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.

15 thoughts on “Raspberry/Pi 3? Meh”

  1. I think the rpi2 was the tipping point for the device to start using it as simple media streaming clients.

    Slap Openelec on it, place all the media on a NAS (mysql db), and it can run as a pretty effective client.

    The rpi was only just able to do this task, and with the rpi3 getting another boost in performance over the rpi2, and adding in WiFi+Bluetooth just sweetened the deal.

    Also you don’t clarify your opinion on the new chip set?

    1. There is nothing to note about BCM2837 at this stage. Official images boot in 32bit mode and some features of Cortex-A53 (such as virtualization support) will be missing due to a way how this chip is designed.

      Hope to be wrong ;D

  2. At least we have anholt working @ broadcom on opensourcing all the stuff (AFAIU vc4 is the first step). Right now it looks to me as video blob (all the boards) vs. boot blob (broadcom). There is vivante/adreno video, but they are both reverse-engineered and not so common as PowerVR/Mali.

    1. Reverse-engineered does not mean worse. Note that Qualcomm started sharing information and patches after Freedreno got advanced and popular. Not tracked Vivante much but from what I hear from friends it is also nicely advanced. Hope that VC4 will join them. There is also Tegra where foss driver is provided by vendor (NVidia) itself.

      And it is strange to me that R/Pi 3 got BCM WiFi/BT module with firmware which can not be redistributed without written permission from Broadcom. As such huge customer they should force BCM to get distributable fw.

  3. I think it is unfortunate that you fail to see what Pi is. It is selling like hot cakes and people make amazing things with it. Upstream support is improving, GPU drivers are in the open now (all the way, not just useless kernel shims) and there’s a gigantic ecosystem that has moved past the beagle bone.

    I know you will disagree but there are hard facts that are hard to argue with. Pi is doing something right. Perhaps that’s not what You would like it do to but history will say, who is wrong on this one.

    1. I came here to say the same thing. It is obvious Marcin just doesn’t get it. It’s not supposed to be a general purpose PC (who in their right might would make a desktop out of a Pi, yet Marcin mentions this?)

      Here in Canada, the Beaglebone is a non-starter, even if it is technically better. In fact, I know Pi users who don’t even know what a Beaglebone is.

      1. Most of R/Pi (any version) or ARM developer boards users I met bought them for:

        • playing with sensors/automatics
        • low spec desktop experiments
        • media players (here R/Pi does it’s job as long as you have proper codecs)
        • low cost NAS devices (1GbE and SATA boards usually)
        • misc embedded things.
  4. I agree the pi 3 isnt too great. I am a fan of the odroid u3 and xu4 both of which I have. This board costs $35 and isnt really a 64bit board. You can drop 40 on a c2 and get a 64bit board with 2gb of ram and have it display at 4k resolutions.

  5. Wow, did someone bash too loudly on Oscar´s trashcan this morning?

    Firstly, why would anyone want to run Fedora on the Pi when Raspbian is a really nice, heavily optimised, OS for the Pi? Using the Pi without Raspbian is like paying for a Mac then installing Windows on it.

    Secondly, all the other devices to have closed graphics drivers, as has been pointed out. The Pi are at least working to reduce the amount of blob over time and replace it with upstreamed open source software. I have a cubietruck and a few other mali based devices but the software for them all is rubbish, some ancient kernels or build your own kernel and setup lots of config files. Raspbian is ready out of the box.

    Thirdly, the Raspberry Pi community is an order of magnitude bigger than any of these other boards, soon they would have sold 10 million devices, bringing millions of new people to Linux. The platform is really stable, you can put your microsd card in any version of the board and everything still works.

    I do agree that the I/O situation is a bit weird and so the Pi is not really well suited to networking type applications where Linux has traditionally been strong.

    However, I disagree that the desktop is unusable, I am writing right now from my new Raspberry Pi 3 and for the last year have been using a Pi2 as a travel laptop, I get 100 hours of use from a portable battery and no part of my portable setup costs more than £30 to replace if anything ever gets broken, (although there are no moving parts and my case is water/impact proof).

    While the community is open to everyone, the primary target group is school children where cost/durability is a massive issue.

    1 GB RAM is actually quite a lot, when I was using redhat 9 my desktop back then had 256 MB RAM and it worked great. Even the bloat bucket that is Windows 10 will run on 1 GB RAM, maybe not great but usable.

    If you give 256 MB to the video core, then actually you end up with only 735 MB RAM. However, almost any software you run on the desktop will be fine, the problem is that the most famous web browsers are total RAM sinks. Using the optimised Epiphany and opening one tab at a time helps though. However, I admit some web applications moan that you are using Safari (!).

    I guess RAM is still quite expensive but if Moore´s law lets them ever go up to 2GB and keep everything else as efficient it would do a lot for making say Iceweasel or Chromium usable.

    Maybe if you can not focus on raw specs and try it, you might find it grows on you, and if it does not then it has not cost you very much. 🙂

    1. sorry i did not go past “raspbian is heavily optimized for the pi” 🙂 why yes it is, for the pi1. raspbian is for arm6, and so you will run arm6 code on an arm8 cpu. there was a sysbench test that showed pi3+the heavily optimized raspbian was 15-20 times slower than a similarly clocked a53 (pine64). can’t wait to see a redhat 9 release for the pi3 too! and yes, if you set 256mb for video, you get a whooping 735mb ram, clearly much more than the required 256mb for redhat os.

      1. “sorry i did not go past “raspbian is heavily optimized for the pi” :)”

        Ah but you did since you got to the bit about 735 mb 🙂

        “why yes it is, for the pi1. raspbian is for arm6, and so you will run arm6 code on an arm8 cpu.”

        That is a good point, however Raspbian’s implementation of ARM6 kernel includes floating-point support. I am sure if evidence emerges that running AArch64 is faster* on the Raspberry Pi 3 than running in 32 bit mode then that will happen.

        A lot of the moaning seems to be based on weird extremism that if people are not using Fedora then it must be automatically bad.

        *Faster = Enough of a difference to complicate the ecosystem with more than one arch. At the moment it is quite a handy feature that you can move the same MicroSD card back and forth between all Raspberry Pis and it still works.

    2. So you’re using RPi as a desktop and just refuse to compare with other SBCs for whatever reasons? Ok.You’re basically just saying that RPi is good enough for its job just because you don’t even care about alternatives. 100 hours of battery life? Apparently you don’t need a display? All laptops can do the same.

  6. Thank you for the insightful article; I tend to agree despite being an Raspberry Pi 2 user myself. Any recommendations for same-par (or higher) hardware speced boards that are both Developer and Fedora friendly?

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