Best choice for a Single-Board-Computer?

52 Antworten [Letzter Beitrag]
GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Hello all,

So, I am in need of getting a new "computer". And I am inclined to these small sized computers similar to raspberry pi.
Here is what I need:

A machine that runs as much as possible in free drivers/firmware.
A machine that can run Debian/Trisquel/Android. This is because of the applications I need to run (see below).
A machine that can access wifi internet.
A machine that can access wifi and have VGA or S-Video/RCA video out.
A machine that can run: libreoffice, firefox, tor browser, thunderbird, vlc, gimp. As you can see, I am willing to sacrifice some of these and use Android as most of these are available in F-Droid, if that will make the machine more stable.
A machine that can play some games (would be good, not essential lol).

So, reading the FSF page (https://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers) I know these are not the best machines out there, but seeing they are cheap (I can't really go beyond 50€) and some have a lot of free drivers/firmware, I would like to try one out. From that page, BeagleBoard seems the best choice. But I also saw Banana Pi, pcDuino, and some others around on the web.

What would be your suggestions?
If for example I have a beagle board that uses no GPU blobs and run android, that means I am running a 100% free machine?? How secure would these be?

Thanks in advance for all the help

BugRep
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Beigetreten: 04/05/2012

If you just want to have a computer on which to use those programs in freedom, my suggestion would be to buy a used thin client computer.

If you want something smaller, than I can't really help.

I am not sure how easy it is to find liberated Android images for any of the boards.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Could you please provide some links for those "think client computer" you mentioned?
Thanks.

BugRep
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Beigetreten: 04/05/2012

You should search for it locally. The availability and price will depend on where you look.

I found this for about 42€, but without a power adapter.
http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/en/WF06b/12454-12454-321959-338927-3640406-3634720-3634724-3983926.html?dnr=2
There are other models for 15-25€ too.

This is just to give you an idea about what to look for.
https://www.igel.com/products/thin-client-zero-client-hardware/hardware-overview/overview-hardware.html
For less than 50€ you will have older hardware that offers less performance.

Keep in mind that I haven't checked how much freedom respecting the hardware I mention here is.

Andresm

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Beigetreten: 11/21/2010

Maybe you can use an old netbook as a thin client SOC. It will spend a bit more electricity but if you remove all the casing and maybe look into not turning on the wifi and the screen you might lower the energy consumption

To check freedom compatiblity use h-node:
https://h-node.org/notebooks/catalogue/en/1/1/undef/A-platinum/undef/undef/undef/undef/undef/undef

If you are looking for something cheap I would look at the above list with A-platium in some second hand shop. a 4 year old netbook will probably be pretty cheap.

I have found Eee PC 1000HA (asus) for less than $40 I am sure a more indepth search might help.

tomlukeywood
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Beigetreten: 12/05/2014

"If for example I have a beagle board that uses no GPU blobs and run android, that means I am running a 100% free machine?? How secure would these be?"

by android do you mean replicant(libre android)?

if you run any enitrely libre software it will dramaticly improve security over a non-libre system

but you can almost always make a system more secure

but using encription and a strong root password would be very good for security

what are you wanting to be secure from?

btw:
i am not yet a security expert but i can offer this information with confidence

Mzee
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Beigetreten: 07/10/2013

The FSF has a dedicated page for your question: https://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

I know, that's the link I posted in my own thread... But it doesn't have all the answers I am looking for.
That's why I created this thread.

Mzee
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Beigetreten: 07/10/2013

Oooops, sorry. Next time I should read the whole start post first. ;-)

BugRep
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Beigetreten: 04/05/2012

Removed: Wrong place

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Hello.
Thanks everyone for the info provided so far.
I have found this: https://olimex.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/cedarx-for-allwinner-is-liberated/
As it seems, if one is going with a Single Board Computer (or a System on a Chip, I don't know if these terms are meant to say the same thing), AllWinner is the clear choice to go. What I don't know is if the AllWinner boards already come with the free startup program or if one has to manually flash it :(

MANHOSO
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Beigetreten: 03/16/2015

can I do a mini PC full free? whit Single-board.
whit android maybe ?
https://www.olimex.com/wiki/A20-OLinuXino-MICRO

leny2010

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Beigetreten: 09/15/2011

None of the SBCs on the linked FSF page will run Trisquel, they use a different CPU type / Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). It's a big ask for any of those listed to run LibreOffice with having so little RAM.

