Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Arrghhh right in the feels

The T3 has a problem with its video out, its not outputting correctly on the HDMI, lots of signal noise and drop off when in use, that's a pity..  I had a similar issue with my Odroid C2, though I didn't try it on an LCD, this at least does work perfectly on the 7'screen hardwired with a ribbon, albeit in 800x400. The cable is a little delicate though I need to get a stand to fit them in once place before the ribbon gets ripped.

That's such a shame, as I really wanted this to be a full screen machine. Oh well, I'll use it on the small screen at my desk, where it does indeed look very snazzy, once I get it hooked up to the interwebs, I'll see if I can find a nice appointment planning display to run when not testing games.

The T2, works wonderfully though, there's really no noticeable difference between them other than cores, and slightly different versions of Debian (noticeable in the wifi setups)  both feature eMMC memory for really fast boot and file handling (network access does cause a pause though)
the T3 should be a lot faster of course and it certainly feels like it is fast and smooth, but we are working on half the screen size. So its not a great indicator.

Disappointed as I am by the lack of HDMI, it does have its own screen, so I can use it quite comfortably as a test device for multi core programming. So happy days Sat at my desk under the main monitor.

The T2 works fine on the HDMI,. not at full res though, which seems to be a common theme with Nano Pi machines, its 720p rather than 1080p but for now it is ok, I could rebuild the kernel or some other Linux wizardry, but that breaks the brief of not learning any in-depth Linux.

For now my main issue is getting them to connect to the uni I can update them and download a few test aps.

They are 1G versions, with 8G eMMC memory

More Nano's

Ohhh I do like them, so decided to get hold of their impressive sounding T3, a slightly more upmarket board, not aimed at the same Raspberry market, but essentially the same with a few more bells and whistles. Designed for a slightly more industrial market, it nevertheless falls in the brief og an SBC running linux with graphics.

Unusually for a 2016 model it takes a full size SD card, and also does not use micro USB power, though that is considerably better as micro usb cables are not ideal for power transmission.

The main reason for the purchase though was ... OCTOCORE!

The XU4 is the current beast with a steady and reliable system, complete with fan cooling. The M3 lags behind due to cooling/power issues, but does sometimes get all 8 of its cores working. I'm hoping this T3 shows at least the M3 how to do it, (hoping to get a rev 2 M3 soon to see if the issues it has have been overcome)

It probably won't match the XU4, certainly not in GPU power with a single core Mali 400, compared to the XU4's 6 core Power VR's

But I do want to try a reliable 8 core system, So hoping this does it... Sadly it did not come with a heatsink as pictured on the idea till I try it if that is a problem, but certainly its better to fit a sink, so next time I buy from these guys I will make sure I get a couple of  heat sinks.

I also got a T2, with is the quad core version, the only difference is the CPU.

Not quite sure if the ones I have are 2G or 1G ram, since the option was hard to specify, will find out soon.

Will get these fired up soon...can't wait.

oh the T2 fired up, Debian 8.1 already installed on the eMMC... I like that, but only low res, and not really any indication of how many cores it has.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Time to start reviewing Projects

I've not quite managed to get all the 25 or so machines I've collected fully working. Lack of decent organisation with projects that are ongoing and not yet prepared for use in the book make it a bit hard to do on my own.

Lucky for me a couple of 2nd year students find themselves without a project to work on at Uni and so have now become willing members of team Fundamentals. So they are going to act as my testing team, and keepers of the master SVN's They will also be following the book to see if they find anything too hard or too easy.

This is really useful for everyone, as keeping the projects tidy as I write them is quite a task, as is trying it out on at least the 5 main base versions to ensure Debian, Ubuntu,Gnome and a couple of light versions all work as expected. It means I can focus on making the projects work and writing the text

This also means I have to speed up...since they need new content every week to try out.....starting to get the idea this is going to be hard work :D

But most of the 2D sections are now done or roughed out..and some lovely cartoons are in place now from the talented Pim Bos!

