Adventures with SBC's (i.e. ARM cpu computers)

OK - got a bunch of ARM devices around the house running Linux (mostly debian based)… the one with the longest uptime?

it’s a NextThing NTC C.H.I.P. in a PocketCHIP chassis :

chip@chop  ~  uptime
12:44:32 up 34 days, 3:04, 3 users, load average: 0.41, 0.12, 0.09
(note - I once had one of these [not in a pocketchip chassis!] as my SSH jumphost into my home LAN from outside, with a LiPo as “UPS”, and it had an uptime of well over 365 days!)

Got another CHIP with a HDMI “DIP” (it’s NTC’s version of an RPi “hat”) that I’m running through a Motorola Lapdock :

╭─x@hati ~
╰─➤ uptime
12:47:52 up 16:35, 3 users, load average: 0.73, 0.28, 0.23

These things are tiny, I guess similar specs to an RPi Zero (512 MB RAM and single core)… but pretty reliable, and the built in AXP209 and built in LiPo battery circuits were the “killer app” for this platform… just a shame the company went bust (and apparently left a bunch of unfulfilled / unrefunded back orders - a 1 GB multi-core version would be awesome!)…

Anyway - one of my customers has a bunch of Citrix stuff (which we engineers will use to connect and support their environment - 9-5 and after hours on-call) and I’ve been playing with it - i.e. just Citrix connectivity - on my RPi4 and on the CHIP running on a Motorola Lapdock…

Amazingly the CHIP with single core ARM, 32 bit Debian Jessie with 0.5 GB of RAM does better with the Citrix ICA client than the RPi 4 with quad core, 64 bit O/S and 4 GB of RAM… it’s unusable on the RPi4 (@ 1080P)! It’s snappy and responsive on the NTC CHIP (@ 1366x768)…

Both “work flows” are similar :

  • Fire up Chromium (and make sure the tab count is LOW!) - connect to customer’s netscaler, login with MFA, and download the *.ICA file and XDG-OPEN in the ICA client (Chrome/Chromium seems to be the only browser that lets me download the session *.ica file).

Note : the ICA web client in Firefox is usable on an Intel/AMD desktop class Linux machine. But on the NTC CHIP, Firefox is just about the only app that crashes it (reliably so!) - hence why my uptime on it is only hours (I crashed it several times last night - trying different browsers).

Anyway - hoping to work around the issue with the RPi4 - I’ve pre-ordered a 14" NexDock “2” to run with my 8GB RPi4 when it arrives (NexDock 2 not due till September - 8 GB RPi4 due well before then), which I’m planning to use for my job…

Note : I just had to SSH to my RPi4 to kill the Citrix session (GUI desktop session unresponsive)! I’m going to put most of my dramas with the RPi4 down to me running unofficial “pre-pre-alpha” elementary os on it… I reckon Raspbian would be more robust… I think I’m going to need to invest in some decent spec largish SD cards so I can put multiple RPi Operating Systems through their paces…

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My 8 GB RPi4 arrived yesterday… popped in the 128 GB Micro SD card with elementary arm64 that I setup on my RPi 4 4GB model, and it won’t boot - tells me :

start4.elf not compatible.
This board requires newer software.

on the console - oh well… lets try something else then… so burned another SD card with RaspiOS (rebranded Raspbian) for arm64 and persevered with the ugliness of the Pixel desktop (it’s so UGLY - it looks like a toy computer from the 1990s!)…

Removed Pixel… removed lxde - and could still see taints of LXDE (it’s so ugly, it looks like Windows XP) - so I went berzerk :

sudo apt purge lx*

(not recommended)

And everything was still good…

Basically stripped down to a “headless” 64 bit ARM server, shut it down and overnight took a “dd” backup dump of the image.

Then today slowly built it up to a decent looking “SOE” with XFCE - but jeez XFCE4 4.12 is ugly (amazingly 4.14 looks heaps better and integrates so much better with GTK3 themes - but can’t find any way to update arm64 XFCE to a later build of XFCE/XFWM)…

I’m going with a MacOS theme (Mojave “dark”), but I’d really rather an elementary pantheon theme (but can’t find any that integrate well with XFCE 4.12 - other than icon sets, which I’m using) :


This build is much snappier than elementary on the RPi4 4GB model - and I think that’s more down to RaspiOS arm64 VS “elementary pantheon desktop on Ubuntu 18.04 arm64” (i.e. I don’t think it’s a question of 8 GB vs 4 GB RAM). There are “caveats” at the download link that things like VLC and Chromium don’t get GPU acceleration - but that VLC window playing a 1080p video file isn’t showing any lagging or stuttering… haven’t noticed any issues with Chromium (it runs a lot better than it does on elementary running on the RPi 4 4GB)…

