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Posts Tagged ‘raspberry pi’

LibreELEC (OpenELEC Fork) v7.0.0 Released with Kodi 16.1

April 27th, 2016 2 comments

It’s not always easy to get along in life, and recently this has been true in Kodi developer community and related project, with Koying leaving his role as the main Kodi Android developer, possibly meaning Kodi 17 won’t get an Android port, and more recently several OpenELEC developers, not satisfied with some of the current project developments, decided to fork it, and create LibreELEC. The team of 25 or so members has now released LibreELEC v7.0.0 based on Kodi 16.1 which had also  been released a few days ago.

LibreELEC

The changelog only reads:

The 7.0.0 release contains Kodi Jarvis 16.1 (final) and a fix for Verisign SSL certificate changes that impacted Pandora add-on users. It also addresses a bluez crash, a firmware update for Intel Skylake users, and a fix for an Amlogic CEC issue on WeTek Play/Core. Most importantly it also contains our new logo branding.

The images are available for x86 (Intel/AMD PCs), Raspberry Pi and Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 2 & 3, WeTek Core and Play TV boxes,  as well as NXP i.MX6 based platforms. LibreELEC source code can be found on github.

I’m not entirely sure about the main differences with OpenELEC, but I understand LibreELEC developers intend to release a new version more often.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

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Chromium OS for SBC Aims to Turn Popular Development Boards into Chromeboxes

April 27th, 2016 3 comments

A team of developer has come together last December in order to provide Chromium OS, the open source project which Chrome OS is based on, to single board computers such as Raspberry Pi boards. So far, they’ve provided Chromium OS images for Raspberry Pi 2 & 3, but more boards should be supported in the future.

Chromium_OS_Raspberry_Pi

The latest version 0.5 release is said to be usable, but WiFi, Netflix, and HTML5 video are not working. The installation procedure is standard. You simply need to download and uncompress the archive (e.g. SamKinison_v0.5_Pi3_16GB.tar.xz), and dump it on a micro SD card with Win32DiskImage or dd. They have released different images for Raspberry Pi 2 & 3, and different SD card sizes (2GB and 16GB). Chromium OS is using 12 partitions, so that may be why they don’t provide a single image and resize the file system during the first time. You can report issue on their forum or Reddit.

The community has also received several boards from other companies including a few Shenzhen Xunlong’s Orange Pi boards, LeMaker Guitar & Hikey boards, FriendlyArm  NanoPi2, NanoPi Fire, NanoPi M2, & NanoPi M1, as well as a Roseapple Pi board. Pine64 also gave some Pine A64 for development, and one developer recently joined the community specifically to work on Pine64 port.

Via Liliputing

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What’s the Best Android TV Box?

April 25th, 2016 17 comments

I often get asked which TV box to buy, or what the best Android TV box is, and the answer is the TV box that fits your needs for the lowest price point possible. Considering there are around 2 millions apps for Android, they are multitudes of use cases, and you can’t provide a single answer for everybody. So I’ll provide a list of things to look for beside the processor, and three TV boxes that I think are worth considering, before providing alternatives for people who want cheaper devices.

Things to Look for

There are still a few things you may want to specifically look for before purchasing an Android TV box:

