Raspberry/Pi 3? Meh

I was mostly offline during last three days. You know — meeting long-time-no-see friends, walking tens of kilometres in other city looking at cellphone screen (aka playing Ingress) etc.

But even then it was hard to not notice that Raspberry Foundation announced new version of their product called Raspberry/Pi 3 — many friends asked me what do I think about it, is it worth buying now, will Fedora run on it etc.

So let make it short. No, it will not run Fedora 24 because there is no support for this device (I would not call it developer board as it would be insult to all developer boards) in mainline kernel, it still boots in insane way, has new binary blob without permissions to distribute etc… And since R/Pi 2 got released year ago there was no community effort to get this board supported and we have better things to do.

Is it worth buying? If all you want to do is connect few sensors to GPIO/I²C/SPI pins then maybe as it is cheap, but I would go for Beaglebone to get wide distribution support. If you want to make a desktop then forget it (1GB of memory). If you want to make anything related to storage/networking forget it too (storage on USB shared with all other USB devices as there is only one USB host port).

For years Raspberry Foundation did not learn that price is not the only thing which makes product worth using. BCM2835 was terrible but usable. BCM2836 got newer cpu core but rest stayed so resulting device was far behind properly made developer boards. BCM2837 should not happen.

Death to Raspberry/Pi — Beaglebone Black is on a market

As guys from/around Texas Instruments promised there is new Beaglebone Black on a market. Faster, cheaper, with video output and other extras. For me it looks like Raspberry/Pi killer done right.

What is on board?

There is a lot of goods:

  • 1GHz TI AM355x cpu with ARM Cortex-A8 core supporting ARMv7-a instruction set
  • PowerVR GPU with OpenGL ES support (closed source driver)
  • HDMI output (with audio)
  • 512MB ram
  • 2GB eMMC
  • 92 expansion pins
  • USB Host
  • USB device
  • Ethernet
  • microSD slot
  • user controlled LEDs
  • serial port header

And it still supports (most of) expansion boards from the original Beaglebone which can add extra functionality so possibilities are uncountable. All that for only 45$.

But why it is better?

  1. ARMv7-a cpu core. It means that you can run any Linux distribution on it. Think Ubuntu/armhf, Debian/armhf, Fedora/armhf. No need to reinvent a wheel (aka armhfv6 done for Raspbian distribution).

  2. No dependencies on closed source components. You can boot board and use it with what ever you want and still have control on all sources used. Sure, there are some binary blobs for OpenGL ES but if you do not need this then you are fine. Try to boot R/Pi without binary blobs…

  3. Texas Instruments level of support. Sure, we heard that they abandoned mobile market but Sitara line of processors is still in development, there are new CPUs and they provide documentation and source code for product. Also amount of work done in mainline kernel is not something to be ignored.

  4. Expansion headers. Compare 26 pins of R/Pi with 92 of Beaglebone… Then add capes to this.

So which one to choose?

Beaglebone Black of course ;D

As people on IRC told there are other cheap devices made in China with faster cpus and more memory. But for me Beaglebone is not ‘yet another ARM computer’ but rather ‘yet another microcontroller on ultra steroids’ and this is where the true power of this board resides.