back to article VIA bakes a fruitier Rock cake to rival the Brit Raspberry Pi

Computer electronics biz VIA has updated its Raspberry Pi rival APC - a micro-motherboard its maker calls a “bicycle for your mind” - which it brought to market last May. The new board sports a new processor, more flash memory, better video output and, VIA said, more expansion options. VIA APC Rock Rock'n'ruler: The new VIA …

COMMENTS

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  1. Jon Double Nice
    Coat

    But what of the

    Lizard and Spock versions?

    1. LarsG
      Meh

      I hope

      These boards don't go the way of Netbooks, cheap and cheerful working functional computers which have now appeared to morph into £1000 Untrabooks with missing features.

      I'm all for competition, but this time next year will we see boards reaching £100+

      1. Synonymous Howard

        Re: I hope

        Remember that the first APC was sold at $49 Android PC in July 2012, although that version is still available its gained speed and memory etc and is now $79 or $99 with 'book' case ... so expect a $199 version next year 8-(

        Meanwhile the Raspberry Pi 'Model B' rev 2 doubled the memory of rev 1 and is still £30 inc VAT+delivery.

      2. wowfood
        Childcatcher

        Re: I hope

        I'm all for competition bar one thing. Raspberry Pi is a charity organisation. They saw a gap in the very low end of the market and plugged it with a cheap board with proceeds heading towards charity teaching people about somputer basics.

        All these other companies who saw the success and now want a slice of the Pi are just out to make a profit for themselves. I don't care if it's twice as powerful and at the same cost as the Pi, I'm still getting the Pi because I'd rather support a charity than a conglomerate.

  2. Deadly Headshot
    Go

    PC Variation?

    How long 'til we can buy a full x86 PC-compatible variation on the concept of these tiny FF machines, so we can build and run compatible software?

    1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox
      Facepalm

      Re: PC Variation?

      Beecause the point of these is super cheap & very low power. Intel is neither, even in the Atom world.

      1. Luke McCarthy

        Re: PC Variation?

        But VIA have their own x86 processor, which they could build an SoC around.

      2. Deadly Headshot

        Re: PC Variation?

        Intel yes, but there are competitors who make compatibles and copies of old discontinued x86 processors for fairly low prices (including the low power embedded versions).

        1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox
          Boffin

          Re: PC Variation?

          But none of the x86 compatible processors and chipsets are anywhere near as cheap and low power as ARM, and it is unlikely they ever will be. That's just how it is.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: PC Variation?

      "How long 'til we can buy a full x86 PC-compatible variation on the concept"

      Search for Pico ITX and thou shall find (been around a lot longer than the Pi), but do cost more.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You might be waiting for Scissors

    Lizard is generic enough not to cause any issues, but licensing the name Spock is going to be expensive...

    1. Deadly Headshot

      Re: You might be waiting for Scissors

      Call it Spok or Sp0x0Ck or something similar to get past the copyright problems from the late Mr Rodenberry's estate...

    2. Captain Hogwash

      Re: licensing the name Spock is going to be expensive

      Why? Do you think the descendents of Dr Benjamin Spock will be awkward about it?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You might be waiting for Scissors

      Yeah that babycare guy will be really put out ;)

  4. Jess

    I like the form factor

    Could be used with old PC cases.

    However, it is a bit more expensive than the Pi and doesn't run RISC OS (yet?)

  5. Justice
    Trollface

    Paper covers Rock.

    I see what you did there...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overcrowded Market

    Another product in a already overcrowded market.

    We need real innovation at the other end of the spectrum - Information Systems.

    Or maybe figuring out how to keep root-kits at bay and securing the OS.

  7. Shonko Kid
    Trollface

    "supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

    It comes with a box?!? What's everyone going to do with their 3D printers now?

    1. Mike007

      Re: "supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

      they're too busy calibrating and adjusting their printers to notice this article

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

      Skimmers of course, Sister Immacolata ;)

    3. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      Re: "supplied with a book-like cardboard case"

      Ahhhh!!! Now we know where HP sold their excess packaging...

  8. Christian Berger

    What we would need would be a common hardware standard

    So we don't have to port each of our operating systems to each of those boards. Otherwise we'll just end up the same way as home computers.

    1. TheRealRoland

      Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

      <Snark>I'll vote for the hardware that's currently most compatible with Windows-based software</snark>

      So, how will that work in the real world?

      1. Christian Berger

        Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

        Well one idea would be to have simple standards for simple hardware. For example to have a common USB controller like in the PC as well as a common serial port and SD-card. Then you'd have some table in your ROM pointing to the addresses and Interrupts of those devices.

