AuthorTopic: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC  (Read 540 times)

Offline RE

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2017, 06:41:26 AM »
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This does not sound like a Plug 'n Play set up for amateurs.

No, it isn't.  Amateurs should pay a hundred times more for a powerful computer with a crappy bloated OS like Windows pre-installed, and put up with zero-day exploits, viruses, and being spied on for your personal data which is sold to people who want to advertise crap to you on your own screen.

Nah, not hundreds of times.  You probably have spent about $20 so far.

Here's my speed for Micro Computers, Plug n' Play!  :icon_sunny:


https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Intel-i3-5th-Gen-CPU-Fanless-mini-desktop-pc-4K-HTPC-4GB-RAM-128GB-SSD-2xHDMI/32421055975.html?spm=2114.40010308.4.22.bN1du1

$250 to $450 depending the options you choose.  So call it 15X the price.

Now figure in your hourly wage for the work you do in set up.  At $50/hr for a pro geek, you are way past the cost in labor time.

I'm looking at getting one with Linux installed to get familiar with it.  :icon_sunny:

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Offline Palloy2

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2017, 07:17:25 AM »
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Now figure in your hourly wage for the work you do in set up.

Why?  This is a one-off project for me.  The end result is a micro-SD card with files on it.  If I was going into mass production, I would copy and sell the cards, not sit there watching a screen for 3 hours each time.  I used to charge $50/hour 20 years ago.

The best way to learn Linux is to install VirtualBox on your Windows machine, and then install Ubuntu in VirtualBox.  Cost: zero.
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Offline RE

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2017, 07:37:39 AM »
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Now figure in your hourly wage for the work you do in set up.

Why?  This is a one-off project for me.  The end result is a micro-SD card with files on it.  If I was going into mass production, I would copy and sell the cards, not sit there watching a screen for 3 hours each time.  I used to charge $50/hour 20 years ago.

Wages have stagnated in everything.  Haven't you been following the newz?

Quote
The best way to learn Linux is to install VirtualBox on your Windows machine, and then install Ubuntu in VirtualBox.  Cost: zero.

Yes, I could do it that way but then at the end I wouldn't have a separate machine independent from Windows.  Besides, it's so CUTE!  Plus look at all those USB ports!  I won't even need a USB hub!  Does Linux support Bluetooth right outta da box?

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Offline Palloy2

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2017, 03:33:09 PM »
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Plus look at all those USB ports!  I won't even need a USB hub! 

That's a case of wanting more of everything, while the Zero is a case of wanting the minimum of everything.

USB ports that share a common hub can't do copying of big files from Port A to Port B as fast as ports on different hubs, and the same thing applies to the hubs that use a common bus channel deep inside the electronic guts.  This doesn't matter for slow devices like keyboard and mouse, but it does for external HDDs.  So if you want good performance, you have to know the USB architecture.  Also USB hubs only have so much power given to them, and have to share it out amongst their ports' devices.  You can put hubs on hubs on hubs, but that is usually slower.  So Plug and Play without thinking will always work, but not as well as WITH thinking.

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Does Linux support Bluetooth right outta da box?

Ubuntu tries to be "everything out of the box", other distributions don't necessarily want that approach.  It is a simple matter to install Bluetooth Manager drivers later.  Android let's manufacturers supply their own drivers, and that is a HUGE security risk that totally negates everything Linux is about.

So assuming a well-known Bluetooth Manager chip in the computer, Ubuntu will have a driver for it.   As for the Bluetooth devices, that depends on whether their chips have Linux drivers, and that depends on whether the manufacturer has published the data sheet for the chip.  In China chip manufacturers are constantly changing chips to get the cheapest, and don't give any support, at least not in English.

Similar problems apply to video cards.  Ubuntu has a software mechanism for using a generalised driver when the specialised driver isn't available, and then flagging the need for the specialised driver.
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Offline RE

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2017, 03:45:17 PM »
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Plus look at all those USB ports!  I won't even need a USB hub! 

That's a case of wanting more of everything, while the Zero is a case of wanting the minimum of everything.

USB ports that share a common hub can't do copying of big files from Port A to Port B as fast as ports on different hubs, and the same thing applies to the hubs that use a common bus channel deep inside the electronic guts.  This doesn't matter for slow devices like keyboard and mouse, but it does for external HDDs.  So if you want good performance, you have to know the USB architecture.  Also USB hubs only have so much power given to them, and have to share it out amongst their ports' devices.  You can put hubs on hubs on hubs, but that is usually slower.  So Plug and Play without thinking will always work, but not as well as WITH thinking.

Quote
Does Linux support Bluetooth right outta da box?

