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Posts Tagged ‘Linux’

isorespin.sh Script Updates Ubuntu ISO Files with Mainline Linux Kernel

March 29th, 2017 No comments

Devices based on Intel Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processors have been popular due to their integration into low cost system (for an Intel platform), but Intel did not prioritize Linux development for those processors, so while Linux could run, you’d have various problems with HDMI audio, system freezes, and wireless drivers, unless you used a custom kernel. The goods news is that Linux 4.11 will feature fixes for HDMI audio and system freeze, and so you won’t need a custom kernel anymore. Ian Morrison (Linuxium), who has been working on improving Linux for those devices since they were first released, has now released iorespin.sh script to automatically update any Ubuntu ISO image to the latest mainline Linux RC kernel built by Canonical, but not integrated by default in the ISO.

Once you’ve downloaded iorepin.sh and your ISO of choice, e.g. ubuntu-16.04.2-desktop-amd64.iso, you can update the ISO with mainline Linux using the following command:

The script will update the ISO with the latest Linux-4.11-RC4 kernel, but as new Ubuntu mainline Linux kernel versions become available, you’ll be able to update two lines in the script to match the latest version:

If you run this image on Bay Trail or Cherry Trail mini PC, you should get HDMI audio and no problem with the “frequent freezes” bug, but if you also need WiFi and Bluetooth support, you may have to run a few more scripts for Broadcom or Realtek wireless modules, and analog audio (headphone jack) support.

Orange Pi Zero Plus 2 H5 Board Replaces Allwinner H3 by Allwinner H5 for $1 More

March 28th, 2017 13 comments

It’s hard to keep up, but Shenzhen Xunlong has launched another Orange Pi board, as two weeks after introducing Orange Pi Zero Plus 2 development board, the company has now introduced “Orange Pi Zero Plus 2 H5” board, with the exact same specification, except Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 32-bit processor has been replaced by Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 64-bit processor.

Orange Pi Zero Plus 2 H5 board specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 processor with 2+4 core Mali-450MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 512 MB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI port
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 LE (Ampak AP6212) with u.FL antenna connector and external antenna
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Camera – MIPI CSI port
  • Expansion headers – Unpopulated 26-pin “Raspberry Pi B+” header + 13-pin header with headphone, 2x USB 2.0, TV out, microphone and IR receiver signals
  • Debugging – 3-pin serial console header
  • Misc – 2x LEDs for power and status
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 48 x 46 mm
  • Weight – 20 grams

Allwinner H5 is pin-to-pin compatible with Allwinner H3, so the PCB is exactly the same. The upgrade brings slightly better CPU performance, as well as – in theory – better GPU performance, but the latter might not be usable right now (in Linux) due to a lack of software support. Power consumption might be a little higher too (TBC).

The company claims support for Android, Ubuntu, Debian, and “Raspbian”, but I can’t double check since their website won’t load (yet again). Armbian will likely have Ubuntu Xenial nightly images with mainline Linux ready soon, like they did for NanoPi NEO 2 and Orange Pi PC 2, and while they are usable for some applications, you should not expect everything to work just yet.

The board costs just $1 more than the H3 version, as it sells for $19.90 + shipping on Aliexpress.

Linux based iWave Systems OBD-II Dongle Comes with 4G LTE and GPS

March 27th, 2017 1 comment

OBD-II dongles that you connect to your car’s OBD-II port have been around for several years, but they were initially simple devices with USB or Bluetooth connectivity that you control with your smartphone or computer. More recently we’ve seen more complex OBD-II head-up-diplays, and boards such as Macchina M2 open source hardware OBD-II board that takes various XBee modules for 4G, Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and so on. iWave Systems, a company better known for their system-on-modules, has now unveiled their own OBD-II dongle with NXP i.MX 6UL processor running Linux, and integrating 4G LTE and GPS by default.

iWave Systems OBD-II dongle specifications:

  • Processor – NXP i.MX 6UL ARM Cortex-A7 processor @ 528/696MHz
  • Memory –  256 MB DDR3 (Optionally upgradeable to higher capacity)
  • Storage – 256 MB NAND Flash (optionally upgradeable to higher capacity).
  • Connectivity – Built-in 4G Modem with antenna, optional WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0 LE module
  • Positioning – GPS Receiver
  • Sensors –  Accelerometer,  Gyroscope, Magnetometer
  • Car Interface – OBD-II connector
  • Misc – Optional status & power LEDs
  • Power Supply – 12V Input via OBD II port; optional battery to keep the dongle on for a few minutes
  • Temperature Range – -10°C to +60°C
  • Dimensions – 63 x 48 x 24mm (excluding OBD II Connector)

The company has not provided that much details on the software side, except that the dongle runs Linux.

iWave Systems OBD-II dongle targets fleet management, emission testing, vehicle testing, and vehicle data logger applications.

The company focuses on the B2B market, so if you want to purchase in quantities for your specific project you can inquire for a quote or more details via their OBD-II device page.

NanoPi NEO 2 Board, NanoHats, and BakeBit Starter Kit Review – Part 1: Hardware Overview & Assembly

March 26th, 2017 21 comments

NanoPi NEO 2 development board is an update of NanoPi NEO with a quad core 64-bit Allwinner H5 processor + 512 MB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, and an extra audio header, which can be a great little board for headless application since there’s no video output. FriendlyELEC ask me whether I wanted to review to board with some of their NanoHATs add-on boards, and while I asked for NanoHat PCM5102A audio board and NEO Hub which I intended to use with Grove modules from my Wio Link Started Kit, I get a bit more than expected, as the company included sets of NEO 2 boards and accessories, NanoHATs, two serial debug board, and their BakeBit Starter Kit with several Grove modules to play with.

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Since I have so many things to look at in this first post, I’ll just describe the hardware, assemble it, quickly check the paper documentation, and give some of my impressions about the kit I receive.

Let’s start with NanoPi NEO 2. It’s super tiny, as exactly the same forum factor as NanoPi NEO, except for the low profile Ethernet jack.

The bottom side comes with Allwinner H5 processor SoC, and Samsung K4B4G1646E-BYK0 DDR3L memory (512MB), while the top of the board features Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver. The board just has four ports/connectors: a micro SD slot, a micro USB port for power, a USB 2.0 host port, and an RJ45 connector.

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There are also two headers (2x 12 pin + 12x pin) for I/O just like for the first NEO board, as well as an extra 5-pin header for audio on the right of the 4-pin UART header. The audio header is also present on NanoPi NEO v1.3 board, but not the older boards. See pinout table for details.

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Each package with the board also includes a Quick Start Guide describing the board, and explaining how to use the company’ Ubuntu Core + Qt image. As you can see from the photo above, the boards also make great paper weights, but I’m sure you’ll find something more interesting to do with them… 🙂

I also get a heatsink + thermal pads + screws and nuts kit, not included by default. Installation is very easy. First remove the two protective plastic sheets on the blue thermal pad, place it on Allwinner H5 processor, and then add the heatsink on top and secure it with the screws and nuts. Just make sure you orientate properly without covering the IO pins.

I did that for both, and checked possible combinations for those who want to build NanoPi NEO (2) farms. The first combination is to place the boards in opposite direction, and then use some spacers (mine were not suitable) to hold both boards in place as shown here.

The configuration above takes the less space, however, you may want to have all Ethernet ports on the same side, and the low profile Ethernet jack allows for a more compact design compared to what was possible with NanoPi NEO.

This takes about 5 x 4.5 x 4 cm, so if we round that up you could have 1 meter x 1 meter x 4.5 cm deep cluster with 800 NanoPi boards (3,200 cores). You’d just have to find out how to power and cool it down… The 512MB memory might limit use cases for clusters. FriendlyELEC also sells an acrylic case for 8 board clusters.

The main use case for NanoPi NEO (2) board is probably IoT and electronics projects, so I soldered the two headers which are provided with the board (inside the package).

First I thought I made a mistake when I installed the heatsink first, but actually the nuts help keep the headers in place while soldering, so I did not have to use a sponge to push the headers while soldering, as I normally do.


