Orange Pi Zero is a $7 and up board based on Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor with 256 to 512MB RAM, Ethernet, WiFi, and USB, but no video output except on headers, making it more suitable to headless applications. The company has just launched Orange Pi Zero NAS Expansion port adding SATA, mSATA, two more USB ports, and an AV port allowing you to add a hard drive or SSD, and connect it to a TV with composite input.
Orange Pi Zero NAS Expansion Board preliminary specifications:
Storage – 1x SATA port, 1x mSATA port both through a JMS578 USB 3.1 to SATA bridge with UAS support each, which should be better than some other USB to SATA solution despite only being connected to a USB 2.0 interface.
USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
Video & Audio Output – 3.5mm AV jack with composite video (TBC) and stereo audio
Misc – Microphone and IR receiver
Header – 13-pin female header connecting to OPi Zero board
There won’t need any specific support for SATA, since the drive will be seen as USB mass storage devices. The best way to get started would probably be used Armbian Debian or Ubuntu image.
Orange Pi Zero and NAS Expansion Board
Orange Pi Zero NAS Expansion board is sold on Aliexpress for $6.98 plus shipping adding up to just over $10 in my case. Ideally, Shenzhen Xunlong should also offer a kit with both boards and potential a case to lower overall shipping costs, but that’s not available (yet).
[Update: The board featured below was initially announced as Orange Pi Zero Plus, but considering it may have confused people as it is not at all compatible with Orange Pi Zero, it has been renamed to Orange Pi 2G-IoT]
Linaro mentioned Orange Pi i96 board last fall at Linaro Connect US. It was supposed to be a $9.99 board powered by an RDA Micro Cortex A5 processor with 2Gbit RAM and 4Gbit NAND flash on-chip. There has not been any news since then, but Shenzhen Xunlong has apparently gone ahead with an RDA Micro Cortex A5 board since they’ve posted some pictures of Orange Pi Zero Plus (Note: very slow server) with an RDA Micro ARM Cortex A5 processor.
Orange Pi 2G-IoT preliminary specifications:
SoC – RDA Micro 8810PL ARM Cortex A5 processor @ up to 1.0 GHz with 2Gbit (256 MB) on-chip LPDDR2 RAM, 4Gbit (512 MB) on-chip SLC NAND flash , 256KB L2 cache, Vivante GC860 3D GPU, and GSM/GPRS/EDGE Modem (Download datasheet)
External Storage – micro SD slot
Display I/F – LCD connector up to qHD resolution
Video – Decoding up to 1080p30, encoding up to 1080p30 H.264
Audio I/F – 3.5mm audio jack, one built-in micorphone?
Connectivity – Bluetooth and GSM/GPRS/EDGE with SIM card slot
Camera – MIPI CSI-2 connector for camera sensor up to 2MP
USB – 1x USB host port, 1x micro USB port (for power?)
Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port; maybe one pin on header
Dimensions – ~70 x 44 mm(estimated)
Certifications – CE and FCC based on PCB silkscreen
We don’t have much more info about the board, but since the processor is used in a few Android phones such as Aqua G2 or Challenger V40LD, so Android 4.4 Kitkat should be available for the board. Linaro, although they might not be involved, also mentioned an Ubuntu Linux for Orange Pi i96 board, so an Ubuntu Linux image is very likely to be provided. If Linaro has been involved in the kernel/software development, then you should expect somewhat OK support, but if they haven’t, I’m expecting a world of pain at the beginning, at least compared to the relatively well community supported Allwinner H3 based Orange Pi boards. If you intend to use the SIM card, you may want to check if your country has any plans to phase out of 2G, as several have already done so, and many others will shutdown 2G networks in the next few years.
The board is scheduled to be launched right after Chinese New Year in the first half of February. We don’t have pricing info, but I’d expect it to costs less than $10 + shipping as it was the price announced for Orange Pi i96 board, and you can get a complete Android RDA8810PL phone for around $25.
RetrOrangePi is a Linux distribution based on armbian transforming Allwinner H3 boards – mostly Orange Pi boards, but also Banana Pi M2+ and NanoPi boards – into entertainment centers to play retro games, and watch/listen media files (videos/music) using Kodi. If you don’t have a development board, or would prefer a complete solution with casing and power supply, Beelink X2 TV box is also supported. The developers had been recently working on rectifying some GPL issues, and they have released RetrOrangePi 3.0 images right before Christmas.
