Archive

Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

ESP8266 WiFi Serial Module Costs Just $5

August 28th, 2014 6 comments

Wi-Fi is great because it’s ubiquitous, and rather fast for a wireless standard. However, it drains batteries fast, and Wi-Fi modules are usually much more expensive than Bluetooth modules for instance. There’s not much that can be done with regards to power consumption, but thanks to ESP8266 module, it’s now feasible to add Wi-Fi to your Arduino board, or others, for just $5 including shipping on Aliexpress, but SeeedStudio also have it for $6.95. If you buy 1,000 pieces, it goes down to about $3 per unit.

ESP8266_Wi-Fi_Module
As reported by Hackaday, this module embeds ESP8266 SoC which takes care off all IP stacks, a bit like Texas Instruments CC3000 SoC, but it’s just much cheaper.

Here are some of the specifications of the module (and processor):

  • SoC – Espressif Systems ESP8266 32-bit RISC processor with 802.11 b/g/n support(32-pin QFN package), Interfaces: SDIO 2.0, SPI, UART, I2S
  • Wi-Fi – 802.112 b/g/n with WEP, TKIP, AES, and WAPI engines, Wi-Fi direct (P2P), and soft-AP
  • Header – 8-pin header with GND, VCC (3.3V), Rx and RX, and 4 NC pins.
  • Standby power consumption – < 1.0mW (DTIM3)
  • Dimensions – 21 x 11 mm
  • Weight – 3 grams

SeeedStudio has provided documentation for the module including the AT Instruction Set and ESP8266 Specifications both in Chinese only, but there’s also a translation of the datasheet in English. There;s also a “IoT SDK” available for the board that includes tools, scripts, binary libraries, and an IoT demo programmed in C language.

Schematics with ESP8622 Wi-Fi SoC

Schematics with ESP8622 Wi-Fi SoC

There are very few references to ESP8266 on the net for now, so even if it’s feasible to use it with Arduino boards for example, somebody (YOU!) still have to write the AT command set to control the module, and it won’t be as easy as using an already supported Wi-Fi shield, until a library makes it to the Arduino IDE. One developer plans to interface it with TI MSP430 MCU.

Thanks to Freire!

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Categories: Hardware Tags: IoT, arduino, espressif, seeed studio, wifi

Review of UyeSee G1H Rockchip RK3288 Android TV Box

August 27th, 2014 4 comments

UyeSee G1H is one of the first Android TV boxes powered by Rockchip RK3288 quad core Cortex A17 SoC. I’ve already listed specs, and shown a few pictures of the device and the board in my “UyeSee G1H Unboxing” post, so today I’ll write a full review, checking out the user interface, testing video playback capabilities, network and storage performance, play a few games, check hardware features are working as expected, and runs some benchmarks on the platform.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

There’s an infrared remote control with the device. I’ve inserted a CR2032 battery, and although it works great in the user interface, it becomes useless with Android apps, so instead I’ve opted to use Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse which brings mouse and keyboard support. Before powering up the device, I’ve connected an HDMI cable, the RF dongle for Mele F10 Deluxe, a USB hard drive, and an Ethernet cable. Connecting the power supply will start the device automatically, and the boot is super fast compared to other devices I’ve tested, as it takes about 18 seconds only.

UyeSee_G1H_Android_Home_Default_640px

UyeSee G1H Android Launcher (Click for Original Size)

There’s a custom launcher as shown above, as well as the stock Android home screen as shown below. The status bar is disabled by default, but I’ve enabled it for easier control with the air mouse, and to take screenshots. It looks pretty, but unfortunately this must have been designed for the Chinese market, and all buttons report “App not installed”, except the Settings button which goes to the Android settings. You can use the arro keys to navigate, and if you go right, you’ll find the all the you’ve installed apps. This menu has some animation that are extremely smooth, probably thanks to the Mali-T764 GPU. However, if you click on the screenshot above you’ll find out the resolution is set to 1280×720. I’d assume most people don’t buy the latest Android mini PC to get a 720p machine, but you can change to 1920×1080 resolution in the settings, and the user interface will also be set to 1080p. I don’t have a 4K TV so 4K options did not show up. The launcher above won’t look very nice at 1080p, because graphics are made for 720p, and a large part of the bottom of the screen will not be used. There’s no such problem when switching to the stock Android home screen.

UyeSee_G1H_Android_Home_640px

Android Home Screen (Click for Original @ 720p)

Going to the Settings, we’ve got all usually Wireless and Networks options for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, including VPN, Portable Hotspot and so on. There’s a Home menu to select the launcher, and ScreenshotSetting  menu, both of which I did not notice in most other firmware. The Sound settings like you choose between “Default Output” (PCM / Down-mixing), “Spdif Passthough”, and HDMI Bitstream (HDMI pass-through), but I don’t have an audio receiver yet, so I could not try the pass-though options. The Display settings will allow you to hide or show the status bar, adjust for overscan, select HDMI, YPbPr, and “TV” (Composite) video output, as well as the resolution: “auto”, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720×576 or 720×480. If you have a 4K TV, 4K options should show as well. I’ve been informed there’s currently a bug for 4K @ 60Hz, but it will be resolved in the next firmware upgrade. I’ve done most of my testing with HDMI, and I had no problem, but I also tested composite and component (YPbPr) video output.

Composite (Click to Enlarge)

Composite (Click to Enlarge)

Component (Click to Enlarge)

Component (Click to Enlarge)

Composite looks fine, but there’s a green line on my TV that could not be removed even after using the “Screen Scale” menu. YMMV. Component output is more problematic as it is only shown in Grey (Y signal), I could not get the Chrominance signal to show which any cable combination I tried.

