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Firefly-RK3399 Rockchip RK3399 Development Board Launched on Kickstarter for $139 and Up

December 5th, 2016 14 comments

Firefly-RK3399 is the first, and for now the only one, development board equipped with the latest Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core Cortex A72 & A53 processor. It’s just not available yet, but the board has now been launched on Kickstarter where it is offered for $139 to $199 depending on options.

rk3399-development-board

Firefly-RK3399 board specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core big.LITTLE processor with dual core ARM Cortex A72 up to 2.0 GHz and quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-T860 MP4 GPU with OpenGL 1.1 to 3.1 support, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX 11 support
  • System Memory
    • Standard – 2 GB DDR3
    • Plus devkit – 4 GB DDR3
  • Storage
    • Standard – 16 GB eMMC flash, micro SD card, M.2 socket
    • Plus devkit – 32 GB eMMC flash, micro SD card, M.2 socket
  • Video Output & Display Interfaces
    • 1x HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
    • 1x DisplayPort (DP) 1.2 interface up to 4K @ 60Hz (via USB type C connector)
    • 1x eDP 1.3 (4-lanes @ 10.8 Gbps)
    • 1x MIPI DSI interface up to 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz
  • Video Decode – 4K VP9 and 10-bit H.265 video codec support up to 60 fps
  • Audio
    • Via HDMI or DisplayPort
    • 3.5mm headphone jack with stereo audio output and mic input
    • optical S/PDIF
    • 1x LINE Out and 1x speaker via GPIO header; Speaker: 1.5W or 2.5 W per channel for respectively 8Ω or 4Ω speakers
    • Built-in microphone
    • I2S output and input interface up to 8 channels
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45) port using RTL8211E transceiver, WiFi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO and Bluetooth 4.1 (AP6354 module)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 type C port
  • Camera
    • 2x MIPI CSI interfaces up to 13MP or 2x 8MP
    • 1x DVP camera interface up to 5MP
  • Debugging – 3-pin serial header
  • Expansion
    • 42-pin GPIO female header with access to 1x I2S, 2x ADC, 2x I2C, 1x SPI, 2x GPIO, 1x LINEOUT, 1x SPEAKER
    • 1x mini PCIe for LTE, 1x PCIe 2.1 M.2 slot B-key (2x PCIe, SATA, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HSIC, SSIC, Audio, UIM, I2C)
    • SIM card slot
  • Misc – RTC battery header; power & user LEDs; power, reset and recovery buttons; IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A DC (5.5×2.1mm barrel connector)
  • Dimensions – 12.4 x 9.3 mm (8-layer PCB)
  • Weight – Board: 89 grams; board + cooling fan and heatsink: 120 grams

The company will provide Android 6.0.1 and Ubuntu 16.04 firmware images for the board, including a dual boot image. There are also work-in-progress documentation and placeholder links to Android SDK and schematics in the product page which will hopefully soon link to the actual documents and files, as well as a work-in-progress Wiki. It may also be worth monitoring the company’s  Github account.

firefly-rk3399-boardThe company aims to raise $50,000 from the crowdfunding campaign, and you’d have to pledge $139 to get “Firefly-RK3399 Development Kit” with 2GB RAM, and 16GB flash together with a 12V/2A power adapter, a USB Type C adapter, a USB to UART serial board, a USB cable, and a a cooling fan (I assume with an heatsink). After the 50 first pieces, the price goes up to $159, and if you want the “Plus development kit” with 4GB RAM and 32GB flash, you’d need to pledge $199 instead. Shipping adds $5 to $30 depending on the destination country, and delivery is planned for March 2017.

Getting Started with Pine64 PADI IoT Stamp – Part 2: Serial Console, GCC SDK, Flashing & Debugging Code

November 28th, 2016 5 comments

PADI IoT Stamp module powered by Realtek RTL8710AF ARM Cortex M3 WiFi SoC is a potential competitor to Espressif ESP8266 modules.  Pine64, the manufacturer of the module, sent me their kit with a $2 IoT stamp, a breakout board, a USB to TTL debug board and a J-Link debug board. In the first part of the review I’ve shown the hardware and how to assemble PADI IoT stamp kit. In the second part I’m going to write a tutorial / getting start guide showing how to control the board with AT commands, build the firmware with GCC SDK, and finally demonstrate how to flash and debug the firmware with the J-Link debugger.