  • History of regular firmware updates – If a company provides regular firmware updates, your device is likely to get better and better overtime. The cheapest TV boxes normally follow the ship-and-forget model, so you can’t expect any improvements, unless some community members offer custom firmware. OTA (Over-the-air) updates
  • Support forums – That’s obviously a plus, as the company and other members should be able to help you, especially if it is a common problem.
  • 4K Support – If you want to purchase a device that will support 4K videos, you should look for devices with HDMI 2.0 for 3840×2160 or 4096×2160 output up to 60 Hz. Also make sure 10-bit HEVC/H.265 codecs are supported up to 4K @ 60 fps, and optionally VP9 codec.
  • 5.1 or 7.1 HD audio pass-through support – In case you own an amplifier or A/V receiver capable of handling Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS HD Master, DTS HD High Resolution, or DTS:X, you really need to check the reviews on this site or others, as many devices fall short despite claiming support. So far, I’ve never seen Dolby Atmos and DTS:X supported, but normally they should at least fall back to respectively Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master.
  • Automatic frame rate switching – This is the ability of the device to match the monitor refresh rate to the video frame rate to avoid a phenomenon called micro stutter, which makes the videos not as smooth as it could be at regular intervals, and especially noticeable when the video is panning. if this is properly implemented, e.g. 24 fps videos played using 24 Hz on the monitor, then micro-stutter disappears.
  • DRM support for HD and UHD video streaming – If you’re paying for video streaming services like Netflix, you’ll have to make sure they are specifically supported, with Widewine Level 1 DRM necessary, but not sufficient condition for playing the videos at HD or UHD (4K) resolution. Most devices can only stream videos in SD resolution due to the lack of proper DRM and a hard-to-get “Netflix license”.
  • Thermal design and storage performance – Many Android TV boxes have similar specifications, but IMHO, two key design choices are especially impacting the performance between apparently similar devices. Some TV boxes will overheat over time, leading to poor performance after a few minutes, while others with proper cooling will perform the same over hours. Fast storage will ensure the device boots quickly, apps load fast, and the device does not get slowed down while apps are installing or updating in the background.

MINIX NEO U1

 

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Criteria:

  • History of regular firmware updates – MINIX is known to update the devices for about a year or so.
  • Support forumsMINIX forums are quite active, and you should be able to get help from there.
  • 4K Support – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz is supported, with very good support for 4K 10-bit H.265 and H.264 videos. VP9 is not supported.
  • 5.1 or 7.1 HD audio pass-through support – Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio pass-through is working with the most recent firmware & Kodi/SPMC version.
  • Automatic frame rate switching – OK
  • DRM support for HD and UHD video streamingNetflix can only play with SD resolution, and only Widewine Level 3 is implemented.
  • Thermal design and storage performance – The device has a large heatsink with excellent cooling leading to constant performance, and the internal storage is one of the fastest I’ve ever seen in an Android TV box

So as long as you don’t really care about Netflix HD, or HD playback in other premium apps, I’d definitely recommend looking into this product. You can read MINIX NEO U1 review for details, and bear in mind that some bugs have been fixed since my review including HD audio pass-through.

Price: $129.90 shipped on Amazon US, GearBest, GeekBuying, etc… If you buy the excellent NEO A2 Lite air mouse with the device, the price is $149.90.

WeTek Core

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Criteria:

  • History of regular firmware updates – WeTek is providing updates to their devices over an extended period, and their are also one of the rare companies to provide OpenELEC and Linux images for their devices.
  • Support forums – You can get support on WeTek forums, which are also fairly active.
  • 4K Support – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K @ 30 Hz is supported, with decent support for 4K  H.265 and H.264 videos, as long as you don’t try to play 4K @ 60 fps videos. VP9 is not supported.
  • 5.1 or 7.1 HD audio pass-through support – Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio pass-through is working with the most recent firmware with Kodi or SMPC 16.x.
  • Automatic frame rate switching – OK
  • DRM support for HD and UHD video streamingNetflix HD is supported as they have all the proper licenses.
  • Thermal design and storage performance – The heatsink is not especially large, but I have not noticed any performance degradation over time during my testing. However, the internal storage is not quite as fast as it could be, so you may experience some slowdowns when installing apps in the background, or when the boxes does other I/O intensive activities.

WeTek Core is more suited to people wanting to watch Netflix in HD, or prefer a pure Linux experience (OpenELEC). You can find more details in WeTek Core review, and just like with NEO U1, several bugs have been fixed since I posted the review close to 6 months ago.

Price: $110.32 via WeTek website.

