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Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice? 183

An anonymous reader writes "I'm a Solaris user which is not well supported by the OSS toolchains. I'd like to have a dedicated Linux based dev system which has good support for ARM, MSP430 and other MCU lines and draws very little (5-10 watts max) power. The Beaglebone Black has been suggested. Is there a better choice? This would only be used for software development and testing for embedded systems."
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Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

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  • UDOO (Score:5, Informative)

    by danomatika ( 1977210 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @12:27AM (#47422053)

    Check out the UDOO: []

    A pretty capable machine at a decent price and low power draw. Yes more than a Raspberry PI, but multi cores and real USB controller is worth it (at least for my realtime audio needs).

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @12:30AM (#47422063)
    ...why the extremely low power draw requirement? Seems like for a dev box you'd want some horsepower, though you'd want to test on a box that's like your expected production machine...
  • Any display big enough for development will draw more power than the CPU. (Although I suppose you could kludge some non-backlit e-reader into being a dev system.)

    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      No need for a second display. Just ssh -X develsystem and have everything display on the Solaris machine.

    • One of the cool things about the Beaglebone Black and the Raspberry Pi is that they've got GPUs powerful enough to drive an HDMI display, and give you 1080p graphics if you make sure there's enough electric power and not too much interference (my RPi was a bit wonky on the last display I tried), so you can drive a decent monitor for programming or use it as a TV video player.

      But if you don't need that, because you're doing X windows or just doing a bunch of ssh terminal sessions, you've got more potential c

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @12:43AM (#47422125)

    It's my understanding that "install a bunch of gnu tools" is the first thing that many Solaris sysadmins do on a new system.

    Anyway, why do you need a low-power ARM system? The description heading mentions "embedded", but your description mentions irrelevant stuff like Solaris, but not the important stuff like what sort of embedded work you'll be doing: industrial control, point-of-sale, sensor monitoring, etc, etc ad nauseum.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      Simple native development can be a lot easier than cross development.
      If you have the money for some really good embedded tools, cross development is not bad at all. But if not native development is a lot simpler.
      I would still do most of my work on an X86 Linux box and then move the project over to the embedded for testing but that is just me.

      • Its not really that much more complicated. I do cross dev at work, but at home I had a crossdev setup for a handheld gaming machine we were porting linux to up and running in under 30min. Its really not that hard to just specify a target on a different host. This is all gcc as well, you dont need money for good embedded tools

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          One word.
          Compilers are actually easy to come by today. Debugging is where you run into issues.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Alright, I've been working on getting a build server setup on a BeagleBone Black that I had lying around. The ARM->x86_64 compiler I had to build so the executables could run elsewhere was a pain, so be careful about that. Also, the speed at which it compiles is "dog" slow. It reminds me of the stories I used to hear from old programmers about turning in their punch cards and waiting a day to get an answer back. It's not that bad, but it is slower. nohup quickly becomes your best friend. If it sounds lik

    • thats what a toolchain and cross compile is for. nobody compiles android on an android phone. HOW DID THEY COMPILE FIRST ANDROID PHONE? HOW IS BABBY FOREMED?

  • by weilawei ( 897823 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @01:04AM (#47422181) Homepage

    Emacs! Oh wait, wrong flame war..

  • Intel NUC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by enter to exit ( 1049190 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @01:05AM (#47422191)
    The OP doesn't need Solaris (He currently has a Linux Dev box) or an ARM system. He needs a low powered machine that can compile to ARM (and other things).

    I would look into an Intel NUC.
    • For embedded intel - a better match may be the new minnowboard max. [] $99 - shipping real soon now, preorderable.

    • Celeron J1800 and J1900 boards are passively cooled, low power and cheap. Consider them as an alternative to a NUC

      I bought this board:

      It's more expensive than the ASUS, Gigabyte, etc J1800 boards but mine does 12V dc-dc conversion on board and has many more SATA connections. That sames me a traditional PSU and SATA card/expander.

  • Buy a netbook (Score:4, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday July 10, 2014 @01:19AM (#47422223) Homepage Journal

    You can get a netbook that will draw around 5-10W. If you get one with intel cpu and chipset you will have the advantage of massive compatibility, especially if you skip the original Atom chip. Once the dual cores came out it was pretty well abandoned by everyone.