Ubuntu tries to be "everything out of the box", other distributions don't necessarily want that approach.  It is a simple matter to install Bluetooth Manager drivers later.  Android let's manufacturers supply their own drivers, and that is a HUGE security risk that totally negates everything Linux is about.

So assuming a well-known Bluetooth Manager chip in the computer, Ubuntu will have a driver for it.   As for the Bluetooth devices, that depends on whether their chips have Linux drivers, and that depends on whether the manufacturer has published the data sheet for the chip.  In China chip manufacturers are constantly changing chips to get the cheapest, and don't give any support, at least not in English.

Similar problems apply to video cards.  Ubuntu has a software mechanism for using a generalised driver when the specialised driver isn't available, and then flagging the need for the specialised driver.

I loaded Virtual Box to get started with Linux.  Took your suggestion on that.

As far as those prebuilt Micros are concerned, what do you think would be adequate configuration?  They give you a lot of choices.

I'm never going to be a Pro who can do this from scratch Palloy.  $300 for a micro that is all set up is not a bad price from my POV.  I'd like to have a linux unit for running secure email and stuff, so this is a fair price to pay.

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Offline Palloy2

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2017, 07:20:14 PM »
Choosing hardware

I'd want a 4 core CPU running at 2 GHz, fanless, minimum of 2 GB of RAM (DDR3L is lower voltage than DDR3 and will be the future), 2 x USB-3 hubs, 1 x SATA-3 internal ports with one SSD of 64 GB with the OS and frequently used files on it, 1 x SATA-3 external port for HDD bulk storage, Gigabit Ethernet. 

Choosing an OS

Ubuntu releases come out every 6 months, but every 2 years they produce one that is supported for 5 years.  The most recent long term support version is v16.04 "Xenial".  Lubuntu is an official flavour of Ubuntu with the emphasis on lightweight use of resources (fewer flashy window effects), and to my mind has the best taskbar. 

Installing the OS under VirtualBox

Download Lubuntu 16.04.2 from
http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/lubuntu/releases/16.04/release/lubuntu-16.04.2-desktop-amd64.iso   [880 MB]
No need to burn it to DVD, but it can be handy later.

In VB > New : Choose a name like Lubuntu and VB will recognise it and do all the rest.  When it needs the .iso file it will ask for it.  It will create a .vdi file of about 3 GB to hold its image of the machine.  When installation is finished, it will reboot. Then do VB > File > Close > Save Machine State.  It might be a good idea to take a copy of the .vdi file in case you screw everything up.

Then VB > select your machine > Start.

First things after downloading and installing
is to get all the updates that have happened since the download file was created - Menu > System Tools > Software Updater.  Thereafter updates are automatic. 
It doesn't have a firewall out of the box ( ! ), so the second essential is to install "gufw", run it and switch it to ON. 

Now you can relax.

Fine-tuning the Desktop

This part can make all the difference as to how you enjoy the experience.
Right-click on an empty part of the Taskbar ("What can I do with this?"), and explore all the options.
Right-click on the empty Desktop , and explore all the ways you can set it up.
The Menu icon is at one end of the Taskbar, like the old Windows "Start" button.
Menu > Preferences > Customise look and feel, to choose a Theme, Icons you like.

Full-featured applications
The Lubuntu distribution's apps are chosen for smallness/simplicity, and are OK for everything basic, but for the apps I'm using all the time, I prefer full-featured apps.  To install them, Menu > System Tools > Lubuntu Software Centre .  When they are installed, you can put their icons in the launcher area of the Taskbar, for single-click starting.

These are my personal choices and entirely optional:
File Manager: dolphin
Text Editor: kate
Browser: firefox (Lubuntu 16.04 has this already)
Email Client: thunderbird
Photo Editor: pinta
Spreadsheet: libreoffice calc
Password Manager: keepass2
Audio/video player/converter: vlc

Firefox, Thunderbird, Keepass2 and VLC look and work exactly the same as their Windows counterparts, except "Tools > Options" becomes "Edit > Preferences".

If you have more than one computer, it is good to be able to send files between them, so each one should have an FTP server (pure-ftpd) and FTP client (filezilla) installed.  Similarly, it is good to be able to see each computer's desktop on any screen, so a desktop server and desktop client (nomachine) installed on each computer.  Then you have to tell the firewall to allow in requests from your other computer(s) (not the whole internet!) to the FTP server (Port 21) and Desktop server (Port 4000):



Then you can have a beer.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 07:59:24 PM by Palloy2 »
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Offline RE

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2017, 08:13:12 PM »
Choosing hardware

I'd want a 4 core CPU running at 2 GHz, fanless, minimum of 2 GB of RAM (DDR3L is lower voltage than DDR3 and will be the future), 2 x USB-3 hubs, 1 x SATA-3 internal ports with one SSD of 64 GB with the OS and frequently used files on it, 1 x SATA-3 external port for HDD bulk storage, Gigabit Ethernet. 

