Posts Tagged ‘debian’

GNUBee Personal Cloud 2 is a DIY NAS Supporting up to Six 3.5″ SATA Drives (Crowdfunding)

October 11th, 2017 19 comments

GNUBee Personal Cloud 1 is a DIY NAS powered by Mediatek MT7621A MIPS processor that supports up to 2.5″ SATA drives, and runs free and open source software. It was first introduced in March of this year through a CrowdSupply campaign.

The developers are now back with GNUBee Personal Cloud 2 (GB-PC2) with pretty much the same features, but instead of being designed for 2.5″ drives, it supports up to six 3.5″ drive that should offer either more capacity, or a lower total price for an equivalent capacity.

GB-PC2 NAS specifications:

  • ProcessorMediaTek MT7621A dual core, quad thread MIPS processor @ 880 MHz, overclockable to 1.2 GHz
  • System Memory512 MB DDR3 (max supported by MT7621)
  • Storage – SD card slot tested up to 64 GB, 6x 3.5” SATA HDD or SSD (recommended RAID 0 or 1 under LVM, MD, or Linux MD RAID 10)
  • Connectivity – 3x Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Serial port – 3-pin J1 connector or 3.5 mm audio-type jack
  • Misc – 2x mainboard fan
  • Power – 12 VDC @ 8A via 5.5 mm x 2.1 mm, center-positive barrel jack
  • Dimensions –  TBD
  • Weight – ~454 g (without drives)

They also added one extra Gigabit Ethernet port for a total of three, and the NAS is obviously larger and heavier than the previous model, as well as requires a beefier power supply. The device can currently run Debian, OpenMediaVault, LEDE, or libreCMC with all documentation, schematics, and source code to be released on Github.

The new GB-PC2 model has also been launched on CrowdSupply with a funding target of $45,000. GnuBee PC2 Starter Kit with two anodized aluminum side plates, six threaded brackets and bracket screws, and 24 drive mount screws requires a $249 pledge. However, you may want to spend $10 more to add the power supply, SD card with firmware image, and USB-to-UART adapter cable for the Delux Kit (Early Bird). Shipping is free to the US, but adds $20 to the rest of the world, with delivery planned for December 31, 2017. Further details may be found on GNUBee website.

Hologram Unveils Nova 3G USB Dongle and Python SDK; 200 Raspberry Pi Zero W Kits Given Away to Developers

October 6th, 2017 No comments

This summer I discovered Hologram global cellular IoT SIM card, and since they provided free developer samples with 2MB of monthly data includes, I decided to get one to try it out. I received it a few weeks later, and to my surprise it worked, despite my country of residence having some strict requirements with regards to SIM card registration. The SIM card uses roaming, but with a low fixed worldwide pricing, and does not come with a phone number by default, so maybe that’s why I did not have to register.

The company is now back with Nova, an open source hardware cellular modem certified by OSHWA (ID #US000077). It’s basically 2G/3G USB dongle that’s controlled by Hologram Python SDK, specifically suited to Debian systems like Raspberry Pi 3 or BeagleBone Black. is also involved in the launch with a worldwide contest offering 200 free kits comprised of Nova 3G USB dongle and Raspberry Pi Zero W board for the best project ideas leveraging cellular IoT.

Nova will eventually come in three versions

  • 3G (in production now) – Ublox Sara-U201 module;  Global 3G/2G GSM;  GPRS/GSM/UMTS/HSPA: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz;
  • Cat-M1 (November 2017) – Ublox Sara-R404M module; USA LTE Cat M-1; FDD: 13 (Verizon)
  • Cat-M1/NB1 (Q1 2018) – Ublox Sara-R410M-02B module; Global LTE Cat M-1+ NB; FDD: 1,2,3,4,5,8,12,13,17,18,19,20,25,26,28

All should have the same other interfaces and other specs:


  • u.FL Antenna Connector
  • Nano SIM card holder
  • UART GPIO Pads
  • USB Serial
  • Network Status LED; Power LED
  • Fully end certified (FCC, PTCRB, CE, and AT&T)
  • Dimensions – 46mm x 19mm x 6mm (Plugged in PCB);  71mm x 23mm x 9mm (w/ case)
  • Weight – 8 grams

The hardware kit includes the dongle, Hologram global IoT SIM card, a transparent enclosure, 2 Quad-band flexible u.FL antennas, and access to Hologram Developer Tools for modem and data management.


