Comparing and Choosing SBCs – computer on a board

“You can never cross the same river twice”

I don’t know who said it first. I know it has been said a lot since. For choosing computers, thanks to Moore’s Law and the compute power doubling every 18 months (original formulation) to 2 years (recent recasting – likely to be blown through by Vector Computing using Graphics Engines – GPUs as from Nvidia), it is very true.

The benchmark comparing the Raspberry Pi to the {whatever} from a couple of years back, must now contend not only with the Pi Model 2, 4 cores at 32 bits, but the Model 3 with 4 cores of 64 bits plus faster clock rate. Same price for all three… about a factor of 10 total uplift in performance available (though not always made available by the operating system… Early Model 3 ports run the Model 2 instruction set, so are 32 bit. Only now is effective use of the GPU for general computing starting to hit.)

So how in the heck can a person decide what to buy?

Well, you do it anew each time.

Look at your needs, find what fills them, compare prices and support communities, then pick one and jump in.

The good news (Very good news…) is that with price points about $45 to $55 ready to run, the ‘risk’ of a bad decision is minimal. Also note that in building out a ‘personal I.T. shop’ there are lots of places a ‘failed desktop’ buy can work wonders as infrastructure. Print spoolers / drivers. File servers. DNS Servers. Firewalls and Access Point Routers. Email servers. SQUID Proxy servers for web traffic, Intrusion Detection systems. It’s a very long list. I have most of those services running on an old, very out of date, single processor Pi Model 1 B+ and it is 90% idle much of the time. Cost? $35. Think of it as 7 coffees at Starbucks, or 1/2 tank of gasoline, or a “movie and snacks” for two. Or about 4 to 5 hours of time at minimum wage in the U.S.A. So don’t waste too much time optimizing the buy, as you are wasting time…

Besides, in a year your decision will be obsolete anyway.

My Bias

There are many design choices and personal preferences involved in picking an SBC (Single Board Computer). I can’t choose one for you, because what you want is different from what I want. So here are my biases. That will let you know where I’m making choices that you might not like.

1) “Friends don’t let friends drive Microsoft”… It is a PITA to configure. It is a security hole looking for a system cracker to make it his bitch. It is compromised from the factory to work with TLAs (Three Letter Agencies) in the USA under the PRISM program (and whatever it is called now). It’s a fat pig with painful attitudes (Blue Screen Of Death now a metaphor and “If it is having issues, have you tried rebooting?” as the #1 method of fix. So I have zero interest in the ability to drive the cut down midget Microsoft Windows for IdiOT device controllers.

2) I don’t run gadgets nor build my own cameras. (Yet…) So for those uses, the dinky Arduino actually works very well. I have a friend who builds robots and teaches robotics (retired from HP Engineer) and his students mostly use Arduinos for controllers. “Someday” I’m going to build a robot, but not now. Lots of I/O pins. Lots of add on daughter boards. Not very good at anything ‘desktop’ and graphics oriented… with low compute power (but overkill for most controller needs).

3) I like variety OS choices. I’m an OS Admin / Sysprog type at heart. I like to sample different ones. I like to have choices so I can use one for one tool and another for another use where it is better. Alpine for “network appliance construction” as it is intended for building routers. Debian / Devuan for more generic desktops. CENTOS or RHEL for ‘scientific computing’ as the tools are built in and well tested. Things like Plan 9 just to see what’s new and interesting. A poor-johnny-one-note SBC using something like Android is not going to float my boat. Now if you want to build your own Android Tablet, it could be ideal for you.

