Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 9th Sep 2012 21:48 UTC, submitted by Boomshiki
Hardware, Embedded Systems "We've seen a profusion of relatively low-cost PCs and tablets over the last few years, but Taiwanese electronics company Via's APC is cheap even by these standards: it's a $49 low-power desktop computer running a modified version of Android 2.3. Announced today, the APC is meant as a simple way to connect to the internet, so you won't get a great deal of computing power. It contains an 800MHz processor, 512MB of DDR3 memory, 2GB of flash storage, and can connect to a monitor or TV to output a resolution of up to 720p. It also consumes a fraction of a standard desktop's power: 13.5 watts at maximum and only 4 watts when idle."
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My, how technology has progressed
by WorknMan on Sun 9th Sep 2012 22:26 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

This thing is amazing, considering that back in the 80's, we were paying a premium to get a machine with 1/10th the power that this thing has. Back in 1991-ish, my dad paid $2,500+ for a 386 33mhz machine, with 4MB RAM.

I'm sure those who are older than me can recall a time where computers took up a whole room, and were slow even by 80's standards ;)

Edited 2012-09-09 22:26 UTC

Reply Score: 2

bosco_bearbank Member since:
2005-10-12

I'm not that old, but I did pay $3500 or so for box with an 8086 clone and 256MB RAM back in 1984

Reply Score: 3

kwanbis Member since:
2005-07-06

I still remember our 60mhz(!) Pentium 1, with 64MB of RAM.

Reply Score: 3

MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

At work I had a Pentium @ 75 Mhz, with 16 MB. Then a PC showed up, also a Pentium @ 75 Mhz, but it had 32 MB of RAM!!! This was so much that I needed to tell other people about it and they too were impressed. Imagine that, 32 MB!!!

Reply Score: 3

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

When my school got Pentium 100 machines in '97 or so, they still had only 16 MiB - seems some people always compromised otherwise fine PCs with low RAM amounts.
(of course, they were used mostly for Wolf3D, NFS1 and Worms, with a touch of MS Paint and... Norton Commander, DOS version; so it didn't make much difference)

More tragically: when I was getting my Duron 600 (note: the slowest CPU for the platform) in 2000, it was during the period when memory prices spiked up for some reason, so I had to live with 64 MiB for a year ;/ ...no more than Celeron 300-400 machines bought a year prior, and no win2k for me then.

Reply Score: 2

MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

Sounds like a pretty fine Linux machine!

When my Linux PC started to become too slow for comfort I'd switch to the CLI programs for mail, usenet, irc.

A few days ago I dusted off one of those machines and updated it to the latest Debian. It has no GUI, but it ran very fine. I remember when it did have a GUI I couldn't play Flash stuff, it would stutter all the time. So I swapped the 350 Mhz Pentium II for a 400 Mhz one and it ran fine!

It's a VERY large desktop, but that's cool: 2 screws you could remove using your hands you could lift the cover and you could easily get to anything and it had a number of extension slots/bays.

Reply Score: 2

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Not really very fine, given the circumstances...

Linux doesn't (and didn't, back then) work out very well if your internet access is just via per-minute-metered (and expensive) 56k dial-up*, when virtually nobody around toys with it, and hardly any optical disc burners in sight. It's also hard to play with installing random OS in general, when you have only this one PC.
Plus with one smallish HDD, hence troublesome repartitioning (where to keep the data?), and the case even sealed... (over which I had no influence, or generally where the PC was bought; lucky just that it was)

...it were strange times, weird things many people took for granted (another unrelated one: cooling fans - I remember how one shop salesman looked at me as if I were an alien, when I requested "as silent as possible" - and I still ended up with IMHO ridiculously loud one, I believe they just didn't have anything different; think how much collective productivity, human thought, was wasted by such whining CPU fans)

On top of it all, the distros I did try at some point (CDs included with magazines, like the Red Hat ~7 I still should have somewhere; I still like the ncurses style of installer much more BTW) didn't work well with my GFX card (which I couldn't just change - no spare around, no easy means to get another one; NVM the seal...)