A SoC (System On a Chip) is the main silicon chip on a SBC (Single [Circuit] Board Computer).

Further the costs you see for such things are effectively the price of the populated motherboard or motherboard bundle. So if you add all the extras you'll need (power supply, case, keyboard, mouse, leads, SD card) at UK prices you're going to end up over 50 euros/pounds.

I sort of keep half an eye on boards like this and AFAICT as yet if there is one which which fills your requirements and can be used in freedom the debian-arm mailing list haven't heard of it and they'd be the first to know.

So as I've said several times on this forum unless you have specific physical (power/space/mass etc) requirements then buy a second hand x86 box which you have tested with a Trisquel CD/DVD/USB stick. Unless, as indicated, you're looking for some embedded application which you wouldn't do with a PC (power/space etc); say an SBC for robotics processing umph in a Maker project. In which case the FSF list gives things like the BeagleBone Black which is quite good enough.

If you still decide to go for one, then you're likely going to have to deblob the kernel etc. to use it in freedom. So be prepared for a steep learning curve adventure.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Hey again.
Thanks for the comments again. Thank you leny2010.

Well, I have been doing a LOT of reading... and I am both much more informed and much more confused :P

So, I will try to share my discoveries and my questions with you guys, maybe we can work something together:

1. AllWinner SoCs are very popular among Open Source Hardware enthusiasts. Linux Sunxi is one of the projects that tries to liberate these devices.
2. There are community projects working to liberate ALL of these SoCs (Lima Driver for the GPU, Cedarus for the VPU).
3. AllWinner themselves actually violate the GPL, and apparently some of their code is under license that make it troublesome for using in free projects. Even so, the code is available for inspection, and it has already been replaced by Linux Sunxi project.
4. Not all vendors who use AllWinner SoCs are the same. There are some that release all information about their work and are part of the community projects, but there are also some that simply sell stuff and release binary stuff. Not too different from all other things in life, where there are good people and bad people lol.
5. I don't think you can (yet) use these systems as a simple "buy, download, install, use it". There is always some preparations to make, a lot of learning to do, and some things are still in alpha/beta status. Yet, there seems to be light ahead of us, as these projects have been steadily improving.
6. Most of these communities care more about "open Source" than about "Free as in Freedom". Not perfect, but acceptable as long as they publish their work under GPL (at least for me).

So, yeah, like I said, these small sized and single units computer are not perfect... But they are interesting. AND they might suffice my needs.
Right now there is no computer (x86) or smartphone/tablet that you can use FULLY in freedom. There are the gluglug laptopts but that's it (and there are some catches there too). In these machines (at least AllWinner SoCs) you can have free startup program (free BIOS if you will), you can use the device with fully free software and drivers, and there community projects trying to fix the GPU issues. Also, these machines are amazingly cheap for their power (you can get a dual core 1 or 2 gb ram for less than 50€). That means that if you can get one of these, plug in a keyboard and a mouse (most of us already have those) plug it into a TV or screen (HDMI or composite video (too bad there is no component video out!)), and use a 4gb SD card, you can actually have a computer working in almost total freedom (alpha/beta status for now) with some little horse power but enough to rival non free smartphones, and you can trust that your hardware is actually obeying you and not someone else. Not bad I think!
I just wish I could find locally more offer of these... I can only find Raspberry Pi and Banana Pi. I will keep looking and maybe buy online :)

leny2010

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Beigetreten: 09/15/2011

The FSF listing has Raspberry Pi's as FATALLY flawed because they have a proprietary boot blob run by the VideoCore processor which uses an undisclosed ISA. The VideoCore controls the ARM userspace processor. I haven't kept tabs on the reverse engineering project.

