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The $5 Onion Omega2 Gives Raspberry Pi a Run For Its Money (dailydot.com) 124

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Daily Dot: Onion's Omega2 computer may give the Raspberry Pi a run for its money if the success of the Kickstarter campaign is any indication. The Daily Dot reports: "With an initial goal of just $15,000, over 11,560 backers have pledged the company $446,792 in hopes of getting their hands on this little wonder board. So why are thousands of people losing their minds? Simple; the Omega2 packs a ton of power into a $5 package. Billed as the world's smallest Linux server, complete with built-in Wi-Fi, the Omega2 is perfect for building simple computers or the web connected project of your dreams. The tiny machine is roughly the size of a cherry, before expansions, and runs a full Linux operating system. For $5 you get a 580MHz CPU, 64MB memory, 16MB storage, built-in Wi-Fi and a USB 2.0 port. A $9 model is also available with 128MB of memory, 32MB of storage, and a MircoSD slot. The similarly priced Raspberry Pi Zero comes with a 1GHz Arm processor, 512MB of memory, a MicroSD slot, no onboard storage, and no built-in Wi-Fi. Omega2 supports the Ruby, C++, Python, PHP, Perl, JavaScript (Node.js), and Bash programming languages, so no matter your background in coding you should be able to figure something out." You can also add Bluetooth, GPS, and 2G/3G support via add-ons or expansions. It looks promising, though it is a Kickstarter campaign and the product may not come into fruition.
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The $5 Onion Omega2 Gives Raspberry Pi a Run For Its Money

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  • They're wanting to do a lot for $5

    • They're wanting to do a lot for $5

      They already have a successful product

      https://www.kickstarter.com/pr... [kickstarter.com]

      • by Anonymous Coward
        No they have a successful kickstarter/hype. remains to be seen whether they have a successful product or this will just be another of those ventures whey falls apart long before it becomes successful.
  • I hope they plan to put in a connector for an external Wi-Fi antenna. No antenna that you could fit into something the size of a cherry is likely to be decent. Not to mention that anything you put the device into is going to reduce your signal strength.

    Beyond that, my main concern would be the lack of flash storage. I used to build ramdisks for MkLinux, and you couldn't even fit a kernel with the RedHat installer into 16 MB. And that was fifteen years ago. I'd be surprised if a kernel with a full driv

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2016 @04:11PM (#52728523)

      No, it really is 16 MB not GB. Here's a whole list of devices that run Linux on between 8 and 128 MB of RAM and between 4 and 32 MB of flash.

      https://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/start

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2016 @04:21PM (#52728613)
        Thanks. Here is a list of uses I have for a device that has 16MB of storage capacity:
        • Users? As I'm typing this I'm surrounded with electronics that do useful things, are almost general purpose computers and yet don't give me access to ANY of their storage capacity.

          And so are you.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @04:33PM (#52728689) Homepage Journal

        I stand corrected. People are finding ways to do things in ridiculously small amounts of disk space.

        Still, the small one doesn't really give the Pi a run for its money, which was the reason for my initial comment. After all, most folks stick a large SD card in the Pi for development, and scale back for deployment. And even then, they don't typically scale back to megabytes of storage, if only because it is basically impossible to find new stock of flash cards under about 8 GB these days. So any Pi setup you could come up with would wipe the floor with either of these RAM-wise and CPU speed-wise, and would wipe the floor with the smaller one storage-wise, too.

        It is slightly smaller and has Wi-Fi, of course, so for some purposes, it might be interesting. Still, unless space is really that critical, I'd much rather use a Pi with a cheap USB Wi-Fi nub (assuming the Pi Zero doesn't have broken USB power supply limits like the original Pi).

        • by PinkyGigglebrain ( 730753 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @08:08PM (#52729913)

          Fun factoid: the Curiosity Mars rover has 256 Megabytes of RAM and 2 Gigabytes of FLASH.

          I'm sure people will be able to come up with a lot of interesting uses for one of these units.

          • by srl100 ( 820165 )

            Fun factoid: the Curiosity Mars rover has 256 Megabytes of RAM and 2 Gigabytes of FLASH.

            I'm sure people will be able to come up with a lot of interesting uses for one of these units.

            1) Roving around Mars, satisfying curiosity.

