Closer look at NVIDIA Shield TV with Google Assistant and SmartThings Link

October 1st, 2017 No comments

The NVIDIA Shield TV may be a few years old at this point, but it’s still one of the most powerful Android TV boxes on the market… and it keeps getting more versatile.

Today NVIDIA rolled out software version 6.0, which brings support for Google Assistant and the option to plug in a SmartThings Link dongle to turn the TV box into a home automation hub.

I got a chance to check out a Shield TV running the latest software, and while it was a bit too noisy to really test the Google Assistant feature, I got an overview of how it works.

The Shield currently comes in a few configurations: for $179 you can get a Shield TV with just a multimedia remote. Or for $199 you can get a model with both a multimedia remote and a game controller.

The remote has a microphone button that you can press to issue voice commands, and now that Assistant is baked-in, that means you can get news and weather updates, check sports scores, ask questions, and of course, control media playback.

“Play Game of Thrones” will play the HBO show. “Pause” will pause. And “turn off” will power down the system, among other things.

If you have the game controller, you also have the option of enabling always-listening support so that you don’t have to press a button. You can just say “OK Google” when you’re near the controller to issue commands just like you would with a phone or Google Home device.

NVIDIA says the gamepad gets up to 2 weeks of battery life in standby if always-listening is enabled, and up to a month if it’s not. Of course, if you actually play games you’ll probably need to charge it a bit more often than that.

As for the SmartThings USB dongle, it adds support for smart home products that use Z-Wave or Zigbee protocols, and all the hardware is in the USB stick itself, which means that you can add the functionality to a Shield TV for as little as $15 (that’s the pre-order price, but the full list price is $40).

Since the stick is kind of wide, it also comes with a short USB extension cord so that you can plug it into the Shield TV without blocking the device’s other ports.

Once connected, you can use the SmartThings Link to connect to devices including smart light bulbs, thermostats, and home security systems, receive alerts on your Shield TV, monitor everything using a SmartTHings app for iOS or Android, and use Google Assistant for voice commands.

You can also automate tasks such as turning on the lights or locking the doors at certain times, and you can set routines that let you do things like turn on the lights and start the coffee maker when you say “good morning.”

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Intel’s low-power “Gemini Lake” chips coming in October/November?

October 1st, 2017 No comments

Intel may be preparing to launch its third set of processors in the span of just a few months.

According to a leaked product roadmap published by Gamers Nexus, Intel’s low-power Gemini Lake chips will be introduced in late October or early November.

They’ll join the recently launched Kaby Lake Refresh line of chips for laptops and Coffee Lake-S processors for desktops.

Gemini Lake chips are expected to include dual-core and quad-core processors that will be sold under the Celeron and Pentium Silver brands.

While Intel will likely offer models with 6 watt Gemini Lake chips for use in laptops and convertible tablets, the roadmap in question only seems to focus on the desktop variants, which are 10 watt chips that will include the Celeron J4005, J4105, and Pentium J5005 processors.

These will be the follow-up to Intel’s curent-gen “Apollo Lake” processors and, among other things, they’re expected offer up to 15 percent better performance, more cache memory, and native support for HDMI 2.0.

Intel is also expected to launch a second round of Coffee-Lake S chips in the first quarter of 2018. These will include 35 watt and 65 watt chips with between 2 and 6 CPU cores and support for the Intel 300 Series chipset.

You can find more details at Gamers Nexus.

via TechPowerUp

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Mecool VS-RK3399 Board Linux Benchmarks

September 29th, 2017 No comments

We already have plenty of benchmarks for Rockchip RK3399 in Android, so instead I started by installing the latest Phoronix Test Suite in Debian:

… and ran the tests I did on NanoPi NEO 2 earlier:

For whatever reasons OpenSSL and Mafft failed to download, but we still have the other benchmarks to compare with. Note that the Debian image is likely not optimized, and while the system runs an Aarch64 kernel, the rootfs is only 32-bit, which may have affected some of the benchmarks.

But let’s see what’s we’ve got, starting with John the Ripper password cracker, a multi-threaded benchmark.

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We’d normally expect hardware platforms based on Rockchip RK3399 SoC to outperform all other Cortex A53 or A17 based boards in the list, but MiQi board with a quad core Cortex A17 processor @ 1.8 GHz, and BPI-M3 board with an octa-core Cortex A7 processor @ 2.0 GHz, both beat the VS-RK3399 with an hexa-core processor with two Cortex A72 cores @ 1.8 GHz, and four Cortex A53 cores @ 1.4 GHz. BPI-M3 is even twice as fast in this test.

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C-Ray is also a multi-threaded benchmark, but here Rockchip RK3399 SoC shines, making VS-RK3399 the fastest platform of the lot, also beating MeLE PCG02U TV stick (MeUbuntu 14.04.3) powered by an Intel Bay Trail Z3735F processor.