About_UyeSee_G1HMy device comes with a 8GB NAND flash, and they’ve partitioned it with a 1.91GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps, and a 3.88 GB “NAND FLASH” partition for data. I really prefer a single partition for everything, but even after installing all apps I needed for testing I still had 1.17GB free in the “Internal Storage” partition. It may become a problem if you install many apps, especially games which can be rather large.

Other settings are pretty standard, and the developer option are enabled by default. The “About device” section reports the model number as “rk3288″, Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.0. The firmware is not rooted, and I don’t have male to male USB cable, so I could not root it via the OTG port.

I could install most applications I tried on Google Play Store including Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Beach Buggy Blitz, etc…, but a few would just report my device is not compatible such as Real Racing 3 (but many Android STB have the same issue) and Vidonn activity tracker app. I have had some 941 errors from time to time, failing to install an app, but these were possibly network error unrelated to G1H. Paid apps such as Sixaxis Controller installed properly. In order to play Riptide GP2, I also installed Amazon AppStore without issue.

There’s no power button, so you can’t power off the device gracefully, only put it in standby mode with the IR remote control power button, The soft power button in the status did not work for me. Despite having only a 5V/2A power adapter, connected a USB hard drive, I did not seem to have issues with a lack of power, except possibly at the end of one Antutu test at 1080p where the screen went blank. The box can get pretty hot however. After Antutu, the max temperature on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 53 °C and 60 °C, after after playing Riptide GP2 for 30 minutes at 1080p, it went all the way up to 63 °C and 71 °C, which means the processor even gets hotter, possibly well over 80 °C, I’m not sure this can be good if this happens too often.

The firmware is very smooth most of the time, except when it’s writing to the flash, while installing an app for example, where the mouse pointer may not react for short periods of time. Stability is OK, but I had the screen turn off at the end of Antutu benchmark once, requiring a power cycle, and another time the box rebooted itself, while browsing files in ES File Explorer. I like the fact that you can switch between 720p and 1080p user interface, as you want prefer the former for smoother games, and the former for video playback for example.

You can watch the video below to see what the UI looks like at 1280×720 and 1920×1080 resolution, as well as the difference settings options available.

Video Playback

I normally play videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet using XBMC. However, the box does not come with XBMC, and currently XBMC does not support hardware decoding for HEVC, so instead I’ve chosen to test videos with MXPlayer. I did try to install XBMC using XBMC Updater, and downloaded both stable and nightly apk, but the system reported the apk were not recognized. So I tried to install SPMC via Google Play instead, but atfirst I got a 941 error, and I could only manage install it after most testing was complete at a later stage. Using Es File Explorer, I connected to my SAMBA share, and unfortunately even 480p video were buffering like crazy, so I ended up using a USB hard drive. The Ethernet issue may not be due to G1H, but my Gigabit switch, as I’ll explain in the networking section. Nevertheless, the takeaway is that videos were played from USB hard drive with MXPlayer, unless otherwise stated.

I start with videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and as well as videos with H.265/HEVC codec from Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – Video playing at an estimated 2 to 4 fps, with most frames skipped [SPMC test: OK, but every second or so, there will be a subtle change of color / screen jump]
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK, much smoother than any other device I’ve tried, and according to MXPlayer using HW decode.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – No video, audio only.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, no problem even in fast moving scenes
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK. (Audio needs to be decoded by S/W)
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK  (Audio needs to be decoded by S/W)
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Most high definition audio codecs (except AC3 and TrueHD) could not play with MXPlayer, but I tried later with SPMC (XBMC fork on Google Play), and all could play:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO file could play in MX Player but with video only, I could not get audio to work, even switching to software decode.

Rockchip RK3288 is supposed to handle 4K videos, even with HEVC, so let’s try a few in MX Player:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Can play but with some slow downs from time to time. I can get audio by switching to audio S/W decoding.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK, but some white “fog” appears on the black background
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Cannot play.

Several AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos in my library could play fine with SPMC. I also played a complete 1080p video (1h50) in the box, and I had no issues either.

At first, I was not too happy with video playback using MX Player only, but when you put SPMC (XBMC) into the mix, it looks much better. The main thing you lose (confirmed) with XBMC is H.265 / HEVC hardware video decoding.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consists in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash using, and vice versa, repeating the test three times using ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance appears to be inconsistent, as I had three much different transfer times: 3m20s, 2m43s, and 4m31s, averaging a rather disappointing 1.31 MB/s. I also tested Miracast via Rockchip’s “Wi-Fi display” app included with the firmware, and after a few tries I managed to mirror my Android phone display.

Wi-Fi_UyeSee_G1H

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

Now.. Ethernet.. This gets interesting. At first, when I used the device connected to Ethernet, it felt sluggish in the Play Store, and soon found some serious issues while transferring a file from a SAMBA share using ES File Explorer, as throughput was around 300 to 500 KB/s most of the time, and sometimes it would even stall. This looks very similar to the issue I had to Wetek Play. I’ve recently purchased a D-Link DGS-1005A 5-port Gigabit switch for test, and used it in my last five reviews. That means three products had no problem with the switch, and two had issues. Which item is guilty is difficult to prove. So I decided to insert my older (D-Link) 10/100M hub, between the device and the Gigabit switch and it worked. I tried to connect the device to my Gigabit switch with a different cable, and it also worked, but the connection is only 100M. If I used the original cable (the same I used for all other reviews), it will detect a Gigabit connection, but the Ethernet LEDs will “funnily” blink on the device, and the Link LED will turn on and off. So at the end of the day, I did not manage to get a proper Gigabit connection, so I tested Fast Ethernet, and the result is OK.