Currently the 1st 6 chapters are done...rough an unedited but quite readable, the boys have worked through them this week and are getting things up and running. , Most of the remaining chapters are roughed out waiting for code content to be added. That will be more intense, as I have a lot of personal learning to do so I can explain 3D in the simplest possible way.

Better get back to it.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Creator Ci20 1st impressions

Bloody Wonderful...

well mainly due to 2 simple facts, it comes with Debian pre-installed on its internal eMMC memory, so it boots right out of the box.
It has some sparkling demos of its graphic abilities.
It has on board wireless which hooked up no problem, and then allowed me to do a semi update/upgrade

I say semi because it seems to have Debian Wheezy on it, the WIP version of Debian, and it didn't manage to find all files to upgrade, but it did enough..I personally would prefer the stable Jessie build but its not a big issue.

Negatives, well its didn't like my USB hub, which had the keyboard/mouse/extern wifi on it, totally refused to see it... So had to use up the only 2 USB ports plugging the mouse and keyboard into i, Wifi being unnecessary.
It takes an old full sized SD card...which isn't really an issue considering it boots from the eMMC, but it might be nice to add a different OS on the card, like Android... The only problem there is the choice of boot is done with a jumper block rather than a simple switch, which would have been nice...

Its a dual core rather than a quad...Though thats not surprising, its "last years" model and came out before the quad cores became easily available. It does seem to take a long time to boot though with only 2 cores. Once booted though it seems responsive and nippy

But so far, 1st impression are excellent, Not tried coding it yet, I haven't been able to get SSH to work as it refuses the only password I have for it ci20. The forums seem to be lacking in info, and attempts to register have been confusing.
But I'll stick with it, I like PowerVR chips, one or 2 of my machines have them and its nice to finally see what they can do.

Edit... got some nice help on the Creater forums, the problem was the default eMMC version of Debian did not have SSH installed, I had assumed since every other install I've done had it, that it was a standard feature, but no.
sudo apt-get install ssh

resolved the issue for connections, I'll try the coding soon.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

Nano Pi2 continuing the love

I went back to the Nano Pi2 yesterday, as I now have enough SD cards to give everyone of my pets their own card. I had reused the previous NPi 2 card, so this was a fresh install, which went a little different to the last one so a new report.

No problems at all burning it and resizing, now that I know how to do it. But some major confusion with its onboard wifi ate up some time and patience. Last time I managed to get it to hook up, but this time the wifi refused to recognise any of my home networks, even one a few inches away from the unit. It showed a blank list.

It did however act as a base sender, that my PC was able to see, but not to hook up to as I had no password..

Considering the NPi2 has no wired  network port, this is a bit of an issue, I tried using a USB hub with an RJ45 connector, but it still could not go to the router.. I think that may be due to the NPi2 only having one USB and trying to share with a network converter as well as mouse and keys might be asking too much...

No connection to my home network, meant no updates, no libs and worse, no SSH to my dev machine to send to.

But as with most things, RTFM comes to the rescue, in this case the manual is on the Friendlyarm wiki

Its not entirely accurate, and its probably a little bit out of date, but it is a good effort from what seems to be a one man team keeping it updated.
There was a germ of information about the NPi2's Wifiap that caught my  eye. This was what I was seeing on my PC, and there was a password. kinda. 1234567890 is not a password. but hey ho.

I realised that the distro I was using had the NPi2 already set to transmit not to receive. I could have chosen to connect my PC to it, but I wanted to update the Debian, so I switched off the wifiap as explained in the docs and sure enough, the little beauty found the networks.
Once hooked up, and reset to be sure, it was perfectly happy doing an update then an upgrade, and installing mesa libs..

It is now a fully working system, albeit only wireless. which makes it a bit slow for development, I probably should have bought the network equipped NPi2Fire.

I also left it alone for some time and this version of the distro was much more reliable and didn't hang....after a few hours doing nothing.