They mostly seem to be dual core.

The choices are mainly in how much RAM & SSD Storage and the Bundle it comes with.

Check out this one:

Kingdel Micro


There are many other on the AliExpress site.  Which one is closest to your specs?

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Offline Palloy2

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2017, 08:40:14 PM »
Probably they ALL meet my criteria.  I tell you what, YOU tabulate the information I think is important, and then YOU decide.  More of everything is always better, but only you know how much you want to spend.
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Offline RE

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2017, 08:49:16 PM »
Probably they ALL meet my criteria.  I tell you what, YOU tabulate the information I think is important, and then YOU decide.  More of everything is always better, but only you know how much you want to spend.

Well, since they are dual core not quad core, they already don't meet the specs you wrote down.

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Offline RE

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2017, 09:25:44 PM »
Probably they ALL meet my criteria.  I tell you what, YOU tabulate the information I think is important, and then YOU decide.  More of everything is always better, but only you know how much you want to spend.

Well, since they are dual core not quad core, they already don't meet the specs you wrote down.

RE

Main decision is between i3/4010U, i5/500U and i5/4010u processors.  The i7/7500U is just too pricy.

It's not too big a difference between those 3, so I'll probably go for the i5/4010U.  How does that processor stack up overall IYHO?

I'm going for an intermediate amount of 8 Gigs RAM/128 Gigs SSD.

Price comes in at $323 without the shipping.

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Offline Palloy2

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #25 on: April 20, 2017, 09:55:06 PM »
Intel i5-7xxx are quad core, but then they probably use too much power to be run fanless, so this is likely something new.
There are plenty of Intel boards with quad core on them, and if you open it up to all AliExpress, there must be thousands.
Anyway, quad core isn't THAT important until you want to run VirtualBox, then the cores and the RAM have to be shared out.

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As far as those prebuilt Micros are concerned, what do you think would be adequate configuration? 

For doing what?

Quote
the i5/4010U.  How does that processor stack up overall IYHO?

No idea.

Quote
8 Gigs RAM/128 Gigs SSD.

If you've got that much data to store I'd be surprised.

Do these things come with Linux pre-installed?  What Linux?  If not, then you are going to have to learn how to install stuff.  That's not "pro" stuff.  Diagnosing problems and fixing software is pro stuff.
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Offline RE

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #26 on: April 20, 2017, 09:59:47 PM »
Intel i5-7xxx are quad core, but then they probably use too much power to be run fanless, so this is likely something new.
There are plenty of Intel boards with quad core on them, and if you open it up to all AliExpress, there must be thousands.
Anyway, quad core isn't THAT important until you want to run VirtualBox, then the cores and the RAM have to be shared out.

Quote
As far as those prebuilt Micros are concerned, what do you think would be adequate configuration? 

For doing what?

Quote
the i5/4010U.  How does that processor stack up overall IYHO?

No idea.

Quote
8 Gigs RAM/128 Gigs SSD.

If you've got that much data to store I'd be surprised.

Do these things come with Linux pre-installed?  What Linux?  If not, then you are going to have to learn how to install stuff.  That's not "pro" stuff.  Diagnosing problems and fixing software is pro stuff.

Forget I ever asked.  Your expertiese is not proving very helpful here.

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Offline agelbert

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #27 on: April 21, 2017, 10:39:25 AM »
Intel i5-7xxx are quad core, but then they probably use too much power to be run fanless, so this is likely something new.
There are plenty of Intel boards with quad core on them, and if you open it up to all AliExpress, there must be thousands.
Anyway, quad core isn't THAT important until you want to run VirtualBox, then the cores and the RAM have to be shared out.

Quote
As far as those prebuilt Micros are concerned, what do you think would be adequate configuration? 

For doing what?

Quote
the i5/4010U.  How does that processor stack up overall IYHO?

No idea.

Quote
8 Gigs RAM/128 Gigs SSD.

If you've got that much data to store I'd be surprised.

Do these things come with Linux pre-installed?  What Linux?  If not, then you are going to have to learn how to install stuff.  That's not "pro" stuff.  Diagnosing problems and fixing software is pro stuff.

Forget I ever asked.  Your expertiese is not proving very helpful here.