            2) ?

          • Viking lander
            2K ROM
            2K RAM
            Storage was stainless steel, not ferrite, tape, just like the first recorders that Hitler used for speeches. (really).

            http://history.nasa.gov/comput... [nasa.gov]

          • by tsstahl ( 812393 )

            Pfft! That's all you got? Broadening the horizons of all mankind through stellar exploration by something lasting years beyond it's life originally measured in days?

            Get back to be me when you have something impressive. /runonsentence /humor

        • I stand corrected. People are finding ways to do things in ridiculously small amounts of disk space.

          Come on, an installation of Win95 took, what, under 50 megabytes? It's not really a stretch to think that you could squeeze quite a bit into 16 MB, when you don't need graphics and stuff and especially when you add disk compression to the mix.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, the WiFi antenna is external. It's one of those tiny wire antennas that snap onto the board.

      And no, it's MB not GB. :-\

      The screenshot shows it running BusyBox (https://busybox.net/). It says it can run FreeBSD as well.

    • > I'd be surprised if a kernel with a full driver stack would even fit by itself into 16 MB of flash

      The full Redhat kernel and initrd is about 16MB - and contains drivers for most of the hardware Linux supports - RAID cards from 20 years ago, fibre channel, tons of network cards, etc. I'm pretty sure you won't be plugging a PCI-X RAID card into this $5 board, so why would you include those drivers in the boot image?

      As someone else said, OpenWRT is pretty popular, and it's about 6MB.

      • If you recompile the linux kernel, eliminate the loadable kernel modules and only compile in the drivers for the hardware it will be running on, then you can get it down to below 2MB

    • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @05:08PM (#52728897)

      Taking 5 seconds to look at the kickstarter:

      There is an antenna port on the top left.
      It has a micro-SD slot on the $9 version.

    • Speaking of antennas...

      FCC ID: TO-BE-DETERMINED

      There goes at least a quarter of their existing funding.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @05:20PM (#52728967)

      No antenna that you could fit into something the size of a cherry is likely to be decent.

      There are plenty of wifi dongles that are smaller than a cherry, and most of them work reasonably well. For many applications, smallness and cheapness are way more important than extreme range.

      I'd be surprised if a kernel with a full driver stack would even fit by itself into 16 MB of flash....

      You can easily boot basic Linux from 16MB. You just need to skinny it down by deleting all the modules and drivers that you don't need.

    • by jnaujok ( 804613 )
      The original Omega (I own two of them) doesn't have an external antenna either, and does quite nicely without it. I have connected to it as an AP with a laptop from up to 50 feet away even through walls. That's not in a metal case or anything, but I can't complain about it at all. Now the GPS add-on without the external antenna... that's a different story.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reading the description, it sounds like this thing will do anything and everything I could ever possibly want it to do; all that's needed is to either pledge more money or buy an expansion piece.

    This sounds like it's headed for disaster.

  • Make that DOOM III, err, nevermind.

    I've watched enough long term KickStarters to know how this is going to go.

  • Cost gravity at work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @04:11PM (#52728515) Homepage

    Good. The price of computing power falls by 50% every 18 months or so. We should see these devices settle in at a few bucks, and then keep increasing in capability. The last IoT project I did used a $20 OpenWRT router (glar150) and it was already impressive how much that little box could do.

  • Ok so (Score:4, Funny)

    by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @04:13PM (#52728539)

    It's a computer made by an onion the size of a cherry that competes with a raspberry... only in this industry...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The original Omega was based on the Atheros AR9331 chip that is also used in many low end home routers. Solid choice. There's OpenWRT for lots of these devices, for example the Gl.iNet 6416A or its successor, the AR150, and these also come with GPIOs. These systems are in a different league from the Raspberry Pi, but at least they don't connect the LAN through the USB port.

