About Rik

Myself Rik and I am founder of Riktronics. I study Electronics and Communication Engineering in IIE. My hobby is playing with electronics and making various projects, mainly about embedded systems. Love to do coding, and making tutorials about electronics/programming. Contact me in any need at abhra0897@gmail.com My blog : riktronics.wordpress.com

Top 10 Single Board Computers (SBCs) Of The Previous Year

Introduction

Back in 2012, the arrival of Raspberry Pi started a new era of Single Board Computers – widely known as SBC. It attracted a huge number of hobbyists and tinkerers who are keen to create technology rather than just consuming it. Single board computers made designing complex and computationally expensive projects possible. Robotics, IoT, Computer Vision projects, DIY media center – just name it and SBC will get it done with ease.

Since the massive success of the Raspberry Pi, the market got filled with various single board computers from different developers. Almost all of them have similar features but with some uniqueness.

Nowadays, we can see SBCs as cheap as $9 to as expensive as $250. One should purchase an SBC carefully depending on the budget and the type of the project. This Top 10 List is based on the SBCs that were popular the previous year and it will help you to choose an SBC as per your requirement without much effort.

The Logic of Sorting

While sorting out some products and giving them ranks, the logic of sorting should be clarified. We can sort out SBCs in many ways – performance, form factor, price point, user community etc. In this article, we have kept hobbyists and tinkerers in mind and so, our primary focus is price point and performance at that price. As a result, some extremely powerful boards didn’t rank well just because of being too costly and not affordable by hobbyists. Also, we have not included boards introduced this year (2018) as the list is based on the top boards of the previous year (2017).

So, now you know how we sorted the boards. Let’s get started with the list. (more…)

Phantom v2640 – The World’s Fastest High Speed Camera Captures 303,460 fps

Vision Research‘s latest addition is the new Phantom v2640 model to its array of products. This is seemingly the world’s fastest video capturing camera, able to record up to 11,750 fps in color and HD or 25,030 fps in monochrome. The maximum resolution is 2,048 x 1,952 pixels with up to 6,600 fps.

Phantom v2640 - the world's fastest video camera
Phantom v2640 – the world’s fastest video camera

At maximum resolution, it can only manage 6,600 images per second but this is enough to provide smooth x100 slow motion replay. HD (1920×1080) mode offers reduced resolution but accomplishes an impressive 11,750 fps. Things can get really breathtaking in monochrome ‘binning mode’ where up to 25,030 fps are possible. Playing the footage at the standard 24 fps gives out at more than a thousand times slow motion.

Apart from scientific applications and materials research, the capabilities of the camera would make it valuable for recording low-frequency sound events in high resolution. One obvious application could be making it a useful tool to study the movement of a bass speaker or subwoofer cone to determine membrane stability and surface resonances. Although it would not be quite fast enough to do the same job for tweeters operating at the upper limits of audibility. There is a special very high-speed mode in the camera which pushes up the frame rate up to 303,460 fps, providing images with a 1792 x 8 pixels format. This would be enough to record tweeter membrane movement but only along a very thin slice of the motion.

This camera is a technical marvel. A pixel rate of up to 26 Gpx/second suggests there are some fairly extreme high-speed electronics, resulting in a data rate reaching way in the GB/s range. As a result, the camera requires a massive internal frame-buffer to record footage of more than just a few milliseconds. Regards this, there is up to 288 GB of RAM installed which is enough to capture at least 7.8 seconds of footage. There is also a fast Ethernet interface of 10 Gb/s and other alternative data transmission connections. Battery operation is available but not necessarily too practical because the camera draws 280 Watts of power. Availability and pricing information is not available yet.

Researchers Developed a Very Powerful Mini Synchrotron That Can Fit On A Tabletop

A synchrotron is a particular type of cyclic particle accelerator which is used to accelerate quantum level charged particles at a very high velocity, traveling around a fixed closed-loop path.

It is one of the first accelerator concepts to enable the construction of large-scale facilities because they are very efficient in beam focusing, bending, and splitting the beam into different components. The most powerful modern particle accelerators such as Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland uses bigger versions of the synchrotron design.

