Linux User & Developer, Issue 146

Linux User & Developer Issue 146In this month’s Linux User & Developer Magazine, my usual four-page news spread is joined by a review of the remarkably compact SolidRun CuBox-i4Pro ARM-based microcomputer – but don’t let its diminutive size fool you into thinking that it lacks grunt.

Kindly supplied by Jason King at low-power computing specialist New IT, the CuBox-i4Pro can be considered a companion product to SolidRun’s Raspberry Pi-like HummingBoard. Where the HummingBoard is clearly aimed at electronics enthusiasts, with its bare circuit board and easily-accessible – and undeniably Raspberry Pi-inspired – general-purpose input-output (GPIO) header, the CuBox-i family is more polished. Like its predecessor, the CuBox, it’s supplied in a roughly cubic plastic case which achieves its tiny footprint with clever use of a dual-board mezzanine design and includes features – like eSATA and optical audio connectivity – that highlight its targeting of the home theatre market.

I was undeniably impressed by the performance of the CuBox-i4Pro, the top-end model in the CuBox-i range. As well as 2GB of memory, the system packs a quad-core Freescale i.MX6 processor. Its biggest feature, however, is compatibility: software created for the enthusiast-centric HummingBoard can be run on the CuBox-i family without modification, and vice-versa. Ever the sceptic, I proved this to myself by taking a micro-SD card I’d prepared for the HummingBoard and sticking it into the CuBox-i4Pro; it booted up perfectly and without complaint.

That cross-compatibility makes SolidRun one of the only companies to offer product ranges aimed at both enthusiasts and those who want a finished plug-and-play product. Whether it will tempt anyone into making the leap from rival platforms, of course, remains to be seen – but it’s worth mentioning that the HummingBoard has already seen adoption as the go-to ARM testbed platform for several Linux distributions.

If you want to know my final verdict, as well as giving yourself a chance to catch up on the month’s happenings in the open source, open hardware, open governance and open-anything-else-interesting world, you’d best head over to your local newsagent or supermarket and pick up a copy. Alternatively, you can read it from the comfort of wherever you happen to be right now via digital distribution services including Zinio.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 123

Linux User & Developer, Issue 123This month’s Linux User & Developer contains just a single piece of mine, a review of the quite remarkable CuBox microcomputer – largely thanks to previous pieces for rival magazines and my book the Raspberry Pi User Guide having excluded me from taking part in the cover-splashed Raspberry Pi birthday activities.

The reason I call the CuBox remarkable is due to its size: measuring just 55mm x 55mm and 42mm tall with a weight of 91g, it makes the Raspberry Pi look like a behemoth of a system. It also comes with its own cleverly-designed case and a selection of features that make it clear it is intended for home theatre use: a front-mounted IrDA receiver allows for remote control, while optical audio out provides digital clarity for music. Coupled with a gigabit Ethernet connection and a 3Gb/s eSATA port for external storage, you’ve got a powerful little machine.

Internally, the CuBox reveals its secret: it’s not a single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi at all, relying instead on a mezzanine layout that splits some functionality out into a daughterboard. The presence of a heatsink – well, a bent piece of aluminium thermal-taped to the 800MHz Marvell Armada ARMv7 system-on-chip processor – also comes as a surprise.

But can the CuBox justify its top-end £105 pricing – UPDATE: since the review was written, the price has dropped to £95 – when rival devices like the popular Raspberry Pi and far faster Olimex A13-OLinuXino-WiFi cost so much less? You’ll have to buy the magazine to find out.

Linux User & Developer Issue 123 is available in selected supermarkets and newsagents, digitally via Zinio or direct through the official website.