4) I’m a cheap SOB. Why pay an extra $10 for the same result? This, BTW, is largely why I’ve bought more Pi boards than anything else in the last half decade. They are not priced for a big profit, but for user available price points for kids and instruction. Now this comes with a performance price. Memory is a smidge too low. The I/O is limited (only USB 2 and shared with other I/O like ethernet that is only 10/100). It’s a weak machine for I/O intensive things like file servers or for memory intensive things like, well, most things. Yet it is “enough” for what I do. So why pay another $10 to $20 for an Orange Pi or Odroid that is better, but just means more hardware isn’t used to capacity on my desktop? If you do games, run big video edit operations, have a massive file server to support to a cluster of high performance compute boards, it’s just not the ticket. One SBC as a ‘good enough’ desktop for editing and browsing? It’s yours for $35, so why pay more?

5) I’m very suspicious of any hardware and software from China. No, I have nothing against Chinese. In grammar school and high school I had a crush on the Little Chinese Girl who’s family owned the Chinese restaurant in town. (We were born one day apart in the same hospital, went to school together for 12 grades, and both had restaurant families… and she was very cute ;-) But her older brothers did not approve of “round eyes”…) No, my complaint comes from the intensive State Sponsored effort by the Chinese Government to hack and compromise everything they can. Those nice electronic picture frames you plug into your USB to load pictures? At least one maker was found shipping them with viruses pre-installed. Another employer ordered something like 10,000 USB ‘thumb drives’ with custom plastics as a marketing promotional. Testing a few showed 1 in 10 shipped with a hacking virus included in the firmware… A team was assembled to sort out the infested ones and ship them back to the maker with a nastygram… I’d have cancelled the whole order and shipped them back, COD. But marketing didn’t want to change the event.. So, simply put: IF you buy electronics made in China, you are gambling. Period. Full stop. Some of the Pi boards are made in China, but the design and parts are UK and USA, and I presume that given the DIY community using them, ‘bad behaviours’ would be outed pretty quickly. For example, I’ve not seen any unexpected network traffic so far. Oh, and the firmware is a binary blob loaded at boot time by code in the CPU chip, all of which is American, so unlikely to be hacked. The other problem is China has lots of fraudulent substitution of substandard materials and counterfeit labels. When possible, avoid China for electronics. ( I know, ever harder to do. IFF there is intensive QA outside China, like by Apple, it can work out OK.)

6) My major interest is a simple functional desktop computer. Not games. Not audio / visual servers. Not robots. I do have a minor interest in I.T. Appliances.

Your List

You need to make a similar list of biases and desires. That is your roadmap to what you want. Don’t use mine, use yours.

Performance needed?

Applications to run?

Devices and appliances to build or operate?

Gizmos like cameras and tablets to build?

Frequent OS playing, or just want it to run one OS?

Do I need a large and helpful community with an active forum?

Am I happy to use a Beta operating system with minor “issues”? Not so minor?

Do I need a real clock? (The Pi has no hardware clock. It’s a bit of a pain at boot time…)

etc.

Once you do that, then the rest of this posting can point you at things to help you find what is right for you and for your application.

Some Resources

Realize that anything I say comparing two boards will be out of date a year after the board was first shipped, which often means immediately on posting. For that reason, every comparison and search needs to start anew from constantly updated resources. Wait 2 years and that “ideal dream board” is now “that nearly useless thing in the corner” (that I use for all sorts of fun infrastructure stuff ;-)

For all things Pi, start here:

https://www.raspberrypi.org/

As the original question came from PaulID (h/t) here:
https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/tips-january-2017/#comment-77268
and was asking about Pi vs Beaglebone Black, see:

http://beagleboard.org/
for more on them.

For a general comparison of all things SBC, the Wiki does a pretty good job:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_single-board_computers

Do realize there are dozens of SBCs on that list, and even with constant updates, it is often a little out of date for the latest and greatest.

Comparison of CPUs is at best a black art. Then matching that to real world desired uses is even harder. But as a start, this wiki is helpful.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_instruction_set_architectures

And just to make it more fun, each SBC maker often does minor revs of CPU chips or execution speed inside one board design and with only minor changes to the name / designation. A, B, B+ etc. etc. Just figuring out what you are buying once you have chosen a CPU and SBC board maker, design, and major model can be a challenge in watching single letter or special characters in names…

Oh, and all MIPS and all MHz are not equal. Millions of Instructions Per Second doing what? Integer? Float? Character manipulation? Graphics? MHz doesn’t map to Instructions Per Second the same way in all chip designs. One may ‘clock’ at 1 GHz and give 1 Gig instructions. Another 500 Meg. Another 2 Gig.