The dongle can be controlled using Hologram client tool, or Hologram Python SDK requiring ppp and Python 2.7 packages, and will allow you to send SMS, setup data connection, and more. Any SIM card should work, and it’s not tied to Hologram SIM card. While the company claims OSHWA certifications, the number US000077 is not present (empty line) in the OSHWA certification list yet, and so far, they’ve only released the PDF schematics. However, Python SDK is fully open source and released under an MIT license on Github.

More details can be found in the product page, and Nova 3G kit can be purchased now for $49.

But as mentioned in the introduction, if you have a great project idea, you could also get the kit for free, and possibly another “grand prize” (Apple Watch Series 3)once the project is completed. The contest is opened worldwide (except to US sanctioned countries) with the following timeline:

  • Submit your proposal by October 27, 2017
  • Best project ideas will be selected, and be sent their kit within around 14 days
  • Build and submit your project to by January 5, 2018
  • 8 Grand Prize winners will be announced on January 8, 2018 for four categories: gateway, asset tracking, remote controlling, and remote monitoring.

There are already 135 participants. Good luck!


Mecool VS-RK3399 Board Linux Benchmarks

September 27th, 2017 11 comments

I’ve just showed how to install Debian, and build a Linux image from source on VS-RD-RK3399 board (aka Mecool VS-RK3399) last week-end, but at the time I did not run any benchmarks on the board. We already have plenty of benchmarks for Rockchip RK3399 in Android, so instead I started by installing the latest Phoronix Test Suite in Debian:

… and ran the tests I did on NanoPi NEO 2 earlier:

For whatever reasons OpenSSL and Mafft failed to download, but we still have the other benchmarks to compare with. Note that the Debian image is likely not optimized, and while the system runs an Aarch64 kernel, the rootfs is only 32-bit, which may have affected some of the benchmarks.

But let’s see what’s we’ve got, starting with John the Ripper password cracker, a multi-threaded benchmark.

Click to Enlarge

We’d normally expect hardware platforms based on Rockchip RK3399 SoC to outperform all other Cortex A53 or A17 based boards in the list, but MiQi board with a quad core Cortex A17 processor @ 1.8 GHz, and BPI-M3 board with an octa-core Cortex A7 processor @ 2.0 GHz, both beat the VS-RK3399 with an hexa-core processor with two Cortex A72 cores @ 1.8 GHz, and four Cortex A53 cores @ 1.4 GHz. BPI-M3 is even twice as fast in this test.

Click to Enlarge

C-Ray is also a multi-threaded benchmark, but here Rockchip RK3399 SoC shines, making VS-RK3399 the fastest platform of the lot, also beating MeLE PCG02U TV stick (MeUbuntu 14.04.3) powered by an Intel Bay Trail Z3735F processor.

Click to Enlarge

Smallpt is another multi-threaded benchmark, and VS-RK3399 board does well, but it’s still beaten by the Intel TV stick (OpenMP might help here?), and Banana Pi M3.

Click to Enlarge

The Rockchip RK3399 board is the fastest ARM platform for Himeno linear solver of pressure Poisson, but due to specific x86 instructions and/or optimization, the Bay Trail TV stick is well ahead.

Click to Enlarge

Finally, for FLAC audio encoding, VS-RK3399 is the best ARM platform (in the tested lot) by a wide margin, but Intel is ahead with their more advanced SIMD instructions.

So Rockchip RK3399 processor will outperform all ARM boards with single threaded tasks thanks to it Cortex A72 cores, but in some multi-threaded tests, octa-core Cortex A7, and quad core Cortex A17 platforms may deliver better results.

