Raspberry Pi + Arch = “Winning!”

Finally got Arch Linux running on Raspberry Pi the way it should. Initially I thought of keeping the first Pi (yes, there’s one more coming) under CLI only, running as a NAS/file server. After a few times around with Samba setup, SSH’ing from Fedora main box, I’ve given in to a more or less full DE. Enter OpenBox for window manager and desktop environment, ROX for file manager, and Midori for web browser. As you can see, name of the game is keeping things light.

As it is now, the Pi boots in ~20 sec, and with ‘startx’ I have OB running in about 4, so overall pretty snappy. I have a 22″ monitor hooked up via HDMI, and screen resolution is set from boot to 1080p. Keyboard and mouse are working fine via wireless USB dongle. But, as it has been mentioned time and again, the Pi is not for everyday use. Even Midori, as lightweight of a browser it is (I’ve yet to try ultralights like UZBL browser), loading times are a bit sluggish. Not at unacceptable/unusable levels by any means, but the Pi won’t be replacing any of the everyday machines I use. So far I’ve had the Pi run only 3-4 hrs at a time, and only thing I’ve discovered is it gets luke warm. That’s it. So box it in, leave it in the corner, it won’t complain.

And what’s also great, and the real purpose of the Pi, it’s so simple, humming (ok, so it is completely silent…) away alone, separated from the rest of the household gadgetry. Screw up something royally, and at worst, all you’ve done is maybe force yourself to another ‘sudo dd if=…’. So it really is a perfect Linux learning tool.

Plan for Pi numero deux is to run Debian Squeeze on it, with all the pre-loaded learning tools (Scratch etc.), and to have my 6+ year-old get her Girl Geek on. She’s probably a little too young for real coding yet — read: Dad will have no farking clue what to do — but maybe we’ll have a couple of productive Scratch sessions and get a simple Pac Man game going.

So all in all, the Pi is, and I’m quoting one Charlie Sheen: “Winning!”

 

Raspberry Pi, part deux.

After yesterday’s minor setback with a power source and/or SD-card problem, all is well in R-Pi land.

I decided to go to a box store for a Samsung SD-card, more specifically an 8GB Class 10 (MB-SP8GA). While I was at the store, I invested in an extra wall charger to satisfy the 5V/1000mA requirement my old mobile chargers apparently weren’t producing. A quick ‘dd’ of Debian Squeeze onto the Sammy SD-card, and I had action on the screen.

Man was I happy to see the Raspberry Pi logo on the boot screen!

A couple of more seconds and I would have a fully functioning, ready-to-go…

… Kernel panic. Are you kidding me.

Not that I haven’t experienced kernel panics before, but at first sight? C’mon man!

A couple of more Debian image rewrite-ons, reboots with and without ethernet, USB-keyboard/mouse, and in the end, it was all worth it.

To complement the raw look of R-Pi, I’ve attached an old Sun Micro keyboard-mouse combo, which seems to work quite well. The Sun Micro hardware is leftover from a raising-the-dead Sun Blade project that resulted me tossing away 40lbs of work station… which was the intent of the original owner of the curbed Blade to begin with. Not the Pi though. The Pi is up and running!

Enough for the night, tomorrow it’s off to the forums to leech off some great Pi ideas.

 

Some R-Pi for my birthday. Almost.

So the day did finally arrive: I received my R-Pi 3:20pm PST, exactly on time for my birthday. What a treat!

Like everyone before me has mentioned, it is indeed a very small and light board, yet feels remarkably solid. And not just “$35-board” solid, but sturdy enough to feel like you can leave it running weeks on end, and yanking the micro-USB (only power source, and also the only way to control power on/off) will not render this board inoperative. Well done and well designed! After the quick unboxing (yeah, we’re not talking Uncle Steve’s Apple packaging here), it was time to fire up the little thing. I had already used ‘dd’ to put ArchLinux-ARM image on a micro-SD card (SanDisk 8GB Class 2) and planned on using one of the many micro-USB/charger combos I have lying around from various mobile, dead and alive, devices. Eben, the R-Pi project lead claimed a Kindle/Nook charger would work fine, so I was not about to spend an extra $15-20 for another charger.

