Well, you’ve heard of lots of these by now – yet another Pi-like board. This one has a nice feature – it is SMALL – way smaller than the Raspberry Pi2 yet has the same connector, an Ethernet connector, one USB and one (thankfully) standard HDMI cable as well as a small camera connector.
As for specification – it has a Cortex 9 Quad Core processor running at 1.4Ghz, 1GB of 32 bit DDR RAM, GigaHz Ethernet and is equipped to handle Debian 8.1 and Android 5.1
The pinout of the connectors etc is on the inside of the box and the spec on the outside – so no space wasted there. They have various versions, according to their website the Nanopi 2 (as against NanoPi 2 Fire) also has bluetooth and WIFI (but no Ethernet connector).
For more information – lots more - http://wiki.friendlyarm.com/wiki/index.php/NanoPi_2_Fire
So the one I received was the NanoPi 2 Fire. I also received the 7” LCD. I didn’t need a manual to figure out how to plug that in – so I did. I went to the site and grabbed the Debian image and blew that onto an 8GB microUSB – as recommended – and turned the power on.
I must admit with all the boards I’ve tested recently – I wasn’t expecting this – it just worked – in under 30 seconds the 7” touch-LCD display was up and running displaying Debian 8. I reckon with something like a Samsung EVO that could be even faster.
At this point I realised I’d not plugged the Ethernet cable in and so rebooted.
At this point I did a quick check to see if I could access it remotely from my PC – a quick “Advanced IP Scanner” scan suggested it was not yet available.
It was at this point that I realised - no on-screen keyboard – oh, dear. Never mind I plugged in a bog-standard keyboard and that worked straight away… don’t you just love it when stuff works.
I figured my best bet here as I was running out of desk space (I’m still working in a temporary area in the house – cables for my office only went in today… it’s a bomb-site out there right now, was to get remote access running ASAP. In the picture above taken from their site – the LCD is a nice white one with a little arm in the back to make it stand up – I got a nice black one – with no stand.. but I’m thinking maybe I can pinch something from a photo frame….. Good idea…
Using the keyboard I entered:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
And that took me to needing a password – oh, dear. Well the username was “fa” – so I tried “fa” for the password – bingo – straight in.
After the upgrade, the unit rebooted which seems a bit odd.. I continued…
sudo apt-get install samba samba-common-bin
At this point I got a warning to say that the upgrade had been interrupted (I knew there was something wrong) and could I type something in – which I did – and tried the upgrade again – to be honest it could have been me as the setup I have is very temporary. Off it went doing the upgrade again – this time it took a LOT longer but no worse than any other upgrade I’d done recently.
I have to say that the capacitive touch-screen they provided was more than adequate for the job – they even helpfully included an on-screen keyboard called matchbox-keyboard (it would be nice however if it popped up on demand like Android onscreen keyboards).
Now with Samba in place I would be able to see the unit from my PC. I ran the IP scanner again…
So NOW I could see “FriendlyArm” in my list of devices – wheeeee.
I hurriedly went off to winSCP and plugged in the name and that short name (fa) with the same password (fa) and…LO AND BEHOLD – it worked – back to working with my comfy PC!!!
At this point I thought I’d better check the processor – I now have a little square mark on my finger. It gets hot – but not hotter than the Orange Pi. I can see a little heatsink purchase coming on.
So – fast, small, neat, works out of the box – what more could you want – and if you are interested head off to their website for pricing – my ONLY fear here – when we first tried the site – was the postal costs… I can’t really pass comment as I don’t know where you, the reader, live – but to England the postal cost could be significant.
I did try plugging a WIFI adaptor in – standard type – nothing – I even tried putting it onto a USB hub – nothing. I’d assumed that because the Debian installation appeared to have Bluetooth and WIFI controls that they’d set it up for boards with and without WIFI but apparently not.
For my next trick – I will try modifying my script – I can’t wait to see Node-Red editor actually running on the unit itself on the LCD instead of via a PC – and that may be for me where the LCD comes into it’s own – ideal for little manual overrides and monitoring etc… could this be the actual machine that gets the job of controlling the house? One downer for that is lack of audio. There is no audio connector on here and it seems they did not fit the audio drivers into HDMI… I wish if manufacturers don’t want to spend the money on a 3.5mm connector they would at least bring the audio out on a header – some of us DO have a use for it.
Keep eyes peeled for a follow up article on this.