Ethernet_UyeSee_G1H

Ethernet Performance in MB/s

Like with Probox2 EX, this test used the ES File Explorer version with improved SAMBA performance, which may have helped a bit for Ethernet, but did nothing for Wi-Fi.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Transferring a picture via Bluetooth worked just fine, after pairing G1H with my Android smartphone (ThL W200).

I skipped Sixaxis test for PS3 Bluetooth Gamepad support, as it required root.

After installing Vidonn app for Vidonn X5 activity tracker, it could connected via Bluetooth 4.0 LE to retrieve the data.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 could be mounted and accessed successfully.
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions. and as usual the Linux file systems are not supported, at least not by default.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

After setting the custom locations set to /mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS in A1 SD Bench to benchmark the NTFS partition, I got a read speed of 27.5MB/s and a write speed of 25.98MB/s.

UyeSee_G1H_USB_Drive

USB Hard Drive Performance in MB/s

There’s not that much differences between difference platforms at USB 2.0 speeds.

Last time, the eMMC flash in Probox2 EX could be read at 27.57MB/s, and written at 15.11 MB/s, and the eMMC used in G1H as better read speed at 44.50 MB/s, but much slower write speed at 7.3 MB/s, which may explain some the rare slowdowns I experienced while playing with this mini PC.

USB Webcam

Skype sort of worked with my UVC USB webcam. I tested audio successfully with the Echo service, and I could see the video, but as I tried to leave a video message the app crashed.

Google Hangouts could detect the webcam, but when I did a video call the camera image did not show up.

Gaming

With Mali-T764 GPU, Rockchip RK3288 should be a star when it comes to video games. I’ve tested the three games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. Candy Crush Saga unsurprisingly worked fine as with any device. Beach Buggy Blitz is a little more challenging, and based on my experience Riptide GP2 is even more demanding.

Testing games was actually the first thing I did, at first the resolution was set to 720p. I used Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to control both games. I went to Beach Buggy Blitz settings, and maxed out the graphics settings which normally make devices based on Amlogic S802 struggle to have a decent framerate. But with UyeSee G1H, the game was just extra smooth. I did the same with Riptide GP2, and yet again very smooth most of the time. I could even win races, or battle with the lead driver at all games. That’s not usual at all, as normally I’m always fighting for third place in other Android TV boxes :). Beside the high framerate, one of the reasons gameplay is better is that I don’t have lag with Tronsmart Gamepad in this device.  Switching to 1080p, Beach Buggy Blitz is still super smooth, except sometimes during the first one of two seconds of the game. Riptide GP2 is still very playable, and I’m still fighting for victory!, but it feels like the framerate may drop in the low 20, or even 15 at times. I’ve played Riptide GP2 for 30 consecutive minutes, and albeit the box gets very hot (70 C), everything is stable and smooth.

UyeSee G1H Benchmark

Since it’s my first Rockchip RK3288 device, I’ve run a few more benchmarks than usual, and also checked the CPU details with CPU-Z app.
Rockchip_RK3288_CPU-Z
CPU-Z has apparently not yet heard about Rockchip RK3288, as it reports a Rockchip RK3066 processor. The CPU architecture is 0xc0d, which stands for ARM Cortex A12, whereas Cortex A17 should be 0xc0e, according to this. So finally Rockchip RK3288 might be a Cortex A12, at least for the first versions. If there are other ways to check let me know.  The CPU clock can scale between 126MHz and 1.8 GHz, the GPU is correctly detected as Mali-T764, and there’s indeed 2GB RAM in my device, but CPU-Z only takes the “internal flash” partition reporting 1.91 GB storage for the 8 GB flash.
UyeSee_G1H_Antutu
Antutu 4.x score is excellent with 40,497, one of the top device on the market. That score has been achieved with a resolution of 1280×720, switching to 1920×1080 brings the score down to a still very good 39273 points. I’ve created a table below showing comparing S802 in Probox2 EX, and RK3288 in G1H  to find out where it shine in the tests:

Amlogic S802 Rockchip RK3288
Multitask 5744 10415
Runtime 2018 4698
RAM Operation 2997 2066
RAM Speed 1596 2797
CPU integer 3781 3162
CPU float-point 2815 5218
2D Graphics 1648 (607×1008) 1641 (1280×672)
3D graphics 8717 (607×1008) 8404 (1280×672)
Storage I/O 1801 1461
Database I/O 630 635

Results are quite surprising. According to Antutu 4.x scores, RK3288 shines in multitask, runtime, and CPU floating point testes, but graphics are about equivalent to S802 (at slightly different resolutions), and CPU integer is faster in the S802 @ 2.0 Ghz compared to RK3288 @ 1.8 Ghz. Probox2 EX has slightly better storage performance compared to UyeSee G1H but this part is mostly independent from the processor.

I also tried to run Quadrant, but all I got was a grey screen as I ran the test. Vellamo benchmark is now at version 3.0, so I can’t really compared it to earlier tests I did, but UyeSee G1H performance is also pretty good here.

Vellamo_UyeSee_G1H_Rockchip_RK3288In the new Multicore (beta) benchmark, this Rockchip RK3288 solution even beats all other players.

