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Getting Started with Onion Omega2+ LEDE WiFi IoT Board and Expansion Dock

January 16th, 2017 18 comments

Onion Omega2 LEDE (OpenWrt fork) WiFi board is powered by Mediatek MT7688 MIPS SoC, targets IoT projects, and sells for as low as $5. There are actually two versions: Omega2 with 64MB RAM, 16MB flash, and Omega2+ with 128MB RAM, 32MB flash and a micro SD slot. Onion sent me the latter for review, together with an expansion dock that allows powering up the board though USB , and adds a USB host port, an RGB LED, buttons, and access to GPIO via a female header. In this quick start guide, I’ll start by taking some unboxing pictures, and then report my experience following the documentation to configure the board, blink the RGB LED, and control a LED on a breadboard using a GPIO from the header.

Onion Omega2+ Unboxing

I received the two boards in their respective package, and which are both stored in anti-static bags.

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Let’s check Onion Omega2+ board first. The top includes a chip antenna and an u.FL connector for an external antenna, as well as the main components covered by a shield with some info like FCC ID, and the MAC address with the last four digits (hexits?) in bold since they are used to access the board. The bottom of the board are two rows of headers, and a micro SD card slot. There’s also a footprint for another header or connector, but I could not find out the details.

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Next up is the dock. We have a 2x 15-pin female header with clear marking for the pins that include power signals, GPIOs, I2C, UART, and USB.

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The button on the top is for power, the one at 45 angle is the reset button, and we also have a micro USB port for power, a USB port for storage, an RGB LED, and the header for Onion Omega2 board.

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Plugging Omega2 into the dock is very easy, and the only thing you have to check is that it is inserted correctly.

Onion-Omega2-vs-LinkIt-Smart-7688Onion Omega2+ is not my first Mediatek MT7688 board, as I’ve reviewed LinkIt Smart 7688 too, and took side-by-side picture of both boards for comparison. Omega2+ is smaller, but LinkIt Smart board already include a micro USB port for power.

Initial Setup for Onion Omega2 and Expansion Dock

I normally test the documentation as much as I test the board, and after a web search, I ended up on that Getting Started page. However, it was for Onion Omega, the first version of the board introduced in 2015, and while the instructions are similar, they are not quite the same. Finally, I found the actual Omega2 Wiki, and could successful complete the setup with some efforts.

I’ll be using a computer running Ubuntu 16.04 to access the board, but it also works with Windows with Bonjour Service, and Mac OS X.

The Zeroconf services is needed to play with the board unless you access the board directly with its IP, but it’s normally already installed in Linux distriutions, so we are good to go. First we need to connect a micro USB to USB cable to a power source like the USB port of your computer, and turn on the board with the power switch.

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At first both the RGB LED on the dock and Omega2+ LED will turn on for a short time, after which the RGB LED will turn off, and Omega2 LED will blink for a few seconds, and once the LED stops blinking and remains solid the boot is done.

Omega-Onion2-Access-Point

You should then see an new “Omega-XXXX” access point in your WiFi networks, where XXXX is the last digits of your MAC address shown on bold on the board. We now need to connect to the access point using password: 12345678

Omega2 Web Configuration

One it’s done, open a web browser and go ti http://192.168.3.1 or http://omega-XXXX.local/ to access Omega2 Setup Wizard.

Omega-Onion2-Setup-Wizard

Click Start to login with the default credentials (username: root ; password:onioneer), and the next page will let you connect the board to your WiFi router.Omega-Onion2-WiFi-Configuration

Selection you ESSID, input you WiFi password. and clikc on “Configure WiFi“. Omega-Onion2-Cloud

The wizard offers you to register your board to the cloud, but this is completely optional, and you could simply select Skip Step to go to the next step (firmware update). But I tried to registered the device to the cloud for this review.Onion-Cloud-RegistrationYou’ll need to provide your name, an email address and a password to register an account first.Onion-Omega2-Cloud-NameYou’ll then be asked for a device name and a description to confirm the registration.Onion-Cloud-Connection-failedSadly this step failed and I got the window above. Clicking on the red cross button did nothing. If I login to the cloud service, I can see the board listed, but detected as offline. I’m not the only one to have this issue, and Onion developers are looking into it.