VS-RD-RK3399 board comes with a 32GB Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash that supposed to deliver 246/46 MB/s R/W speed, and 6K/5K R/W IOPS.

I tested it with iozone using a 100MB file:

Results for the read speed are around the theoretical limit, but write speeds are well above, maybe because of some caching.

I switched to Gigabit Ethernet performance testing starting with a full duplex iperf test:

Not quite optimal, so let’s look at upload only:

and download only:

Both of which are quite good. I had been told that IRQ may all be handled by CPU0 (Cortex A53 core in the board), and the following changes may improve performance:

So I repeated the tests, and something impossible happened:

We’re not supposed to get 1.35 Gbps on Gigabit Ethernet… So I tried again for a longer period of time (10 minutes):

Same results.. But looking at the output from the server side, it looks more realistic:

and it does improve a little compared to the first test without the tweaks.

Banana Pi BPI-W2 is a Features-Packed Realtek RTD1296 Development Board

September 27th, 2017 30 comments

I’ve reviewed several Realtek RTD1295 platforms with Zidoo X9S and Eweat R9 Plus, and I was generally impressed by the storage, Ethernet, and WiFi performance. 4K video playback was good too, as long you don’t have any 4K H.264 videos at 30 fps or more. Most devices would also run Android and OpenWrt side-by-side bringing the best of both operating for respectively apps & multimedia, and server functions. HDMI input – with PVR, time-shifting and PiP functions – was also a bonus, However so far, nobody cared to design a maker board powered by RTD1295 processor. Since then we’ve learned Realtek was working on RTD1296 processor with even more Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and SATA interfaces, and SinoVoIP has now designed a board based on the SoC called Banana Pi BPI-W2.

Banana Pi BPI-W2 preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1296 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4 RAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (option for 16, 32 or 64GB, 2x SATA 3.0 interfaces, 1x M.2 slot,  micro SD slot up to 256GB
  • Video I/O – HDMI 2.0a output up to 4K @ 60 Hz, HDMI 2.0 input (1080p60 max video recording resolution), mini DP output
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, mini DP (TBC), 3.5mm audio jack
  • Video Playback – HDR, 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 4K @ 60fps, H.264 up to 4K @ 24 fps, VP9 up to 4K @ 30 fps, BDISO/MKV, etc…
  • Connectivity
    • 2x Gigabit Ethernet
    • SIM card slot (requires PCIe modem)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports, USB type C interface (no info on supported features)
  • Expansions
    • 1x PCIe 1.1 slot
    • 1x PCIe 2.0 slot
    • 40-pin “Raspberry Pi” GPIO header
  • Debugging – 3-pin UART connector
  • Misc – Power, reset and LSADC keys; RTC battery connector; IR receiver; fan header
  • Power Supply – 12V /2A via power barrel connector
  • Dimensions – 148 x 100.5 mm (same dimensions as Banana Pi R2 board)

The PCIe slot are likely to be used for 802.11ac WiFi and cellular (2G. 3G, 4G) modules. The board supports Android 6.0 + OpenWrt, and the company claims it can also run Debian 9, CentOS 64-bit, Ubuntu 16.04, and Raspbian distribution, currently with Linux 4.1.35, but slated to be updated to Linux 4.9. Realtek RTD1295 SoC is also partially supported in Mainline Linux.

SinoVoIP often announces boards many months before the board is released. For example, Banana Pi BPI-R2 was first unveiled in January 2017, and only launched in July. So I’d expect Banana Pi W2 (BPI-W2) to start selling sometimes in 2018. You may find a few more and less accurate details about the board on Gitbook. Note that Shenzhen Xunlong has been working on their own “Orange Pi Home RTD1295DD board“, and I don’t know the status, but company tends to announced the board the day they are launched.