Then season with the fact that the memory to CPU balance matters (that Amdahl vs Pi link above) and that often I/O dominates real world use. More MHz doesn’t do much if you are limited on the memory or ethernet…

With that caveat, there are some fun benchmarks here:

http://www.roylongbottom.org.uk/whetstone.htm

Mostly from historical machines, but also recent PC hardware. I’ve not found ARM chips on it, though. Now it is really useful for dampening the urge to disparage some SBC as too slow to be useful… Especially when you figure out your Pi Model 3 is faster than a Cray from the 1980s… “Supercomputer for $35” anyone?…

For ARM and ARM vs Intel, there’s lots to choose from, and anything not updated in the present year is out of date… so a search is your best bet:

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=computer+benchmark+ARM&t=ffsb&ia=web

I find this one interesting:

http://www.computingcompendium.com/p/arm-vs-intel-benchmarks.html

This one is a bit dated, but has an ARM block:

https://kb.wisc.edu/showroom/page.php?id=4927

For figuring out just which processor is a what, it will take time, but getting familiar with the ARM product line, byzantine as it is, is worth it:

http://www.arm.com/products/processors/

I take a whack at demystifying it a bit here:

http://www.arm.com/products/processors/

Comparing Pi and BeagleBone Black

I make no representation that I’ve got this right. ANY comparison will be full of individual bias and flat out guessing. Unless you compare the entire set of: Hardware, OS, application, compiler tool chain and libraries used for both, memory size and speed, disk size and speed, tendency to swap, etc etc on the exact same problem (that is not always possible and usualy not done) you can’t say for sure what actual performance will be.

This is just my eyeball spitwad while witling at it. OK?

First off, there are folks who have already done the comparison. They look to mostly be comparing the Black to the Pi Model 1, with a couple looking at the Pi Model 2. Well the Pi Model 3 is way better, and the same price as the old 2 was when I bought it… so “which Pi” matters a lot. The Pi 1 is a v6 instruction set, 32 bit, and essentially obsolete these days. The Pi 2 is a v7 and caught up with industry practice for a 32 bit. The Pi 3 is a v8 instruction set WITH a nice GPU that can do math too, if you compile things right. Oh, and both the 2 and 3 have 4 cores.

In the first Pi:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM11

In the Pi Model 2:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_Cortex-A7

In the BeagleBone Black:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_Cortex-A8

In the Pi Model 3:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_Cortex-A57

Now that move from ARM11 to A7 put the 4 core Pi-2 at a bit more performance than one higher end new design A8 core. Then the Pi Model 3 with the A57 left it in the dust. Especially for things desktop, which is what I do.

Oddly, this is made clear by the Beagle folks as they compare the Pi 2 to the Beaglebone. They do a great job of showing what they excel at (controlling things and being in the midst of interesting hardware projects) so I’m not going to rewrite it here:

https://beagleboard.org/blog/2015-02-05-raspberry-pi-2/

I’ve bolded a bit I think matters to me:

Getting started with electronics projects quickly is pretty well optimized on the Bones and on BeagleBone Black we introduced an on-board eMMC flash (4GB as of rev C) that is pre-programmed with a Debian Linux distribution, out-of-box tutorial, IDE and everything you need to start your development. Part of our motivation to include this was the existence of forgery SD cards. The on-board eMMC has clear specifications on performance and reliability which are a must for doing any serious work. The higher bandwidth interface gives a nice performance boost. Having the flash pre-programmed saves significant time and money by delivering an immediate out-of-box developer experience without needing to visit the store again and download huge disk images.