The Quick Start Guide indicates you need to connect the USB to TTL debug board to UART2 instead of UART1 as I did on the very similar B&T RTL-00 RTL8710AF module, and set connection settings to 38400 8N1. This did not work for me, and I had indeed to connect the USB to TTL board to UART0 instead (GB0 & GB1 pins).

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I’ll be using a Ubuntu 16.04 (Linux) computer for this quick start guide, but you can work with Windows and Mac OS X too, as tools as available for all three operating systems. So in my case I configure minicom to 38400 8N1 using /dev/ttyUSB0 device, and the boot log is almost the same as B&T RTL-00 with the same ROM version and toolchain:

There are however some changes, and for example the firmware used on PADI IoT Stamp has slightly more heap available. The guide also mentions ATS? should show all command available, but it’s not working for me:

Typing “help” as I did with RTL-00 module does not work either, and that does not look since documentation appears to be wrong again, but that’s not a big deal since we have all AT commands listed in that document. I could configure it as “IoTSTAMP” access point:

and enable the HTTP server with ATSW AT command:

It rebooted the IoT stamp with the same WiFi setting, and I could connect to its demo web page for configuration.

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Since everything is so similar to B&T RTL-00 I’ll just point out to the post “Getting Started with B&T RTL-00 RTL8710 Module – Serial Console, AT Commands, and ESP8266 Pin-to-Pin Compatibility” for more tests with different AT commands. I still tried to turn on and off the a GPIO pin using the ATSG command since it’s something I did not do with RTL-00:

The first line pull GC0 pin to high level (3.3V), while the second command brings it down to low level (0V). Details about ATSG command:

I did not connect an LED, but instead measured the value with multimeter and could confirm the voltage level was right in both cases.

B&T provided an SDK which required a an unlicensed / pirated version of IAR ARM Workbench, but Pine64/Realtek have released a GCC SDK that do you require you to use pirated software. You can download sdk-ameba-rtl8710af-v3.5a_without_NDA_GCC_V1.0.0 (198 MB) directly from Pine64 website. After unzipped the SDK you can enter sdk-ameba-rtl8710af-v3.5a_without_NDA_GCC_V1.0.0 directory, and open readme.txt to have a look at RTL8710 GCC SDK structure:

Since I only aim to write a getting started guide I won’t go through all of it, but we can see the low level source code & binary, some documentation, an example project, and some tools include Android and iOS apps, OTA download server and more.

Nevertheless the readme.txt tells us to first read “UM0096 Realtek Ameba-1 build environment setup – gcc.pdf” in order to setup our development environment. The instructions are available with Windows and Linux, but again I’m only test them using Ubuntu 16.04. They’ll be very similar since you’ll rely on cygwin in Windows, and if you run the latest Windows 10 you should be able to install Windows subsystem for Linux, and use the Linux instructions.

First you have to make sure some tools and libraries are installed:

then we can build the sample project:

If everything goes well the log should end showing “Image manipulating” as follows:

We can find the application in application/Debug/bin directory:

There’s also an ota.bin image which might be usable using OTA firmware update documentation, but for this guide I want to use the J-Link debugger that the company sent me instead. The GCC SDK is not for PADI IoT stamp, but instead for Realtek Ameba Arduino board, and you’ll be asked to connect the board through one of the micro USB port. That won’t work with IoT stamp since there’s no USB port at all, and instead you’ll need to go and back forth between multiple documentation, and connect the board as per the JTAG/SWD connections diagram shown below.

padi-iot-stamp-jlink-swd-connectionThat document also mentions that:

Required external power VCC 3.3V, JTAG/SWD didn’t supply power to the PADI IoT Stamp, VCC connection from PADI IoT Stamp is used by JTAG/SWD as voltage reference only.

At first, I did not see that, and used it without external power supply, but since I was not successful with the J-Link debugger (for another reason), so I ended up inserting PADI IoT stamp into a breadboard and added Ywrobot power board to provide an external 3.3V power source.

