We Are (Almost) ARMed And A Danger To Wintel

“FOB Price: US $35 – 50 / Set Ibox6818 Front Hardware Interfaces InformationName StateCPU S5P6818 ARM Cortex A53, 4*1.4Ghz+PMU AXP228Memory THGBMBG6D1KBAIL, 8GB EmmcFlash H5TQ4G83FFR-PBC DDR3 2GB, 1GB OptionalLCD/VGA Interface RGB Output InterfaceMIPI Interface Connect with Mipi Interface LCD DisplayLVDS Interface Connect with LVDS Interface LCD DisplayIr Remote Control HS0038BSoftware On/Off Key On/Off, and Wake-up KeyKey, User-Defined Independent Key, SW1Key, User-Defined Independent Key, SW2TF Card, CH0 TF Card, Channel 0Hard Reset Key Hard Reset KeyHDMI Interface HDMI Output InterfaceGPIO Interface SPI, UART, ADC device extensionUART0 Debug UART0USB OTG USB OTG InterfaceSpeaker External speaker outputHeadset Record inputBattery Single 4.2V Lithium Battery5V Input Interface DC Power InterfaceEarphone Earphone OutputUSB HOST HUB Chip Extension, dual channels HOSTEthernet The Gigabit Ethernet, RT8211E InterfaceVGA Interface SDA7123 VGA Interface”
 
See Octa Core Motherboard G6818 Arm Cortex A53 Android Single Board Computer – Buy Octa Core Motherboard,Arm Cortex A53,Android Single Board Computer Product on Alibaba.com
This Graperain 6818 motherboard is very close to what I want for new computers in my home. It has sufficient computing power, good connectivity, low price and low power-consumption. It would be perfect if it had

  • More and faster RAM – 800 MHz and 2gB is so 2010…
  • SATA storage – we’ll have to use NAS or SATA/USB docks

As is this thing can run either Android/Linux or GNU/Linux. The 2gB RAM thing can be worked around by using a cluster of such devices and running some processes on each. The browser is awkward though. The Little Woman and I both regularly use 2gB real and 2gB virtual RAM while browsing, making Beast swap occasionally. Beast has 4gB now and would grow to 8 or 16gB if upgraded. A cluster of 4 of these things could easily replace Beast and one more would be a great thin client for her. Capital cost would be about:

  • $400 CDN for motherboards,
  • $25 for a decent dock with USB/ethernet,
  • $150 for some new large hard drives.
  • Total – $575 to please two or more users and drive a spike into the heart of Wintel.

Most applications we use would just love to be on such a cluster. The browser is the exception. Firefox does not play well with clusters, loving to have one process with a gazillion tabs open. Swapping over gigabit/s Ethernet is an option. Must invest in an all-gigabit switch…

I could wait a bit for the maker to upgrade RAM or I could just go ahead and buy these as they are. This would be my first ARMed general-purpose computing system other than smartphones. Perhaps I will buy one and play with it first. Either way we are in an exciting time in the evolution of IT. For the first time in ages, there are viable alternatives to Wintel on every front.

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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15 Responses to We Are (Almost) ARMed And A Danger To Wintel

  1. oiaohm says:

    Servers? Perhaps in some future iteration, but definitely not yet.

    Deaf Spy I am sorry to say ARM servers exist and in growing volume.
    http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2014/11/19/french-web-host-builds-bare-metal-arm-server-cloud/

    There are reasons why ARM is chosen over x86.
    1) Arm cpu and chipset designs are fully open to third party inspection like governments where intel designs are not.
    2) Arm CPU does not depend on a Microcode to boot up. So a socketed ARM cpu you can upgrade the CPU without having risk of having to redo the firmware every single time.
    3) Stupid enough EMP tolerance. For ARM and x86 CPU with same EMP tolerance level ARM is faster.
    4)You want to make a custom soc chip for your phone/tablet there is no way you are going atom as Intel does not provide the same level of flexibility as going ARM or MIPS does.

    So you don’t need to be the best at everything to win market share in the server game. Just win something that a percentage classes as important and you get market share.

    Winning overall in the CPU market is down right hard. What makes it even more confusing is its not just ARM vs x86. Due to AMD action there are AMD64 x86 with AMD ARM on the same motherboard. Split brained hybrid. So what performs well on arm you run on arm and what performs well on x86 you run on x86.

  2. Deaf Spy says:

    it was originally claimed that 64-bit would be mostly a server thing, period.

    Point taken. Still, the move to 64bit is not at all that dramatic, as it was with 16->32 (remember Pentium Pro?). And has no relevance towards the ARM vs. x86 dispute.

    Who knows, one day maybe ARM will finally outperform x86. A few years ago, I clearly remember, ARM conferences were discussing new designs that would help them dethrone Intel from both desktop and server. Then Intel rolled up their sleeves and now Atoms swipe the floor with ARM on tablets. Even better Android tablets now ship on Atoms, and not on ARMs anymore. Servers? Perhaps in some future iteration, but definitely not yet.

  3. Deaf Spy says:

    Yes. That’s very efficient, faster, and with gigabit/s can even do video rather well.

    No. It simply can’t be. You add just another layer (network) on top of a dedicated device. It can never, by any means, be more efficient.

    Thin clients, Pogson, give the advantage to share resources. In your case, you do the contrary, but still put the network on top. In other words, you get the worst from both worlds to combine them into something unthinkable.

  4. dougman says:

    …and a idling CPU is bad why?