Get an >=8GB SD card, they're not much more and things like email attachments and LibreOffice documents will eat up the relatively small amount of free space on a 4GB.

By modern standards you will probably find composite video resolutions too limited for easy desktop use.

All that said, last I heard RMS was still using a Lemote Yeelong sub-notebook as his sole computer - 800MHz single core MIPS w/ 1GB RAM. So if you do find one of these devices which can be used in full freedom, please report back.

onpon4
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Beigetreten: 05/30/2012

RMS uses a ThinkPad X60 now.

leny2010

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Beigetreten: 09/15/2011

Thanks! It's nice he's copying me for a change :)

quantumgravity
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Beigetreten: 04/22/2013

Thanks to Icecat + Tor, he even "started connecting to websites" ^^
see his libreplanet speech.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

I watched his speech today too. I cracked up laughing when he said that. It took Tor years, but it finally managed to convince even RMS to use the web :P
However, if IceCat user agent is unique... hum, RMS might be pretty easy to follow online, lol. How many people use IceCat with Tor? He should just use the Tor Browser and block all JS :)

Mampir
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Beigetreten: 12/16/2009

IceCat in Trisquel presents is self as if it's running on Windows 7, so people can't track you easely. It's User-Agent header is:

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:31.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/31.0
GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Thank you for your useful contributions.
The board I am thinking about getting is a A13 from Olimex. I am just waiting to get some more information (it turns out we have another user of such a board here in the forum!) before I buy.
As for RMS... he used his computer offline and without GUI. I don't think that's the proper use for a computer these days, not for me at least :)
However I am hoping that with 1Ghz processor and 512mbs of ram DDR3, I can run Android and maybe Debian+Lxde/Xfce. I don't play a lot of games so that's not an issue.
The reason I wanted a S-Video output was because that way I could connect it to my TV :)
But since I have a VGA converter I might use that.

Anyway, my primary point in this project is to get a machine that will run with free software only and have enough power to allow me to use the web in a secure manner (Tor for example is my primary app).

Chris

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Beigetreten: 04/23/2011

I suspect you might be able to get Tor working if you've got the time and technical aptitude to do it, but it is unlikely you'll get Tor Browser working. I forget the reason. It was discussed on the Tor mailing list though recently and why it would be a challenge to get it working.

The Banana Pi might be another option. We have LibreCMC working on it. I believe the original Cubbieboard is also OK and works with LibreCMC. The problem with it though is the integrated flash is dependent on a poorly written driver. While it might not be a free software issue you won't be able to utilize the latest LibreCMC and have it work.

The ODroid boards should be avoided at all costs as there is a non-free stage-1 bootloader and the project is uncooperative. Apparently they don't even consider themselves an "open source" project (Ie they only release the code because they have to under the licenses they themselves received the code under- or something like that).

We've got a bunch of boards we're investigating for use in projects @ ThinkPenguin. Once we have something supported for at least certain use cases we'll probably offer it with documentation and LibreCMC. It's slow going though. While LibreCMC works on some boards without any non-free software it's not necessarily got the software packaged that will really give people a use case for getting one.

MANHOSO
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Beigetreten: 03/16/2015
GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

I couldn't be sure if the images provided by Igor are free or not, I couldn't find sources.

megurineturilli
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Beigetreten: 01/10/2012

I have an A13-OLinuXino-WIFI where I desoldered the WIFI chip. I have a port of linux-libre for this processor and the bootloader is also free. I installed Ubuntu Core in the flash memory which I use for compiling Trisquel packages.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Dude!! I was gonna post now about that exactly model!! I have been investating and want to buy one of those! But I was worried about some issues with it (which version of the boot program came pre installed, how free was the android pre installed, the wifi, etc).
Could you please please share your work?? :D
I am trying to build a free computer that can boot either Android or Debian. If I could get Ubuntu to run I would apply the trisquelize script to it.
If it wasn't much trouble I would LOVE for you to share your work with it. As soon as I get mine I will get down to work too.

Have you tried Lima Drivers? I hear they can now provide some alpha 3D graphics.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Why did you desoldered the wifi chip? Isn't that enough to disable the driver?

