Recently Element 14 was kind enough to provide me with a RIoT board to evaluate and eventually share my thoughts on the device here on the site.
Out of the box it looks like most other development boards that I have encountered. A little larger form factor than the Beagle Bone or Raspberry Pi, so you're not going to fit it in an Altoids tin.
The core of the RIoT Board is the Freescale Semiconductor i.MX 6Solo, a ARM Cortex-A9 running at 1 GHz. It features a wide array of peripherals that are available to the user, such as :
1GB DDR3 RAM
SD card interface
uSD card interface
4 USB ports
4 Serial (TTL) ports
2 Camera interfaces
Expansion port featuring I2C, SPI, GPIO
2 user defined LEDs
This is already more capable than desktop computers I have owned in my lifetime.
Out of the box the RIoT Board is configured with Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean). For initial checkout I connected my monitor to the HDMI port and booted the system into the supplied Android OS. I spent a few minutes playing around in there and noted the capabiilities. It immediately recognized my Logitech wireless keyboard an mouse combo that I had plugged into the USB port. This made navigation a breeze. As expected the RJ45 network connection was recognized an I was able to do a few typical things I might do on a tablet, such as browse the web and run a few applications. I disconnected the wired ethernet connection and tried to connect to the network via a wireless dongle plugged into a USB port but was unsuccessful. My guess is that it is the lack of a driver for the particular device I had selected, but I wasn't really interested in pursuing it much further.
My real interest in this board was as a computer running Linux. I was able to look around the web as well as the Element 14 site and find some good information on running Linux on this board. I was able to find some instructions on booting Debian Linux directly from the uSD without having to modify the supplied firmware, this seemed like I good option so that was where I started.
I found some source to a bootloader, built it and copied it to the SD card. I didn't have a uSD card available, so I went with the full size. Followed some instructions to build a 3.15 kernel, installed a Debian release on the SD card and was off and running. But I wasn't satisfied. I was able to modify the instructions slightly and find a version of Ubuntu that was compatible with the ARM A9 and get that running with minimal effort. Here it is after logging in to the Unity interface
That is running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Logging into the system this morning I am seeing a notice that 14.04.1 LTS is currently available. I may have to try that.
I was able to hook a 500 GB USB drive to the board so I can see this device becoming a NAS, or a media streamer or finding another purpose around my home as a Thing on the Internet. I had written a device driver years ago for a USB temperature probe and was able to easily move the source to the RIoT Board and recompile with little effort, so it's possible this little device could become a temperature monitor for a critical system in my home (the beer cooler). With the full power of a modern operating system behind it there are few limitations on this device. It can serve web pages, maintain a DB, tweet status, send me emails, the list goes on. With little effort I could have it flash a light or sound a klaxon alerting me that the beer in my cooler is reaching dangerous temperatures.
Bottom line, I haven't decided what role this device will play in my life. I can think of many applications. Some temperature related as I have described, or perhaps as a modern BBQ aid. Perhaps in a role to conserve electricity or water by monitoring other less critical systems in my home. Taking advantage of the camera interface to monitor activity around my front door or the rest of my property. At $79 US, there are a multitude of tasks that can be inexpensively completed, monitored, and reported with minimal effort. The device is probably more limited by my imagination than by its physical capabilities.
Once again I thank Element 14 for giving me the opportunity to try out this board.