teacher who wants massive I/O capabilities tied to a thin-client-grade CPU.

  12. DrLoser says:

    DrLoser every thin-client vendor is either doing a raspberry pi or a raspberry pi clone product.

    Aaand … we’re back to thin clients again, aren’t we, Fifi? Despite your protestations.

    Oh well. Let’s abandon Robert’s quixotic search for a micro-server for a moment, and consider your cite on thin clients.

    Not very optimistic, is it? Precious little evidence of anything other than vaporware. To quote the marketroid flummery:

    Cheap PCs have may have put the brakes on thin clients in recent years, but a rebound seems likely. The arrival of more affordable and power efficient embedded computers — and the Raspberry Pi in particular — is helping to drive down prices and restore thin clients’ edge over standalone PCs.

    “A rebound seems likely.” After what, lower down, is described as a “slump” in 2015. Let’s wait until somebody with actual, real, money buys into this guff, shall we?

    Oh, and if and when they do — may I venture a guess as to the OS on the server end of these thin clients?

    Clue: Citrix.

  13. Kurkosdr says:

    People miss the fact that lot of Qualcomm and lot of Broadcom chips are functional without closed source drivers.

    And by “functional” you mean your own bizarre definition of functional, aka no support for GPU 3D acceleration of video decoding acceleration, or some kind of “support” using some unofficial driver that is buggy and feature-incomplete and developed mostly on someone’s free time. Have you ever considered that your incessant desire to bend semantics might come across as flat-out dishonesty to some people with a low tolerance for BS?

    Even Chrome and Firefox need GPU acceleration to work right nowadays. This is what linuxeros don’t understand: In order for the Cloudy Future™ to be realised, aka in order for people to ditch their apps in favor of tangled messes of JavaScript (this is supposed to be a good thing) browsers will have to offer APIs similar to the APIs an OS offers (sidenote: no inner-platform effect here, no sir) which means that the underlying OS has to provide those APIs to the browser in the first place. Which is where good GPU drivers for the OS come into play. As LHB used to say, layers like JavaScript VMs or the good ol’ JVM cannot save Desktop Linux from its native suckage.

    Anyway, Pog has admitted Intel offers a better value for money than Intel, but he won’t buy Intel for political reasons. Pog has to choose between his cheapskate-ness and his Opinions ™. And if some sleazy website promises him an ARM board with 3 SATA ports and PCI Express bus and an expected Q1 2018 deliver date (delivery date subject to change without notice), he will see it as a solution to his self-manufactured dilemma and spill the preorder cash.

  14. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser not all arm boards require closed source drivers.
    https://mesamatrix.net/
    People miss the fact that lot of Qualcomm and lot of Broadcom chips are functional without closed source drivers.

    The only problem here, Fifi, is that we are talking about potential micro-servers. Not thin clients.
    DrLoser take your tablets what I said applies equal to micro-server boards. Some are more open source friendly than others. It is something it watch when consider the things.

    embedded ARM SBCs rely upon proprietary binary blobs, non-free GPU stuff, etc etc.
    This is also true with x86 based stuff. Motherboard can have chips on it require proprietary parts to function correctly.

    https://www.linux.com/news/event/open-source-summit-na/2017/5/thin-client-market-embraces-raspberry-pi
    DrLoser every thin-client vendor is either doing a raspberry pi or a raspberry pi clone product. About time you take your tablets yourself you are well and truly over due to-do something to fix you idiot responses.. Now this is a very interesting change. For a long time thin-client makers were using devices that would require binary blobs to function. This is a change in manufacture preference. Also open compute hardware in the server world has a lower tolerance for stuff requiring closed source drivers.

  15. Grece says:

    I paid $200 something for my Supermicro board and a $100 each for the two SAS controllers. Supporting ~15 drives and infinitely upgradeable in size, so I will never run out of space.

    Robert’s problem is he hems and haws, but never drops bank on a product, and by that time it will be too late, as he lost all his data due to failing raid arrays.

    Better start buying components Robert, quit putzin around!

    But hey, it’s all good.

  16. DrLoser says:

    Its like how you are seeing more thin-client vendors base their entry level thin-clients around the raspberry pi as this arm device is not having long term support problems.

    The only problem here, Fifi, is that we are talking about potential micro-servers. Not thin clients.

    Well, I say “the only problem,” but feel free to babble on about thin clients running on the Rasbo. Not much evidence of them so far, although I believe Citrix has a plan to support them. Anyway, back to Robert’s chosen topic of SBCs and the Awesome Power Ready To Be Unleashed Practically For Free.

    Keep taking the tablets, Fifi.

  17. DrLoser says:

    Way to go to miss my point, Robert.

    3 SATA ports could be used for longterm storage. I would prefer more but 3 is useful. One could put something on USB or Ethernet for more/longer terms.

    And that’s what you get when you shell out US$508. But you’re not about to shell out US$508, are you? You want to shell out CAN$200.

    For which you probably expect the 16GB of RAM to be bundled in.

