Way back in February 2019, I reviewed the little Z8350-based, Windows-based AcePC T9 Box from Banggood though they don’t seem to have that right now as my old link is dead (I think Gearbest have killed it off too). As it turns out, this inexpensive mini-computer wasn’t that good with Windows 10 in it, partly down to storage and partly speed.
November 1, 2019: I’m leaving this October writeup here for reference, but I just contacted AcePC who say the T9 is no longer on sale…. and they can’t help with my bios question for auto-on. No doubt I’ll acquire something more modern soon… but this might be interesting anyway for you. A shame, really.
The box has SD and USB2+3 expansion of course but ultimately by the time I had it all kitted out, I was running short of room and the SD expansion will not work with all Windows programs, Dropbox for example wasn’t that keen.
Ultimately I managed to get a SEVERE virus in the box and that was the end of that. So, off we went to Spain for the summer as the box sat languishing in my office.
Until this week. My choices were to re-install Windows, put the unit in the bin or try something else. I took the last path. Just recently, Debian as used (more or less) on the famous Raspberry Pi has seen an upgrade from “Stretch” to “Buster” (which is lovely incidentally) and having gained some experience with this on the RPi machines, I figured I’d give it a shot. As this machine for all it’s limits has more memory than a typical Raspberry PI, I thought I’d go for the full graphical desktop, especially as I have available in “the Script” the one-liners to turn this on and off at will.
Incidentally for anyone who thinks that using a script is old hat compared to Docker (Andreas are you watching) – this took no time at all. “The Script” has made life easy on numerous occasions.
So, armed with a dead machine, I grabbed an SD and installed the Debian Buster 64 bit release installer onto the SD. Thanks to Antonio for his help in picking the right version. I then by a combination of buttons, installed Buster onto the T9 unit (power off, hold F7 through a power cycle and install Debian from the SD – a painless operation which also involves selecting a password for the initially unavailable ROOT user, picking a general user name and a password for that.. First hurdle, especially for someone used to the Raspberry Pi and it’s extensive use of the “sudo” (super user do) command is that this “Super User DO” facility, though built into the Pi, does not come installed by default in Debian and getting to ROOT user isn’t that easy, either by SSH or on the desktop. “su -” (substitute user) to the rescue.
After doing the full install (which needs little interaction other than to ask if you want a web server installing – NO and SSH access installing – YES, then telling you to create a general user – I chose “pi”) I went onto my normal Windows PC (Mobaxterm, you could use WinSCP or similar) and as user pi, hit the “su -” command to give me enough privilages to then install “sudo”. Throughout all of this I chose hardwired networking to avoid adding complication. Actually thinking about it I saw an error whiz by in the install – I think the non-free wireless driver code is missing?
Of course in all of this, the graphical desktop on the T9 worked first time but I was only midly interested in that. Once I could remotely SSH into the unit (generally as user Pi but occasionally I find it useful to go in as user root) I was getting into more comfortable territory.
I edited this file using the rather crappy NANO editor:
sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config
In that file I found:
Commented out of course, so I uncommented it and changed it to YES
I then closed and saved the file and did a quick reboot.
I could of course have just restarted the sshd service with:
Thst looks like a lot of work but the rest was easy. I then logged in as user root and added “the script” in the root folder.
After the WGET command I used BASH to run “the script”.
And I have to say that aside from giving user pi some useful permissions, it ran more or less as it would on a Raspberry Pi and I soon had working Apache, PHP, Node-Red, Mosquitto and Grafana on my T9 unit which of course unlike the Pi comes all cased up and ready to go. The T9 unit has one USB2 and one USB3 connector as well as HDMI and a microSD slot. I should have handled one more US slot but there you go.
I will write more later about how well this unit works with Buster in command line mode but for now a quick word on the graphical desktop. The T9 runs videos no problem – I took my 256GB cheap SD formatted in Windows and loaded up with videos (in a folder called movies) and after plugging it into the T9 and with a simple few instructions, made this part of the Buster installation.
sudo mkdir /home/pi/sd
sudo mount -t exfat /dev/mmcblk2p1 /home/pi/sd
sudo nano /etc/fstab
I then added this line to /etc/fstab, saved and rebooted…
/dev/mmcblk2p1 /home/pi/sd exfat defaults 0 0
So now I could easily play movies on the T9 using Buster’s standard video player. There’s also a half-decent photo viewer called ShotWell – of course I added the free GIMP for editing photos which I can pull straight off my Pocophone F1 mobile phone using Airdroid App on the phone.
Of course I COULD use the somewhat dated looking Firefox, but I’ve replaced it with Chrome already. I read this to install Chrome. Almost as easy as Windows.
Chrome setup looks complicated but you don’t DO anything other than paste/click the one-liner at the start.
WELL, back to the command line version, after griping about NANO I’d forgotten that in the script I install MCEDIT along with other utilities – you could try that out — AND… until this morning I’d never heard of the “Cockpit Project” – I have now (and so have you)… Its great. Apparently the mechanics are built into Debian Buster already so the install was quick and simple… 2nd line is optional – to have it Cockpit available by default from powerup.
sudo apt install cockpit
sudo systemctl enable cockpit.socket
Actually (August 2021) there’s a better way
Sign up with /cockpit and get an aPI
Install this on PI
bash -c “$(curl -k -s https://picockpit.com/setup.sh)”
It will ask for the API – provide it.
On your PC login to Cockpit site.
While I was on, I also installed Cockpit on my RPi4… so now… in any browser (I use Chrome on my PC and indeed on the AcePC) – so that’s running right now – LOVE IT. Thanks for the tip Antonio. See below it is monitoring both machines – what fun.