Background: who am I and what’s my purpose?
I’m an entrepreneur with engineering background, I had 10 years experience as a programmer for embedded audio algorithms. Since 2014, I have been a startup CEO and didn’t spend time on codes.
My daily work was mostly meetings, documentation and chat. I just started to re-gain my program skills with the latest technology: LLM, Python and NPUs.
So this is the background.
What is SBC and Why SBC?
SBC = single board computer. Usually it is designed for developers and students to play with embedded systems. Recently with AI getting popular, Google and Nvidia also shipped their SBCs for AI programming.
Different to classical computers, which is x86 (Intel & AMD) CPU based and runs Windows operating systems, SBCs are usually ARM based (which is common in all smartphones) and it can be very affordable. The most common SBC today is Rasperry Pi, and the cheapest version Pi Zero can be just about $15. Most SBCs run Linux and most of them support HDMI output.
So, as a programmer, as my daily work is relatively light weight. Can I use an SBC for work?
Moreover, I can find an SBC that could support me to play with latest LLM applications?
What SoC to choose?
I did some research and found that there are many options for me today. This article listed powerful SBCs. This one compared best SBCs for AI computing, from which I felt Nvidia Jetson is pretty promissing. And I wonder if the name, Jetson, was came from its boss, Jensen?
Anyway, I selected the RK3588s as my target, because it is powerful 8 core ARM. Quad core A76 and Quad core A55. From the A76 point of view, I believe it is similar as Apple A15 which is also ARM V8 based. And M1 & M2 are based on A15 architecture.
Also from SoC point of view, RK3588s is combed with ARM + GPU + NPU, which is identical to Apple silicon. So I assume not as expensive as Mac, but I could leverage the world open source developers to gain SoC optimization for this architecuture. As today we see many LLM projects run on Mac pretty fast. Thanks to the fundamental work — ggml — by Georgi Gerganov, the ARM CPU based LLM models are iterating pretty fast.
All in all, I decided: RK3588s as my SBC’s core.
OK, CPU done, which one?
There are several good SBCs based on RK3588 or RK3588s. I chose Khadas Edge 2 for a simple reason: memory. The pro version has 16GB 64b DDR4 and 64GB eMMC. That’s pretty powerful for an SBC.
So, just you.
When the SBC came, installation was straight forward (Good Job Khadas team!). I just followed its instructions to get Unbuntu installed.
I added several accessories for it:
- Two monitors, a Dell for vertical and a Philips for horizontal.
- I used HiDock (which is my product) to connct one of them, then the on board HDMI connect to another.
- I hooked my favorite Keychron Q12 and Logi MX to it as well.
- Most importantly, HiDock’s built-in speakerphone perfroms well for audio input and output.
So now, I use this setup for my daily work: meetings, documentation. And I started to play with LLM applications. Hopefully I can share more later.
This is it. If you are looking forward to using an SBC for both development and business work. It really does the job.
p.s. I did write this article from my SBC.