Onion-Omega2+-Firmware-Update-ConsoleSo instead I went to the next step to upgrade the firmware and install Console web-based virtual desktop.Onion-Omega2-Firmware-Download-StuckThis also failed as the progress bar did not move at all, and I waited for around 20 minutes. I could also see my router’s DHCP server gave an IP address to the board, so it should have been able to connect to the Internet.

Omega2 Command Line Configuration

So I used to backup configuration method, using the command line as explained in the documentation. You just need to SSH the board as root with the same password as in the web configuration (onioneer):

Note Ω-ware firmware version is 0.1.5 b130.

wifisetup allows you to scan the network, and connect the board to your router:

Good. Firmware update failed in the web setup wizard, but we can retry it with oupgrade command line:

The firmware could be downloaded, and it looked like the system rebooted as I lost access to SSH terminal. The LED was still on for a while after it happened, then the LED went off (forever), at least longer than the 15 seconds listed in the documentation, and in that case they explain you need to power cycle the board. I used the power switch on the expansion dock to do so.

The board LED blinked for a pretty long time (maybe 2 minutes), but eventually it stopped and remained solid, and I could login to the board:

The firmware was updated to version 0.1.7 b139, so all good even though the whole setup did not go 100% smoothly. In case something goes really wrong and you can’t access the board at all, you could try to do a Factory Restore by pressing and holding the reset button for 10 seconds then releasing it.

Omega2 LEDE System Info

Since we’re done with the configuration, let’s quickly check some system info:

So we have a relatively recent kernel (Linux 4.4), 24.4MB space available to the user, 125664 KB total memory, and a MIPS 24KEc processor…

Controlling Omega2’s Dock RGB LED (via PWM)

We can start playing with the GPIO on the board starting with the RGB LED on the dock  that should be connected to pin 15, 16 and 17. The documentation explains expled sample can be used for this and we can see the R, G, B hexadecimal values. I want to show red color only, and I set blue and green to zero:

Oops, segfault. Let’s try something else like a pinkish color:

It runs, but the RGB LED remains off. It’s not an hardware problem since the RGB LED turns on at boot time. expled is actually a bash script that can be found in /usr/bin/expled and calls “fast-gpio“program which access GPIOs directly without using sysfs. Maybe it’s another firmware issue.

Controlling Omega2 GPIOs – LED example

In order to play with the expansion header, I connected a 5V LED to a breadboard together with two resistors and a transistor (for 3.3 to 5V conversion), and connected it to pin 1 on the header.

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We’ve already seen fast-gpio tools in expled script, but I used another GPIO tools for the LED, namely gpioctl that relies on sysfs.

We first need to set the GPIO pin as an output pin using the dirout command (dirin would set it as an input):

We can now turn the LED on by setting GPIO 1 to HIGH with dirout-high option:

The get command above will check the value of the pin. The LED did turn on as it should, and we can turn it off with dirout-low option:

Success.

If you want to use multiplexed pin with I2C, SPI, UART, PWM, I2S… you’ll need to check out omega2-ctrl program. I have not tried it for this guide to keep it short.

Onion Omega2 and BreadBoards

Many similar small IoT board are designed to fit on a breadboard, but Onion Omega2 board’s header pins are using 2 mm pitch, not 2.5 mm pitch, so they can’t be used with a breadboard directly. Instead, you’d have run wires from the board to the breadboard or purchase a BreadBoard Dock as pictured below.

If you do not have a dock, or breadboard expansion board, you can still power the Omega2 module/board using a 3.3V power source for example with a regulator such as LD1117, or something like YwRobot MB102 breadboard power supply.

If you are interested in getting a board, you may have to wait as while Omega Expansion Dock sells for $14.99 on Onion store, Omega2 boards are not listed yet. For reference, Omega2 board went for $5, and Omega2+ board for $9 on Kickstarter.

