A quick look at the Onion Omega!

Those of you who have worked with or heard of the Raspberry Pi know how awesome the tiny device is. The power of a full blown computer was literally in the palm of your hand, allowing you to experiment with cool projects and get your ideas and experiments to shape.

Onion Omega package
Onion Omega package

The Arduino was a microcontroller quite capable but was intentionally lower powered and focused more on the hardware side of things.For example, Raspberry Pi could run most Desktop OSes and supported many ports including HDMI and USB. ThArduino ran on its custom firmware and development was via the Arduino IDE and the program pushed to it via Serial.

The Onion Omega, I’d like to say, sits in between these two but has a few features and solutions that the previous two didn’t address.

What makes it stand out

The Onion Omega is a tiny development board that’s the quarter of the size of Raspberry Pi and it runs on the OpenWRT Linux OS. What makes it special though, is that it has in built 802.11 b/g/n WiFi. Moreover, it supports languages such as Node.JS, PHP, Ruby and so on. In other words, it’s a hardware platform targeted for software enthusiasts!

Now for the boring stuff… It’s powered by a 400 MHz processor, which is 25 times the speed of the Arduino Uno. It also has 64 MB DDR2 RAM and 16 MB of Flash. Connect it to the Expansion Dock and you get LED indicators, a USB Port and a MicroUSB for power/serial.

The Omega itself is about 3 cm by 4 cm which is quite tiny.

It went on the KickStarter campaign, and needles to say, saw tremendous success, receiving almost four times the original target amount.

My experience

I ordered one by end of 2015 and received it by the end of January. It comes by post and if you order the basic version, you receive two boxes: one smaller box housing the Omega itself and the other with the Expansion. The package was delivered by the date promised. However, the tracking code did not work until the parcel was delivered when it said ‘Package is in Sri Lanka’ 🙂

Omega and the Dock
Omega and the Dock

The boards were fairly well built and had no issues whatever in setting it up for the first time. You have to connect the pins on the Omega to the Expansion Dock and connect a MicroUSB port to the Dock. Here’s how you get started

.You can connect an External USB Storage device to the USB port since the 16 MB (of which about half is already used) is hardly enough for anything more than simple projects. Talking about simple projects, here’s one you should definitely try.

Powering it with Micro USB
Powering it with Micro USB

Next, I installed Node.JS onto the Omega and created a basic web app, which worked pretty well. However, it is not very easy to get started, especially if you are new to all this. That is primarily due to the community being very young still.

Should you get it

Depends. If you are a software developer who has always wanted to try a bit of hardware programming, then you should definitely give it a go. If you love JavaScript and Node, why not? After all ‘Omega is an invention platform for the Internet of Things.’

However, if you want something more advanced like a proper computer, then the Raspberry Pi is a good option. But, please remember that these two devices are not exactly in the same category.

What about price? The Omega and the Dock cost $30, which is reasonable for what you get. Visit onion.io to order yours!

Hope you find this helpful. I will be sharing whatever interesting projects I do with it. If you want to see something specific, please let me know in the comments section below.


6 responses to “A quick look at the Onion Omega!”

  1. Nicely written, wanted to know about Onion Omega, this served my purpose.

    1. Glad that you liked it! Thanks a lot for the comment….

  2. I hadn’t heard about this. I can’t see the benefit of this over the pi. Can’t you run node.js on the pi, for example?

    1. That’s probably because this is a very new project. The Omega has in built WiFi and is relatively simpler to get started. You don’t need to have an HDMI screen for instance. I cannot say which is better since I don’t have much experience with the Pi 🙂

  3. Relay expansion – 2 relays – again controllable from the web interface – the only thing is the relays are tiny and as I understand it NOT suitable for 240v mains – so of limited use I guess.

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