  • Running a full linux distro on 64MB of RAM? That's gonna be one lean distro!
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday August 18, 2016 @04:24PM (#52728645) Homepage Journal

    One thing I'd love to see in all these devices is Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) as their power source rather than needing a wall-wart to power them. Would be great to have one cable for the entire device.
    • Adding a PoE module significantly raises the cost. The Raspberry Pi PoE hat is $42 USD. I know its not cheap for Arduino either. What makes it so these boards need such expensive power converters?
    • by brantondaveperson ( 1023687 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @10:18PM (#52730321) Homepage
      PoE for a tiny device like this, with built-in wireless, doesn't really make any sense. What makes sense is to stop trying to cram Linux into these things, and design them for low-power usage from the ground up. These are so-called "Internet of Things" devices, and will be single-purpose embedded systems. You do not need Linux to do that, it just gets in the way. I wonder how much current it needs to run, and how long it'll last on batteries, and whether or not it has any low power modes.
  • According to the Spec sheet listed for the MediaTek MT7688, the CPU is only 580Mhz and it uses DDR1 RAM. That sounds a fair bit slower than even the Pi Zero

    • Ah... too bad they aren't using the Celeron 300A (malaysia fab plant?).... I heard you could OC those a fair bit ;)

    • According to the Spec sheet listed for the MediaTek MT7688, the CPU is only 580Mhz and it uses DDR1 RAM. That sounds a fair bit slower than even the Pi Zero

      We use DDR2 :)

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      You sure as fuck did not read the spec sheet. Section 4.8.1 - DDR2 SDRAM INTERFACE, PAGE 35.

      • by phorm ( 591458 )

        You mean the one they link from the section entitled "What SoC is used in the Omega2?", with the description "The SoC is the MediaTek MT7688K, and the datasheet is available here [mediatek.com]"

        I sure as fuck did. As per "Section 2 - Main Features", the KN supposedly only supported 64MB (MB, what?) of DDR1, whereas the AN supported 2GB of DDR1/DDR2 at 193Mhz.

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          No, you sure as fuck did NOT. FROM YOUR EXACT LINK [imgur.com] have a goddamned screencapture.

          • by phorm ( 591458 )

            Yes, I also mentioned section 2 (main features). Perhaps you could take the time to read that one instead of screenshotting the "Maximum ratings" section.

            The PDF file states that there are two models of the "MT7688", there's a "MT7688KN" and a "MT7688AN". As I mentioned, only the AN model is listed as having DDR2. The KN has an "N/A" in that row.

            Other sections of the spreadsheet - such as ratings - would apply only to the features available on the given model.

            Now back to the kickstarted, where they link the

            • by Khyber ( 864651 )

              "Yes, I also mentioned section 2 (main features). Perhaps you could take the time to read that one instead of screenshotting the "Maximum ratings" section."

              Zero reason to do that when the actual product manufacturer comes into this very thread and says "We use DDR2."

              Not my fault you bothered talking without reading EVERYTHING, first, including the developer, who was here in this very comment section.

              THANKS!

              • by phorm ( 591458 )

                Sorry if I want a little bit more to go on than a random Slashdot comment saying "We use DDR2".I did see that comment, but - having been burned before - tend to believe the actual product literature.

                Nice deflection though. Rage on me for not reading the sheet correctly, get corrected in that I *have* done so, and then fall back to a 3-word comment made previously. If you want to believe that, feel free, but I believe you were attempting to tear-me a new a-hole for not having read the spec sheet, which I obv

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Thursday August 18, 2016 @04:47PM (#52728763)

    The Rpi isn't the cheapest board out there. There are many cheaper ones, many offering faster processors, more cores, built-in WiFi, etc.

    Bang per buck, you can do better than Rpi. Even the Zero.

    But what the Rpi does have over everyone else? Community and long-term support. The other cheaper boards often only release an ancient kernel and that's it - nothing more. Yes they can run Android, but the only one they release code for is Android 4. And if the driver is buggy, you're SOL - no one's fixing it.

    But the Rpi community is what makes the Rpi the better board - there's lot of support, lots of people are keeping a maintained kernel for it, and drivers are actively being developed and debugged.

    How's this board compare? What are they doing to ensure long-term viability of their hardware? Or are they going to build them all, then go onto the next generation, forgetting about what's out there already?

    • by youngone ( 975102 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @06:43PM (#52729487)

      But what the Rpi does have over everyone else? Community and long-term support...

      I came here to say exactly this.

      I'm not much of a programmer, I can mess about with bash and a bit of Python if I'm forced to, and do you know what?

      With a Raspberry Pi I can always find guidance to do exactly what I want, with the skills I have, written by some clever person who has made their knowledge available.

