Category Archives: Raspbian

The Real Raspberry Pi

I’ve been using the likes of FriendlyArm boards and similar for so long now, struggling at first with GPIO and I2c and as regular readers will know, finally pretty much mastering it due to hard research and more importantly, the works of people you’ll find links to in other articles in here….. that I’ve pretty much ignored the actual Raspberry Pi for some time.

Until this week when my friend Jonathan sent me a Raspberry Pi 3 to check, as he’s been having trouble with “the script” and I could not help as my RPI2 installations worked just fine.

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Sparkly new Pi

Just a very quick one (and somewhere to park the conversation)– there’s a new Raspberry Pi update out promising a new smoother, simpler look, better video etc. Up to now it looks like the claim is correct.

I have several RPI installations…including TightVNC and so I didn’t want to lose that. I did however, want the Chromium browser. I’m not interested in PI-HATs and similar so here’s all I did to get the upgrade…

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install -y rpi-chromium-mods

That’s it – nothing more –takes a few minutes all in - there is one Y for confirm and a reboot – and Bob’s your uncle. To test things out I went to the BBC website and of course got the usual message about Flash – things haven’t change there much – but with a signup for the BBCs “beta” HTML5 version (it’s a bit late for a beta, isn’t it? HTML5 has been out  for longer than I can remember) all is well, videos no problem!

New Pi Interface

The new interface is to be given it’s own name “PIXEL” – that’ll make searching for information about it a whole lot of fun… they could have picked something unique like “PIXL” or something – however it all seems to work – more modern appearance – slick – file manager is nice and apparently if not faster it is at least no slower than it’s predecessor so really no reason not to go for it.

Here’s the link in case you need more info. Given this new look – with hardware graphics support – which likely means you could be using your Raspberry Pi 3 for a media centre… AND the best backup program out there which can replicate the system even on a different size SD  -something as far as I’m aware NO-ONE else has – one has to ask – what are the other SBC board manufacturers going to do now!!!

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Banana Pi M2

banana pi m2 Updated December 13, 2016:  Technically referred to as the BP1-M2+  I received this Banana Pi board in the post this morning. It is SMALL – that is, the same width but just a tad wider than the FriendlyArm M1 and M2.

But there the similarity ends. Firstly this little thing has EMMC, microSD, Bluetooth, WIFI, Wired Ethernet, 2 USB sockets (a tad limiting), 1GHZ Arm quad-core processor, 1GB Ram, 8GB EMMC (which to me is too small but I’m sure people will find it useful – and as for backup… I’d rather use microSD), and it claims to run Android 4.4 smoothly – hence my comment about the EMMC – what use is 8GB for Android??!?!?

The Android version is a little old for me so I thought I’d try the recently updated Raspbian. The blurb SAYS the GPIO is compatible with Raspberry Pi (really? Does it run the Raspberry Pi modules for Node-Red? If so I’ll be impressed).

The downloads and docs are all here  https://bananapi.gitbooks.io/bpi-m2-/content/en/ which is a big improvement on some others – Orange Pi with hopelessly out-dated images – others with non-working Google Drive images etc.. I got the image no problem for Debian and as I received no documentation with the board, I was grateful for the online version.

I DID notice no audio output other than that on HDMI – which is a bit of a bummer – I like to see a 3.5mm jack for audio. Sadly the manual refers to plugging in a 3.5mm jack for audio – but there is definitely no 3.5mm jack socket on the board.

There is also an IR receiver. I’ve yet to see one of these boards run it out of the box but there IS a reference to this in the manual! https://bananapi.gitbooks.io/bpi-m2-/content/en/bpim2+irinterface.html – would be awfully handy if this worked in Android for remote controlling stuff.

At this point I just about had the image downloaded and things were going downhill a little.

At the end of the instructions, sure it was obvious you could be now running your operating system – but from WHERE was unclear. I didn’t want to load it into EMMC.

I was encouraged to see WIRINGPI available - https://bananapi.gitbooks.io/bpi-m2-/content/en/bpim2+wiringpi.html but it was not clear if this was a special – if it WAS a special I found myself wondering why they claimed above that the board was PI-image compatible??

