Home > General Development > PowerPC Development from the Bargain Basement PowerPC Development from the Bargain Basement David Adams 2004-12-16 General Development 33 Comments The Kuro Box promises something fairly interesting: a usable single-board PowerPC computer, for only US$160 — when other PowerPC development boards often cost ten times as much. About The Author David Adams Follow me on Twitter @david_adams 33 Comments 2004-12-16 3:50 pm Note no graphical development is going to be happening 2004-12-16 3:53 pm Wow… I’d imagine that I’d be pretty damn stripped at that price. Statistics show that the average computer purchase (on the low side mind you) is $700… and that is without a monitor… let alone software. People give too much credit to these ultra-cheap computers. They simply don’t have even the basis to do what people want/need. 2004-12-16 3:53 pm Well, interesting, but with a 200mhz “G2” I have to wonder at the usefulness of this. I would so love to have the resources to put together a 1ghz G4 box like this, and run MOL. That would be killer. 2004-12-16 4:01 pm Remember, this is a testing kit, not a PC. It’s to make sure your code works on the PPC architecture. Also, I suspect that this is for testing embedded stuff more than anything else. PPC is used heavily for embedded applications. 2004-12-16 4:10 pm Sadly, testing your 2D graphical games on the PPC architecture seem to be impossible with this :p 2004-12-16 4:26 pm First, yes, this is based upon the Freescale MPC824x series of “host controllers”. They are modified PowerQUICC II devices (which are the 826x series). The major difference being that the 824x series contains the PCI controller for expansion. The chip comes with Ethernet, SCC’s, USB, memory Controller, etc. already built into the chip. I’ve been working on porting (a home brewed version of) Linux to an MPC8260 custom board for telecom systems. These parts run in the 200 – 400 MHz Range, so they’re not speed demons, but they will run Linux OK. Doing any sort of GUI work will require “external” support (PCI card, no AGP bus on these parts). That’s why it’s geared for NAS, etc. type setups. I found this site, where they seem to be selling “pre-configured” boxes: http://www.buffalotech.com/buffalo-home.php If you’re looking for something that is “plug and play” then this might be the way to go. The Kuro seems to be more of the “hobby” or “DIY” type setup. And sure, even at $240 for the HD version, it’s still not bad. I’ve been looking for a “cheap” PPC based “toy”. Cheapest I can find is the CerfCube with the PPC405 (266 MHz), but that doesn’t have the IDE interface, and is ~ $400. Hmm, which shall I ask Santa for??? 2004-12-16 4:51 pm I’m using a kurobox as a NAS box on my home network. I updated netatalk, added mt-daapd ( for iTunes sharing ), and added Apple’s rendezvous. see my page at: http://homepage.mac.com/cudmore/KuroBox 2004-12-16 5:39 pm That is flippin’ awesome! When I get my mac, I’m totally picking up one of those w/ your modified software! 2004-12-16 5:42 pm this is a NAS box plain and simple. Buffalo (under the Revolution brand name) has been kind enough to open it to allow a lot of hackability, but it’s primary purpose, and the way its been sold is a NAS http://www.tomsnetworking.com/Reviews-171-ProdID-KUROBOX.php its not meant to replace your pc or give you a platform for running OS X, it’s meant to store files. thanfully, it’s very hackable allowing you to do much more then that; basically a headless network appliance, but don’t expect a high end testing platform, workstation, or server. but with that said, this little thing still kicks butt (why run a whole, power hungry computer for simple file and web sharing when you could just run this?!) more info here: http://www.revogear.com/products.html i’m glad you posted your page ac, i’ve been thinking of getting one of these to use with my PowerBook, and i’m glad someone has gone through the process before i have 2004-12-16 6:58 pm I like it. I’ve always thought about using one of those mini-itx machines for something like this, but they always price out a little higher than I want. But, this thing is pretty darn cheap for a NAS box, particularly an OSS NAS box… Sounds like it would be a nice box to try NetBSD on too… 2004-12-16 8:08 