NanoPi NEO 2 boards are now ready. So let’s checkout the two add-on board I got: NanoHAT PCM5102A audio board with Texas Instruments PCM5102A audio stereo DAC,  stereo audio output via RCA connectors, and an IR receiver, as well as NEO Hub (aka NanoHAT Hub) with 12 Grove connectors (I2C, Digital I/O, Analog Inputs, UART)  compatible with Seeed Studio offerings.

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NEO Hub also includes an unpopulated SPI header.

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The NanoHats sit on top of NEO (2) board, and you can still connect the UART to TTL debug board if you need to access the serial console. NanoHat PCM5102A also comes with 2x RCA to 3.5mm female jack to connect headphones or speakers.

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Since NanoHats includes male headers, it’s also possible to stack them.

In some ways, NanoPi NEO (2) and NanoHAT are the more powerful equivalent of Wemos D1 Mini and shields based on ESP8266, and I really like the design of both solutions.

If you already own some Seeed Studio grove modules, you just need the NEO Hub, but Bakebit Starter Kit appears to be a nice way to expereriment with all sorts of sensors, LEDs, and servo.

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There are twelve modules in total: 2 LED modules, an LED bar, on OLED display, a button, a joystick, a buzzer, an ultrasonic sensor, a servo, a potentiometer, a light sensor, and a sound sensors. The kit includes two detailed user manuals: one in good English, one in Chinese.

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The first part explains the features and interface for each module with a Wiki link, and latter on you have some easy projects with source code leveraging the NEO hub and some of the modules.

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You can also access the documentation online.

FriendlyELEC boards may be slightly more expensive than Shenzhen Xunlong’s Orange Pi boards, but documentation appears to be clearly a step or two ahead, and they have an ecosystem of modules that’s currently lacking on Orange Pi boards.

Some price info about the kit I’ve received:

  • NanoPi Neo 2 board – $14.99
  • Heatsink set – $2.97
  • NanoHat PCM5102A – $9.99
  • NEO Hub – $12.99 (Not needed if you buy Bakebit Starter Kit)
  • BakeBit Starter Kit – $29.99

You’ll need to add shipping, but it’s normally only a few dollars extra for registered airmail. You’ll find additional accessories by scrolling down on NanoPi Neo 2 page on FriendlyARM store. The next step will be to install an operating system, which will be FriendlyELEC’s Ubuntu Core + Qt image, or Armbian nightly build, in order to do some basic tests and run benchmarks like I did for NanoPi NEO, and following up on that I plan to write an extra post reporting on my experience playing with NanoHat PCM5102A and Bakebit Starter Kit.

CubieBoard6 Development Board Powered by Actions Semi S500 Processor Comes with SATA, LiPo Battery Support

March 24th, 2017 18 comments

CubieTech launched Cubieboard with Allwinner A10 processor in 2012, and while they may not be as popular as some other boards like Raspberry Pi, ODROID, or Orange Pi boards in 2017, the company is still around after around 5 years, and their latest board is Cubieboard6 powered by Action Semi S500 quad core Cortex A9 processor with 2GB RAM, 8GB flash, HDMI, wired & wireless connectivity, SATA, battery support and more.

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Cubieboard6 specifications:

  • SoC – Actions Semi S500 quad core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with Imagination PowerVR SGX544 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3
  • Storage
    • 8GB eMMC flash
    • SATA 3.0 port for 2.5″ HDD/SSD up to 4TB
    • micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output  – HDMI 1.4b up to 1080p60
  • Audio I/O – Via HDMI output, 3.5mm audio output (HP) jack, 3.5mm audio input (MIC) jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE (AP6212) with u.FL antenna connector
  • USB – 2x USB host ports, 1x mini USB device
  • Expansion – 2x 48-pin headers with I2C, CSI for camera, FM-IN, ADC, CVBS output, Audio output, RGB, LVDS, MIPI DSI, SPI, HSIC, INT GPIO…
  • Misc – IR receiver, RTC with battery, power and ADFU key (to flash firmware), Power LED, 2x User LEDs
  • Power Supply
    • 5V @ 2.5A via power barrel
    • 5V via mini USB input
    • 3.7V Li-Po battery support via 2-pin header
  • Dimensions – 100mm x 60mm x 18mm
  • Temperature Range –  -20℃ ~ 70℃
  • Certifications – FCC, CE & RoHS

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The company provides Android 5.1.1 and Debian Jessie Desktop with 3D graphics acceleration (OpenGL ES 2.0) and hardware video decoding support. Software and hardware files, as well as documentation is available on MEGA outside of China, and on Baidu for people located in China.