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Smallpt is another multi-threaded benchmark, and VS-RK3399 board does well, but it’s still beaten by the Intel TV stick (OpenMP might help here?), and Banana Pi M3.

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The Rockchip RK3399 board is the fastest ARM platform for Himeno linear solver of pressure Poisson, but due to specific x86 instructions and/or optimization, the Bay Trail TV stick is well ahead.

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Finally, for FLAC audio encoding, VS-RK3399 is the best ARM platform (in the tested lot) by a wide margin, but Intel is ahead with their more advanced SIMD instructions.

So Rockchip RK3399 processor will outperform all ARM boards with single threaded tasks thanks to it Cortex A72 cores, but in some multi-threaded tests, octa-core Cortex A7, and quad core Cortex A17 platforms may deliver better results.

VS-RD-RK3399 board comes with a 32GB Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash that supposed to deliver 246/46 MB/s R/W speed, and 6K/5K R/W IOPS.

I tested it with iozone using a 100MB file:

Results for the read speed are around the theoretical limit, but write speeds are well above, maybe because of some caching.

I switched to Gigabit Ethernet performance testing starting with a full duplex iperf test:

Not quite optimal, so let’s look at upload only:

and download only:

Both of which are quite good. I had been told that IRQ may all be handled by CPU0 (Cortex A53 core in the board), and the following changes may improve performance:

So I repeated the tests, and something impossible happened:

We’re not supposed to get 1.35 Gbps on Gigabit Ethernet… So I tried again for a longer period of time (10 minutes):

Same results.. But looking at the output from the server side, it looks more realistic:

and it does improve a little compared to the first test without the tweaks.

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Rock960 Board is a 96Boards Compliant Board Powered by Rockchip RK3399 SoC

September 29th, 2017 No comments

So it looks like Rockchip is soon going to join 96Boards family with Rock960 board. Developed by a Guangzhou based startup called Varms, the board will be powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core SoC, and comply with 96Boards CE specifications.

Rock960 board preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Rochchip RK3399 hexa-core big.LITTLE processor with two ARM Cortex A72 cores up to 1.8/2.0 GHz, four Cortex A53 cores @ 1.4 GHz, and  ARM Mali-T860 MP4 GPU with OpenGL ES 1.1 to 3.2 support, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL 1.2 and DX 11 support
  • System Memory – 2 or 4GB RAM
  • Storage – 16 or 32GB eMMC flash + micro SD card
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0 up to 4K@60 Hz with CEC and HDCP
  • Connectivity – WiFi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO up to 867 Mbps, and Bluetooth 4.1 LE (AP6356S module) with two on-board antennas, two u.FL antenna connectors
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 type C port with DP 1.2 support
  • Expansion
    • 1x 40 pin low speed expansion connector – UART, SPI, I2C, GPIO, I2S
    • 1x 60 pin high speed expansion connector – MIPI DSI, USB, MIPI CSI, HSIC, SDIO
    • 1x M.2 key M PCIe connector with support for up to 4-lane PCIe 2.1 (max bandwidth: 2.0 GB)
  • Misc – Power & u-boot buttons. 6 LEDS (4x user, 1x Wifi, 1x Bluetooth)
  • Power Supply – 8 to 18V DC input (12V typical) as per 96Boards CE specs; Battery header
  • Dimensions – 85 x 54 mm (96Boards CE form factor)

The board will support Android (AOSP), Ubuntu, the Yocto Project, and Armbian. The website shows the word “official” for the first three, and lists Canonical as partner. The company will also offer various at least one expansion board, and starter kit based on Seeed Studio Grove system with a mezzanine board with plenty of Grove headers, an LCD display, and various Grove modules like buzzers, relays, buttons, LEDs, temperature sensors, and so on.

Rock960 is both simpler and smaller than other RK3399 boards such as Firefly-RK3399 and VS-RK3399, so I’d expect it to be cheaper, hopefully below $100, once it becomes available. The website is still very much under construction, but you may find few more details there.

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Google Cloud IoT Core Enters Public Beta, Various Devkits Available

September 29th, 2017 No comments

Allwinner R18 based Banana Pi BPI-M64 Board with Google Cloud IoT Coresupport, as Google unveils the new cloud service during Google I/O. However, at the time it was only available to selected partners, and Google has recently launched the public beta making their IoT device management platform available to all.

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I first learned about this through an ARM community blog post announcing availability of the ARM-based IoT Kit for Cloud IoT Core on Adafruit using Raspberry Pi 3 board,  a breadboard, and various modules that can be managed through Google services.

But that are plenty of other IoT kits or boards for Google Cloud IoT Core including:

You’ll find purchase links and documentation for each board on Google Cloud IoT Core’s IoT Kit page. Sample code specific to the RPI3 kit can also be found on Github.

