RPi 3-like Le Potato SBC showcases fast Amlogic S905X SoC

Libre Computers’s $25 to $35 “Le Potato” is an RPi 3 clone that runs Android 7.1 or Linux 4.13 on a quad -A53 S905X. There’s no WiFi, but you get HDMI 2.0.

A Shenzhen based Libre Computer Project from Shenzhen Libre Technology Co. Ltd. has gone to Kickstarter to launch the first of a series of “Libre Computer Boards” called Le Potato. The project has so far received less than $4K toward its $25K all or nothing goal, with the campaign due to finish on July 24. However, if the project doesn’t fund, “You will receive a refund from Kickstarter and we will utilize our other pre-prepared financing option and go directly to retail,” says the company.

Le Potato prototype, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
Le Potato sells for $25 with 1GB RAM, $35 for 2GB, or $65 for a 2GB kit with an active cooling case, power adapter, heatsink, HDMI cable, and 32GB microSD card. There’s also a $99 version of the kit that adds 64GB eMMC.

Le Potato has the same size and port layout as the Raspberry Pi 3, as well as the familiar 40-pin expansion interface. Unlike most Pi pseudo-clones, there’s no promise of open source hardware support. On the other hand, it will run fresh Android 7.1 and offer basic upstream support in Linux 4.1. There are plans to support Linux 4.9 LTS with mainline distributions. Debian and Ubuntu images will be posted.

Oddly, the only mention we found of the SoC was in the detail view below. The Amlogic S905X, which is also found on the Khadas Vim SBC, is a lower-cost upgrade to the quad-core, Cortex-A53 Amlogic S905 used by the Odroid-C2.

Le Potato detail view
(click image to enlarge)
No clock rate is listed here for the SoC, which has four Cortex-A53 cores that are clocked at up to 2GHz on the Khadas Vim. There’s also a Mali-450 GPU with 4K support. Libre claims the SoC is 50 percent faster and consumes less power than the RPi 3’s 1.2GHz quad-core -A53 Broadcom BCM2837 SoC. The Amlogic S905X also stands out for its support of Kodi.

Like the Raspberry Pi 3, Le Potato offers 4x USB 2.0 host ports, a Fast Ethernet port, and CVBS, S/PDIF and UART headers. It adds some features missing from the RPi 3, including an eMCC storage socket, an IR receiver, and an ADC + I2S header. In addition, the microSD slot offers UHS support, and the HDMI port moves from 1.3 to 2.0, enabling full 4K. Libre Computers also claims that unlike the RPi 3, bandwidth is not shared between LAN and USB.

Le Potato portside view (left) and with optional heatsink
(click images to enlarge)
RPi 3 features missing from Le Potato include DSI and CSI interfaces and a WiFi/Bluetooth module. More honestly than most, Libre Computers admits that its 40-pin header may not run all RPi add-on boards, despite similar header placements for I2C, SPI, PWM, 5V, 3.3V, and GPIO. In addition: “Most Raspberry Pi HATs can be supported by the hardware but the software bits to get them working on this board is simply not there yet.”

Further information

Le Potato is available through July 24 on Kickstarter for $25 with 1GB RAM or $35 for 2GB (add $4 apiece if you miss the early bird models). You’ll pay $65 for a full 2GB kit with case, etc., and $99 for a 2G kit with 64GB eMMC. Shipments (only to U.S. and Europe) are due in August or September depending on the kit. More information may be found on the Le Potato Kickstarter page.

Nest’s revolutionary new Nest Cam IQ was just released

The market is absolutely flooded with DIY home security cameras right now. It’s gotten to the point where it’s next to impossible to know about all of the options out there. What’s more, most of them have the same features so they all tend to blend together after a while. Well, here’s what you need to know: if you want simple and inexpensive options check out the Yi Home CameraYi Home Camera 2, and Yi Dome Camera. If you want something that offers the highest possible quality and revolutionary new features, you’ve got to check out the Nest Cam IQ.

