December 15, 2018

Orange Pi

These are excellent and inexpensive ARM based single board computers. They are designed and made in China by Shenzhen Xunlong, and are designed around various SoC (system on a chip) devices with ARM cores from Allwinner.
I started working with them back in 2016

Clean up the Allwinner H3 datasheet

I suffered with the doggone "confidential" plastered diagonally on every page of the 600 page datasheet for day after day for years. Then I learned how to get rid of it. And here is the result, for anyone who might enjoy it:

More about these Orange Pi (and Friendly ARM) boards

Another company (Friendly ARM) also makes interesting little boards based on the Allwinner chips (as well as chips from other makers, like Samsung). How can you resist a company called "Friendly ARM"?

Despite the name, the OrangePi boards are NOT plug compatible Raspberry Pi clones. They are great little devices though once you get familiar with them. They do require some decent linux skills to work with.

Most if not all of these boards require you to also buy an SD card (they say TF card, but I have had complete success with SanDisk microSD cards). You also will need a good 5 volt 2 amp power supply with the proper barrel jack. You cannot power these via USB. You should probably get a 5 volt 3 amp supply unless you get a really good 2 amp device. This will save you some heartache.

I should also point out that I never expect to connect an HDMI monitor, keyboard, and/or mouse to any of these. I work using the serial console or over the network using ssh. I view these as engines for embedded programming projects, not general purpose computers. This is not to say that you couldn't use them as general purpose computers, but that is not what I am doing, so don't expect any guidance from me; I have an X86 linux desktop for that.

I buy mine direct from Shenzhen Xunlong (from China) via AliExpress and have been completely satisfied doing that. This involves a wait of 2 to 3 weeks. This boards are starting to show up at places like Ebay and Amazon with shorter ship times (and higher prices).

NetBSD on Orange Pi boards

I tried Armbian. It runs well, but you need to be running a Debian Linux system to participate in development and I find this rudely unpleasant.

NetBSD on the other hand allows development to be hosted on any linux system (the Armbian project could learn a lesson here), and the source is much easier to study than the linux sources by far:

  • NetBSD on the Orange Pi

    Allwinner SoC chip info

    The "H" series Allwinner chips are designed for home entertainment devices (thus the "H"). Their "A" series chips target tablets and media players.

    Other vital information

    Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

    Tom's electronics pages /