pm Looking at the pics on ac’s site, this is a very attractive piece of equipment. I’d love to get one to mess around with…does anyone know if it can be used as more than a NAS device? In other words, is there a way to hook video and sound up to this thing and have an ultracheap, ultrasmall cool-looking mini-desktop system? I know I can do that with a mini-itx board, but this seems like it would be even less power-hungry, and probably quieter too. 2004-12-16 8:47 pm Morgan, Someone did put a USB audio device in the kurobox, but I dont think there is a way to do video. There are some very small x86 systems available that have full sound and video. A good example is the upcoming nano-itx form factor: http://www.viaembedded.com/product/epia_N_spec.jsp?motherboardId=22… 2004-12-16 9:10 pm Uhm… it’s nice, but nowadays you can buy a 1GHz P3 for the same money… 2004-12-16 9:20 pm Uhm… it’s nice, but nowadays you can buy a 1GHz P3 for the same money… Noise, power, heat. 2004-12-16 9:36 pm I don’t see why you can’t just buy a motherboard with a socket for an IBM PPC chip and buy the chip. Obviously the invisible elephant is Apple, but still it makes no sense. Someone should make an ATX motherboard with a PPC socket on it. 2004-12-16 9:41 pm Someone did, Eyetech and Genesi both make micro-ATX boards and Eyetech just launched a mini-ITX board. They all cost over £400 though ranging from 900mhz G3’s to 1ghz G4’s. Until there is a significant invesment in a desktop PPC company or a mainstream x86 mobo company gets interested these boards are going to cost a fortune 2004-12-16 9:48 pm Yeah, i think you’re right. Now that the AMD64 is the reigning king, a non-mac PPC desktop seems more and more out of the question. I think someone missed an oppurtunity. The PPC is an undeniably compelling instruction set though. Especially on the newer chips with Altivec. If there was something affordable, i’d buy on and run linux (and maybe OSX) on it. 2004-12-16 9:51 pm Was the Commodore 64 a single-board computer? 2004-12-16 11:29 pm “(why run a whole, power hungry computer for simple file and web sharing when you could just run this?!)” Well, yes, you could run this, or you could run something like this: http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=56-150-01… or this: http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=13-185-04… c3 systems are tiny (stick one in a mini-ITX case), consume almost no power, can often be passively cooled, are cheap and have a ton more oomph than this box. 2004-12-16 11:53 pm That was my thought as well – C3 based systems seem both cheaper and easier to live with because they have a video chipset on board and it’s not that hard to find a regular Linux distro that will work with them just fine. And C3 based systems on the lower end of the scale run fanless, so the overall heat/power requirements should be similar. Does Kuro Box have any advantage that I am missing? (other than being PPC based, but we’re talking here about a role of server, not PPC software development) 2004-12-17 12:16 am I was wondering, when OSnews were gonna put give this little baby some plug. To the people that are moaning? First of all read about Network AtTached Storage Devices then you’ll understand the prescence of such a device to the market. It does its job fine and its just what my company needs. We had Windows 2000 server, but I’ve managed to migrate out of that headache, we’re going for a simple solution. I think its very positive considering, the possibilities. I mean its so simple to have one of these in every office, or dorm room, and a great educational tool. Does anyone know of anything similiar? 