Category: hardware

The Atomic Pi – amazing new ~$35 single board computer runs Linux and Windows

One of the problems with the Raspberry Pi has always been that it uses an ARM-based processor, which means that some software and many operating systems don’t run (or don’t run as well) as they would on a device with an Intel or AMD processor. There have been boards that use non-ATM based processors in the past, but they have all been quite expensive compared to the $35 Raspberry Pi, which has more or less become the device against which all other small single board computers are measured these days. While the Raspberry Pi still has its place, especially where size is a major consideration, the new “Atomic Pi” in many ways appears to offer superior performance at about the same price point. This video gives more details:

Here are links to the manufacturer’s page on the Atomic Pi and the Frequently Asked Questions page. The manufacturer’s specifications for the device at the time of this post are as follows:

  • Genuine Intel Atom x5-Z8350 quad core with 2M Cache. Runs up to 1.92GHz with a 480MHz GPU. Eats RPi for dessert. Beats some desktops.
  • Loaded with memory: 2GB DDR3L-1600, 16GB eMMC, SD slot for adding more – up to 256GB
  • Full HDMI port with Intel HD Graphics & primary audio out
  • USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports
  • Fast dual band WiFI b/g/n/ac 2.4 & 5GHz WiFi RT5572 IPX connectors on board
  • Bluetooth 4.0 CR8510
  • Gigabit hardwired RJ45 Ethernet RTL8111G
  • 9-axis inertial navigation sensor with compass BNO055
  • Secondary XMOS audio output with class-D power amp.
  • TTL serial debug and expansion serial ports up to 3.6Mbps
  • Real time clock & battery
  • JST style connectors on top and a 26-pin header for power & GPIO below.
  • Runs on 5V. Typically 4-15 watts.
  • Legitimate licensed BIOS boots from SD, USB, or Ethernet. Linux comes preloaded… Yes, it’ll run Win10 32 or 64.
  • Large full breakout shield available with screw terminals for easy wiring, or order just the CPU and provide your own wiring.
  • Well documented – more specs here.

An Amazon purchaser “Heron” posted a great review of the Atomic Pi. Just in case it becomes inaccessible for some reason, here is what he said (spelling errors have been corrected, but no other changes made):

Customer Review

Heron
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great little board, incredible price
May 4, 2019
Verified Purchase

What I love:

* The price: other x86 SBCs with the same CPU cost $100. Other mini PCs from China cost at least $80. This board is a bargain.
* USB3.0, real gigabit Ethernet (it really reaches than 900mbps) and low power consumption make this board the best $35 NAS solution.
* x86_64 architecture, 2GB RAM and full Windows and Android x86 compatibility make this board the cheapest way to get a half decent PC fully capable of handling office tasks.
* The ability to choose your own WiFi antennas, exposed GPIOs, Linux and Android compatibility, the presence of a eMMC, onboard Bluetooth and WiFi, make this board quite versatile.
* The big heatsink didn’t allow the CPU to reach more than 55°C in my tests.

Now that it’s out of stock I’m regretting buying only one.

What I don’t like:

* The absence of a DC barrel jack. But this board can still be powered easily with breadboard jumpers.
* A 16GB eMMC is too small for Windows 10 (but it’s more than enough for Linux)
* I would have expected to find at least some cheap PCB WiFi antennas included in the box. Without them WiFi is basically useless and now I have to wait to get some from Aliexpress.
* There is no audio jack. You can either use audio over HDMI, or use a cheap USB sound card. Or use the big external expansion board (not yet available from Amazon).

Raspberry Pi comparison:

* The Atomic Pi is a little bigger than two Raspberry Pi.
* The Atomic Pi is much much faster than a Raspberry Pi.
* The Atomic Pi can display 1080p videos from VLC and even from YouTube (with Firefox). With the Raspberry Pi you have to use its own player and just forget about streaming a HD video from a browser without stuttering.
* The Atomic Pi requires a slightly more powerful power supply than the Raspberry Pi.
* The Atomic Pi doesn’t require a SD to work.
* The Atomic Pi, as a server, is just better in any way than the Raspberry Pi (storage speed, network speed, software compatibility).
* The Raspberry Pi, as a TV media center, can be controlled with your TV remote with HDMI-CEC. The Atomic Pi cannot.
* The Raspberry Pi has a more flexible and better community supported GPIO interface.
* Unlike the Raspberry, the Atomic Pi is already properly cooled out of the box. I didn’t found a way to overclock it, but I could easily change the frequency governor.

How I use it:

I soldered a power connector, from a barrel plug and a common breadboard pin strip. Then I disabled the PXE boot, I booted a Linux live pen drive and flashed the provided Debian Buster minimal image to the eMMC (instructions provided).
Then I installed a desktop environment (with the command taskel), so now I have a little Linux desktop. I also installed a Samba server, so it doubles as a quite fast NAS.
Finally I 3D printed a plastic case from Thingiverse and it’s now complete.

review image
review image
review image

As of mid-May, 2019 the Atomic Pi is once again available to order on Amazon, or it can be purchased from ameriDroid (be sure to check the estimated shipping dates). If you live in the USA you may be able to buy one direct from the manufacturer’s site if they have any currently in stock.

