Great price on an Atom Z8350-based system (plus a giggle)

As regular readers know, I occasionally take a dive into the world of mini-pcs (especially low cost models) in my quest to get the best bang for the buck/watt. On my travels through the depths of Aliexpress this morning, I came across very reasonably priced Z8350-based system. It’s not going to blow the doors off, but I have a soft spot for these boxes, simply because they do so much for what they are.

This one is a design which is new to me, sporting more USB ports than normal, as well as both VGA and HDMI video ports. You’ll need to be careful though, as the retailer seems to be a bit confused about what hardware they’re selling …in the product “overview” they state it has 2 x USB3 and 2 x USB2, but the images clearly show 1 x USB3 and 5 x USB2 ports. The header of their advert also rather vaguely claims “support 2.5 inch HDD”, but (despite the extra height of this case compared to other models) there are no obvious SATA headers on the motherboard pictures and in the overview they only mention support of “external” disks.

They’re also a bit on the boastful side about the service they provide (hence the “giggle” in the title of this post — see image, below).

The price for the 4GB/32GB model is a modest $84.45 (plus $3 shipping to my part of the world). Although these boxes are sold as “Windows 10” machines, I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to try running Windows on the 32GB eMMC model, as the initial download of updates will overflow the available storage space.

As I’ve mentioned before though, these machines make excellent little low-cost, low-power-usage servers for anyone doing 24/7 self hosting (I’ve even got a similar box with more than 12TB of USB disks hanging off the back as a back-up server on my home network). This version also comes with 4GB of main memory, which is 2GB more than my original Z8350 based system (which has been running 24/7 since Dec 2016).

Please note that I don’t own this exact system, so I can’t verify its actual hardware configuration or performance. I haven’t ever used the supplier SZMZ before either, so I can’t vouch for their delivery times or packing. Another point to note is that although SZMZ has a very impressive 100% feedback rating, it is only based on two orders (at the time of writing). All the same, this looks like a nicely built mini-pc (with more ventilation holes than equivalent models, if nothing else).


‡  —  As to the strangely worded phrase in their advert, I’m working on the assumption that what they’re trying to convey is that different builds and versions of this model are available  …or maybe the copywriter just took this chance to broadcast their views on men in general.

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Will it mirror?

Pic of (old) Laptop with SSD attached to lid

Here’s another silly one for you. What do you do if the latest release of your OS of choice ships with ZFS, but you don’t have space in your laptop for a second disk? …Answer:- Reach for the velcro.

This Sony Vaio has a Centrino Core-2 p8600 processor, so it’s not going to break any speed records, but it works well enough for day to day use. Courtesy of the Buffalo 500GB SSD taped to the lid, it now sports 1TB of disk space (500GB mirrored), which is probably well in excess of what the designers originally envisaged.

Centrino.2 sticker next to USB ports

This is one of those little “because I can” projects which I don’t necessarily recommend to anyone else, but at the same time, the lightness of an SSD compared to a normal hard-disk (even a 2.5″ one) means this is now an eminently practical solution if your old laptop happens to be running out of space (I do move the laptop around the house to work in different rooms at different times, but it generally doesn’t travel much further afield than a deck-chair out on the veranda).

So, will it mirror? Heck yes!

Should I mirror?

No, probably not. It’s much more sensible to use a periodic ZFS send/receive job to back up your work to an existing server, that way you don’t need to worry about the extra drain on your battery and you still have your work if your laptop is stolen or knocked off the deck of your yacht, mid-ocean (what, you mean that’s never happened to you?).

One other consideration when thinking about installing Ubuntu on ZFS — currently (as of 21.04) Ubuntu will not allow you to edit the size of the disk partitions; you must accept their optimized defaults. Unfortunately , those defaults include a /boot partition which is much too small (typically 2GB). It will work fine for a couple of months, but with every apt update, the system will automatically add a snapshot of the boot partition. When the upgrade includes a kernel update, this means that tens, or even hundreds of megabytes of storage can be used. Even when you set the system defaults to compress the kernels using “xz”, it doesn’t take too many updates before you start getting “not enough free space” messages from apt and it will refuse to continue with the update. This is not something a novice user can easily recover from (hint: deleting files on a ZFS partition doesn’t always return that free space to the system — it all depends on whether it is still being held by a snapshot).