It is a very very basic version of Debian though, if you plan to do anything special with it, you probably need to install lots of extras, but I like the light builds, for my purposes its now perfect.

It also is currently set to a low 720p res, now I know thats just a script I have to change, but as we know my understanding of Linux scripts is 0.1 out of 100 and I need to hunt for an idiots guide to do that. But that's a small niggle.

The NPi2 represents a really nice small quadcore, Mali 400MP (1core I think),  which will be fun to try out now.

Yes I am liking the Nano range, they have some issues with their support, the forums are almost empty, the wiki's not entirely accurate,  and I was a little harsh on my 1st reviews due to faulty SD cards, but these are actually very nice little machines, (so long as you fit a heatsink)

I''ll re-review the M1 and M2 soon, but I am actually very happy with them, they've been my goto non RPi machines with their solid compact cases making them ideal, pop in the bag to take to work systems.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Pine's Alive

In fact I am entering this post on it...

After failure with the user supplied Ubuntu, I tried burning Debian on a 16gb card, and boom it works just fine, though that 1st boot seemed to take an age and only me putting my network cable into it when it appeared to stop, which then showed acknowledgment, and it seemed to then continue to a boot. to GUI
It maybe its just fussy with cards...but the cards I used were quite decent....ah well. won't boot if you don't have the ethernet plugged wait, its on a hangs for a minute or so, then boots, clearly its got a countdown set too high when not connected, I'll try it again...having done a slow boot......nope still slow....mental note, keep the Ethernet cable plugged in.

Its by no means perfect, no sign of wifi, it crashes a lot, But it plays youtube videos, I suspect my crappy upstairs internet is the issue,  but it will get better!

No sign of OpenGLES just yet, but if its not there I will install it.
This issue occurs with Ubuntu as well as Debian, its actually a correct response to a search for a network connection but the timeout is set waaaaay to high.

so there you go, is now (hopefully) a usable target... I will report back soon on how usable.

Nano Pi's have restored the love

I was a bit down on the Nano's when I 1st posted about them, they seemed reluctant to boot, and gave me a lot of problems, but I stuck with them. They took a bit of coaxing, but in the end it turned out to be my ignorance of Linux and faulty SD cards which created pretty much all the issues.

Well thats not totally true, I still struggle with wifi and a few other things and their support is non-existant, like their users :( But my main issue of using them as cheap simple code utterly fine.

I was hoping that creating an EGL context would be a simple matter of a few conditional statements, but in the end it needs a different approach, so I now have to treat the Raspberry Pi as the exception it actually is. All other linux machines need EGL and a window...the Rasp needs its bcm_host.

But the M1 and M2 and NanoPi2 all worked flawslessly as standaard EGL systems, once you download mesa drivers and GCC where needed.

Nice nice nice and the extra M1 I bought for the office is serving me very well when I get an hour or so at the end of a day to try out some coding. I'm looking forward to my T3 octocore to see if it can rivel the XU4 as a power machine...nahhh, it can't but if it does a better job than the fussy BPi M3 I'll be happy.

Pine64 1st Impressions

ermmm not good

Lets be honest, the size is strange, and the forum moderators strange justifications for the size, seem odd.

But never mind, I never like to be negative for no reason, its a brand new board, by brand new makers, who are bound to make mistakes..

Like for example hosting their images on the slowest server I've yet encountered, 13 hours to download a zipped Debian img....ermmm thats not classy.

But worse, was once burned on to a class 10 8Gb microSD it failed to finish a boot, that's frustrating...a new board taking its img direct from the makers wiki link, which clearly states works on a 2Gb board...should at least boot to a prompt..
I have set up the laptop to download Ubuntu, its going to take 13 hours too....yipe.

