Posts Tagged iot

FriendlyElec NanoPi NEO2, a better sub-$20 Linux computer

NanoPi NEO2 by FriendlyElec is a new sub-$20  Linux microcomputer, built on Allwinner H5 SoC, providing a Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 interface. Also additional interfaces are possible via expansion headers (needs some soldering work). The board is equipped with 512MB DDR3 RAM.

It is highly recommended to buy the heatsink alongside with the board. The CPU is heating up quite significantly, and it needs cooling. With “stress -c 4” CPU load test, “armbianmonitor -m” shows the core temperature rising up to 75C. The board sustains long-term load under such conditions. But with a fan, the core temperature drops below 40C, and the power consumption drops significantly too.

The plastic 3D-printed enclosure is of little use. First, it’s quite easy to break when you insert the board. Also it does not fixate the heatsink properly.

So, I ended up in using the original cardboard packaging as a base for the board, just to avoid extra touching of electronic circuits, and to fixate the USB power cable:

IMG_20170416_155513436

Armbian nightly image booted without problems. Up to now, I noticed the following minor problems with it:

  1. it does not come up after reboot;
  2. “cpufreq-info” complains about unknown driver.

Network traffic tests with tcpkali (debs, deb build scripts) demonstrated that the CPU is able to saturate the Gigabit Ethernet port with TCP traffic, reaching above 900Mbps throughput.

All in all, this board looks much more reliable than Orange Pi Zero: it can work for long hours with an  USB Wifi dongle, whereas OPI0 was hanging up after few minutes of work (using the same USB power cable and power source and the dongle). UPD: the board doesn’t actually hang up, but the WiFi interface stops transmitting packets for some reason. Needs further investigation.

UPD: I tried to flip the board with the hope for better heat dissipation (below), but it appeared to be much worse, and the peak temperature reached 85C:

IMG_20170417_180933194[1]

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Orange Pi Zero, a sub-$20 Linux computer

Orange Pi Zero with 512MB RAM, expansion board and black case is sold for sub-$20, including postal costs, and it is so far the cheapest Linux device you can buy.

Armbian project provides a dedicated image for this board. The nightly build is quite stable, and there’s also legacy kernel which works well.

The computer is equipped with a 100/10 Ethernet NIC, and the top throughput that I could achieve was about 90Mbps.

The on-board WiFi adapter is of very poor quality: regardless of the antenna attached, it gives about 6Mbps connection speed and excessive packet loss (up to 20% lost pings). It’s useless for any practical application, and it’s easier to disable it completely.

The two USB ports on the expansion board are not enabled by default in the legacy kernel. You need to add the following line to /boot/armbianEnv.txt file, and reboot the box:

overlays=usbhost2 usbhost3

In order to disable the onboard WiFi, comment the top line, and add another line in /etc/modprobe.d/xradio_wlan.conf:

#options xradio_wlan macaddr=DC:44:6D:1F:3C:14
blacklist xradio_wlan

Then, run the following commands to update the kernel boot parameters:

depmod -ae
update-initramfs -u

The onboard USB ports are not extremely fast: with an GigE or Wifi USB adapter, the maximum speed that I could achieve was about 40Mbps. But at least you get a stable and reliable connection.

The micro-USB OTG port is used for powering the device, and the board can freeze if the power consumption on USB ports is too big. For example, an external USB drive is very likely to knock the whole thing off. A WiFi dongle can freeze at bulk traffic loads. So, it’s advisable to use an external USB hub for attaching devices.

Network Manager is installed by default by Armbian, and that allows easy plug-and-play WiFi configuration, adding new SSID and passwords from “nmcli” command-line interface.

All in all, it’s still quite a pretty device in a small enclosure. It can be used as a low-cost or throw-away network agent or VPN gateway for remote access. Also it can act as a measurement agent for all kinds of network testing, especially if you need a massive deployment and price difference is important.

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