Scientists design mini synchrotron that is only 4m long

A synchrotron is mainly used for the production of X-ray in many medical, engineering or industrial fields. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology and Delft University of Technology will build and develop a new scaled down version of a synchrotron which will even fit on a tabletop. The intensity of the X-ray radiation of this device will be just as powerful as the larger ones. Smart*Light” is the name of this new synchrotron which they officially took under research on 23rd January.

With Smart*Light, the consortium wants to build a ‘scaled down synchrotron‘. A compact and tunable X-ray source which is less than 4 meters long, which can be used in any lab. The potential of application for such a device is huge in medical diagnostics, high-tech industries, aircraft, car, and ship manufacturing.

Using Smart*Light there is the opportunity to analyze the chemical composition of old or new artworks layer by layer. This does not only have importance for conservation but, also for research into authenticity too.

The operation of this revolutionary X-ray source is based on the physical concept where X-rays are produced from collisions between LASER light and accelerated electrons. The theory is known as Inverse Compton Scattering, and has already been recognized for decades, but only recently has the necessary technology been modern enough to be developed.

Odroid-N1 Features Gigabit Ethernet And Can Run Android 7.1, Ubuntu, Debian

The Rockchip RK3399 has revolutionized the open-spec single-board computer world. Hardkernel’s new Odroid project has made the multi-core SoC RK3399 to firm it’s grip further. Recently Hardkernel released images, specs, and extensive benchmarks on a prototype for its storage-oriented new Odroid-N1 board. The boards can be expected to launch for about $110 in May or June this year.

New Odroid-N! based on Rockchip's RK3399
New Odroid-N1 based on Rockchip’s RK3399

The 90x90x20mm SBC is highlighted for offering dual channel SATA III interfaces and 4GB DDR3-1866 dual-channel RAM. The Odroid-N1 can run Android 7.1, as well as Ubuntu 18.04 or Debian 9 with Linux Kernel 4.4 LTS. This new board can also be open source as its previous flagship Odroid-XU4.

The RK3399 features two Cortex-A72 cores that are clocked at up to 2.0GHz, as well as four Cortex-A53 cores, which are clocked at 1.5GHz. (Some other RK3399 boards have listed 1.42GHz.) This board also includes a high-end ARM Mali-T864 GPU. Hardkernel’s benchmarks have shown the hexa-core RK3399 based Odroid-N1 is running significantly faster on most tests, beating the Odroid-XU4’s octa-core (4x Cortex-A15, 4x -A7).

The Odroid-N1 is equipped with a GbE port, 2x USB 3.0 ports, and 2x USB 2.0 ports, HDMI 2.0 port for up to 4K Video output. There’s also a 40-pin GPIO header. The Power input is mentioned at 12V/2A, although attaching two 3.5inch HDD will require a 12V/4A PSU. As with the other RK3399 boards, there are no hopes of Raspberry Pi add-on compatibility.

The RK3399 has powered many similar SBCs previously. The first major RK3399 SBC was Firefly’s Firefly-RK3399, soon followed by Vamrs’ similarly open source Rockchip RK3399 Sapphire. More recently we’ve seen Shenzhen Xunlong’s Orange Pi RK3399.

The RK3399 is also finding key roles among many commercial boards. We just saw Aaeon take the leap with its OEM-oriented RICO-3399 PICO-ITX SBC. Earlier, Videostrong announced a VS-RD-RK3399 SBC.

ODROID-N1 key features:

  • Rockchip AArch64 RK3399 Hexa-core processor
  • Dual-core ARM Cortex-A72 2Ghz processor and Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 1.5Ghz processor, big-LITTLE architecture
  • Mali-T860MP4 GPU, support OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0, OpenCL 1.2
  • 4Gbyte DDR3-1866 RAM, Dual channel interface for 64bit data bus width
  • 2 x SATA3 port, native SATA implementation via PCIe-gen2 to SATA3 interface
  • eMMC 5.0 (HS400) Flash storage and a UHS capable micro-SD slot.
  • 2 x USB 3.0 host port
  • 2 x USB 2.0 host port.
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • HDMI 2.0 for 4K display
  • 40-Pin GPIO port
  • OS: Ubuntu 18.04 or Debian Stretch with Kernel 4.4 LTS, Android 7.1
  • Size: 90 x 90 x 20 mm approx. (excluding cooler)
  • Power: 12V/2A input (Attaching two 3.5inch HDD requires a 12V/4A PSU)
  • Price: US$110 (To be adjusted based on DRAM market price changes)
  • Mass production schedule: TBD

More information is available in the Odroid-N1 announcement.

