ARM device to replace desktop?

Discussion in 'SBC, ARM, Home Automation' started by MannDude, Mar 13, 2015.

  1. MannDude

    MannDude Just a dude vpsBoard Founder Moderator

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    MannDude
    I'm looking for an ARM powered device (Think RaspberyPi, BeagleBoard, O-Droid, etc) that I can use as a replacement to a normal desktop PC. In an effort to reduce my energy consumption as I will eventually be rockin' home solar power in the next year or two I'm interested in seeking alternative and smarter computing options in the home. My workstation PC, although it will still be needed for some tasks is going to be mostly replaced by my laptop that obviously uses significantly less power and offers enough resources to get done what it is that I need to get done.

    But after work is done, and it's time to just browse the web/check email/whatever I can switch over to a small ARM device that will be adequate enough for normal browsing, Skype use, checking email, etc. Basically, what I am looking for is something that will let me do the following, without issue or headache or too much cursing:

    • Run Debian / XFCE
    • Firefox/IceWeasel
    • Thunderbird/IceDove
    • Skype
    • Terminator with multiple terminals open.
    See? Nothing major... though resources to spare for when I have all running at once with multiple tabs open and multitasking is a must.

    I'm looking at the ODROID-XU3 and it's pretty damn impressive as far as specs go. (2X) Quadcore CPUs, 2GB RAM, USB3, etc. Seems like it'd be up for the task, and at $179 it won't break the bank but it's on the north end of what I'd want to spend...

    What would you recommend for an ARM device capable of replacing a desktop? The RPI (Model B, and new 1Gb Model) I have will be used for other things, and using the RPI2 as a desktop client 'works' but not as well as I'd like. I'd like something a bit more powerful.

    Suggestions?
     
  2. sundaymouse

    sundaymouse New Member

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    You will hit a little problem with Skype on ARM.

    Skype's linux version (closed-source obviously), IIRC has not been compiled for ARM platform.
     
  3. MannDude

    MannDude Just a dude vpsBoard Founder Moderator

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    It works on my RPI 2 :)

    A bit slow, but it works.

    EDIT:

    Ah, woops. I take it back. Sorry, haven't booted into the Pi for a bit. Forgot I was using it to access a remote desktop... Skype was not running natively on the Pi. Sorry for the confusion.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2015
  4. drmike

    drmike 100% Tier-1 Gogent

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    I'm with you MannDude on the tiered computing approach.

    For the hanging out mode, why not just plunk < $100 for a semi alright quad core tablet running Android?   Decent mail apps out there, browser works fine, Skype works fine, have audio and video capabilities. Definitely low power all said.  Portable as all can be...  suitable for lounging in a charge, lugging outside or browsing while on the crapper.

    Otherwise with the ARM or any other platform you are powering monitor + input devices + probably some speakers.

    If you notebook / laptop is good shape, powerful enough, low enough power, certainly can use that as desktop replacement without spending much on peripheral upgrades you may want (probably have most stuff already)...

    So laptop + good tablet.  Tablet in my experience (just this week) is best with keyboard and mouse to do real stuff.

    Get into something that require better user experience or Linux only, can always pop the notebook/laptop out of sleep mode and have at it.
     
  5. drmike

    drmike 100% Tier-1 Gogent

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    There has to be a slew of ARM set top boxes with rooted wild running Linux installs at this point.  Some fairly decent really cheap boxes out there for $80 or less.

    There was a teaser of an Intel powered SOC running Ubuntu portable OS, but zero delivery so far.

    Can always try this:



    Complete Linux Installer:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zpwebsites.linuxonandroid&hl=en

    I haven't tried it yet.  Need a rooted device though.
     
  6. sundaymouse

    sundaymouse New Member

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    Yeah, on simulated x86, I guess.
     
  7. DomainBop

    DomainBop Dormant VPSB Pathogen

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    I don't go near Skype but I can confirm (from testing Online.net's Marvell Armada 370/XP) compatibility is sometimes a problem with the ARM platform.