Short Demo with 96Boards SynQuacer 64-bit ARM Developer Box

September 27th, 2017 17 comments

Even if you are working on ARM platforms,  you are still likely using an Intel or AMD x86 build machine, since there’s not really a good alternative in the ARM world. Linaro talked about plans to change that at Linaro Connect Budapest 2017 in March, and a few days ago, GIGABYTE SynQuacer software development platform was unveiled with a Socionext SynQuacer SC2A11 24-core Cortex-A53 processor, and everything you’d expect from a PC tower with compartment for SATA drives, PCIe slots, memory slots, multiple USB 3.0 ports, and so on.

Click to Enlarge

The platform was just demonstrated a Linaro Connect San Francisco right after Linaro High Performance Computing keynotes by Kanta Vekaria, Technology Strategist, Linaro, and Yasuo Nishiguchi, Socionext’s Chairman & CEO.

If you have never used a system with more than 14 cores, you’d sadly learn that the tux logos at boot times will only be shown on the first line, skipping the remaining 10 cores, of the 24-core system. It was hard to stomach, but I’m recovering… 🙂

The demo showed a system with an NVIDIA graphics card connected to the PCIe x16 port and leveraging Nouveau open drivers, but it’s also possible to use it as an headless “developer box”. The demo system booted quickly into Debian + Linux 4.13. They then played a YouTube video, and ran top in the developer box showing all 24-cores and 32GB RAM. That’s it. They also took questions from the audience. We learned that the system can build the Linux kernel in less than 10 minutes, they are working on SBSA compliance, and the system will be available through 96Boards website, with a complete build with memory and storage expected to cost less than $1,000. The idea is to use any off-the-shelves peripherals typically found in x86 PC towers. We still don’t know if they take MasterCard though… The video below is the full keynote with the demo starting at the 52:30 mark.

Checking Out Debian and Linux SDK for VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 Board

September 25th, 2017 32 comments

VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 (aka VS-RK3399) is a features-packed development board powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa core core processor which offers an alternative to Firefly-RK3399 board. The company sent me a development kit for evaluation, and I’ve already looked into VS-RD-RK3399 hardware and SDK in the first part of the review. Today, after shortly looking into the pre-installed Android 7.1 OS to make sure the board boots fine, I’ll report my experience with Debian 9, and building it from source.

Click to Enlarge

A Quick Look at Android 7.1

I connected the board to my HDMI TV, added an Ethernet cable, and after powering it, VS-RK3399 promptly booted into Android 7.1 with the following launched.

Click to Enlarge

It just has a few apps pre-installed, and lack Google Play store, but as I’ve seen in the new version of the SDK, a patch for Google Play store is provided, if that’s something you need for your use case.

Click to Enlarge

The version I had pre-installed was built on August 14, 2017 with Android 7.1.2 OS running on top of Linux 4.4.55 kernel.

The storage section shows plenty of space left out of the 29.12GB flash partition, and the NTFS and EXT-4 partitions of my USB drives were mounted properly.

However, Explorer app would keep on reporting all USB partitions were NOT mounted. I had to use my smartphone to transfer the screenshots over Bluetooth. Adb would have been another option. Anyway, the Android version I had on my board was pretty rough, but I can see they’ve released another Android image in VS3399 board’s MEGA folder. I have not tried it, since I’ve spent enough time playing with Android on RK3399 with TV boxes such as Yundoo Y8 and Vorke Z3.

Installing Debian

So instead I went to the aforelinked MEGA folder, and downloaded VS-RD-RK3399-linuxSDK, which not only have the SDK like last month, but also a Debian image.

So I downloaded debia_linux_20170905.rar, and the rar file in linux_update_tools, but the latter actually contains (outdated versions of) Windows based Rockchip’s AndroidTool & DriverAssistant, but since I’m using Ubuntu, I went with upgrade_tool instead just like I did for Rock64 board quick start guide.