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I also soldered a 22uF capacitor, since I’ve read it’s not optional, as it may affect WiFi connection due to power issue. Once I complete the wiring, I connected the debugger to my computer:

There are two sets of instructions in UM96 document to download and flash the code: OpenOCD/CMSIS-DAP and JLink, so since I had a J-Link debugger, I went with that latter. First you have to download J-Link Software and Documentation pack and for my system I selected ” Linux, DEB Installer, 64-bit V6.12″. After accepting the EULA, I got JLink_Linux_V612_x86_64.deb file which I installed as follows:

Now we can start JLink GBD server for a Cortex-M3 as explained in the document:

So the JLink debugger is detected, but failed to connect to the target. Apart from the last error, everything looks exactly as in the documentation. That’s when I started to add an external power boar, solder the capacitor, and double check my connection. But finally after many trials and errors, I realized that I had to use a SWD connection (SWCLK/SWDIO signals) instead of JTAG…

Now keep the GDB server running, open a new terminal windows in the same directory (where you’ve built the code), and run make flash to download and flash the code to the board:

There will be a lot of message as above, and the GDB Server windows will show its own set of messages:

Now if you want to debug your code, you can run make debug to start the gdb console:

At this point, you’ll just need to use gdb command out of the scope of this post, but you can find tutorials online, for example this. You can also run make ramdebug in order to write ram_all.bin to RAM then enter gdb debug.

So that’s only the debug part, but if you want to create your own application, you’ll need to study the source code, and there are plenty of examples to help you in project/realtek_ameba1_va0_example/example_sources folder:

Note that this is only useful is you want to use PADI IoT stamp as a standalone module, and if you connect it to another board (e.g. Arduino) you can control it through the AT command set.

So while PADI IoT stamp is a usable platform with its GCC SDK, currently documentation is not always correct, and development should be reserved to experienced developers, as it’s not exactly as straightforward as Arduino, Lua or other firmware often used in ESP8266. Arduino will most likely never supported on IoT stamp due to memory constraints, but mbed support should come to the module in the first part of next year, which will make everything much easier.

If you want to go further, you can read the documentation on PADI IoT stamp resource page and the GCC SDK, checkout rebane’s openocd example, and/or read a forum post about controlling IoT stamp through Pine A64 board using Python.

If you want to play with your own, you can get PADI IoT stamp for $1.99, the breakout board kit for $0.5, the USB to serial debug board for $1.99, and the JLink (SWD) debugger is $7.99 on Pine64 online store. Please note that the two debug boards are standard components, so you may use your own, if you already have such hardware.

Firefly-RK3399 Development Board Will Fly with Rockchip RK3399 Hexa-core Processor

November 25th, 2016 11 comments

ARM Cortex A72 class development boards are usually quite expensive, and cheaper boards like Mediatek X20 development board ($200) appears to be out of stock very often, and software support is limited to Android 6.0. But things look to improve soon, as T-Chip is about to release Firefly-RK3399 development board powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core Cortex A72/A53 processor.

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Firefly-RK3399 (preliminary) specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core bit.LITTLE processor with dual core Cortex A72 up to 2.0 GHz and quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-T860MP4 GPU with OpenGL 1.1 to 3.0 support, OpenVG 1.1, OpenCL and DX 11.
  • System Memory – 2 to 4 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 to 32 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card
  • Video Output & Display Interfaces – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz, eDP 1.2 interface, YUV interface, 1x MIPI DSI interface
  • Video Decode – 4K VP9 and 10-bit H.265 video codec support up to 60 fps
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, optical S/PDIF, built-in microphone
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45) port, WiFi and Bluetooth
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 type C port
  • Camera – 2x MIPI CSI interfaces
  • Debugging – 3-pin serial header
  • Expansion
    • GPIO female header
    • mini PCIe 2.1 M.2 slot
    • SIM card slot
  • Misc – RTC battery header; power, reset and recovery buttons; IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V DC
  • Dimensions and Weight – TBD

The board will support Android 6.0.1 and Ubuntu 16.04, and can achieve around 75,000 points in Antutu. I got all information above from the video embedded below.

There’s a WIP Wiki page for the board currently in Chinese only, based on support for their previous Firefly-RK3288 board, we should soon have pretty good documentation and software support in English.

