Marvell announces plug computer

Marvell announces plug computer

The SheevaPlug development system is surprisingly well equipped, considering it's built in to its own power supply.

If you're all about the small-and-light, how does a fully-fledged PC crammed into a power brick grab you?

That's the concept from technology manufacturer Marvell, which it showcased last Tuesday according to PC Mag. The device – which is called SheevaPlug – is a PC with a 1.2GHz custom CPU based on the ARM architecture, 512MB of solid-state storage, and 512MB of RAM. The spec sheet is completed with a built-in gigabit Ethernet connection and a USB 2.0 bus for peripherals. The development platform also features an additional debug board with a mini-USB port alongside an SDIO connector, which can be used to add additional storage or even a WiFi connection.

Drawing less than a tenth of the power of a standard PC, and taking up near-zero footprint, the SheevaPlug certainly has a lot to recommend it. While the ARM-based architecture of the processor precludes the use of Windows, Marvell is working with several Linux distributions to ensure that the device will co-operate well with the open-source operating system.

Already there are customers working on devices based around the SheevaPlug: neat concepts currently in the works include a plug-in device to turn a humble USB mass storage device into a fully-fledged network-attached storage system along with a device to allow the iPhone to connect to external USB devices. While the lack of a second Ethernet port precludes using the device as a router or firewall, there's certainly nothing stopping it taking the place of a range of network attached hardware.

Simon Milner, the vice president and general manager of Marvell's enterprise group believes that the gadget will help make home networks “more intelligent,” and is keen to point out the “open platform” offered by the Linux-friendly device. The company is also providing an open-source API framework it has developed – called RainDrop – to help developers get to grips with the device.

Can you think of an exciting use for a PC built in to a plug, or is the lack of video output a deal-breaker? Share your thoughts over in the forums.


Discuss in the forums Reply
perplekks45 26th February 2009, 15:19 Quote
Sounds like fun. Now we'll have to wait and see how it performs.
TomH 26th February 2009, 15:34 Quote
8-port trail power extension strip, cheap gigabit switch, some hard graft ... Beowulf cluster on a budget? :D
Perforated 26th February 2009, 15:38 Quote
Hiding a webcam under the desk? ~ahem~
yakyb 26th February 2009, 15:54 Quote
would make a great router
knyghtryda 26th February 2009, 16:29 Quote
what about ethernet over power? I could see this as being great for home automaton nodes. Get a whole set of these and set them up around the house. Have all the sensors and actuators be USB based, and BAM! Total home automation on the cheap (well.. maybe not cheap, but ~$1000 isn't bad for a full house setup).
Sir Digby 26th February 2009, 17:25 Quote
Sounds very interesting, certainly for commercial applications - but what would really what sell me on the concept would be a VERY low powered processor in a plug that only connects to the internet and controls if the switch is on or off.

This would allow me the connect to my home computer from my laptop without having to leave my home computer running ALL the time as I could just switch the computer on/off over the internet...
airchie 26th February 2009, 17:31 Quote
Originally Posted by Perforated
Hiding a webcam under the desk? ~ahem~
LMAO....I like it. ;)
Originally Posted by yakyb
would make a great router
Not with only one ethernet port, as they mentioned in the article. ;)
I guess there's nothing stopping you adding several USB-NIC adapters as long as you don't need it to be fast...
Phil Rhodes 26th February 2009, 17:57 Quote

The problem with this, as with every non-x86 system, is application support. If it were as easy as making it run linux and thereby having instant access to all linux apps, we'd have thrown x86 out the window years ago because it's far less than ideal from any number of perspectives. Problem is, getting things to cross-compile between vastly different hardware platforms is notoriously difficult in a world where most code is just not written that portably.

It depends how they package it, I suppose - what comes with.
nicae 26th February 2009, 19:19 Quote
Originally Posted by Perforated
Hiding a webcam under the desk? ~ahem~

Wait until they reach the size of pens. Tell your wife and daughter not to wear skirts. Whoops! Just dropped my pen!
taliban_raider 26th February 2009, 20:03 Quote
Well they are claiming it is going to be cheap, so I can see myself getting one even if it is just to play with and never use for any real purpose.
DougEdey 26th February 2009, 20:52 Quote
What it needs is eSATA
B3CK 26th February 2009, 22:22 Quote
Home automation would be a great use, remote usb cams also (the ethernet, er um internet is for porn right?), or even a usb breakout for audio for multi room audio, although i don't see any adaptors out in the wild to distribute video yet that would attach to this. If it's the size of a power brick, add in a pci or pci-e slot with sata or esata, and then damn, posibilities would be very huge for so many different markets it would be crazy.
DougEdey 26th February 2009, 22:25 Quote
Maybe an open source X10 type tool?
metarinka 27th February 2009, 04:03 Quote
very cool
for home automation this seems like extreme overkill for most tasks, automated light fixtures and thermostats don't require 1.2 ghz of computing power to flick on and off a switch. I forsee this more catching on by becoming an open source platform for network attached devices such as storage, or audio and video routing.
M2k3 27th February 2009, 04:26 Quote
I saw this earlier on Hackaday and damn I want one of these. Just throw in a 8GB USB stick and you have a low power, cheap and very small torrent box. Man I want one sooooo bad.
steveo_mcg 27th February 2009, 17:03 Quote
I would also like one but i can't work out what to do with it, its too powerful for a torrent box there are things like gumstix which are even smaller but only have a 400mhz cpu that would do almost everything listed above.

I suppose it comes down to price, if this is cheaper than the alternatives then great another fairly quick cpu on the network could be handy but tbh the only device i could see it replacing is my jukebox which while being a lot bigger doesn't take up much (useful) space and still only draws about 10w and its a geode 400mhz (very slow)
Ice Tea 26th July 2009, 12:29 Quote
Nice for a NAS with NZBget :)
Ice Tea 27th July 2009, 05:26 Quote
Plug computer (sheevaplug) running as a full PC

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perplekks45 27th July 2009, 16:37 Quote
Getting more interesting...
Ice Tea 28th July 2009, 05:26 Quote
In my opinion you may aswell buy the Desktop version of the Sheevaplug than rather go through all that hassle.

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