Raspberry Pi 2 vs. Raspberry Pi 1 vs. Beaglebone Black vs. Intel Edison

I applaud the Raspberry Pi 2 with ARMv7 quad-core CPU and LPDDR2 RAM release. My opinion on the original Raspberry Pi (non +, model B 256MB and 512MB RAM) boards was fairly sour due to the anemic ARMv6 single core CPU. Generally speaking, the Beaglebone Black and Intel Edison have been substantially better choices for the maker and professional embedded systems designer.

Upon receiving the Raspberry Pi 2 and loading the latest Raspian image, my impressions are far more favorable than the Raspberry Pi 1. Using the LXDE graphical desktop, the Raspberry Pi 2 is useful for basic desktop use. At this time, Firefox is not available for the Raspberry Pi 2, and HTML5 is not fully supported in the GNOME Web browser.

The hacks I saw on the web for Chromium using Pepper didn’t work for me, but I mostly plan to use this as a headless device, so I didn’t pursue it futher.

In short, the painfully and in my opinion uselessly slow desktop graphical environment of the Raspberry Pi 1 has been overcome with the much faster multicore ARMv7 CPU of the Raspberry Pi 2, which is usable as a basic desktop, much like the Beaglebone Black.

The Beaglebone Black has been a much better choice than the Raspberry Pi 1 due in part to the PRU, DDR3L RAM (faster), and ARMv7 CPU.

The Intel Edison has been a much better choice than the Raspberry Pi and in some applications better than the Beaglebone Black due to the Edison’s dual-core x86 CPU, fast RAM, and extremely favorable energy efficiency. Depending on your application, the Edison may run 10x as long or more on battery than the Raspberry Pi (1 or 2) and Beaglebone Black.

WriteLatex vs. ShareLatex

Short answer: Use ShareLatex

Why?
1) ShareLatex is much faster to compile. I have a 30 page journal article draft with numerous figures, and WriteLatex seems to take on the order of a minute to compile while ShareLatex was substantially less.

2) ShareLatex has far better error/warning feedback and a much better IDE overall. WriteLatex error/warnings keep disappearing and the line number with error is not clearly indicated.

3) ShareLatex is open-source. WriteLatex is NOT open source.

My Comment on Draft AGU Data Position Statement

http://sciencepolicy.agu.org/draft-data-position-statement-comment/

I like the new emphasis on documentation. I would strengthen this even further by emphasizing the provision of open-source code/API that allows at minimum recreation of all figures in published papers, and canonical registration cases. Publication of source code AND compilation instructions (example: GPL) necessary to recreate all paper figures should be an essential requirement for publication.

Very pleased with Lenovo warranty service

My corporate X220 had the space bar get slightly intermittent after 4 years of hard use and abuse. Naturally the corporation had the maximum warranty coverage, but I didn’t want to have someone manhandling my computer.

Instead, a few minutes on the phone with their Atlanta, Georgia tech support center saw me getting a Next-Day Early Morning express shipped keyboard to my office, so I can change it myself. That is excellent. It probably cost Lenovo more to ship the keyboard than the keyboard itself costs them.

10 years ago I bought my last Dell computer, a nearly $3000 laptop, and the speakers failed after about two months of use, and they sneered at me as if I was blasting death metal music instead of teleconferences. I have heard more recent reports of the same Dell attitude on speakers.
OK different problem, but entirely different attitude from Lenovo tech support.

Although I build my desktops myself, when it comes to laptops I’ll still be looking to Lenovo.

Pros/cons of LogMeIn, TeamViewer, GoToMyPC

My work involves data collection from remote, inaccessible sites located around the world. I need to have highly-reliable methods of remote control. So I make sure every PC is Intel vPRO enabled, allowing me to power down, reboot, and even reinstall the operating system remotely from a HTTP vPro internal webserver on port 16992.

Checklist:
1) Intel vPro motherboard
2) Clonezilla DVD in DVD drive
3) Clonezilla HDD image on Blu-ray in drive or USB HDD / flash drive
4) Hardware Firewall (e.g. pfSense, m0n0wall) (don’t want to expose vPro ports to outside world).

What about the actual remote control? One can use SSH port forwarding and RDP/XRDP, but what about those who want to use LogMeIn or the like? I had this discussion recently and here were my points:

Pros of LogMeIn, TeamViewer, GoToMyPC commercial services:
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  • I would say that commercial remote desktop services such as LogMeIn are typically more secure on a Windows PC than just leaving port 3389 open to the internet. (One can use Cygwin OpenSSH server to SSH port forward to 3389, and/or user pfSense/m0n0wall hardware firewalls)
  • LogMeIn has convenient apps for smartphones and from a web browser (for open source choices, see AfreeRDP and Guacamole)

Cons of LogMeIn, TeamViewer, GoToMyPC commercial services:
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The downsides of LogMeIn-type commercial services have philosophical and practical aspects.

  • Commercial services typically use proprietary (non-open-source) technologies for the central server and/or securing the connection. (Open source choices are using perhaps the same technology but open to world-wide security reviewers).
  • The convenience of commercial services (centralized server making the connections) is seen by some as a weakness (could have unknown hackers as employees, could shut down their server, raise prices, etc.).

With open-source software, I can also access my PCs with a “single click” from a phone or laptop, without having a 3rd party server involved, and with all free open-source software that I trust. I can do so from a web page without plugins (see Guacamole). The key point being that I don’t have a 3rd commercial party whom I have to trust and pay.

Some customers do not allow 3rd party remote control software to be used, and so I have become proficient at using open-source solutions for remote control of many systems.

HP50g vs. TI-89

I have used the TI-89 for over a decade, and obtained the HP 50g shortly after its release. I tried honestly to use the HP 50g, and here are a few objections that put me back to the TI-89 (just bought a second TI-89 actually):

  1. The low resolution (blocky/grainy) of the HP 50g is a big detraction from its usefulness as a high-end graphing calculator
  2. Aforementioned low resolution limits length of equations and number of equations you can see clearly on the screen–one of the major reasons for having a high-end calculator is to allow you to enter/check long equations on the screen.

That being said, the HP 50g has a dedicated core of aficionados. HP 50g advocates will present a list of counterpoints to show how I am technically wrong–and their arguments have merits.

Given the feature set and the inevitable eventual sunsetting of the 15+ year old TI-89 series, a new user considering what high-end calculator to purchase should look to the TI Nspire CX CAS.

In closing, I will give strong admonition to students–DO NOT rely heavily on calculators in your math courses–this will only cause you much suffering in later courses. Even if your last math class in college will be Calculus I or II, you will never gain the true richness of understanding if you constantly use your calculator for homework.

A better approach is to do the problems manually, and on occasion check with the calculator.