Intexar™ Heat – A Revolutionary Stretchable Ink And Film Technology To Make Flexible Heated Garments

DuPont Advanced Materials (DuPont) in association with Taiwanese company Formosa Taffeta, has developed a powered smart clothing technology named Intexar™ Heat, for on-body flexible heating garments.

The new fabric is thin, lightweight, and durable. The Intexar™ Heat is an ideal solution for outdoor clothing and it is designed to be easily integrated into garments. This innovative technology consists of a thin layer of carbon resistors, interconnected by an underlying layer of silver electrodes printed on a stretchable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laminate. The silver electrodes supply currents throughout the resistor grid to radiate a right amount of heat within garments. By default, the active layer is sandwiched between a plain or customized outer protective layer. This protective layer shields the heating element from exposure and the fabric making up the garment.

Intexar Heat powers smart clothing technology for on-body heating
Intexar Heat powers smart clothing technology for on-body heating

Michael Burrows, the global business manager at DuPont Advanced Materials, described Intexar™ Heat as a revolutionary stretchable ink and film that when powered, creates a comfortable warmth. Formosa Taffeta Company will be the first textile manufacturer to apply Intexar™ Heat technology as part of its Permawarm® line. The new Permawarm® lineup will provide clothing with a complete garment heater system including the Intexar™ heater layer, connectors, and control software.

James Lee, president of FTC, said,

With Permawarm™, clothing brands can focus on garment design and brand engagement. We are taking the guesswork out of bringing their customers safe and comfortable heated garments.

Intexar™ materials can also be very useful in biometric monitoring in smart clothing. Pulse rate, respiratory rate, muscle activity and form awareness are all measurable using sensors and conductive pathways built from Intexar™ which makes it a complete smart garment solution.

To cope with the coming era of functional thermal insulation this is a huge step forward for heat-insulation fabrics. It is a new high-tech lightweight material ideal for thermal insulation in the winter.

New Powerful Nano-ITX Form Factor ADL120S Single Board Computer For IoT

USA based ADL Embedded Solutions has introduced a new rugged, Nano-ITX form factor ADL120S single board computer (SBC). It is mainly produced for IoT, networking, and cyber-security applications. The highlighted feature of this SBC is its wide variety of PCIe expansion slots. The SBC includes 8x stackable PCIe interfaces, as well as optional custom expansion board services. Also, you get dual M/2 Key-B 2280 interfaces that support PCIe/SATA with USB 3.0. Networking is taken care with 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports (1x with PXE boot and WoL).

ADL120S Single Board Computer by ADL Embedded Solutions

 

The ADL120S runs Linux or Windows OS on dual- or quad-core Intel 6th Gen (“Skylake“) processor and Celeron CPUs that support an LGA1151 socket. There’s an Intel Q170 chipset on ADL120S instead of a Q170HDS. The supported SKUs include the quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7-6700TE, the dual-core 2.7GHz i3-6100TE, and 2.3GHz Celeron G3900TE.

The board has a compact dimension of 120 x 120mm in a Nano-ITX form factor but has a high vertical profile with 4x USB 3.0 ports piled on a single column. This high-rise board also includes 4x GbE ports, one of which has WoL and PXE Boot, and a pair of DisplayPort 1.2 ports with 4096 x 2304 resolution at 60Hz refresh rate.

The ADL120S comes with up to 32GB DDR4 RAM and offers a wide-range 20-30VDC (optional 12-24V or 20-36V) input and RTC (Real time clock) with battery. The boards with -20 to 70°C or -40 to 85°C temperature range of usability are available.

The SBC is also praised for its high MTBF, long-life availability, hardware and firmware revision control, obsolescence management, and technical, engineering and design support, on their website’s product page.

No pricing or availability information was provided for the ADL120S.

IDT Announces High Performance MEMS Relative Humidity & Temperature Sensor

California based company, Integrated Device Technology (IDT) has recently announced their new HS300x family of MEMS high-performance relative humidity (RH) and temperature sensors of dimension 3.0 × 2.41 × 0.8 mm DFN-style 6-pin LGA. Currently, there are four devices in this family—the HS3001, HS3002, HS3003, and HS3004. They are all the same from the view of functionality but differ slightly in terms of the accuracy of their relative humidity and temperature measurements.