The one glaring omission on this device is that there is no standard power input jack – what were they thinking when they left this off of the main board?!  That missing power jack is the thing that has prevented them from having a 5-star rating on Amazon.  This document explains how to get power to the unit (one of the options is to purchase a “baby breakout” board that has a power jack for an additional $3).  Note that a power supply that produces 5V and at least 2.4A is required, and you will need a bit more power (higher Amperage) if you plan to power anything from one of the USB connections.  There’s a discussion on Reddit titled MEGATHREAD: Powering your Atomic Pi: Ask all your power questions here! and also a Powering Your Atomic Pi Megathread in the Atomic Pi Reddit forum. These threads might be helpful if you are trying to figure out how to power an Atomic Pi.

Also the manufacturer doesn’t appear to offer an enclosure of any kind. If you have access to a 3D printer you can print one yourself (for example, see here (this appears to be the enclosure shown in Heron’s review), here, or here), otherwise I’m sure that sooner or later someone will offer enclosures for the Atomic Pi.

Here are some additional articles covering the Atomic Pi:

Linux-powered Atomic Pi Is A Bite-sized PC With Intel CPU (Fossbytes)
Atomic Pi Brings Intel to Single-Board Computers (Tom’s Hardware)
Atom-powered $34 Atomic Pi: A music-friendly SBC for creators that runs Windows 10 (TechRepublic)
$35 Atomic Pi dev board with Intel Cherry Trail now available from Amazon (Liliputing)
$35 Atomic Pi Cherry Trail Linux SBC is now available worldwide (CNXSoft – Embedded Systems News)
Atomic Pi SBC is back with pre-orders on Amazon and Ameridroid (CNXSoft – Embedded Systems News)

Convert an older model USB printer to a networked printer using a Raspberry Pi or other Linux-based computer — also works well for making an older printer compatible with a newer version of MacOS

We originally set out to do this because we were having problems getting an older model laser printer, specifically a Konica Minolta PP1350W, to work with MacOS High Sierra (10.13). With previous versions of MacOS we’d been able to connect the printer directly to the computer, and with some fiddling with drivers and other software, get it to work. But newer versions of MacOS seem to be far less tolerant of this, and we had a spare Raspberry Pi, so the idea came to us to use the Raspberry Pi as a bridge between the printer and any computers on the local network from which we wanted to be able to print. The bonus is that the printer is no longer tethered to a single machine, but instead can potentially be used by any computer on the local network.

You do not need to have a Raspberry Pi to make this work – any computer that can run Linux will do. And of course the Raspberry Pi or other Linux computer can be used for other purposes besides this. We do not guarantee that this technique will work for every older printer out there, but this will work with a surprising number of them.

Source: Convert an older model USB printer to a networked printer using a Raspberry Pi or other Linux-based computer — also works well for making an older printer compatible with a newer version of MacOS – Two “Sort Of” Tech Guys

Raspberry Pi Pushbutton Shutdown/Startup

This is extracted from a single post by user RonR in a thread about FreePBX for the Raspberry Pi on DSLReports. I though it might be useful to many Raspberry Pi users:

Raspberry Pi Pushbutton Shutdown/Startup

The attached script will install shutdown and startup capability using a SPST NO momentary pushbutton
switch connected to GPIO header pins 5 and 6. Pressing the button on a running system will initiate
a graceful shutdown (shutdown -h now). Once shut down, pressing the button will restart the system.

1. Copy install and gpio-shutdown.dtbo to the Raspberry Pi.

2. Make the install script executable:

$ chmod +x install

3. Run the install script:

$ sudo ./install

4. Reboot

For additional info, see:

http://www.stderr.nl/Blog/Hardware/RaspberryPi/PowerButton.html

The script can be downloaded from RonR’s original post or directly from https://www.dslreports.com/r0/download/2324182~6a03744946c51bfa4876b6ecd8d4528c/PushButton.zip

FriendlyElec releases Ubuntu Linux-ready NanoPi M1 Plus — a $30 Raspberry Pi killer

Image from manufacturer’s site

… there is a new Raspberry Pi competitor that is quite affordable. In fact, some folks may view it as a Pi-killer. The $30 FriendlyElec NanoPi M1 Plus has an arguably superior design and layout, plus important integrated features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It even has an IR receiver, onboard microphone, 8GB storage, and both power and reset buttons. Best of all? It is ready to run Debian, Ubuntu Core, and Ubuntu Mate from the start.

Source: FriendlyElec releases Ubuntu Linux-ready NanoPi M1 Plus — a $30 Raspberry Pi killer (BetaNews)

Raspberry Pi: Extending the life of the SD card

I realized after posting this that it is a repeat post, but those new to the Raspberry Pi might not have seen the original post, so here it is again:

SD cards are said to have a finite life. If you are planning on running a Raspberry Pi 24x7x365, there are some steps that you can take with GNU/Linux to extend the life of the card: here are some ideas.

Source: Raspberry Pi: Extending the life of the SD card | ZDNet

Disposing Of A PC? Nuke The Drive First.

Deleting your files isn’t good enough. Not even if you empty the recycle bin afterwards. Nor is formatting the drive. There are plenty of ways to recover data in such circumstances. Instead, you need a specialist program that can wipe the entire drive by storing random data onto every part of it, multiple times.

Source: Disposing Of A PC? Nuke The Drive First. | Gizmo’s Freeware

5 Warning Signs That Your SSD Is About to Break Down & Fail

Whether you’re buying a laptop or a desktop today, it’s advisable to get a Solid State Drive (SSD) over a traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD). SSDs are faster, more stable, and conserve less power, making them superior in every way. But that doesn’t mean SSDs are flawless.

Source: 5 Warning Signs That Your SSD Is About to Break Down & Fail (MakeUseOf)

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