    I love this idea of “3 SATA ports” being sufficient for “long term storage,” btw. Outside a data center, one SATA port is sufficient for local storage (arguably two, if you want RAID). But, yes, long-term storage? Go with cabled ethernet.

    You probably have several spools of CAT-5 hanging around from Easterville.

  18. DrLoser says:

    Although, to be fair to Robert, he doesn’t really research anything much beyond a price point.

    Until your timely warning, Kurks, it is very probable that he was blissfully ignorant of the fact that embedded ARM SBCs rely upon proprietary binary blobs, non-free GPU stuff, etc etc.

    I’m sure that Robert cares, very deeply, about these things. I’m sure that Robert, right now, is firing up a Bugzilla complaint (always the most important part of FLOSS development, as we all know), describing in detail his personal requirements that such Terrible Acts of Gratuitous Violence should be Punished.

    Not to mention the inexplicable absence of data-center-standard support for SATA and 32GB of RAM and so on. Who could possibly have imagined such an impediment, on a $50 board running Android?

    Certainly not Robert.

  19. oiaohm says:

    Kurkosdr even staying inside the world of Intel chips you have had like the powervr atoms and the like with binary blobs of hell with arbitrary support cut off dates.
    Its like some Lenovo computers that will not run Linux due to a particular RAID mode being on. That is a Intel developed the RAID feature that no support has been mainlined into the Linux kernel. So blindly trusting Intel can be path to hell as well with Linux.

    https://forum.odroid.com/viewtopic.php?f=135&t=22717
    With arm boards the Odroid-C2 that is arm in fact mainlined it drivers in to the Linux kernel include adding all required firmware to the Linux kernel firmware bundle.

    Some arm vendors are better than others when it comes to Linux support. Its like how you are seeing more thin-client vendors base their entry level thin-clients around the raspberry pi as this arm device is not having long term support problems. Arm vendors really do need to wake up the ones that offer decent Linux support are getting more of these contracts because it not causing the same levels of nightmares for hardware companies have to support for a long time.

  20. DrLoser says:

    In essence, you want to leave the trusted (when it comes to Linux support) world of Intel and enter the nasty world of embedded ARM with its binary blobs and arbitrary cutoff dates when it comes to supporting those binary blobs.

    Don’t be unfair, Kurks. That is the way that FLOSS has always functioned, in the real world.

    Or, to put it another way: RMS is (admirably) prepared to stand upon his principles. He uses wget and other rubbish, because it’s truly Four Principle Free. And he uses terrible hardware, because it’s truly Four Principle Free.

    Robert? Robert just wants to be given something for next to nothing.

    Four Principle Free? Not hardly. Just cheapskate.

  21. Kurkosdr says:

    Sadly, LinuxGizmos has one x86 board that blows away most of the selections. Why can’t board-makers make an ARMed SBC that’s just a little more expandable?

    Yet again, Intel provides a product that covers your needs better than ARMed computers. They also provide open source drivers for the GPU and have better support policies.

    In essence, you want to leave the trusted (when it comes to Linux support) world of Intel and enter the nasty world of embedded ARM with its binary blobs and arbitrary cutoff dates when it comes to supporting those binary blobs.

  22. DrLoser wrote, “apart from, er, long-term storage.”

    3 SATA ports could be used for longterm storage. I would prefer more but 3 is useful. One could put something on USB or Ethernet for more/longer terms.

  23. DrLoser says:

    The Marvel board you quote is a perfect example, really.

    Sixteen gig RAM (mostly unusable) and, er, whatever else you need, apart from, er, long-term storage. Or a GPU. Or even a video card.

    That’s about as good as you get for US$508 on these things, really. Good luck on hunting down that CAN$23.95 alternative!

  24. DrLoser says:

    An honest question, Robert. Why are you so enthused about an “open hardware” platform like SBCs? After all, you are hardly going to code to the metal (if at all), are you? It is, as you like to say in other contexts, a feature that has no relevance to your needs. Which means that, on a cost/benefit analysis, you would either be wasting money or else buying under-performing tech.

    But do these things run Debian, I ask myself? Well, maybe. But the following, from your cite, does not inspire confidence:

    Over the last year, LinuxGizmos has reported on dozens of new community backed, open spec, hacker- and developer-friendly single board computers that run Linux and Android.

    A spotty promise, at best.

    Oh, and Modular Sunfish? I hear your pain. Try doing what I did: buy an NUC with eight gig of RAM, and install Ubuntu on it. As I have just found out, Ubuntu now supports ZFS as a “real thing.”

    I live to serve.

  25. Modular Sunfish says:

    I noticed these a few months back and hope at least one develops into something that actually ships, preferably with the option for more RAM. They’re a little weak on RAM if you wanted to run ZFS though:

    http://linuxgizmos.com/open-source-nas-offered-as-device-or-bare-pcb-wins-funding/

    http://linuxgizmos.com/open-source-125-nas-sbc-has-four-sata-3-0-ports/

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