*nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
#1
*nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
So I decided the other day to dust off my Raspberry Pi 3 and Orange Pi Plus 2e and have a play around with trying to get a lightweight *nix setup going on one or the other. All I really want is something simple with a decent selection of programming languages, a no-frills X environment, and freedom from the taint of original sin (read: systemd.) And God, what an ordeal it's been.

So of course the first problem with the Orange Pi is that no matter what you try to run on it, you have to go to absurd lengths configuring the pre-boot environment to send a sensible signal to your monitor, because for some damn reason, unlike basically every single commercial video display adapter made in the last twenty years, it isn't capable of communicating with the monitor and asking what resolutions/framerates it supports, and you can't simply tell it what to run at without delving into things like pixel clock and front/back-porch times and going through endless trial-and-error hoping to even get any kind of picture at all. You can, of course, use one of the handful of pre-configured files available on the Internet, but since everybody these days is using either tiny 800x480 homebrew-project LCDs or ginormous 1080p flatscreen TVs, this is of no use at all if you want to use a 5:4 or 4:3 monitor like a civilized human being. The <I>other</I> problem with the Orange Pi is, outside of specifically ARM-oriented distributions like Raspbian, which are all tainted with systemd, the only distributions that actually support the thing don't support the SD card reader, which means you're expected to use a USB hard disk or a SATA disk, which would be great if the thing actually offered a SATA power connector, which of course it doesn't.

The Pi at least is much better-supported, although for some reason both OpenBSD and Slackware don't support its SD card reader either. (I'd love to know why in God's name the BSDs don't share driver code when they're theoretically all under the same license...) Devuan has a functional port, more or less, and NetBSD boots fine, but the problem then is that these builds are even more experimental than the mainstream Pi builds, which means that half of the package collection is missing, and half of what's there doesn't work. I boot Devuan and get Openbox installed, then try to run obconf to set up behavior and themes - it dumps core. I switch over to Blackbox instead and try to install bbkeys - it's missing. I install RoxTerm - it installs and runs but it's using the default GTK3 theme with tabs the size of a home pregnancy test (what does one blue stripe mean, again?) I install lxappearance to try and set up a different theme - it dumps core. I notice that there's (hallelujah) a GTK2 version of RoxTerm in the repository and switch over to that - it dumps core.

So, okay, screw that, let's try NetBSD instead, it's lighter and more responsive anyway. I get that set up with Openbox without issue and install lxterminal - it works, except for the part where it completely stops responding if you open more than one instance because the idiot developer decided that all lxterminal windows should run in a single process (reminds me of <I>Peanuts</I> and Lucy's theory on mountain climbers...) Try Sakura instead - it dumps core. How about RoxTerm? Oh, joy, GTK3 again - any chance of getting lxappearance to not dump core? Haha, no. If you want tabs in your terminal emulator and you don't want the default GTK3 theme, it's back to the primitive days of mrxvt for you, buddy!

<I>AAAARGH.</I> It'd be awfully nice if any of this stuff actually <I>worked,</I> y'know? As is, as much as I hate it on principle, it honestly seems like Raspbian might be the most viable option...

Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Nord Lead 2, Behringer Model D
commodorejohn
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05-30-2018, 09:18 PM
#2
Re: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
I did manage to get FreeBSD installed successfully on my Raspberry Pi B. I'm a little stymied at the moment because:

1. I can't get it to play nicely with an HDMI-VGA adapter and I don't want to leave it plugged into my living room TV. (This is apparently a known issue - Pis are finicky with regards to video adapters, but I didn't know this at the time.)
2. Mine didn't come with onboard WiFi, and I have to use a USB WiFi dongle. The dongle was autodetected and works great under Raspbian, but I can't get it to work under FreeBSD. This probably is a solvable problem, but I'm pretty much a raw newbie with *BSD.

PS: Commodorejohn, you have great taste in synths!
matyas
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07-04-2018, 03:37 PM
#3
Re: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
Yeah, I need to give FreeBSD another go on it - I had it booting at one point, can't remember why I didn't end up going with it.

The whole HDMI thing was an absolute boondoggle for these little SBCs - I know it's a conveniently small connector, but at least DVI <I>works</I> with most monitors and adapters, y'know? I had to go through more than one adapter just to get my Pi to work at all. Just aggravating as all get-out.

<QUOTE author="matyas" post_id="1348" time="1530718632" user_id="244">
matyas post_id=1348 time=1530718632 user_id=244 Wrote:PS: Commodorejohn, you have great taste in synths!
Thanks Big Grin

Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Nord Lead 2, Behringer Model D
commodorejohn
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07-04-2018, 05:47 PM
#4
RE: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
Yeah... I just use Raspbian on my Pi1 for Pihole and Quassel Server. Works great. Straying too far from the common development circles and hardware and you basically have to be your own maintainer and porter.

I've never used any of the Orange Pis--there's no telling what the Chinese government is putting in those things; which is why I've avoided them.

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micrex22
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11-17-2018, 03:24 AM
#5
RE: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
(11-17-2018, 03:24 AM)micrex22 Wrote:  I've never used any of the Orange Pis--there's no telling what the Chinese government is putting in those things; which is why I've avoided them.
Yeah, you never do know for sure; it'd be interesting to monitor the network output on those things just to see. But I wouldn't be doing online banking on it or anything, so eh.

Of course, it's all academic at the moment since the damn thing is so stubborn :/

Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Nord Lead 2, Behringer Model D
commodorejohn
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11-17-2018, 04:11 AM
#6
RE: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
Right now my Pi 3 B+ is running Devuan, which has sysvinit and that boots the system fine and stays out of my way elsewhere. On Devuan's ASCII images it boots headless, so I added a user and then proceeded to get a graphical environment up with X and MWM, which uses around 70MB idle. That leaves plenty of resources for stuff like NetSurf. I was also able to compile EasyMotif (a WYSIWYG editor for Motif GUI building). Not sure how long it took but I left it for about an hour or so and it had finished by then. 

Devuan really is the way to go on ARM if you want a *nix system and proper driver support without dealing with systemd. There's still some other Poetteringware mixed in there but I'm ignoring it for the time being.
shrek
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01-04-2019, 03:09 AM
#7
RE: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
Hm. I'll have to give it another try; Devuan is definitely my go-to in x86-land.

Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Nord Lead 2, Behringer Model D
commodorejohn
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01-04-2019, 02:55 PM
#8
RE: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...
I've been using Raspbian since Mark 1 days, though a 256MB RAM model B was not great. On a Pi3 it goes reasonably smoothly, using a conventional hard disk for everything aside from the boot partition. With an SSD is would no doubt be quicker, though I understand the USB controller is a bottleneck.

I can understand the preference for devuan - on a couple of occasions the system has broken owing to an issue with systemd updates, never mind the philosophical objections! I live with it on the Pi and debian for my x86 boxes.

Another approach - for original *nix on ARM, have you tried RISC iX on ARMv2 hardware, circa 1989-1992? Version 1.1x on the R140: 4MB RAM divided into 32KB pages (so not very many of them), 8MHz ARM2 CPU and an ST506 drive of 47MB or 53MB. Version 1.2x on ARM3 25-33MHz, optional FPU and up to 16MB RAM, with a SCSI interface and (as standard) 100MB disk or diskless.

Puts Linux/BSD-on-Pi performance into perspective ... and no systemd in sight!
(This post was last modified: 03-23-2019, 05:35 PM by ajw99uk.)
ajw99uk
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03-23-2019, 05:15 PM


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