Actions Semi S500 does not support SATA, so it’s important to look at the schematics to see how it was implemented, and while many boards are simply limited by their USB 2.0 interface, CubieTech used the USB 3.0 interface for the SATA implementation, which should lead to much better performance than most non-native solutions on the market. It’s disappointing that networking is limited to Fast Ethernet.

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We’ve see both a USB 3.0 switch and USB 3.0 to SATA bridge (JMicron JMS578) in the schematics in order to provide good performance between the processor and the SATA drive, while also allowing to use the board as an external USB 3.0 hard drive from your computer. Actions Semi S500 is not quite a new processor, and if you want to check out what it’s capable you may want to check out my hands-on posts about Roseapple Pi and Allo Sparky.

You’ll find more pictures and a few extra details on the product page. The official price of the board is $69 without shipping, but Cubieboard6 is only sold on a couple of website, including Amazon US for $98, and an Australian website for $115 AUD. Note that the board is sold as part of kit with several accessories namely USB to power jack cable, USB to mini USB cable, a WiFi antenna, a SATA cable, and a heatsink. There’s also an optional case, but I could not find it for sale yet.

GnuBee Personal Cloud 1 Low Cost Linux NAS Supports Up to Six 2.5″ SATA Drives (Crowdfunding)

March 23rd, 2017 41 comments

Networked Access Storage (NAS) with a large number of SATA bays usually cost several hundreds dollars up to thousands of dollars depending on the features set and performance, but there’s a new a project called GnuBee Personal Cloud 1, or GB-PC1, that delivers a MIPS Linux system supporting up to six 2.5″ SATA drives for less than $200.

GB-PC1 NAS specifications:

  • ProcessorMediaTek MT7621A dual core, quad thread processor @ 880 MHz, overclockable to 1.2 GHz
  • System Memory512 MB DDR3
  • Storage – micro SD card slot tested up to 64 GB, 6x 2.5” SATA HDD or SSD
  • Connectivity – Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Serial port – 3-pin J1 connector or 3.5 mm audio-type jack
  • Power – 12 VDC @ 3 A via 5.5 mm x 2.1 mm, center-positive barrel jack
  • Dimensions –  21.6 cm (L) x 7 cm (W) x 14 cm (H)
  • Weight – ~210 g (without drives)

The case is comprised of two anodized aluminum side plates assembled with six threaded brackets and screws, and comes with 24 drive screws (four per drive).

The NAS supports Debian, OpenMediaVault, LEDE, as well as the lesser-known (at least to me) LibreCMC distribution. Source code including Linux 4.9 and U-boot, some documentations, as well as the BoM & schematics (PDF) can be found on Github.  Potential applications include network storage and backup, file server,home media server, download server, web server, or remotely accessible private cloud.

A comparison table has also been provided by the developer with GB-PC1, QNAP TS-431 ($294.22 on Amazon US) and Synology DS416slim ($289.99 on Amazon US).

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TS-431 might have an implicit price advantage with support for 3.5″ SATA drives, as you may need less 3.5″ drives to achieve the same amount of storage as with 2.5″ drives. One clear advantage of GB-PC1 is that you should have better control over the software than the two competing commercial solution. One clear disadvantage however is the mechanical design, as GB-PC1 has been designed to offer as low a cost as possible.

GB-PC1 launched on Crowdsupply a few days ago with the goal of raising at least $75,000. Rewards start at $168 for a diskless GB-PC1, but you may also want to add $19 to get a 12V/3A power supply, and potential $6 for a 2 GB micro SD card preloaded with Debian. Shipping is free to the US, and $12 to the rest of the world, with delivery planned for August 2017.

