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Author Topic: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....  (Read 12593 times)

Confusticated

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Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« on: 03 February 2011, 07:55:36 pm »

Well the Dreamplug spec (sort of) has been released. And yes, IMHO Globalscale have totally FUBAR'd the design yet again.
I have some ideas of what I want from my plug hardware (which I may post to this thread later) and I would like to know yours.
By that I mean plug design, not it's intended use, which should be what it already supposed to be, a flexible and versatile low power
computer for development and customisation by the end user.

So listen up Globalscale, this is what your customers really want.........

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NewITMalcolm

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #1 on: 04 February 2011, 10:03:00 am »

Hi Confusticated,

I am looking forward to hearing your ideas for your perfect plug, you never know who may be reading this.

I am not really sure why you think Globalscale have totally FUBAR'd the design yet again, as far as I have seen they have answered their critics very well.

Heat - Better PCB layout to disperse heat with large heatsink in the bottom of case and two areas of slotted fins on the top of the case.

Wifi - Wifi Client drivers that came with it passed every test I threw at it with no kernel crashes.

Power - Power supply can now be separated from the unit which can now be powered by 5v.

External MicroSD - Now replaced by Flush loading SD Card Slot allowing Faster SLC card use.

Nand - This ones personal preference but I think being able to have an internal OS on a MicroSD of greater size allows much more scope for Bespoke systems to be setup on the plug. It's also nicer having ext2,ext3,fat partitions instead of the hassle of jfss2 and ubifs.

Extra features - Audio analog In/Out,  S/PDIF Fibre optic out. Slots to allow the unit to be hung on a wall.

I really don't have a bad word to say about the Dreamplug.

NewIT Technical.
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NewITJames

apemberton

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #2 on: 04 February 2011, 11:02:54 am »

I agree the Dreamplug is an advance on the Guruplug in that it has sound available plus the OS in standard Flash units (though I hope they are easy to replace due to 'wear' as per threads passim). However my wish list would add:-

1) graphics and HDMI on board - heat might raise its ugly head again!

2) facilities for a hard disk inside the case - not necessarily SSD.

Though not a Globalscale thingy, it has to be said that the ARM processor is getting limited by its 32 bit architecture. Since the ARM7 and ARM Cortex chips are widely used in embedded systems I can see that the core has a good market. However, here we are using the ARM9 architecture in an information processing system in which case it is up against the Intel/AMD products (perhaps I should wash my mouth out now!) and thus the single 32 bit processor is a bit passé IMHO. Yup, the ARM RISC architecture is fast in comparison with the Intel/AMD core and the Marvell Kirkwood is System On Chip and does not need an array of support silicon. All that said, it is a while since I looked at a datasheet.

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Tony Pemberton

NewITMalcolm

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #3 on: 04 February 2011, 11:21:24 am »

Hi Tony,

> 1) graphics and HDMI on board - heat might raise its ugly head again!
> 2) facilities for a hard disk inside the case - not necessarily SSD.

Both would be very nice but don't forget request 1. would increase the Price and request 2. would increase the size of the case significantly.

I think it's impossible to please everyone with a single design and perhaps that's the answer.

NewIT Technical
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NewITJames

NewIT_Jason

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #4 on: 04 February 2011, 11:56:34 am »

1) graphics and HDMI on board - heat might raise its ugly head again!

GuruPlug Display

2) facilities for a hard disk inside the case - not necessarily SSD.

OpenRD
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apemberton

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #5 on: 04 February 2011, 03:55:26 pm »

OK Yes, I agree it is not possible to please all the folks all the time, but it would be nice.....

I accept OpenRD is nearest to my wish list but it is hobbled with a VGA graphics output. It doesn't have the SPDIF output for sound. I assume it has an internal Sata interface as well as the eSata on the outside.

I'm puzzled by Guruplug Display as I cannot find such a device in your shop. Perhaps prototypes are around but will it come to market?