Chris

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Beigetreten: 04/23/2011

Why didn't you just get the version without wifi? Seems like a lot of work for nothing. Maybe I missed something though.

tdlnx

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Beigetreten: 04/09/2014

It's not a single board computer, but the Pocket Wee from Think Penguin is very small and fully supports libre software (with pretty great specs to boot!)

https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/penguin-pocket-wee-gnu-linux-desktop

I would really love to buy one once I have the extra funds as I'm not in "need" of a new computer at the moment.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

I know about ThinkPenguin and LibreTrend. Both are good projects. BUT none of them have open BIOS, and none of them are as free and open like AllWinner boards :)
Soon (a couple of months/years) we will be able to run GNU/Linux with full GPU/VPU support for low cost!

tdlnx

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Beigetreten: 04/09/2014

Are you sure? From the Pocket Wee page:

"Not dependent on binary blobs, or proprietary drivers-firmware"

That being said, I've never looked in to the AllWinner boards but I'm definitely interested.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

AFAIK Think Penguin has no machine with free BIOS.
AllWinner are still very limited, but they get more interesting every day. And from a comment above, it seems you can use linux-libre with it, which coupled with a Debian or a Ubuntu installation (where you could run trisquelize script) you would be left with a free machine. Also, they are very cost effective.

Legimet
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Beigetreten: 12/10/2013

The BIOS isn't free. Chris has said the same thing: https://trisquel.info/en/forum/thinkpenguin-laptop-photos#comment-24756.

Chris

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Beigetreten: 04/23/2011

At the OS layer there is no non-free software required. Which is to say it works with Trisquel and any other 100% free distribution. For modern X86 systems this is as free as you can get. Unfortunately Intel is uncooperative and we need to move away from X86 altogether if there is any chance of a modern truly 100% free software system. This is a bigger issue though than just the BIOS, just the wifi, or just the graphics. Right now there isn't a truly 100% free system anywhere. There are various bits which are a problem. There may be some hope with future ARM graphics chips, but there are other issues, like non-free wifi being integrated, and nobody is cooperative on wifi currently.

MANHOSO
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Beigetreten: 03/16/2015

i'm waiting
but the road should be more this way replicant , to start .
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_U-Boot
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_GRUB#GRUB_version_2_.28GRUB.29
WEB RESOURCES:
http://www.olimex.com - OLIMEX Ltd web site where the OLinuXino board info is hosted
https://github.com/OLIMEX/OLINUXINO - GitHub web site hosting the Hardware and Software sources
https://www.olimex.com/forum/index.php - Olimex forum for OLinuXino project discussions
OLinuXino IRC channel: join #olimex on irc.freenode.net , alternatively use http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=olimex for web IRC chat
LICENSEE:
HARDWARE
The Hardware project is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
You may reproduce it for both your own personal use, and for commertial use.
You will have to provide a link to the original creator of the project http://www.olimex.com on any documentation or website.
You may also modify the files, but you must then release them as well under the same terms.
Credit can be attributed through a link to the creator website: http://www.olimex.com
SOFTWARE
The software is released under GPL.

MANHOSO
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Beigetreten: 03/16/2015
megurineturilli
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Beigetreten: 01/10/2012

The trisquelize script wont work as there are no ARM binaries in the repository. You will have to build each package from source.

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

I want only the part of the script that removes non-free packages.

That being said, I would LOVE if you could share the linux-libre work you have done. Did you use some kind of debblober or did you took the already existent linux-libre and worked on top of it?

Also why did you desoldered the wifi chip? There is no way of just not enabling it?
The boot software that comes with the machine is already the free version?

Sorry for so many questions, but you have the machine, so I would love to learn from your own experience :)

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Why did you choose Ubuntu over Debian? Seeing as Debian is the officialy supported distro for this board, what drove you to Ubuntu?
Btw, did you ever tried their Debian image? How did it perform?