The OLEBY sensor light’s hidden secret

Older, yellow OLEBY on stairs

I’m working on a simple little project (ESP01S-based) right now which needs to be able to sense a warm body nearby, so naturally I turned to my stock of IKEA OLEBY sensor lights (having hacked several in the past and having been impressed with their all round, mmm …cheapness). For such a bargain price, it was almost worth buying them just for the battery holder, but an ancient grey-beard like me really needed a couple for their intended purpose …to light the way to the toilet at 02:00. So I bought a small stock of them (not enough, as it turned out), ripped out all of the white LEDs and replaced them with a single, yellow one and added a CDS sensor on pin 9 of the BSS0001 chip to ensure that they only switch on at night. A couple of them have been sitting (out of kicking range) on the stairs for several years now and are worth their weight (without batteries) in gold.

Anyway, when the need came up for the warm-body-sensor, I immediately thought of the depleted stock of OLEBYs sitting in the drawer, still in their original packaging. As I mentioned above, I wanted the sensor to interface with an ESP01S, so that I could MQTT the heck out of any warm bodies that came into range in the middle of the night (I’m totally screwed if the intruder happens to be a zombie of course). The reason the OLEBY and ESP01S are such a good fit is that the sensor will be working in the middle of a field …and the bodies in question (zombies or not) may not always be human shaped. The field in question is outside of mains-extension-cable range, but is still fairly close to our house; close enough for an ESP to be able to piggy-back off our WiFi network. The idea is that the OLEBY will trigger as usual, but instead of turning on a bunch of LEDs, it’ll turn on the ESP8266 instead. The ESP will boot, latch the power switch on (as the OLEBY will time out if not re-triggered) and then quietly send an alert message to our MQTT server, which we can then act upon depending upon how close to harvest time it is (lights, noises, hand grenades, dynamite or 200W rendition of Slade’s “Merry Christmas” …no, you’re right, that last one is probably banned by the Geneva convention).

The bare (apart from all of the flux) OLEBY PCB

So, poking about in the (fairly manky) guts of a dismembered OLEBY (don’t they have any de-fluxing solution in the middle kingdom?) trying to find where the trace from pin-2 went before it hits the LED switching transistor/FET, I discovered something interesting. The brand-new batteries I’d just slotted into the thing measured a pretty reasonable 4.83 volts …but the output from pin-2 measured 5.1v. Eh?!?

In all of the times I’d had the backs off these things, I’d never really looked closely at anything very much beyond the BSS0001 chip or the LEDs, but it seemed like there was something quite interesting going on here. There’s no mention of a charge-pump in the BSS0001 datasheet, so what was happening?

The answer appears to be in that clump of components across at the left-hand side of the board, away from the sensitive BSS0001, where an electrolytic capacitor sits on the reverse (LED) side of the PCB. Something needs a little bit of smoothing (first clue). Now that I get the magnifier out, I can see that a three-pinned device which I’d assumed was a transistor driver for the LEDs is actually labelled as “U1” (second clue). And there, hidden in plain view right next to U1, are a fairly chunky diode and another component labelled as “L1”. Well, who’d have guessed it …the humble (and don’t forget cheap) OLEBY has a fixed-voltage, boost regulator inside it. No wonder the things never seem to lose any sensing range, no matter how dead the batteries get.

U1 is something of an enigma. There are no particularly legible markings (“E502”?) on the chip itself and, until today, I would have been willing to bet that there was no such beast as a three-pin boost regulator chip. To begin with, I was working on the assumption that it was probably a transistor being driven by a clock signal from the BSS0001. However, a Gewgull search first turned up the ON Semi NCP1402, five-pin, micropower regulator, where one pin is marked as “NC” (no connection …hah, maybe the “NCP” part of the NCP1402 stands for Non-Connected-Pins!) and yet another, the chip-enable pin, can be permanently tied to the output pin, so we have at least a theoretical three-pin boost regulator after all. A little more searching through supplier product listings produced a couple of entries for SOT23-3 devices, like the TI TPS613222. So there is such a thing as a three-pin, SMD, boost regulator chip after all. Not only that, but the link to the TI datasheet above will open at an example circuit which seems to be a perfect match for the OLEBY layout (although the actual pin assignments for the TPS613222 don’t match U1).

I’ve just checked the on-line IKEA catalogue for the OLEBY sensor light and, here in Japan anyway, they still have them in stock (although the colours seem to be limited to black, white and red …and the price seems to have gone up, too), but it may still be worthwhile picking up a few the next time you’re in your local store buying some kitchen cabinets, coz’ now you know you’ll be getting a handy-dandy, micropower regulator for your battery-driven projects as part of the deal (oh, and lots of extra flux, too).

