Assault of the Small Cheap Computers

Some of these are gadgets, clearly accessories to another PC. Others are special-purpose. One is clearly a general-purpose PC with just about everything except big drives built-in. As I predicted months ago, this year ARM will intrude into the desktop PC space in a serious way. For less than $100? Even I did not expect that so soon. I am used to new technology coming in at top dollar… It’s a whole new world of high volume and low prices on Day One of new products. Except for a few niches, the old PC is on borrowed time. Who needs the weight, freight, heat, noise, size, cost and maintenance of those old things? Very few.

My favourite is the Mele A1000 using the Allwinner A10 chip. It has a real SATA port and USB ports so you can hang a ton of storage on it and a keyboard and mouse.
“1. Video output – HDMI, CVBS, VGA .
2. Audio output – R+L, SPDIF
3. Usb host port + SDCard slot.
4. External SATA port (real SATA not from usb)
5. Ethernet.

Internal board has
1. UART port connector.
2. USB device port connector
3. MIC pin
4. CVBS-IN pin.”

RAM? Only 512 MB. Shucks. It would be just about perfect for far more tasks with just a bit more. So, you may need an external storage device and switching contexts could be slow. My little woman has a PC with only 512MB and she does manage to run out of memory with Chrome fairly easily. I am surprised that in $70 they could not find it in their hearts to add some RAM or a socket.

There’s one important device missing from the following list, the Trimslice, a tiny desktop PC with 1gB RAM, a better CPU and a much higher price.

see 9 itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie computers

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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22 Responses to Assault of the Small Cheap Computers

  1. oiaohm says:

    Phenom even high price can be buggy.

    I have a laptop from the middle east here that its windows on particular applications no matter what use farsi for ok and cancel buttons. The product key will not install a normal English windows disc.

    When buying cross regions yes checking on things like subtitles can be important.

    Funny enough that subtitle problem I have also seen with a Windows laptop as well. Wrong region firmware on a VIA media processor. Lucky the maker of it was willing to tell me that I need to flash new bios for the right region in the x86 motherboard so fixing problem.

    “The solution is to disable hardware acceleration.”
    The other solution is find the instructions to flash in the universal media accelerator firmware if the maker is cooperative. So fixing the hardware acceleration chip to be sane.

    Yes at times it just simpler to turn the hardware acceleration off.

    Phenom expensive does not avoid region to region hell.

  2. Phenom says:

    Here is a screenshot of the experience of a Czech user of a “small cheap computer” running Android:

    http://www.pixelshack.us/images/oustccr0xapbvasnq6wm.jpg

    The media player silently adds the subtitles encoded in Chinese, regardless of what settings you set. The solution is to disable hardware acceleration.

    People really, absolutely do love small, cheap computers.

  3. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon Note I did not have to operate them to find the problem.

    I had a need list that the devices have to do Clarence Moon. Specs of a ipad don’t make it for a lot of need usages where a lot of 100 dollar Android pads do.

    You don’t deal in enough fields to see that Ipads and high end devices are a miss fit for particular usages.

  4. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon I know the saying.

    Clarence moon the “There are none so blind as will not see!” This applies to you more in fact.

    Base of your ideas is wrong. Only applies to a limited market segment. I deal in boarder segments. Some of the devices have to last some have to be destroyable and some have to not care if they are destroyed.

  5. Clarence Moon says:

    I did not have to operate them to find the problem.

    That is why you missed seeing the real problem, Mr. O. “There are none so blind as will not see!” I didn’t invent that saying, but it applies to you.

    In spades.

  6. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon I did not have to operate them to find the problem.

    Case I was in we need some internal only software. Android stuff wins. IPhones and Ipads are true pain if you need some custom internal software. Then cost on top it was insane.

    Its like that retina grade screen. Like how close to the face are you going to hold it. Higher result-ion equal more processing power to maintain it equalling worse battery life. 800×600 screen in a 7 inch device sound crap until you wake up you can read it from you feet if you have normal vision. So that electronic list of stuff to get off the shelf you can put down somewhere while you put all the customers order in a box.