      That just makes the Raspberry Pi better value.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      There could be a market for something like this, between an Arduino and a Pi, with wifi. A lot of projects end up adding wifi, and both the Arduino and Pi suck for low power operation.

      As you say, it really depends on how they support if. If they can get a really good, low power OS and tools out they could be on to a winner.

    • Yes - thankyou! I'm just going to link to this post every time someone thinks they're being really clever by pointing out yet another small device that beats RPi in some specific way. The RPi is a massive compromise, but a very well understood, documented and flexible thing.

  • Not impressed - too little storage to do much of use easily. "Easily" being the active word here; sure I've programmed lots of things with less Flash than that but it's about ease of use in a linux environment. A few meg is no fun at all to work with when there's the _potential_ for installing a ton of nice packages but you'll run out of space instantly.
    Get a C.H.I.P. ($9) which uses a much more capable CPU (Allwinner H3) also has wifi & BT but vastly more RAM and (especially) Flash, more i/o, it's str

    • by Lorens ( 597774 )

      Depends on what you want to do. If you have an IoT product to develop, this could be exactly what you want at its heart. If you're looking for the smallest cheapest silent but-still-powerful Linux machine to play around with, this one is probably not for you.

      • by geoskd ( 321194 )

        Depends on what you want to do. If you have an IoT product to develop, this could be exactly what you want at its heart.

        If you have an IoT product in mind, this is the last thing you want. I do this for a living. The problem with this thing is that it takes too much development effort to shave a few bucks off the unit cost. That extra effort translates into longer time to market. While you are loosing precious months trying to get your OS running with everything you need in a tiny memory footprint, another up-and-coming startup built a product around one of the other SBCs out there that isn't vastly under-powered. They beat

        • by dfghjk ( 711126 )

          If you do this for a living then I suspect you don't make a very good living.

          This isn't for commercial enterprises to bring product to market nor does this burden anyone with losing "precious months" getting an OS running nor is the processor in this inherently "vastly under-powered" nor does $5 dollars of BOM cost translate only into $5 in product cost. None of your points indicate that you understand what a "viable business plan" is.

          No one is late to the IoT party yet. It's not clear there's even going

          • Re:Nope (Score:4, Interesting)

            by geoskd ( 321194 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @08:32PM (#52730033)

            No one is late to the IoT party yet. It's not clear there's even going to be one.

            By the time these kinds of trends have a dopey name, the party has already started. If you didn't already have an IoT product well under development by now, its already too late because all the players that will be successful, in what people are calling the IoT, already have a product at or near market release.

            These guys with the kickstarter want to start a business, otherwise they wouldn't be putting the energy into this. The problem they face is that they are trying to enter an already saturated market with a product that has no real differentiation from the market. In the low volumes they will likely be able to sell, and facing competition from the Raspberry Pi foundation who are a not for profit in a saturated market, They will be roadkill in 2 years. Even an established player like Intel is getting rogered good in this market. In two years they have gotten just a few thousand supporter. There is some reason to believe they are funding the production of promised units through future donations. Even if they are on the up and up so far, they do not have a clear path to profitability. Even if their unit cost is $0, they have so far sold just 10,000 units per year. That amounts to $50,000 per year in income. Thats barely enough to keep 1 person gainfully employed. In order to be remotely successful, with a profit margin of $1 per unit, they would need to sell hundreds of thousands of units. Even if by some miracle they do managed to sell 100k units per year for two years, in two years their product is completely obsolete, and if they haven't spent a huge percentage of that money developing the next generation, they sink like a rock.

            The only way to avoid that fate is to manage to sell millions of units with at least a few dollar per unit of profit margin.

            • No one is late to the IoT party yet. It's not clear there's even going to be one.

              By the time these kinds of trends have a dopey name, the party has already started. If you didn't already have an IoT product well under development by now, its already too late because all the players that will be successful, in what people are calling the IoT, already have a product at or near market release.

              IoT is almost a decade old at this point. If there was a party nobody noticed.

        • Depends on what you want to do. If you have an IoT product to develop, this could be exactly what you want at its heart.