We’ll need to enter recovery mode to flash the Debian image. While the board is running keep pressing the recovery button, press the reset button shortly, count to 2 or 3, and release the recovery button. When you connect the USB type C to USB 3.0 cable between the board and your computer, you should see the board in the kernel log (dmesg):

How we can extract the Debian firmware, and flash it with upgrade_tool:

if successful the procedure is successful, the output should like the four lines below:

and the board should have automatically rebooted to Debian 9.

Testing Debian 9 on VS-RK3399 Board

Now that the installation is complete, we can start to play with the Debian on the board. Or can’t we? There’s no menu available at all, and only the Trash icon on the desktop. If I right click I get some more menus…

So I went into Desktop Preferences, enabled some other icons, and change the right click behavior.

Now I can launch some apps such as the terminal emulator and Chromium web browser, but they don’t show on the desktop at all, despite clearly running “somewhere”…

I then noticed I can move the mouse cursor beyond he left side of the HDMI TV, so I’d assumed there must be another display enabled. I tried to connect Dodocool DC30S hub to the USB type C port since it supports DisplayPort, but I get no signal on my other monitor, so the extra display must be connected via eDP or MIPI DSI, and the company sent me neither.

I could see the image is based on Linaro ALIP rootfs, so I connected to the board via SSH, hoping that linaro/linaro username and password would work, and they did:

The image runs Debian 9 with Linux 4.4.55, and we have a 29GB rootfs, and 3877 MB memory in total.

We can get some more details about the CPU with 2 Cortex A72 cores clocked at up to 1.8 GHz, and 4 Cortex A53 cores clocked at up to 1.416 GHz:

The Gigabit Ethernet port and WiFi module are both detected:

I could not find Bluetooth however using “communication”, and the list of buses or bridges only showed USB ports, no PCI(e) interfaces:

lspci did not return anything either.

Build a Debian Image from Source

Since the image is not really usable with LCD display, I won’t perform more tests on Debian firmware, and instead will work with the SDK, trying to build my own image from source. We can extract the Linux SDK we’ve gotten from the MEGA link:

…and follow / adapt the instructions in VS-RK3399 Linux SDK Compile and build (EN).pdf document found in VS-RD software datasheet folder.

The company recommends a build machine running Ubuntu 14.04 / 16.04 64-bit, and I installed some dependencies on my Ubuntu 16.04 computer:

as well as ARM/ARM64 GCC toolchain and other tools and libraries:

We can now build u-boot:

It should only take a few seconds, and we can make sure the build went fine:

Next up is the the Linux kernel:

We have to choose an image to build with the dts file of our choice:

The -edp image is with eDP LCD display, -mipi is for MIPI LCD display, and the -dulelcd must be for both (“dual LCD”). So there’s no option for no LCD at all right now, and I’m not sure why there’s a need for three DTS files for the board, as surely this should be possible to select/configure the LCD outputs are runtime (TBC). But let’s use the MIPI LCD one:

I did not go that well, as the build failed:

I tried with rk3399-videostrong-board-edp.img again, and same error, but I noticed more details by scrolling up:

We can see gsl3673.c file is missing:

So I renamed the c-old file to c, and could complete the build:

Now we can build the complete firmware from source using buildroot:

The build all script will take a long while as it downloads and builds all packages. It took over 2 hours on my machine. I ended with:

It looks OK, except for the script failed to remove one file/directory. Let’s try to create the firmware file:

Sadly that part failed too because of conflicts with a patch:

That failures means the rootfs was not built, and the script is so bad did not stop during mpp build failure, and continued building other libs:

I have not tried to fix the issue, as I don’t know how many other issues are hidden in that big piles of code. VideoStrong should look into and provide an SDK that actually builds.. In case the build works, we should get rootfs.img file that can be flashed with AndroidTool if we follow the instructions in the PDF file.

However, you’ll also be able to flash the files one by one using upgrade_tool in Linux, no need to have a Windows machine for any part of the process.