$10 RTLDuino is an Arduino Compatible WiFi IoT Board based on Realtek RTL8710AF WiSoC

January 4th, 2017 1 comment

Last summer, we discovered a cheap RTL8710AF WiFi module with many of the same function as ESP8266, but with an ARM Cortex M3 core instead. The only problem is that it was not quite as easy to play with as ESP8266 boards, as at the time I started by playing with AT commands with B&T RTL00 RTL8710AF module, and later on, I got a more convenient PADI IoT Stamp with breakout board, but if you wanted to change the firmware you had to play with the SDK and a J-Link SWD debugger. Realtek RTL8710AF did not offer the convenience of Arduino IDE program like its big brother “RTL8195AM” from the same Ameba family. I know mbed is being worked on, but in the meantime things have changed for the better, as kissste informed me that RtlDuino implementation added Arduino support to RTL8710AF and RTL8711AM modules, and an NodeMCU-like board with the same name was also sold for less than $10 including shipping.

rtlduinoRTLduino board specifications:

  • WiSoC – Realtek RTL8710AF ARM Cortex-M3 micro-controller @ 83 MHz
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for programming and power
  • Expansion – 2x 16-pin breadboard friendly headers with GPIOs, UART, SPI, I2C, PWM, I2S, power signals….
  • Misc – Reset and test button, RGB LED
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port or Vin pin
  • Dimensions – 49 x 24.5 mm (same as NodeMCU)

As you can see from the picture above,the board is actually based on the B&T RTL-00 module I previously tested. This is obviously quite easier to use since you don’t need to solder any cables to connect a USB to TTL board since RTLduino is equipped with CH340g and a micro USB port.

rtlduino-board-rtl8710af

The Aliexpress page has some claims about 5 function that accordingly to kissste are not quite all correct:

  1. Function 1 – “Mbed debugging mode” over micro USB cable -> you won’t get – this is a different board (at least for now)
  2. Function 2 – “JTAG debugging mode” over micro USB cable -> you won’t get – this is a different board
  3. Function 3 – “Simple & fast by OTA to upgrade debugging” -> you will get partially – no debugging, but you can OTA upload new sketch
  4. Function 4 – “Serial data directly to the network transceiver function” (serial console via UART) -> OK
  5. Function 5 – “Smartconfig mode” -> yes, will work – OTA upload new sketch

If you want to do debugging, I understand you’ll still need a JTAG or SWD programmer. If you want to get started with Arduino on the board:

  • Install Arduino IDE and Ameba SDK
  • Go to Arduino IDE installation directory
  • Clone github.com/pvvx/RtlDuino into hardware/development/rtl87xx directory
  • Restart Arduino

I could not find anything in English where other people tested the implementation, but you’ll find a forum thread (in Russian) on esp8622.ru, and other person mentioned the project on hackaday.io, but has not reported on details about it yet.

Beside Aliexpress, RTLduino board can also be found on ICStation for $9.99, and Amazon US for $10.99.

ESP32-WROVER-KIT Devkit Supports Espressif ESP32 Modules, Includes a 3.2″ LCD Display

December 30th, 2016 4 comments

Yesterday Olimex wrote a blog post informing us that ESP32-CoreBoard was back in stock, one the many ESP32 boards launched late this year, but still hard to get. The company also mentioned they’d have limited quantity of the new ESP32-WROVER with JTAG and LCD display together with the picture below.

esp32-wrover-esp32-lcd-kit

ESP32 is quite more powerful than ESP8266 so it makes sense to have an ESP32 development kit with an LCD display. A quick DuckDuckGo search led me to ESP-WROVER-KIT Getting Started Guide, where we can find more details including the overall specifications:

  • Compatible with ESP-WROOM-32 and ESP32-WROVER modules based on ESP32 dual core Tensilica L108 processor clocked at up to 240 MHz with WiFi and Bluetooth LE connectivity
  • Storage – Micro SD slot
  • Display – 3.2″ LCD display connected via SPI
  • USB – 1x micro USB port
  • Expansion
    • 8-pin UART header
    • 6-pin SPI header
    • 48-pin header for I/Os and camera interface (standard OV7670 camera module supported)
  • Debugging – JTAG through USB interface (FTDI FT2232HL) or 14-pin header
  • Misc – CTS/RTS jumper; power selection (EXT or USB); RGB LED; boot & reset (EN) buttons
  • Power Supply – 5V DC input; 5V to 3.3V LDO chip
  • Dimensions – 85.2 x 79.0 mm
ESP-WROVER-KIT Block Diagram - Click to Enlarge

ESP-WROVER-KIT Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

The rest of the getting started guide explains how to configure jumpers to set the power source, serial flow control, and JTAG. It also shows how to access the serial console with a typical 115200 8N1 connection, as well as compile and load a simple hello program with ESP-IDF SDK in Windows and Linux.

