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The Icon Bar: General: ARMini people... Time to let the cat out of the bag!
 
  ARMini people... Time to let the cat out of the bag!
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Steven Gregory Message #117334, posted by thecellartroll at 12:52, 18/4/2011
Member
Posts: 135
OK chaps, you had the computer on sale at Wakefield so you must be happy enough with it to let the general (wallet clutching) public have a proper gander. Yet unfortunately the only official information is still a single web page that says very little.

From that I can't tell whether you use a RISC OS ltd install or a ROOL install. There isn't even the obligatory screenshot of its desktop.

From that webpage it is impossible to tell what the significant advantages of buying that beasty over the rather-a-lot cheaper beagleboards. I'm guessing better compatability with the RISC OS software library, better storage drivers and less missing modules, but none of that is apparent from the site.

Go on, spill the dirt! Give us some tasty product shots, some screenshots, a list of supported hardware and tell us how nicely it runs Starfighter 3000. You know you want to!
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David Heath Message #117335, posted by HeathHayle at 14:30, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117334
Member
Posts: 147
it is running Riscos 5 if I can rembery so its RiscOS open hope that helps from David Heath
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Martin Bazley Message #117336, posted by swirlythingy at 15:50, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117334

Posts: 460
It's at ROUGOL tonight and I'm going, so I'll let you know.

(Better still, wait for Bryan to turn up and post the obligatory advertisement.)
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poink Message #117344, posted by poink at 18:40, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117334
Member
Posts: 1
From that I can't tell whether you use a RISC OS ltd install or a ROOL install. There isn't even the obligatory screenshot of its desktop.
I went to the talk at Wakefield and it's the ROOL/Castle flavour. It ships without any RISC OS Ltd., components whatsoever. I don't think the hopes to work with RISCOS Ltd and RISC OS Open Limited panned out.

From that webpage it is impossible to tell what the significant advantages of buying that beasty over the rather-a-lot cheaper beagleboards.
I think the advantages are that it's a ready to go package and you get hand holding and support with it.

Noting the history, Andrew was very careful to say that you're being sold a machine with the present specifications and abilities. However, given that there's no reason for the ARMini not to track the ROOL/Beagleboard development pace, I think updates should be likely.

I'm not too sure about SF3000, but the one on R-Comp's stand was playing video back pretty smoothly. It seemed pretty nippy in the the very short play I did have.
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Jason Togneri Message #117345, posted by filecore at 18:43, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117344

Posts: 3867
So in short, it's a BB in a pretty box, with ROOL's RO preinstalled.
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #117350, posted by arawnsley at 20:46, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117345
R-Comp chap
Posts: 593
Erm no. Not quite.

Firstly, as of the end of the show, co-operation with RISCOS Ltd seems possible, so progress is being made smile

The BB is modified, the OS and disc build are customised, but we're feeding changes back into the source tree for others to benefit from. There is a significant amount of custom software on the machine that we have developed specifically for it. This makes it a much more useable experience.

Video capabilities are far more than your average beagleboard, you have more USB ports, and internal storage.

I'm sure you'll get a kick out of cobbling together a cut price beagle setup, and that's cool. If you're honestly comparing a motherboard with no storage or even power supply, to a complete, ready-to-go system with OS, custom software, and so on, then really, you aren't the target audiance for an ARMini, I'm afraid.

To clarify a couple of points, the OS licence is paid for, and I suspect Castle and RISCOS Ltd might both have a bit of a beef about you calling it ROOL's RO (wink). However, the OS we use is derived from that source tree, yes, because that's what's available for Cortex-A8. I'm not sure if our build is currently on public release, but we've got no interest in being proprietory, except for the custom apps and disc-content that we include.

I think most would agree that the machine we demonstrated at the show was rather more capable than a plain BB!


Of course, you can just call it a BB in a pretty box, that's up to you LOL! But then, this is the same sillyness we have with those who argue that our RISCubes are just PCs with VA slapped on. Sigh. None of them have even bothered to try owning one to find out!