THIS page - http://www.banana-pi.org/m2plus-download.html on copying images – got my interest – up to now in all the boards I’ve tested, the Raspberry Pi is the ONLY board that has a simple to use copy/backup facility that will make duplicate images even on different size SDs!! This would prove to be no good.

SO – first things first… claims about being Raspberry Pi compatible – MYTH (like all the rest) if it were compatible it would run the RPI ROMS and it does NOT – I just tested it – result – nothing.

But on the other hand for the FIRST TIME their package they describe as “Raspbian booted first time – and had an “expand file system” which after a reboot opened up the operating system to the full size of the SD (others – ARE YOU READING THIS!!!). Marvellous.

Not only that but their “Raspbian” which features the Raspberry Pi logo and looks really like a Pi – apart from the monitor overhang which made closing programs difficult - has the latest file backup system that ONLY (as far as I know) the Pi has had up to now – would it work? I took the Raspberry Pi image disk that was supposed to work with the Banana Pi – now defunct as it does not – and used that as the backup.

I booted up “Raspbian” as supplied on the Banana Pi site - and ensured the WIFI worked – it DID (however it only found one access point which compares badly to other systems which find even my neighbour’s access point). It said I had a connection – but a poor one – no more than 12ft away from the access point!!! 2ft away my PC streams movies on that connection!

I plugged in the USB with my microSD in the BP1-M2+ and ran the graphical backup program. All looked well as it found the USB3 drive and started partitioning. “preparing partitions” it said. After what seemed like a similar time to the Raspberry Pi, maybe a pit longer, the software went off to start copying the two partitions, just like the Pi. If I were honest it SEEMED a little slower than the Pi2 but there are so many factors to take in here. It copied partition one and then…

“Could not mount partition” – I have NEVER seen that in a Pi2 or 3 before (and I make live backups all the time)  so I took the chip out and formatted it on a PC – and re-inserted…Once again – “preparing partitions”… I’m sure it took longer than normal… (and remember when I do this normally it is on a system doing all SORTS of jobs with all SORTS of software. This is a simple empty system).

Partition one started to copy – 60%… 70%… 90%… slow.   Not in the same league as Pi3… it stuck at 100% for AGES – I was convinced it was going to fall over… and…

“Could not mount partition”. I tried this three times in total with different SD holders – same result.  Having failed to get anywhere I took the same chip in the same container, put it back into a Raspberry Pi 2 and initiated a backup. This worked PERFECTLY.

I’m sorry guys – this is NOT Raspberry Pi compatible – STOP CLAIMING COMPATIBILITY. the RPI backup program WORKS. This does NOT.

At this point I noted, having received a heatsink with no glue and having written back to ask if it was necessary, that the main ARM chip was running hot enough to cook an egg. Fortunately I found a little heatsink I had lying around and that improved matters.

I wondered if it was worthwhile doing the usual apt-get update/upgrade – and checked to ensure I had a WIFI signal. Sure enough my WIFI was connected – but I could not browse the web or do anything Internet-related. I got that IP address which means – no.   I even tried putting the address in manually – no.

As I was looking at the WIFI – I noted the volume control top right was on mute. I clicked on the slider to adjust it – nothing – would not come out of mute.

With no audio and no WIFI I thought I’d go off on a tangent and try the recommended ARMBIAN. Aside from (again) overscan on my monitor (which works perfectly with a Pi and various other boards) Armbian came up – with a very nice screen and packed full of utilities (but no SD backup). Once again the WIFI would not have it. I plugged in Ethernet and decided to give the video a try – I opened up Firefox – and went to the BBC iPlayer.  Sorry – HTML5 content will not work – you need the FLASH player – and we all know what getting that running is like.

At this point I was ready to give up… but there was one thing left to try.