Google Cloud IoT Core Architecture / Features Overview

Google IoT Core is free to use for up to 250 MB/month with no limit on the number of devices, and if you exceed this limit pricing per MB depends on data usage:

  • 250MB to 250 GB – $0.0045 per MB
  • 250GB to 5 TB – $0.0020 per MB
  • Over 5 TB – $0.00045 per MB
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Nokia 3310 3G Dumb Phone Works with 2G & 3G Networks

September 29th, 2017 No comments

Many people use smartphones now, but “dumb” feature phones are still being sold, as they are cheaper, some may find smartphones too complicated to use, while others wary about privacy issues. However, most feature phones comes with 2G connectivity, and with 2G sunset in many countries, I’ve recently realized it’s not so easy to find a simple phone with 3G cellular connectivity. The good news is that Nokia 3310 3G has just been announced by HMD global.

Nokia 3310 3G specifications:

  • SoC – TBD
  • System Memory – TBD
  • Storage – 64 MB storage; MicroSD card slot supporting up 32GB
  • Display – 2.4” QVGA (320×240) color display
  • Keyboard – “beautiful push buttons and iconic, shaped design”
  • Camera – 2MP camera with LED flash
  • Audio – Headphone jack
  • Cellular Connectivity
    • 2G/ 3G connectivity:
      • dual band 900/1800 MHz +3G Band 1 and 8
      • (Single SIM) quad band GSM 850/900/1800/1900 + 3G Band 1, 2, 5, 8
    • Single or dual SIM variants
  • Wireless Connectivity – Bluetooth 2.1, FM radio
  • USB – micro USB Port
  • Battery – 1,200 mAh removable BL-5C battery good for up to 6.5h talk time, 24 to 27 days standby, 40 hours MP3 playback, 35 hours FM radio playback
  • Dimensions – 17 x 52.4 x 13.35mm
  • Weight – 84.9g (single SIM); 88.2g (dual SIM)

Nokia 3310 3G is said to run “Feature OS” powered by Java, and ships with a quick start guide, thje battery, a micro USB charger, and a WH-108 headset.

The phone is not exactly cheap for this class of device, as it will sell for “a global average price” of €69 (~$81 US) starting this mid-October. Visit the product page for more details.

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January 9th, 2013 No comments

What hardware does OpenELEC run on?

As it’s deisnged to be lightweight, OpenELEC won’t put a strain on your systems resources like it’s processor or memory – meaning you’ll need less of them. With support for NVIDIA’s ION platform, AMD’s Fusion platform and Broadcom’s Crystal HD chip, OpenELEC can support high definition content on machines with low-powered processors by offloading video content to supported graphics cards and decoders. This means you can build (or buy) small, silent machines to be effectively used as a media center.

OpenELEC has many builds available, including a ‘catch-all’ build that will run on almost any x86 Pentium 4 or later, but also has optimized builds for certain platforms including:

  • Intel GMA HD chipsets
  • AMD Fusion
  • Apple TV 1 (using Broadcom Crystal HD)
  • Raspberry Pi

If you don’t have any suitable hardware or you’d just like to buy a pre-build system, look no further. We have a list of online shops who sell prebuilt systems and suitable hardware to run OpenELEC – just head over to the Buy A System page.



What makes OpenELEC different?

Good question! You could install Windows or your favourite Linux distribution on your computer and then XBMC on top – and it would work – but it wouldn’t be as fast or as easy as OpenELEC. OpenELEC is built from the ground up specifically for one task, to run XBMC. Other operating systems are designed to be multi-purpose, so they include all kinds of software to run services and programs that won’t be used. OpenELEC, however, only includes software requiredto run XBMC. Because of that it’s tiny (100MB) and installs in seconds – literally – and boots extremely quickly (about 20 seconds normally)

Unlike other XBMC solutions, OpenELEC is not based on Ubuntu. In fact, it’s not based on any Linux distribution; OpenELEC has been built from scratch specifically to act as a media center. That means it doesn’t include drivers for things that just won’t be used like 3G cards and graphics tablets, for example.

In addition, OpenELEC is designed to be managed as an appliance: it can automatically update itself and can be managed entirely from within the graphical interface. Even though it runs on Linux, you will never need to see a management console, command terminal or have Linux knowledge to use it.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not!

Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center (OpenELEC) is a small Linux distribution built from scratch as a platform to turn your computer into an XBMC media center. OpenELEC is designed to make your system boot fast, and the install is so easy that anyone can turn a blank PC into a media machine in less than 15 minutes.

  • It’s completely free
  • A full install is only 80-125MB
  • Minimal hardware requirements
  • Simple install to HDD, SSD, Compact Flash, SD card, pen drive or other
  • Optimized builds for Atom, ION, Intel, Fusion and more
  • Simple configuration through the XBMC interface
  • Plug and Play external storage
  • File sharing out of the box
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