        The problem with all those little ARM devices is that you waste so much time having to port and maintain your kernel on each one of those. And even if you have a ported kernel, it's a pain to use another userland with it.

        It's like back in the home computer age where you might have had 20 different 6502-based computers, each one with its own hardware, but the same CPU. Hypothetically you could have just added a some routines into ROM, so you could have built platform independent code. The Z80 and the 8086 world on the other hand agreed on their own platforms. The only thing you needed to port CP/M for was the amount of memory you had. DOS didn't even need that and you could just pop it onto any "PC-compatible" computer, provided it had a BIOS.

        1. Richard Plinston

          Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

          > The Z80 and the 8086 world on the other hand agreed on their own platforms.

          No they didn't. There were at least as many variations on 8080, 8085, Z80 and 8086 platforms as those for 6502. Both in terms of hardware design and operating systems.

          > The only thing you needed to port CP/M for was the amount of memory you had.

          What complete nonsense. You obviously never worked with CP/M. The BDOS and CCP were identical for each different machine but the porting to specific hardware was done by writing an appropriate BIOS* to support the hardware. DRI provided an example BIOS.

          > DOS didn't even need that and you could just pop it onto any "PC-compatible" computer, provided it had a BIOS.

          ... provided it had an IBM PC compatible ROM BIOS.

          Otherwise, such as for S100 based boxes, or Wang PCs or DEC Rainbows or Apricot PCs or dozens of others, the manufacturer had to develop a loadable BIOS that provided the device independence - just as they did for CP/M.

          In fact MS-DOS was initally based on the structure of CP/M and also had a loadable BIOS even when run on an IBM PC compatible with a ROM BIOS. The MS-DOS one was a stub that converted the calls that DOS made into ROM BIOS interrupts. It was only with MS-DOS 5.0 that this became totally dependent on an IBM ROM BIOS and no longer could run on other hardware.

          * BIOS = Basic Input Output System.

          1. Christian Berger

            Re: What we would need would be a common hardware standard

            Well that's my point, you had a common BIOS! ARM doesn't have it.

  9. Stephen 2

    I've got the original APC

    The original APC is okay, it has some issues that are quite annoying, like the limited Android OS without the official play market (available with a hack but doesn't work perfectly), limited output on HDMI (720) and kinda just generally not as great as it first seems.

    With the number of cheap android sticks and boxes out there right now, APCs offering is too little too late.

  10. Moonshine
    Thumb Up

    The CPU is mounted diagonally?

    The RPi cannot possibly compete with this. I'm getting 3.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: The CPU is mounted diagonally?

      Standard. You don't have to make the wires do awkward angles to reach The Other Stuff.

      Now, if someone came up with the idea to open up wormholes on the mainboard...

      1. annodomini2
        Joke

        Re: The CPU is mounted diagonally?

        Most VIA's are hollow, depends on your definition of a wormhole I guess? ;)

      2. P. Lee

        Re: The CPU is mounted diagonally?

        or put the connectors on the short end so you can PCI-bracket mount it?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone has to say it

    Cheap price, HDMI out, running Android and easy enough to connect an old keyboard and mouse

    2013 - THE YEAR OF LINUX ON THE DESKTOP!!!!

  12. Dare to Think
    Joke

    Cool...

    ...let's buy a couple, slap Debian on it and set up grid computing

    1. johnnytruant

      Re: Cool...

      Don't you mean shelf computing?

  13. Sir Codington
    Linux

    An mk808 is less than half the price, runs a newer version of android and is WAY more powerful.

    http://lightake.com/detail.do/sku.MK808_Android_4.1_Dual_Core_1.6GHz_1GB_8GB_Bluetooth_HDMI_1080P_WIFI_3D_Mini_PC___Black-58509

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch

      re: mk808

      An mk808 is less than half the price, runs a newer version of android and is WAY more powerful.

      I'd never heard of it, but the link you gave puts the mk808 at $58.99, which isn't "less than half the price" of either the Rock ($79) or Paper ($99).

      Now the ODROID-U2, on the other hand, costs $89 (*), has quad core clockable to 2GHz (base 1.7GHz) and 2Gb of RAM. Also runs Jelly Bean and Linaro Ubuntu (no accelerated X yet, though it's expected in a few weeks). Its sibling product, the ODROID-X2 is very similar, except that it costs $135 and has a whole lot more ports.

      (*) as with a lot of these boards, power supply, cabling, flash drive and shipping aren't included. A full U2 ends up costing about $150 (including a hefty $40 shipping fee from Korea), plus local customs clearance and VAT which brings it to something closer to $190. Definitely pricey compared to a Pi (which comes to around €72 all told), but the U2/X2 are are at least 12 times more powerful in my tests (thanks to 4x cores, 2x speed, step up from ARMv6 to ARMv7). So while the Pi definitely wins out on price/system, the ODROIDs definitely win out on performance/price IMO.