If the non-zombie detector ever gets to the decent working prototype stage, I’ll publish another article with the details and link to it from this page (but don’t hold your breath).

FreeBSD Diaries — Adding bootstrap code to ZFS root disks

When you add a new disk device to the “zroot” pool (or whatever it is that you’ve named the ZFS pool where your root partition resides) you should also add bootstrap code to that specific disk, so that the system can actually boot from it should the other disk(s) in the pool suffer a hardware failure.

Assuming that you’re using disks partitioned using “gpart” and have an EFI partition, your disk might look something like this (using “gpart show da3”, for example):-

=> 34 7814037101 da3 GPT (3.6T)
34 6 - free - (3.0K)
40 1024000 1 efi (500M)
1024040 12582912 2 freebsd-swap (6.0G)
13606952 209715200 3 freebsd-zfs (100G)
223322152 7590714976 4 freebsd-zfs (3.5T)
7814037128 7 - free - (3.5K)

You also use “gpart” to write the boostrap code to your new disk. In this example, the command would be:-

gpart bootcode -b /boot/pmbr -p /boot/gptzfsboot -i 1 da3
partcode written to da3p1
bootcode written to da3

Note that “gpart” confirms that it has written to the disk.

PLEASE MAKE SURE that the you change the disk device specifier (“da3” above) to specify -your- correct target disk device. This command will quite happily destroy filesystems if you get it wrong.

FreeBSD Diaries — DHCPD

While trying to install the DHCP server daemon on FreeBSD 12.1, I got the error:-

Failed to start dhcpd.  Could not find dhcp-sync in services file.

This actually means what it says.  If you happen to have syncing of DHCP lease information enabled between multiple servers (master and back-ups in the same domain), then you need to add this line to the /etc/services file:-

dhcpd-sync   8067/udp      # dhcpd(8) synchronisation

As the dhcpd (server process) runs as user “_dhcp”, you should probably make sure that  “_dhcp” has write permission on the /var/db/dhcpd.leases file, too.

 

Hey WordPress, just a short note here (seeing as it’s next to impossible to write anything any longer) to let you know how much this user -detests- the new editor.  Hope you’re not betting the farm on it.

 

 

Recent Updates [July 2020]

E32-915T30S LoRa Module“Xreef” (Renzo Mischianti) has just updated his excellent LoRa E32 Series Library to fix a memory leak issue.  All of his examples have also been updated to include the fix, so if you’re thinking of playing with some of the EBYTE manufactured boards and an ESP8266 or ESP32, this is the go-to library (and Renzo has also produced a couple of adapter boards to make it easier to use the E32 boards with your favourite ESP).

SixPack GRBL CNC Controller“Bdring” (Bart Dring) has updated his port of GRBL for the ESP32 with many fixes and improvements (with a merge from the dev branch), so if you’re into CNC, you should check out his repository now.  Bart also shows the rather impressive “6-Pack” (six axes, XYZABC, for Pololu/StickStep drivers) ESP32-based controller board (left) on his GitHub repository page, but it doesn’t seem to be available from his Tindie outlet, yet.

 

 

 

Intel-based, 4-port firewall/router for less than $200

NOTE:-  This article was originally written mid 2019, but was never posted (it seems that I received a non-maskable interrupt in mid sentence and never got back to it).  Prices quoted are probably no longer valid, but I note that the systems themselves are still available from the supplier linked-to below.


As noted a couple of months back in the Odd Bargains post, I’ve been experimenting with some low-cost Celeron-based systems (in addition to the original Z8350, Atom-based unit, which started me along this particular track) as cheap, complete servers for our home network.  The main advantages for me are good OS support for most (but definitely not all) peripherals, RTC and battery as standard and they all come complete with a case and power-supply included in the up-front price.  They are a lot cheaper to run too, as these low-end processors were originally intended for laptops and tablets rather than full blown PCs.  Santa Claus only delivers for free at ChristmasWhile there’s no denying that the CPU performance is generally nothing to get too excited about, they (the quad-core units, especially) still work remarkably well as 24/7 infrastructure servers for services such as DNS, NTP, DHCP, low volume web servers and reverse proxies.  Most ,but not all,  come with a GbE port and are quite capable of handling significant amounts of traffic (…watch out  for the low-end “ACE PC” branded models though, as they only have a 100Mb port), but all GbE chipsets are not created equal and my tests with a cheap, external USB-3 to GbE dongle (as a super-budget firewall) were a resounding failure (the internal port on the Celeron box could handle the traffic, but the dongle would give up the ghost after 2 or 3 hours).