    So longer battery life and more suitable for warehouse usage. Even better highly cheep so if that forklift runs over it everyone just laughs.

    Clarence Moon
    “It is going to be difficult to maintain this, after leaving the workforce, since my employer has been supplying the latest gadgets to everyone.”

    This is the problem I have. Places like yours normally loses where a cheap destroyable device should be used. Because they are flooded with devices so are not forced todo need assessments.

    100 dollar Android tablet in stores is a good idea. It displays everything they need to see. And if something bad happens to it who cares. Ok you don’t tell the staff member who broke it that because you want to still keep breakages down but over all no one else cares. Now if that was a ipad or an expensive android different matter. Problem is the higher result-ion of either of those is less productive because it cannot be placed far enough away. So it gets in the persons way.

    There is no such thing as the universal tablet. Different needs require different tablets. Stores crap but works seams to be the best fit.

    Ipads and high end Android specs don’t match most of you factory floor or production location usage.

    There is another problem giving a person the wrong gadget for their job wastes their time. Because they cannot move effectively.

    Yes the idea of give everyone the latest gadgets shows bad management. This is not about cost reduction is about meeting needs. Not everyone will need the latest and learning the latest when they should not need to will just hinder there productivity as well.

    Clarence Moon nothing you are saying is good business management.

  7. Clarence Moon says:

    save some money…

    That is your problem precisely, Mr. Pogson. I can sympathize with it since I have had to always work hard to overcome the same syndrome. It is likely that a technical bent gene is responsible for both technical orientation and miserly attitude.

    I can tell you, though, that forcing yourself to stay up to date is the best way for your thinking to remain current. You cannot truly understand the issues surrounding an iPad vs Android tablet or iPhone vs Android phone unless you operate both in some adept way.

    It is going to be difficult to maintain this, after leaving the workforce, since my employer has been supplying the latest gadgets to everyone. But I think it is necessary to provide for that, particularly if it is still a main interest with you.

  8. Clarence Moon wrote, among other things, “get the turbo connection to the cable internet.”

    Our ISP has ramped up speed over the last several years. It is so crazy-fast these days that we opted for a slower version to save some money. We put that money into VOIP. I don’t really know what the size of the pipe is today. I just know it is fast enough to watch Netflix, surf the web and make phone calls all at the same time. The last .iso file I downloaded took something like 15 minutes, 900s, so a 700MB file transferred at about 600 KB/s. Most web-pages load so fast there is no time for a bathroom or lunch-break.

    Beast is idling most of the time and has 700MB cached in RAM. Except, possibly, building kernels, I don’t really have anything that challenges Beast. Beast has 4 cores. Two would be more than enough. I bought Beast’s CPU in a rush because the dual-core that I ordered could not be supplied upstream in spite of it showing as available in NCIX’s database. I was preparing for a conference and needed the part in time. I just took a similar chip at about the same price and it came with four cores.

  9. Tar wrote, “Why do Linux fans like ARM?

    It has many patents going to proprietary companies that own the ARM consortium. Every Linux ARM sold is pennies for Apple and IBM – owners of ARM.”

    I like ARM because it is a much more efficient architecture than x86/amd64. Think Mips/watt or Mips/dollar. The small size and openness/ease of licensing of the architecture helps make it cheaper as well. The cheapest Atom is several times the price of a good ARMed CPU and the ARMed CPU has more functionality on it. Almost everything is on one chip.

    For a fan of FLOSS, ARM also has the advantage that up until 2012, M$ left it alone. Now there is such a flourishing infrastructure of FLOSS on ARM that M$ will not be able to squelch it unless they can coopt ARM. I think the anti-trust ants would be all over them if they tried that.

  10. oiaohm says:

    Clarence Moon not everyone can run hosting at home.

    For the hosting I do from my home is 300 kms away. Since at my home there is no option to have a high speed connection. I would guess Robert Pogson in the same kind of boat.