I guess a VW is a Skoda in a pretty box. And a Jaguar (used to be) a Ford in a pretty box. That said, a Lexus *is* a Toyota in a pretty box, so whadda I know?

[Edited by arawnsley at 21:54, 18/4/2011]
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #117351, posted by arawnsley at 20:57, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117350
R-Comp chap
Posts: 593
One more thing... No website updates for a few days, until we've finished working on everything else. I'm afraid it's my policy to do work for customers first, and do advertising/sales-drumming-up later.

Once I get a breather, we'll look at rustling up some fancier web content.

But truthfully, I'd wager you all know already whether you want a new, fully kitted out RISC OS computer, or whether you'd prefer a lash'em'up BB project. That's two very different audiences, I think smile

The other thing is, a raw BB only financially helps TI and whoever you buy the BB from. Try and remember that for RISC OS to exist, the companies within the market need to eat smile Sales of machines allow us to pay for software development, without which it could get quite slim pickings!

[Edited by arawnsley at 22:01, 18/4/2011]
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Jason Togneri Message #117352, posted by filecore at 21:07, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117351

Posts: 3867
I'd wager you all know already whether you want a new, fully kitted out RISC OS computer, or whether you'd prefer a lash'em'up BB project. That's two very different audiences, I think smile
This, I think, is a very core point. I'm definitely in the build-it-yourself enthusiast category myself, and I mean no disrespect to those who put in the time and effort to make a nice shiny box for those who don't want to source their own components, and find a way to run things on it.

I'd actually be interested in the numbers, though - RISC OS started with a fairly hands-on, DIY sort of crowd, but then progressed to an end-consumer bunch when it started being 'the' mainstream thing in the UK, in all the schools and so on, and I think it has become more of a hands-on, DIY thing again as the market has dwindled to a hardcore niche mostly comprised of enthusiasts, retro freaks, the nostalgic, and the plain curious. I'm not trying to attack RISC OS as a consumer-friendly daily-use package; I just rather suspect that one outweighs the other, since a certain duo of other operating systems on other hardware platforms have stormed all over the mainstream desktop PC business.
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Jason Togneri Message #117353, posted by filecore at 21:17, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117350

Posts: 3867
The BB is modified, the OS and disc build are customised, but we're feeding changes back into the source tree for others to benefit from. There is a significant amount of custom software on the machine that we have developed specifically for it. This makes it a much more useable experience.
This seems reasonable enough. I would expect custom OS and software tweaks, which I'm sure adds a lot to the end-user experience. However, for the enthusiasts among us:

Video capabilities are far more than your average beagleboard, you have more USB ports, and internal storage.
I won't debate over the relative ease of plugging in USB ports and HDD/SDs/CFs/SSDs/etc, and so forth, or even of adding a case and PSU of your own. The the most intriguing part of what you've said so far is your claim regarding video capabilities. Can you clarify what it is, exactly, that makes your video performance superior to a stock Beagleboard (assuming it's not some sort of dark corporate secret)? I'm guessing that at least part of it is custom-tweaked MDFs, but is there an additional or custom hardware component too?

[Edited by filecore at 22:20, 18/4/2011]
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Steven Gregory Message #117363, posted by thecellartroll at 22:17, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117353
Member
Posts: 135
By posting this I wasn't intending to bash your product, just the lack of official information about it.

For what it's worth I think that its pretty cool that even at this late stage in the demise of RISC OS that there are still commercial developers willing to take the financial risks involved in introducing new hardware.

I am very interested to hear that your machine has increased video capabilities. At present pretty much everyone developing software for Cortex A8 and similar devices is obsessed with getting them to play video, but there is very poor support for actually encoding video. Have you been doing any work in that area?

I might also suggest that dismissing those who like the DIY approach offhand as not being potential customers may not be the best idea. Yes, you have probably gauged me correctly as someone who would get a kick out of putting together their own system. At the same time if RISC OS advances over the next few years to a point where it is actually usable for my every day computing needs then do I want a box which I just plug into my monitor, keyboard and mouse and turn on? Hell yes I do! Will you still be making the ARMini or similar if that day comes around? I hope so.