*such 56k meant I hardly used mail and IRC back then in the first place, Usenet never. It all revolved more around sneakernets (probably greatly helping to strengthen the "dominant" platform; perhaps those factors - demonstrated not nearly only by my place - were more significant than the overall MS leniency towards piracy).
Even in my high school with a LAN of Macs, we kept our projects on FDDs... (stored in the classroom...)

Though Duron 600 wasn't exactly slow back then, just slowest on Socket A - still, luckily, I already seemed to have other priorities than "as high number next to the CPU as possible" (but again, tragically, tied to mere 64 MiB for a year, due to RAM price spike - IIRC I paid more in 2000 for 64 MiB than some did in 99 for 128 MiB...)


WRT old clunkers: some time later, in 2004, I got my hands on a surplus dual Pentium II 266 with 384 MiB - now that's a nice machine to toy around with, and has a decent amount of RAM. Even LXDE is quite decent, as is win2k - generally, with Opera 9.27 (no flash of course, and js disabled on most pages), it's even almost bearable as a "browsing and stuff" PC. In fact, I think that Opera 9.27 works better now than in its heyday - probably due to pages abandoning "works best in IE & FF" mentality, with Webkit around.

Edited 2012-09-15 10:50 UTC

Reply Score: 2

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

I'm not that old, but I did pay $3500 or so for box with an 8086 clone and 256MB RAM back in 1984


Surely, you jest. 256MB in 1984? Doubtful they even had hard drives that big back then ;)

Edited 2012-09-10 05:43 UTC

Reply Score: 3

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

I think it must have been 256KB.

A big HD had 20MB capacity 1984.

Reply Score: 3

bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

Actually a big drive in 84 was 5Mb, the monster 20Mb drives were so crazy priced you weren't getting them unless you were working corporate.

Which just blows my mind on how far we've come, from paying over $600 for my VIC with the extras to roughly a hundred less than that for a 6 core with 8Gb of RAM and 3Tb of HDDs, not to mention 800 stream processors on the GPU with a half a Gb of its own RAM. It just blows my mind that you could emulate my first half a dozen machines, OS and complete file system images, in the RAM I paid less than $70 for today.

Heck my netbook cost $350 new, has 8Gb of RAM and plays L4D on the thing, just nuts how much horsepower we get now for peanuts.

Reply Score: 2

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Conversely, it's a bit sad how this power is largely used now - FB, lolcats, and such ;p (but perhaps there's some use of that... for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cute_cat_theory_of_digital_activism )

Reply Score: 2

bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

Well I've been using mine to hunt North Koreans in Crysis but I've found...well...kinda a side effect. I've been hearing that dang computer voice going "Maximum Armor..Maximum Strength..Maximum Speed..Cloak Engaged" in my damned sleep ;-)

Reply Score: 2

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Could be always worse, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=298Cw3_qGwE ;p (and that propaganda clip still misses ~"democracy is truth, communism is death!")

Though since the new Great Leader(tm) announced some PRC-style economic reforms, we'll probably see "Made in DPRK" quite often in a few years - the mixture of capitalist consumer market & totalitarian workforce seems to be the recipe for "big success"(tm) in our world...

PS. WRT the general silliness of pop-cultural PRC/DPRK depictions, I wonder how ridiculous the new Red Dawn will be... at the very least, I think it's safe to say that much more ridiculous than the original. BTW, the recent Tomorrow, When the War Began is surprisingly decent - also with some Rambo-style ridiculousness of course, but still kinda less than even the original Red Dawn, IMHO; sort of trying to depict actual humans and how they behave, how they would likely act in such situation, for most of the film at least...

Edited 2012-09-15 17:39 UTC

Reply Score: 2

ameasures Member since:
2006-01-09

I'm not that old, but I did pay $3500 or so for box with an 8086 clone and 256MB RAM back in 1984


1984 - 256MB .... if you were lucky!

An easy mistake that shows how far things have come.

Edited 2012-09-10 08:59 UTC

Reply Score: 4

Slambert666 Member since:
2008-10-30

1984 - 256MB .... if you were lucky!