I found along the way that there are quite a few, virtually identical systems in this price range which have completely different chipsets.  Most of the very low cost machines come with Realtek chips, which research on the ‘net shows to be less than ideal for a firewall (the symptoms reported are similar to my own experience with the USB-3 dongle).  This isn’t to say that the Realtek chips are to blame (there are lots of other variables in the mix), but it is fairly common to see posts recommending Intel chipsets for long term reliability under heavy load.  So, after playing around with a couple of systems that I actually have and taking into account reviews and research, I eventually came down to the choice of a J3160 based system with four, Intel-based GbE ports (the J3160 because it’s a quad-core chip with slightly better performance than the Z8350 and (importantly) with AES-NI hardware cryptography support and four ports because I need to provide for a couple of “guest” networks, firewalled off from the main, home network).

I found a reputable looking supplier on Alibaba who had a lot of good feedback and decent prices (they sell under the names of “Yanling”, “Minisys” and “iWill”).  The model I chose was their Nuc-C3L4.  In addition to the four (Intel) GbE ports, it also comes with dual-HDMI, 2x USB-3.0 and an RS232 console port.  The cost for the bare-bones unit is was $142.60, but that doesn’t include shipping (which was an additional $20 for my location).  This vendor does accept PayPal, but only from a limited range of countries (and mine wasn’t one of them).  Depending upon where and how you’re shopping, you can probably get 4GB of memory and a 64GB eMMC card for an additional $30, or so.  And yes, because I have used this supplier and had a good experience with them and their products, I do recommend them.  Communications with them (in English) were easy, fast and friendly.  NUC-C3L4 unboxedTheir shipping was also fast and their packing is excellent (the boxes are sturdy and the units are completely surrounded by a custom, expanded polystyrene foam cushion …which may not be very environmentally friendly, but certainly is effective).  The power supply, mains lead and included VESA mounting plate are separated from the system itself by a cardboard divider and all of the individual parts (including the system) are enclosed in their own plastic bags to keep moisture at bay.  Once out of the bag, the unit proved to be very black, very shiny and of all metal construction (unlike the Beelink AP35 which I wrote about a couple of weeks back).  Offset screw holes prevent misalignmentIt looks very nicely made and well put together and it’s obvious that someone put more than a couple of minutes of thought into this very compact design (for instance, the bottom of the unit has ventilation slots and it is secured to the body with four, asymmetrically offset screws, so that it’s actually impossible to attach it in a way which would block those slots).

I ordered memory and an mSATA SSD module from Amazon here in Japan and actually got a pretty good deal.  If you do buy one of these units, it’s important that you only use the low-voltage (1.35v) variants of the DDR3 SODIMM, though; this system won’t work with higher voltage rated memory.

Here’s where I hit a very small speed-bump in the road to getting it all working.  It turns out that the motherboard slots are not identical.  You have a 50/50 chance of getting it right when installing the mSATA  …and I got it 100% wrong.

Nope, not this way!
Nope, not this way!

The right way round (R/H slot)
This way!!

As you can see, the mSATA module needs to be plugged into  the right-hand socket to be correctly recognized by the system.

Take another look at that “This way!!” photograph again.  The first point of note is the RTC battery (the yellow blob in the bottom, left-hand corner).  This system comes with an RTC and battery, which means any Unix-based OS works right out of the box; just tell the OS what timezone you’re in and you’re done.  Notice also the row of RJ45 sockets at the L/H side.  If you click on the image to get the full-sized version (it will open in a new tab), you can easily read the MAC address assigned to each port.  It’s probably worthwhile making a note of those (they’re sequential) while you have the bottom off, to help with identification later.

You can also see there’s  a SATA port available on the motherboard, but with this particular model there’s no space available to fit an internal drive.