I also wish you the best of luck with your negotiations with RISC OS ltd. In my opinion RISC OS development being split in two has been an enormously negative part of the story as there simply aren't enough users in the world for two branches to be productive.

I look forward to an update to your website, complete with screenshots and some tasty video demonstrating the graphics capabilities of your machine.
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Martin Bazley Message #117365, posted by swirlythingy at 23:41, 18/4/2011, in reply to message #117336

Posts: 460
(I wonder where Bryan is? Not like him to pass up the chance to advertise a talk!)

OK, as promised, my impressions from ROUGOL:

As others have confirmed, RISC OS Ltd have barely sneezed in its vicinity. I did sneak a quick peek at the printed manual, which had a disclaimer in the front which contained an intriguing passage stating that the product being sold was intended to be ARM Cortex-A8-based hardware running "an unspecified OS", although that may have been printed before the first ROL deal fell through. It'd be interesting to see if the new post-show developments bear fruit, although I'm not quite sure what Select components could feasibly be included.

There was also a printed label stuck on the bottom of one of the sheets of paper promising a 'Licence Number', and followed by a very large number of hexadecimal digits making it look all official an' that, although it could just as easily have been the MD5 sum of the ROM.

The case is a standard Mini-ITX model, which, according to the manual, comes in its own "specially designed box". By this it presumably means the box the Mini-ITX case came in with a sticky label on the side saying "ARMini". It's about the volume of four A9homes, or about a third of the Aria Iyonix I'm typing this on.

Setup was easy, according to Bryan, aside from not coming with a mouse and keyboard supplied - it's very much the "plug it in and turn it on" model Steven described.

Aside from the ubiquitous USB2 battery, there was a wide slot in the front which looked as if it should have housed a CD drive, but didn't, owing to the little matter of RISC OS currently being unable to drive it over USB. The case had clearly been designed in anticipation of one being added at some later date. There was also a slot each for SD/MMC, of which I had heard, and "MS", of which I hadn't, both connected via a USB adapter.

Both of these ports had their own customised icons on the icon bar, in addition to another one which presumably represented an internal USB-connected hard drive. The Iyonix jellybean switcher had been replaced (not before time) with a generic-looking blue 3D RISC OS cog, although I'm not sure what it was meant to signify. The startup banner had been replaced by something similar, along with rather a lot of unnecessary marketspeak in Trinity.Bold.Italic, which was replaced by the desktop so quickly I didn't have time to read it. PR own goal or score?

The disc image itself, wherever it was, was part ROOL standard fare and part PD software (as advertised for by Andrew earlier). R-Comp obviously make a habit out of trying vainly to unite mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable camps, for both Zap and StrongED were supplied (the latter in a directory called "StrongEd"). Zap had been usefully pre-patched, eliminating all the problems people have previously suffered in downloading disparate and hard-to-find updates to drop over the ancient official release.

Other software included DigitalCD (albeit sans Andre Timmermans' filetype icons, which seemed an odd decision), that RTC battery Configure plugin, NetSurf (2.7, which must have been quite a feat considering it came out on the same day), PhotoFiler, and quite a bit of other stuff I didn't look at properly.

Stuff which, as far as I could make out, was customised included the Display Manager (which displayed a countdown when you changed mode and automatically reverted if you didn't confirm you could see what you were doing) and a Configure plugin which consisted of two radio buttons, "Alignment Exceptions On" and (the default) "Alignment Exceptions Off".

Under the bonnet, aside from a whole lot of empty space, there was a small and frightened-looking BeagleBoard-xM, surrounded by an intimidating spaghetti of cables which were mostly plugged into an adjacent USB hub almost as big as it was. The board had had an RTC battery fitted, and thus kept correct time, but as yet there is no pseudo-CMOS, which makes most of Configure useless.