Citrix Web Client works 100% through FireFox - yet to try and get the actual “standalone” ICA client to open a downloaded ICA session file…

And here’s photos of my NTC CHIP’s :


PocketCHIP uptime 37 days… of all the SBC’s I’ve used, that builtin AXP209 and LiPo charging battery circuit makes these pretty awesome little doohickeys…

NTC Chip XFCE 4.12 hooked up to a Motorola Lapdock :


basically a “proof of concept” to myself, that I could use some low spec device as a “thin client”… and satisfactorily proved, to me, and the Citrix Windows 10 VDI session is actually a tiny bit more responsive than the XFCE window manager hosting the graphics…

Next step :
Try and compile Sayonara media player from source code (won’t build on 32 bit Raspbian)…

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And yet more adventures… and scorched earth…

OK - everything was running nicely… was able to build Sayonara from source code, and it sorta worked (tried it on a FLAC album and it sounded awful)… few niggles (didn’t seem to support using filesystem folders as music library, insisted on building a media library - which I hate - the only MEDIA database I want is the directory tree on my computer!).

So mostly all good… tried mpg123 and it worked just fine on mp3… tried ogg123 on a FLAC file and same result as Sayonara, so it’s not Sayonara… it’s something else…

Decided to take a look at omxplayer after reading about it on some Pi forums… seems there’s a bunch of stuff it needs (armhf stuff)…

So - by a process of elimination - its dependancies were :
libavcodec58:armhf libavformat58:armhf libraspberrypi0:armhf libssh-gcrypt-4:armhf libraspberrypi0:armhf libgssapi-krb5-2:armhf libkrb5-3:armhf libssl1.1:armhf

So I installed them - meanwhile, I’m trying to hook up a 2nd monitor with either HDMI > DVI or HDMI > VGA, and it’s not working…

I’m doing the omx + dependancies install on a remote session in a terminal window, and I’m looking across at it after I’d submitted :

`

sudo apt install libavcodec58:armhf libavformat58:armhf libraspberrypi0:armhf libssh-gcrypt-4:armhf libraspberrypi0:armhf libgssapi-krb5-2:armhf libkrb5-3:armhf libssl1.1:armhf

And what do I see? I can see it’s REMOVING a bunch of arm64 packages including ALL of xfce4!!!

WTF?

I look at the HDMI screen of the Pi4? It’s blank… I pull the plug on everything… Pi4 boots into TTY… hardly anything there…

PEZZO DI MERDA!

How can :
> sudo apt install libavcodec58:armhf libavformat58:armhf libraspberrypi0:armhf libssh-gcrypt-4:armhf libraspberrypi0:armhf libgssapi-krb5-2:armhf libkrb5-3:armhf libssl1.1:armhf

Become :

> sudo apt remove xfce*[:arm64]

???

Did it somehow interpret my installation of a bunch of [package]:armhf stuff mean I wanted to replace ALL of arm64 with armhf?

Who knows?

Currently restoring my somewhat “vanilla” RaspbiOS (i.e. no GUI or anything) backup onto the SD card… Not worth the trouble of trying to repair the damage - easier to start again. This could take hours :

xzcat mimas-bkup.img.xz| sudo dd bs=4M of=/dev/mmcblk0

the img.xz file is 800 MB, but the compressed image inside is 59 GB…


I suspect:

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Too much shit doesn’t work on the plain jane vanilla XFCE 4.12 arm64 you can install from debian buster repos, and there doesn’t seem to be any path to get XFCE 4.14 for arm64 (there’s a broken PPA for arm64 by one of the XFCE developers)… e.g. I think I’ve broken wifi on it - by installing parts of NetworkManager (Raspbian / RaspbiOS uses wicd I think) - and no bits of NetworkManager work in it anyway. No idea how to get the Bluetooth config wizard doohicky to work in XFCE on this Pi4…

So - heading out to the shops shortly to grab a couple Samsung Evo Plus micro SD cards, and going to persevere with RaspbiOS on Pixel (yeah - that ugly 1990’s looking implementation of LXDE).

But I’ll be tweaking the crap out of it - because by default it’s so hideously gharish, I feel nauseous just writing about it…

Read some stuff about success stories getting Ubuntu 18.04.4 running on the 8 GB Pi4, but they’re all running ancient pre-5 kernels… (4.19 or something - which is so last decade :smiley: [assuming 2020 is a new decade])

Wish me luck…

Hey Raspberry Pi Foundation people : The 1990’s called - they want their desktop back! image