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: ODROID

        That looks interesting for a low power server project I have in mind... maybe it's not quite as economical with power as I'm after though. Amazing that they don't appear to be available on eBay?

  14. RubberJohnny

    I've got the original

    One board computer, innovation:

    http://www.vintage.org/special/apple-1/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've got the original

      First was the dyna-micro

    2. Swarthy Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I've got the original

      And that was the last time Apple innovated anything.

  15. Uwe Dippel

    Off topic: Astroturfing

    Amazing is the voting by users. Usually, a good number is on the sane side.

    Today, here, until now, the reasonable ones (questioning how can this be, and Windows yet so expensive and big) being voted down.

    Where can I apply for pocket money from astroturfing on El Reg?

  16. Jon Green
    WTF?

    Where's the market?

    It seems bizarre to me that VIA believe people want to pay more than double the cost of a RasPi for something that's only fractionally faster. Both are essentially base model Android phones with no touchscreen, no cell interface, no battery, and a few cheap sockets, but at least the RasPi's only $35 for the equivalent model. I don't think the extra $44 for the VIA's VGA socket's good value!

    I'm sure VIA has seen a market for this, because it's not that useful a reference design for anything that isn't being done better elsewhere, but I'm blowed if I can see it. If their sales volumes make it into four figures I'd be surprised.

    1. Martin Taylor 1

      Re: Where's the market?

      So the RPi is a base model Android phone? Hmm, let's see.

      As you say, no touchscreen, no cell interface, no battery.

      On the other hand, LAN interface, 2 x USB Type "A" i/fs, micro SD card I/f, analogue video, 5V power socket in non-obvious location for a phone, GPIO pins, HDMI...

      I would think there comes a point where you don't mod a phone card to make it into an RPi, you design from scratch. And I think that's what happened.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Where's the market?

        >So the RPi is a base model Android phone? Hmm, let's see.

        No the RPi is a very cheap Linux PC

        This is just an Android phone without the screen/phone

        If I want a cheap Linux PC to play with I get an RPi

        If I want the identical hardware that a million other people have and are hacking on - I get an RPi

        If I want a cheap Android to play with I get a $50 tablet or a $50 Android-on-a-stick

        I can't see why I would buy this

    2. Annihilator
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Where's the market?

      " I don't think the extra $44 for the VIA's VGA socket's good value!"

      Ah, but for an extra EXTRA $20 you can have it without the VGA socket. Oddly.

    3. annodomini2
      Thumb Down

      Re: Where's the market?

      The Broadcom BCM2835 used in the Pi is a SoC, but designed for use in set-top boxes, not phones.

  17. Sarev
    Meh

    Wake me up when it has SATA and GigE.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I vote for at least 2x GigE and preferably 3 ;)

      1. Crazy Operations Guy

        Texas Instruments makes an ARM-based with 2x GigE ports and a crypto-accelerator for $199. It also has a touch-screen and some other goodies (no video-out though).

        http://www.ti.com/tool/tmdssk3358

        I've been using a couple of these for firewalls and VPN gateways for remote sites and built a very simple GTK-based UI for the office staff that just kicks off a couple of simple scripts.

  18. Kevin 6

    Hmm this is tempting as it runs andriod unlike the rasberry pi

    And yes I own a rasberry pi that I originally bought to watch videos till I found out that it sucked at that(EVERY video format I tried had video, and audio sync issues past 480p AVI's), then I had hopes of andriod from broadcom as it was announced on their main page which never materialized.

    1. rapidwolf
      Boffin

      Have you tried omxplayer?

      http://omxplayer.sconde.net/

      hardware accelerated mediaplayer for the Pi; I was having the same problems with video using non-accelerated VLC, but with omxplayer I have no problem with high bitrate 1080p mkv files on my model B Pi.

  19. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Deja Vu?

    Suspiciously like the OLPC story.

    Someone comes up with an interesting niche idea, then all the vultures dive in with similar, but incompatible alternatives that are just a leeetle bit more expensive, totally confusing the punters and trashing the market.

  20. billium
    Linux

    I got an Odroid-x and the hidden Fedex charges put it to > £120.

    X86 is still cheaper, look at atom boards, AMD's low power stuff and old PCs, if you forget about power usage.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch

      I got an Odroid-x and the hidden Fedex charges put it to > £120.