Sadly I didn't get to see the famed HDTV 1920x1080x24Hz display, because ROUGOL's workshy projector took one look at it and went and barfed into the bit bucket, so we were stuck at 1024x768 for the evening. (On the plus side, I can confirm that the Display Manager Timeout-o-Tron Mk 1 works perfectly.)

The wow factor of the evening was provided by a pre-installed copy of KinoAmp and a widescreen CGI movie, which ran in real-time with nary a jitter, both in the desktop and full-screen (or, in the case of the ROUGOL projector, about a third of the screen). We also tried running several videos from last year's London show at once (two turned out to be the upper limit, presumably held back by slow USB access and being too big for a RAM disc).

These benchmarks were attempted, and performed impressively (64-bit multiplication being considerably faster), although I can't remember exact figures.

And lastly, of course, the true measure of a computer's speed and only totally reliable measure of processing power, the ArtWorks Apple: It was over before you could start a stopwatch.

All in all, considering that it was built on a development version of the hardware and runs a development version of the OS, it was surprisingly release-ready and polished. Obviously there are flaws, which will be familiar to anyone with a BeagleBoard or who's been following the progress. Principally, the lack of CMOS RAM or any kind of CD support are the two biggest issues, although the network runs perfectly if you're a type who prefers to shuffle off the pathetic limitations of physical media. The former issue should hopefully be solved soonish; the latter is up in the air (Steffen Huber did say he managed to get something working with CDVDBurn, but apparently it's quite a lot of further effort to abstract it into a useful 'CDFSSoftUSB module' state).

Perfect for the individual who likes to keep up-to-date, doesn't mind experimental hardware, doesn't mind experimental software, is prepared to put up with the probability of future self-maintenance, and doesn't have a BeagleBoard. Or, alternatively, the user who prefers stability over cutting-edge development, wants to set up with the minimum of fuss, dislikes faffing with technical stuff, and doesn't have a RiscPC or Iyonix. The question is just how large that target market will turn out to be...
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Gary Hughes Message #117366, posted by gazza_fp at 02:03, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117351
Member
Posts: 25
I count myself as one of Andrew's target market but, being located in Australia, the cost of postage on top might dampen my interest. Mind you, the value of the Australian dollar at the moment makes purchases like these much more feasable.
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Jason Togneri Message #117368, posted by filecore at 06:32, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117365

Posts: 3867
NetSurf (2.7, which must have been quite a feat considering it came out on the same day)
Possibly they negotiated with the developers to get it released privately, prior to the show. After all, it's in both their interests to have users see it on this machine.

As to the rest, a great summary - thanks for writing it up!
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VinceH Message #117369, posted by VincceH at 08:17, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117365
VincceH
Lowering the tone since the dawn of time

Posts: 1600
Sadly I didn't get to see the famed HDTV 1920x1080x24Hz display, because ROUGOL's workshy projector took one look at it and went and barfed into the bit bucket, so we were stuck at 1024x768 for the evening.
Well, I can assure you that it works - changing to 1920x1080 was the thing first I did when I powered mine up at the show. It defaulted to a higher rate with very noticeable problems, so I dropped the rate and it was perfect.

Perfect for the individual who likes to keep up-to-date, doesn't mind experimental hardware, doesn't mind experimental software, is prepared to put up with the probability of future self-maintenance, and doesn't have a BeagleBoard.
I can't lump myself in with that type of user - because I do have a Beagleboard.

Or, alternatively, the user who prefers stability over cutting-edge development, wants to set up with the minimum of fuss, dislikes faffing with technical stuff, and doesn't have a RiscPC or Iyonix.
Bugger. I can't lump myself in with that group, either. I do have an Iyonix.

Help! I don't know who I am any more, and it's all R-Comp's fault!
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Trevor Johnson Message #117370, posted by trevj at 09:59, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117369
Member
Posts: 660
[...] Help! I don't know who I am any more, and it's all R-Comp's fault!
Aren't you in the in the same category as Bryan? I'll check whether the pub will object to us setting up your ARMini in a corner somewhere.
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Rob Kendrick Message #117373, posted by nunfetishist at 10:09, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117365
nunfetishist
Today's phish is trout a la creme.