What I don’t know is pricing, but T-chip is not one of the Chinese manufacturers trying to cut price with almost zero margin, which explains why they can provide decent support for their board. For reference Firefly-RK3288 board is selling in 2GB/16GB and 4GB/32GB configuration on GeekBuying for respectively $159.99 and $219.99, so I’d expect the new board to go for less than $200 / $250 based on the same configurations. The end of the video also gives the clue that the board will be launched on Kickstarter, I just don’t know exactly when.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

PINEBOOK ARM Linux Laptop Powered by Allwinner A64 Processor to Sell for $89 and Up

November 24th, 2016 33 comments

Following up on Pine A64 board powered by Allwinner A64 quad core Cortex A53 processor, Pine64 has decided to work on a software compatible laptop based on the processor. PINEBOOK comes with 2GB RAM, 16 GB flash storage, a 11.6″ or 14″ display, and the usual ports you’d expect on such device.

pinebookPINEBOOK specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A64 quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash and micro SD slot up to 256 GB
  • Display – 11.6″ or 14″ IPS LCD display with 1280 x 720 resolution (no touchscreen)
  • Video Output – mini HDMI port for external display
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5 mm headphone jack, built-in microphone and stereo speakers
  • Connectivity – WiFi 802.11 b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Camera – 1.2 MP camera
  • User Input Devices – Full size QWERTY keyboard, 5″ touchpad
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Battery – 10,000 mAh LiPo battery
  • Dimensions – 352 x 233 x 18 mm
  • Weight – 1.2 kg

The laptop is not based on Pine A64+ board, nor the upcoming SOPINE A64 module, and instead they had to design a custom board to meet the thickness requirements.

pinebook-connectorsPINEBOOK should support most of the operating systems supported by PINE A64(+) boards including Android 5.1/7.0, Remix OS, Debian, Ubuntu, and others, but the firmware requires some (minor) modifications since the laptop is using LPDDR3 RAM.

The laptop is not available for sale right now, but we know the 11.6″ version will cost $89, the 14″ version $99, and you can register to get notified of the launch. You may also find a few more details on PINEBOOK product page.

Khadas Vim Amlogic S905X Android and Linux Development Board Sells for $50 and Up

November 17th, 2016 14 comments

Last summer I wrote about Shenzhen Tomato TVI development board powered by Amlogic S905X processor, and at the time the company focused on business to business customers, but the board is now sold as Khadas Vim through GearBest with 2 GB RAM, 8 or 16 GB flash, and price starting at $49.99 including shipping.

3 Stacked Khadas Vim Boards

3 Stacked Khadas Vim Boards

Khadas Vim and Vim Pro boards’ specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905X quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with penta-core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage
    • Vim – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
    • Vim Pro – 16 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video & Audio  Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Connectivity
    • Vim – Fast Ethernet port, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (Ampak AP6212 module) with IPEX connector
    • Vim Pro – Fast Ethernet port, dual band 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 (Ampak AP6255) with IPEX connector
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports with 500mA fuses, 1x USB type C port for power and USB devices (no video)
  • Expansion header – 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header with USB, UART, I2C, ADC, PWM, JTAG, I2S, and GPIOs
  • Misc – Blue & red LED, dual channel IR, power/function/reset keys, header for RTC battery
  • Power Supply –  5V via USB type C or extra header with 2.6A fuse
  • Dimensions – 82.0 x 57.5 x 11.5 mm
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We already knew the board supports Android 6.0, OpenELEC 7.0 and Ubuntu 16.04, we we did not have any details about documentation and source code. You’ll find lot of info include u-boot and Linux 3.14 source code, as well as schematics (PDF) among other things on Khadas’ Github account.

The board is sold as Khadas Vim with 1 GB RAM and 8 GB RAM for $49.99 and Vim Pro with 2GB/16GB configuration for $64.99, which you can purchase on GearBest. The acrylic case shown in the first picture is included with the board, as well as a user’s manual. You may also be interested in the manufacturer’s website (Shenzhen Wesion Tech), where you’ll find not only more info about Vim boards, but discovered the company is also making Rockchip RK3366 based GeekBox board and landingship baseboard.