Sure you mean 256KB

Reply Score: 1

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

back in the 80's, we were paying a premium to get a machine with 1/10th the power that this thing has

Probably closer to somewhere between 1/100th and 1/1000th... (especially since CPU isn't everything, plus in the meantime it integrated FPU & SIMD as standard)

Reply Score: 2

Awsome!
by Alfman on Sun 9th Sep 2012 22:35 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

Looks like it could become a great building block for homebrew innovation in the living room. My preference would be running a non-android variant of Linux on it. I've been wanting a platform for streaming media and viewing pictures on TV's, but I haven't wanted to throw a full blown computer into the mix. Only problem is to support all the TV's these would need a composite video output.

Reply Score: 4

Home Media Theater
by Gestahlt on Sun 9th Sep 2012 23:29 UTC
Gestahlt
Member since:
2011-10-17

I run around with like 10 years around wanting a computer on my TV.

I already had this twice.

First i had used a PC with a Radeon 9800 All-In-Wonder as gaming and recording rig on a old 40" CRT TV, then later i used a small APC Barebone (Which i threw out of the window literally).

Im always kinda obsessed with the idea to make another one but then again, what for?

For movies i plug my USB HD or Stream from network (TV has already that functionality build in).
I dont watch any recordings anyway and for gaming i lack the time or prefer be in front of my regular workstation.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by BBAP
by Bringbackanonposting on Sun 9th Sep 2012 23:46 UTC
Bringbackanonposting
Member since:
2005-11-16

May 22 2012? It's September isn't it?

Reply Score: 3

A different VIA product
by Anachronda on Mon 10th Sep 2012 02:12 UTC
Anachronda
Member since:
2007-04-18

I'm actually more interested in the VAB-800. More pricey, pushing $180, but has an ARM7 processor, SATA, and is said to run Ubuntu.

Doesn't seem to be quite out yet, though.

<a href="http://www.viaembedded.com/en/products/boards/1930/1/VAB-800.html"...

Reply Score: 2

What we actually wanted was..
by uridium on Mon 10th Sep 2012 03:38 UTC
uridium
Member since:
2009-08-20

Seriously. When is someone going to offer us a system that:
1) Bolts into a vanilla ATX case.
2) Has 2 (or more please?) cores.
3) Takes regular PC memory.
4) Has 2 (or more please?) SATA 1 || 2 ports.
5) Has at least two PCIe slots.
6) Dual on-board ethernet
7) Runs standard Linux and *BSD.
7) For $250au or under for board+processor only.

*Sigh* Seriously. I know of several friends waiting for this that've bought Rpi's and done the "it's fun..but what I really wanted was $See_Above".

Think ARM "workstation" please. Android, sure fun cute, but focusing on that is canceling out 90% of your market. Not everyone wants an ARM based system as a dev-box for a tablet. Some of us want to "do" something with ARM systems rather than play angry-birds.

Reply Score: 4

RE: What we actually wanted was..
by Gestahlt on Mon 10th Sep 2012 07:06 UTC in reply to "What we actually wanted was.."
Gestahlt Member since:
2011-10-17

So true.

I really want to work more with ARM based or at least not intel based device. Im very interested in low-power consumption devices (thats why the RPI is interesting to me). I dont mind giving 2-4 watt more for a second core or an dual CPU config.

With increasing costs for energy, id like to have some real alternatives for computing. Since im not in gaming anymore, i just want to get a rig that is doing the web and work stuff nicely. I mean the Galaxy S2 cant have so much energy consumption and it performs really nicely.

Reply Score: 1

RE: What we actually wanted was..
by biffuz on Mon 10th Sep 2012 14:34 UTC in reply to "What we actually wanted was.."
biffuz Member since:
2006-03-27

The problem is that the most powerful ARM chips are in fact SOCs designed for tablets and smartphones, and do not come with all the features needed to build such a board.
I doubt there's enough market yet for a powerful, desktop-oriented ARM chip to attract the chip designers. Just wait for those promised ARM servers, and in the meantime go with an Atom.

Reply Score: 3

RE: What we actually wanted was..
by bassbeast on Tue 11th Sep 2012 18:45 UTC in reply to "What we actually wanted was.."
bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

Its called the E350 from AMD and without case can be found for around $70. I've bought plenty of them, make great office boxes and cheap HTPCs and if you go to NewEgg they sell them in a nice HTPC style case for $100 flat.

