September 25, 2013
Dear Interested and Technically Inclined Person,
This is the default Apache web page of the first Tiny SOC CS server. The correct pronunciation is "tiny soccs", which sounds very much like "tiny socks". I wanted a name that might be humorously memorable. Most people think this does it. Just conjure up the image of a pair of "tiny socks" and replace the "k" with a "c".
The name "Tiny Systems On a Chip Computer Science" somewhat irreverently proclaims the existence of tiny SOC systems, boards, chips, software, etc, and their requisite Computer Science. Tiny SOC systems used to be called embedded systems. Embedded systems, their associated hardware, software and integrated development environments (IDE), were and are still very expensive. But now, tiny SOCs run a full blown Unix/Linux operating system, just like their older, bigger, hotter, noisier, fans required, power hungry, expensive and common personal computers, workstations, servers, clusters and virtualized environments. And the Linux software that runs on them is free and open source. These tiny SOC systems can no longer be dismissively called "embedded systems". Today, setting up a full blown Linux Apache MySQL (or MariaDB) PHP (or Perl, Python) (LAMP) server on a SOC is actually pretty easy.
I am not sure what sort of traffic load will overwhelm a tiny Raspberry Pi Apache web server, but we are about to find out. When you guys and gals crash this Pi, I will simply restart it again, put up some links to a more robust clustered infrastructure, or create links to a hosted service like Square-Space. There are new lessons to be learned by both you and I. But trust me, with 45 years of history as my guide, mind blowing speeds for tiny SOCs, or clusters of them, is just around the corner. Remember, in today's computer world, in order to get ever faster, the core integrated circuit and other components must continually get smaller and closer together. Everything must inevitably move on to the chip. The days of simply improving central processor (CPU) performance by doubling or quadrupling CPU chip speed in the gigahertz range appears to be stalled or over. So, in the search of the required "closerness", three dimensional SOC fabrication and massive component stacking awaits.
Einstein, and his speed of light limit, is still a problem for Electronic Engineers (EE). In 1975, one of my first EE jobs involved the manufacture, checkout and debug of supercomputer CPUs at Control Data Corporation (CDC) right on the computer manufacturing floor. At that time, our group was manufacturing the first few CDC Cyber 175 CPUs, the $20,000,000 CPU design of Seymour Cray, at CDC's Arden Hills Minnesota facility. Even then, Seymour Cray came to work every day to do battle with the speed of light. These $20M CPUs were clocked at 20 megahertz (MHz) and were capable of 20 million floating point operations per second (MFLOPS). Today, the Raspberry Pi's Broadcom SOC CPU at 700 Mhz is capable of 40 MFLOPS for less than $5, with the entire Pi SOC based system costing $35. You might also take a look at http://www.parallella.org. Tiny SOC systems are on the pathway to "Its a Small, Small World, After All".
TinySOCCS will deal with matters surrounding computer platforms like the tiny Raspberry Pi, Beagleboard, Arduino, Minnowboard, Parallella and the many Tiny SOC Systems of the future. These tiny computer systems may not have even been dreampt up, designed, tested, manufactured, debugged and sold yet.
This site will never focus on the expensive. Any tiny SOC system costing more than $100 will not even be considered. If a tiny SOC system cannot be purchased by the real people, through common distribution channels, it will not even be mentioned. If its software is not available for free, than what is the point. If it will not run at least run Debian or Ubuntu, it cannot be easily and consistently be used to teach Computer Science and Engineering. If full source code is not available, then why waste your time. If it only runs Windows, then who really cares.
The world needs more STEM - Scientists, Technicians, Engineers and Mathematicians. These tiny systems can help us find, afford, educate and support more of them. Future system administrators may have to configure their data-centers with microscopes and tweezers, screwed to a wall, in a battery powered coffee can, in a back yard shipping container, or on the back wall of someones apartment closet. They can be run stand alone, configured in IT/TS department like networks, or become parts of giant data-center clusters. These tiny, inexpensive, and increasingly powerful platforms, represent the first fruits of a new and very disruptive form factor and technological era. Let the revolution begin, again!
This web server's software is currently running solely on a Raspberry Pi, but no real or significant content has been added, yet. What little there is was originally edited using Vi, of course. But now the content and publishing has been handed over to BlueGriffon, a free WYSIWYG web page development system, and of course FileZilla. My goal is to teach, anyone who wishes to spend the time, how to build real, complex big boy systems out of these ridiculously small and inexpensive pieces. This "sophisticated simplicity" can scale to "complex elegance" all to quickly. Just add money to purchase more and bigger systems. Use your tiny knowledge as a repeatable pattern to build the big.
Gary H. Baker, EE