Channels ▼

Al Williams

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Plug and Play -- Emphasis on Plug

March 21, 2010

I've developed a few embedded systems that were beyond the capabilities of a standard desktop computer at that time. But more often than not, my embedded systems were built not because a desktop computer couldn't do the job, but because a "standard PC" wouldn't be cost effective or would draw too much power, or simply wouldn't fit in the space required.

These days, though, there are lots of "tiny PC" replacements that are reasonably inexpensive, low power, and with small footprints. I've used the Friendly Arm boards, for example. Very small, nice mating LCD touchscreen and very inexpensive.

This morning the "Guru Plug" caught my eye. These are literally "wall wart" plugs that have a whole computer built in them. Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB 2.0 ports, Linux, 1GHZ processor, WiFi, 512K of RAM, another 512K of ROM, Bluetooth, and U-SNAP (home area networking for devices -- I had to look it up). All for about $100 each. They have a slightly more expensive one that is even more capable.

The biggest limitation I see to these sort of systems is that they often don't include analog or digital I/O in the box which is a shame (well, the Friendly Arm does). That means you might need a USB or Ethernet I/O device (I was always impressed with the TINI and even wrote a book that talked a lot about it. I also designed some years ago a serial device that works well with a USB adapter that would fit the bill.

But I'd love to see a tiny PC-like module studded with I/O at a price that would make it practical for all but the most demanding embedded systems.

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.