    You'll probably have as much "fun" using an ARM as a desktop replacement as I did back in the 90's when I ran into similar compatibility issues with my Alpha powered DEC Multia ( http://www.obsolyte.com/dec/multia/ ).   still have that little thing sitting on a shelf.
     
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  8. drmike

    drmike 100% Tier-1 Gogent

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    Clearly @DomainBop things for ARM have really advanced since the DEC days :)

    Problem with ARM is going to be some quirks on things folks might use and more limited library of stuff compiled for such.   It's fairly robust though at least on the server side at this point.  Rather impressive actually.

    There are lots of videos on YouTube of folks running all sorts of ARM boards with Linux desktops.  For dumb terminals and simple computing, the gear is pretty good, especially when looking at the price of stuff these days.  People are running desktops off of USB sticks with multi-cores on board.
     
  9. MannDude

    MannDude Just a dude vpsBoard Founder Moderator

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    Linux on a tablet seems a bit laggy. I'd almost rather just run the Android OS with bluetooth keyboard/mouse and use apps, but I'm paranoid about a lot of 3rd party apps and other random features.

    For that reason, I'd really prefer sticking with a non-tablet solution. :)
     
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  10. willie

    willie New Member

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    Contrary to popular belief ARM cpu's are not more power-efficient than comparably fast x86's.  Intel has traditionally focused on fast cpus where power consumption is a secondary concern, while ARM cpu's have used less power but have also been slower, and the power to speed ratio is usually in Intel's favor.

    These days Intel's attention is turning towards low powered cpu's though ARM is still ahead on price.

    Basically I'd say get yourself a laptop with a Broadwell x86 cpu.  It will run all the stuff you're used to at quite high efficiency.  Put the heavy computation and storage on a remote server.  Hetzner auction servers are ridiculously cheap these days.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 14, 2015
  11. tburke

    tburke New Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 14, 2015
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  12. drmike

    drmike 100% Tier-1 Gogent

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    Let's address that, since I am of similar beliefs.

    Tablet and lagging equals cheap, old or inferior stuff.   I have a HP Slate 7" I just picked up.  Quite a cost bargain @ $80~.  Quad core, storage in it is pretty fast, RAM isn't too big sadly.  It works superbly, too well.  Similar really to a quad core set top box I have.   There is no delay with my usage, at all.

    Bluetooth mouse and keyboard is mandatory.   I started rocking that with tablet this week and am quite happy.

    If it is Android anything you have the apps and crapware issue.  If there is one valid reason to bypass Android it is this one.   You can get / self root your device and install various tools, apps, hosts blockers, etc.  I fully intend to go this route with everything ideally soon.   

    You can and ideally should be running some alternative Android distro that doesn't have the bloatware and spyware. 

    Hard to argue the watts used by tablet, robustnesss, etc.   Whole different world on power consumption than say an ARM board + desktop devices + monitor.   Probably 5W vs. 20W+.   Watts really avalanche roll with off grid use like dorks do with something always on. 

    Other biggie here is notebooks, tablets and smartphones all bundles their own battery which serves as UPS per se and gives you run time when your generated or stored power might not be up to levels.  Thus avoiding the dreaded deep discharging of your off grid battery storage (deep cycling is really bad on standard batteries people buy).
     
  13. Chatahooch

    Chatahooch New Member

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    I am also planning on going off grid in the next 12-18 months. I at first thought I would need to look into something like what is being discussed here for greatly reducing power consumption. But if you going off grid and going solar, well solar has really advanced by leaps and bounds over the past 5 years. I really do not see the need to go extremely light on power such as with ARM etc. Solar setups these days will quite easily handle a desktop rig built with power consumption in mind. No need to sacrifice ease of use and options going for hardcore low power consumption.
     
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  14. drmike

    drmike 100% Tier-1 Gogent

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    While solar usable watt per dollar has come down, you have that inevitable issue of batteries and related plumbing which haven't come down.  You could always run high wattage stuff off grid, just had to get enough battery, right wire gauge and large enough inverter.

    With computing and audience here, people are accustomed to running desktops 24/7.  Cause rebooting and session resumption on a lot of stuff just is fubared.  Plus there is time for it to spring back to life and breakage.  24/7 runtime with other accessories slurping watts.

