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Purism Librem 5 Dev Kit is shipping

December 24, 2018 — BarryK

I backed this project in June this year:

I did think that their timeline was incredibly optimistic, which it has turned out to be, too optimistic, that is.

I have received an email, my Dev Kit is on its way. Here is their blog post announcing the shipping:


There is a worry here, they are still on a tight timeline, and have shipped the Dev Kits despite not having confirmed that all of its components actually work -- or so I gather, from reading status information that they have emailed to me.

If the issues turn out to be software related, and not hardware faults, then OK. A lot of very bright people will be getting these kits, so we can hope that the issues will get resolved.

One thing, the touch screen is not yet working. Of course, it is essential for that to be functional, and it is a bit of a concern that they have shipped the kit before getting that working.

After the Sentio Superbook debacle, I am wary. But, will stay in a positive frame of mind, as there will be a few hundred very knowledgeable guys playing with this kit.

I haven't ordered the phone yet. Actually, my main interest is in the Dev Kit itself, as it has all the components of a smartphone, with development software, so is a great way to become familiar with programming these interfaces.

Tags: tech

Still waiting for my Sentio Superbook

December 24, 2018 — BarryK

I posted in July, that I am still waiting for my Andromium (now Sentio) Superbook:

I backed the Kickstarter project on August 3, 2016, and waited, and waited... now it is December 24, 2018, and it still hasn't arrived.

At the time, I had doubts about the technology used to transfer video out of the phone, but decided to back it. But, this review done on October this year shows it to not just have a few limitations, better described as a mess:

I love the broad concept, of being able to use a phone as a desktop computer, given how powerful phone hardware has become. But The Sentio Superbook... I am now actually not looking forward to its arrival,   

Tags: tech

Thoughts on HDD and SSD speed

December 16, 2018 — BarryK

I posted a tutorial recently about installing EasyOS to a new 2.5inch SATA3 on my Mele PCG35 Apo mini-PC:

...where I reported a write speed of 63MB/sec to the SSD. However, that is going through some bottlenecks, a file was being copied from my SanDisk Extreme USB-stick. The SanDisk Extreme, though, is a very fast drive, so that 63MB/sec is a bit disappointing.

The manufacturer claims "read and write speeds up to 500MB/s and 450MB/s", see here:

Well, we can do some simple tests, eliminating some bottlenecks. Mostly, I am interested in sequential read and write, of large files. So, creating a 411MB file 'easy.sfs' in /tmp, then write this to the SSD. /tmp is a tmpfs and the contents of /tmp will reside in RAM (unless paged-out to a swap partition). Here we go:

# dd if=/tmp/easy.sfs of=/mnt/sda2/easy.sfs bs=1M conv=fsync status=progress oflag=sync

...we get 153MB/sec. Much better!

Doing the reverse, reading from the SSD, we get 431MB/sec. Faster, as expected. Note, I had to be very careful with how it is done in reverse, rebooted first, to make sure everything was flushed from the virtual memory.

Testing with a USB3 2.5 inch HDD on the Mele:

Write: 56.7MB/sec
Reboot then read: 91.9MB/sec

Over on my HP mid-tower PC, with an internal 5400 RPM SATA HDD, running the same sequential write and read test:

Write to HDD: 19.6MB/sec
Reboot, then read from HDD: 139MB/sec

Confirming the SSD is vastly superior. The HDD is going to go downhill when there is defragmentation, or when reading and writing lots of small files, further showing the superiority of the SSD.   

Tags: tech

Canon MX310 MFP rescued from road verge

December 08, 2018 — BarryK

On November 28, I posted about rescuing a HP Compaq Presario from the road verge, during local Shire annual rubbish verge pickup:

I also mentioned that I picked up two multi-function printers, an Epson XP-400 and a Canon MX310. Both are inkjet printers, the former being a bit more modern with wifi interface, the latter with USB2 interface.

The last time that I bought an inkjet printer was about 10 years ago, and I decided "never again". The reason was, if the stupid thing was left unused for a couple of months, the cartridge nozzles became clogged and I would have to buy a new set. As I only used a printer every couple of months, this was very wasteful.

My Brother HL-2040 laser printer on the other-hand, can sit unused for for 6 months and still be good-to-go.  Which it has done, and as I print only every few months, the laser toner lasts for years. can't recall when I last changed it, um, about 5 years ago I think.

