Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saved my Bacon

I've been posting about the Iview computer.  It's an amazing little box, but I wanted something a little more.  I especially wanted wired Ethernet and the USB to Ethernet was not cutting it.  I brought the stick into the shack which is at the other end of the house from my router, about as far as you can get and the performance had deteriorated.  This is nothing new as I've had a half dozen different wifi setups in this room including external whip antennas and nothing has been satisfactory.  So I searched around for a box running this 4 core Atom Z3735F and there are many Chinese boxes out there.  Microsoft introduced a version of Windows 8.1 called Win 8.1 with Bing.  It is a stripped down version of the full win 8.1 O/S and is competition for Android set top box systems.  I've been playing with these set top box systems for a few years, installing various distros of Linux etc.  It's just another interest of mine.  The set top box runs some version of a ARM (read non intel) processor and while it works it is usually pretty underpowered.  BUT if you live in the third world this my be your only access since it is also very cheap.  I've seen them go for as little as $35 US on ebay.  

The wintel offering like the Iview is more like $100, but I consider it a good trade off since with the 4 core Atom processor you have a real computer that will run real apps (like SSDR!)   Computing around the world is a very different kettle of fish compared to computing in the USA.  In the US you go down to best buy and plop down a few hundred to a couple of thousand on an Acer or a Dell.  When I was in China and Hong Kong last it's very different.  Markets are true markets not prepackaged retail big box stores.  If you want to buy a screw you go to the street where the hardware vendors have their shops and tents and you will see several blocks of people selling screws.  If you know the market you can get a very good deal on screws, or just get the exact one you want.  It's kind of like those food travel shows where the guy goes to buy a squid at an open market and there are a couple hundrend people selling squid.

In Hong Kong one of the computer markets I visited was housed in an 8 story building, and it was row after row of people selling computer hardware/software/accessories.  There wasn't a Dell in sight.  There wasn't a built system in sight.  It was cases motherboards processors hard drives memory and on and on with people 8 deep around each booth trying to buy stuff as cheaply as possible.  These new all in one "boxes" undoubtedly represent the latest variation of what gets sold into the third world.  It's a very interesting market.  

So perusing the possibilities I came up with this box

I has the Atom processor, Ethernet, WIFI, 3 usb ports, jacks for headphones and mic, bluetooth, 2gB of ram, 32 gB eMMC SSD and a slot for a micro SD card.  It runs at 1.33 Ghz but it allows bursts to over 1.6 Ghz.  It has a full version of win 8.1 and is eligible for windows 10.  It's $138 delivered to your door.  Notice the 2 video ports, a HDMI and VGA.  Could this box allow dual monitors??  Also it's fanless and therefore dead silent.

I bought this and it was supposed to arrive on July 12th.  BUT I got a call from DHL on July 2nd letting me know it would be coming on the 3rd.  Amazing.  I guess being close to Orlando airport has its advantages.  

This is a pic of this little beast, smaller than a pen!

I hooked it up and got this nice desk top

Yes Virginia  It will drive 2 monitors!  I have 2 24 inch HD monitors in the shack and it drives both to 1920 x 1080, a total of 3840 x 1080 of screen real estate!   Ethernet gives me sustained 24 mbs downloads perfect.  So I downloaded all my favorite ham radio stuff 

It was fortuitous.  My shack main i7 quadcore computer died July 2nd and I was facing a holiday weekend of no or very limited ham radio.  This system is not un-crunchable.  I can't have 20 windows of Chrome open or I start to run out of memory but I can run SSDR with 2 slices in one pan, DDUTIL, SDR-Bridge, one CW skimmer, and Log4OM and 3 Chrome windows ( 2 emails and a third) and still have horsepower left over.   I have 2 monitors to spread out my programs, and I'm back on the air for the holiday, fully functional in the way I normally operate till my new i7 chassis arrives.  Plus its just fun to play with this stuff

73  W9OY


I read more about the ZF3735F and it's a 2W processor with a total system dissipation peaking at 4 watts.  I've been running it all weekend with a total of ZERO dropped packets on the 6500.   2 watts compares to 65 watts of my i7 system.  There are more of these fanless low power high performance systems in the pipeline as Intel releases new chips.