Rockchip_RK3288_Vellamo_MulticoreIn the browser score, UyeSee G1H is only outperformed by LG G3 smartphone (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801), and in the metal score, its performance is about equivalent to LG Nexus 5 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801).

Despite the clear superior performance in games, the graphics benchmarks in Antutu were somewhat disappointing, so I’ve run Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark.

3DMarks_RK3288_UyeSee_G1H

3DMark Benchmark Results (Click to Enlarge)

A score of 7278 points is about equivalent to a phone based on Snapdragon 600 with Adreno 320 GPU. Many recent devices based on Qualcomm 800 and greater get score above 10,000 or simply maxes out the test, so again I was expecting the GPU to perform better in benchmarks.

Conclusion

First, I’d like to thank Shenzhen UyeSee Technology for being the first company to send me a product based on Rockchip RK3288. The product is still new, and although there are positives, there’s still some work that need to be done. Compared to existing products, the main benefits of Rockchip RK3288 are HEVC video decoding and a 3D gaming performance unmatched by other Android TV boxes

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Excellent 3D graphics performance for games, which for some reasons does not really show in benchmarks.
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output which may be important for some videos. 4K will eventually support 60Hz thanks to HDMI 2.0.
  • HEVC video decoding support
  • OTA firmware updates appear to be supported (but I cannot confirm).
  • Webcam supported in Skype (although it did not work in Google Hangouts)

CONS:

  • Rare stability issues (1 reboot, one black screen over 8 hours of testing)
  • Lacklustre Wi-Fi performance
  • XBMC not pre-installed
  • Issues with some videos in MX Player (MPEG2, several HEVC/H.265 can’t be played, some audio issues)
  • Somewhat slow eMMC flash write speed potentially leading to slowdowns
  • Potential Gigabit Ethernet issues, at least confirmed with my switch (D-Link DSG-1005A).
  • No proper power off (standby only)
  • The device can get pretty hot (70+ C)
  • A few apps are not compatible in Google Play
  • Video output – Component only output the Luminance signal with my TV, composite has a green bar at the bottom
  • “TV” Launcher is only made for 720p resolution

I had quite a few problem with networking with this hardware. First Wi-Fi is stable, but relatively slow, and then the box did not want to play nice with my Gigabit Ethernet switch, but connection and performance were fine with a Fast Ethernet hub. Video playback is decent, but may still need more work, a version of XBMC with support for H.265 would be nice, but I’d assume at first all Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes will suffer from the same flaw, at least initially. If you’d like to play some 3D games this TV box will give you a much better experience than what you can achieve with the fastest Cortex A9 solution (Rockchip RK3188, Amlogic S802), and after testing the box, this is currently the main selling point of this media player.

You may find more information and/or contact the company via G1H product page. UyeSee G1H is not yet listed on their Aliexpress Store, but some hardware with similar specs, but different enclosure, can be bought for $90 including shipping on Aliexpress, so we might expect a similar price for G1H.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

$25 GL.iNet 6416A is an Hackable OpenWRT Router with Easy UART and GPIO Access

August 25th, 2014 5 comments

There are plenty of low cost routers supporting OpenWRT, but GL.iNet 6416A has several advantages compared to devices like TP-Link WR703N. Both are based on Atheros AR9931, but GL.iNet router has more memory and storage (64MB RAM + 16MB Flash vs 32MB RAM + 4MB Flash), two Ethernet ports instead of just one, and 6 GPIOs, the serial pins, and power signals (5V, 3.3V and GND) are all easily accessible via though holes or headers. Gl.iNet 6416A can be purchased for about $25 on DealExtreme or Amazon US, and it used to be listed on eBay, but is now out of stock.

GL.inet_6416AGl/iNET 6416A specifications:

  • Wi-Fi SoC – Atheros AR9331 MIPS processor @ 400 MHz
  • System Memory – 64MB RAM
  • Storage – 16MB Flash
  • Connectivity – 2x 10/100 Mbit Ethernet ports, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-FI up to 150Mbps
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x micro USB port for power
  • Debugging – Serial console via UART header (GND, Tx, Rx)
  • Expansion – 6 GPIOs, 5V, 3.3V, and GND.
  • Misc – Reset button, LED indicator
  • Power – 5V (micro USB)
  • Dimension – 5.8 x 5.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Weight 42 grams.

The device is also said to support USB webcams (MJPG or YUV), and USB mass storage with FAT32, EXFAT, EXT-2/3/4, and NTFS file systems using the stock firmware. There are also Android and iOS apps to manage the router.

GL.iNet_6416A_Board

GL.iNet 6416A Board Description – Source: Stian Eikeland

6416A router, and its little brother, 6408A, with 8 MB flash, are now part of mainline OpenWRT. You can also follow news and access short tutorials for the board on GL.iNet website, and check out the product page.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

WRTNode is a Hacker-Friendly Open Source Hardware OpenWRT Wi-Fi Module Selling for $25

August 20th, 2014 4 comments

There are now some tiny and low cost ($15 to $20) Wi-Fi modules supporting OpenWRT such as VoCore and AsiaRF AWM002. However due to their small size they may not be that hacker’s friendly as they can’t have 2.54mm headers due to heir small size, and I’ve recently received AsiaRF AWM002 only to find out it not only needs 3.3V supply voltage, but also 1.8V and 1.2V. So I’d need to make my own power circuit with the required LDOs, or purchase a $20 base board to use the module. Here comes WRTnode another larger Wi-Fi module but with more usable 2.54mm headers, and based on the more powerful Mediatek MT7620N processor @ 600MHz.

