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Android Hardware Linux

Raspberry Pi vs. Cheap Android Dongle: Embarrassment of (Cheap) Riches 233

Posted by timothy
from the fight-fight-fight dept.
New submitter Copper Nikus writes "The price of Android Mini PCs have recently dropped to the point they are starting to make the Raspberry Pi look overpriced. This article compares the Raspberry Pi model B against the similarly priced MK802 II single core Android mini PC. IMO it can be argued that the mini PC wins that fight. It's worth noting that several new quad-core Chinese ARM SoCs have been recently released to the world, and it can be expected to see Android mini PCs start using them in the very near future. This should translate into even lower prices for the now 'obsolete' generations of single and dual core Andoid mini PCs out there." The target markets and base OS vary, but there's enough overlap for this comparison to make some sense — both have ARM chips, both can (to varying degrees) run either Android or a more conventional Linux distro, and both can fit in a small pocket.
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Raspberry Pi vs. Cheap Android Dongle: Embarrassment of (Cheap) Riches

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  • My god (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:25AM (#42403849)
    who cares... Everything that needed a computer now has one, this is just toys for toys' sake.
  • by DECula (6113) * on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:30AM (#42403885) Homepage

        you are missing a critical point. break out the IO on the USB dongle. Make it turn lights on
        and off. sure, you can slave it to other USB devices, but there is a nice IO header on the
        PI for those who wish to play with it. it's comparing apples to oranges.
        The PI was made with hardware tinkering in mind, the USB dongles - not so much.

  • by cod3r_ (2031620) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:32AM (#42403905)
    RPI served a purpose one way or the other. The faster these things get while staying at a similar price point just means there will be much cooler garage made gadgets and hacks to play with. Until apple buys all the patents up and sues everyone that is.
  • by samkass (174571) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:41AM (#42403977) Homepage Journal

    indeed... from the comparison:

    Expansion Headers
    MK802: N/A
    RPi: Yes. Provide access to GPIO, I2C, SPI, etc DSI (for LCD display) and CSI-2 (for camera) interfaces are also available

    In addition, the MK802 runs the "source available, but developed in secret" Android OS, while the RPi runs the truly open source Debian by default and a zillion other true open source Linux distros with easy download.

    The RPi is for the tinkerer. The MK802 is for someone who wants pre-packaged plastic to do one of a limited number of preordained things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:53AM (#42404087)

    ...but I'm willing to pay more for an ARM-based board made right here in the good ole' US of A (BeagleBone).

    No virus-laden Chinese crap for me.

    If by "old fashioned" you mean "racist", then yes - you're old fashioned.

  • by djsmiley (752149) <djsmiley2k@gmail.com> on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:56AM (#42404115) Homepage Journal

    Connectivity.

    The GPIO pins and everything else. It was never about a super low cost computing platform, its simply shown the manufacturers that such an item would sell like hotcakes, if produced for the low enough price.

  • by afidel (530433) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:01PM (#42404153)

    limited number of preordained things.

    What ever are you babbling on about? Android is a general purpose OS built on a Linux foundation that can run any code you want to run on it (I run Debian in a chroot environment on my Android phone as just one example). Now I agree that the RPi has a more hardware-hacker friendly design, but that in no way makes the Android device limited to only certain things.

  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -retrograde.com'> on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:08PM (#42404193) Homepage

    I never understood the point. Splice a parallel port to a bread board and hook it to any beige box PC that folks are literally giving (or throwing) away. They're better than the Raspberry Pi in every way except size. You can hook a LED (maybe w/ resistor) directly to many of the pins of the parallel port and they light up representing the individual bits. IO doesn't have to be serialized and deserialized, so you don't have to use a RS232 or any other integrated circuit chips. The beige box also supports Serial and Universal Serial Bus (USB), not to mention a 56k Modem. Old beige box has more RAM, more peripherals, EASIER to work with parallel interface for hardware. Man, I swear. If I spray painted them brown and called them "Chocolate Quaternion" people would be buying them just as fast as the Raspberry Pi were it to get the same level of press. I mean, it's like the folks buying these don't even search around for ways to do hardware projects with the machines they've got or even look for other single board computers before buying one due to all the damn press the Raspberry Pi gets. I mean, $25 is great, but there's other options with various speeds and features at other prices. It's not the only $100 computer with a nice IO header, damn. Seriously. [digikey.com]

  • by Microlith (54737) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:41PM (#42404389)

    That you run Debian in a chroot to get at its power is evidence enough of Android's inherently crippled nature. It runs on the Linux kernel, but shares virtually nothing with the common Linux environment encountered everywhere else. Not surprising, given that Android was proprietary to start then opened to the world. An entirely custom stack that continues to be developed behind closed doors and just results in a duplication of effort.