RetrOrangePi 3.0 changelog and key features:
Full Armbian 5.23 Jessie Desktop version with kernel 3.4.113 (backdoors fixed)
Slim version 1st release (less than 2 GB) coming soon
OpenELEC (Kodi Jarvis 16.1) with CEC support by Jernej Škrabec
RetroPie-Setup version 4.1
New Kodi Krypton beta6 version
New emulationstation-ROPI branch forked from jacobfk20 with gridview, on screen keyboard with easy wifi config and storage check with additional features added by ROPi team: display settings, OpenELEC / Desktop launcher and background music switcher integrated into main menu.
New Plug n’ Play feature – USB roms autoload (reads from /media/usb0) (buggy)
New dummy roms feature (most common platform shown)
New splash video on 1st boot by Rafael Spirax
New default splashscreen (from Libretro)
New custom ES splashscreen by Francois Lebel @MagicFranky
OpenELEC ROPI addon already installed
Retroarch with XMB menu driver (Lakka)
Better looking video with bilinear filtering (smoothness) or scanlines by default
Most retroarch cores updated (FBA, PCSX etc)
New and improved content:
AdvanceMAME (newer romset, more compatibility, better performance in some games: Elevator Action Returns, Street Fighter the Movie, Star Wars Arcade, Judge Dredd, Sega Sonic The Hedgehog etc)
OpenMSX (with .dsk support) PPSSPP (new version 1.3 from odroid repo)
TI99/4A (Texas Instruments)
There are two ways to download the images:
BitTorrent – 16.0 GB download with images for all boards
Main server (http) – 1.6 GB compressed firmware image for your board.
If you download from the main server, you’ll get a warning saying you can’t sell hardware pre-installed with the image:
RetrOrange Pi is a non profit project.
It consists of a basic Retropie setup with most Libretro cores on top of an Armbian Jessie Desktop version pre-installed.
It includes an OpenELEC fork as well.
Much of the software included in the image have non-commercial licences. Because of this, selling a pre-installed RetrOrange image is not legal, neither is including it with your commercial product.
As it relies on other people’s work with our own features, we won’t be offering any help in customizations to avoid rebranding or reselling.
It will be interesting to see what happens with RetroEngine Sigma project on Indiegogo that is very likely based on RetrOrangePi image for Orange Pi Lite board.
Anyway, since BitTorrent download was very slow, I downloaded RetrOrangePi-3.0.Orangepione.img.tar.gz from the main server for my $3.69 Orange Pi One board (there was a promo in September), extracted it, and flashed it to a 32GB card (8GB is enough) in Linux:
Replace sdX by your own SD card device in the 3rd command above. You can also do this in Windows with Win32DiskImager. Once it is done, insert the micro SD card in your board or TV box, prepare a gamepad, and connect all relevant cables.
If you have connected the serial console (completely optional), or want to access the system through ssh, you can login with pi/pi or root/orangepi credentials:
Debian GNU/Linux8RetrOrangePi ttyS0
Last login:Thu Sep1507:26:19CEST2016on tty1
Linux RetrOrangePi3.4.113-RetrOrangePi--sun8i#12 SMP PREEMPT Sun Dec 18 17:17l
Most people will just follow the instructions on the TV. We’ll get through a bunch of animation and logos during the boot.Note: Please ignore the vertical lines on the photos, as there’s just an issue with my TV.
The first time the system will resize the SD card to make use of the full SD card capacity, and generate SSH keys. One more “Loading…” logo…
If you have connected a gamepad (highly recommended), you’ll be ask to configure the keys. Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad was automatically detected, and I could easily set all keys up.
Once all is well and done, you’ll get to the main menu to select emulator or Kodi.
Most emulators do not come with ROMs due to license issues, so you’d have to find the ROMs yourself, and install them via a USB drive, or copy them directly into the board over the network, for example with scp. If you want to try to play some games straightaway, you can do so by going to the PORTS sections with 13 games available including Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, CannonBall, Duke Nukem 3D, Super Mario War, etc…
I tested shortly tested Wolfenstein 3D and Quake, as well as launched Kodi 17 (Beta 6) in the demo video below.
So Linux 4.9 is out, and the merge window for 4.10 is thus open.
With the extra week for 4.9, the timing for the merge window is obviously a bit awkward, and it technically closes in two weeks on Christmas Day. But that is a pure technicality, because I will certainly stop pulling on the 23rd at the latest, and if I get roped into Xmas food prep, even that date might be questionable.
I could extend the merge window rather than cut it short, but I’m not going to. I suspect we all want a nice calm winter break, so if your stuff isn’t ready to be merged early, the solution is to just not merge it yet at all, and wait for 4.11. Just so you all know (I already bcc’d the main merge window suspects in a separate mailing last week, I’m just repeating myself here to avoid anybody being confused about timing).
Anyway, back to 4.9 itself.