The Nest Cam IQ has all the features that made the original Nest Cam great, but it adds in 4K resolution. No, it doesn’t stream in 4K because that would be silly. Instead, it uses all those pixels to enable a brilliant digital zoom and tracking feature that zooms in on intruders and follows them around as they move. Seriously, this thing is incredible.

Here are some highlights from the product page:

  • Person alerts: Smart enough to tell a person from a thing, then alert you.
  • Supersight: A 4K sensor, 12x digital zoom and High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging offer extra clear video that can automatically zoom in and track intruders
  • HD Talk and Listen: Lets you have a seamless conversation.
  • 24/7 live video: See a 130° view in 1080p HD, day or night.
  • 3-hour snapshot history: Review what happened in the Nest app, even if you missed an alert.

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Ray Kurzweil: Our Brain Is a Blueprint for the Master Algorithm

Ray Kurzweil is an inventor, thinker, and futurist famous for forecasting the pace of technology and predicting the world of tomorrow. In this video, Kurzweil suggests the blueprint for the master algorithm—or a single, general purpose learning algorithm—is hidden in the brain.

The brain, according to Kurzweil, consists of repeating modules that self-organize into hierarchies that build simple patterns into complex concepts. We don’t have a complete understanding of how this process works yet, but Kurzweil believes that as we study the brain more and reverse engineer what we find, we’ll learn to write the master algorithm.


Physics! Particles! Statistical modelling! Quantum theory! How can non-scientists understand any of it? Well, students from Durham University are here to help you wrap your head around it all – and to our delight, they’re using the power of the Raspberry Pi to do it!

At the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition, taking place in London from 4-9 July, the students are presenting a Pi-based experiment demonstrating the importance of statistics in their field of research.

Ramona, Matthew, and their colleagues are particle physicists keen to bring their science to those of us whose heads start to hurt as soon as we hear the word ‘subatomic’. In their work, they create computer models of subatomic particles to make predictions about real-world particles. Their models help scientists to design better experiments and to improve sensor calibrations. If this doesn’t sound straightforward to you, never fear – this group of scientists has set out to show exactly how statistical models are useful.


They’ve built a Pi-powered Galton board, also called a bean machine (much less intimidating, I think). This is an upright board, shaped like an upside-down funnel, with nails hammered into it. Drop a ball in at the top, and it will randomly bounce off the nails on its way down. How the nails are spread out determines where a ball is most likely to land at the bottom of the board.

If you’re having trouble picturing this, you can try out an online Galton board. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You’re back? All clear? Great!

Now, if you drop 100 balls down the board and collect them at the bottom, the result might look something like this:

Galton board

By Antoine Taveneaux CC BY-SA 3.0

The distribution of the balls is determined by the locations of the nails in the board. This means that, if you don’t know where the nails are, you can look at the distribution of balls to figure out where they are most likely to be located. And you’ll be able to do all this using … statistics!!!


Similarly, how particles behave is determined by the laws of physics – think of the particles as balls, and laws of physics as nails. Physicists can observe the behaviour of particles to learn about laws of physics, and create statistical models simulating the laws of physics to predict the behaviour of particles.

I can hear you say, “Alright, thanks for the info, but how does the Raspberry Pi come into this?” Don’t worry – I’m getting to that.


As I said, Ramona and the other physicists have not created a regular old Galton board. Instead, this one records where the balls land using a Raspberry Pi, and other portable Pis around the exhibition space can access the records of the experimental results. These Pis in turn run Galton board simulators, and visitors can use them to recreate a virtual Galton board that produces the same results as the physical one. Then, they can check whether their model board does, in fact, look like the one the physicists built. In this way, people directly experience the relationship between statistical models and experimental results.

Hurrah for science!

The other exhibit the Durham students will be showing is a demo dark matterdetector! So if you decide to visit the Summer Science Exhibition, you will also have the chance to learn about the very boundaries of human understanding of the cosmos.