Nvidia Shield Android TV Box

Nvidia_SHIELDI have not reviewed the device myself, but I can read of lots of praise for it on the net.

Criteria:

  • History of regular firmware updates – Nvidia has provided several firmware updates since the device was released, and version 3.1 even upgrade the Android version to 6.0 marshmallow
  • Support forums – An active SHIELD Android TV board is running on Nvidia Geforce forum.
  • 4K Support – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz is supported with support for 4K  H.265, VP9 and H.264 video playback.
  • 5.1 or 7.1 HD audio pass-through support – Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio pass-through has been supported since OTA 2.0 firmware (The latest firmware is now version 3.1)
  • Automatic frame rate switching – OK for Kodi and Plex at least.
  • DRM support for HD and UHD video streamingNetflix HD & 4K are officially supported
  • Thermal design and storage performance – I could not find reports of overheating or throttling for SHIELD Android TV, and while I could not find the storage benchmarks, I’ve seen reviews saying the device performs well in all conditions.

Nvidia TV box will also be a better than any other TV boxes available so far if you are interested in 3D games. The main downside is the higher price, especially if you don’t happen to live in a region or country where it’s been officially released. It’s also running Android TV by default, which limits the number of apps in the play store. It’s however possibly to install a full (unofficial) version of Android.

Price: $199.99 on Amazon US, going up to around $245 with the gamepad when shipped to the US. If you live in some other countries the total price may go up to $300 to $400 once shipping, US forwarding, and taxes are taken into account.

Other Alternatives for less than $100

While the three boxes above have performance above the rest, not everybody wants to spend $100 or more on a TV box, so I’ll propose some alternatives.

  • MXQ S85 – This box is based on Amlogic S805 processor, and while the manufacturer does not provide direct support, Freaktab provides some alternative firmware, it’s one of the most popular device around (based on the traffic I get), and it was my best value for money TV box at the end of 2014.  So if tyou don’t mind about Netflix HD, 4K videos, and want something decent for 1080p H.264 and H.265 videos, it could be a good choice. MXQ S85 now sells for about $38 shipped.
  • Zidoo X1 II – This device supports 4K video playback of 10-bit H.265, and 10-bit H.264 up to 4K output @ 60 Hz. You’ll also get regurlar OTA firmware updates from Zidoo. However, don’t expect Netflix HD (SD should be OK), and some Android apps may feel slow due to the low-end GPU, so it’s better used exclusively as a media player, rather than an Android mini PC. Zidoo XI II is sold for $49 on GeekBuying, Banggood, or Aliexpress.
  • Raspberry Pi 2/3 Board – I’m not myself a big fan of using development boards as media players, since Android TV boxes price are now so low that you’ll end up paying more with a board once you had the extra accessories, potential codec fees, and the enclosure. In the case of Raspberry Pi 2 board, the VPU is also limited to 1080p30 without H.265 support, except with some hacks that may not work for all videos. Raspberry Pi 3 board does support H.264 1080p60 natively. However, some people disagree, with most of their content being 1080p24 / H.264, so Raspberry Pi board fit their requirements, even with 3D MVC support, and thanks to software developed over the years, they believe think it may be one of the best media solution available. This is a Linux based solution, as Android does not run properly on the boards.A complete media player kit based on Raspberry Pi 2 or 3 would cost $70 to $80.

I hope this post will help some people making an educated choice when purchasing a TV box.

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Android and Linux Benchmarks on MiQi Development Board

April 20th, 2016 22 comments

MiQi is an upcoming low cost development board powered by Rockchip RK3288 SoC that will sell for $35 with 1GB RAM and 8GB storage, and $69 for the version with a  2GB / 32GB combination. Since Rockchip RK3288 was launched in 2014, most available benchmarks were made on Android 4.4, and since MiQi is the first low cost board based on the processor, other RK3288 based board such as FireFly have not been that popular. So I’ve decided to run updated benchmarks in MiQi both in Android 5.1 and Linux (Lubuntu 14.04), which was easy since a dual boot image is pre-installed. But since I received an early sample without heatsink, I found a spare heatsink added some thermal paste and placed it on top of the processor and partially on RAM and eMMC flash.