The Bone also includes features like USB client and boot from USB/serial direct from the in-chip ROM code. The USB client is a key component to the unique rapid quick-start out-of-box experience shipped with every Bone. Plug it in and the exposed flash drive has all the documentation and drivers needed to work with the board from any computer. The board serves up a web site with a tutorial for learning to do physical I/O and an IDE for doing all of your development, even a command-line, right with your browser. Native tools and libraries ship for Python, JavaScript, C/C++, Ruby, Perl and others, but Java and an endless supply of others are only an ‘apt-get’ away.

BeagleBoard.org continues to be the innovator and the open partner with BeagleBoard-X15 already in the hands of beta developers, though it hasn’t yet been officially “announced”. That is a bit of the differences in the way we do things. The device documentation is already public and patches for BeagleBoard-X15 have already been pushed on the Linux mailing lists. When BeagleBoard-X15 does launch, it will have many times the performance and interface possibilities than Pi 2.

The Pi 2 is a pretty cool little affordable desktop computer with a business model that makes it attractive for those who want to use it as-is. For those who want to make cool stuff with electronics that includes an embedded Linux computer, they need to be sure to check out what the Beagles have to offer.

Last updated by jkridner.wordpress.com on Wed Feb 11 2015 20:00:44 GMT-0000 (UTC).

The Pi Model 3 will just be more so…

This analysis is a bit old (2014) and isn’t the Model 2 or 3, but the general conclusions are right:

http://makezine.com/2014/02/25/how-to-choose-the-right-platform-raspberry-pi-or-beaglebone-black/

Summary

Now that we have looked at each category in detail, it is a simple matter to draw some conclusions about which circumstances should lead you to choose one board over the other.
When the BeagleBone Black is the Right Choice

Projects that need to interface with many external sensors – The incredible number of pins on the BeagleBone Black and the many bus options allow you to easily interface with pretty much any device out there.

Anything requiring small form factor but high speed processing – For example this super cool 33 node Raspberry Pi computing cluster would have been much better off using the BeagleBone Black, both from a price and performance standpoint.

Projects that you may wish to commercialize – Since the Raspberry Pi is more of a closed-source environment, it is impossible to make your own minimal versions. The open nature of the BeagleBone would allow you to just take the most important features and directly port that into your own design.

As an embedded system learning platform – The Raspberry Pi has its roots in education, but the fact that the BeagleBone Black works out of the box leads me to believe it is a better solution for learning about embedded systems.

For when you want it to “just work” – The fact that the BeagleBone Black works right out of the box is a huge bonus and allows you to get up and going in a few minutes rather than an hour or more.
When the Raspberry Pi is the Right Choice

Multimedia based projects – With the significantly more powerful graphics processing and larger number of connection options, the Raspberry Pi is a no-brainer for multimedia interfaces.

Community driven ideas – If you have a project that will in some way rely on the community for proper operation, you should choose the very active community of the Raspberry Pi. If you just think you will need support though, the BeagleBone community is very helpful and many Raspberry Pi projects will easily port to the BeagleBone Black.

As a graphical learning platform – Since the BeagleBone Black does not have quite the video capability of the Raspberry Pi, I would recommend the Raspberry Pi for learning about Linux in a graphical environment. Though to be fair you could do the same thing in a Virtual Machine, it just isn’t quite as much fun.
When Either One Works

Internet connected projects – If you want your project to send updates to a server, or maybe even act as a server, then either board should work just fine for you.

You just want to nerd out – Maybe you just want to get your nerd on. That’s okay, in fact it’s even becoming the cool thing to do. If that is your goal then either platform will serve you well.

I hope you found this guide helpful and that you will use it in making your next purchase. If you still can’t decide which one is right for you and you have some money to burn I really recommend just buying both of these systems. Each board has different strengths and they both offer something different. Happy hacking!