Banana Pi M2 Ultra Allwinner R40 Development Board with SATA & GbE Sells for $46

November 16th, 2016 33 comments

Allwinner A10 and A20 processors have been quite popular in the past, since they could handle Fast or Gigabit Ethernet and SATA natively, included decent multimedia capabilities, and were found in low cost hardware such as Cubieboard 2 or MeLE A1000. Since then we’ve had a few boards with SATA using newer and faster processors without SATA IP, meaning it was usually implemented using a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge leading to mediocre to average performance depending on the implementation and selected bridge. Allwinner R40 is the successor of Allwinner R20 with a faster quad core Cortex A7 processor, but keeping Gigabit Ethernet, SATA, and most features of its predecessor. The good news is that Banana Pi has now launched the promised M2 Ultra development board based on the new processor for $45.80 + shipping on Aliexpress (Total for me: $48.35).

allwinner-r40-development-boardBanana Pi M2 Ultra specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner R40 quad Core ARM Cortex A7 processor with ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2G DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (16, 32 or 64GB as options), SATA interface, micro SD slot up to 256 GB
  • Connectivity – 1x Gigabit Ethernet port, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6212 module)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 port up to 1080p60, 4-lane MIPI DSI display connector
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, built0in microphone
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Camera – CSI camera connector
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header with GPIOs, I2C, SPI, UART, ID EEPROM, 5V, 3.3V, GND signals.
  • Debugging – 3-pin UART for serial console
  • Misc – Reset, power, and u-boot buttons; IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V via barrel connector, or 3.7V Lithium battery via battery connector on the back of the board. AXP221s PMIC
  • Dimensions – 92 x 60 mm

Banana Pi claims BPI-M2 Ultra board run Android, Debian, Ubuntu, Raspbian, and other operating systems. You’ll find some images on the Wiki, and while the Android section link does not work, and you can download a Linux 3.10 + busybox image, Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial minimal, Debian 8 Jessie Mate, Debian 8 Jessie Lite, and Ubuntu MATE 16.04 from either baidu or Google drive links. There’s also a Tina-IOT os section that’s empty right now, as is the “source code on github” section, and a few others. So documentation is work in progress.

banana-pi-m2-ultraI’m expecting Allwinner R40 boards to become popular at least for some communities such as armbian, where some members require  fast storage and networking performance for their project(s). We’ll have to hope Allwinner has improved SATA write performance compared to Allwinner A20, as in my review of Cubietruck (Metal Case), I found that while read speed was very good at up to 180 MB/s, write speed was limited to around 36 MB/s using a SATA SSD.

You may also find some more details on Banana Pi BPI-M2 Ultra product page.

Giveaway Week Winners – November 2016

November 9th, 2016 24 comments

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to announce the results the whole world is eagerly waiting for today, and as you’ve probably guessed it, by that I mean CNX Software Giveaway Week 2016 contest… obviously… We had seven winners sharing the prizes shown below from Android TV boxes, to a Linux TV stick, and an Android virtual reality headset.

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2016 has been an interesting year so far, putting statisticians, pundits, pollsters, and generally speaking odds to shame, and random.org apparently decided to join that trends, as while most of the blog’s traffic – and I’d assume entries – come from the western world (North America / Western Europe), random.org mostly selected winners from other countries:

  • VR SKY CX-V3 VR headset – Dainis, Latvia
  • WeTek Core TV box – Homer, Morocco
  • Vana Player Hifi Linux audio player – Fakham, Pakistan
  • MeLE PCG02U Ubuntu TV stick – Ziggy, Singapore
  • Coowell V4 Android tv box with camera – Pavlos, Greece
  • K1 Plus T2 S2 Android STB – Lasent, Hungary
  • Zidoo X9 Android TV box with HDMI input – Upsakas Kontoritarve, Estonia

I’ve just sent the 7 parcels to the above winner this morning.

giveaway-winners-parcelsThank you everybody for playing. Let’s do it again sometimes.

Orange Pi PC 2 Development Board based on Allwinner H5 SoC Launched for $20

November 5th, 2016 51 comments

Shenzhen Xunlong had already launched Orange Pi Zero, the cheapest ARM Linux board with networking you can find today, earlier this week, and I’ve just been informed the company has now listed the more powerful Orange Pi PC 2 board powered by Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 processor on Aliexpress for $19.98 plus shipping.allwinner-h5-development-boardOrange Pi PC 2 specifications:

  • 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

orange-pi-pc-2-boardThe 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.

You may also be interested in Orange Pi PC 2 Schematics (PDF), and visit Orange Pi PC 2 product page for more details, that is if it loads, and it does not here…