back to article Violet, you're turning violet! Imagination unveils graphics-tastic hobbyist board

Imagination Technologies, the MIPS chipper firm behind PowerVR, has a new hobbyist board. For fifty quid you can do some techie tinkering. If you've called your company "Imagination", there is an irony in making some hardware where the declared aim is to have developers do the imagining, but that's by the by. The idea is to …

  1. Shaun 2

    Would make for a nice little HTPC - Hope OpenElec will support it.

    1. Zola

      Not unless Imagination offer decent, documented support for the GPU

      Imagination should consider contacting OpenELEC directly, and also the Kodi Foundation, with the intention of donating a few boards for the open source developers to work on. A small financial donation to the Kodi Foundation wouldn't go amiss either.

      This is how it works if you want to support for your niche hardware, otherwise there's absolutely no reason for anyone to consider spending their valuable time working on this board, which will most likely be a total pain in the arse due to the closed nature of the GPU.

      Having one of the Imagination developers attached to work on GPU support in Kodi would also be a very good idea, as this is what has made the Raspberry Pi such a success where XBMC/Kodi is concerned. Developers from Broadcom/Pi Foundation have spent countless hours working on improving Kodi source code and also fixing bugs/adding enhancements in the Broadcom GPU.

  2. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    Almost...but not quite

    Everybody wants on the bandwagon. At that price, I'd want it to include a SATA port.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Almost...but not quite

      And open-source GPU driver.

      Still tempting though... very nice specs on this thing. Decent graphics AND hardware geek I/O.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Almost...but not quite

        If one were to trade most of the I/O for battery, PMIC and touchscreen then a no-brand tablet of similar spec is about the same money. A bit of chroot-ing gives you debian and a USB bridge (Arduino, IOIO, etc) gives you back some of that I/O. Either way, you're (probably) stuck with Imagination's closed source mpeg/3D hardware.

        It needs to be cheaper IMHO and just like the raspberry pi it needs to have power management on board. (Why did Broadcom put a stop to the Odroid-W. It's the near perfect hacker kit.)

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    This looks like my next media player

    I am definitely buying one when it comes out - it will drop-in-replace an AMD Debian box which serves as a media player at present :)

  4. Mephistro
    Meh

    "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

    So, they have to 'localize' the units? Or are they shipping them to Europe in private jets? I mean, we Europeans have to pay 78.36 USD for the same product. A 20% price hike just for crossing the Atlantic? What else?

    Well, it could be the case that each unit weights 20 kg., making them very expensive to transport, but I have a hunch -somehow- that this isn't the issue.

    Oh, and

    "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 or €63.30 (Europe)"

    FTFY ;-)

    1. Tom Womack

      Re: "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

      A 20% price hike seems exactly right for a no-VAT price in the US and a with-VAT price in Europe

      1. Mephistro
        Pint

        Re: "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

        Yes, you're totally right and I was wrong. I just checked prices in the link and they include VAT.

        My confusion came from the fact that -In my locale at least- prices are usually listed without VAT unless stated otherwise. It would be nice on ElReg's part to include this information when listing product prices, to help avoid such confusions.

        It's amazing what a small cultural difference can do. Ask poor Beagle 2. ;0)

        1. Simon Harris
          Facepalm

          Re: "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

          "It's amazing what a small cultural difference can do"

          I remember on my first visit to the US, picking things from the shelves in a store and having the exact change ready based on the shelf price tickets. Imagine my annoyance when they added on the tax at the till!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

            Yeah, US law is generally "you must list the pre-tax price". At least we're consistent but it sure would be nice if retailers were allowed to use nice round numbers and list them that way.

            1. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

              Re: "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

              Heh... Except for gasoline. The "pump price" includes all the taxes, and there are a bunch of them.

              1. JeffyPoooh
                Pint

                Re: "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

                Johnny Foreigner can't buy gasoline (petrol) from the pump in the USA.

                They get as far as "Enter your Zip Code", and that's the end of that.

                Abandon rental car at pump. Wander inside. Wait sixteen hours while three apparently homeless people deal with their $1700 (each) in lottery ticket purchases. Negotiate with the disinterested clerk about precisely how much gasoline is needed to fill the rental car, and exactly which body parts one needs to leave on deposit to have her enable the pump. Etc. Etc. Etc.

                I recently allowed SEVEN HOURS, from leaving the hotel to the flight time. It was just about right. Left just enough time for a quick snack.

