This is a long story that started with me buying a Raspberry Pi with the goal of discovering how good performance could have been in such device used as dedicated server.
The story goes on with pcDuino too, and tricks you might want to know about booting up and building node on them.
Why A Pi As A Server
The story of computers is not actually that fair for same computers, as not fair is the Moore's law itself.
Bear in mind, I am not saying that's not working, all I am saying is that if in 6 months we've got double amount of transistors in some CPU, this does not mean we've been used the previous CPU at its best for last 6 months!
Gaming, immortal, consoles such PS2 can describe better than my words what I am talking about: hardware is good until what you need does not fit under that 100% of potentials!
ARM Is Powerful
Not only is becoming one of the most ambitious target for any Operating System, probably including Microsoft, ARM is also both powerful and power consumption aware, something we've never rarely thought about before .. I mean, a server that does not need much electricity so that if some blackout happens it does not dry whatever counter blackout part is playing in the building? And what about a web farm?
A Raspberry Pi Web Hosting Colocation
Yes, it's not just me, and actually ... WTF!
When I've invested a bit of extra time trying to have up and running my own idea of a co-location, raspberrycolocation.com was born instead and sold out ... gosh I'm always late at the party!
What this smart guys did, is to offer a full server for about $50, being absolutely the most competitive dedicated server company in the world right now ... that's as easy as that .... but ...
What those guys offer is a colocation for your own Pi, a device I honestly would never put into anybody else hands (and that's the feeling you have when that little thing works as hell with awesome performance under your own software) over the Raspbian distro, surely a stable, well tested, etc, etc linux based OS, unfortunately kinda/"slightlier" heavy :(
R-Pi aim is to be a cheap replacement for a PC and in this case Raspbian is the most suitable distro you have there.
However, if you are planning to do something different that does not requires a GUI, and RAM is only 512 there, or any other extra thing on top, Arch Linux becomes the best alternative for this device.
Living On The Edge
410+ MB of RAM
You don't need me to try the Raspbian distro and check how much
require('os').freemem(); command will return in node pre 0.11.2, you can install the package instead of compiling it on the hardware as I am doing, and do the math.
If the device has 512MB of RAM, 410+ after OS booted in about 8 seconds ain't that bad, right? And I am sure the distro coul dbe even more minimalistic ... as it is, as example in the following platform:
The Allwinner 10
If I have to be honest with you, I would rather consider this platform, or any of its new derived, more than a Pi.
I know, kids price not so friendly, but here you have an ARMv7 with most likely at least 1Ghz of clock speed and 1GB of RAM over some NAND which is alwas faster than inboard SD controller (I'll come back on this part too)
The pcDuino Case
As example, you can have an Arch Linux distro able to boot up in 6 seconds into node.js, with an average of
0.3% of CPU usage via SSH to monitor what's going on behind the
If you try to do the same with the minimalistic full Desktop version of Ubuntu for this device, you'll notice at least 6 to 9% of default CPU usage because of the graphic OS, plus 691511296 of available RAM after boot against a
require('os').freemem() resut of 797020160 for the Arch Linux headless distro .. yeah, you heard that right!
Slow Down, You Punk!
While Raspberry Pi has a pretty decent and complete image of Arch Linux that includes all hardware activation at boot time, no led excluded, pcDuino is kinda "problematic" as any Allwinner platform is because of the not so stable graphic videos ... who cares indeed!
If your goal is to have a dedicated server on the palm of your hand, the graphic whatever is something you won't care at all. I agree this might sound confusing at the beginning, if you are not familiar with linux bootable distros, but hey ... the video is such a pain in your spine I am not sure you really want to know how to fix that, do you?
Install Arch Linux In Allwinner A10 ARM Devices
This post and its welcomeness are kinda the beginning of the story about Arch Linux.
What you think makes sense for an OS ... well, you are already out of sync: Arch is kinda the skeleton of that OS, anything else is your choice/matter/problem/duty, if you want to support that platform.
Even More Annoying
Is not just the fact if you are noob in *nix world you should drop this distro by default since nobody wants to deal with you, the instructions, even if you are part of that world, are kinda crap too.
Thank You André
Despite André post talks about a different A10 board, the used code is clearly something you might find handy, once re-elaborated as such:
In my case I had to:
sh a10.sh /dev/sdb pcduino-bootloader.tar.gz pcduino
after changing things might be different for other A10 boards.
I've been impressed by polpetta performance, as generic hard drive surfer/common intra-cloud, on a network of 15+ devices: not a glitch over these platforms under hand compiled node.js 11.2 versions.
The average ping for this device in the network is 1.3 milli seconds, which is nothing!
Are you sure your initial web business demands much more as dedicated server?
What if a $40 dollars board plus SD card is all you need, to measure your startup success?
What's With SD Cards
The situation around SD Cards is awkward at least. So here the thing, I haven't spot any difference between an 8GB Extreme Pro SanDisk micro SD Card, and an Ultra 32GB version of the micro usb card ... but more over, I don't think you need such amount of space for any of these devices since even looping through FileSystem tables has a cost I believe your cheap ARM dedicated web server should not take into consideration ;)
Have fun with hints on the web about how to build your first dedicated web host in no more than $100 for years, network a part!