The Epson XP-400 is heavily criticized for the same failing, most reviewers here giving it one star, and from their comments it seems they would have assigned zero stars if that was allowed:

Then there is the later XP-410 and XP-420:

...after reading those reviews, my enthusuasm for setting up the XP-400 waned. So, what about the Canon MX310:

...only one review, but he gave it 5 stars. Another good place to look is reviews:

Anyway, onto the main purpose of this post. I cleaned up the printer with a slightly damp cloth, and it looks good:


...rescued HP Compaq Presario PC and Dell keyboard can be seen on the right side. Purchased cheap speakers from Officeworks, for AU$11.88.

The printer works! Except for one small detail that nothing prints, due to the cartridges being completely clogged.

Testing EasyOS and Quirky

Now for some bad news. Forum member 'scsijon' reported getting the infamous "filter failure" when trying to print from the latest EasyOS, version 0.9.10. So, I tried with the MX310, same error, using a CUPS+Gutenprint driver. The error log showed this:

gs: no such file or directory
(/usr/lib/cups/filter/gstoraster) stopped with status 1

Well, /usr/bin/gs does exist, it is a symlink to /usr/bin/gsc. So, I tried this:

# ln -s /usr/bin/gsc /usr/lib/cups/filter/gs

It fixed the above error, however, still get "filter failure". So fired up Quirky Xerus 8.6 on the Compaq, now printing works ...of course, have to qualify that, it goes through all the motions of printing, but getting blank pages because of the dried-up cartridges.

So, further research is required! Note, my Brother HL-2040, for which I have a foomatic ppd driver, does print from Easy. 

EDIT 20181210:
Printing from EasyOS now fixed, see:  

Tags: tech

Compaq Presario PC rescued from road verge

November 28, 2018 — BarryK

I have been away for a few days, minding my sister's dog and house while they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Took the dog for a walk every morning, and noticed rubbish being put out on the verge. This is the annual rubbish pickup run by the local Shire Council, and this being a somewhat posh neighbourhood, there is some nice stuff amongst the "rubbish".

Anyway, walking the dog, Myf is her name, 12 years old, takes her time. As we meandered past the rubbish, I spotted three computers -- then someone else pulled up in a car, and grabbed two of them, and a monitor. I managed to pick up one computer, and two USB keyboards.

When I lived at Perenjori, several years ago, I had accumulated about a dozen computers and as many peripherals. Don't want to do that again, however, a couple extra for testing EasyOS would be nice. I was hoping for a PC with nVidia graphics, but this one has Intel on-motherboard graphics.

Got home this afternoon, and highest priority was to fire it up. Works real nice. Here is a photo, setup on my desk:


Remarkably dust-free inside, just a bit of debris on the bottom, and the top, as you can see in photo, was dusty -- and sticky. vacuumed the inside, used Jif on the top, now looks almost like new. The Dell keyboard was one of those rescued, nice old-fashioned long-press keys.

Here are the specs:

Compaq Presario SR5840AN
Intel Core2 Duo CPU, E7300 @ 2.66GHz
1.99GB RAM, 500GB HDD, DVD drive
Intel GMA 3100 graphics
Windows XP Professional 2002, Service Pack 3

It is so sad that people think a computer like this is only fit to throw out. Those specs are excellent, and I booted EasyOS off a USB stick, runs really nice. Actually, Windows XP runs quite snappy too.

It has four USB2 sockets, but I could buy a card if I want USB3 -- though, as I learnt with my main midi-tower workhorse (on right-side of above photo), cannot boot off a Flash drive plugged into a USB3 adaptor card (mPCIe).

The next day, walking Myf, I spotted a Epson XP-400 scanner, and Canon MX310 scanner/copier/printer, and lugged them back. Haven't tested them yet. Actually, I wanted another printer for testing, as someone recently reported a printer failing to print from EasyOS. I think the Canon is an inkjet, don't want to buy ink cartridges, but should be able to test printing without actually printing anything! 