                1. Return To Sender

                  Re: "The Ci20 will cost $65 (US)/£50 (Europe)"

                  'Johnny Foreigner can't buy gasoline (petrol) from the pump in the USA.'

                  If you have more time to waste, try leaving the car at the pump, going through the queue to get pre-authorised, getting back to the car to realise that you've parked with the filler on the wrong side and the hose doesn't reach, getting back in the car to turn it around, grab the hose again and then realise that the authorisation has timed out, meaning you've got to do the whole thing again. This at a Wawa in Collegeville, PA, where the counter staff just randomly walked off leaving the queue wondering...

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. txt3rob

    got one myself nice but not ready for XBMC and few other bits just yet.

    hard to find all the packages you need made for mips.

    1. Dr Wadd

      I'd be interested to see what the XBMC/Kodi performance while running under Android is like on this device. According to the Kodi Wiki the Android version does support MIPS, so if that works nicely that would seem the simplest way to go at the moment.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        XBMC

        I was wondering what Randal Monroe had to do with it...

        I guess Friday came early this week :-)

  6. CJ_in_AZ

    At 90x95mm, it ain't gonna fit in an Altoids tin.

    And that connector tab is going to make it rather fragile (not to mention that it makes the PCB more expensive).

    Looks to me like it's going to be a "YAAR" -- Yet Another Also Ran -- at least for the hobbyist market.

  7. stu 4

    nice

    looks interesting - a bit more poke than a pi.

    don't understand why people insist on bigging-up the XBMC angle though - if you want XBMC, get a 30 quid USB HDMI stick running android. job done.

    But for real hardware development, this could be an interesting little thing - especially with it running android - I've found more and more of my projects lately have involved a cheap android smartphone (usually interfaced via BT, etc to an android based project for connectivity). This would let me do everything on the one platform.

  8. IkerDeEchaniz

    It is no better than a Beaglebone or raspi for newcomers. If the aim is to play with MIPS the linksys WRT54GL does the job and has been there for years. I don't see the market for this one, it is too expensive and without documentation for newcomers and too useless for the rest.

    ----

    I felt like writing to practice my English so here it goes to whoever wants to waste time reading it ;)

    At a bit higher price than that MIPS board, the cubieboard or the pcduino like A80 based chinese boards look better and have a similiar/better graphics capability (PowerVR G6230 but as closed source as the previous one). Shit, Cubie started alone. He is doing it quite well for being new in the market, even in the hackable things market. He got lucky and played very well creating his company after writing and publishing the bootloader for the A10 while he was a freshman at Allwinner (I remember him from the mele2K days at freenode). By now he has already made many mistakes and is in a better position than Olimex who didn't have access to cheap SOCs then (veterans in hackable things and 1337 but sadly small, not well known and late to cheap SOCs) but he is taking big risks in unknown territory. His problem now is to scale from garage hacks to mass production in a market where in raw power things get outdated in six months (stocking is a problem and not stocking is a problem too) and he also needs more brains, not only tinkerers. His brain clearly works well but won't scale, a single brain can't hack, run a company and scale it at the same time, especially with a wife/family.

    For the new serious league (big autonomous robots, cars...) they're all cheaper than a nVidia Jetson TK1 but for embedded graphics nVidia is far superior and now the graphics are used to compute so the rest should have OpenCL at least to compete with Nvidia and without good OpenCV support they just can't compete for vision.

    Intel benefited from wintel so long that just doesn't get it, they have a big army fighting guerrillas and nonexistent buzz. Galileo is crap and late, Atoms now can't compete with the Jetson in power and the embedded developer base is already on ARM so they're trying to compete with chinese vendors (they made an alliance with Rockchip but only for some products and not related). The big advantage intel had with PC is now with ARM, developers developers... Balmer mode on... so they have to be better, cheaper and do what they do "well", document the stuff and give info+stuff to the developers.

    One plus for intel as for Freescale is that they sell the same IC's for long periods of time but they do it so expensive that developers just go elsewhere and fight against the unknown thanks to leaks and colective reverse engineering (2012-2014 been there, done that). I began learning chinese because sometimes the chinese companies leak on purpose even if they're not allowed to because they have no idea how to solve some problems on time (and I wonder how many of them go crazy or what they do not to go crazy) and the community sometimes saves the day while they have interest on it (a couple of months+-). Examples: HDMI flickering, WIFI/Bluetooth problems, overheating or hanging due to crappy power supply DVFS, horrible drivers fighting for IRQs, Skype camera/USB audio support, hardcoded MAC addresses, absurd code for the H264 decoder/IPP ....