    Clarence Moon servers end up second hand on ebay for a reason. They are either expensive to get parts for or buggered.

  11. oiaohm says:

    Tar
    “Why do Linux fans like ARM?

    It has many patents going to proprietary companies that own the ARM consortium. Every Linux ARM sold is pennies for Apple and IBM – owners of ARM.

    Surely you should promote Atom or Yeeloog instead? Why not?”
    Arm is highly competitive supply. Anyone who wants a license to produce arm hardware can get it. Atom and Loongson is limited on who you can order chips from. Atom are intel only so you don’t have makers competing with each other for cheaper and other customisations. Loongson has the same problem.

    So in Linux users eyes they would not be comparing Arm to Atom or Loongson due to the fat the last two are limited supply.

    Arm vs MIPS is a common Linux question. Recent years MIPS has failed to provide high performance chips.

    Its not like the Linux world is 100 percent happy being limited to one vendor of cheep high performing, multi vendor and documented. Some groups are trying to make there own cpu under a new design http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenRISC

    Multi vendor is important to the open source world if one vendor goes under you want to be able to get something close from another vendor so you don’t waste effort.

    Look at the OLPC when it was x86 they were sourcing chip designs from AMD and Intel and VIA. Just so if one supplied did not come threw they were not screwed.

    Tar Linux world mostly still applies the old USA mil requirement if you cannot get something like it from 3 different makers choose something else.

    So the simple answer with arm is the supply chain is safe from a single vendor failure and we have a broad selection of options.

    Tar Apple is a very small owner of arm. We are talking less than a 1/10 cent per chip ends up back at Apple. Yes ARM holding takes in rolities per chip cents. Most of ARM holdings income goes back into research and development very little makes it to the share holders.

    Linux world does not have a issue using parts created by Microsoft so why should we care about less than 1/10 of a cent going to apple from an arm chip.

    Either the hardware is good to us or its bad for us end of problem. Ideal goal is from start to end everything open spec but that will take a while to achieve.

    Buying Atom still sees money get back to Apple yes happen has investments in Intel.

    Loongson who outside china makes it. Arm you can get it made in many different countries. See supply problem here 1 country decides not to export were will you get the chips.

    Tar Linux Fans are not zealots when choosing what hardware to support there is logic behind their actions. x86 has been a home for Linux but Linux users would turn there back on it in a hart beat due to the limited supply problem.

  12. Clarence Moon says:

    on Beast where 4gB is available. Since I am likely never going North again to work, that is feasible. I used to travel with Beast. You can tell by the dents in his case… Actually, the sides no longer fit…

    One word, Mr. Pogson, “eBay”!

    Here you are, retired and in your decline, and yet you schlepp around with such a minimal infrastructure that affects what seems to be your main or at least a major interest!

    Get yourself a top of the line, dual quad, hummer with 32G memory and a billboard type display! Buy it used and put Linux on it if you must, but at least put some money where your real interest lies. While your at it, get the turbo connection to the cable internet.

    You can run your own website with that and save the hosting fees that you are paying now, if you have to justify it in some way to yourself.

  13. Tar says:

    Why do Linux fans like ARM?

    It has many patents going to proprietary companies that own the ARM consortium. Every Linux ARM sold is pennies for Apple and IBM – owners of ARM.

    Surely you should promote Atom or Yeeloog instead? Why not?

  14. oiaohm says:

    Tar

    “So it’s OK for “linux computer” to have soldered memory, but if Apple makes a soldered memory it’s suddenly bad?

    This is a double standard in my opinion.”

    Linux people don’t complain about Ipads or Iphones or Windows Phones for soldered in memory. Arm chips most don’t have the controller for having a memory socket.

    The cases of complaining about soldered on memory is where the chip-set supports memory cards then someone decides to save some money by not providing a socket.

    Robert Pogson the Africa one has some over heads of locationization and extra applications for that area.