    But it puts Google entirely in the driver's seat, which is where they want to be.

  • by Lluc (703772) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:48PM (#42404435)
    Are you serious? The biggest advantages of the Raspberry Pi are the community, size, and power consumption. With your 10-year-old beige box you get none of these -- I'm imagining your beige box is probably a 10 year old Pentium3 or Pentium4 Dell that you pulled out of the dumpster for free. It probably needs a new hard drive, the ~300 Watt power supply might be going out, and it's full of dust. It would run a mainstream (GUI) linux distribution at barely-acceptable levels of performance, and no one in the linux distribution forums would reply to your questions about how to debug problems on ancient hardware.

    Sounds like a great idea to me!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:51PM (#42404459)

    The $25 price point is the whole point. The other examples you refer to from digikey are at least 5 times that expensive, and some 20 times that. Even $100 puts things out of the range of a kid who wants to experiment and who doesn't have a full time job.

    Your point about experimenting with a beige box is well taken, but what a hassle it is to drag one around to where you need it, and it makes having a high voltage main pretty mandatory. What if I want to build something into a go-cart? Do I need to drag around 50 pounds of additional crap and an extension cord? To top that off, just adding an SD card adapter to the PC will incur half the cost of a Pi.

    The Pi is awesome, not because of the brand, but because of the low cost, light weight, small size, and availability of system software and interfaces.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:13PM (#42404629)

    There is no evidence that the Chinese have done this... although it is likely. There is, however, concrete proof that the US government is definitely doing it. In the Windows environment and Cisco equipment at least... probably a lot of others. All Chinas government can do to you is spy... the US government can arrest you, put you in jail, send you to secret prisons in other countries to be tortured or even put you to death.

    I'll take my Chinese backdoor over your US government backdoor any day.

  • by hattig (47930) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:35PM (#42404803) Journal

    There are a lot of reasons to pick a slower Raspberry Pi rather than one of the dozens of other cheap ARM boards and systems that have become available.

    The primary one is the community that has built up around the device. This means the device is well supported.
    Also the lack of case means you can access the headers - and there are headers to interface to.
    And you can then add your own case, rather than put up with cheap-ass plastic.

    I am sure that there will be a Mk2 RasPi within a year that will fix the CPU performance issue - it's a natural next step.

    We also have to consider that the RasPi is now entirely assembled in the UK, and it's worth supporting local industry (or using it as an example to encourage local assembly of electronics in your own country).

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:37PM (#42404817) Homepage Journal

    indeed... from the comparison:

    Expansion Headers
    MK802: N/A
    RPi: Yes. Provide access to GPIO, I2C, SPI, etc DSI (for LCD display) and CSI-2 (for camera) interfaces are also available

    In addition, the MK802 runs the "source available, but developed in secret" Android OS, while the RPi runs the truly open source Debian by default and a zillion other true open source Linux distros with easy download.

    The RPi is for the tinkerer. The MK802 is for someone who wants pre-packaged plastic to do one of a limited number of preordained things.

    Let's be honest though; unless you are talented and/or have a lot of time on your hands, Debian and other Linuxes are filled with nothing but "preordained things" on them as well. If you are indeed talented or are so inclined, you probably are going for the Pi or a similar setup (since you don't really "need" something small to play around with) and GPIO is the only other dividing line here; if you need it then the raspberry pi is clearly for you. If you don't, then it is a toss up with vastly more powerful "toys" (a quick search reveals dual core 1.6ghz with 1g ram, gpu accel, etc) on the Android side. If you are interested in the Pi for it's media or more desktop-like functionality, you are well off to investigate the Android options instead as they are VERY capable and packaged very nicely (the units often come in a small chassis with enough cables to hide completely out of sight behind a TV.)

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:08PM (#42405075) Journal

    That you run Debian in a chroot to get at its power is evidence enough of Android's inherently crippled nature.

    Not so fast. The poster you replied to uses chroot to run Debian so he can use the GNU userland. This is necessary because Android uses a different userland. That does not mean Android is crippled - it is just a different open source OS than Linux.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:15PM (#42405129)

    Way to completely miss the point. Everyone has been saying for six months the Allwinner A10 would mop the floor with the RaspberryPi. RaspberryPi is out for less than a couple of months and I have already taken delivery of an ARMv7 CubieBoard which has BETTER GPIO than the RaspberryPi for a comparable price and better specs. Give it a couple of months and the Quad-Core SoCs discussed in the article will be on the next "CubieBoard" type indiegogo project and the Allwinner A10 + GPIO will be old news.

    Did I mention my CubieBoard can run Backtrack 5 for ARM? RaspberryPi is ARMv6 so it has pwnpi, which is cute.