MiQi_Board_HeatsinkMiQi Board Android 5.1 Benchmarks

I ran Antutu both using 1080p60 and 2160p30 video output, and for both output, the system achieved a little over 51,000 points, which remains a good score even today, and better than recent Rockchip RK3368 or Amlogic S905 based devices (35,000 to 38,000 points)

MiQi_Board_Antutu_6.0.1You can get the full details about the score here.

Vellamo Score is also very good with 3308 points for Chrome Browser, 3,021 points for the stock Browser, 2,019 for multicore, and 1,322 points for the Metal test.

MiQi_Board_VellamoIt’s not quite as fast as Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced, but still offers superior performance (orange bars) compared to most Android TV boxes on the market.

MiQi_Board_Vellamo_TV_Boxes3DMark Ice Storm Extreme is about the same as on Android 4.4 RK3288 devices launched about 18 months ago with 7,758 points.

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MiQi Board Linux / Ubuntu 14.04 Benchmarks

I’ve installed Phoronix, and repeated the benchmarks run recently on some other developer platforms such as Orange Pi boards, Banana Pi Boards, Raspberry Pi 3, ODROID-C2, ODROID-XU4, and so on.

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Let’s have a closer look at a couple of benchmarks.

MiQi_John_The_RipperJohn the Ripper is a password cracker benchmark that makes good of all available cores, and while octa-core boards like ODROID-XU4 and Banana Pi M3 do great, MiQi somehow edges out ODROID-XU4 board.

MiQi_Board_FLAC_Audio_EncodingFLAC audio encoding is mostly a single thread benchmark, and here ODROID-XU4 does best, followed closely by MiQi board. The diffference with

Full detailed results can be found  here.

The results are mostly in line with what to expect in theory, but bear in mind that while Android benchmarks are rather short, and most of the time cooling is not that much of an issue, Phoronix Test Suite benchmarks in Linux may take around one hour to complete, and the heatsink got really hot at some stage (67 degree with IR thermometer) and too hot to leave the fingers on it for more than a few seconds, so it’s quite possible that adding an fan to the heatsink may have yielded slightly better results in some cases.

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LabVIEW Now Supports Raspberry Pi 2 & 3, BeagleBone Black with LINX 3.0 Release

April 9th, 2016 No comments

LabView is a system-design platform and development environment with a graphical programming syntax that “makes it simple to visualize, create, and code engineering systems”.  It’s often used with National Instruments hardware such as myRIO, but LabView Makerclub has also developed LINX to bring support to Arduino and chipKIT, and with the latest LINX 3.0, support for BeagleBone Black, and Raspberry Pi boards has been added.

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Blink LED Demo for Arduino, BBB, and Raspberry Pi 3 – Click to Enlarge

You’ll need Labview 2014 (Windows only) or greater to work with LINX 3.0, as well as one of the supported development boards. Complete Labview 2014 + board kits are also sold with the  BeagleBone Black Physical Computing Kit and Raspberry Pi 2 Physical Computing Kit both going for $89 on Digilent.

LabView files are save in VI format, and the same file can be used on Arduino, BeagleBone Black, and Raspberry Pi board with minor modifications (e.g. GPIO pin number) as shown in the blink demo below.

You can access the tutorials (mostly videos) for LINX 3.0 to find out more.