At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, education is our mission, and of course we love museums. It is always a pleasure to see our computers incorporated into exhibits: the Pi-powered visual theremin teaches visitors about music; the Museum in a Boxuses Pis to engage people in hands-on encounters with exhibits; and this Pi is itself a museum piece! If you want to learn more about Raspberry Pis and museums, you can listen to this interview with Pi Towers’ social media maestro Alex Bate.

It’s amazing that our tech is used to educate people in areas beyond computer science. If you’ve created a pi-powered educational project, please share it with us in the comments.

UBC amateur rocket team beats out Caltech and MIT

CBC Radio’s Early Edition reported on the UBC Rocket team which won the Spaceport America Cup, an international rocket-launching competition.

Joren Jackson, the UBC Rocket team leader, discussed the team’s experience competing in New Mexico. The segment starts at 2:39:23.

The story also appeared on CBC Vancouver and Yahoo.

Widely Used Pesticide Is a Buzzkill for Honeybees

Findings add fuel to the debate over whether a commonly used chemical damages insect populations

Credit: adegsm Getty Images

Honeybee stings ache for a good reason: This species knows how to brawl. But as it turns out, these black-and-yellow pollinators are quite vulnerable themselves—especially to neonicotinoids, a pesticide commonly used to ward off crop-munching pests. Two new studies, published this week in Science, address this question by studying large populations of bees in multiple locations for months on end. The results add substantial weight to the claim that neonicotinoids damage bee populations.

“I hope that my study kind of makes the debate go away,” says Amro Zayed, an entomologist who studies social insects at York University in Toronto and is co-author of one of the new reports. Even though honeybees are not the intended targets of neonicotinoids, any indication that the resilient insect is suffering from the chemical means less-adaptable species might be in trouble, too. The pesticide is intended to eradicate insects that chew up or suck on grain crops—which is why these substances coat almost all corn and 50 percent of soy seeds in the U.S. “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find corn not treated with neonicotinoids,” says Shiela Colla, an ecologist also at York who is unaffiliated with the study research.

Most prior research on the bee–pesticide relationship has only involved feeding the chemicals to small populations in lab settings or observing a few populations in nature for a couple of weeks. Such stand-alone studies do not gather enough evidence on the true nature of honeybee behavior, Zayed says. Colla agrees, which is why she praises the York study’s sample size and length.

In their experiments Zayed and his colleagues divided 55 bee colonies among five apiaries close to cornfields and six so far away that inhabitants foraged nowhere near the crops. From early May through September 2014 the researchers only interfered to collect pollen and nectar samples from the hives every few weeks.

Chemical analysis of the samples revealed neonicotinoids were the most threatening compound among all pesticides found in the nectar samples. One neonicotinoid in particular, clothianidin, was the most abundant. As for how it ended up in the samples, the researchers calculated that less than 2 percent of all neonicotinoids found in the hives were from corn and soybeans. The vast majority was from what Zayed calls “bee-friendly” flowers—like goldenrod, willow and clover—that often grow on the perimeters of crop fields. In fact, bees were picking up clothianidin-laced pollen from neighboring plants well before and well after seeds were planted, meaning the chemical pervades and contaminates surrounding areas for much longer than the planting season.

The second study, led by several institutions in Germany, Hungary and the U.K., also raised bees in agricultural environments tainted with pesticides. “It’s actually what farmers are doing normally, and that’s why it’s important,” Richard Shore of the Center for Ecology & Hydrology in England said at a press briefing. They left 33 colonies in test areas that exposed the colonies either to neonicotinoid-treated rapeseed plants or crops untreated with pesticides. The teams assessed bee population survival twice—once when the crops were flowering and again after winter. Clothianidin also struck these bees hard. Over the winter 25 percent of the Hungarian bees and almost all the British bees died. Neonicotinoids also put a dent in those bee populations during the crops’ flowering period. The German bees, on the other hand, not only emerged from the winter unscathed but their population numbers increased in spite of neonicotinoids during rapeseed plants’ flowering season. Although the researchers are not sure why the German bees did so well, they noted this population also consumed less than a third as much rapeseed pollen as their those in the other countries.

