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[Freedombox-discuss] Testing ODroid-XU4 Notes

Hi folks,

Recently, I bought an ODroid XU4 to test as a FreedomBox.  I was
originally going to buy one of the boards from the Parallela project,
but they seem to have wrapped up.  16 or 128 cores might be the wrong
focus for a personal web-server, anyway.  Below are my notes on
testing with the ODroid.

1 Equipment

  All equipment purchased through ODroid's American distributor,

  - The [ODroid-XU4] seems sturdy and fast.  Really nice hardware.
    The hardware isn't completely free, as it seems to be in a similar
    situation to the Raspberry Pi's proprietary display driver.  You
    don't need to use the graphics card during normal operation, but I
    believe the binary blob does need to be installed to boot the
    device.  Grumble.

  - The Ameridroid case is either really fragile or doesn't fit quite
    right, I can't tell.  It holds together well, but I've added
    rubber-bands to make sure it stays together.

  - If you plan on developing on the device, instead of just using it
    as a FreedomBox, get a [USB UART Cable].  It makes low-level
    debugging possible, as HDMI-based debugging is hit-or-miss:
    HDMI-to-DVI cables probably won't work, and my HDMI monitor only
    displayed lines 2 - 7 of the screen's output in text-mode, instead
    of the whole 24 lines.  It also cut off the four leftmost columns,
    so I only had a screen that went from characters ( (4,2), (80,7)
    ).  Very unhelpful.

  [ODroid-XU4] http://ameridroid.com/products/odroid-xu4

  [USB UART Cable] http://ameridroid.com/products/usb-uart-module-kit2

2 Images

  We don't have an official FreedomBox image for this hardware, so I
  used the [20160221] XU3 image (XU3 and XU4 are software compatible:
  software for the XU3 will work with the XU4).

  [20160221] http://oph.mdrjr.net/meveric/images/Jessie/

3 Experience

3.1 Ubuntu 16.04, 20160708

  This is the default image that came from ODroid.  Works well but
  isn't a Debian image and it's filled with lots of extra stuff I'll
  never need, like a desktop.  I'm not certain I'm comfortable using
  Ubuntu for a simple headless server.

3.2 Debian Jessie, 20160221 Image


  Using the 20160221 image and the UART cable, I can't log in.  Using
  the cable with screen seems to drop characters as I type them,
  sometimes.  The SSH service doesn't seem to have started, so I can't
  remote in either.

  There's so much more to this, however.  Root login via UART is
  disabled, so I need to create a login to use locally, first.
  However, given the above text-mode display issues, I had a difficult
  time creating the login locally as well.  I logged in locally as
  root, then ran "adduser" in both the XU4 and my normal laptop,
  typing the same answers on both keyboards.  Then, I could screen
  into the XU4 [screen].  I found out that it wasn't the SSH service
  that hadn't started, but eth0 wasn't configured at all.  I added the
  [standard eth0 stanza], restarted the networking service, and then
  immediately upgraded to the latest packages.  I like it because the
  default image doesn't have many services listening for a connection

  My next task is to [reconfigure the HDMI display] and see if I can get
  useful monitor output, or upgrade the image from Jessie to testing to
  install Plinth.

  [screen] sudo screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200

  [listening] netstat -plunt | cut -c 81- | egrep "^[^A-Z]" | sort -un

  [standard eth0 stanza]

  [reconfigure the HDMI display]

3.3 ODROID GameStation Turbo 3.1 RC2


  Works great for games on a headed system, aside from the fact that
  the screen goes black and the system becomes unresponsive to
  anything but the Alt+PrntScrn keys every few games.  Apparently
  that's a problem with the XU3 and XU4 with this image.  Doesn't seem
  to affect the C1 and C2 though, but I don't have those to test with.

4 Summary

  Overall, I'd give this hardware a B.  It could be freer and a lot
  easier to set up (and would be with a FreedomMaker image), but it
  seems quite speedy and powerful for the price.

Hope this is useful,
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