MANHOSO
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Beigetreten: 03/16/2015
GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

Thanks for those!
It seems like a great project, and I wish them the best. I will keep tabs on them too. But anyway, I would like to buy something this year (in the next months probably). SO, I will probably go with a A13-Olinuxino-Wifi. I am just waiting to get more information from megurineturilli (he says he has a port of linux-libre to this board, I am hoping he will share info on how he did it, maybe even his source, and we can work together on improving this system).
My goal is to replace my computer with this system (yes, I will miss my 4 gbs ram, and my 2.4 ghz cpu, but I will get freedom and that is much more important, and anyway I might gain better graphics once the GPU/VPU are totally liberated).

Andresm

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Beigetreten: 11/21/2010

I had heard of https://www.riscosopen.org as well.

tomlukeywood
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Beigetreten: 12/05/2014

is risc os libre software?

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

I am currently looking at Bananian (www.bananian.org) which I can't really grasp if is fully free or blobed down.

Do you guys think the linux-libre scripts will work in armhf kernel?

Legimet
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Beigetreten: 12/10/2013

IIRC megurineturilli made a libre version of linux-sunxi, linux-sunxi-libre

leny2010

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Beigetreten: 09/15/2011

> is risc os libre software?

No, there's a 'no commercial use' in the source license.

MANHOSO
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Beigetreten: 03/16/2015

some of these manufacturers make single board computers customizable on demand, but require a minimum of cards to do so.
I think they can do completely 100% free.
order a quantity that justifies the production seems to be the challenge.
but perhaps creating a list of interested and see if justified.
the potential of interested it seems good at the base of gnu/Linux users .

GNUser
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Beigetreten: 07/17/2013

I don't think that's viable. You see, AllWinner will keep making some of their boards as long as there is a 50000 units order. You can't possibly get that in a single forum. Maybe if the FSF did it together with the EFF. But they don't go with that kind of thing very much...
On the other hand, you would have a problem. You see, some people don't want to leave x86/64 and these board can only use ARM or MIPS.
That's not to say that your idea isn't good. It's very good! Just hard do apply in reality.
In reality, what I think we could/should do was ask a seller like Olimex to change the wifi chips in their boards to a brand that uses free drivers and maybe invest A LOT in reverse engineering projects like Lima.

Chris

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Beigetreten: 04/23/2011

There are only 3,000 or so paying associative members of the FSF. At best there might be 86,652 activists of which half might be duplicate emails. I don't think the FSF is going to pull this off. The EFF is larger although I'm not sure how active there members are- or willing to jump on board with this for that matter. There core focus is elsewhere.

MANHOSO
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Beigetreten: 03/16/2015
Mampir
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Beigetreten: 12/16/2009

I've fiddled with a A13-OLinuXino-WIFI last year. It wasn't mine, so I don't have it currently with me. I did various tests with it, to see how it works with free software.

I'm very sure the WiFi did work without any non-free software. I also want to know why megurineturilli desoldered the WiFi.

I manually compiled and installed everything. I used:

  • Debian Wheezy
    • Used debootstrap
    • Tried both armel and armhf
  • linux-sunxi-libre
  • U-Boot
    • Compiled from source by the linux-sunxi project
    • I'm guessing it's fully free, but I'm not completely sure
  • fex2bin
    • This is used for making a script.bin file, which is a config file used during boot
    • Compiled fex2bin from source by the linux-sunxi project

The board worked fine, so I'm guessing it works with a fully free GNU system, including USB, VGA and WiFi. I don't remember if checked how X.org or if LAN works. I didn't check audio out, microphone, GPU, VPU or GPIO. I mostly did text/console stuff.

You should probably buy a USB-Serial-Cable-F.

This cable is used to get text/console access with the device via USB and GNU Screen, including system during boot. As I remember the VGA output didn't work through the whole boot process, but I might remember wrong. I used this cable the whole time.

I've made notes on the how I build everything:
http://www.libtec.org/dev/notebooks/hardware/olinuxino.org
https://www.libtec.org/dev/notebooks/hardware/olinuxino.org
(For HTTPS I use CAcert, see: http://www.parabola.nu/https/)

The notes are very concise, but I wrote all the steps and commands for building everything from source, minus Debian packages. I can further explain things that aren't clear. :)