How old is this computer? I didn't check the BIOS date, but the Core2 Duo CPU was introduced by Intel mid-2006. This is a 64-bit CPU. I compiled EasyOS for a Nocona CPU, which is the first 64-bit CPU from Intel, so no problem with running EasyOS on the Core2 Duo. There is a sticker on the side of the chassis stating that it has Windows Vista Home Premium -- which is interesting, as Vista was released in 2007, after XP. Interesting that the owner decided to install XP. Windows 7 came out mid-2009. So, the computer was probably manufactured in 2007 or 2008, so it is at least 10 years old.  I reckon it will be good for another 10 years, running Linux! 

Tags: tech

Rock64 rocks

August 29, 2018 — BarryK

There was a blog post about ordering the Rock64 64-bit ARM 4GB RAM board:

It arrived yesterday, and quickly got it running. Downloaded an image for SD-card, replaced the files with my aarch64 Quirky Pyro files, and it runs great.

used 'memtester', tested 3600MB of RAM, all OK. That's good, as there was some customer reports of bad RAM.

Compiled SeaMonkey, Inkscape, Scribus, all OK. Subjectively, no faster than my RPi3B, however, the 4GB RAM makes the Rock64 suitable for big compiles, such as SeaMonkey.


...the photo shows everything plugged in and running. Tiny stick-on heatsink purchased with the board -- heavy-duty compiling, just warm to touch -- the tray temperature applet wasn't working during the compiling, but have now fixed it.

The "64" is a 64GB eMMC module, taken out of my Odroid XU4 board. It is recognised, but not yet used.

A 1TB USB hard drive is plugged into the USB3 socket, where all the compiling action took place. No problems there, the 5V 3A universal power supply purchased with the board works fine.

Tags: tech

Rock64 aarch64 development board

July 27, 2018 — BarryK

I posted yesterday about creating an aarch64 (64-bit ARM) Quirky Linux for the Raspberry Pi3 Model B. Works great, and I compiled some packages. Then I made the mistake of trying to compile SeaMonkey...

The setup is the Pi3 with usb 1TB hard drive (works on usb2, no external power adaptor), with the SM source on the hard drive. The hard drive also has a 9GB swap partition.

Note, I used to get the low-voltage warning with my Pi, so I now use a 5V 6A regulated supply, purchased from Hard Kernel -- frustrating, I still sometimes get the low-voltage warning!

Started the compile, about 20 hours later it was still going. I would jiggle the mouse occasionally to wake up the screen and view progress, however, at the 21 hour mark, jiggling did not wake the screen, nor any key presses.

However, the hard drive activity light was flashing, so I waited. At the 36 hour point, no change, hard drive light still flashing, so gave up, unplugged the power.

I need an aarch64 dev board with a bit more grunt, and cheap. Hunted around, and chose the Rock64, with 4GB RAM:

It has a eMMC socket, which apparently is compatible with those from Hard Kernel (the Odroid boards). I have a 64GB eMMC for my Odroid XU4, so save an extra expense. Note, the Odroid XU4 is, unfortunately, only 32-bit.


The Rock64 is reviewed here:

The board made its first appearance mid-2017. There is an update scheduled for manufacture sometime around June/July 2018, with various improvements, including a RTC (Real Time Clock) with terminals to attach a battery -- have no info whether I will be getting the new one or not.

There is also a RockPro64, which is very impressive, however, I decided the Rock64 will do what I want.

Reading customer feedback from here and there, some reports of bad RAM. We shall see. Just putting my "toe in the water" with this manufacturer, and will report back after some hands-on.

I paid US$74.42, including the Rock64 4GB-variant, clear acrylic case, international power supply, stick-on heatsink, and postage to Australia.

Note, there is a metal case, not yet available, that looks like cast alloy from the photos, and it will act as heatsink for the CPU and RAM chips.

Tags: tech

Librem 5 phone progress report 15

July 17, 2018 — BarryK

I haven't backed the phone (yet) but have ordered the development-kit. Posted about the project recently:

This is an exciting project, and I frequently visit the News page to see if there is any update posted. Today there is, Progress Report #15:

One thing that impresses me is that they are working with developers of other projects, engaging them and submitting patches. This is the way to go, an ambitious project like this needs lots of participants.

The dev-kit is promised for August 2018. I will be pleasantly surprised if it does meet that deadline, as they have only just designed the board and ordered the components. I think that they are using a CPU SOM module, which does make things easier. Hopefully the components will arrive, but even so, they are optimistic. Usually there are iterations, some boards made, tested, changes, then more made. 

Tags: tech