computers suck

BeagleBone Black: slow as a dog

All benchmarks are artificial, but this one had me scratching my head. One hears  that the BeagleBone Black is screamingly fast compared to the Raspberry Pi; faster, newer processor, blahdeblah, mcbtyc, etc. I found the opposite is true.

So I buy one at the exceptionally soggy Toronto Mini Maker Faire. Props to the CircuitCo folks, they are easy to set up: just a mini-USB cable provides power and virtual network shell. And BoneScript — an Arduino-like JavaScript library — is very clever indeed. But I need to see if this thing has any grunt, and so I need a benchmark.

After hearing about the business-card raytracer, I thought it would be perfect. I compiled it on both machines with:

g++  -Ofast   card.cpp   -o card

and then ran it with:

time ./card > /dev/null

The results are … surprising:

  • Raspberry Pi: 4′ 15″
  • BeagleBone Black: 12′ 39″ → 3× slower

(In comparison, my i7 quad-core laptop runs it in 8½ seconds.)

I don’t have any explanation why the BBB is so much slower. It’s almost as if the compiler isn’t fully optimizing under Ångström Linux.

Raspberry Pi: system info

$ uname -a
Linux rpi 3.6.11+ #538 PREEMPT Fri Aug 30 20:42:08 BST 2013 armv6l GNU/Linux

$ cat /proc/cpuinfo 
Processor    : ARMv6-compatible processor rev 7 (v6l)
BogoMIPS    : 697.95
Features    : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp java tls 
CPU implementer    : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant    : 0x0
CPU part    : 0xb76
CPU revision    : 7

Hardware    : BCM2708
Revision    : 000f

BeagleBone Black: system info

# uname -a
Linux beaglebone 3.8.13 #1 SMP Tue Jun 18 02:11:09 EDT 2013 armv7l GNU/Linux
# cat /proc/cpuinfo 
processor    : 0
model name    : ARMv7 Processor rev 2 (v7l)
BogoMIPS    : 297.40
Features    : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp thumbee neon vfpv3 tls 
CPU implementer    : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant    : 0x3
CPU part    : 0xc08
CPU revision    : 2

Hardware    : Generic AM33XX (Flattened Device Tree)
Revision    : 0000

Both boards are running at stock speed.

Update: I’ve tried with an external power supply, and checked that the processor was running at full speed. It made no difference. I suspect that Raspbian enables armhf floating point by default, while Ångström needs to be told to use it.

computers suck

Sometimes, things do not go exactly as planned … C development for Amstrad CPC on Raspberry Pi

If you crash an Amstrad CPC, you often got some pretty patterns. Like the one above, which was supposed to print the alphabet, but got about as far as R, then started making coloured spots on the screen. My alphabet doesn’t (usually) contain coloured spots, so something went wrong.

This post is only about the Raspberry Pi in that it’s the nearest always-on Linux system that I have. This would likely work fine on any Linux machine. While the Z80 cross compiler I use (z88dk) is available in the repos, I can’t get it to build anything, so I just pulled down the latest version. To build the compiler:

tar xvzf z88dk-latest.tgz
cd z88dk
export Z80_OZFILES=$(pwd)/lib/
export ZCCCFG=${Z80_OZFILES}config/
export PATH=${PATH}:$(pwd)/bin

This should result in a working environment. We can test it with a simple C program:

/* alfa.c - print the alphabet */

int main(void) {
  char a='A';
  char b=26;
  while (b>0) {

You can build it with:

zcc +cpc -create-app -make-app -O3 -unsigned -o alfa.bin alfa.c -lcpcfs -zorg=16384

You should end up with a file alpha.bin of approximately 4749 (!) bytes. You can copy it to a disc image using iDSK:

iDSK blank.dsk -i alfa.bin -c 4000 -e 4000 -t 1

It runs like this:

You can do the same with Z80 assembly language (shown here in the most gratuitously pretty Amstrad assembler, Maxam):
Although this results in only 11 bytes of code, it’s not portable; the C code above compiled and ran on both my Raspberry Pi and my Mac. It wouldn’t even run properly on a different Z80 system, as only the Amstrad CPC knows that call #bb5a prints the character in the A register. On the ZX Spectrum, for example, it was the completely different instruction rst 16 to print a character.

(There’s a lot more on z88dk on the CPCWiki.)