The European study stopped at field experiments but Zayed and his team took things a step further. The group fed select bees pollen laced with clothianidin at levels similar to those found in their natural environment and stuck tracking devices on the contaminated bugs’ backs. “We didn’t have to make guesses” about the chemicals involved, Zayed says. “We essentially observed what real colonies in corn were getting exposed to and mirrored that in our experiments.”

This lack of guesswork paid off with precise results. Insects that ate contaminated pollen had a 23 percent shorter life span than their untreated counterparts. They also took up to 45 minutes longer on their forage journeys, suggesting the bees struggled to remember where home was. Treated bees were also worse at identifying and removing diseased individuals from the hive—a task required for maintaining overall hive health. The net effect, Zayed explains, is a slow decline in populations over weeks.

Much of what Zayed and his team observed has been documented by other researchers. Christian Krupke is one of them. An entomologist at Purdue University, Krupke published studies on the appearance of neonicotinoids in crop-adjacent plants last year.* As evidence mounts, Krupke says, the next question is, What can we do? “The current answer,” he says, “is we can’t do much.”

The European Union banned the use of neonicotinoids on certain plants in 2013; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just launched an investigation into the compounds’ harmfulness, the results of which will not appear until 2018. Maryland was the first U.S. state to announce a banon the chemicals, and it will take effect next year—although farmers are exempted. Farmers may not need the pesticide as badly as they might think, however. John Tooker, an entomologist at The Pennsylvania State University who has published research with his graduate student on the pervasiveness of neonicotinoids in U.S. agriculture, estimates only 10 percent of fields need the chemicals. “We’ve scouted untreated fields for the pests” they aim to defend against, he says, “and we have difficulty finding them.”

Yet Zayed admits honeybees are not the best species for studying the effects of pesticides on insects in general. “The honeybee colony is a marvel of natural selection,” he says, one that often ramps up hive activity in response to an environmental stressor. Krupke agrees, saying this innate adaptability might explain why the European study showed German bee populations surged after exposure to the toxic chemicals. The same research also looked at how other bee species dealt with the insecticide and saw mixed population responses. In the U.S. many of these less-adaptable bee species thrive off the peripheral plants where neonicotinoids ended up. This suggests more delicate insect species may be suffering from exposure to the chemicals as well.“That was probably the worst news in this paper,” Colla says.

Despite Zayed’s hopes, the debate over neonicotinoids will likely continue. A total consensus in science is almost impossible, Krupke explains, and is not necessarily the point of the Canadian and European studies. But still, the assumption pesticides do not harm any animals besides their intended target pests, Krupke says, “is increasingly difficult to make with research like this.”

*Editor’s Note (6/30/17): This sentence was edited after posting to correct an error.

Smart children more likely to live longer and stay disease free, study suggests

At 11 it is already possible to infer which children are likely to live longer based on IQ tests 
At 11 it is already possible to infer which children are likely to live longer based on IQ tests  CREDIT: DAVE THOMPSON PA

School swots who faced a ribbing from their classmates for being too brainy will have the last laugh, according to a new study which found high IQ in childhood is linked to a longer life.

Researchers at Edinburgh University, Oxford and University College London followed up more than 65,000 people who took part in The Scottish Mental Survey in 1947, aged 11 to find out if  intelligence as a youngster had affected their life, and death.

They discovered that by the age of 79, having a high IQ lowered the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases.

They was also a lower risk of dying from injuries, digestive diseases and dementia.

Children who were smarter were less likely to develop dementia or cancer 
Children who were smarter were less likely to develop dementia or cancer  CREDIT:  PAULA SOLLOWAY / ALAMY

“I’m being optimistic about these results,” said Professor Ian Deary, of the University of Edinburgh, who led the research.

“I’m hoping it means that if we can find out what smart people do and copy them, then we have a chance of a slightly longer and healthier life.

“We don’t fully know yet why intelligence from childhood and longevity are related, and we are keeping an open mind.

