The Insanity of Hardware ChasingPosted: December 1, 2012
Just a couple months back, I purchased a few Android/Linux dev boards to play with. This includes the Raspberry Pi, the Odroid-X, and a couple of fairly capable routers.
Since I purchased the Pis, they went from 256Mb RAM to 512Mb of RAM for the same $35 price. Recently Hardkernel, the makers of the Odroid-X, released three new versions of their kit. First, an upgraded Odroid-X2, which has a faster clock speed, and double the RAM as the previous version. They went an extra step though. They now have a new model, the Odroid-U2. This is an ultra-compact quad-core computer, smaller than the size of a credit card.
This newest Odroid-U2 is about the same size as the nano router by TP-Link. Fit a couple of these boards together with that wireless router, and I think you have the makings of a nice little compact portable, low powered compute/networking rig.
But, hardware without advances in software aren’t that dramatically important to me. In the case of HardKernel, you can now get Ubuntu on a SD card to run with your new Odroid-XXX board. That’s nice because if you don’t find Android to be that compelling for your particular application, there is a pretty darned good alternative. Of course, there are other distros available as well, but having Ubuntu I think is a slam dunk in terms of getting something that’s well supproted, and fun to play with.
Not to forget the Raspberry Pi, they are making progress on releasing their “Model A” Raspberry Pi board. This board has slightly less hardware than the model B. The price point of $25 is the killer feature.
Along with the Pi, there is a new OS release, Plan 9 from AT&T Labs origin is now available for the Pi. I find this last bit to be particularly interesting since the mission of the Raspberry Pi is educational purposes. I think Plan 9 provides a platform rife with learning opportunities.
In addition to “doing UNIX better than UNIX”, Plan 9 presents some interesting abstraction and separation ideas which might find now life in the emergent “internet of things” environment. Plan 9 makes it relatively easy to separate things, including ‘memory’ and ‘processing’. It has a fairly minimal “C” interface as most operations are carried out by sending messages around rather than calling C functions.
Hardware is moving fast, and I can hardly keep up. I think there will need to be changes in the software landscape to truly keep up. It probably starts by getting message passing established as the primary mode of communication between devices. HTTP/REST helps along these lines. Probably need to go much further, but there you go.
The hardware changes quickly. Software skills, not so much. We live in great times.