Development board for ITD MEMs sensors

The highlighted feature of this new lineup is that they do not require any user calibration. HS300x family of ICs has calibration and compensation logic integrated into the devices. These ICs output their fully corrected data using standard I2C protocols making the measured data from the sensors is rather easy.

As a side note, Relative humidity (RH) is the ratio of the partial pressure of water vapor to the equilibrium vapor pressure of water at a given temperature. As the entire output consists of only four bytes of data, calculating the corresponding relative humidity in percent and temperature in degrees Celsius is very easy.

Although the HS300x sensors operate as slave devices on the I2C bus (supporting clock frequencies from 100 kHz to 400 kHz), only one HS300x IC can be connected directly to a single I2C bus. To connect multiple sensors to a single I2C bus, an I2C multiplexer/switch has to be used. It would have been easier if IDT had dedicated the unused pin as an optional I2C address input bit, which would allow two HS300x devices to be connected to a single I2C bus.

If you’re interested in testing these ICs prior to incorporating them into a design, SDAH01 or SDAH02 evaluation kit can come handy. Although both kits utilize the HS3001 sensor, the SDAH01 kit outputs the measured data to a PC while the SDAH02 displays the data on an LCD screen.

First Orange Pi SBC Powered By Rockchip’s Hexacore SoC Can Run Android 6.0 And Debian 9

ARM hacker board vendors and commercial x86-centric board vendors are following Firefly’s lead in experimenting with Rockchip’s ARM-based SoCs. These new single-board computers (SBC) offer x86-type features like HDMI 2.0, mSATA, and mini-PCIe. They also come with powerful and more energy-efficient ARM cores. Now Shenzhen Xunlong has launched its first Rockchip based Orange Pi single-board computer, Orange Pi RK3399, at 109 USD.

Orange Pi RK3999 Powered By Rockchip SoC
Orange Pi RK3999 Powered By Rockchip SoC

The Rockchip RK3399 features two Cortex-A72 cores that are clocked up to 2.0GHz, as well as four Cortex-A53 cores typically clocked at up to 1.42GHz. There’s also a high-performing ARM Mali-T864 GPU. There are 2GB DDR3 RAM, 16GB eMMC flash and can be expanded with an inbuilt MicroSD slot. Mandatory I/O ports as USB 3.0 Type-C port, 4x USB 2.0 host ports. DisplayPort 1.2 with audio for up to 4K at 60Hz. There are Other RK3399 based SBCs as Firefly’s Firefly-RK3399 and similarly open source Rockchip RK3399 Sapphire.

Like most of these boards, the Orange Pi RK3399 is a high-end board with various ports and interfaces. The Orange Pi RK3399 is the only one of these SBCs with mSATA, and you can have dual mSATA drives if you dedicate the mini-PCIe slot to mSATA instead of LTE. Orange Pi RK3399 stands out with its numerous sensor assembly, which includes a G-Sensor, Gyro, Compass, HALL sensor, and ambient light sensor.

Orange Pi RK3999 front details
Orange Pi RK3999 front details

The Orange Pi RK3399 offers almost the same as Firefly-RK3399, with GbE, WiFi-AC, Bluetooth 4.1, and a large-scale collection of multimedia features. There’s a 40- instead of 42-pin expansion interface. Just like Firefly boards, there is no support for Raspberry Pi compatibility. The board also lacks the Firefly’s RTC, and at 129 x 99mm, which is heavier and just slightly larger than the Firefly-RK3399.

One of the best advantages of the Firefly board is software support. Firefly offers Ubuntu 16.04 while the Orange Pi only has Debian 9 along with Android 6.0. More importantly, since this is Shenzhen Xunlong’s first Rockchip board, software support is likely to procrastinate. Hopes are high on this being an open hardware board like the other Orange Pi models.

Understanding Flash Memory And How It Works

Flash memory is one of the most widely used types of non-volatile memory. NAND Flash is designed for modern file storage which replaced old disk drives. This article provides a brief understanding of how NAND Flash technology works.