    Best thing anyone can do is segment their usage when going off grid.   Heavy power only during your work day and ideally that work day is during the time of day when solar gets most watts into your system - so you are actually using directly just converted energy before it even goes to battery storage.  Hobby computing in your off time  needs  to something lighter - tablet, ARM device, smartphone, etc.

    Other thread on here, did some napkin math on watt consumption and it gets too big and expensive real quick where running 24/7.

    Some simple modeling... Say your electric bill now on grid is 720KwH of usage.  That's 1KwH - per hour.   That means you are drawing if uniformly so 1000 watts of power every hour of the entire month.   That's 24KwH a day.

    You'd be running a darn big system to just meet that need off grid.   6KW system would be 1-1 ratio.  You'd need 8-12KW plus DC efficient replacements of things.  

    While cells might costs 8-12k$ for such, that's just half or less of the cost.  Batteries are good for 20% discharge cycles tops.  Meaning you build the batteries bigger and at good ratio or they fail ugly fast and expensive.  Batteries remain the worst of the off grid experience.

    Sadly 720KwH is roughly the average US electric bill per month. (600-1000KwH depending on who you ask).  Crunch the numbers and average house is probably looking at $25k to off grid just on the electric.  So to make it doable, optimization,  and efficiency are necessary for 95% of the population.
     
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  15. willie

    willie New Member

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    Laptops use a little bit of power when suspended and I think that's mostly to keep the DRAM contents alive, which the cpu architecture won't affect at all.  My current laptop has 12GB of DDR3 ram and drains its battery (60 WH?) in maybe 5 days, so it uses about 0.5W when suspended.  It might use 10-15W when idling with the screen lit and somewhat more when computing heavily.  So you might have to feed it 150 WH a day or so given basically all-day usage.  By comparison I think my smallish refrigerator uses around 1.2 KWH/day though it's a normal household refrigerator: specialized ones like camping fridges might be more efficient. 
     
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  16. drmike

    drmike 100% Tier-1 Gogent

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    That's not bad :)   I like those numbers. 10-20 watts during use, 10 low side idle, .5W suspended.  Expecting this is a real CPU and unit with real connectors and all also. Plus an alright sized screen.   

    Refrigerators are really power thirsty due to compressors in them.  For many folks the fridge is the biggest power eater.  The off grid fridges include a lot more insulation, are far smaller and many opt for the more efficient chest style since cold air sinks, it stays in a chest model :)  Other folks not going such a route and often a DC powered model like Sundanzer opt for a propane powered fridge instead.  Propane has a big place for lots of off grid and rural folks.
     
  17. wlanboy

    wlanboy Content Contributer

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  18. Dylan

    Dylan Active Member

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    How about a Chromebox? Don't let the name fool you: they're completely open, so you can replace ChromeOS with Linux, or even dual-boot between the two.

    $159 gets you a dual-core 1.4GHz Celeron, 2GB of RAM, a 16GB SSD, four USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, HDMI, DisplayPort, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and gigabit ethernet. Fanless, too.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IT1WJZQ/

    I don't think there's a better deal out there right now. It's not ARM, but right now I still see that as a plus.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2015
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  19. drmike

    drmike 100% Tier-1 Gogent

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    Those Asus and similar brand Chromeboxes aren't bad, especially if you shop wisely and make some upgrades (i.e. more RAM aftermarket and a real SSD of larger size).

    They were mentioned, I think, on other related thread.

    Nice thing is they support dual displays natively.
     
  20. pcan

    pcan New Member

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    I tried the Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME 4Gb  last year, but I was disappointed by the poor quality of the Debian-based Linux distribution. Many packages are missing, HDMI monitor support is basic and it cannot even boot from the embedded Flash, Linux must boot from the slower Micro-SD card. I will try again with the latest release, I hope they fixed it. The hardware itself is good, the Sata connector is a major advantage, but the board does not come with a power cable for the drive. The Raspberry Pi 2 is a better general purpose Debian ARM computer, if Sata is not needed.
     
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