“Lifestyles (eg not smoking), education, health literacy, less deprivation, and genetics might all play a part. We and other research teams are testing these ideas.”

The lower risk of death even remained when accounting for factors which could have influenced the results, such as age, sex, and socio-economic status. In fact deprivation, such as unemployment, overcrowding, and other adverse living conditions are thought to account for only about 30 per cent of the IQ-mortality correlation.

Testing IQ early could help health workers children who are at risk in later life 
Testing IQ early could help health workers children who are at risk in later life  CREDIT:  JUICE IMAGES / ALAMY

Every extra 15 points IQ points was associated with a 28 per cent reduced risk of death from respiratory disease, a 25 per cent reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease, and a 24 per cent lower risk of death from stroke.

It means that a person with an IQ of 115 was 28 per cent more likely to have avoided death from respiratory disease at age 76 than a person with an IQ of 100 (the average for the general population).

15 more IQ points also cut the chance of dying from bladder cancer by 19 per cent, lung cancer by 25 per cent and bowel cancer by 11 per cent.

The researchers said people with higher IQs are more likely to look after their health and are less likely to smoke. They also tend to do more exercise, wear their seatbelts and seek medical attention when ill.

Other evidence suggests that IQ may be an indicator of good genetics and the efficiency of the central nervous system. Recent research found that fast reaction time is also linked to lowered risk of early death and high IQ.

A previous study by the same researchers in 2015 on the same cohort found that a 15 point IQ advantage increased the chance of still being alive by 21 per cent.

Some experts believe that IQ should be used, alongside factors of family history to assess people’s risk of developing health problems and dying early.

Kings College recently found that average intelligence has risen by 20 IQ points since 1950. The average lifespan has also dramatically increased over the same period.

The research was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Sleeping in a noisy bedroom linked to male infertility

sleepIt may come as no surprise to all the mothers out there, but new U.S. research has found that living with children affects a woman’s sleep more than it does a man’s.

New research has uncovered a link between long-term exposure to a noisy environment and infertility in men.

Many would agree that noise can disturb day-to-day life, making it difficult to concentrate on work and disrupting sleep. However, more studies are now discovering the health implications of exposure to high noise levels, linking it to heart disease, mental illness, changes in social behavior, and a reduced performance in completing complex tasks.

Previous research looking at fertility in women has also shown a link between exposure to noise and birth-related problems, such as premature birth, spontaneous abortion and congenital malformations.

Researchers from Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea looked specifically at male infertility by analyzing data from 206,492 men aged 20-59 and calculating the participants’ levels of noise exposure.

During the eight-year study, which ran 2006-2013, 3,293 men had an infertility diagnosis.

The team found that, after taking into account factors such as age, income, BMI and smoking, men who were exposed to noise over 55 dB at night (a level equivalent to a suburban street or an air conditioner and above the World Health Organization night noise level) had a significantly higher chance of being diagnosed as infertile.

Infertility affects one in six couples worldwide at least once in their lifetime, either temporarily or permanently, and can be due to a variety of causes including genetic abnormalities, infectious disease, environmental agents or certain behaviors.

The researchers now believe their findings suggest that noise should also be considered when assessing environmental conditions that contribute to male infertility.

“Infertility is becoming a significant public health issue because of unexpected adverse effects on the health and quality of life and heavy expenditures on the health system,” said Dr. Jin-Young Min, the study’s co-author. “We know noise exposure has an effect on male fertility in animals, but our study is the first to show the risk of exposure to environmental noise on male infertility in humans.”

“One of the biggest problems the world is facing today is environmental pollution; my special concern is what Theo Colborn described in her book ‘Our Stolen Future’: that the rapid decline in men’s sperm counts in the 20th century was due to environmental pollution,” commented Dr. Min.

“If this trend continues, humans in the future will not be able to have normal pregnancy and childbirth. If you are a man and suffer from infertility, you need to consider exposure to environmental pollution as a risk factor.”

The results were published in the journal Environmental Pollution.