I’ve used the NEO and this is definitely an improvement – H5 processor, the Ethernet connector is giga-speed, 2 USB sockets, Bluetooth and WIFI (with external aerial which I hate using), 1GB RAM and 8GB eMMC on-board, the board looks like it could be a little winner – but as always it’s as much the software that matters as anything else. the board also has audio out on an (unpopulated) 2mm connector and gets it’s power from microUSB. Size is 40mm x 52mm. Starting to look good already…
There is also a Mali GPU – the purpose of which is lost on me as there is no video output on the board – though you can stick one of FriendlyArm’s 320x240 LCD displays on – with a lead - I did notice there was no way to plug it straight in as the Ethernet connector gets in the way!
Out of the box, the unit needs either an operating system on SD or an “e-flasher” utility on SD which then blows the operating system – choices for the former include Debian and Ubuntu, choices for the latter include Ubuntu. I chose the latter by simply downloading the image from their site, putting it in the board, via serial and putty talking to the board to tell it to put the software onto eMMC – and waiting a while – I encountered no problems.
The board came with a little case and heatsink but I’m impatient so they are sitting in the box right now. I’m running “the script” on the unit – who’s core temperature is 60c. Clearly that will drop dramatically with the heatsink attached but that’s not bad as it stands.
I’ve no idea how much effect the many emails I’ve exchanged with FriendlyArm had have (probably a lot) but just about all of their new software includes WiringNP which includes the GPIO utility – allowing you to mess with GPIO, I2c etc… all fairly well documented on their site – this in my mind puts them streets ahead of several other manufacturers who just leave you to get on with it. I’d like to see more Python stuff pre-installed as I had problems getting a little SSD1306 display running on the original NEO – but the company is aware of this and will no doubt seek to make this stuff available.
So basically – nice little board, the question is – will it run “the script”. As I was writing this I had the script running in the background, having just successfully set up a Raspberry Pi 2 with Node-Red, MQTT, SQLITE 3 etc. I’m hoping for the same result with the Plus2 and expecting a little speed boost from the eMMC. Mind you – as I didn’t fit the heatsink and by now the temperature is creeping up to 67c – I would not be surprised if the installation is being slowed down by throttling.
And at the end of 41 minutes (I just did a blog entry on the Pi2 and that took 1 hour and three minutes for comparison) and I don’t have a heatsink on which might’ve made the gap even wider – and …. everything works!!! Node-Red, MQTT, serial, SQLIte, Webmin – everything. I’ve not done in-depth IO testing but I plugged in my little SSD1306 board which happens to have handy pull-up resistors – used the command “sudo gpio i2cd” and sure enough – the range of available I2c ports came up with my little board sitting at address 3c.
I tested the Python code detailed in another recent blog entry and that works - I have a little SSD1306 display running i2c on the board. 4 UARTS are showing in the Node-Red serial setup. I suspect one will be tied up with Bluetooth – but that still leaves 2 or 3 – compare that with the Pi.
Oh this is definitely a good start and even better – a brand new version of Node-Red has just been released and that is running a treat.
That’s a GOOD start. Temperature at idle is down to 51c but I think at this point I might just fit that heatsink. (I should clarify – it is 29c in my office and 36c outside so you might get lower CPU temperatures depending where you are.
Update:– running the script again to test a cosmetic mod – I put the (slim) heatsink on first and temperature is down to 37c which is just fine – and the total script time this time around was 39 minutes. I put the unit in it's “case” (2 pieces of perspex and a bunch of brass fittings) but the 4 short screws provided were not long enough to handle the board and heatsink and supplied spacer without countersinking the perspex first. When that was done I put it all together - and generally fine except that the slots to gain access to the connector pins are not perfect - I've reported that back to FriendlyArm. Other than that - everything seems to be running reliably. I've also asked the company if there is a front panel for these boards to go with their NAS box.