I don't know how it translates into AU, you guy tend to get hosed, but since i can pick them up for $70 surely they can't be that much higher here. Does Amazon sell there? here is a nice one with case for $124 US.

http://www.amazon.com/Foxconn-R20-A1-1-6GHz-Barebone-System/dp/B006...

Reply Score: 3

RE: What we actually wanted was..
by zima on Wed 12th Sep 2012 05:30 UTC in reply to "What we actually wanted was.."
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Think ARM "workstation" please

And such machine, if done now, would be so niche and so expensive (think new "Amiga" machines - an order of magnitude slower and an order of magnitude more expensive than entry-level PCs) that it would lose most of ARM charm. Hardly anybody would want to pay for it - most of those who express their desire for such machine likely wouldn't pay for it.

Android, sure fun cute, but focusing on that is canceling out 90% of your market.

Well, VIA ~= HTC, essentially...

Reply Score: 2

4W idle is not enough ;)
by fasteez on Mon 10th Sep 2012 06:49 UTC
fasteez
Member since:
2007-03-13
not great value
by unclefester on Mon 10th Sep 2012 06:57 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

You can buy a proper Android 4.0 TV box with a much higher specs (1.5GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 4GB storage) for only $55 including postage.


http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/New-Android-4-0-Mini-PC-A10-1-5GHz-1GB-G...

Reply Score: 2

720p?
by c0m47053 on Mon 10th Sep 2012 07:23 UTC
c0m47053
Member since:
2011-05-12

Seems a bit low, possibly artificially limited?

The RasPi supports 1080p, so is better for it's intended purpose of learning/low end development workstation.

I could see this stuck to the back of my TV as a HTPC perhaps.

Reply Score: 1

Pretty cool and cheap as hell, but...
by UltraZelda64 on Mon 10th Sep 2012 08:59 UTC
UltraZelda64
Member since:
2006-12-05

...I'll pass on a machine from Taiwan/China. It's bad enough the core parts are often outsourced and made there.

And I can't be the only one who thinks Android would probably suck with a normal keyboard/mouse/screen... what is up with OEMs' fascination with Android? It's good for phones and probably tablet computers, but for anything else a standard Linux distro would be best. I guess the ridiculously low system specs must play a role here.

Reply Score: 1

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

...I'll pass on a machine from Taiwan/China. It's bad enough the core parts are often outsourced and made there.


WTF?

Don't you realise all computers, tablets and phones are made in Taiwan and China?

Reply Score: 6

Johann Chua Member since:
2005-07-22

Nearly all. My Galaxy Ace was made in Vietnam, though I guess at least some parts were made in Taiwan or China.

Reply Score: 2

KLU9 Member since:
2006-12-06

what is up with OEMs' fascination with Android? [...] but for anything else a standard Linux distro would be best...


Their fascination with Android over a standard Linux distro might possibly have something to do with the market uptake of each. While this has been "the year of Linux on the desktop" for the last decade and a half with very little to show for it, Android has won millions and millions of OEM installs, and huge market share, and ***consumer mind share*** in a fraction of the time.

Most tech-buying consumers have heard of Android and many have used it. Propose to them a cheap nettop with Android and they might even entertain the idea of buying one. Mention the possibility of a cheap nettop with [insert distro of the month here] and I suspect that after they scratch their head for a second wondering "What's that?", their gaze will soon move on, already caught by some more familiar option.

Even if you or I would jump at the chance.

Reply Score: 3

UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

That's a very good point. I admit, I do like Android--my cell phone runs it and I think it fits well on phones--but IMO its use really is limited. It can be nice on tablet computers too I'm sure, but the problem there is that KDE also has an interface designed for such devices and--while I don't know how it is (never really gave it a full trial)--you never know, it might be a better choice on such hardware. And at least in some cases, it would be better. Especially its package management and upgrade-ability.

What I really dislike about Android is that you have to play by the device manufacturer's rules. You get system updates when they push them out, and I haven't seen even one motherf--king update in the entire time I've owned my phone (a full year on the 18th of next month). Sure, sure--install a custom mod. Sounds great, and I really do wish I could, but I looked up info on my particular phone (LG Optimus V) and didn't find a definite, fail-proof answer on how to do it. Rooting? Same thing.