Posts: 522
The disc image itself, wherever it was, was part ROOL standard fare and part PD software (as advertised for by Andrew earlier). R-Comp obviously make a habit out of trying vainly to unite mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable camps, for both Zap and StrongED were supplied (the latter in a directory called "StrongEd"). Zap had been usefully pre-patched, eliminating all the problems people have previously suffered in downloading disparate and hard-to-find updates to drop over the ancient official release.

Other software included DigitalCD (albeit sans Andre Timmermans' filetype icons, which seemed an odd decision), that RTC battery Configure plugin, NetSurf (2.7, which must have been quite a feat considering it came out on the same day), PhotoFiler, and quite a bit of other stuff I didn't look at properly.
And I'm sure Andrew has included a written offer for the sources to Zap and NetSurf, or included them on the disc image? smile
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Rob Kendrick Message #117374, posted by nunfetishist at 10:11, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117368
nunfetishist
Today's phish is trout a la creme.

Posts: 522
NetSurf (2.7, which must have been quite a feat considering it came out on the same day)
Possibly they negotiated with the developers to get it released privately, prior to the show. After all, it's in both their interests to have users see it on this machine.
Not as far as I know. We pushed it to the website the (late) night before.
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #117375, posted by arawnsley at 10:36, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117374
R-Comp chap
Posts: 593
Hi Rob, and thanks for checking those points.

I contacted Steve Fryatt and John-Mark Bell, obtaining necessary permissions, software and source, for just such an occasion smile
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Rob Kendrick Message #117376, posted by nunfetishist at 10:51, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117375
nunfetishist
Today's phish is trout a la creme.

Posts: 522
Hi Rob, and thanks for checking those points.

I contacted Steve Fryatt and John-Mark Bell, obtaining necessary permissions, software and source, for just such an occasion smile
And does the ARMini come with those sources, or a written offer to provide them for up to two years after purchase?

(Zap, and probably a lot of the other software you're shipping will have similar requirements of you.)
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #117381, posted by arawnsley at 11:56, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117376
R-Comp chap
Posts: 593
Of course Rob, just as NetSurf itself does. You don't think we'd remove something from your software, do you? How many times have we been round this dance? It does get a bit boring.
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Rob Kendrick Message #117383, posted by nunfetishist at 12:50, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117381
nunfetishist
Today's phish is trout a la creme.

Posts: 522
Of course Rob, just as NetSurf itself does. You don't think we'd remove something from your software, do you? How many times have we been round this dance? It does get a bit boring.
What, so there's a bit of paper in the box saying you'll provide sources to NetSurf and Zap et al on request, or all the sources to NetSurf are already included on the hard disc? I keep asking, because you're being vague and not being at all clear when asked simple questions!
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Andrew Rawnsley Message #117384, posted by arawnsley at 12:59, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117383
R-Comp chap
Posts: 593
I'm being vague, because I have dealt with another of the NetSurf team, and find your repeated questioning offensive when it comes up at every opportunity (eg. several RISCube threads, VA threads and so on).

You *know* that we keep copies of the NS source.
You *know* that we make offer to supply if required.
You *know* we supply full documentation for NetSurf
You *know* what's in that documentation
You *know* that the GPL is satisfied by a link to a website or other repository containing current source.
You *know* we go one step further by offering the NS source separately if required.

Yet you continue to bring it up on this forum at every opportunity.

[Edited by arawnsley at 14:00, 19/4/2011]

[Edited by arawnsley at 14:05, 19/4/2011]
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Rob Kendrick Message #117385, posted by nunfetishist at 13:43, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117384
nunfetishist
Today's phish is trout a la creme.

Posts: 522
I'm being vague, because I have dealt with another of the NetSurf team, and find your repeated questioning offensive when it comes up at every opportunity (eg. several RISCube threads, VA threads and so on).

