Category Archives: orange Pi Zero

The Orange Pi Zero

Those of you who read my stuff will know that I’ve never been impressed by the Orange Pi boards – the utter lack of communication from the company really is stunning and initially the boards used to get very hot – but then came Armbian and all that changed – third party support and lots of info.  With that in mind I’ve been looking forward to getting an Orange Pi Zero.

Orange Pi Zero

This is not a high end board but it REALLY is cheap so I had to see it working. Well, I’ve started and up to now I’m not stunningly impressed.  But whether it is the BOARD or the SOFTWARE I’m not yet sure. I installed DIET PI – which has worked so well elsewhere and in this case you really are counting on the operating system working from day one because there is no video output. I loaded up the DietPi software and there is a text file on the SD you can go in and setup WIFI etc. This board has both Ethernet and WIFI but I wanted to go in at the deep end. Well, I failed – no-where on the network could we find the board despite setting it up correctly. Ultimately I chickened out and plugged in an Ethernet lead (there’s a long story of broken leads here but we’ll put that to one side).

The board connected up no problem – I went into the setup and set up the WIFI – it found my access point and connected. I changed IP address – voila.  Rebooted – no sign of WIFI (sigh).  I had several attempts at this with a clean SD each time and for now I’ve given up.

My script loaded without apparent issue, on the Ethernet connection.  The thing is – I see these cheap boards as upmarket ESP8266s, i.e. peripherals for dotting around the house – and so the WIFI absolutely must work.

If you’ve read some recent posts I’ve been playing with a VM version of Debian that loads my script up in 18 minutes – well, the Orange Pi Zero isn’t quite like that – it’s nearly done now and at 1 hr 20 minutes – not stunningly fast but no worse than a Raspberry Pi 2.

Now bear in mind when I did a review of the WIFI only FriendlyArm NanoPi Air I commented how much faster the eMMC was – well of course you don’t have that option here. This is a nice, cheap board, cheaper than the Air but I would not want to swap.

Well, the script all worked, no problem – nice little board but the WIFI just would not work reliably – WIFI  is necessary so that it can be used as a place-anywhere peripheral – I remain convinced the better bet is the FriendlyArm product UNLESS you’re planning to use hardwired.

And that started off a WHOLE conversation in here which led to trying XENIAL (Armbian version). After some messing around as the very latest version did not have WIFI installed AT ALL by the look of it.

I also noted that the domain name was not accessible from Windows – as it would have been on a Debian system (Samba) – a line has now been added to the script to ensure that HOSTS is read first.

PHPSYSINFO needed a slight mod – that was provided by Mr Shark and that is backward compatible.

As things stand – I cannot recommend this board for anyone wanting to use it with WIFI.  If you are daft enough to go to the ATTROCIOUS Orange Pi site – you’ll find links for the software – November is the latest at the time of writing and it is irrelevant because there are two links – a BAIDU link in Chinese – and a Google Drive link which AS USUAL is utterly DEAD. So you can go and get DietPI – I could not get the WIFI to work reliably – or grab the latest Armbian – and I could not get the WIFI to work at ALL.  In both cases I’ve now written back to their forums with requests for help and logs in the case of Armbian. Time will tell.

Meanwhile – GPIO for these boards has taken a turn for the better with node-red-contrib-opi-gpio – direct control over GPIO pins from Node-Red – not anything fancy mind you, just input and output – the package is set up for the Orange Pi, not the ZERO so I found some pin differences but if you refer to the actual port bit PA0 etc then this works a treat. That’s a great step forward. Follow the instructions here to install including the additional setup.

GPIO Orange Pi Zero Node-Red

I've also been messing with I2c on this board - you'll see a July 2017 blog entry on I2c - and that works a treat - actually there are TWO I2c channels on this board and they both work a treat.