Even worse, potential directions automatically assumed the Android user has a Windows PC, and gives Windows commands (which are completely useless for someone who has been using Linux exclusively since 2006 and no longer has a copy of Windows, or even wants to run it). And even if that was an option, I'm not sure it would be a good idea to risk bricking my phone at this time (no money for a replacement).

One of my biggest annoyances is that pre-installed programs cannot be uninstalled, and updates to them waste even space; the original version always exists in full on the device, wasting space, and "updates" are applied by wasting more space on top of that, with no capability to replace the old version's files. And even worse, every update seems to waste even more space. I've been running low on space on my phone for months now, and it only gets worse with every single program update--especially for those that came with the phone.

Edited 2012-09-12 06:58 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

I think part of this is an ARM problem, not an Android problem. At least I'd be interested to see if Android updates are that much of an issue on the x86 architecture, which pretty must allows Google to push a single OS image for every computer out there.

Reply Score: 1

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

...I'll pass on a machine from Taiwan/China. It's bad enough the core parts are often outsourced and made there.
[...] what is up with OEMs' fascination with Android?

Generally, VIA ~= HTC more or less.

Oh, and that "non-bad" machine you typed your post on ...made in ~China. As are most of our consumer toys for quite some time - at this point they are better than us at doing them.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Luke McCarthy
by Luke McCarthy on Mon 10th Sep 2012 22:14 UTC
Luke McCarthy
Member since:
2005-07-06

13.5 watts? That's quite power-hungry.

Reply Score: 1

Uhhhh...why?
by bassbeast on Mon 10th Sep 2012 23:10 UTC
bassbeast
Member since:
2007-11-11

Seriously why would you want this? its just a board, no case, and being a low power ARM means your software is gonna be limited. No wonder its running Android 2.x as it probably doesn't even have the oomph to run 4.o which again is gonna limit your software choices.

What to be really low power, still really affordable AND not be hampered in your software choices? Go grab one of the E350 units from NewEgg or any one of a couple hundred vendors. $rices start at around $100 but you get a case and PSU with that, a dual core 1.8Ghz X86 with GPU that will do full 1080p and only uses 18w max load and idles around 6w, and can run Linux, BSD, or Windows no problem so you have all the software choices in the world.

Now I can see this for the tinkerer types, like those cooking up weird gadgets with them like the Pi is used for, heck i have a friend using the Pi for a remote aircraft so I can see the appeal there, but for a desktop? Nooo, just....no. bad idea, too limited, too underpowered, just not a good idea. This would be like dragging out a 733Mhz P3 to do your daily surfing, sure it will work, but will it be a pleasant work environment? Not a chance.

If you worry that the E350 can't cut it don't, I have built several of them for offices and low cost HTPCs and they are great little units. For those that want a cheap as dirt HTPC there is even a version of Linux precompiled with XBMC designed for the E350, here is the link. I've used it on a couple of the HTPCs and its REAL nice, full 10 foot UI and support for most remotes OOTB, really sweet.

http://openelec.tv/get-openelec

Reply Score: 2

Pointless crippled toy
by deathshadow on Tue 11th Sep 2012 09:20 UTC
deathshadow
Member since:
2005-07-12

Would have been really cool -- FOUR YEARS AGO... but this thing is a joke even compared to the cheaper Pi... Much less the post-pi competitors like the cubieboard.

That's the one I'm much more interested in -- especially since the cubieboard is the first I've seen significantly more powerful than a ARM3 to bother exposing enough pinouts -- and mein gott the pinout options; LVDS, I2C, SPI, ADC's, PWM outputs... It's a Arduino on steroids... but then there's a reason most of my projects start out on a teensy++.

By comparison, VIA's offerings shows that they're just missing the mark... AGAIN. If anyone should have been dominating the 'low power' market, particularly in x86, it should have been VIA -- but their prices are noodle doodle territory per chip, which is why in the micro/mini ATX market ATOM kicked it's arse, and why on anything smaller chips by companies like Allwinner and RockChip at their sub ten USD per unit costs has relegated VIA into 'also ran' territory.

To be frank, I'm a little surprised they're still in business.

Edited 2012-09-11 09:21 UTC

Reply Score: 2