You *know* that we keep copies of the NS source.
I only knew you did this for what you shipped with RISCubes.
You *know* that the GPL is satisfied by a link to a website or other repository containing current source.
Except in your case it isn't. All I'm asking is which of the two steps to satisfy the licence you have taken. Which of including a written offer for sources in the box, or complete sources in the box have you chosen? They're the only two valid approaches, and no matter how often I ask, you never seem to answer. I'm sure you'd be equally concerned about somebody infringing your copyright if somebody were giving such vague answers to straightforward questions on the subject.
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Bryan Hogan Message #117386, posted by helpful at 13:45, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117365
Member
Posts: 249
(I wonder where Bryan is? Not like him to pass up the chance to advertise a talk!)
I'm here, but didn't notice this thread yesterday before the talk, and didn't leave the pub afterwards until 11.30pm, so wasn't doing anything last night!

OK, as promised, my impressions from ROUGOL:
Nice write up.

Sadly I didn't get to see the famed HDTV 1920x1080x24Hz display, because ROUGOL's workshy projector took one look at it and went and barfed into the bit bucket, so we were stuck at 1024x768 for the evening.
Later on we did discover the projector would display 1680x1050 at 50Hz, which is quite a nice size desktop. The speed at which 8Mpix images could still be dragged and scrolled around makes me wonder if some of the graphics acceleration is on in RComp's ROM. Or maybe it just shows how efficient the RO code is!

the lack of ... any kind of CD support
I certainly hope to be able to put an internal DVD writer in there at some point, for that all-in-one-box solution. The ARMini could then become my primary machine.

The question is just how large that target market will turn out to be...
Hopefully large enough to encourage RComp to continue work on it and produce updated versions. That's one of the reasons I decided to take the mad early plunge smile
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Bryan Hogan Message #117387, posted by helpful at 13:48, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117385
Member
Posts: 249
blah blah
Rob, please take this to private email, it is off topic here and very boring.
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Rob Kendrick Message #117388, posted by nunfetishist at 13:51, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117387
nunfetishist
Today's phish is trout a la creme.

Posts: 522
blah blah
Rob, please take this to private email, it is off topic here and very boring.
Perhaps it would not have been so drawn out if Andrew answered a simple question simply.
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Bryan Hogan Message #117389, posted by helpful at 13:56, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117369
Member
Posts: 249
Perfect for the individual who likes to keep up-to-date, doesn't mind experimental hardware, doesn't mind experimental software, is prepared to put up with the probability of future self-maintenance, and doesn't have a BeagleBoard.
I can't lump myself in with that type of user - because I do have a Beagleboard.
Me too!

Or, alternatively, the user who prefers stability over cutting-edge development, wants to set up with the minimum of fuss, dislikes faffing with technical stuff, and doesn't have a RiscPC or Iyonix.
Bugger. I can't lump myself in with that group, either. I do have an Iyonix.
I don't, I have an Omega big grin

The ARMini is a much neater solution than a Beagleboard with USB drives sticking out and trailing cables, etc, plus the need to find someone to fit a battery. Whether it is worth the mark-up compared to building your own is up to other people to decide for themselves. But at least we now have the option smile
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Andrew Poole Message #117391, posted by andypoole at 14:26, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117389
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plus the need to find someone to fit a battery.
You could always.. you know.. fit your own battery tongue
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Jason Togneri Message #117392, posted by filecore at 15:02, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117391

Posts: 3867
plus the need to find someone to fit a battery.
You could always.. you know.. fit your own battery tongue
Troll! Phlamethrower
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Bryan Hogan Message #117396, posted by helpful at 16:02, 19/4/2011, in reply to message #117391
Member
Posts: 249
plus the need to find someone to fit a battery.
You could always.. you know.. fit your own battery tongue
You haven't seen my soldering skills! I would probably end up melting the ARM chip onto the side of a USB socket Crybaby
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The Icon Bar: General: ARMini people... Time to let the cat out of the bag!