    That, or get one of these ~$100 android units which also runs Debian. But I don't really recommend that. The only one which seems very performant and yet inexpensive is the mk908 which is a bit of a turd reliability-wise and which doesn't yet have complete hardware support, e.g. []

    I stand by the netbook

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      I got a dual core atom netbook for around 60 bucks, bumped it up to 2 gig of ram, and slapped a 32gig SSD in it, runs a couple days on a battery charge and in total have about 125$ into it thanks to ebay

      its a good choice

    • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

      It seemed to me like netbooks stagnated pretty badly... These days, a Chromebook with crouton installed on an SD card makes for a GREAT Linux laptop.

      • It seemed to me like netbooks stagnated pretty badly...

        So what? A dual-core atom is actually pretty snappy. I personally have a crufty single-core atom, that is quite pathetic and I wouldn't suggest it to anyone. What I actually use for a 'netbook' is a Gateway LT3103u with the L110 chucked for an L310. Since Gateway finally released windows 7 x64 drivers and a BIOS with AMD-V it blew the hacks wide open. I haven't done a custom DSDT yet (though I should) but I do have SATA running in AHCI mode, necessary for automatic TRIM support. That took a hacked BIOS, but

  • Shuttle DS437! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ravyne ( 858869 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @01:25AM (#47422237)
    Finally, an Ask Slashdot I can answer with personal experience and some authority!

    Do yourself a favor and order a Shuttle DS437, I bought one myself and cannot think of a better little box for playing with embedded systems. Here's why:
    • Its small -- about the size of a 5.25" disk drive.
    • Its low-power -- not as low as you'd like -- but less than 20watts under load for the system. Its passively cooled.
    • It takes a 12v barrel-plug from a standard 65watt laptop power adapter (included) -- easy to replace anywhere in the world. Also good if the impetus for your low-power requirement is an exotic wish, like being able to run the system from battery or solar.
    • Its relatively inexpensive -- about $200 from, and qualifies for Prime shipping. You'll need to add storage and RAM, but maybet have some DDR3 so-dimms and a spare 2.5" drive kicking around from an old laptop.
    • Its got two DB9 Serial ports, right on the front. Handy!
    • Its a modern system: 64bit, dual-core, Ivy Bridge, SSE 4.2, supports up to 16GB ram.
    • Connectivity: VGA/HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, dual gigabit NICs, Wireless N WiFi
    • Storage options: you've got one mSata slot and one 2.5" sata drive. I've got a 128GB SSD in the mSata slot, and a 500GB magnetic drive installed
    • It took Ubuntu 14.04 without any significant fuss. Most things worked out of the box. I'm not a linux super expert, but got the rest working within an hour or so.

    It's "only" 1.8Ghz, but we're talking Ivy Bridge here, not some wimpy Atom or ARM core. Plus, in my experience you really want x86 for your host machine. Not every compiler or tool you might want to use is going to be supported on, say, a lower-powered ARM system.

    I considered a lot of exotic ARM boards as my development host, including BeagleBone, Jetson-K1, and a handful of others. I think the D437 leads by a wide margin, but for what its worth I considered the Jetson-K1 board a distant runner-up.

    • by ravyne ( 858869 )
      Also, forgot to add -- Beware the potentially-confusing Shuttle DS47 -- it's nearly identical in appearance and pricing, but has a dual-core 1.1 Ghz Atom-based CPU inside which is significantly slower than the ivy-bridge (3rd-gen i-series) processor in the DS437.
    • I'm a cosmonaut, you insensitive clod!!

  • but I wont shed a tear for you when you have to jump though your 20th hoop

    TBH the msp's are not NEARLY as bad as their arm based devices, where you will have more console windows up than lines of code

  • by bobm ( 53783 ) []
    I have a raspberry Pi, Beagle Bone Black and PcDuino.

    Raspberry PI: don't like the fact that you have to boot off the sd card.
    BBB - no complaints, nice board and has an optional display that's pretty nice
    PcDuino - my favorite, more memory and flash than the other 2 devices and the v3s is in a really nice case.