2004-12-17 2:03 am I was one of the architects on the 8240 (way back when Freescale was Motorola- you can find one of the papers I was involved with about optimizing code for the 603e somewhere on Freescale’s web site, I am sure), and this part is a minor enhancement on it. Nice to see they finally thought enough of it to actually fix some of the design bugs. The CPU is a 603e, and that is the only relationship it has to the 8260. The 8260 was designed by a parallel group in Israel. We wanted to put ethernet on the original 8240 but were prevented from doing so for political reasons. The 8241 still does not have ethernet on the chip (what was said by an earlier message is incorrect, but is correct for the 8260). This is the list of what it DOES have: * 166-266 MHz MPC603e PowerPC processor core * 32-bit PCI interface operating at up to 66 MHz * Memory controller offering SDRAM support up to 133 MHz operation, support up to 2 GB * General Purpose I/O and ROM Interface Support * Two-channel DMA controller that supports chaining * Messaging unit with I2O messaging support capability * Industry-standard I2C interface * Programmable interrupt controller with multiple timers and counters * 16550 compatible DUART All in all, pretty wimpy by primary compute standards, but an excellent solution for an awful lot of problems that shouldn’t need a 130 watt CPU. Too bad I2O never really took off. I was the one who lobbied to get it put in. 2004-12-17 2:13 am The Hauppauge MediaMVP (non AC3 MPEG network-player) has a 300MHz PowerPC chip in it, is hackable, runs Linux, and was available at RadioShack for 89$. The Linksys NSLU2 (USB 2.0 based NAS) has a 266MHz ARMv5TE CPU, is hackable, runs Linux, and is available at BestBuy for 69$ (after rebate). Linux based small computers are fun. Kind of an OS geek’s version of tinkertoys. 2004-12-17 4:35 am Those are pretty cool system. The only thing that is different is that the kbox comes with RAM, sure it is only about $18 dollars more… 2004-12-17 5:11 am the second one I pasted is a board only, for $50something. You could get 256MB RAM for $30 or so, attach your choice of hard disks and have a working system. Put it in a cardboard box or buy a mini-ITX case, your choice. 2004-12-17 8:01 am “The Kuro seems to be more of the “hobby” or “DIY” type setup. And sure, even at $240 for the HD version, it’s still not bad. ” The pegasos2, 600MHz G3 version would give you DDR-memory, 1gbps + 100mbps ethernet, AGP, firewire, usb2.0 and MorphOS. 2004-12-17 8:02 am for $299… 2004-12-17 8:17 am the pegasos is great there is no dought. but this has potential too and i personaly like it. the 400 mhz version comming out in spring (i have heard on the forums) will be my first purcahse. I am excited 2004-12-17 10:41 am Does not cost 299 USD, more like 800USD at the moment. 2004-12-17 11:20 am Ok, so, it’s been stated that someone tested a USB audio device with this, and with something like this http://news.thomasnet.com/fullstory/18234 you could pretty easily set up a small single line display. It would have low enough power consumption to use in a car with one of those little 120W adapters, and is small enough that you could stuff if along with a mini keyboard or some sort of remote (USB IR reader)… Just install, make some generic curses interface that scrolls a directory, set it as the default shell, set up your system to output to a single line display (I’ve seen a lot of products that do that in the past), and just set it to run “[music decoder of choice] musicdirectory/*” upon entry… Then make the whole thing run read only so that it won’t really matter if you shutdown improperly (aside from possbile HDD stress from restarting too soon). good to go, cheaper than a nice MP3 CD player or portable music player like an ipod, even after the HDD. Then just a $5 cable from radio shack to let you hook it up to any AMP or radio with input in the back. Woo yay. I actually used my old laptop for that purpose before it died… and this is much much smaller… Ok, so I’m a geek. 2004-12-17 11:24 am Powerpc based hardware is also used extensively in things like console access servers. Check out Cyclades ( http://www.cyclades.com/ ) for some examples. Powerpc and embedded Linux make quite a potent mix. 2004-12-17 6:21 pm http://www.intrinsyc.com/products/cerfcube405ep/index.asp The CerfCube 405EP has a 266MHz IBM 405EP CPU, dual 10/100 ethernet, 32Mb flash, 32Mb SDRAM, and runs Linux 2.4.20. It costs $400. Best of all, it is tiny: only a 3″ cube. 2004-12-17 7:55 pm OR JUST USE A FRICKING C3! Car computers are nothing new, people have been making them for years now. Every one I’ve seen has used a cheap and power-light x86 of some description, and they’re usually powerful enough to handle video and DVD playback, not just audio, and use 7″ LCD screens. There’s just no advantage to using this system as anything other than a PPC dev box, that I can see.