WRTnodeWRTnode hardware specifications:

  • Processor – Mediatek  MT7620N 600MHz MIPS CPU (MIPS24KEc)
  • System Memory – 64MB DDR2
  • Storage – 16MB SPI flash
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 2T2R 802.11n 2.4 GHz up to 300Mbps
  • Expansion Headers – 2x with access to  23GPIOs, JTAG, SPI, UART Lite, USB2.0 host
  • USB – 1x micro USB
  • Dimensions – 45mm x 50mm

OpenWRT is based on BARRIER BREAKER release with various patches (opencv 2.4.8, linino, …), demos (opencv, mechanical control, and RESTful), and source code available on github. The project also claims to “open hardware”, but for now they’ve only released the schematics (PDF), with the BoM and PCB layout being released layer. The board has apparently been designed by a company called DFRobot (TBC), and robotics projects and shields are planned for WRTnode, and “WRTnode IoT development framework SDK” will be released at a later stage with a graphical IDE, “enhanced AI algorithms”, RESTful, and more.

You can watch a demo with WRTnode running OpenCV and controlling uARM robotic arm to pickup coins, and move them into a cup.

They have already sold a few beta boards in China, but the module is not currently available for purchase, but it will sell for $25+ shipping on DFrobots, SeeedStudio, and a few other sites. You can find more information on WRTnode website.

Via Olof Johansson

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

$79 STACK Box Home Automation / IoT Gateway Supports Wi-Fi, Ethernet, BLE, XBee, X10, Z-Wave and More (Crowdfunding)

August 20th, 2014 No comments

Cloud Media (Syabas) is better known for their Linux based “Popcorn Hour” media players, and last year I reviewed their FreeOTT streaming media player powered by a Cavium ARM11 processor. The company is now entering the home automation market with the STACK Box (aka XuanBox) also powered by a Cavium ARM11 processor, and supporting various connectivity options to interface with popular smart “things” such as Belkin Wemo and Philips Hue, as well as a Raspberry Pi Bus (26-pin header) to support add-ons.

Stack_Box

STACK Box specifications:

  • Processor – Cavium ARM11 processor @ 640 MHz (possibly Cavium CELESTIAL CNC1800L. TBC)
  • System Memory – 256MB DDR3
  • Storage – 512 MB flash + SD card slot
  • Connectivity
    • 10/100M Ethernet
    • Wi-Fi 802.11n with WPS
    • Bluetooth LE 4.0 (included)
    • Z-Wave (included)
    • Dust Networks (extra module required)
    • XBee  (extra module required)
    • X10 (extra module required)
    • Insteon (extra module required)
    • RF433/315 (coming soon)
    • EnOcean (coming soon)
    • ZigBee(coming soon)
    • DCLink(coming soon)
    • RFID(coming soon)
    • IR (coming soon)
  • USB – 5x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2x Optocoupler In and Out
  • Expansion – Raspberry Pi Bus (26-pin header), RS-232 port, XBee slot
  • Misc – 4x LEDs
  • Dimensions – 110 x 110 mm

XuanBoxThe STACK Box runs an embedded Linux based on kernel 3.10, and supports smart lighting, energy, audio, video, security, healthcare and wearable devices such as Sony and Sonos WiFi speakers, Belkin Wemo smart devices, Foscam IP Camera, Yale, Kwikset, Schlage locks, Philips Hue and GE/Intermatic/Aeon Labs /Leviton Z-Wave devices. You can check if your device(s) is/are currently supported here. The box is meant to be opened since you can insert a XBee module or a Raspberry Pi add-on board inside.

Disassembled STACK Box (Click to Enlarge)

Disassembled STACK Box (Click to Enlarge)

Everything is controlled via an Android or iOS smartphone app, but plans have been made for Windows 8 and web browser support. The app will allow to register new devices (Setup), and add “IF this THEN that” rules. It will also include an App market with apps such as ownCloud, Spotify, Energy Genius, Security and monitoring, Musical Light,… It also supports social media (Twitter, Weibo..), various network services (DLNA, uPnP, remote access..), and more services including Facebook, Thread, and IFFT are in the pipe.

STACK_Box_Automation

Since there’s an AppStore, you’d expect some developers’ resources, tools. and API in order to design and publish third party apps, and you’ll the XUAN SDK, guidelines, documentation, API, and a developers (& users) forum at http://developer.thexuan.com. Programming can be done with HTML5/JavaScript for mobile app, as well as Python programming language for background tasks.

XUAN Software Architecture (Click to Enlarge)

XUAN Software Architecture (Click to Enlarge)

The company is now looking for funds ($65,000 or more) to complete development and mass produce the STACK Box via a Kickstarter campaign. An early bird pledge of $79 will get your a black STACK Box including Bluetooth LE and Z-Wave connectivity. Once all early bird perks are gone, the box will go for $99 in Kickstarter, and is expect to retail for $149. They also have other pledges for more expensive boxes with different colors, but the same functionality, and bundle with Popcorn Hour A-410 media player for $329. Shipping is free to the US, and $20 to the rest of the world. Delivery of the perks is scheduled for December 2014, but since they have quite lot of work to integrate all promised standards, and for interoperability with smart devices, their road-map currently extends until July 2015 in order to implement all the “coming soon” features mentioned in this post. The complete roadmap is available at the end of XUAN brochure, and you may want to visit thexuan.com for more details.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Review of WeTek Play Android DVB-S2 Satellite Receiver