I’m pretty sure this is the biggest release we’ve ever had, at least in number of commits. If you look at the number of lines changed, we’ve had bigger releases in the past, but they have tended to be due to specific issues (v4.2 got a lot of lines from the AMD GPU register definition files, for example, and we’ve had big re-organizations that caused a lot of lines in the past: v3.2 was big due to staging, v3.7 had the automated uapi header file disintegration, etc). In contrast, 4.9 is just big.
Admittedly a chunk of that is the new greybus staging support, but that really isn’t the bulk of it – it’s just another small detail in the overall “yes, v4.9 is big” picture.
Other than just the size, 4.9 looks fairly normal. A bit over two thirds drivers (staging, GPU and networking are the bulk of it, but it’s all over), with the rest looking fairly normal too: arch updates, documentation, generic networking, filesystems..
The shortlog (16k+ commits, with another 1100 merge commits to round things out) is obviously much too big to put here, and wouldn’t be legible anyway. So as is my wont, I’m appending just the log of my merges.
Linux 4.8 brought us an HDMI-CEC framework, a new kernel documentation system is now based on Sphinx, a user-space GPIO subsystem and tools, file systems improvements and more.
Some of the notable changes for Linux 4.9 include:
Greybus staging support. While Project Ara has been canceled, the code is still used in one Motorola phone, a Toshiba chip requires it, as well as other undisclosed users.
File systems improvements for CIFS (bug fixes, idsfromsid mount option, better reconnection handling), BTRFS (bug fixes), NFS (bug fixes and new features such as server-side copy), F2FS (bug fixed and performance improvements), EXT-4 (“Lots of bug fixes and cleanups”) , and XFS (iomap-based DAX infrastructure and XFS delalloc rework + bug fixes)
Improved security with virtually mapped kernel stacks, and memory protection keys
AMDGPU now supports older Radeon graphics cards, virtual display support, and improved reset.
Some interesting ARM architecture fixes and new features:
Broadcom BCM958525er, BCM958522er, BCM988312hr, BCM958623hr and BCM958622hr reference boards for Northstar platform, Raspberry Pi Zero board
NXP i.MX 7 Warp7 reference board, Gateworks Ventana GW553x SBC, Technologic Systems TS-4900, and Engicam IMX6UL GEA M6UL computer-on-module, Inverse Path USB armory board
Renesas r8a7792/wheat and r7s72100/rskrza1 development boards
ST Microelectronics STi B2260 (96boards) single-board computer
TI Davinci OMAP-L138 LCDK Development kit, beagleboard-x15 rev B1 single-board computer
There has been a fair amount of MIPS changes in Linux 4.9 too, some of them are:
Various updated to MIPS core arch code – generic DT-based board & Flattened Image Trees (.itb) support, per-device DMA coherence support, bug fixes for KVM, uprobes, c-r4k, ptrace and more
Octeon – Delete dead code and files, change to use all memory into use by default, add DTS for D-Link DSR-500N, etc…
Pistachio – Remove ANDROID_TIMED_OUTPUT from defconfig
TX39xx & TX49xx – Move GPIO setup from .mem_setup() to .arch_init(), convert to Common Clock Framework
txx9wdt – Add missing clock (un)prepare calls for CCF
BMIPS – Add PW, GPIO SDHCI and NAND device node names, add DT examples for BCM63268, BCM3368 and BCM6362, add support for BCM3368 and BCM6362, etc…
Code changes for PCI, CPC, GIC, SMP, USB host, cpuidle, fbdev, auxdisplay…
mt7620 -Delete unnecessary assignment for the field “owner” from PCI
BCM63xx -Let clk_disable() return immediately if clk is NULL
pm-cps – Change FSB workaround to CPU blacklist, Use MIPS standard lightweight ordering barrier and completion barrier, etc…
SEAD3 – Rewrite to use DT and generic kernel feature
Malta – Rewrite to use DT
Loongson1C – Add CPU support for Loongson1C, add board support, add defconfig, and add RTC support for Loongson1C board
The full list of changes can be found in Linux 4.9 changelog with comments only, generated using git log v4.8..v4.9 --stat. You’ll also find a more readable list of changes for Linux 4.9 once kernelnewbies.org is updated.
2016 has been the year of retrogaming comeback with products like PocketCHIP, Nintendo NES Classic, GPD Win and quite a few other projects. There will soon be a new option with RetroEngine Sigma, an inexpensive Linux based retro-gaming console based on Allwinner H3 processor.