Image Source: HackerBoads

Image Source: HackerBoards

Beside the development kit itself, I also discovered the new ESP32-WROVER module with the same feature as ESP-WROOM-32 plus an extra 32Mbit pSRAM chip and an external antenna connector.

esp32-wrover

ESP32-WROVER Photo via ESP32 Twitter Account

The kit should be available in January based on Olimex’ blog post, but we don’t have any pricing info yet.

ESP8266 based Wireless Air Quality & Environmental Monitors Teardown – Sonoff SC and vThings CO2 Monitor

December 20th, 2016 3 comments

The mailman delivered two parcels today, and interestingly enough they have a similar functionality measuring air quality and environmental data such as temperature. The first package was ITEAD Studio Sonoff SC environmental sensor with ESP8266, an Atmel MCU, DHT11 temperature & humidity sensor, a dust detector, a light sensor, and a microphone, while the second was v-Air Monitor vThings CO2 monitor v3 also based on ESP8266 with a CO2 sensor and other optional sensors. I’ll test both with their stock firmware later on, but today I’ll have a look at the hardware design.

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v-Air Monitor vThings CO2 monitor specifications

While I’ve already written about Sonoff SC, it’s the first time I cover v.Air Monitor products, so let’s start with the specifications of vThings CO2 Monitor v3:

  • SoC – Espressif ESP8266 WiSoC
  • Connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
    • Optional RF315 / 433 MHz RF module
  • Sensors
    • CO2 Sensor (one of them)
      • CM1106 NDIR sensor with 3-day auto-calibration period and < ±(50ppm+5% reading) accuracy (default)
      • CM1102 calibration-free sensor with best accuracy: < ±(40 ppm+2% of reading)
      • CDM7160 calibration-free sensor with < 10ma power consumption and better accuracy < ±(50 ppm+3% of reading)
    • Other optional sensorsDust (PM 2.5 and PM 10), temperature, humidity, pressure

The project is open source and open hardware based on vESPrino board, and you can easily program the board through micro USB, and custom the firmware that already supports HTTP and MQTT, OTA firmware updates, Apple Homekit (WIP), and Chrome app configuration (WIP). You’ll find source code and resources on Vladimir Savchenko’s github account.

Sonoff SC Teardown

Now that we have gone through both devices specifications, let’s check out Sonoff SC hardware.

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The device ships with a USB cable equipped with power switch, and both Sonoff SC and the cable are stored in their respective anti-static bag.

sonoff-sc-micro-sd-slot-audio-button-power
The back of the device comes with a micro SD slot to store data, an “Audio” button actually used for pairing with the mobile app, and a micro USB port for power.

open-sonoff-scThe device is very easy to open as you just need to loosen four screws.

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Removing the bottom cover gives you access to the main board with serial header for both ESP8266 and Atmel ATMega328 MCU. I understand that ESP8266 runs the AT commands firmware, and everything is mostly handled by the Atmel/Microchip MCU with the Arduino firmware available from the Wiki. The ESP8266 also has a SDA pin, that’s normally for I2C, but I don’t see any SCL pin, so it might just be used for one GPIO.. That side of the board also have the microphone used to detect noise levels.

If beside changing firmware, you also want to hack the hardware, for example changing sensors, you’ll need to remove the two “silver” screws to take out the complete system out of the case.

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One side features Sharp GP2Y1010AU0F dust sensor connected to 5V, GND, and “VIN” (A1 pin) and “VO” (A5 pin), while the other shows DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor and the light sensor glued to the backside. I also asked the company to include the more accurate DHT22 sensor, as I plan to replace DHT11 with it later, and soldering is not even necessary.