August 16th, 2014 5 comments

I’ve already posted pictures of WeTek Play and its boards, and now it’s time to do a full review of this Android DVB-S2 receiver / media player. I’ll start by giving my first impressions, going through the system settings, testing my library of video test files, as well as DVB-S2 support via WeTek Theater, and check most of hardware features. I’ll also test network and storage performance, before running Antutu benchmark to make sure the device runs at optimal speed.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Contrary to the vast majority of devices, WeTek Play does not come with a basically useless infrared remote, but instead an RF air mouse with an IR transmitter in order to provide true power ON/OFF capabilities. The remote is very nice with all the control you’d expect from an Android remote control, and you can turn on/off mouse mode easily via a button at the back. The only downside are the lack of a QWERTY keyboard, so you to input text with the soft keyboard in mouse mode, and it does not come with a built-in battery, but you need to insert two AAA batteries (1.5V). Rechargeable batteries (1.2V) might also work, but I have not try. So I’ve connected an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, my satellite dish cable, and the power supply to get started. It takes a little over 40 seconds to boot. The first time you enter a Welcome Wizard to select your language, network connectivity, check for the latest firmware (OTA update), activate your device, login to  Google Play, and optional configure your satellite reception. Once this is all done you can watch SD and HD TV channels on your TV, record programs to a USB mass storage, access EPG, and more. I’ll go through this in details in the video, and the Live TV / DVB-S2 section of this review, but let’s go to the home screen first.

WeTek Play Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

The home screen is simple, and actually I find it nice for TV, but this is a matter of taste. From top to bottom, and left to right, we’ve got the date, the time, and the weather forecast (Some cities are missing, e.g. Bangkok, Chiang Mai are nowhere to be found) on the top row, then 5 icons for (live) TV, Apps, Web, Local (File manager), and XBMC, and in the last row some user configurable shortcuts. There are also some system shortcuts on the left of the screen with Settings, Power Off, Connected to Internet (Network settings) and Recent Apps, as well as shortcuts to external USB drives, but you’re unlikely to ever use these, since these functions are all accessible via the remote control.

The “Setting” icon or remote key takes you to a “Wetek Settings” page with access to Android Settings, Weather Settings,and WeTek Services. The weather settings let you set your location, but as mentioned above some large cities, even capitals, as well as temperature unit, and update period (default is 30 minutes), WeTek Services are actually part of the Android Settings, and you can activate your device, check services status (iEPG and iChannels), that are not currently running, as well as Backup your setting in the cloud thanks to partnership with Box.com, but it’s also not activated in this pre-release firmware.

About_WeTek_PlayLet’s go through the Android settings. In the Wireless & Networks section, we can find Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Data usage, and “More” for VPN and portable hotspot support.Wi-Fi and Ethernet works fine, but the Wi-Fi signal is very low for Wi-Fi, however the most probable reasons for the issue is that I cut the Wi-Fi antenna cable, and did not solder it properly, so I won’t test Wi-Fi performance in this review.

There’s no pass-through configuration in the Sound option, only options for volumes, and notification sounds, hopefully this will be implemented in the final firmware. The Display section lets you adjust the overscan and select the display resolution: 480i / 576i, 720p, 72p50, 1080p, 1080p50, 1080i and 1080i50, so no 24Hz support. The user interface resolution is fixed to 720p. Storage in the device used a single partition for apps and data, which is great news. Since there’s only 4GB flash however, the total space is only 1.89GB, and after installing a few apps, there’s just 863MB available, but it should be enough, if you use the box main as a media center. The “About WeTek” section displays the model number “Play”, Android 4.2.2 running on top of Linux kernel 3.0.50.

I could login to Google Play without issue inside the welcome wizard, and I could search for app, but at first for some reasons, it would not react the to Install button, or show a list of app in the main menu, or after a keyword search, so instead I installed Amazon Appstore without issues to download apps such as Candy Crush Saga, Riptide GP2, Antutu, etc… After a while, I went back to Google Play, and it all magically worked, and I could install the apps I needed for testing, so it may have been a temporary (network) issue.

Amlogic AML8726-MX processor have been around for over two years, and although you lose some performance compared to the latest processors, the firmware is likely to be more stable than recent processor, and that’s exactly the case with WeTek Android firmware, which I found to be pretty solid, except for that initial Google Play issue, and various small issues with their services and DVB which should be enabled/fixed once the product is released. I did not experience any hang ups, or random reboots during the several hours I tested the device.

After several hours use, and just after Antutu benchmarks, and playing a 3D game, the temperature at the top of the box was 41°C, and at the bottom 48°C, with an ambient temperature around 28°C.

I’ve shot a rather long video going through the Welcome wizard, showing the Live TV app (WeTek Theater) capabilities such as PVR and EPG, and showing various parts of the user interface including the settings, and XBMC.

Video Playback

I’ve used XBMC to test video playback as it’s pre-installed and even prominent in the device as it’s the main media player. The videos are played from a SAMBA share on a USB 2.0 hard drive in Ubuntu 14.04, and using the Ethernet connection of the device. SAMBA configuration was a breeze both in XBMC and ES File Explorer.

As usual, I start with videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and even though AML8726-MX does not officially support H.265/HEVC codec, I also tried samples Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 all play, but not quite as smooth as on my PC…
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p OK, 720p playing with some audio cuts, 1080p playing in slow motion and frequent audio cuts (Software decoded, VP8 not supported by AML8726-MX)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p OK, 720p frames skipping and audio cuts, 1080p slideshow and frequent audio cuts

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – Won’t even start to play
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK

I’ve also tested common audio codecs below, using PCM in XBMC, and I got the same results as with Vega S89:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – Can decode audio but frequent cuts and video not smooth
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – Can decode audio but frequent cuts and video not smooth

I’ve also tried these “audio test” videos from a USB hard drive, and they can play fine, so the issue only happens while playing from the LAN.

Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, could play just fine in XBMC, and I could also navigate between the eight chapters of the video. I skipped 4K videos since these won’t be supported by this hardware.

I also tested several AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos, and they could all play without any issues. So overall this box is very good at playing videos., It won’t support BP8 and H.265 video files properly because the Amlogic SoC do not support these, and if you plan to play Blu-ray with some lowless high-definition audio, playback may not be super smooth over the network, but should be OK from a USB hard drive.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

WeTek Theater Live TV / Satellite Receiver App

The dual DVB-S2 tuner is one of the key selling point of this Android media player. The app provided to handle Live TV is called WeTek Theater and has been developed in-house. The first time you enter the app, you’ll be asked to setup your antenna. In the final firmware, there will be a list of satellites (per country?), but in this firmware you need to add satellites manually. I selected Thaicom 5 located at 78.5° East to watch Thai TV channles, as shown in the screenshot below.

Dish Setup (Click for Original Size)

Dish Setup (Click for Original Size)

Then I just selected 1 Scan channels with the default options, butit complained I needed to set the TP (Transponders) manually, i.e. configure the channels manually with frequencies ,V/H, etc… So it did not seem like a good idea. Finally, I’ve been told I had to select “Blindscan” mode to automatically scan for channels. It worked, and I got 795 TV channels, and 72 radio stations. Unfortunately, most TV channels are not Free-to-Air, so I could not see them, and I repeated the search with only FTA channels, I ended up to 63 TV channels and 25 radios. I’m not sure whether it’s possible to watch paid channels with this box.

Thailand_DVB-S2

After that I could just click OK to watch TV. For some reasons, I could not locate the most famous TV channels in Thailand such as TV 3, TV 5, NBT… Maybe there were called by other names in the list, I’m not sure. Nevertheless waiting TV works pretty well. Most channels are in standard definition, but at least one of them is in High Definition, so both DVB-S and DVB-S2 work with WeTek Play. Interesting features include EPG (Electronic Program Guide), but unfortunately most of the time I did not get anything, or sometimes the list of program would appear first, and then just disappear, so it may not work just perfectly at this time. If it worked, you would be able to add programs to a “book list” probably used to alert you when you program is ON, or record it. Talking about recording video (PVR), I managed to do just that with the Record button on the remote. You simply need a USB mass storage device (flash drive or USB hard drive), press the button, set the time in minutes, and click OK. I tried for 1 minute, and I could go to ES File Explorer or XBMC to play the recorded video in TVRecordFiles directory in my flash drive. The aspect ratio seemed a little bit distorted however.  There’s also a TimeShifting function, that let you pause and resume live TV, and worked pretty well for the short time I tried it.

To better get an idea of all these features, check the video embedded above in this post.

 Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consist in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times. Although it’s not a pure network throughput test, but IMHO a real use case. There’s a problem with Wi-Fi due to my own mistake when I opened the box, and I’m not confident I’ve fixed the problem because I can see an unusually low signal, so I’ll skip the Wi-Fi test, as I’ve already spent an enormous amount of time on this box.

I’ve only tested Ethernet with the same procedure. From SAMBA to the flash, the transfer was done @ 3.75 MB/s (1m14s), and 4.08MB/s (1m08s) This compares to Vidon.me AV200 achieving 3.43 MB/s (1m21s), and 4.27MB/s (1m05s). However the first time I did the transfer, it start a a few KB/s before completely stalled, and eventually timing out. This is extremely unusual for Ethernet, and I wonder if unstable Ethernet could explain the initial issues I had with Ethernet (TBC).

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is built-in the device, and I had no problem pairing it with my Android smartphone. Unfortunately, I could not managed to transfer a picture from my phone to WeTek Play, nothing would happen on the device. I’ve tried Sixaxis compatibility checker, and it says the box support Playstation Wireless Game controller, but my gamepad seems broken (Start key won’t do anything), so I could not confirm it.

External Storage

I could use an SD card formatted to FAT32 successfully.
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions. Here are the performance results achieved by copying files between the internal flash and the partitions using File ES Explorer.

File System Read Write
NTFS 4.15 MB/s 11.30 MB/s
EXT-4 Not supported
FAT32 3.82 MB/s 12.5 MB/s
BTRFS Not supported

It’s quite clear this test measures the read and write speedd of the NAND flash, so it’s pretty useless to evaluate USB storage performance… So I’ll drop this test in future reviews, and I’ve looked into other apps for testing storage performance. One  storage benchmark app is AndroBench but the benchmarking paths are fixed, so it could not use it. So I finally opted to use A1 SD Bench for storage testing as it supports custom locations..I set the custom path to /storage/external_storage_sda1 for the NTFS, and the red speed is 25.63MS/s, whereas the write speed is 24.81MB/s, both of which are decent transfer speeds over USB 2.0.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with Skype. I haven’t tested Google hangout.

Gaming

I’ve tested two games: Candy Crush Saga and Riptitde GP2,  I used WeTek air mouse to play candy crush,  and Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to play Riptide GP2, and I had no issues. However if you are into games you should clearly buy a set-top box with a more power GPU, but this box is perfectly usable for casual gaming. I’ve also mentioned in my Bluetooth test that Sixaxis should work with this box.

