The Pine H64 is one in the latest of a line of increasingly powerful single-board computers that have the form factor of the popular Raspberry Pi but that replace the Pi’s system-on-chip with a more capable central processing unit.
The Pine H64 is built around the Allwinner H6, a quad-core A53 running at 1.488 Ghz. The main board can hold up to 3 GB of memory, and there’s storage support for built-in 128Mb SPI Flash memory, a bootable eMMC module, bootable microSD Cards or USB attached storage. The Linux kernel 4.9 has support for the device. Availability starts January 31 with the 3 GB unit listing at $45.
Tech Republic has a generally positive announcement of the device, but cautions the first-time user as follows:
One thing to bear in mind is that most rival single-board computers are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to the [Raspberry] Pi range, lacking their breadth of stable software, tutorials and community support.
The Armbian forums have discussion of other H6 based systems including the Orange Pi One Plus.
The arm-kernel mailing list gave the first hints of support for the NXP i.MX8M, an arm64 SoC based on a dual or quad core Cortex-A53. These chips feature 20 channels of audio and 4K video decoding.
There’s a single-board computer designed as a development board for the NXP i.MX8M, the “Wandboard” or “Wand Pi 8M”, “Coming soon” for Spring 2018.
What would these systems be useful for? The Mouser page includes data sheets and the usual technical specs but also a highly entertaining video suggesting “smart home” applications, including facial recognition – for your dog’s doggy door. (Some programming required.)
A popular holiday task for the technically inclined is to build a Kubernetes cluster by bolting together a series of Raspberry Pi or equivalent systems. Now comes Pine64 with its “Clusterboard”, aiming to cut the price and increase the density of your home cluster.
The Clusterboard is a backplane for the Pine64 “SOPine” modules. These modules are SO-DIMM shaped and slot into one of seven slots on the Clusterboard’s backplane. An unmanaged gigabit Ethernet switch is built onto the board, offering network connectivity to all the components.
Early reviews suggest that the approach is promising, but warn that you will need active cooling for the assembled device in the form of heat sinks and fans. The Clusterboard will fit inside a standard mini ITX case.
ayufan (Kamil Trzciński) has been developing for the Pine A64 and Pinebook, and his repository of boot loaders and kernel source should be worth a look if you go down this route. And maya.b has a nice little abbreviated writeup of setting up Kubernetes on this system, noting in passing that the built-in networking gets rid of a lot of hassles of cabling in a traditional setup.
Node-RED is a popular graphic programming environment for Internet of Things applications and for prototyping. Written in Node.JS, it leverages the extensive npm module system and wraps the code in a modular drag-and-drop programming tool.
Node-RED 0.18 has been released. The biggest feature that I saw was a new “projects” module that allows you to have full version control using git for your workspaces.
The Node-RED project was originally developed at IBM and is now sponsored by the JS Foundation. The project offers Docker images for the Raspberry Pi (a popular target), and has generally good support for arm64 systems because of the extensive arm64 support in the Node.JS ecosystem.
Maxime Ripard from Bootlin (formerly Free Electrons) is working on a Kickstarter campaign to fund upstream support for video drivers for the Allwinner VPU. The goal is to reverse engineer this system and put drivers into the mainline Linux kernel.
Work to date has produced the “sunxi-cedrus” driver, a functioning prototype that supports MPEG2 and MPEG4 decoding only. The funding that Bootlin is seeking would complete this work.
The Allwinnner VPU is used in a number of Allwinner SoCs including the $9 C.H.I.P.
FOSDEM is a free event for software developers to meet, share ideas and collaborate. It is held this year in Bruseels on February 3-4. Look for announcements to come from this show (as always there is conference-related announcements).
Among the many speakers at the event is Luca Ceresoli, who is presenting on “ARM64 + FPGA and more: Linux on the Xilinx ZynqMP Opportunities and challenges from a powerful and complex chip”. He will explain with technical details how Linux can fully leverage the SoC resources. FPGA and booting issues will be covered in detail, but using the hardware accelerators and software support will also be discussed.
Follow along on the #fosdem tag on Twitter.