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The two black  screws holding the sensors’ holder were a bit loose, and I first thought it was due to a lack of quality assurance at the factory, but then I tried to reassemble it, and it would just not fit because of the “Audio” button… Then I realized the screws were actually loose by design in order to allow assembly of the system.

vThings CO2 Monitor Teardown

vThings “vAir Monitor” box has a sticker on top showing the option selected, and mine had CO2-CM1106, temperature and pressure selected. We can check this by loosening the three screws holding the two top covers of the 3D printed case.vair-monitor-casevESPrino ESP8266 board is screwed to the case, and connected to the CO2 monitor and the temperature & pressure sensor via 2.54mm jumper cables. The latter has its own compartment in order to avoid being influence by the other components. If you order a device without temperature sensor, you’ll get a smaller case without the extra compartment.

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One we take everything out, we’ll see vESPrino board with an ESP8266 module, and vESPrino Cookie board connected to off-the-shelf CM1106 CO2 sensor, and BMP180 temperature and humidity sensor.

vthings-c02-monitor-bottom The bottom of the case gives access to vESPrino button that has no use for now. It’s even more easier to program than Sonoff SC since you don’t even to open the case to load your own custom firmware with programming done directly through the micro USB port.

Sonoff SC is sold on ITEAD Studio for $19.99 + shipping, while vThings CO2 Monitor v3 is sold for 60 Euros with CM1106 CO2 sensor, and more if you use a better CO2 sensor, or add extra environmental sensors with the price going up to 135 Euros with a dust sensor, CDM7160 CO2 sensor, temperature and humidity sensor, and RF connectivity. Bear in mind that both products have different kind of sensors, which explains the price difference.

Pycom To Sell WiFi, BLE, LoRa and Sigfox OEM Modules for Your Own Hardware Projects

December 19th, 2016 4 comments

Pycom is the company making some relatively popular IoT boards programmable with Python such as WiPy, LoPy, SiPy, and soon FiPy, supporting respectively WiFi+BLE, LoRa+WiFi+BLE, Sigfox+WiFi+BLE, and for the latter all four plus LTE CAT M1/NB1. Those little boards are great for personal projects and/or to experiment, but for those of you who would like to integrated IoT connectivity into your own hardware projects, Pycom will soon launch three OEM module for corresponding to WiPy, SiPy and LoPy connectivity featues with respectively W01, S01 and L01 modules.

sigfox-lora-wifi-ble-oem-modulesKey features:

  • W01 WipY 2.0 OEM Module – Dual network BLE and WiFi – 7.95 Euros
  • L01 LoPy OEM module – LoRa, WiFi and Bluetooth – 14.95 Euros
  • S01 SiPy OEM module – Sigfox, WiFi and Bluetooth; Available in both 14dB (for Europe) and 22dB (outside Europe) version for respectively 14.95 and 19.95 Euros

All three models have basically the same functionality as the full board, but there are missing the voltage regulator, reverse power supply protection, antenna switch, smd antenna, u.fl connectors, reset switch, LED, headers, and a few passive components found on the development boards. The modules will come in an hermetically sealed trays, and are both CE and FCC certified.

The modules will officially launch in April 2017 with a minimum order quantity of 500 units, and a lead time expected to be 8 to 12 weeks. You can find all three modules on Pycom’s OEM products page.

Quectel SC20 Smart LTE Modules with WiFi, BLE and GPS Run Android 5.1

December 15th, 2016 1 comment

Google may just have released Android Things operating systems for IoT applications, but its big brother – Android – has already gotten into some other IoT systems such as Quectel SC20 module powered by a Qualcomm processor and supporting LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and GNSS functions.

quectel-sc20Quectel SC20 comes in different flavors to cater for various markets, but all module share most of the same specifications:

  • SoC – Unnamed Qualcomm processor
  • System Memory – TBD
  • Storage – 8GB flash
  • Cellular Connectivity – FDD LTE, TDD LTE, TD-SCDMA, EVDO/DCMA, WCDMA, and GSM; antenna: MIMO 2×2, supports Rx-diversity
  • Other Wireless Connectivity
    • WiFi – 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n (SC20-CE/-W); Dual band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (SC20-E/-A/-AU/-J)
    • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR/3.0/4.1 LE
    • GNSS – GPS, GLONASS, and BeiDou
  • Interfaces
    • LCD – 4x lanes MIPI-DSI, 1.5Gbps each, HD (720p) @ 60fps
    • Camera – MIPI-CSI, up to 1.5Gbps per lane, supports two cameras
      • 2-lane MIPI_CSI for rear camera, up to 8MP
      • 1-lane MIPI_CSI for front camera, up to 2MP
    • Touch Panel Capacitive-screen
    • USB 2.0 Device High Speed, 480Mbps
    • 2x USIM 1.8V/3V
    • 25x GPIO, 3x I2C, 2x high-speed UARTs
    • SDIO – 1x SDIO 3.0, 4bit SDIO
    • PWRKEY
    • 4 pads for antennas: main, diversity, GNSS, Wi-Fi/BT
    • 3x ADC (BAT_SNS, BAT_THERM, ADC)
  • Audio – MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC, AMR-NB, – WB, G.711, WMA 9/10 Pro
  • Video
    • Encode – 30fps 720p (H.264), 30fps WVGA (MPEG-4/VP8)
    • Decode – 30fps 720p (H.264/MPEG-4/VP8/H.265 DivX4/5/6), 30fps WVGA (H.263)
  • Dimensions – 40.5 x 40.5 x 2.8mm
  • Weight – ~9.6 grams
  • Temperature Range – Operating: -40°C ~ +85°C
  • Compliance – CCC/CE/FCC/GCF/PTCRB/AT&T/ACMA RCM/Verizon (Many still work-in-progress)

I first found about the module, as SinoVoip showcased some pictures of their next BPI-SC20 board using Quectel SC20-CE, but they did not provide other details.

banana-pi-bpi-sc20Nevertheless it was easy enough to find Quectel SC20 product page listing all the specs above, plus details about LTE, WCDMA, etc… bands, Rx/Tx power levels, and more. Six models of the module will be available: SC20-W with WiFi and BLE only, as well as country or zone specific variants: SC20-CE, SC20-J,  SC20-AU, SC20-A, and SC20-E with different supported cellular bands and standards.

The company is also said to have an evaluation board with a display and two cameras, with the processor used part of – or similar to – Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 series.

YokaTV KB2 Review – Amlogic S912 TV Box with 32 GB Flash

December 15th, 2016 10 comments

CNXSoft: This is another review by Karl about Amlogic S912 based YokaTV KB2 TV box.

Introduction

Today we will be looking at Videostrong YokaTV KB2. Below are the specs from Videostrong website.

yokatv-kb2-specifications

This is my first S912 device so I had high expectation. I have been using it for quite some time now with no major issues. I received approximately 6 OTA updates since I started testing and some welcome updates have come.

yokatv-kb2-package

yokatv-kb2-remote-control-power-supply

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Build

When I receive a box first thing I do is take it apart and check out the inside. I was excited when I found out it had 32 gig of storage. It is not too common.

yokatv-kb2-bottom-case

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Then when I opened the box I was really happy to see an antenna that wasn’t soldered on. Makes it easy to add a different one. +1 for KB2. Then I noticed the heat sink. It seemed a little small. I was right, it runs warm.

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Simple Mod

First thing to do: get this baby running cooler. When stressing the box, the temperature got over 80+°C a couple times. It ran between 70 and 75 °C on average before the mod. The case is mostly plastic except the bottom cover. Bingo! A couple squares of 5mm thermal pads between the board and the bottom of the case and thermal issues are gone.

yokatv-kb2-thermal-hack

I started SetCPU and ran the built-in stress test, it tops out around 72 °C, and quickly cools after stopping the test. I put a square approximately where the CPU is and while I had it open, where the memory is although I don’t think it is necessary. After the mod, the box runs about 60 deg Celsius.

Antutu

For this test I use SetCPU to set the Min and Max frequency for the CPU to 1.5 GHz which is the max for this processor. It will give the best score.

yokatv-kb2-antutu

Network Test

I am not sure why my WiFi was slow on the tests below. I don’t have an AC access point yet. The best I have is N, maybe that is the cause. Some friends over on Freaktab are getting some really good speeds on AC with this box. I might have damaged something when I opened the box.

Below are the results but take them with a grain of salt. I do a simple file transfer test of a large movie with optimum conditions for WiFi then one in more real world scenario.  

5ghz 3ft from NAS to internal SD

kb2-5ghz-wifi-nas-to-flash

2.4ghz 3ft from NAS to internal SD

kb2-2-4ghz-wifi-nas-to-flash

Gigabit Ethernet from NAS to internal SD (This is as fast as my NAS can transfer)

kb2-gbe-nas-to-flash

Next is more real world where AP’s have more obstruction.