It’s hard to recommend VS-RD-RK3399 if you are an individual who want a platform for development since software support and documentation are rather poor, but if you are a company that plans to order in quantity, you should have direct support from the company, and you can contact them via Alibaba’s VideoStrong page. If you have a good skills, and are ready to work to solve whatever issues, you can also purchase the board for $168.32 (2GB/16GB) or $213.29 (4GB/32GB) on GearBest where it is sold under the MECOOL brand (Coupon GBCNA will give a 14% discount), or Aliexpress. For reference, Firefly-RK3399 in equivalent memory/storage configuration sells for $179 and $219 on Aliexpress. It’s also listed on Amazon US for $149.99/$199.99.

uCAN CAN Ethernet Converter and Logger is Based on Orange Pi Zero Board

September 19th, 2017 2 comments

The CAN bus is a serial communication protocol used in automotive and automation applications. The guys at have designed a solution around Orange Pi Zero board that allows you to log CAN bus data or act as a bridge between the CAN bus and Ethernet or WiFi. They call it “CAN Ethernet converter, CAN Logger, Linux CAN computer”. Sorry, no shorter name that I could find…

Click to Enlarge

uCAN (pronounced micro CAN) CAN Bus board specifications:

  • Main Board – Orange Pi Zero with Allwinner H2+ quad core cortex-A7 processor, 256 MB RAM
  • Network Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Can Bus – 2-pin terminal block; support for CAN version 2.0 support
  • Power Supply – DC 5V/2A via micro USB port
  • Dimension – 50 x 50 x 20 mm

The device comes pre-load with Debian distribution provided by Armbian plus various CAN tools. The getting started video below shows uCANTools web interface programmed with Node.js and running by default on the board, and explains how to use sockets instead to access the CAN data.

You can find the source code for uCANTools on Github, and the other pre-installed tools are based on can-utils package available from Debian repository.

uCAN CAN Ethernet converter is normally sold on Tindie for $50 plus shipping, but right as I was about to finish this article the price switched to $150 with the message “This seller is on vacation. Please return after Oct. 14, 2017 to purchase this awesome product!”. Oh well…

Orange Pi 2G IoT Board Can Now Boot Linux from NAND Flash

September 4th, 2017 2 comments

Orange Pi 2G IoT is a $10 development board with a 2G cellular modem that was launched last March. The board is based on RDA Micro RDA8810PL processor designed for cheap Android phones, but Linux support was also promoted, and an RDA8810 Android SDK was released in April. It was the first time RDA8810 was used in a development board, and unsurprisingly it was, and still is, a challenge to use such board, as software support is on-going… So people who purchased the board has troubles with controlling GPIOs, or booting Linux from the SoC’s built-in NAND flash, instead reverting to booting from a micro SD card. Luckily, Orange Pi forum’s user surfero75 worked on the latter, found a solution, and posted instructions in Spanish.

He wrote those instructions leveraging the work done by Aib user, and I summarized the main steps below explaining how install and boot from NAND flash (Warning: This could potentially brick your board if something goes wrong):

  1. Get opi2g-utils tools
  2. Set the boot selection to NAND flash/ Android boot, and put the board in USB-OTG mode with the switches set as follows: 1-4 ON and 5-8 OFF
  3. Use serves to extract the files from Android NAND package in case you want to restore Android?
  4. Build u-boot with OrangePiIoT2GBuildSystem utility
  5. Flash the resulting u-boot.rda file to the board:
  6. If you boot Linux from a micro SD card, it should now find the NAND flash:
  7. Edit boot.cmd file to force boot from NAND flash:
  8. Compile the boot.cmd to create boot.scr binary to copy to the root of the micro SD card:
  9. Prepare, format, and mount the NAND flash
  10. There should be an extra step to copy the bootloader and rootfs content, but this step is not detailed in the blog post. I may have missed something…

Anyway, you can also ask question on Orange Pi Forum or on his blog post, if you have question. The video below shows Orange Pi 2G IoT booting DietPi from the NAND flash.

[Update: Surfero75 has now provided an image to try it out without having to go through all instructions above]