    China will win the price war but their products are usually obselete fast and without support they're soon paperweights (the cubie/radxa too but they're muuuuuch better than the rest chinese ones). The only way the rest can compete is with good support, open-software and good manuals. This mips crap with no open GPU and no SATA is less usefull than a radxa at the same price.

    ARM is the new x86 when it comes to developer base and MIPS with a similar price won't atract them (no Linaro, no Ubuntu, no Arch... no common Linux base= for a very specific market, probably too low to be considered)

    Arduino is not on the same league but if they want tinkerers they should remember that Arduino didn't won the market because they where better than PIC boards or because they had new tech (they copied Wiring). They won because it was cheap enough (cheaper than BasicStamp), open source and because they got tons and tons of documentation so that people could copy and paste. They also encouraged the shields being open source.

    They won because they made making mistakes less likely (documentation) and cheap. The industry went ARM (phones, battery/price) and the educational centers had to teach it. Now the inertia is so big that intel is having problems to attract developers (even the ones with a lot of free time to debug, document and show off with useless projects: students).

    Real developers are always a few and/or they contribute small amounts of code but the copypasters are legion. Now Arduino still sells because a kid/ID-10T can do a "look ma I made it blink" much cheaper than with a Lego NXT with even less skills.

    The Arduino guys didn't get rich with the MakeyMakey and other boards but they're still getting money and can even afford to sell crappy printers now. People still buy the Arduino _brand_ instead of clones for the same reason they drink Starbucks, some have money and like the non functional experience of the envelope and instead of the greeness/environment/third world they do it for the open source.

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      What Arduino did fantastically correct...

      When starting out with a new environment and embedded uC system, the best thing to do first is make an LED blink. Once you can make an LED blink, the learning curve is about half over. The rest is just software, which is of course trivial; so simple that even programmers can occasionally do it correctly.

      A blinking LED is the "HELLO WORLD" of the embedded processor world.

      The Arduino typically comes with the BLINK program built in, already loaded. It even has the LED on the board. Connect power... BLINK BLINK BLINK BLINK... Examine trivial code. Understand enough to carry on. Shortest learning curve on Earth.

      Whoever decided to include BLINK and the LED is a genius.

      1. DropBear

        Re: What Arduino did fantastically correct...

        The reason LED blinking gets flak is that it requires precisely zero learning. Unpack, plug in, power up, click download, done. You're not halfway through anything, you haven't even touched the curve yet. Doing anything more complex (NOT just downloading a different sketch and/or changing a port pin or a delay value) is where the actual learning starts, and coincidentally where a lot of people stop (hey, they're "makers" now; job done!). As long as one works off Instructables or some other nice shiny step-by-step tutorial with bullet points the engaged brainpower hovers around zero - everyone has to start somewhere, yes, but learning happens when you do things you were NOT told how to do - ie. start figuring out stuff for yourself, which also coincidentally is the point where (the precious few remaining) people start to realize why datasheets exist (the brighter ones eventually even learn why erratas exist). Granted, it's a different story for a seasoned developer who just happens to start on a new platform - but he already has all the learning done BEFORE his LED starts blinking; for actual beginners that LED is the equivalent of starting to brag "hey look I'm a badass marine now" as soon as one signs up...

        1. HmmmYes

          Re: What Arduino did fantastically correct...

          'You're not halfway through anything, you haven't even touched the curve yet. '

          Balls to that.

          I'm a 'seasoned developer' when I get a blinking LED I know I have the following:

          1) Working hardware, or at least hardware that works enough for me t bootstrap the rest of the testing/development.

          2) A tool chain that builds an image.

          3) A working method of getting an image onto the board and running it.

          The rest, as the previous poster said, is just software.

          Seriously, do not under estimate what a huge milestone blinking a LED is. Just cos your mass produced PC works out of the box does not mean that 100-of, low-volume manufacturing sample/1st release will work.

  9. Phuq Witt

    Imagination Tech

    Ooooh! –please let it be a big seller. My shares in Imagination Tech have been nose-diving continually since I bought them* a couple of years ago.

    [*probably after reading some other article on El Reg, bigging up the company]

  10. Alistair
    Windows

    Euro prices?

    Please don't complain - it makes us Canucks chuckle. .89 to .93 on the dollar, $65 american, and we'll end up paying C$97.50, before tax in all likelyhood.

    (no, not windows, just a grumpy old bastard)

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