5ghz 30ft from NAS to internal SD

kb2-5ghz-wifi-nas-to-flash-30feet2.4ghz 30ft from NAS to internal SD

kb2-2-4ghz-wifi-nas-to-flash-30feetSome More Benchmarks and Info

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Apps

I’ve used several apps and only Netflix and Direct Now had some issues:

  • Sling TV
  • Netflix (SD) – Stopped working after updating the app
  • Kodi
  • Chrome – Chrome works really well. I open a bunch of heavy URL’s and it performs excellent. Nothing scientific here. Go to several sites that I visit daily and I felt no lag.
  • Plex
  • Emby
  • HDHomeRun
  • Crackle
  • DirectTV Now – Worked with some hacking
  • Player-MediaCenter App – I will admit it has been a while since I tested out this app. It acts as a DLNA receiver and Airplay receiver. I didn’t have much luck in the past but I tested on my one Apple device the screen mirroring worked.

At some point Netflix stopped working. Keep getting few seconds of video then error 0013 “Sorry, we could not reach the Netflix service….” Not sure if it is Netflix update or box update that caused the issue. I went back and did some more testing to narrow the issue down. If I reverted back to the Netflix that came pre-installed I had no issue.

DirectTV Now is a new service in the US. With some persistence I was able to get it running. Video wasn’t perfect but neither was it on any devices I tested. It was surprising that it plays better on KB2 then Nvidia Shield. It is mostly watchable but stutters some. It is new so hopefully ATT will get this fixed soon. I had to do a couple things to get it working. After Googleing and a lot of experimenting I used 2 apps from play store: Hide My Root and Fake GPS. I also had to make 2 build.prop changes: ro.build.type=userdebug to ro.build.type=user and ro.build.tags=test-keys to ro.build.tags=release-keys. I tried on a couple different boxes after figuring this out and seems to work universally.

Remote Control

The remote is big but there is a built in app that is pretty convenient. There are 4 color coded buttons on the remote that you can customize to launch the apps that you want through an app on the box. There is also a dedicated app button that brings up a listing of all the apps. Everything else is pretty standard. You can also program the remote to turn your TV on and off through a learning feature. But alas I still prefer either an air mouse or touchpad with full keyboard.

yokatv-kb2-remote-control-configuration

Status Bar

Thank the gods…there is an option to turn the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen off and on in Android settings…It is about a 50/50 split for people that like them and those that don’t. This was the first box that I have tested that gives the user an option.

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Audio Passthrough

All the below tests worked. I set Android to SPDIF. I tested with latest SPMC 16.4.2 and Kodi 16.1. Turned on pass-through DTS and AC3 and all the videos below worked with no clipping. I have a 5.1 system. If I didn’t have the AC3 ticked I would get no audio on some. First box with 100% working that I have tested on stock firmware.

yokatv-kb2-kodi-audio-pass-through-settings audio-file-list-dts-dolby-truehd4K Video

4k testing went well. I was able to play all videos smoothly with one player or another that it was supposed to play. Below are the test results. This box does not play 4k H.264 video @ 60fps per sec, so stutter is expected. Kodi and derivatives play best with amcodec turned off. The box ships with Kodi 17 beta but since it is beta, it is not very stable. I uninstalled it, and tested with Kodi 16.1 from the Play Store instead. I am not sure why 4k 8bit H.265 works better with amcodec turned on. I found the same results on S905x boxes. For the testing, I wanted to find the best overall solution and that is Kodi with amcodec turned off.