RE


Yup.  :coffee:

RE, Palloy's instructions for the Virtualbox running of Linux inside windows are okay but they lack something important. I researched all this a couple of years back and got reliable instructions from Ask Leo on how to do this. The problem is that defending Linux from hacking in general and malware in particular can be tricky. Norton does that, of course, but, at least according to Ask Leo, retail security software is NOT rock solid on Linux but is extremely reliable on Windows. Since I have (reluctantly) been forced into windows10 with my i3 new Dell Inspiron machine, I received the unexpected pleasant surprise of not being a target of the NSA malware recently being used to hack windows versions  :emthup: :icon_sunny:  (Palloy posted here on it recently - It's an article in the Intercept).

At any rate, security is NUMERO UNO for me. And I don't want to even try to keep up with the hackers out there. So, I pay Norton about $84 a year to do the heavy lifting while I continue to use CFS in dealing with e-mails and suspicious web sites. Norton has been good to me. They have saved my arse on several occasions over the last DECADE.  :emthup:

Linux has a lot of attraction for me but I never got around to that Virtualbox testing of it. Maybe someday.

When I had a total disk failure two computers ago, I was able to run Ubuntu from a CD to shop for a new computer with a dial up backup I still had. I no longer have dial up (I save $19.95 a month by not having it  :icon_mrgreen:) so that is no longer an option.

The last time my hard disk failed, I was STUCK without a computer to shop for a computer so I had to do it by phone (UGH!).  :P

Yeah, I should have a backup hard disk with an image of my operating system to avoid that, but I haven't gotten around to that yet. Hopefully, I'll get one this summer.


Hope this helps you, RE.  :icon_sunny: I'm certain Palloy will, of course, not be impressed AT ALL.  ::)

« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 10:42:47 AM by agelbert »
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #28 on: April 21, 2017, 05:25:32 PM »
Well, I'm impressed with your commitment to security.   :emthup:

Norton (now Symantec) AntiVirus does run on Linux, but since they charge for it and it's not open source, Ubuntu doesn't make it available, and nobody would use it.  ClamAV is the recommended free and open source solution.  Symantec SAV has to be a complete re-write of the Windows version, because the arrangement of the file system on Linux is completely different from Windows (no C:\  at the top of the hierarchy of directories, no Registry, etc).  99% of all viruses are written to target Windows machines, and won't run at all on Linux. 

Even if someone were to write a virus specifically for Linux, and sneak the file into the file system somehow, it could only run under your user's account, and so would only have access to that part of the file system that you own - /home/palloy/  (being equivalent to C:\Users\palloy\ ).  So it could trash your files, but it couldn't trash other users' files, or the OS itself, which belongs to "root". 

And you DO have a backup of your files, don't you? - yes, of course I do, every day at 01:00 am.

Suffice to say that in 5 years of Linux, on what is now 5 machines, I have never even been warned about a virus, let alone been infected by one.   :icon_sunny:

6 machines if you count my Android smartphone, but I rarely switch it on, and NEVER let it talk to the other computers on the home network, because I don't trust Android and because the Android version is no longer supported.  :(

Ubuntu is owned by Canonical, who I suppose make their money by providing paid technical support.  However the Linux community experts provide free support at places like AskUbuntu, StackExchange, etc. 
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: OrangePi Zero: the $6.99 PC
« Reply #29 on: April 24, 2017, 09:40:39 PM »
So, after 4 days struggling to get the mail server working on Orange Pi Zero, I think I am forced to the conclusion that it is all a bit too much the little beast.

I still have a plea for help outstanding at the community forum, but it seems to me that 99% of the entire 512 MB RAM is filled with apps, all sleeping awaiting the next event, which for a mail server is a new email posted, or new emails arriving from other mail servers, or a POP3 request for any new emails arrived.  It can cope with that. 

The event that tips it over the edge is when I make a connection with the Remote Desktop server.  This forces it into "paging mode", when it is forced to write stuff out of RAM and onto the micro-SD card, to make room for handling the RD processing.  Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it goes wrong after a few minutes, with the CPU trying to make some space in RAM, and as soon as it does, the thing that has been "paged" needs to get back in, so to make some room, it pages the Remote Desktop server instead, and then the RD server needs to get back in ... "page-thrashing".

The reads and writes on the SD-card are extremely slow compared to the speed of a CPU, so decisions to page get queued up faster than they can be executed, and before you know where you are the machine is stuck in a never-ending loop.

In short, the Zero isn't up to it, with only 512 MB of RAM being the problem.  I expect the experts will say "Well what do you expect, FCS !".

The same kind of thing seems to be happening when I install the mail server on the Orange Pi PC with 1 MB of RAM as well.

At least I got $9 worth of fun out of it, and it is still working, so its not over yet.
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