Now update that to add in quad core and 1.2 Ghz A57 and the Pi Model 3 pretty much dominates in anything desktop, cluster, or total computes needed. Price it at $35 and the $/perf is way high. But you want to make a ‘gizmo’, it’s likely the Beagle is your bet.

Now, some specifics:

Beagleboard Black

http://beagleboard.org/black

Processor: AM335x 1GHz ARM® Cortex-A8

512MB DDR3 RAM
4GB 8-bit eMMC on-board flash storage
3D graphics accelerator
NEON floating-point accelerator
2x PRU 32-bit microcontrollers

ONE core. A8 instructions, nice. 1 Ghz is OK. only 512 MB memory (but nice memory / core ratio). Onboard flash, so deduct $10 from the price for comparison to the Pi (or add $10 to the Pi for the SD card to make it go).

More than enough memory for a headless device. I blow through 1 GB with a few dozen web pages open in a browser window on the Pi. (Pages consume memory…)

Has NEON GPU / Float Vector unit.

Beagle adds 2 microcontrollers for offloading device management. GREAT for making gizmos and things like robots.

Connectivity

USB client for power & communications
USB host
Ethernet
HDMI
2x 46 pin headers

LOTS of headers for device control and signaling. Ideal for devices and robots. A bit light on USBs so you will likely need a USB Hub for desktop use (but smaller and lighter for devices and embedded things). Has memory built in and boots ‘out of the box’ for folks who want to get to work building devices without fussing with the operating system. Runs a bunch if you are willing to update.

Pi Model 3:

https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/raspberry-pi-3-model-b/

Note the ‘replaced Pi 2’ in Feb. 2016? Might want to watch for a Feb. 2017 announcement… they seem to be on the one a year plan…

The Raspberry Pi 3 is the third generation Raspberry Pi. It replaced the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B in February 2016. Compared to the Raspberry Pi 2 it has:

A 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU
802.11n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth 4.1
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Nice that Bluetooth and WiFi are built in. 1.2 Ghz, so 20% faster per core. 4 cores… V8 instructionset. As operating systems are recompiled and debugged for the 64 bit arm64 instead of using the armhf 32 bit instructions, there will be an added performance boost. As of this moment, the one arm64 compile I tired (Devuan) “had issues”, so I’m typing this on an armhf Devuan Pi Model 3 and it is working fine.

Like the Pi 2, it also has:

1GB RAM
4 USB ports
40 GPIO pins
Full HDMI port
Ethernet port
Combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
Camera interface (CSI)
Display interface (DSI)
Micro SD card slot (now push-pull rather than push-push)
VideoCore IV 3D graphics core

Double the memory (but 1/2 the memory per core, so a bit memory starved). LOTS of USB ports. Nice full sized HDMI so no hunting for a funny cable. Ethernet is 10/100 and shared with other I/O in the same chip, so a bit limited.

The Videocore gives it an advantage for things video. I’ve not done the research to see how good it is as a vector unit (math use of GPU).

IMHO, as a Desktop, the Pi Model 3 will blow the doors off the Beaglebone Black for lower cost. The Black will be a better device controller and those two microcontrollers will be golden in a robotic like device.

Sidebar on Others:

There are many other boards. I’ve looked at the Orange Pi, the Banana Pi, the Odroid family, and more.

IFF I really needed more performance, especially on I/O, the Odroids look to stake out that turf.

The Banana Pi looks to do the “clone of Pi but cheaper” and is made in China. Once at $35, I don’t see the need to be cheaper…

I’m not sure what niche Orange Pi is going for.

I really like the Cubieboards, but can’t find a use case that justifies paying up for them, for me.

Then there are the $15 and under mini-boards. Not good for a desktop, but at that price, making a small cluster to play with becomes very attractive… I’m resisting the urge until I can show I’m using all the computes I already own ;-) But a 16 board Beowulf for $160 to $240 sure sounds like fun ;-)

https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/soc-boards-getting-faster-and-cheaper/

How Low Priced an ARM SBC?