RetroEngine Sigma fanless game console hardware specifications:
SoC – Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 @ 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU up to 600 MHz
System Memory – 512 MB DDR3
Storage – 16 or 32GB micro SD card
Video & Audio Output – HDMI port
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
Misc – Programmable status LED, 2 user configurable buttons P1 & P2
Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel
Dimensions – 110 x 85 x 33.5 mm
The specifications look similar, so I went to my little list of Allwinner H3 boards, found the specs matches closely Orange Pi Lite board, and after checking the video and more picture, the ports also happen to be exactly in the same place… So it’s pretty sure the console is based on Shenzhen Xunlong’s Orange Pi Lite board, which is cool since there’s a good community support.
RetroGame developers leveraged that, and the console supports Atari 2600/7800, Sega Genesis, Nintendo NES / 64, Amstrad, Sega, and many more, and can be used as a mini computer and a media player with Kodi. It seems to have the same features as RetrOrangePi firmware based on Armbian plus Kodi and various game emulator.
The mini console’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign has been very successfully so far as they’ve raised closed to $250,000 from over 3,000 backers. All early bird rewards are gone, but you can still pledge $59 for the “Speedy Backer” reward including a mini console with a 16GB micro SD card pre-loaded with the firmware, a power adapter, a dual stick analog controller, a micro USB card reader, and a Xmas voucher. The 32GB micro SD Deluxe version goes for $89, and adds a Bluetooth adapter, a Bluetooth game controller, and a HDMI cable. Shipping adds $7 to the US, and $15 to the rest of the world. Delivery is scheduled for April to June 2017, but you’ll first receive a Christmas Gift voucher.
Orange Pi Zero is an interesting little ARM Linux board thanks to its low price, but also because it features a new Allwinner H2 / H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor very similar to Allwinner H3 minus the 4K video decoding part, as well as Allwinner XR819 WiFi module, which I have not seen on any other boards so far.
But hardware without software is pretty much useless, so developers will be happy to find out that Allwinner H2 SDK with Linux (lichee) and Android has been released or leaked, and it also includes the Allwinner XR819 WiFi driver.
You’ll find the SDK on Zoobab server with three main directory / files:
Android folder – Android 4.4.2 SDK
lichee folder – Linux 3.4.39 source code. However you’d probably better use Linux 3.4.113 currently released by sunxi-linux, or Linux mainline. The latter does have some limitations, and may or may not be suitable for your project.
H2-V1.2.tar.bz2 – The tar file with both Android and lichee folder in case you want to download the full SDK on your computer
SoC – Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 processor with an ARM Mali-450MP4 GPU
System Memory – 1GB DDR3
Storage – micro SD card slot up to 64GB, 8Mbit SPI NOR flash
Video Output – HDMI 1.4 with CEC support, AV port
Audio I/O – HDMI, AV port, on-board microphone
Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
Camera – MIPI CSI Interface
Expansions – 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header
Debugging – 3-pin UART header for serial console
Misc – IR receiver; Power button; Power and status LEDs
Power Supply – 5V/2A via barrel jack. N.B.: the micro USB OTG port cannot be used.
Dimensions – 85 x 55 mm
Weight – 38 grams
The board is basically an update of the popular Orange Pi PC board with a faster 64-bit ARM processor, an 8 Mbit SPI flash, and Gigabit Ethernet support. The company will be providing Android, Ubuntu, Debian, and “Raspberry Pi” images. As usual, the latter does not mean you can simply run Raspbian downloaded from Raspberry Pi website on the board, but that instead a Raspbian image with Alwinner H5 Linux kernel and bootloader will be provided. You should probably look out for an armbian images, since it’s the most popular image for Orange Pi boards. It may just take a little while to come out, since Allwinner H5 is a new processor.
Orange Pi Zero development board powered by Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor with 256 to 512MB RAM, Ethernet, and USB ports is now available for sale on Aliexpress for just $6.99, which shipping adding $3.39 in my case bringing the total to $10.38.
USB – 1x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG 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 – Unpopulated 3-pin header for serial console
Misc – 2x LEDs
Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port or optional PoE
Dimensions – 52 x 46 mm
Weight – 26 grams
Based on the hardware features and likely good availability it’s a serious contender to Raspberry Pi Zero (and Nano Pi NEO) for headless applications, and provided Allwinner H2+ is close enough to Allwinner H3 software support should be fairly good, as I expect armbian support very soon. Allwinner XR819 is a completely new WiFi module, at least to me, so there may be driver issues, but if it is working in the firmware image provided by Orange Pi (none so far), it should be possible to add this to other Linux images too. [Update: Orange Pi Zero schematics are now available]
The Aliexpress page explains the default version has 256MB RAM, but it’s not really clear whether / how we can buy the 512MB version. [Update: The 512MB version now available on Aliexpress for $8.99 + shipping]