I’m considering buying a uConsole and am wondering if it can be used as a personal computer.
Depending on the core, yes? for example if you can run use a Raspberry Pi 4 for your workload then the uConsole can as well (definitely not the R01 though) with the benefit that you can take the computer with you.
Would I recommend it as your main computer? No, probably not.
I have several used laptops (Windows 7 vintage) that I upgraded to Linux with an SSD hard drive - my only issue with the DevTerm and the uConsole use beyond utility is the microSD card… other than that - as a computer for coding , and development (I use an external monitor ) but my preference is to repurpose a laptop and maintain a backup of my efforts on an external hard drive.
I have an original pi 4 (the one that was finicky about power before Pi did a hardware revision) hooked up as a “desktop” in my office.
I have and do use it when I want a large monitor and full keyboard, it also runs rtl_433 scans and is a media server for the house, it is also hooked up to a tv with the second hdmi if I want to watch something. Would I want to run VSCode and compile on it? Nah but it does just fine as a “normal” computer.
But then I have done this with every pi version starting with the 1B.
The uconsole presents an interesting convergence use case as well. Plug in to a dock of sorts and you can have a full keyboard/monitor and charge while using it, disconnect and you have an almost umpc for travel.
I don’t have a uConsole yet (still waiting) but I can say that I had to go out of town for a week and I took a DevTerm and only needed that the entire time. I’m a programmer, so I think with the uConsole, the smaller keyboard would make it trickier to use full-time without a keyboard/mouse, but I think I’d be fine using it as my main desktop with that (probably also a monitor).
Photographers have a saying, “What’s the best camera? The one you have with you.” The idea is that if the alternative is not taking the photo, any camera works, so it’s good to have one you can always carry. That’s the thing I expect I’ll like about the uConsole: it’s small enough that you can always have it with you.
I ended up bringing a small mechanical keyboard (Vortex POK3R) and wireless mouse when I travel overnight with a DevTerm. Maybe less convenient than a laptop once I start bringing so many accessories. But I can also curl up in a chair and use the DevTerm more easily than I can a laptop. I’m using a CM3 so I don’t benefit from the improved performance of RPi4.
I found the trackball and left/right buttons on the uConsole to be much better than on the DevTerm. And I have a CM4 in mine, so it’s quite zippy. I have some WiFi troubles on mine, so I’m using a USB WiFi dongle until I get around to fixing it. (my home wifi is a bit complicated with some repeaters plus an unreliable access point from the cable company)
Ah, yeah. My normal keyboard is the HHKB and the Fn key mappings match most of the HHKB’s. The trackball didn’t bother me too much, worked fine more or less, but I use ratpoison instead of a DE (not a very mousey UI) and most of the coding I do is either acme (somewhat mousey editor) or vi. I did stutter some when writing SQL or chatting with people, but for the most part, I’m close enough to regular typing speed on it that I can stop noticing the keyboard.
I have some WiFi troubles on mine, so I’m using a USB WiFi dongle until I get around to fixing it.
Assuming it’s not all due to the complicated setup, there was a thread somewhere around here about the CM4 defaulting to using the onboard antenna and ignoring the one that is actually plugged into the board, which makes a bigger difference on the metal-bodied uConsole. Apparently, that can be toggled with a kernel parameter:
sudo sh -c 'echo "dtparam=ant2" >> /boot/config.txt'. (There was some elaboration in the thread but I don’t remember which thread.)
I travel with the DevTerm or a linux laptop (depending on the footprint) At home I use a full size Logitech keyboard/mouse . The K3 keyboard and M585 mouse use a multiple dongle solution so that I can switch between the DevTerm and my W10 laptop using the same mouse and keyboard - with an external gamer flat screen I have a large enough edit space for visual studio or Spyder3… although most of the visual studio work is on the w10 laptop - recently I’ve reloaded two used laptops with the i86 variant of rasbian so all machines have the similar OS (except W10 the necessary evil)