Feeds

Best and the Rest: ARM Mini PCs

New shoots from an old acorn

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

ARMini

R-Comp Interactive's ARMini is a modern, British-built desktop PC designed to run the ARM chip's original operating system, RISC OS. It isn't a completely new machine; rather, it's a custom bundle of a Beagleboard and various bits of supporting hardware inside a mini-ITX case, together with a customised build of RISC OS. The aim is to provide a smooth experience to existing RISC OS users.

ARMini ARM PC

A typical user environment?

At £599, the ARMini is more expensive than the basic model of the considerably smaller and more powerful Apple Mac mini – and you don't get a lot of hardware for your money. The case is slightly larger than an external 5.25in drive, and alongside a lot of empty space, there's the tiny 3in square motherboard, an HDMI-to-DVI adaptor, a USB hub and an 8GB thumbdrive.

A slimline internal DVD-RW drive is now included for no extra cost, although our review unit was the earlier model that lacked one. There's also 14cm-long external power brick.

The main board is the higher-spec Beagleboard-xM – 1GHz Cortex-A8 CPU, 512MB Ram, on-board Ethernet – running the shared-source RISC OS 5. Together, the storage and Ram provided aren't much in 2012, but then, by modern standards RISC OS is not merely tiny but minute, as are its apps. Even with a suite of freeware and some demo files, only about 750MB of the thumbdrive was occupied. RISC OS itself lives on a micro-SD card in a slot on the Beagleboard.

It's not a lot just shy of £600, but what you're paying for is integration. The review unit came preloaded with RISC OS 5.17 from RISC OS Open Ltd, the company behind the freeware shared-source version, but R-Comp offers a free download that upgrades the machine painlessly to 5.18, together with updates for the bundled apps. I also tried an upgrade to the experimental 5.19 and it worked flawlessly.

The ARMini includes licences from both Castle – owner of RISC OS 5, the shared-source fork – and RISC OS Ltd, vendor of RISC OS 6, the proprietary commercial version. Although you're not running the commercial RO6, R-Comp's build of RO5 includes some enhancements taken from it – so, for instance, when you change screen mode, a confirmation dialog box appears and the machine times-out and automatically reverts goes back if you don't click one.

ARMini ARM PC

The RISC business

This is a handy addition – RISC OS's screen-mode support is a bit palaeolithic. It can't read your monitor's capabilities over EDID and the Beagleboard's GPU is working at the outer limit of its abilities driving a big modern flatscreen, so invalid mode settings and an unusable display are a real risk. Indeed, in testing, I found I could only get a display with an HDMI cable – using the DVI port yielded no picture.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Next page: Acorn Antiques

More from The Register

next story
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Trousers down for six of the best affordable Androids
Stylish Googlephones for not-so-deep pockets
Intel's LAME DUCK mobile chips gobbled by CASH COW
Chipzilla won't have money-losing mobe unit to kick about anymore
First in line to order a Nexus 6? AT&T has a BRICK for you
Black Screen of Death plagues early Google-mobe batch
Ford's B-Max: Fiesta-based runaround that goes THUNK
... when you close the slidey doors, that is ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.