      Similar story for my X2, but I did what the hardkernel website suggested and called my local customs office before placing the order. They told me about the extra "customs clearance" charge that Fedex adds in. I guess that hardkernel could have done a better job on pointing out the surcharge that Fedex puts on it, but I can't fault them on their advice on contacting customs. I still went ahead with the order once I knew about the extra costs. Well worth it, I reckon.

      As for Atom vs ARM systems, I actually did a bit of window shopping before ordering the X2. To be honest I couldn't actually find any Atom systems that were as good or as cheap. The one thing that the bare-bones Atom systems did have going for them was standard (mini) ATX and SATA ports for upgradability. They're still quite expensive compared to the ARM boards. Also, buying a cheap 2nd hand system was out for me because I was looking for something with low power usage and you don't get that with older Intel/AMD/Atom stuff.

      I guess that in the next year we'll start seeing more ARM SoC with SATA, USB 3 and gigabit ethernet since there's definitely a market for it. Until then I can definitely live with flash/USB2 and 100Mbit ethernet.

    2. ilmari

      hate couriers

      I hate couriers for this reason, charging you 50 bucks to talk with customs when it would take yourself about 5 minutes to handle the matter online on the customs website..

      The traditional post system works better, they ask you for permission to deal with customs, you tell them "No, thanks, I'll do it myself", and it costs you nothing. As a bonus shipping rates are a tenth of couriers, even with tracking and insurance added.

  21. tuxtester
    IT Angle

    Why not buy an Android tablet?

    With an android tab you will get all the cables and power supplies you need and of course a screen.

    All the programming tools are free, eclipse and the SDK.

    I reckon I'm missing the point with these motherboards. Why would programming for an android motherboard be better than programming a tablet? At least you can take the tablet with you and demo your programs to granny or whoever sits next to you on the bus :-)

  22. Robert Moore
    Flame

    Once again they miss the point

    It is about the price.

    At $35 (Sorry Canadian here.) if I break a Raspberry PI while working with it, I use some profanity, and go order a new one. At $100 I worry about breaking it and don't try to use it to build a heads up display for my car.

    This is the same thing that happened with netbooks. the first one came out at a very good price, but every time a new model or competitor came along it was bigger, more powerful, or had new features, and of course the price went up.

    I hope this doesn't happen. I hope people are smart enough to stick with the Raspberry PI, because it is the best bang for your buck. Plus the community that has developed around it is fantastic.

  23. GotThumbs
    Boffin

    Waiting for....

    a dual or quad-core version of this or the PI. Personally I prefer the Pi because it's smaller and less expensive. This is something to toy with for now and not worth tossing out more case than needed. Just need that extra bit of power, but my Pi has little issues streaming video to my tv from my WHS library.

    Best Wishes,

  24. Steve Foster

    Missed Trick?

    Where's the VESA Mounting? Pop this in a case that can clip to the back of a TV or monitor, or better yet, a "passthrough" mounting (ie so that it can work with monitor arms & other mounting brackets), and you can turn any dumb TV into a smart device, and still keep things tidy.

  25. Stuart Halliday
    Go

    I'll wait until a wee ARM board comes out capable of USB 3.0 or SATA 3.0 with 1GHz NIC.

    Maybe a cute wee 4 core version as well?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huge!

    I may just be getting the perspective wrong, having not seen them together, but this thing looks *huge* compared to a Pi. Obviously whether that matters depends on how you plan to use it, but seems closer to a standard motherboard (admittedly with an Arm processor) than it does to a Pi...

  27. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    It looks good. But, again, ARM

    Chatting to a friend a month ago, works for an environmental instrument measuring company. They use the STAMP-2 board from Parallax, because it's relatively cheap, and they use PBASIC (does all they need - temperature, wind speed etc, then WiFi it to wherever).

    I suggested the Pi - half the price, but no, for two reasons. 1) The tokenizer for pbasic is partly written in '86 assembly code - rewrite, if it's not proprietary - and 2) - their designers know pbasic. "Why move?" Plus, the STAMP's been around a long time.

    ARM on little devices like this ain't that well supported yet, IMHO.

  28. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Article error?

    Hang on.

    "Rock is a $79 (£49) board with an additional VGA port while Paper is the same board minus VGA but supplied with a book-like cardboard case. Paper costs $99 (£62)."

    $20 more for NO VGA, and a cardboard case? Must be an error somewhere in the article. Must've missed something. (Girlie's distracting me...)

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      Re: Article error?

      Er, no, not an error. Their website says the same. Don't get it.

      http://apc.io/specifications/

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Article error?

        But it's not just any cardboard case...

        1. FrankAlphaXII
          Joke

          Re: Article error?

          Nope, its recycled, 15 lb edge test corrugated. The case at least is compatible with 80% of the other cardboard boxes on the market.

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