    In my NAS, the drives spin down and power down after an hour, if they are not accessed. A idling NAS under 50-watts when not being used is just awesome.

    The i3 is needed for parity checks and when movies are being transcoded.

    Eh.

  5. dougman wrote, “This is the motherboard I used in my NAS”.

    If you have a Hell of a lot of clients, that might make sense but it’s overkill to have that much power in a NAS. The CPU will be idling. DMA does most of the throughput and even a puny CPU can keep up with a lot of hardware. Of course, you could keep the CPU busy encrypting/encoding/rendering, but, just serving files? No way. A CPU like that can move tens of gigabytes/s while the drives are stuck at less than 1gB/s.

  6. kurkosdr says:

    Also, the irony: The best “Android board” I have that isn’t a phone or tablet is a Nexus Player, which is Intel x86. Not my “ARMed” ODROID U3, not the Rasp-junk.

  7. kurkosdr says:

    As is this thing can run either Android/Linux or GNU/Linux.

    Be VERY careful when buying ARM boards to run Android. It has to have a ROM backed specifically for it (if you ‘ve never compiled an OS before, it’s gonna be hard to bake it yourself) and you must be sure it has gpu drivers for Android and that they are for a somewhat recent version. Expect nothing to work right in Android without gpu 3D acceleration…

    This board only mentions KitKat support, and they are suspiciously mum on whether it has 3D acceleration specifically for Kitkat and not just gnu/linux. Also, where are you going to find ROMs for this thing?

  8. dougman says:

    This is the motherboard I used in my NAS: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813182251

    No way in hell would I procure a motherboard from Alibaba.

  9. luvr says:

    Deaf Spy said, “For all machines with less than 4GB RAM (hey, these are all smart thingies, most popular home laptops and tablets, which are up to 2GB RAM), 32bit is still the choice.”

    I don’t think that you can still easily find of those “most popular laptops” with less than 4GiB of RAM these days. For desktops and laptops, 64-bit computing has become the norm by now. That its only real purpose is to access more memory, is irrelevant; it was originally claimed that 64-bit would be mostly a server thing, period.

    While it’s true that tablets and smartphones are generally 32-bit devices today, I wouldn’t blindly assume that it will remain so tomorrow, let alone the day after tomorrow. These technotoys evolve quite rapidly, you know.

  10. Deaf Spy wrote, “do you really want to dedicate a separate “thing” for your wife and force her to remote-access it?!?!?”

    Yes. That’s very efficient, faster, and with gigabit/s can even do video rather well.

  11. Deaf Spy says:

    … cluster of 4 of these things could easily replace Beast and one more would be a great thin client for her.

    Pogson, do you really want to dedicate a separate “thing” for your wife and force her to remote-access it?!?!?

  12. Deaf Spy says:

    Possibly, but I remember the days when everyone claimed that 64-bit computing would be squarely aimed at servers. How different that turned out, eh?

    And it definitely was. 64bit computing made it at workstations only because requirements for memory exceeded 4GB. No common software out there makes any use of 64-bit computing except for accessing more memory without going through the loops and hoops of techniques like AWE.

    For all machines with less than 4GB RAM (hey, these are all smart thingies, most popular home laptops and tablets, which are up to 2GB RAM), 32bit is still the choice.

  13. luvr says:

    DrLoser said, “If and when they gain traction, it will be in server farms, I think.”

    Possibly, but I remember the days when everyone claimed that 64-bit computing would be squarely aimed at servers. How different that turned out, eh?

    I simply think it’s hard to predict what will happen with such innovative, possibly disruptive, technologies. I suggest we simply wait and see.

  14. DrLoser wrote, “That’s going to be a very small spike and an awful lot of money to spend on noddy hardware that isn’t fit for purpose, Robert.”

    Well, this is the first affordable motherboard I’ve seen that’s even competitive with a smartphone. I should wait until I have more RAM on the mobo, but I’m tempted nevertheless. These things would blow The Little Woman away compared to her 300 MHz thin client. They’d probably work with the browser quite well. I’ll have to buy one to find out. I might do that this week if my bank cooperates. They are holding onto my money rather tightly lately, taking days to transfer funds from one account to another…

    Both AMD and Intel have way too inefficient processors. It’s not so much total power consumption I want but getting the job done without fans. At one point Beast had 8 fans. I think there are only two or three running now. I know Intel has its NUC but I’m allergic to Atoms. We have an early one here and a smartphone makes it look like a snail. It takes seconds to respond to a click sometimes. Frankly, I’m disgusted with AMD for not getting around to ARM except on servers and no one even sells them on or off a motherboard. So those two are out of the market as far as I’m concerned. Samsung and friends don’t care. I don’t either. I used to love AMD, the underdog, but they stuck with fire-breathing chips far too long.

  15. DrLoser says:

    Total – $575 to please two or more users and drive a spike into the heart of Wintel.

    That’s going to be a very small spike and an awful lot of money to spend on noddy hardware that isn’t fit for purpose, Robert.

    May I suggest focusing on actual available useful tech — AMD, should you so wish — and perhaps remembering that the motherboard (chipset, memory speed, and as you say connectivity … WOT NO SATA? ) is quite the important thing?

    I’d certainly be prepared to spend a minimum of $100 on a proper motherboard rather than aiming for some farcical $40 saving that limits me to ARM chips on a server.

    Nothing wrong with ARM chips on a server, I think, but right now they apply to a more sophisticated environment than the Pogson Household. They’re not aimed at that. If and when they gain traction, it will be in server farms, I think.

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