Being well aware this is a developer board, and that many, many obstacles lie still ahead, I was not expecting to have an issue booting Arch. Alas, after all the great anticipation, in the end, I got nothing. My Samsung 22″ monitor complained there was no signal. The board itself indicated it was on, sort of, but main suspect after reading the wiki, was and is, power supply, and at close second, my SD-card.

After playing with various combinations of power supplies and USB cables, including one iPad charger — blasphemy! — nothing worked. I decided to then make sure it wasn’t the ArchLinux image on the SD card not playing nice, dd’ed Debian Squeeze (the preferred distro for R-Pi) on the SD-card and rebooted. Nothing. Since my Nook charger is the specified 5V-1000mA spec, my next step is to swap the SD-card. But I have to say, R-Pi: I’m a disappoint 🙁

But, tomorrow shall be a new day. Off to a big box store to buy a “guaranteed-to-work” SD-card, and we’ll commence round deux with the Pi. Good times.

 

While I still think Raspberry Pi is the most intriguing option on the market — by far the cheape…

While I still think Raspberry Pi is the most intriguing option on the market — by far the cheapest and the most "raw" — the mini machine playing field is getting pretty interesting. IMO, at $199, FXI "Cotton Candy" is not hitting the price point, albeit it is stuffed with a dual core CPU, good graphics acceleration and 512MB of RAM. OTOH, this new AllWinner mini with Android 4.0, or any ARM-ported distro, selling for $74, is hitting the point.

Yes, it's twice as much as R-Pi, but looking at the specs, you'll get twice as much for the money. I still like the "made-in-my-garage"-look of R-Pi, but I'm also pretty sure I'll be longing for some more computing power while I wonder how many more seconds it'll take to get the R-Pi's web browser loaded. Maybe Raspberry Pi has had the desired effect of pushing manufacturers to release cheaper, yet capable mini machines.

I hope this is just the beginning.

Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
 

Ubuntu taking over, 5% at a time.

While not my distro-of-choice, every little bit counts for Linux to finally take over the world as I was promised years back. And if one is to convert Windozers to Linux, I don’t think there’s a better distro to do it than Ubuntu — sure, Mint may be the current king of the hill on distrowatch.com, but in the end, many new users will feel more comfortable when there’s a company behind the effort (I know, I’ll take Arch Linux wiki/forums any day to resolve an issue).

Of course, it’d be nice to have Canonical not being so vocal about “not being Linux”. [http://dissociatedpress.net/2012/03/27/ubuntu-were-not-linux/]

Phoronix is the leading technology website for Linux hardware reviews, open-source news, Linux benchmarks, open-source benchmarks, distribution screenshots, interviews, and computer hardware tests.
 

R-Pi is soooo close!

No. Effing. Way. Just received an email from Newark|Element14 stating "We're excited to inform you that your Raspberry Pi will be delivered in an upcoming shipment beginning the week of June 18th." What do I do, what do I do? Should I offer it dinner? What am I going to wear? Maybe I'll just act all chill and go "Hey, wassup" when it shows up at my doorstep.

 

Quick take on Nokia Lumia 900

I purchased a Lumia 900 on 4/8. Previous phones include Nokia N900 (still “running” MeeGo…) and HTC G2. So far the Lumia experience has been good.

Pros:

– Fluid, smooth and intuitive UI
– Majority of everyday apps I use are native MS/Nokia, or good quality 3rd party (UC Browser, Nav, Google Voice, social networking, email, music player)
– Excellent Nokia Drive navigation, probably best nav app I’ve used. Very quick GPS lock, nice UI while driving, good voice navigation
– Good battery life. 16 hours of moderate/heavy use (not always on LTE though), with still juice left.
– For me the home screen tiles work. IMO they are a nice compromise between an icon and widget, obviously this boils down to preference. Then again, if you load up your home screen with tiles, you’ve effectively made your home screen an app menu, just with super large icons…
– Display works well in daylight
– VKB is ok. Pretty quick swapping from portrait to landscape mode, but like with any touch keys, nothing beats the real keyboard. Pleased to find my native language as a quick switch option while typing.
– LTE speeds so far have been good (7-8 mbps download in West L.A.; good/great 4G-speeds in Miami)
– “Multitasking”. Obviously nowhere near what the N900 offered, but in my daily use I find it similar to Android.
– Last but not least, though this one seems to be an ignored feature of a modern smartphone: fantastic call quality — mind you this on AT&T’s famously shitty network.