    The Pi and BBB lack a decent case (from what i can find)

    • by nwf ( 25607 )

      I have a Pi and a PcDuino v2 and the PcDuino is definitely more capable and doesn't cost all that much more. The Arduino compatbility and WiFi are nice, as is having enough flash on board to boot without an SD card, although I generally use one since they are faster. I use their LinkSprite shield for prototyping things, since it breaks out the IO pins into a nice connector for easy use.

  • The ARM architecture has some fairly good Linux support and wide adoption.

    One of my favorites out there today is the A10-OLinuXino-LIME This is a low cost 1GHz ARM board with a Mali-400 GPU, a SATA port, 100BT port, two USB ports for under $50. I'm a big fan of the SATA port... using a SSD for the system solves many reliability problems. It also has support for LIPO battery but I haven't tried it.

    Perhaps the best value/performance is the Wandboard QUAD. Quad iM.6 with 2GB Ram, WiFi, SATA, and an OpenCL

    • One of my favorites out there today is the A10-OLinuXino-LIME. ...

      The Beagle Bone was good in its day, but it is kind of over the hill. The processor is underpowered compared to other ARMs

      Just to be clear, the A10-OLinuXino-LIME, BeagleBone white and BeagleBone Black all contain a single Cortex-A8 core, and the TI AM3359 runs at the same 1GHz speed in the BBB as the Allwinner A10 does in the LIME.

      The original BeagleBone (white) ran its AM3359 at 720MHz so its CPU performance is a bit less, but the BeagleBon

    • Because of the poor reliability of MMC, I prefer to use SSD these days

      MMC reliability is fine. I thought I was going to have problems using the MMC on the BBB as well, so I set about beating several of them severely. I setup accelerated read-write-read testing, and started pounding on the BBB internal MMC. with 3 boards at over 5M writes to a single 512Byte block each, none of the devices failed. I read some literature which suggests that the MMC rotates sector usage to even out wear, which, if true, means that you would have to do the equivalent of recording 100,000 hours of

  • Why do you want to _develop_ on an embedded system ?!? Use a Linux PC for development and then test your code on your embedded platforms. I use Ubuntu for the former, with either buildroot or a direct gcc eabi. If the development platform _must_ be low power, like you develop from an african field with a solar panel, get a netbook.
  • What exactly is the point of the dev system? You write/compile MCU software on it and then download the software to the MCU?

    A simple, cheap small notebook computer should be able to do this.

  • The correct answer starts with raspberry and smells like pie.

  • Igor pecovnik maintains a Debian Wheezy branch for Cubietruck boards.
  • Look at the Olimex range of boards.
    I've been using these for a year or two and found them to fit the bill nicely.

    There are single and dual core boards, with / without embedded flash memory (or micro-SD card slots) and they'll run Debian (or other) Linux They have a lot on on board peripherals and pinouts for their own range of LCD screens - though I use an HDMI monitor for simplicity. The power supply will accept anything from 6 - 16 Volts from a phone-charger type PSU and you can even plug in a LiPo for

  • [] The Intel Silvermont Atom boards are very electrically efficient and offer surprisingly good performance. You can buy a board for under US$100 and all you need to add is case, PSU, RAM and mass storage. Some boards have VGA, some DVI, with or without legacy serial and parallel, lots of choices. Manufacturers include gigabyte, msi, Asus, supermicro.
  • Far more OI, better all the way around. []

  • by Adam ( 3469959 )
    Personally I'd have a netbook... In a Lab (Garage, whatever) I'd have the Oscilloscope/Logic Analyzers meters power supplies etc... connected to a Beefy desktop with plenty of RAM for running VM's so I don't stuff around with the build environment. When coding just remote (SSH/RDP/whatever) to the VM of choice. You don't mention price so stick solar panels, batteries and inverters on it till you're sub 5W.
  • This is a new chip with a ARM Cortex-A5 core, making it directly compatible with all distributions with an 'armhf' port like Debian, Ubuntu or Linaro.I like the fact that it is compatible with the Arduino Due connector. It's probably the easiest Linux based Arduino hardware compatible board. [] [] []

  • Don't try to use super-low-power things for software development. Get something that will run things quickly and efficiently, and turn it off when you're not using it.