    Raspberry Pi foundation has married themselves to an unnecessarily small footprint and a rapidly irrelevant SoC. Their ability to innovate is only as fast as they can shovel 2cm^2 of SMT on to a 1cm^2 plot and Broadcoms legal team can discuss the issue via Memo's.

    At this point, I write the software and develop on the state of the art, and then by the time my hardware development is done all I have to do is swap development boards and my project has doubled it's horsepower. How is the RaspberryPi going to keep up with Moore's Law? The education argument is bullshit. The RaspberryPi foundation is hoping to be the next "Arduino" selling 8 bit microcontrollers for $40. It's a question of how big of a cult following can they gather before the tide of progress rushes past them.

  • by DrYak (748999) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @03:19PM (#42405609) Homepage

    What ever are you babbling on about? Android is a general purpose OS built on a Linux foundation that can run any code you want to run on it

    This is one of the few cases where RMS's rambling about GNU and how distros should be called "GNU/Linux" actually makes sense.

    LINUX is only a KERNEL.
    As in the stuff that directly talks to your hardware and handles low-level stuff.

    Above this kernel, you need a "userland" actual regular programs which are called.
    And Android DOES NOT use the same GNU userland as most distributions.
    Whereas regular distribution are "GNU/Linux" (i.e.: runs the Linux kernel and a bunch of userland program, lots from the GNU project [for low-level stuff like C library, shell, etc.], but quite a lots of other stuff [KDE, Firefox, LibreOffice.org]) and are fully POSIX compatible and can run almost any general purpose UNIX software out of the box (as long it was compiled for it), Android is Linux kernel + a very special userland made by Google (among which the most well known part is the Dalvik java-like environment. Even the C library is Google's own Bionic instead of the usual glibc, ulibc and other forks).
    Out-of-the box, Android doesn't run most Unix software because several parts are missing.

    (This is different from other mobile OS: Maemo/Meego/whatever-the-nom-du-jour-is, OpenMoko's SHR, Palm/HP WebOS, etc. all run a normal GNU/Linux stack, although in WebOS case, it uses a non standard gui instead of X.
    Even router provide a unix like environment, only using more light-wieght embed-friendly components like Busyboy and ulibc or eglibc and without a graphic interface at all)

    Again, the usual user-land, the "GNU/" part of "GNU/Linux" is missing.

    (I run Debian in a chroot environment on my Android phone as just one example).

    That's what your compensating by running a Debian chroot. You provide the missing userland.

    You share the same kernel (Linux), but run a different set of userland programs on it. You provied a C library (I think Debian moved to eglibc ?) a shell, and hundreds of other part that make the userland environment. You provide back the "GNU/" part of "GNU/Linux".
    And now, thanks to all the pieces provided by your chroot, you can run any Unix code.

    Now, indeed, this is possible because Android uses the Linux kernel as a foundation, and its opensource make it possible to port a Debian userland to Android and run it along the normal system. So in a way you're right.

    But I insist, Android is unlike any other GNU/Linux distribution around. (And until recently, it needed some special kernel functions that weren't in stock kernels).

    This is unlike other Linux based mobile device, which already are based mostly on these pieces. You don't need to provide them. You can already run most of what you want on Maemo/Meego, OpenMoko, webOS based device (except for the part of webOS lacking X out of the box).

    Out of the box, an Android machine is designed to run the default apps packaged with it and to fetch special android-apps from a special app market.

    Now, thank to the general openness of the platform, it is possible to repurpose it, but out of the box, this is not your regular Unix-like OS. You need to install a chroot, or at least a lot of userland components.

    And that's what the parent was referring to:
    - Android stick : runs android, designed to run a few android apps (but you can do more if you want).
    - RPi : runs a GNU/Linux disto, designed to pretty much do anything you want out of the box.

    but that in no way makes the Android device limited to only certain things.

    Android makes the device limited to run only Android apps out-of-the-box, unless you go out of the way and install the missing userland bit to turn it into a full Unix-like box.
    But thanks to the open nature of the Linux kernel, this is actually possible. (It's not a locked down device that needs to be hacked)

    Android and the classic Unix-like userland (of debian) are completely orthogonal one to another.

  • by pclminion (145572) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @05:12PM (#42406409)

    That you run Debian in a chroot to get at its power is evidence enough of Android's inherently crippled nature. It runs on the Linux kernel, but shares virtually nothing with the common Linux environment encountered everywhere else. Not surprising, given that Android was proprietary to start then opened to the world. An entirely custom stack that continues to be developed behind closed doors and just results in a duplication of effort.

    Your post makes no sense. The fact that you can install a Debian build on an Android device (just did it myself yesterday) means that Android is... crippled? You must be using some definition of crippled I haven't heard of before. Yes, Android has a non-GNU userland. What's your point? That anything that deviates from the 40-year-old UNIX way of thinking is inherently immoral?

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