Its pretty bad to wait so long to download an image, only to not have it work, then take the same amount of time again to download another, with a certain amount of trepidation that it may not also work.

umm ok, well I was able to torrent Remix OS from their wiki, took 3 or 4 hours, I am not sure, I left it running, but it was a lot better.  But its an OS I've not used before, so not sure what to expect from it. As I type, it just booted up, looks a lot like a Windows version of Android....but it does show the board is working...

Sadly since its basically an android system I can't SSH code to it, so will have to try harder to get hold of a working Linux.

There is a basic Ubuntu system available from a user on the forums, so will try that next.

It didn't work!! I tried Debian again on a different again didn't work...
sigh! The most fundamental thing you have to make sure of when releasing a board is that there is a working OS..even if its crap, as many are, it gives you something to work with...not even being able to boot is a pain. Though it may be a hardware fault. that the Android one is able to skip past!

There are some reported issues with 2Gb machines....not sure exactly what, and there are comments that state that the issues are resolved, but clearly not on my board.
So I guess I will have to put it aside for a while until they release a stable Linux build that works on my machine before I can consider doing much with will make a cute paperweight.

Edit...see later posts, I found the issue, and its now working.

nearly all of them

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Pine A64....a monster

Lol I got quite a shock when I picked up my PineA64 from the post office today, no customs charges :D

well that was only a small but welcome shock, the real shock came when I got home and opend the box...DAMN this this is huge, only a little smaller than a PC ITX board, its 3 times the size of a normal SBC...quite incredible

I ordered a 2G with Wifi, which turned out to be a plug in module...with a very ungainly antenna that I have to stick somewhere. But it does look nice when built up, but damn...its a monster.

look at this for a size comparison thats a Nano Pi M2 next to it.

its massive :D I've not fired it up yet, will go now and see if I can locate an image to burn and try it out, its a mali based GPU so aside from its 64bit CPU its a pretty standard machine, in fact it took so long to come out that its proud claim of being the 1st 64bit quad core is no longer true.

Its certainly the biggest :D

Will update you on performance once I get it going, probably tomorrow as I have some other things to finish today.

NanoPC T3 Octocore fun

Now this is an interesting new system. I rather like Friendly Arm machines, now that I have actually worked out a nice effective way to get non Raspberry kits set up. (a series of updates and installs) This is a company that seems hell bent on producing a range of really low cost decent featured machines. Its a real shame they are not really well known in the west. Its a small company, with a tiny user base that deserves a lot more recognition.

I have 3(actually 4, as I bought 2 M1's)  of their machines already but the recent launch of an octoccore system a tiny fraction over my self imposed 50euro limit (ignoring post)  I had to purchase.

The other octocores on the market, are the Odroid XU4, which is a monster machine I can find no faults with really, and the less impressive Banana Pi M3 which has all kinds of overheating issues but is fun to mess with..

The XU4 is the power machine of the group and no doubt, but it uses a Big.Little arrangement of cores which I don't totally understand, though will investigate, that suggests I can't run all 8 cores at once, whereas the M3 has 8 standard cores, all of which  can run an app's threads, if the machine does not shut them down when the get hot that is.

So I don't have a simple 8 core unit that I can use to fully explore multi core coding.....until now.

I don't  have my hands on the T3 yet, but considering it has a lower clock speed, but more efficient A53 cores than the M3's A7's, and has a heat sink fitted, it should be a more effective and reliable multi core system.
It does have a few issues, it seems to only have a single core Mali 400 GPU, So graphically its nothing special at all, dual or quad core Mali's would have made this a mega machine, (the XU4 has a 6 core GPU) Also its USB/Networking is apparently all hooked up to the same internal systems, so its not going to be as fast as it could be.
This annoys the purists who use these as control systems, but for game coders, it makes no difference tous

There are also a few issues with their webstie and ordering system, but as I say this is a small company and sometimes they don't get things set up, so ordering the 2Gb version is hit and miss, and at the moment there is no way to download the OS, but am sure that will be resolved by the time someone else buys one :D

There's a link here

I'll let you know how it performs when I get hold of it.