I accept that I won't get an all singing and dancing box, but I'm not sure I want that! Certainly I wish the GP+ had been designed so that it would have been silent but I'm living with that along with the fan of a 24 port gigabit switch and UPS fan. hey-ho!

Marketing departments have to decide where the majority of sales should go so products have to be designed for the best return on investment. We are lucky we have a good, cheap(?) product with quite enthusiastic and competant support. :)

OK, does anyone know where there is good open home automation software, cheap but effective IP connected thermostats (Proliphix are v. expensive), IP connected motorised radiator valves and IP boiler controls? Its cold out there and heat is in the wrong place inside!  :-\ I have two (for reliability) Sheevaplugs waiting to control my house!

Yes this is a wish list!

 
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Tony Pemberton

sfzhi

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #6 on: 04 February 2011, 06:27:26 pm »

* I consider the absence of internal NAND Flash in DreamPlug a step back. It's nice to be able to boot from SD-card, but only for recovery in case of emergency.

* The plug is not a desktop PC and I don't want it to become one. I do not like any kind of graphics hardware in it (that will only increase the price and consume power even when not used). If the CPU is not powerful enough for HD video playback then there is no point in having HD video output.

* I would very much like to see internal temperature sensors. I believe this is a must-have feature for a device that is supposed to operate 24/7. And it would only increase the cost by $1 or so.

* It should have two gigabit Ethernet connections (like GuruPlug Server Plus and DreamPlug).

* Perhaps, faster WiFi (802.11n support, optional external antenna).

* More LEDs that can be controlled by software, that is without predefined function (and no dual-color ones, as those are not very useful for people with color vision deficiencies).

* Extensive and freely available hardware documentation (including schematics and documentation for each chip used).

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Confusticated

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #7 on: 04 February 2011, 08:31:31 pm »

Gripe Number 1, The Use Of An Internal USB Hub

a) The SOC only supports one USB 2.0 Port, the bandwidth is shared between all connected devices.
b) Each 'accessible' port requires 500mA be available, the consequences of which are power supply heat dissipation and higher wattage requirement.
c) Even with this 'configuration' an external powered hub is still required to safely connect HDD Drives etc.
d) This design makes the very serious Gripe Number 2 possible....

A single USB 2.0 Port made available on the outside would permit use of a 'safe' low power peripheral at full bandwith, or
permit an external powered hub of as many ports (with a shared bandwidth) as required for the purpose to be connected.
The plug would require less wattage (a more efficient power supply) and have lower thermal dissipation requirements.
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sfzhi

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #8 on: 06 February 2011, 04:35:22 pm »

A single USB 2.0 Port made available on the outside would permit use of a 'safe' low power peripheral at full bandwith, or
permit an external powered hub of as many ports (with a shared bandwidth) as required for the purpose to be connected.
The plug would require less wattage (a more efficient power supply) and have lower thermal dissipation requirements.
I think this is a good idea.

And IIRC, the SoC also supports PCIe, which could be used, for example, for another USB controller if necessary.
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Confusticated

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #9 on: 06 February 2011, 09:28:46 pm »

Gripe Number 2, The Very Serious Connecting SD\MMC\Flash via the Internal USB Hub

a) This requires more IC logic (SD\MMC to USB chip), cost, power, yadda, yadda.
b) The IC supports two SD\MMC cards, but only one is usable for the want of a socket.
c) The supported interface is the second, meaning that all firmware\software initialisations incur a time out (whilst probing for the absent first).
d) The SoC supports SPI, making a direct connection implementation trivial (I believe this is how it is done on the Sheeva).
e) The SD\MMC\USB interface adds a layer of hardware abstraction, meaning that the Flash RAM can only be accessed as a block device.