Via Orange Pi’s Facebook Group

Qualcomm 205 SoC is Designed for Entry-level 4G LTE Feature Phones Running Linux

March 20th, 2017 9 comments

Qualcomm has just introduced Qualcomm 205 “Mobile Platform” designed to bring 4G LTE connectivity and services to entry-level feature phones to emerging regions, such as India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. The SoC features a dual core ARM CPU, an Adreno 304 GPU, and an LTE Cat 4 modem.

Qualcomm 205 SoC specifications

  • CPU – Dual Core ARM Cortex A7 processor at 1.1 GHz
  • GPU – Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0
  • Memory I/F – LPDDR2 & LPDDR3 up to 384 MHz
  • Storage I/F –  eMMC 4.5 flash
  • Display – MIPI DSI up to 480p60
  • Cellular Connectivity
    • X5 LTE modem supporting LTE Cat 4 with up to 150 Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload;
    • Dual SIM card
    • 2G, 3G and 4G support
    • VoLTE support
  • Connectivity – Support for 802.11 b/g/n & VoWIFI, Bluetooth 4.1, ANT+, FM radio,  GPS/GLONASS/Beidou
  • Camera – Dual 3MP camera support (rear + front) up to 480p60
  • Video Codecs –  H.264 (AVC),  MP4, VP8 decoding up to 720p
  • Security –  Qualcomm SecureMSM hardware and software;  Qualcomm Snapdragon StudioAccess content protection
  • Process – 28nm

The processor is pin-to-pin compatible with Qualcomm Snapdragon 210/212, and Qualcomm provides support for a Linux based OS.

Qualcomm 205 SoC is already in mass production, and retail devices are expected in Q2 2017. You’ll find a few more details on the product page.

UP Core is a Low Cost & Compact Intel Maker Board Powered by an Atom x5-Z8350 SoC (Crowdfunding)

March 18th, 2017 19 comments

The UP community has already launched Intel Cherry Trail and Apollo Lake boards in the past with UP Board and UP2 (squared) boards, and they are now about to launch a cheaper and smaller board called UP Core powered by Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor with to 1 to 4GB memory, up to 64GB eMMC flash, HDMI, USB 3.0, … and I/O expansion connectors.

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UP Core specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8350 “Cherry Trail” quad core processor @ 1.44 GHz / 1.92 GHz (Burst frequency) with Intel HD 400 graphics @ 200 / 500 MHz
  • System Memory –  1, 2 or 4 GB DDR3L-1600 (soldered on board)
  • Storage – 16, 32, or 64 GB eMMC flash, SPI flash ROM
  • Video Output / Display – HDMI 1.4 port, full eDP (embedded DisplayPort) connector
  • Audio I/O – Via HDMI, and I2S
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi  @ 2.4 GHz, Bluetooth 4.0 LE (AP614A)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host port, 2x USB 2.0 via header
  • Camera I/F – 1x 2-lane MIPI CSI, 1x 4-lane MIPI CSI
  • Expansion
    • 100-pin docking connector with power signals, GPIOs, UART, SPI, I2C, PWM, SDIO, I2S, HDMI SMBUS, PMC signals, 2x USB HSIC, CSI, and PCIe Gen 2
    • 10-pin connector with 2x USB 2.0, 1x UART
  • Misc – Power & reset buttons, RTC battery header, fan connector, BIOS reflash connector
  • Power Supply – 5V/4A via 5.5/2.1mm power barrel
  • Dimensions – 66 x 56.50 mm
  • Temperature Range – Operating: 0 to 60 °C

The board will support Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 10 IoT Core, Linux including Ubilinux, Ubuntu, and the Yocto Project, as well as Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

If you look at the bottom right connector of the diagram above, we can see an extension HAT for the 100-pin docking port will be offered, as well as an IO board, both of which should be compatible with Raspberry Pi HATs with 40-pin connectors. But so far, I could not find details about the extension HAT, nor the IO board.

The UP core is coming soon to Kickstarter with price starting at 69 Euros with 1GB RAM, 16GB eMMC flash, and WiFi and Bluetooth. Other part of the documentation show a $89 price for the 1GB/16GB board, so maybe it’s the expected retail price out of the crowdfunding campaign. You’ll find a few more information on UP Core page, but we’ll probably have to wait for the Kickstarter campaign to launch to get the full details, especially with regards to add-on boards, and pricing for various options.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.