    • by muridae ( 966931 )
      This, 100 times this.

      Even an old 100 watt laptop will compile your code many times faster than something like the Black or Ras Pi will. A gig of RAM and swap space, something that embedded systems don't normally have, will make a huge difference. Just throw a small SSD (or boot from USB stick) in an old 2-code i3 with a crap graphics card, and what your code compile faster than a 5 watt embedded device will even launch your IDE or get through the first source code file.

      • by geoskd ( 321194 )

        How much does it really matter when a small project will only take 15 seconds to compile on the BBB. So what that a cross-compiler can do it in 2 seconds. it'll still take close to 15 seconds total when you include the time to type the commands to download the executable. Even if it was only 7 seconds, it is still only a negligible gain.

        now if you were compiling a kernel, or god-forbid something really big like open-office, or some such then I could understand, but for the vast majority of embedded work, i

        • by muridae ( 966931 )

          We don't know what the OP is attempting to compile. It might be just some code to run inside the Arduino bootloader, or it might be a whole muLinux and a local GCC for the target. Heck, the Debian distro for the BBB might not have a binary for the target muC, which means compiling GCC before compiling the code (worst case). There is also the possibility of OPs chips not being supported in GCC. For example, I just picked up some Cypress PSoC boards; the tools for them are only available right now on Windows.

  • []
    There's a good dozen or more configurations for the hardware.

    There's guides on the internet to installing different versions of Linux on it. (Unless you want to do Android dev)
    I bought the A1000 version and a laptop HD (plugs in the top).
    Then I installed Debian (using an online guide) and MiniDLNA. I use it as a media server for my TV.
  • You want 5-10 Watt max.

    You have Beaglebone Black.
    That works with 5V. 1A is recommended. That makes it a 5W device.

    Most of similar embedded devices have same requirements. just look for functionnalities/ports you need and test/use it.

  • The embedded ARM boards from Technologic Systems [] are worth looking at also. I used a TS-7260 with a large enough SD card to install Debian with gcc and it worked great. It booted nearly instantly and consumed something like 100mA of current at 3.3V IIRC. It was quite a robust little box. There are newer and faster models than the TS-7260 at the link I provided above.

    • I just checked and they state that the TS-7260 draws half a watt minimum and 2W typical... I seem to recall it drawing even less than that though. Perhaps it was 200mA @ 3.3V which would fit within their spec.

  • It's in portuguese but you can use google translator []
  • I am developing a system targeted to run on a wandboard (, which is a really good "embedded" system similar to the BeagleBoard, but uses a Freescale iMX6 A9 Arm processor and is available in single, dual & quad core CPUs with 512MB to 2 GB RAM.

    However, even with the quad core 2GB ram version, builds take a really long time, so I use a regular PC that I built using a new Haswell CPU, 16GB ram and a 240GB SSD to do development and even unit testing. I can make several changes, build ever

  • by LordMyren ( 15499 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @10:21AM (#47423989) Homepage

    Don't buy anything today. Wait until there are media boxes with quad Cortex A15/A17 chips and buy one of them. They'll be out any week now. Rockchip RK3288 is coming, should be affordable, and the company is spending a lot of effort making sure it's well supported in mainline.

    Cortex A9 hails from 2007. It's ancient. The GPUs are at best old Mali-400's. The compute/watt is not-great.

    If you want to go really low power- if battery life is your concern and you don't actually have serious CPU use (you mention MSP430, so it sounds like you don't have real CPU use needs) get a Cortex A7 or Cortex A5. There are dozens of dual core Allwinner A7 boards out there. A5 has slimmer pickings, but will get you pleasantly below the one watt range, and the boards come with more embedded targeted peripherals that might not be included on media devices.

    • "Rockchip RK3288 is coming, should be affordable, and the company is spending a lot of effort making sure it's well supported in mainline."

      Citation needed. Mind supporting your statement with a link? AFAIK RK has one of the poorest FOSS support among Chinese SOC makers (compared to Allwinner and Amlogic). The RK source code floating in the net tend to be "leaks" or in any case releases that aren't official supported by the company. Also for a long time there was no official way to flash firmware onto the em

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?