At the other extreme, there’s this one:

http://hackerboards.com/headless-orange-pi-zero-sbc-has-wifi-and-ethernet-for-7/

Yeah, you read that right. $7 for a computer…

IoT-oriented $7 Orange Pi Zero has both WiFi and Ethernet
Nov 3, 2016 — by Eric Brown —

The 48 x 46mm Orange Pi Zero runs Linux or Android on a quad-core Allwinner H2, and offers WiFi, 10/100, microSD, USB host and OTG, and a 26-pin RPi header.

Shenzhen Xunlong has added a Raspberry Pi Zero competitor to its Orange Pi lineup of open source hacker boards. The new Orange Pi Zero is selling for just $7 plus shipping, for a total price of $10.30 when shipped to the U.S.
[…]
Whereas the Orange Pi Lite and Orange Pi One use the Allwinner H3 SoC, the Orange Pi Zero offers the rarely seen Allwinner H2 variant. As far as we can see, the only notable difference between the SoCs is that the H3 supports 4K video while the H2 is limited to 1080p. Like the H3, the H2 has four Cortex-A7 cores clocked to 1.2GHz, as well as a Mali-400 MP2 GPU clocked at 600MHz. The H2 is still much more powerful than the 1GHz, single-core ARM11 Broadcom BCM2835 on the Raspberry Pi Zero.

But, for me, for now, I’m happy with the Price / Performance of the Pi family (even if performance isn’t as good as some, and Price / Perf less good than others). I’m very familiar with it. I like being able to move the mini-SD chip to change the OS, so on-board memory for the OS isn’t attractive to me. I’m also more comfortable with US designed chips and UK designed boards with minimal micocode that only loads the boot loader so the actual software is US sourced. No Chinese Binary Blobs need apply… (Yes, full blob-free would be better…)

So that’s what I buy. Doesn’t mean other choices are wrong. Only means I’m right for me. YMMV with your use case and wallet.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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3 Responses to Comparing and Choosing SBCs – computer on a board

  1. Soronel Haetir says:

    How long has it been since you used a windows system for serious work? I ask because they have made huge improvements to the BSOD situation ever since the move from XP to Vista. The vast majority of BSODs were brought on by poorly written drivers which they have pretty much done away with by requiring signed drivers and passing the test framework.

    The security issues re NSA etc are indeed an issue but it doesn’t make much sense to complain about BSOD that don’t happen any longer (I have not experienced one since my first win7 system).

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    @Soronel:

    Well, it was about the Windows 7 to XP transition. I’ve had one XP box, an HP Laptop, that was a gem up until the fan died. Then I bought the ASUS 64 bit used box solely for the XP on it in case I ever needed something from the HP backups. But rarely used it.

    So I’d say my last “serious” use was maybe 4 or 5 years ago? Something like that. Though I did have to use one as my desktop at my last long term contract. That was about 2 years ago. Almost entirely Outlook email (that I don’t like much) and Excel spreadsheet that’s pretty good (though the math is a bit dodgy sometimes… don’t do Science on it…) I think it was Vista? Maybe XP… They refused to go to 8 and IIRC 10 wasn’t out yet. Best thing about it? I was able to run a QEMU emulator from SD card and boot up Solaris on it ;-) Did it just to see how slow it would be. It was way slow ;-)

    IFF they have actually fixed the BSOD issue, that would be nice. But it doesn’t change my statement that the BSOD has now become a metaphor. Once a reputation is affixed, it does not wash away just from the passage of time…

    So I’ve suffered through the NT “Reboot servers every Friday so the company doesn’t crash” memory leak, the BSOD desktop maintenance hell, the “Security? What Security?” since just about forever. The incomprehensibly incompatible upgrades and incessant “everything you know is wrong” fiddling with the OS interface and applications operations, and a whole lot more. Eventually you decide to just “let it go”…

    Over the last, golly, about 35 years now, I’ve had remarkably stable Unix (now Linux) and Macintosh machines and their interfaces. The contrast is stunning. Machines that stay up for years on end (usually limited by disk or fan death duration). Things I learned 20 years ago that still work the same way. Systems where you can fix one part without disrupting actual work in progress.

