*nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...

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commodorejohn
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*nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...

Post by commodorejohn » Wed May 30, 2018 5:18 pm

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 other 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 Peanuts 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!

AAAARGH. It'd be awfully nice if any of this stuff actually worked, 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, Kilpatrick Phenol, Behringer Model D

matyas
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Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2018 7:13 pm

Re: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...

Post by matyas » Wed Jul 04, 2018 11:37 am

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!

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commodorejohn
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Re: *nix on ARM boards - an exercise in exasperation...

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Jul 04, 2018 1:47 pm

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 works 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.
matyas wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 11:37 am
PS: Commodorejohn, you have great taste in synths!
Thanks :D
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, Kilpatrick Phenol, Behringer Model D

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