May 27, 2018

Orange PI - basic setup

This is my idea of a basic getting started guide. The goal here is to pull the board out of the box and take steps to making it useful.


I spent some time making plates from 1/4 inch thick aluminum and standoffs to hold the boards. This makes them heavy enough that the cables don't drag them off my desk and onto the floor. All kind of things are possible, including just setting them on a static bag and hoping for the best. Some places sell little cases.


You need at least 2 amps, or better 3 amps of 5 volt power. Forget trying to run these from just USB power, that is only 0.5 amps. I have had good luck with a 2 amp Toshiba supply I found in my junk box, but many cheap 2 amp supplies will not yield reliable operation. The barrel jack is a 4mm x 1.7mm DC barrel jack. People say this is the same as is used on a Sony PSP, which may help some people.


Do not expect any LED's to come on when you plug it in! There is no power LED. This confuses many people and makes them think that they have a defective board when they do not. You will have to give it a bootable image (such as U-Boot) and have it boot that image before you will see an LED come on.

Serial console

You are going to need some kind of USB to serial gadget. It will need to work with 3.3 volt logic levels and you need only 3 wires (Tx, Rx, and Ground). I use a cheap CP2102 based unit and run at 115200 baud with complete satisfaction. I use picocom as my serial port software on my linux host.

SD card

If you have a unit without eMMC (like the Orange Pi PC), you will absolutely need to have an SD card to provide software. I use an 8G Sandisk microSD card, but you can certainly use smaller cards if you can even find them these days. Be careful that you do not damage the SD card holder. I reinforce mine with epoxy since they are so fragile, but if you take care not to put any sideways force on the card when inserting and removing it you will be OK. I recommend some epoxy. But take care not to epoxy your SD card in place like I did. Take even more care not to let epoxy ooze inside and make it impossible to insert an SD card. In other words, be careful.


If you have a unit with eMMC, it probably ships with some software. My Orange Pi PC Plus came with some kind of Android, but I immediately flashed U-Boot over it and ignored that. If you have something like the Orange Pi PC without eMMC, you will have to dedicate an SD card to it. I have detailed instructions elsewhere about putting various images onto SD cards, but suffice it to say here that you will need an SD card, and you may as well buy several micro-SD cards. And you will need a card reader/writer that actually works (many are available that do not work, so take care). If you plan to run from the SD card itself, you just use the linux "dd" command to put the image on the card and go. If you want to put an image onto your eMMC, the process will require putting a runnable linux system onto an SD card to accomplish that. Details on this are elsewhere in my notes on specific cards.

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

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