Cons:

– Browser options (for now): IE9 is ok, not great, but I’d like to see Firefox and Opera Mobile as options. UC Browser as an IE9 variant offers some welcomed tweaks.
– App menu: minor gripe in my use, but if you load your device with apps, the single file scrolling can become a real nuisance. Not that I found Android’s App Drawer with 4-5 pages (or a cube/wheel/cylinder…) that much better. I use the KISS principle, worked on Android, works on WP7.
– Battery (no percentage) and time displayed only on main screen, not when in app menu.
– Display: while it works well outdoors, the screen res. does show its numbers, especially while browsing. Pixellation is apparent on the browser while zoomed out, after you pinch zoom in the text/font looks ok — for some reason I’d think this would be the other way around.
– Camera: Not bad, but not excellent either. It seems like my N900 takes as good pictures as Lumia 900, though this is subjective as I am not a photo-pro. So, the cam is a minor disappointment.
– Integration with Zune. Only reason I’ve used Zune was to do a firmware upgrade. But, signing up with Microsoft/Apple, you kinda know that this is the shit you have to put up with.
– Lack of specific apps. I haven’t found an app yet that I couldn’t live without — i.e. I’ve modified my phone usage, like I had to do with the N900 — but Android app market makes life much more fun if you have the time and energy to read about, test, and install/uninstall apps.
– The non-upgradeability to WP8. This one’s going to bring some suckage. Though I have to admit, I wasn’t even thinking about it when I bought the Lumia 900 (ok, so I got a refund for the purchase price, thanks Nokia!). So I guess I shouldn’t complain after all. And it’s not like my 2-yr old G2 was getting any love from HTC/T-Mo (ICS Beta on it, ran like, a beta…).

I have no idea how the app devel process varies between WP7, Android and iOS, but from an enduser, albeit not a superuser, experience, IMO Lumia 900 works well. I’ve dumbed down my device requirements, but so far I’m liking it. When I want to dig into an OS, I’ll just continue tweaking my Arch with OpenBox 🙂

 

Window manager for iPad?

Though I'm not an iPadder, this tweak looks like a worthy app on a Jailbroken iPad. The limited use I have with my wife's iPad, always brings up one major issue I have with the tablet: window management, or lack thereof. Maybe Quasar is the app the that makes my iPad experience raise to a new level?

iPad (Jailbroken): Not being able to open a bunch of different apps in multiple windows has been a gripe for many iPad users since it first launched.
 

To Haiku, or not to Haiku, that is the question.

Anyone of you have experience with Haiku, or its predecessor BeOS? I'm very tempted to try this out, looks like a very straightforward installation process [http://haiku-os.org/get-haiku/installation-guide], with just manual pre-partitioning and post-installation GRUB entry.

If I was smart and capable, I'd take over the now vanished Haiku ARM port attempt [https://www.haiku-os.org/tags/arm], then put it on my still-in-a-box-somewhere-in-China Raspberry Pi. Wouldn't that be something.

But I am not very smart nor capable, thus I'll try this out on VirtualBox.

How a volunteer crew brought a crack operating system back
 

Woz likes WP7 LOLWUT?

Hey, I guess I'm not the only one, Woz likes it too. What's wrong with him? Or me? It's not cool to like WP7 or Nokia. Damn it, I'm not cool.

Steve Wozniak tells Dan Patterson why he thinks the latest Windows 7.5 Mango makes his Nokia smartphone "beautiful and amazingly designed."