          If you have an IoT product in mind, this is the last thing you want. I do this for a living. The problem with this thing is that it takes too much development effort to shave a few bucks off the unit cost. That extra effort translates into longer time to market. While you are loosing precious months trying to get your OS running with everything you need in a tiny memory footprint, another up-and-coming startup built a product around one of the other SBCs out there that isn't vastly under-powered. They beat you to market by 6 months with a product that only costs $5 more than yours, and you suddenly find your brilliant IoT product just got flushed down the loo because you couldn't execute a viable business plan.

          Time to market is huge in this day and age. Just ask Intel and Microsoft how their IoT plans are rolling out, and you'll find out real quick that even a superior product at a lower price point will have a hard time competing when you're late to the party.

          This is exactly backwards (which probably explains why IoT is almost a decade old and has yet to find any legs).

          In the embedded space a saving of a few cents per unit can mean the difference between failure and success. If your goal is to chase venture capital/funding, then certainly you want quick time to market, but if your goal is to sell units and make a profit on each one then an extra two or three months getting your product cost-competitive is better.

          For things like IoT you may *think* that adding $

          • You are in principle right, but your argument is wrong.
            For things like IoT you may *think* that adding $5 on top of the price of a unit is fine as long as you are first to market, but in reality when the consumer wants to buy 20 of them to outfit a building they're going to go with your competitor who spent the extra two-three months.
            The price on the market is close to irrelevant. People buy by features and quality. When I buy stuff that I expect to last 30years or longer, $5 more costs might he worth it. E

  • I ask, because these tiny, fully integrated and inexpensive devices look like very inexpensive, and easily concealed WPA password crackers, or network listening devices to me.

    The one with the sdcard slot could be made to do quite a few things, if you don't mind wearing out the card using it for swap space. A combination of zram and sdcard spillover swap, some sensors, and an ext data partition on the card would let this thing do quite a lot, such as sticking it on the back of a USB printer to make the print

  • Ruby, C++, Python, PHP, Perl, JavaScript (Node.js), and Bash programming languages

    And soon, PowerShell!!!

  • because Chip Has Incredible Possibilities and C.H.I.P. is only slightly larger and only $9 and has Bluetooth onboard.
    • C.H.I.P ($9) is a bit like the Omega2 ($5) + Expansion Dock ($15), except half the price and you get more RAM, more Flash, more GPIOs and more peripherals. And the C.H.I.P is a bit smaller than an Omega2+Dock, but not as small as the Omega2 alone.

      I'll stick with the C.H.I.P. for now. Although I urge anyone thinking of getting one to skip the PocketCHIP and get the HDMI, VGA, or hook up a SPI LCD instead. There are lots of 320x240 SPI LCDs for around $8 or less on ebay and aliexpress.

  • I remember buying my first tower PC, a 4000$ Cyrix P200+ with 150Mhz Clock on a Tomato Board with astonishing 75Mhz clock and 32 MB of memory, including a Matrox Mystique GFX Card with 2 MB of memory back in 1996. At the time it was the most powerful standard PC available, and the first to sport a CPU that needed fan cooling.

    Looking at this with that in mind and seeing how far we've come amazes me.

    • ...and ten years before that, we had sub 1 MHz clock speeds. Kids these days don't appreciate what they got. Now get off my lawn!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm waiting for the Omega 13.

    It runs code so fast, it can branch-predict 13 seconds into the future!

  • First they made America's finest news source. Then they invented the Gillete Fusion 5 blade razor. After that, they made a routing protocol. Now they are make a computer?

    Interesting, but quite frankly I liked them better when they made news for nerds and stuff that matters.

  • With "only" 16MB of flash memory, how do you get Systemd on it?! ;)

  • That a pint of beer - Basically 500ml of water with a dash of alcohol and some bubbles - now costs the same as a beautiful, intricate and tiny computer.

  • Oooh! Reading the kickstarter page, there's a whole section on how it runs Apps!

    I bet the Appy Apps guy is just thrilled!

  • This is on a different playing field than the Pi Zero.

    On the one hand, the Pi Zero can run a full desktop Linux distribution. On the other hand,the $5 price is just a starting point. At the very least you have to add a MicroSD card to be able to use it, bringing the bill closer to $10. And if you need any kind of networking that's also extra.

    The Omega2 includes WiFi and flash onboard. But the tiny amounts of RAM and flash mean that you're limited to distros that are intended solely for embedded applicatoins

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