Android – a particularly old Android 4.x but I figured it might be worth a try. I followed the instructions which unlike any other board I’ve tried did not include blowing an image with Win32DiskManager but instead a piece of converted Chinese software. I tried several times and failed but eventually got a complete, verified image. Put it into the M2, the Banana Pi info came up and then… blank. The instructions said wait a while the first time – I waited 15 minutes – still blank.

Such a promising start, it looked like an RPI, acted like an RPI but… I have to say, disappointed.

I left this for a while – and having given up totally on using this board for any graphical interface due to the fact  thaty there were SO many issues, I thought I’d have a go with Armbian Debian server, the text-only version which has worked well on the FriendlyArm Neon. After a couple of false starts probably due to using a slow SD, I convinced the M2+ to boot from an 8GB SD with Armbian. Aside from some overscan which made it very difficult to do the initial change of password as the text was somewhat off-screen, I managed to get past that stage and onto WinSCP to do the usual apt-get update and apt-get upgrade which worked a treat. I installed the server version of Jessie – so no graphical desktop but it would be easy to add in. I’m inclined to use larger SD cards if I’m installing a graphical interface but 8GB is more than enough for a command-line only setup even with all the extras I typically add including Node-Red, Mosquitto, SQLITE, PHPLiteAdmin, Webmin etc. by my script.

I ran my install script – see the home control project and although it seemed to run somewhat slower than usual, it did run (ignoring unused variable warnings which are irrelevant but keep popping up in part of the script – I do wish people would keep information to a minimum).

Ok, early days – but it does appear that everything works at least in this simple use of the board – I have yet to look at the hardware in depth – clearly the Raspberrry Pi GPIO stuff DOES NOT work – I installed WIRINGOP as this is after all an H3 board and sure enough – pin 40 – that’s GPIO21 – could be made to turn on and off by turning on and off GPIO number 25.

http://www.orzalabs.tech/2016/08/15/wiringpi-library-on-nanopi-m1/

And so after much trial and error…

  • Pin 3 GPIO2 =   gpio write 8 on
  • Pin 5 GPIO3 =   gpio write 9 on
  • Pin 7 GPIO4 =  gpio write 7 on
  • Pin 11 GPIO17 = could not figure out – default off
  • Pin 13 GPIO27 = gpio write 2 on
  • Pin 15 GPIO22 = gpio write 3 on
  • Pin 19 GPIO10 = gpio write 12 on
  • Pin 21 GPIO9 = gpio write 13  on
  • pin 23 GPIO11 = gpio write 14 on
  • pin 29 GPIO5 = gpio write 21 on
  • pin 31 GPIO6 = gpio write 22 on
  • pin 33 GPIO13 = gpio write 23 on
  • pin 35 GPIO19 = gpio write 24 on
  • pin 37 GPIO26 = could not figure out – default off
  • pin 8 GPIO14 =  gpio write 15 on
  • pin 10 GPIO15 =  gpio write 16 on
  • pin 12 GPIO18 =  could not figure out – default off
  • pin 16 GPIO23 =  could not figure out – default on
  • pin 18 GPIO24 =  gpio write 4 on
  • pin 22 GPIO25 =  gpio write 6 on
  • pin 24 GPIO8 =  gpio write 10 on
  • pin 26 GPIO7 =  gpio write 5 on
  • pin 32 GPIO12 =  could not figure out – default off
  • pin 36 GPIO16 =  could not figure out – default off
  • pin 38 GPIO20 =  could not figure out – default on
  • pin 40 GPIO21 = gpio write 25 on

When I say I could not figure out p particular pin – I mean it would don’t respond to simple gpio commands – I assume those pins have other functions like serial that is not clear on the banana pi diagram. STILL not a bad haul!! A quick Node-Red lookup table will sort these and the NEO out…

NOW – take a look at my updated M1 article which not only has the pins for THAT chip but also now has a solution for general pin control – for non-root users.. https://tech.scargill.net/cheapest-almost-complete-iot-solution/

December 13, 2016 I installed Armbian again after a long break - with my script it installed first time, no problem with everything working - and 4 UARTS appearing in Node-Red - at least 3 of which should be usable.

 

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