    So “good on them” if they finally fixed the BSOD after some decades. Doesn’t change a thing about my assessment of them overall.

    There is a reason the I.T. Appliance sector (routers, file servers, etc.), the tablet sector, the cell phone sector, the large server sector and a few other sectors are dominated by Unix / Linux and derivatives. There is a reason why Apple is taking share on the desktop (the last place Microsoft has dominance). There is a reason why Linux / Unix desktops dominate in Engineering and growing in many other places (German government, for example). And there is a reason that China built their Kylin operating system on top of BSD Unix. There is a reason that Google Chrome is growing at tremendous speed (based on Linux) in the desktop and in the education markets. That reason is Microsoft… and the “reputation” they built over decades… including the BSOD reputation.

    So just say no to non-compliance with standards, capricious changes to norms, strange behaviours and incomprehensible modes of failure (or sometimes operation). Walk away from forced upgrades (sometimes against your will) that sometimes break your machine, and walk away from code bloat so bad any machine bought 3 releases back tends to become unusable. Avoid constant virus and malware issues and infestations. There are a lot of options and a world of help.

    Start with assuring you don’t have a Microsoft phone. (Not hard, since I think the Microsoft attempt totally failed).

    Get routers and other small I.T. Appliances with Linux in them (easy as I think they all are. At least all you can find for sale).

    Next make sure your tablet is Apple or Android or Linux (though pure Linux is still a bit DIY on tablets last I looked… Android dominating).

    Make any servers you need Linux / Unix based. (A bit harder in some shops as they insist on being servers to a Microsoft desktop world, but lots of folks use Linux as the backend for things like Microsoft protocol file servers and such.)

    That pretty much leaves your desktop…

    I’ve got a $179 Chromebox that works with only mild annoyance at Google for some of their design choices. Never fails. Always boots fast and works. It’s a nice desktop for casual users (so is growing fast in schools).

    I’ve got a $35 Raspberry Pi Model 3 that I have been using almost all the time as my Daily Driver desktop. Works pretty good, though would be better with a bit more speed for high end things. Has some A/V issues with sound, but that could be my setup. At that price, it is hard to say “NO” to trying Linux.

    Or you can get long lists of desktop / laptop machines for an easy Linux install. Even just put it on a thumb drive on the side if you don’t want to commit.

    Or, if money isn’t an issue, just walk into the Apple Store and pick one up. They work great, last a long time, and are a pleasure to use. Interface is generally intuitive (though the ‘gesture’ stuff is still a bit alien to me, as I don’t own one or use it other than when the spouse wants something…) The display and sound are stellar. The applications easy to use and all the interfaces similar and skill in one transfers to the others. Do back them up, because at about the 5 year point the disk is likely to fail from continued use…as in my spouse’s machine. Since you will have done near zero admin work on it, the admin part will have faded from memory… so most folks just take it to Apple then. Or buy a new one.

    With all those choices, I see no reason to even look at Microsoft.

    I use it when people pay me to use it, or if there is no other choice (something sent to me in a MS only format… though Linux is learning to deal with almost all of them now). So yeah, for ‘enough$’ / hour , I’ll use Microsoft…

  3. hubersn says:

    You forgot the most important decisive factor: does RISC OS run on it? RISC OS is the original OS for ARMs, and probably the only “modern” OS that is simple enough to be completely understood by one person. And it still shows its strength wrt GUI mouse interaction. It is a dream to use. It has certain limitations (e.g. single-core support only), but makes up for it by being very efficient.

    So it is Raspberry Pi, BeagleBoard, BeagleBoard-xM, PandaBoard, IGEPv5 or Titanium.

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