Dreaming: The DevTerm-X86


So, nearly ALL the issues on this forum regarding the devterm are from the rough Armbian OS build it’s using. People LOVE the design. Love the snap-together assembly. Even the wee keyboard and quirky screen dimensions.

So, CPI should release a brand new DevTerm-X86. Use the same exact fabs for the case. Same screen. Same keyboard. Same battery module. Dump the printer.

Use absolute commodity x86 all-in-one chips to produce a singular integrated (CPI v3.14 footprint) motherboard/backplane. No cpu modules. Have all the same ports line up with the CPI v3.14. Dump the “Ext. module” and just have a REAL mini-pci port exposed.

Just a dirt cheap micro-motherboard that sits in the the same exact place as the CPI v3.14 does now. In fact, you would be able to swap it easily into an existing devterm.

  • generic bios
  • 2-4 cores, intel atom level performance.
  • 4GB ram. (or SODIMM slot. Cheaper than a memory module. us tinkerers have so-dimms laying around everywhere)
  • micro-sd or usb boot
  • port layout the same, but USB-A is 3.0. Type - C with charging and data would be cool.

That’s it. Boots generic x86-64 Linux OS’s out of the box. (maybe with a tiny xrander command needed to rotate the display - at the most.).

I’m thinking if CPI is still ordering out boards, a new design (or honestly, a copy of a existing generic x86 laptop mainboard - there’s tons out there) could still come it at under $100 bucks a board.

CPI offers the devterm-x86 at the same price as the A06. And ALSO offers existing devterm owners the new backplane/motherboard for $100 plus the cost of shipping. CPI wins back the hearts of the people.

(You know - the devterm design is so open - a decent electronics engineer could design a third-party x86 backplane easily enough.)

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No OS images! But an actively user maintained wiki of self-install tutorials. For example, ‘Installing Ubuntu 22.04 LTS’. Which might go into using Ubuntu 22.04 LTS via usb drive and a micro-sd card. Changes to make for display rotation, etc. Maybe even a script or two to make the changes easy.

I wonder if we could get 100 current devterm owners to pre-order at $100. That’s $10,000 upfront for a design and build of 100 units. How many people already bought this thing?

I would just make a new SoM. Keep the motherboard and even the printer. Just get a SoM with 8GB of RAM and either a pentium or atom with integrated graphics. Everything else could remain unchanged. If they wanted to get super fancy, it could be neat to see the drivers that are specific to DevTerm made available with a build script. Of course, I’d also like to see support for RISCOS, *BSD, and others… but I have no time to work on those, and asking someone else to do it is lame.

Hey, if the existing CPI v3.14 can support an X86 SoM with all those connections working, then I’m all for it!

I’m afraid that will probably never happen, or if it will, it will have a so very low power CPU, it will be not worth it. They’re insane power hogs after all. Maybe some Gracemont cores, but Intel doesn’t sell that outside their line of CPUs yet, and I’m not sure that even the lowest 9-watt Alder Lake can fit on SoM together with corresponding Intel GPU. Coupled with that, it will also need to have at least an aluminium milled back case for DevTerm to act as a big heat spreader. (I’ve been thinking about ordering one from a 3D-printer that does aluminum stuff to cool my A06 on full tilt.)

Vortex86 still exists for a reason. Maybe though a Vortex86 SoM is possible? But it’s so low power it’s not worth it; a Vortex86DX 800MHz is equal in performance to Pentium II-300.

I would probably prefer for DevTerm to have a RK3588 (4xA76 + 4xA55) for a really big bump in performance compared to A06, but… 3588 still needs a lot of work unless you wanna use BSP. Do you really wanna ship a BSP kernel and look like an absolute joke?

Wait, explain the x86 chromebooks. I bought a Lenovo - Chromebook 3 for $200 bucks. It’s flat and barely has a cpu cooler and fan. It’s an AMD A6, and I was able to flash coreboot/seabios on it and install generic Ubuntu without issues. Without a big power-hungry tft display, 5v should be fine. It might drop battery life to 2-4 hours, but I’d be fine with that. I have several atomicpi’s - while yes, they have HUGE passive coolers, they pull 1-4 amps at 5v.

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Here, I paid an artist $1000 dollars to come up with a DevTerm-x86 Mockup.

Atomic DevTerm:
Screenshot from 2022-04-22 22-18-12

So, I don’t think that heat or power draw or size would really be our problem. The intel compute sticks have no cooling at all, are smaller than a SoM, and don’t use a ton of power. Running Linux and knowing you’re not going to play AAA titles, this should be fairly easy; we just need to be real about performance expectations.

Alternatively, if you really don’t want to sacrifice power efficiency, could use VIA x86 instead.

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the RockPi X uses an Intel Atom, if im not msitaken. sure its no beast but it IS X86 and still fairly popular with manufacturers(crhomebooks)
didnt apple have an x86 soc?

they CAN get hot though… the entire housing is pretty much a heatsink. so passive cooling

If the housing of the compute stick is a passive cooler then, a proper heatsink and the small fan in the DevTerm should be sufficient, or so I’d think… right?

Apple’s x86 SoC used the core m3 and core m5, and those machines were low power in both senses of the word… similar to the Atom but slightly better in both regards.

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Exactly! You read me entirely.

I have a lattepanda v1 on it’s way. $99 bucks for the 2GB RAM/32GB emmc version, but I bought the 4GB/64GB one. Seems to be about the same size as the CPI3.14 board. Sadly, the display connectors are incompatible. The lattepanda easily runs windows 10 (included) with a minimal cpu cooler. It pulls the same or less power as the A06. I might try to hack it into the devterm case for shits and giggles…


It even has an rpi co-proccessor and full rpi headers.

Derpterm mockup… (I just plugged the devterm keyboard and external display into a win10 computer)

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Whelp, the lattepanda v1 (4GB) is… interesting. It’s slower than the A06 in raw compiling (two less cores). It comes with a full windows 10 install that was miserably slow until I ran win10 debloater and rebooted several times. Hdparm reports 155.10 MB/sec for the internal emmc. Of course, the convenience comes from the standard x86 compatibility. It has a full uefi bios, but is very finicky when it comes to reboots and resets.

I was able to install several types of linuxes. The install process is painfully slow. Looks like most people use ubuntu iso’s that are tweaked by 'linuxium" to work better with the atom chipset. He offers a script that alters ubuntu iso’s. I ran his script on lubuntu-21.10-desktop-amd64.iso and installed it. It’s useable, but not instant like today’s laptops (obviously.)

There are odd tweaks that need to be run here and there, like telling xrandr to turn off the CSI-1 display, otherwise you get a desktop stretched into oblivion.

Temperatures are surprising… They hover at 40-50c with no cooling. And stay low even during all-core compiling or youtube video viewing. Youtube fullscreen pulls a continuous 60%-80% cpu load.

It’s a very useable 1080p linux or Win10 system with some setup. I’m wondering if performance would be better with a 1280x480 lcd attached over a 1920x1080 monitor.

Honestly, the stock A06 with manjaro sway or xfce blows it away. I’ve been trying to learn sway on devterm, and it just provides the perfect balance of use and space available. I probably won’t start a project to hack x86 into the A06. Just not worth it.

If anyone wants a super-cheap atom-based laptop[derpterm] to fart around with, I highly recommend this cheap $200 chinese knockoff (evaluation bios) that amazon ships one-day. 6GB memory. 128GB SSD. IPS 1920×1080 screen. UEFI bios. (the lattepanda 4G was $189 shipped.) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09L6VNZ29/

One neat thing about the lattepanda is it has an atmega32u4 sitting on-board and attached to the main cpu via usb serial. You can fire up arduino, choose leonardo and ttyACM0, and send sketches to it. With the multiple arduino headers, you could code a simple project to monitor temps and start a fan, or watch power capacity of a battery and cleanly shutdown the main system. You could even have it send HID events to the main OS. I imagine you could really get creative. All laptops should have a powerful arduino co-processor with accessible GPIO.

LattePanda v1 expectation adjustment post… I ran the linuxium script on linuxmint-20.3-xfce-64bit.iso and installed it. The installation itself is still painful, taking long, non-responsive pauses. But it’s clean and fully functional once installed. A very usable x86 desktop experience in something smaller than an RPi that requires no cooling. And without “custom” OS builds, stupid /boot/config.txt params or overlays…

The chip/sbc prices nowadays are killing me… I remember buying RPi’s for 50 bucks. I guess 189 bucks shipped for a micro x86 system is pretty good compared to the RPi4…

Screenshot from 2022-04-29 16-05-52

Whelp, one bonus of all this is I pushed a patch to VirtualT-Devterm that allows it to compile on Manjaro Arm A06 and pretty much any X86 linux system.

Lattepanda - Linux Mint:

Gigabyte Aero - Ubuntu on Windows 11:


Aaaand I bricked the lattepanda. ¯\(ツ)