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Low Cost Development Boards Linux Benchmarks – Raspberry Pi vs Banana Pi vs Orange Pi vs ODROID

April 2nd, 2016 20 comments

LoveRPi, a distributor and reseller of electronic boards and accessories, has run benchmarks from the Phoronix Suite on several low cost development boards:

  • $46* Banana Pi M2  based on Allwinner A31s quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.0 GHz with Armbian (Ubuntu 14.04)
  • $74* Banana Pi M3 based on Allwinner A83T octa core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.80 GHz with Debian 8.3
  • $32 ODROID-C1+ based on Amlogic S805 quad core Cortex A5 processor @ 1.5 GHz with Ubuntu 14.04
  • $40 ODROID-C2 based on Amlogic S905 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 2.0 GHz with Ubuntu 16.04
  • $74 ODROID-XU4 based on Samsung Exynos 5422 quad core ARM Cortex-A15 @ 2.0GHz quad core ARM Cortex-A7 @ 1.4GHz with Ubuntu 15.10
  • $10 Orange Pi One based Allwinner H3 Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Armbiam (Debian 8.3)
  • $15 Orange Pi PC based on Allwinner H3 Cortex A7 processor @ 1.3 GHz with Armbiam (Debian 8.3)
  • $39 Orange Pi Plus based on Allwinner H3 Cortex A7 processor @ 1.3 GHz with Armbiam (Debian 8.3)
  • $35 Raspberry Pi 2 based on Broadcom BCM2836 quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 900 MHz with Raspbian
  • $35 Raspberry Pi 3 based on Broadcom BCM2837 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Raspbian

* Banana Pi boards price includes shipping, while all other boards do not. The total price for each board may vary a lot for your country depending on shipping and local taxes.

Banana_Pi_Orange_Pi_Raspberry_Pi_ODROID_BenchmarkThe 7 benchmarks John The Ripper (password cracker), C-Ray (raytracer), Smallpt (illumination renderer), Himeno Benchmark (solver of pressure Poisson), OpenSSL, FLAC audio encoding, and Timed MAFFT alignment are mostly stressing the CPU’s integer and floating-point unit either for single thread or multi-thread performance, so other parts such as storage should have very little impact on the scores.

The table shows the Cortex A15 based ODROID-XU4 is ahead in most benchmarks, and from a CPU performance perspective deserves its higher price, while the Raspberry Pi 2 is now clearly the slowest of the bench.

John_The_Ripper_Banana_Pi_M3John The Ripper is the only test where ODROID-XU4 is outperformed, and the eight cores clocked at 2.0 GHz of Banana Pi M3 makes it the best boards of the lot, if you want to crack passwords with a cheap board. Interestingly Orange Pi boards performance is not that far of the one of Raspberry Pi 3.

Audio_Encoding_BenchmarkFLAC audio encoding must mostly relies on single thread performance as ODROID-XU4 is clearly ahead here. For this particular task a $10 Orange Pi One board will do just as well as a $35 Raspberry Pi 3.

If you want another take on Raspberry Pi 2 & 3 benchmarks, Mikronauts recently posted different benchmarks comparing the boards to ODROID-XU4, ODROID-C1+, LeMaker Guitar (Actions Semi S500 Cortex A9 processor), MIPS Creator CI20, etc…

Of course benchmarks are only one part of the story as you also need to consider the interfaces, system memory (e.g. there’s usually no difference between a system with 1GB RAM and one with 2GB RAM in benchmarks), and other requirements for your project or use case.

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Orange Pi Brick is a $1 Raspberry Pi Zero Compatible Smart Block

April 1st, 2016 24 comments

Shenzhen Xunlong Orange Pi boards are popular with some developers and hobbyists thanks to their low price, but the company is also aware that some are critical of their products. Some of the complaints include that their boards are too difficult to use due to lack of proper firmware and documentation, they are called “Orange Pi”, but aren’t even made with orange color, with some people even going as far as saying their boards are just bricks just good enough to collect dust. The company has taken all remarks into consideration, and has come up with a product that’s simple to use and orange, while breaking the price barrier, as it will be sold for just $1. Yep. You read that right. One Dollar.