This 'block device' issue is a disaster, it prevents\restricts the use of any flash aware filesystem.
This means that JFFS, UBI\UBIFS, specifically for this purpose are ruled out (possibly, BTRFS may be helpful in the future when it matures).
These filesystems have been developed to specifically address the shortcomings of flash by providing 'wear levelling' and 'speed enhancement' algorithms.
The use of ext2, and the Journalling ext3, ext4 are ruled out (unless you disable features, in which case you may as well use FAT32) as areas of the flash can be overstressed.
Even with disabled features, extensive modification of the root filesystem configuration is still required, making the setup (distribution) non-standard and complex to maintain.
The one way around this problem would be to mount the flash read-only and use UNIONFS, but this has not made it into the mainline kernel (OpenWRT is your saviour).

NB. The Guruplug Server Plus Debian installation as shipped has over 50 configuration issues with use of a root filesystem on flash.

EDIT: Apparently "OpenWRT is not your saviour", it seems UNIONFS isnt in the latest release.
« Last Edit: 21 March 2011, 02:50:26 pm by Confusticated »
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rcrowther

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #10 on: 10 February 2011, 10:29:44 am »

A user wishlist, yes?

I like the SheevaPlug! Small, cheap, and enough connections to make it go! As a fileserver, or a device that can negotiate between connections (router, plug in a disc drive, etc.). Sure I'd like to try a DreamPlug, but prescence of sound, WiFi, Bluetooth actually puts me off. I don't want them, don't want to pay for them, and don't want to unconfigure them.

So for me, number one, nothing to do with hardware,

Shipped with an updated bootloader, or a script and links for updating the bootloader.

and

I love the NewIT/open-plug UBIFS and multiboot mods. Just ship with them!

After that, I like many of sfzhi's suggestions. I didn't even check for temperature sensors. I'd pay a little more for those Dreamplug power supply mods.

But a big 'no' to increased processor power and audio and graphics connections. "The plug is not a desktop PC and I don't want it to become one.". Agreed (for me). Separate model for that. Where does it stop? (SheevaPlugs with floppy disc drives?)

But if it costs, no to even boosting ethernet or Wifi (though the optional antenna is a nice idea for boosted models).

Aside from the power supply, the only facility I would seriously consider as an addition to my usage would be a second card slot, as it happens. When multibooting, it would be splendid to do a backup card to card, right on the plug. Not sure I can justify the cost, though.

Documentation costs, and I bet too much. But a simple schema so people could look up the technology for themselves would be nice. E.g. some pointers at JTAG and ARM.
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Confusticated

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #11 on: 10 February 2011, 08:21:05 pm »

Gripe Number 3, Only One eSATA Port

a) The SoC fully supports two SATA Ports, implementing the second port would cost very little.

Adding (efficient and effective) external storage to the Plug is what really opens up its scope for versatility.
A second eSATA Port would permit software RAID (which the Linux kernel performs very well) for either speed or safety.
If you are going to fill a 1GB+ drive, or invest hours configuring an OS, then you want to know the data is safe in event of a drive failure.
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Advocatus Diaboli - My agenda is not to give you the answer, but to guide your thoughts so you derive it for yourself!

Confusticated

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #12 on: 12 February 2011, 07:30:56 pm »

Gripe Number 4, Inadequate Passive Cooling\Noisy Fans are no substitute

It's all been said before, no need for me to repeat it here. Time will tell if they have got the Dreamplug right in this department,
I am reserving judgement until after a few heatwaves.
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rmwebs

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Re: Dear Globalscale please make me a.plug....
« Reply #13 on: 23 February 2011, 05:15:46 pm »

Just a thought - if it were to have internal wifi, surely it would use minipci, correct? In which case, theres nothing stopping this being swapped out for a dedicated HD video processing chip. I recently did the same on an old MacMini. Ditched the internal wifi and used a second hand processing chip specifically for HD video. The mini runs on an old crummy intel core solo 1.6ghz w/ 512mb RAM. Because all video is handed off to the dedicated chip it is able to do HD video streams fairly well.

I have to say though, I personally wouldn't find a use for it on a plug, but it would address some of the issues with offering HDMI.

It would be awesome if we could get lightpeek as it would allow ANYTHING to be connected, however I think that'll only work on upcoming intel chips.
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