The basic storage component used in Flash memory is a modified transistor. In a standard transistor, the flow of current through a channel between two contacts is turned on by a voltage applied to the gate. The channels are separated by an insulating layer of Oxide. In a Flash storage cell, there is an extra electrically isolated gate called “floating gate”. It is added to the control gate and the channel of the modified transistor.

Different Flash Storages
Different Flash Memory Devices

High voltage is applied to the control gate of The Flash cell to program it. This pushes electrons to pass through the oxide layer to the floating gate (a process known as tunneling). The presence of these trapped electrons on the floating gate changes the required voltage to turn on the transistor. Thus, a transistor with no charge on the floating gate can easily turn on at a certain voltage, representing a 1, while a programmed cell will not turn on, representing a 0.

This kind of memory is non-volatile because the floating gate is surrounded by dielectric layers, it traps the electric charge even when the power is removed. Erasing a cell reverses this process by introducing a large negative voltage to the control gate to force the electrons to tunnel out of the floating gate.

NANAD Flash storage internal
NAND Flash Memory storage internal

A number of cells, typically 32 to 128, are connected in a string. Strings are organized in blocks. To program cells in a block, the data is put on the bit lines and a high voltage is applied. Because programming can only change a cell from a 1 to a 0, any cells where the new data is a 1, will be left in their current state. Therefore, all the cells must be erased before writing. This process ensures that any cells that will not be programmed already contain a 1.

As explained above, each cell can store a single binary value, 0 or 1. It is also possible to inject varying amounts of charge onto the floating gate so that the cell can express multiple values. A multi-level cell (MLC) can store four different levels to represent two bits. However, the performance is reduced because of the complexity of accurate voltage controls. For the same reason, MLC Flash memory is more inclined to errors.

Although flash memory has a limited number of write-erase cycles, the high voltages cause a small amount of damage to the cells which makes them harder to read-write over time. The main drawback of using a flash memory is that it has a lifetime of about 100,000 cycles or fewer for MLC Flash.

Researches Solve Problems of Organic Thin Film Transistors By Developing Nanostructured Gate Dielectric

Amorphous silicon-based Thin-film transistors (TFTs) are the foundation of many modern-day technologies, such as smartphones and flat-panel TVs. Still, it comes with a few drawbacks like performance limitations due to limited carrier mobility. Provoking the researchers in search of something better.

As a result, Organic thin-film transistors (OTFTs) were developed. OTFTs have solved the problem with carrier mobility to an extent. Although it introduced new problems such as the critical performance parameter of large threshold voltage instabilities. Threshold voltages—also known as gate voltages—are the minimum voltage differential needed between a gate and the source to create a conducting path between the source and drain terminals.

Nanostructured Gate dielectric opens new possibilities in OTFTs

Latest works of the researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology seems to overcome the voltage instability problem with OTFTs. They have developed a nanostructured gate dielectric that can regulate voltage threshold fluctuations in OTFTs.

gate dielectric is an important component of every thin-film transistor. It acts as the electrically insulating layer between the gate terminal and the semiconductor. It should have a high dielectric constant, be very thin, and have a high dielectric strength for the transistor to function at low voltage.

On applying a voltage across the gate electrode, the resulting electric field across this insulating layer changes the density of carriers in the semiconductor layer. It regulates the current that is flowing between the source and the drain electrodes. Many different materials are used to make this insulating layer. Such as dielectric polymers, inorganic oxides or combinations of different organic and inorganic materials.

The Georgia Tech researchers used Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) technique to build a thin metal oxide layer on top of a perfluorinated dielectric polymer. They chose ALD for its ability to produce layers that are free from any defects. Bernard Kippelen, a professor at Georgia Tech, and leader of the research said:

The low defect density reduces the diffusion of moisture into the underlying organic semiconductor layer, preventing its degradation.

The performance of the new organic thin-film transistors seems to surpass that of hydrogenated amorphous silicon technology. According to Kippelen, it revolutionizes OTFTs in terms of charge mobility and stability. He stated:

It is premature and difficult at this stage to provide a direct comparison with what is currently on the market; nevertheless, we believe that the level of stability that is achieved is an important step for printed electronics.

Before the future applications, Kippelen and his team will further investigate the mechanical properties of these printed transistors since they show great potential with flexible form factor products. Further information can be found on the Research paper published in the journal Science Advances.