WeTek Play Benchmark

I’ve tested so many devices based in Amlogic AML8726-MX, it’s not really necessary to run many benchmarks. So I’ve just run Antutu to make sure there’s nothing unexpected.

Antutu Benchmark (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Benchmark (Click to Enlarge)

A score of 12,951 points seems pretty good with a dual core Cortex A9 processor @ 1.6 Ghz, so even though it can’t obviously match the performance of the latest processor, the Antutu is just as expected. For some reasons, most benchmark I used, namely Antutu and AndroBench , switched to portrait mode, so it may also be something that needs to be fixed, as other apps are likely to suffers the same fate.

Conclusion

I have to say I’m pretty please with WeTek Play so far, especially since the final firmware has not been released yet. I found it to be very stable, and virtually no point I felt the system to be sluggish, except for some rare occasions where the mouse pointer seemed to stuck for a short period at times. The team has managed to make full use of the chosen hardware, and most videos are support, I only had problem with VP8 and H.265, as both codecs are not supported by the VPU, and two other video files. It’s not to say everything is perfect, as there are still some bugs, but it looks promising.

PRO:

  • Stable firmware and good performance considering the hardware
  • User friendly remote control with IR for power, and air mouse function, and all buttons you would expect in Android
  • Excellent video playback, including Blu-ray ISO (albeit mitigated by mediocre Ethernet performance, if you play bitrate videos from the network)
  • DVB-S2 tuners with decent app with EPG, PVR, and TimeShifting feature
  • Support for multiple firmware image including Android and Linux, as well as support for CMW  and TWRP recoveries – See list here.
  • OTA updates
  • “True” power off
  • Cloud backup (Although not working yet)
  • External serial console port (for developers)

CONS:

  • Potential instability issues with Ethernet.
  • DVB-S2 app currently requires manual entry of satellite data (name and orientation), and EPG does not seem to work reliably.
  • UI set to 720p, which could be an issue for people requiring “true” 1080p output. But if you mainly want to watch / record DVB-S2 HD channels, this won’t be an issue.
  • No 24Hz support. Issue for people sensitive to small, but regular jitter when frequency is not set right.
  • Pass-through does not seem supported yet.
  • Some apps may wrongly switch to portrait mode.
  • I failed to transfer picture via Bluetooth

The only critical issue for my usage is Ethernet, but otherwise both the hardware and firmware are great. I’ll try Linux on the box, probably next week-end.

WeTek Play is not currently available for purchase, but should be soon, in the meantime, you can check more information on wetek.com.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

littleBits CloudBit Wi-Fi Module Simplifies DIY IoT Designs

July 31st, 2014 No comments

littleBits Electronics is a company selling tiny modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping called… littleBits. They do not require soldering, wiring, or programming, can be buttons, sensors, motors, etc…, and are the electronics equivalent of LEGO, and are suitable to 8 years old and older kids. The company have recently launched a new product called CloudBit, a module based on Freescale i.MX233 with Wi-Fi connectivity meant to be used/snapped with existing littleBits.

LittleBits_CloudBitCloudBit hardware specifications:

  • Processor – Freescale i.MX233 ARM926EJ-S processor  @ 454MHz
  • System Memory – 64MB of RAM;
  • Storage – microSD slot with included 4GB micro SD card pre-loaded with a customized Arch Linux ARM distribution
  • Connectivity – 802.11b/g Wi-Fi via included USB dongle
  • USB – micro USB port (for power only)
  • Connectors – 2x BitSnap connectors for LittleBits connectivity using i.MX233 ADC/DAC signals
  • Debugging – Pads for UART (3.3V, 8-N-1, 115,200 baud) to access the serial console  (bottom of the board)
  • Misc -Status LED, Setup button
  • Power – via USB (power module, wall adapter, and cable included)
  • Dimensions – 15 x 10 x 5mm
  • Weight – 154 grams

CloudBit also includes a USB power module, and a wall adapter with cable. It runs Arch Linux ARM and leverages node.js technologies. The overall system diagram can be found here.

This little module allows you to connect virtually any device to the Internet, such as a thermostat that turns on when it’s too hot or cold, a doorbell that send an SMS or an email, etc… All that “without programming, soldering or wiring required”, the company claims. So how do you control it? You can use IFTTT “If this then that” app to connect to online services such as Facebook, Gmail and Twitter, as well as compatible hardware such as Nest and Philips HUE. Although programming CloudBit is not required, more advanced users can still do with via the Cloud API or littleBits Arduino module.

Cloud Starter Bundle

Cloud Starter Bundle

If you are new to littleBits, the CloudBit won’t be useful by itself, and that’s why the company also offers a Cloud Starter Bundle with CloudBit, the USB power module and wall adapter, but also several littleBits modules namely a “long” LED, a button, a servo, a sound trigger, as well as a mounting board, a sort of breadboard for the company’s modules.

The cloudBit and littleBits can interact with the web and each other in three ways:

  • Bits to Web – Using hardware to communicate with web services and software
  • Web to Bits – Communicating events in the web to the CloudBit, using for example, the company’s Cloud Control or the third party IFTTT app.
  • Bits to Bits – Communicating from machine to machine

The company features several demo projects with instructions including a chicken feed monitoring system, a remote fish/pet feeder, a baby monitor, an SMS doorbell, etc… and they also provide a few IFTTT samples, as tutorials.

You can find all the documentation you need on CloudBit and Cloud Starter Bundles product pages, as well as purchase them respectively for $59 and $99, plus shipping.

Via LinuxGizmos

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter