Lowest Cost Raspberry Pi Microcomputer Now On Sale In The U.S. – $25 Model A Suited For Battery/Solar Powered Projects


The Raspberry Pi microcomputer prides itself on being affordable, with its tiny $ 35 price-tag for the original Model B Pi. But now its lowest cost board — the $ 25 Model A — has gone on sale in the U.S. The Raspberry Pi Foundation confirmed to TechCrunch that Model A can now be purchased in the U.S. via reseller Allied Electronics (which currently appears to have 70 units in stock).

What does $ 25 buy you? Enough processing power to use it to run a home media centre if you so desire, according to the Foundation. But the Model A was conceived with lower power consumption projects in mind, perhaps battery or solar powered, as Model A consumes around a third less power than Model B. It also has half the RAM of the second revision Model B, plus only one USB port and no Ethernet connection — to keep costs down.

Model A sales kicked off in Europe in early February, with Asia coming on stream last week. Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi founder, said today that sales of the Model A Pi have been amounting to “a few thousand a week” thus far.

“We burned through the first 20,000 units quite quickly, and are building a few thousand a week at the moment, but we don’t have good visibility of sell through yet,” he told TechCrunch when asked about early sales data, adding: “I’d expect us to dip in and out of availability for the next month or so until we reach a steady state.”

The Foundation passed  one million Model B sales in January, less than a year after it launched the Pi in March 2012. The microcomputer was conceived as a tool to get kids learning to code – but has also proved popular with the maker community to power all manner of DIY gizmos and gadgets.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

OUYA Could Become Emulation Destination With New Projects Covering Game Boy, Genesis, NeoGeo And More


OUYA is coming soon (tomorrow is the planned ship date for the earliest Kickstarter backers), and recent reports of emulators of classic gaming consoles made for the Android device are generating some buzz. Today, emulator developer Robert Broglia, who’s responsible for some of the most popular Android emulators including Snes9x EX+, has revealed to OUYAForum that he’s working on emulators for Game Boy Advance, Sega Genesis, NeoGeo and more.

Snes9x EX+ is the first he’s hoping to release, with a test APK (Android file package) due soon, though he says he won’t have his own OUYA to test out the emulators before April, since he pre-ordered the console only after it finished its Kickstarter run. Broglia plans to port versions of most of his Android-based game console emulators, however, including ones for TurboGrafx-16, Atari, Sega Saturn and ColecoVision, in addition to those mentioned above.

Broglia charges for the emulators he offers on Android, but OUYA has its rules about content that stipulate content must have at least some kind of free-to-play or free-to-try. Also on tap are an x86 PC emulator that will allow use of classic DOS gaming software on the OUYA, as well as a Commodore 64 emulator, both from separate developers. In other words, the OUYA is set to become a nostalgia machine for gamers who grew up in the 80s and 90s.

Already one OUYA emulation project has been approved for inclusion in the official marketplace, but when I contacted OUYA directly to learn about whether or not they have an official stance on emulation, I received no response. As mentioned, the Google PLay store has emulation apps available, and developers have commented in the past about how open the marketplace is for the upcoming Android console.

Past devices have built their entire existence around game emulation, including the GP2K Wiz and Canoo from South Korea’s GamePark holdings. OUYA’s focus is much broader, but as a simple, living-room based way to bring games of old back to people’s televisions (even if the method of doing so isn’t strictly legal), it could hold significant appeal to niche audience above and beyond its other merits.

Update: OUYA got back to us with the following regarding its official position on emulation:

OUYA will accept emulators as long as they adhere to our content guidelines and are not submitted with any games.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Moniker Looks To Crowdfunding To Create A Custom Guitar Business


Austin-based Moniker Guitars is running a Kickstarter campaign to create a line of semi-hollow-body guitars for discerning git-fiddlists. The company will offer their first guitars for a $ 700 pledge, not bad for a hand-made guitar from rockabilly city.

The company is looking for $ 50,000 to start and they’ve just passed the $ 6,000 mark.

The company already customizes solid-body guitars and hopes that the fund will help them build a line of semi-hollow-body models.

“Through our online guitar configurator you can choose your guitar’s shape, paint colors and parts, as well as add custom text and graphics; all at the price of an off-the-shelf guitar,” write founders Kevin Tully and Dave Barry. Moniker began in Austin in 2012.

“The money we hope to raise will go towards the tools and equipment needed to efficiently manufacture these guitars at our shop in Austin,TX. An efficient manufacturing process means we’ll be able to create high quality, yet affordably priced, semi-hollow guitars. We also need help funding the materials needed to produce these guitars on a larger scale. These materials include wood, primer, sandpaper paint, clearcoat, guitar parts, etc.”

The luthiers do most of their work in Austin and for a pledge of $ 350 they’ll strip and repaint your current guitar with a new color. You can also get a White Stripes-esque red and white model for $ 900. $ 2,400 gets you a lesson in guitar-smithing with the guys at Moniker.

As it gets easier to make things overseas it’s refreshing to see these guys attempting to build a local company. Customization is a hard job and it makes sense to keep the gear, supplies, and workers close to the consumer.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Developer Freedom At Stake As Oracle Clings To Java API Copyrights In Google Fight


Editor’s note: Sacha Labourey is CEO of CloudBees was formerly CTO at JBoss. Follow him on Twitter @SachaLabourey. Steven G. Harris is senior vice president of products for CloudBees and was formerly SVP of Java Server Development at Oracle. Follow him on Twitter @stevengharris.

You could hear a collective sigh of relief from the software developer world when Judge William Alsup issued his ruling in the Oracle-Google lawsuit. Oracle lost on pretty much every point, but the thing that must have stuck most firmly in Oracle’s throat was this:

So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.

As the friends-of-the-court submissions supporting Oracle show, this ruling has a lot of entrenched corporate heavyweights up in arms, too. It’s not every day you find Oracle in bed with rivals Microsoft and IBM (via the Business Software Alliance), and you can bet that the common denominator is about defending the aging Empire from the startup Foundation. Add a former head of the U.S. Copyright Office. To sweeten the stew, why not sprinkle in support from various industry players in the arts. Former Sun execs Scott McNealy and Brian Sutphin have also piped in.

This lineup of amicus curiae briefs should be alarming to software developers in general and to the future of our industry. Why? Their collective argument is that Judge Alsup’s ruling is bad for business. It may in fact be bad for the old guard’s business that is increasingly threatened by changes driven by open source and cloud-based services. But make no mistake: if Judge Alsup’s ruling is overturned on appeal, it’s not going to be in your interest as a software professional.

You make some bets when you create an API, but they’re not about monetizing the API.

APIs exist for a reason: They act as the communication channel, the lingua franca, the boundary, between the provider of the implementation and users of that implementation — developers. Of course they require an investment to create. Deep expertise — and even taste — is required to create effective APIs. But, companies and individuals make those investments because they want developers to use an implementation that is exposed through the API. That implementation might give people an incentive to buy your hardware, software or services. Who knows, maybe it gives you a more effective way to sell ads.

You make some bets when you create an API, but they’re not about monetizing the API. They’re about monetizing the things the API unlocks access to. You’ll find APIs documented and used in many books, blogs and open-source projects. Adoption is probably the key measure of success of an API. But then if you encourage developers to use your APIs, why can you prevent them from implementing “the other side” of them? When Captain Picard orders a “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot,” at the Oracle replicator, he’s using a kind of API: “Object. [Qualifiers…]”. Google or anyone else should be able to create their own replicator without Oracle insisting they use some other syntax.

Oracle lost in their attempt to protect their position using patents. They lost in their attempt to claim Google copied anything but a few lines of code. If they succeed in claiming you need their permission to use the Java APIs that they pushed as a community standard, software developers and innovation will be the losers. Learning the Java language is relatively simple, but mastering its APIs is a major investment you make as a Java developer. What Android did for Java developers is to allow them to make use of their individual career and professional investment to engage in a mobile marketplace that Sun failed to properly engage in.

What about compatibility and fragmentation? We’re big believers in Java compatibility and the value of branding and compliance testing. We sit on the Java Community Process Executive Committee. There is no doubt that Android is a messy world of compatibility issues compared to Java, and that Google’s compatibility regime has been less than a blazing success. (Java ME is no panacea of compatibility, though, either.) By creating a new non-Java virtual machine (Dalvik) underneath Android’s Java API-based libraries, Google sidestepped the strict specification license restrictions of required compatibility and no subsetting, supersetting or namespace pollution. Not many of us can afford to do that!

Now is the time to decide who should hold the knife by the handle.

Regardless, thanks to Android using Java APIs, Java developers feel right at home with Android, even if it doesn’t come with a coffee cup logo on it. The economic reality for Java developers is that they’ve gained much more in opportunity from Android than they lost in compatibility assurances due to Android’s subsetting the standard Java platform APIs. We are working with others inside the JCP to advance the current rules to be more in sync with the fork-friendly open source and cloud world. We believe that Oracle’s quest for a legal stranglehold on the Java API, which itself has been advanced through the Java Community Process, has nothing to do with compatibility and everything to do with cashing in on Java at the expense of the community.

With the IT industry shifting from packaged software to a cloud-based service model, this debate becomes even more important. As companies increasingly invest in SaaS, PaaS and IaaS solutions, their operations will depend on third-party APIs. Formal standards are only just emerging and adding FUD over the legal standing of API usage in the meantime is going to place a drag on the industry.

Now is the time to decide who should hold the knife by the handle: Will our economy thrive and be more competitive because companies can easily switch from one service provider to the other by leveraging identical APIs? Or will our economy be throttled by allowing vendors to inhibit competition through API lock-in? And should this happen only because a handful of legacy software vendors wanted to protect their franchises for a few more years?

This decision will impact us for decades to come and will apply to a new IT model – the cloud; yet, this decision is being made now amid heavy lobbying by legacy vendors who are struggling to survive in this whirlwind of change. Developers, your long-term livelihood, the richness of technology choices, and the competitiveness of our industry are at stake.

TechCrunch » android

The Tivoli PAL BT May Be The Best-Looking, Best-Sounding Bluetooth Speaker


Long before the advent of the Jawbone Jambox, there was a portable speaker that was decently rugged, had tremendous battery life and amazing sound, and that was the Tivoli PAL. The PAL boasted an audiophile pedigree and an auxiliary input that made it a good partner for early iPods, but the introduction of decent stereo Bluetooth streaming made it fall behind somewhat in convenience when the Jawbone and its ilk came around.

Recently, however, Tivoli has updated the PAL with the PAL BT, a model that does offer A2DP Bluetooth stereo streaming, alongside the built-in AM/FM radio and auxiliary inputs found on the original. And if you’re in the market for a portable, powerful speaker with great sound, there’s nothing quite like it out there.

  • Rated for 16 hours max battery life
  • Built-in AM/FM tuner
  • Bluetooth/Auxiliary connections
  • Weights 1.92 lbs
  • MSRP: $ 299.99
  • Product info page

The PAL BT is frankly the best looking portable speaker available. My review unit was in glossy white, so the faceplate matches the rear casing, but those looking for a splash of color can opt to get it in a gloss black, blue or red finish up front, too. The styling is somewhat retro without feeling kitschy, and the ports and antenna are all easily accessible on the back, and protected by water and dust-resistant flaps.

The face of the speaker is dominated by the speaker grill itself, and also the large tuner dial for the built-in AM/FM radio. These are visually appealing, but more than that, the knobs and dials are actually very pleasantly textured and turn with a very satisfying amount of resistance. It sounds silly to complement a speaker based on the design and build of its controls and knobs, but when you use the PAL, you’ll notice immediately that attention was paid to their design.

The rectangular form factor isn’t the most portable among portable speakers, but it’s still a small, light device that is easily thrown into a carry-on or larger luggage.

Tivoli has a great reputation for delivering high-quality sound in a relatively affordable package. I’ve seen other reviewers knock the PAL BT for its sound quality-to-price value ratio, but to my ear, after extensive use and comparison with the Jambox and other Bluetooth speakers, the PAL still defends the reputation of its non-Bluetooth predecessor very well.

The Tivoli PAL BT is a mono speaker which might cause some potential buyers to hesitate, but that shouldn’t be a factor in anyone’s decision-making process. Sound separation in most portable Bluetooth speakers is dismal as it is, so they’re hardly “stereo” anyways. And the high-quality mono audio from the PAL BT even holds up pretty well when you crank up the volume (and it goes a lot higher than most of its competition, too, which is why it’s well-suited to backyard BBQs and other outdoor activities).

Battery life is another place where the previous PAL excelled, and the PAL BT is great there, too. Rated for 16 hours, you’ll get less depending on volume and whether you’re actively connected over Bluetooth, but no one would be disappointed by the duration of its battery no matter how you’re using it. I’ve been using it as my workday soundtrack next to the computer, and I often forget it’s a wireless speaker because of how long-lived it is. Plus, Tivoli equips the PAL BT with a user-replaceable internal rechargeable battery, so you could theoretically carry a back-up.

The Tivoli PAL BT is pricier than its non-BT version, and for bass-heads who actually like the exaggerated lows of companies like Beats and Bose, the sound might disappoint. But for audiophiles looking for a speaker that’s relatively affordable, long-lasting and still a category leader in terms of sound quality, this is a perfect device, especially as we head into beach, park and picnic season.

TechCrunch » Gadgets