I am running out of names for computers

Somewhere in 2010/11 I decided to clean up mess of naming machines at home and decided to go with character names from “Winnie the Pooh” books (Polish edition). Today I got new developer board and had to spend a moment to get a name for it.

So “klapouchy” (Eyeore) will be new name for DragonBoard. Maybe not best one but most of the names are already taken:

  • krzys (Christopher Robin) is my router (because Chris decides who can enter Hundred Acre Wood which is the name of my WiFi network)
  • puchatek (Winnie the Pooh) is main desktop
  • lumpek (Lumpy) is conference laptop (it was lucek before because it got Ubuntu Lucid as first system)
  • gofer (Gopher) is Efika MX Smartbook
  • krolik (Rabbit) is Samsung Chromebook
  • malenstwo (Roo) is Pandaboard (there were malenstwo-a1 and malenstwo-ea1 when I had two boards)
  • prosiaczek (Piglet) was MX53 Quickstart
  • kangurzyca (Kanga) is my wife laptop (she chosen the name)
  • sowa (Owl) is another router
  • tygrysek (Tigger) is my VPS (at beginning it was up/down/up/down all the time)

So most of the names from books are already taken. There are also Disney movies which adds few new ones (like Gopher and Lumpy) and cartoons (which I am not fan of). In worst case one day I will start re-using names or add names from other story.

What I used before? Desktop was “home” or “hrw”, Dell laptop (now “kangurzyca”) was “maluch” (small) due to 12″ size, “lumpek” was “lucek” due to Ubuntu Lucid installed and rest was named by hardware name (which is a default in OpenEmbedded).

How you are naming your machines?

Square board with five edges

Some time ago I got yet another developer board from Linaro — this time it was i.mx53 Quickstart also known as mx53 LOCO. At that time I only found time to power it on and check does it work at all.

Yesterday I booted it with Ubuntu desktop image from Linaro but without connecting to display (I have HDMI addon so can use VGA and HDMI outputs). Lot of lights (voltage controls mostly) appeared on board — funny thing is that to power some of them all you need is VGA or HDMI cable connected.

Today I went shopping… Board comes with power supply (did not used), USB cable and 8GB microSD card. Last item is important as mx53loco boots from it by default — I do not know does it checks SD card too. What I lacked was Serial ATA -> E-SATA cable for my external hard drive. Yes… SATA->ESATA as board has standard connector for connecting drives directly but as it lacks SATA power connector (about which I wrote already) I had to use external case. Good thing is that local electronics shop had those cables available. Disk speed is quite nice:

Serial ATA disk speed
Serial ATA disk speed
Same disk on USB
Same disk on USB

Compare it with SD card:

SD card speed
SD card speed

Which interface you prefer for storage? 🙂 I hope that new Efika MX53 from Genesi will have some good Serial ATA storage inside.

But then I got hit by other issue… Mounting of board started to be a problem. I hope that next version of board will be bigger. This one is too packed — and HDMI addon makes it even worse at it adds 5th edge to square board. In past I wrote a post about perfect developer board and some points apply here. What I do not like:

  • too small amount of space around mounting holes — hard to reach with 5mm key
  • VGA and RS232 connectors forced me to use very tiny screws to be able to mount board to my board plate
  • Power button is hidden behind screw and hard to reach
  • HDMI addon makes use of Reset and Power buttons very hard — have to use pen or stylus instead of finger when cable is connected
  • leds are too bright — will have to put some duct tape on them

Is there something I like? Of course — I do not want to only complain 😉 This is the only cheap developer board from Linaro supported ones with native Serial ATA interface (iirc Samsung cpu could have it but Origenboard does not have connector). Two SD interfaces allow to prototype devices which require extra expansions in case of Beagleboard or Pandaboard. And this is smallest devboard I ever used (cause I never played with Gumstix — but even they usually run in some carrier boards). And compare to Texas Instruments boards it comes with cables and power supply. I plan to make small distcc/icecream farm from my ARM boards and this one will be for use one of nodes.

What is wrong with all those cheap developer boards?

I own several developer boards and used many others. During last two years more and more so called cheap developer boards arrived on market but are they good or not?

This week I am at Linaro Connect Q3.11 now and there are many boxes here with Origen boards so I looked at one of them.

Board looks quite nice — there is CPU module and carrier board. 2 SD/MMC slots, serial, jtag, usb device, usb host (just one), power, audio in/out, lcd connector, few keys and microHDMI (cable to normal HDMI provided). Guess what is missing… Yes, they forgot to put Ethernet on board. Someone may say “but there is WiFi instead” but show me wireless operating at 100Mbps in all situations… I also got information that provided HDMI cable is quite fragile and can break. Normal size video output would fit without problems…

But board design problems are not limited to Samsung one. There is this nice i.mx53 Quick Start board from Freescale. You get VGA output and several other connectors. Nice change compared to other boards is SATA connector. But this also can be a problem cause you have to provide separate power for your Serial-ATA device. HDMI output (with audio) costs extra 49 USD but as this board is really small (3×3″) there was no space for it.

Next one? ST-Ericsson Snowball – board with lot of connectors with huge amount of different signals but without USB host ports. There is one USB OTG port and one USB device. Is USB host cable provided? No, it costs 8.04EUR more. What worries me is lack of USB signals in expansion slots (at least thats how I understood documentation). CPU for mobile phones^Wdevices only?

What we left? PandaBoard from Texas Instruments. I think that this is still best cheap developer board when it comes to ARMv7 cpus. It is not perfect (slow USB, lack of SATA) but things supported by OMAP4 processor are available. Ethernet is on USB but better such then none, 4 USB ports (2 on edge, 2 on expansion) and normal HDMI connectors for video.

Note that I do not compare speed of boards or how good/bad they are supported in mainline kernel — some of those things can not be compared, other are changing daily. For now I am staying with 2 Pandaboards and will wait for other boards to get up to it with kernel support.