I’ve worked with the company to get the exclusive, believe me you won’t find this on any other sites, and they’ve sent me an early sample. Usually packages are not really that interesting, but there was something very peculiar with the package that immediately jumped at me.

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That’s a shoe box! So I double checked with the company if they were really going to send Orange Pi Bricks to their customers in such boxes, and Steven, the company’s spokesperson, explained that indeed they’d send their new systems in recycled shoe boxes in order to limit their impact of the environment. Shenzhen Xunlong clearly trumps the competition as an environmentally friendly development board company!

Anyway. Time to meet Orange Pi Brick!
Orange_Pi_BrickIt’s a beautifully crafted orange block with three holes, some sort of Lego brick for adults if you will. It could be used to build a terrific wall, the sort of which you’ve never seen, or it could be laid out in a garden for decoration purpose, but the key selling point is support for Raspberry Pi Zero and other small factor development boards such as NodeMCU, LinkIt Smart 7688, Wemos D1 mini, and others…

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The central through hole is perfectly designed to fit such boards. It makes an all-weather rugged enclosure for your electronics, and it’s also perfect for discreet smart walls. The side holes and extrusions are both used to either embed modules or pass wires through, while providing a locking mechanism between bricks that allows for cement-less and modular walls.

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Orange Pi Brick, HDT22 Temperature sensor, Raspberry Pi Zero, and GPS module – Click to Enlarge

The bottom side of Orange Pi Brick has a patent pending Sensor or LockTM cavities to either place your sensors and/or add-on boards or as interlocking mechanism with other Orange Pi Bricks.  I tested the design with Wemos DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor and NavSpark mini GPS module connected to Raspberry Pi Zero board via Dupont cables, and the results was satisfying. The cavities will also provide some heat insulation for the temperature sensor which is always a plus.

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So you can be sure that nobody, nobody, and I mean no-bo-dy, is going to mess with a smart wall or project made with Orange Pi Brick, with the only limit being your imagination. I personally the Orange Pi Brick may become so popular that it may end up being simply called “The Brick” in the Maker communities.

I’d like to thank Shenzhen Xunlong for providing an exclusive Orange Pi Brick sample to CNX Software, and for their continuous and relentless commitment to Make Making Ever Greater Yet Again. The company is still making refinements to Orange Pi Brick, and working on a curved version called Orange Pi Brick Round, but both product should eventually find their ways on the company’s Aliexpress store for $1 plus shipping.

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DIGIO-128 Board Adds 128 GPIOs to Your Development Board

March 30th, 2016 1 comment

If you run out of GPIOs on your board, the easy way is to add an I2C GPIO expander, but those are normally limited to 8 or 16-channels, so  Land Boards decided to create a board with 8 IO expanders making it a 128 channel IO expander that works on Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, Arduino, and basically any boards with an I2C hardware or software implementation.

Digio-128_IO_expanderDIGIO-128 board specifications:

  • 8x Microchip MCP23017 16-bit I/O expander for up to 128 GPIOs
  • Communication Interface – I2C host interface with 100/400 KHZ operation; 4-pin host interface connector (Ground, Power, Clock, Data)
  • 8x 20-pin 2.54mm pitch connectors with 16 I/Os, 2x VCC, and 2 ground
  • 2x 4-pin interrupt connectors
  • Data Storage – Microchip 24LC024 2K EEPROM with board info.
  • 3.3V or 5V operation
  • Dimensions – 95 x 95 mm

You can find out to use the board in the Wiki for code for Raspberry Pi, and Arduino, Since it’s using address range 0x20-0x27 of the I2C, you could most probably use it for other boards such as ESP8266 module or STM8s boards for some extra efforts provided there’s enough storage and memory.

DIGIO-128 board can be purchased for $75 on Tindie, or directly from Land Boards product page. There’s also a version with 64-channels called DIGIO-64 going for $50.

Via GadgetExplained

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