Tag Archive for Parallella

Custom PC, Issue 137

Custom PC Issue 137My Hobby Tech column continues in this month’s Custom PC magazine with a tutorial for building a gesture-recognition media controller, a review of the clever Adapteva Parallella single-board computer, and an interview with a personal hero of mine: designer Rick Dickinson.

Looking at the tutorial first, I was recently sent a Hover Board from Hover Labs. Rather than my planned review, I decided the hands-on nature of the gadget – which tracks the user’s finger movements in mid-air – was better suited to a tutorial-style write-up. The result: a simple build using an Arduino Leonardo and the Hover Board to control the playback of media in VLC using gestures. Wave your hand upwards to increase the volume, downwards to decrease it; left skips forwards, right skips backwards; tapping in the centre of the board pauses and resumes.

I was extremely impressed with how easy the Hover Board was to work with, although somewhat disappointed that it would only track gestures rather than absolute positioning. The latter, I have been told by its creators, is coming in a future software upgrade – at which point I’ll be revisiting the board with a more complex project.

This month’s review is a device I’ve been covering from the sidelines for some time: Adapteva’s Parallella. Created as a Kickstarter project to encourage adoption of the company’s many-core Epiphany co-processor architecture, this dinky little single-board computer packs everything a tinkerer could want: a dual-core ARM processor, 16-core Epiphany-III chip and even a user-accessible field-programmable gate array (FPGA) for custom chip design work. If your target application can be made to run on the Epiphany, you can expect impressive compute performance – but before buying one, there are a few points in the review you should read carefully, in particular the GPIO accessibility and ARM core performance.

Finally, my interview. I said Rick Dickinson was a personal hero of mine, and I wasn’t lying: a designer by trade, Rick was hired by Sinclair Research and designed the ZX80 and ZX81 systems, worked on the team that designed the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and designed the ill-fated business-oriented Sinclair QL. He’s done plenty since, of course – having won awards for work on devices as different as a field microscope and the Gizmondo hand-held console – but the interview focused on a new design project he’s taken on to imagine what a modern computer might look like if Sinclair hadn’t gone bust – starting with a 21st century update to the Sinclair QL.

All this, plus a bunch of interesting stuff I didn’t write, can be yours with a quick visit to your local newsagent or supermarket, or digitally via Zinio and similar services.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 120

Linux User & Developer, Issue 120This month’s Linux User & Developer magazine includes the second feature to come out of my interview with Andreas Olofsson, founder of parallel processing startup Adapteva, on the subject of his Parallella Kickstarter project.

The focus of my previous article, published in Issue 111 of Custom PC Magazine, was on Parallella’s implications for the smartphone and tablet world – appropriately enough, given that it appeared in the Mobile Tech Watch column. This time, however, I’m looking at the platform itself and what it could spell for the future of computing education.

One thing Andreas was keen to point out was the openness of his platform: should the Parallella project reach its funding goal – something that, since writing, has been achieved – he promised to make everything relating to the Epiphany architecture that powers the 16- or 64-core co-processor open, from the documentation to the compiler toolchain. That’s something that could really shake up the industry: most embedded computing platforms are encumbered with proprietary drivers, obscure or missing documentation, and the requirement to sign onerous non-disclosure agreements – and usually hand over a wodge of cash – to get enough information to make use of the platform on anything but a very high level.

Parallella could change all that – and speaking to Andreas, one thing you can’t fault him on is his enthusiasm for the subject. Whether that enthusiasm will translate into a shipping and sustainable product, of course, is another matter.

This issue of the magazine also includes a review of Synology’s DS213air dual-drive network attached storage device. Based on a custom Linux distribution dubbed DSM – DiskStation Manager – Synology’s NAS boxes offer far more than the average, with the ability to install everything from an SSH server to Drupal. Does that justify the high retail price, though? Better read the review to find out, hadn’t you?

Finally, the front of the magazine includes a two-page spread of open-source news from the past month. Usually covered by an in-house staff writer, I’ve been handling it for the past two issues due to absence – and it’s been a nice change from my usual work for the magazine. As for what I covered, you’ll have to find a copy of the magazine and take a look if you’re really that curious.

Linux User & Developer Issue 120 is in shops now, with more details available on the official website.

Custom PC, Issue 111

Custom PC Issue 111This month’s Custom PC sees an interesting diversion from the norm in my Mobile Tech Watch column, as I talk to Andreas Olofsson of Adapteva about his company’s Epiphany architecture and the Parallella project.

If you’ve not come across the concept, Parallella is Adapteva’s attempt to push its innovative many-core co-processor design into the mainstream. Raising money through Kickstarter, the company hopes to produce a credit-card sized development board with a dual-core Cortex-A9 chip alongside a 16-core Epiphany-III co-processor. Should things go well, the company additionally aims to release a more powerful $199 model with a 64-core Epiphany-IV chip.

Andreas is a great guy, whom I’ve interviewed before on many-core computing topics. He’s open about the inspiration for the project – the Raspberry Pi, naturally – and what his company hopes to achieve, and appears to have a realistic attitude towards the issues that stand between Adapteva and mass-market success.

Since writing the piece, the Parallella project has proved popular on Kickstarter, standing at $387,873 pledged of a $750,000 goal. With only nine days to go, however, Adapteva may struggle to hit its target – and, thanks to the all-or-nothing nature of Kickstarter funding, if it misses the target it goes home with nothing.

This piece is to be followed with another interview with Andreas in the next Linux User & Developer magazine, looking further into the open source nature of the Parallella project and the impact the Epiphany co-processor could have on the FOSS community – so if this article interested you, pick up a copy of that too for another look at the project.

Custom PC Issue 111 is available in all good newsagents, plenty of bad ones, the better dentists’ waiting rooms and digitally via Zinio.