Test File Name With Amcodec Without Amcodec MX Player
23.976fps (in MP4) GoPro Epic Russian Wingsuit in 4K good
24fps (in MP4) SPRING 4K (ULTRA HD) good
25fps (in MP4) Burj Khalifa Pinnacle BASE Jump – 4K good
29.970fps, 51Mbps (hdmkv’s iPhone 6S 4K clip) iphone6s_4k good
59.940fps (in MKV) samsung_seven_wonders_of_the_world_china_uhd-DWEU wont play stutter stutter
60fps (in MP4) COSTA RICA IN 4K 60fps (ULTRA HD) w Freefly Movi wont play good
H264, up to 30fps Sony_Alpha_7R_II_video-test-4K good
H264, 50-60fps linkin_park_ultra-hd wont play stutter stutter
H265 8bit, up to 30fps LG_4K_View-the-Feeling good stutter good
H265 10bit, up to 30fps Samsung_UHD_Dubai good
H265 10bit, 50-60fps Samsung_UHD_7Wonders_of_the_World_Italy good
UltraHD HDR 10bit HEVC, 24fps Exodus_UHD_HDR_Exodus_draft good
VP9 The Curvature of Earth 4K 60FPS good not as good best

Alternate Firmware

Super Celeron has put together a nice modification of the latest stock firmware from 11/23. He cleaned up the firmware and made some adjustments to boot to bring idle down to about 1% and got auto frame rate switch working. See full changelog.

So to get 100% working pass-through and auto frame rate switching after installing the firmware above, as well as SPMC version 16.5.2. Codec acceleration is a little muddy at times. 4K files work best with amcodec off, and anything less work best with amcodec on. Below are my settings.

yokatv-kb2-custom-firmware-automatic-frame-rate-switching yokatv-kb2-custom-firmware-audio-pass-through yokatv-kb2-custom-firmware-video-codecsConclusion

I had this box for a while now and used it as my main box and it has performed really well. Consistent updates from Videostrong is much needed in the box world. I hope it continues. Gigabit Ethernet performed really well. Pass-through working 100% is fantastic and will make a lot of people happy. Video support in Kodi is really good. VP9 support is not 100% but MX player gives everyone an option if they have movies in that format.

I would like to thank Videostrong for sending a review sample. YokaTV KB2 can be purchased on Gearbest, Geekbuying, and Aliexpress for about $68.

$24 Winkel Arduino Compatible Board Includes WiFi, Bluetooth, 2.4 GHz RF, and an RTC (Crowdfunding)

December 13th, 2016 3 comments

There are plenty of Arduino compatible boards with WiFi based on ESP8266 WiSoC going for around $5 to $10, and with ESP32 processor, we are starting to have $15 to $20 boards with both WiFi and Bluetooth, but while ESP-IDF SDK has been progressing nicely, some parts of Bluetooth functionality are still not implemented. Winkel board offers an interesting alternative by offering WiFi, Bluetooth, 2.4GHz ISM, and an RTC for $24.

winkelWinkel board specifications:

  • MCU – Microchip/Atmel ATmega128 MCU @ 16 MHz with 128KB flash memory, 4KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n via ESP12E module based on ESP8266
    • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR via HC-05 module
    • RF Radio – NRF24l01 2.4 GHz ISM radio. (Note: It might be possible to use it for Bluetooth LE connection, see here and there).
  • I/Os (through both Atmel MCU and ESP8266)
    • 38x Digital I/Os
    • 7x PWM Digital I/Os
    • 8x Analog Inputs
  • USB – micro USB port for programming and power
  • Misc – DS3231 Real-Time Clock + CR2032 battery slot, a few LEDS, reset button, jumper for OTA mode, ISP header, optional MPU-6050 Gyro+accelerometer mount
  • Power Supply – 5 V
  • Dimensions – TBD
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Winkel Pinout Diagram – Click to Enlarge

Winkel board can be programmed with the Arduino IDE via a micro USB cable, but you could also program the Atmel MCU over Bluetooth, and ESP12 module over WiFi without any cable required, a must if you want to update your firmware while the board is already in a case or hard to access. Thanks to the company’s “Smart Opt system” individual components can be power on and off individually, so that unused module don’t draw power. Source code for the firmware and code samples can be found on github.

arduino-esp8266-rtc-hc05

Rishi Hegde of Mintbox Technologies informed me that the board has now been launched on CrowdSupply with the company aiming to raise at least $1080. A $21 early bird pledge should get you the board will all modules (the price will be $24 after the first 50 boards are gone), but if you only want the core boards, and add your own modules, you could also pledge $12 to get the board with Atmel ATMega128 MCU and a micro USB port only. Shipping is free to India and the US, but adds $9 to the rest of the world, with delivery expected in March 2017. More details may be available in Mintbox Technologies’ Winkel product page.