Getting Some Tech On

Subtitle: How To Get Some Tech Freedom With SBC

As previously mentioned here, I’ve been dabbling of-late in the world of SBC (Single Board Computing). Reason? I’m on a long and curvy path to weaning myself from/of Apple and its hellacious eco-system. In fact, I’m currently fiddling around with the idear of getting off the whole greed $hitshow that is personal computing and digital eco-systems. I mean, come on, dear worst-reader. Am I wrong here? Am I the only one who feels a bit perturbed, penetrated, pissed-off at how one of the most successful industries in all of human history has managed to deject customers to the point of mutiny? Nomatter.

After installing three Raspberry Pi’s in my home network (2xclient; 1xserver), I’ve concluded that the time is ripe for not only SBCs but also Linux. Recent purchase and concurrent fiddle-diddle with an RPi 3B+ has done more than completely blow me away. But then again, I might be the only one looking deeper into the recent mega-purchase of Red Hat by IBM. Even though this huuuuge corporate transaction is about enterprise computing, what it really does is finally bring Linux to the forefront as an alternative to the fail-upwards, exploitative and non-competitive conglomerates of Microsoft, Apple, etc. Of course, even though IBM has a reputation for being just as exploitative as any other corporation, the one thing they can’t totally control is the Linux kernel that Red Hat was born out of . But before I get too far off subject.

These little beauts, SBCs, at least for me, have reached validity and user value above and beyond anything available in the old-school tech world of personal computing. Seriously. Although the RPi 3B+ isn’t quite there yet as a total desktop replacement, it is very, very… almost. At the least, the RPi has motivated a lot of others to fill the gap of producing alternative ARM-based desktop replacements, e.g. Intel. So far my little experiment with SBC’s, e.g. OpenMediaVault (OMV) NAS, RasPlex (media player) and Volumio (digital audio player), have all turned out to be solid functioning devices. I’m especially tickled with the RPi 3B+ and its enhanced but still limited ethernet–which is not quite gigabyte because of dependency on a USB2.0 bus. Nonetheless, I can honestly say, it’s a rockin file-server. In fact, it works so well, I’ve completely deleted my wish list for things like a Synology or a Drobo.

Although I was skeptical at first of the RPi 3B+ as a NAS–again, because of limited ethernet bandwidth–after a few months of use my skepticism is null. Easy setup, slight learning curve for OMV, take advantage of already owning several old 3.5″ HDDs, including powered hard-drive enclosures and… Boom! So far, the RPi and OMV, with 2x2TB HDDs connected via USB2.0, has worked flawlessly. Oh wait.

There was one issue when I hooked up the second HDD. I dug out another old hard-drive enclosure and after installing the HDD and then hooking it up to the RPi, I couldn’t get the RPi to restart. Note: the micro-USB power connector is what I consider the only serious flaw of the RPi. I’ve had trouble restarting them before. But after hooking up this second HDD, the problem really showed its nasty face. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the HDD or just the RPi’s power source. Keep in mind, I’m using powered HDDs so there’s no excess draw on the RPi’s board. Also, I’ve purchased dedicated micro-USB power cables (5v-3a) for two of my RPi’s. (The third RPi uses a 12v-4a connector albeit via the HifiberryAmp2 daughter board; this is the best powered RPi I’ve used so far!) Eventually the RPi and OMV restarted but this seems to be a recurring issue if/when I have to perform a hard-restart. My guess so-far is that the problem is the micro-USB power connector of the RPi board. But let’s move on.

After a few months of use, I’m sold on SBCs. Even though I’ve not really taxed my setup with anything but samba, AFP, FTP and a TimeMachine backup server, including my entire music library to the HifiberryAmp2, which is my living-room music player, it works. Considering the price of SBCs, the small amount of know-how required to get them going, their low power consumption, they are definitely the beginning of a future without monopoly-monolithic products we have to deal with now. And so… In my search for a Linux desktop replacement, and fully satisfied with RPi as client device, I recently went ahead and splurged and tried something new.

After research and review, I concluded that it was time to break from Raspberry Pi. So I bought a Rock64 (4GB) from Pine64. I’ve been using it for several weeks now. Compared to the RPi, the Rock64 has true gigabyte ethernet and a faster processor. It also has 1xUSB3.0, 2xUSB2.0 and an emmc slot for increased data transfer compared to the micro-SD. Although this device has slightly higher specs than the RPi, including increased price, it’s my new favourite SBC. The Rock64 is even closer to being a desktop replacement than the RPi. With that in mind, the Rock64pro, the Rock64’s bigger brother, looks like it is the replacement SBC I’ve been looking for. Yeah, now you know my current wishlist.

The Rock64 isn’t officially offered in #eurowasteland yet. So I paid almost double for it in tariffs and import taxes. But that’s neither here nor there. After initial use, dabbling with several Linux distros, the Rock64 is a winner and I’m even sold on Pine64 and the software made available by DietPi. It definitely rival Raspberry Pi. So far, I’ve got VNC running so I can practice/learn Linux (headless9, Pihole blocking obnoxious internet advertising and I was even able to install WordPress and download this entire blog to it locally.

Cool!

Worstwriter’s home network setup so-far:

  • Media Server(s):
    • MacPro[^2010 MacPro 5,1] with Plex Server
      • PlexMedia Players on various devices
    • MacPro/iTunes
      • 2xAppleTV, 4xiOS devices
    • RPi/OMV-NAS/Music (filesever)
      • HifiberryAmp2, Volumio (DAP)
  • RPi/OMV-NAS (test bed):
    • Samba file server
    • FTP
    • TimeMachine Backup (this works better than Mac Server App on my MacPro!)
  • Rock64 (test bed):
    • Pihole – DNS server and home network ad-blocker
    • VNC – Remote desktop, headless SBC
    • LXDE GUI but mostly used for SSH access to learn Linux
    • WordPress.org – installed WordPress and imported this blog locally

Rant on.

-T

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