    Linux Apostate
    –For several years I used a PC with 512Mb RAM (some would call this a “durdenstation”) and it became uncomfortable to use recent web sites because their working memory requirements were too high. Something javascript-heavy, like any Google application, would be almost unusable.–
    Lot of newer tech has made living at 512MB more friendly not that I would want to be doing it.

    KSM for merging duplicated pages in memory that happens to be a major browser problem.

    compcache for compressing swap.

    Finally Android Application management system is very very light may times lighter than X11.

    Linux Apostate yes I would say full standard Linux distribution without tweaking with only 512 megs of memory could be a bit painful. Android device 512 megs workable at this stage. Linux distribution stripped and altered for light running 512 possible but not sure I would want to.

    At 1G you get breathing room and stuff like KSM or compcache are able todo enough solo. Where at 512megs using a normal distribution you can be forced to use both to win.

    Basically Linux can do more with Less memory than Windows but there is still a point where you are getting a little close to trouble.

  15. Clarence Moon wrote, “My little woman has a PC with only 512MB

    I wouldn’t noise that around if I were you.”

    That’s an old notebook that would not die despite being dropped onto concrete and destroying the display. With an external monitor and mouse it is quite usable providing she closes a window from time to time… It should really be used as a thin client but its wireless connection is a bit slow. I should run a cable and fix that. Her main PC has 1gB and she never has a problem. If that ever became inadequate, I could give her an account on Beast where 4gB is available. Since I am likely never going North again to work, that is feasible. I used to travel with Beast. You can tell by the dents in his case… Actually, the sides no longer fit…

  16. Tar says:

    So it’s OK for “linux computer” to have soldered memory, but if Apple makes a soldered memory it’s suddenly bad?

    This is a double standard in my opinion.

  17. Linux Apostate says:

    You’re right about the memory slot, oiaohm. I forget that the memory interface is not generic; it has to be soldered-in memory.

    For several years I used a PC with 512Mb RAM (some would call this a “durdenstation”) and it became uncomfortable to use recent web sites because their working memory requirements were too high. Something javascript-heavy, like any Google application, would be almost unusable.

  18. In China, there are literally thousands of small OEMs who will mass-produce a design with your logo. $350 does seem steep for that market but it is a way to bring in capital. Perhaps it is necessary for a startup in Africa.

  19. oiaohm says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18895366

    We are starting to see the white box effect yes this is above the 100 dollar mark.

  20. oiaohm says:

    Linux Apostate I know the price of chips and items like Mele A1000. There is no ram slot support on a A10 chip. Its what is welded on is it or nothing. A10 has another bug its max memory you can connect is 2G but only 1G can be displayed to each OS instance.

    Yes A10 support 2 OS’s running at one and not being able to see or interact with each other other than say switch to the other OS.

    Yes it would be less than a extra 20 dollars to make it a 1 G system.

    A lot of those nas server boxes only have 256 megs of ram. Lot of the older android phones have only 512 megs.

    Linux Apostate basically 512 megs is workable but really when there are slightly more expensive a10 devices out there with the full 1G you would have to ask yourself why. Problem is the devices with the full 1G of ram appear to be the quick or the dead.

    Truly 100 000 units kinda disappear instantly. So yes we know the sweet spot. Arm + 1G of ram equals I disappear sold out repeatly. Supply is not caching up with demand of that size. Yes even prototype boards are at times having this problem.

    Clarence Moon and your windows PC would be eating a lot more power.

  21. Linux Apostate says:

    Shame about the lack of memory. It’s otherwise actually quite cool.

    Adding a memory upgrade slot would probably push it beyond $100. It would be cheaper to add another 512Mb (or more) on the board. Maybe that is in the next revision.

    I wonder how usable web apps like Gmail actually are, on this device?

  22. Clarence Moon says:

    My favourite is the Mele A1000…

    Have you ordered yet? Does it come with a power supply?

    My little woman has a PC with only 512MB

    I wouldn’t noise that around if I were you. My little woman has a PC with only 4GB, but it has a touch screen and Windows 7 Ultimate.

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