Armbian in Test for FriendlyElec NanoPi Duo Allwinner H2+ Development Board

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FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Duo is a development board built around the Allwinner Cortex-A7 H2+ quad-core SoC. It is a SoC widely used in entry-level development boards. We find it for example in the first generations of Orange Pi Zero but also in the brand new Banana Pi M2 Zero presented last week. This card has the particularity of being equipped with two rows of connectors at the pitch of 2.54mm compatible breadboard. Developments can be done on Breadboard or on the daughter card marketed in the form of a kit. This card has been on the market since August 2017. It can be purchased alone for $7.99 or as a kit starting at $17.99 on Friendly Elec’s store. If you already have a customer account on AliExpress, the 256MB or 512MB kits including the daughter board, a case, a heat sink and an FTDI to USB cable are also available.

Armbian for the FriendlyElec NanoPi Duo

Until now, it was necessary to be content with the distribution Ubuntu 16.04 allowing to develop projects using the environment for Ubuntu-Core connected objects. The distribution can be downloaded here. It includes several utilities to exploit the NanoPi Duo and its daughter card:

  • rpi-monitor: system monitoring with web interface accessible on the port check system status and information
  • npi-config: the equivalent of raspi-config on Raspberry. It allows to configure the main system settings password, language, timezone, hostname, SSH, auto-login, and enable / disable i2c, SPI, serial port, PWM
  • WiringNP (adapting wiringPi) library for GPIO access
  • RPi.GPIO_NP to access the GPIO
  • networkmanager: network manager

Since early November, the Armbian association has begun testing to support the development map NanoPi Duo developed by FriendlyElec. Like the NanoPi Duo has many similarities with the architecture as the Orange Pi Zero, the work should be faster than for a completely new card. Armbian published a few days ago a progress report of the first tests here. We find the same problems as for OPI Zero:

  • HDMI output (if available) only supports a limited number of pre-defined resolutions
  • TV output does not work as expected (PAL / NTSC resolution, Overscan, no h3disp support, TV output support for OPi Zero on the forum here)
  • 1-wire protocol, DHT11 / DHT22 or S / PDIF sensor readout requires minimum processor frequency setting of 480 MHz or higher
  • Hardware accelerated video decoding only supports a limited number of video formats
  • Out of memory (OOM) issues are possible due to kernel bug
  • No driver for the GPI Mali
  • No hardware accelerated video decoding
  • The schedutil CPU command can cause clicks and pops on the audio output
  • The built-in wireless module (XR819) does not support software, which causes wireless connection problems
  • Incorrect report of CPU temperature (forum topic)

The following materials have been tested (presumably with success)

The complete list here. No availability date has been communicated but it is still possible to download (launch the download) the test version now. This distribution is based on the Linux 4.13.10 kernel. Nightly versions are available here. Two versions are available. The first is based on Debian Stretch (the same as Raspbian for the Raspberry), the second on Ubuntu Xenial.

Features of the NanoPi Duo Allwinner H2 +

  • SoC: Allwinner H2 + Cortex quad core A7@1.2 GHz
  • GPU: Mali400MP2 @ 600 MHz
  • Memory: 256 or 512 MB DDR3-1866 SDRAM
  • Storage: micro SD card reader, flash SPI connector
  • connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (Allwinner XR819 module)
    • u.FL/IPEX connector for external antenna
  • USB: 1x micro USB OTG for 5V power supply of the card
  • Expansion connector
    • 2x 16-pin at 2.54mm pitch compatible breadboard with 2x USB, GPIO, UART, SPI, I2C, MIC, Line Out, CVBS (composite video), Ethernet, 5V, 3.3V and GND
  • Power supply: 5V/2A via micro-USB port
  • Dimensions: 50 x 25.4 mm
  • Weight: 7.76 g
  • Operating temperature: -40°C to +80°C

Mini Shield board with Protective Case for NanoPi Duo

Friendly Elec offers a daughter card for the NanoPi Duo. It is sold as a kit or à la carte on the Friendly Elec boutique shop. The daughterboard has a two-row connector placed in the center of the card on which the NanoPi-Duo will be installed. This board includes all the expansion slots supported by the NanoPi:

  • 4x USB 2.0 port
  • 1x 9×2 pin connector
  • Support for SSD in mSATA format.
  • SPI connector
  • 1x micro USB OTG for 5V power supply
  • Serial port connector for debug or remote installation (an example on Orange Pi)
  • Microphone
  • Audio jack output
  • Ethernet port 10 / 100Mbps

The Mini Shield features a JMS567 microcontroller capable of handling USB 3.0 as well as SATA drives up to 6Gbps. It is more efficient than JMS578 used by Orange Pi for its NAS shield.

The NanoPi Duo is not equipped with eMMC flash memory, the system can be installed on a micro USB card or on an SSD in mSATA format. mSATA SSDs are much more reliable than SD cards. On its Wiki, Friendly Elec indicates the procedure to connect or boot from an mSATA disk.

Mini Shield NanoPi duo msata ssd hard disk

To complete its development and learning solution for connected objects, Friendly Elec markets a USB 2MP camera (FA-CAM202), a 1602 USB LCD display.

The GPIO is supported by the WiringNP library which is an adaptation of Gordon Henderson’s wiringPi library for the Raspberry Pi. A Wiki and C ++ programming examples are offered here. The WiringNP library is also compatible with NanoPi NEO / NEO2 and Air cards.

It is a very interesting development platform that can also very well be used as a base for a home automation server. Support for SSDs is really a plus over competing cards. We can however regret the total absence of video output. It will be necessary to pass the terminal in SSH in WiFi or by serial link / UART. With a lightweight graphical environment like XFCE, you can also use a remote desktop such as VNC.

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