Here’s a partial dmesg output from the machine once FreeBSD was loaded, showing the CPU features for the J3160:-

Copyright (c) 1992-2018 The FreeBSD Project.
Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
FreeBSD is a registered trademark of The FreeBSD Foundation.
FreeBSD 12.0-RELEASE-p4 b0ff15badd(RELENG_2_5) GENERIC amd64
FreeBSD clang version 6.0.1 (tags/RELEASE_601/final) (based on LLVM 6.0.1)
VT(vga): resolution 640×480
CPU: Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU J3160 @ 1.60GHz (1600.05-MHz K8-class CPU)
Origin=”GenuineIntel” Id=0x406c4 Family=0x6 Model=0x4c Stepping=4
Features=0xbfebfbff<FPU,VME,DE,PSE,TSC,MSR,PAE,MCE,CX8,APIC,SEP,MTRR,PGE,MCA, CMOV,PAT,PSE36,CLFLUSH,DTS,ACPI,MMX,FXSR,SSE,SSE2,SS,HTT,TM,PBE>
Features2=0x43d8e3bf<SSE3,PCLMULQDQ,DTES64,MON,DS_CPL,VMX,EST,TM2,SSSE3, CX16,xTPR,PDCM,SSE4.1,SSE4.2,MOVBE,POPCNT,TSCDLT,AESNI,RDRAND>
AMD Features=0x28100800<SYSCALL,NX,RDTSCP,LM>
AMD Features2=0x101<LAHF,Prefetch>
Structured Extended Features=0x2282<TSCADJ,SMEP,ERMS,NFPUSG>
Structured Extended Features3=0xc000000<IBPB,STIBP>
VT-x: PAT,HLT,MTF,PAUSE,EPT,UG,VPID
TSC: P-state invariant, performance statistics
real memory = 4294967296 (4096 MB)
avail memory = 4002127872 (3816 MB)
Event timer “LAPIC” quality 600
ACPI APIC Table:
WARNING: L1 data cache covers fewer APIC IDs than a core (0 < 1)
FreeBSD/SMP: Multiprocessor System Detected: 4 CPUs
FreeBSD/SMP: 1 package(s) x 4 core(s)

Close to the end of the “Features2” line, you’ll see “AESNI” included.  These are Intel’s “Advanced Encryption Standard – New Instructions” which enable faster, hardware-assisted  encryption and decryption.  Although this technology is now available on some other processors (including ARM), older Intel processors don’t have it (for instance, the predecessor to this mini-pc system had a Celeron J1900 processor, which doesn’t have AES-NI), so a J3160 is worth the extra few dollars if you’re planning on a VPN server, for instance.

Last words

I actually got two of these systems, one for my own use (to replace an ancient firewall box) and one for a remote site.  They’ve now been running for almost exactly a year (since I began this article in early August, 2019) and have been totally reliable during that time.  I did think that the heat-sink was running a little bit on the hot side when I first installed them, but the “touch test” is deceptive and even during the mid-summer heat, the processors barely register 50°C.

The systems handle the traffic we pull through them without any problem and can handle multiple firewalled VLANs, encrypted VPN traffic and multiple physical networks with ease (as well as handling the normal associated processes — NAT, DHCP, DNS, NTP, etc).  I’d like to emphasize what good value these little systems are.  Not only is the initial purchase price very low, but the lack of fans and the 6W (avg TDP) processor mean the power requirements (and hence the monthly electricity bill) are low, too.  I was also very impressed with the quality of the (all metal) case, the general design and workmanship, as well as the packing and delivery from the vendor.  They may not be as cheap as a Raspberry Pi, but the quality of the case, included PSU, cables and accessories, as well as the RTC (and battery) and four GbE ports more than make up for that.  You won’t be running a 20TB database with 200 concurrent users on one of these machines, but for moderately light 24/7 operations for a good sized household or small business, I don’t thing you can go far wrong.

 

ZFS snippet — “import”

Nowadays I can easily forget what I’ve already done.  When it comes to ZFS, that includes forgetting what pools I’d already created on a particular device.  That’s the point of this “memo to self” …zpool import is your friend.

When you want to import the pools after juggling disks between machines, but can’t remember what the heck you named the pools in the first place, just do:-

zpool import

…to display a list of all available pools which are not currently attached (or a message to the effect that there are none available).  The important point here is that it won’t actually try to actually import any pools with this simple command; it only lists them.

If you have a pool which is shown as available for import (ie:- it exists, but is not currently attached  —  which might be the case if you’ve just physically moved a disk from some other machine to this system), you can temporarily have it imported and attached to a temporary mount point using the “-R /tmp/NAME” option.  This can be really handy for recovering data from a “retired” drive.  For instance, an old disk has a “data_tank” pool, which had the mountpoint “/store” on the old machine.  You want to recover some data from that drive, but your current system already has “d_pool” mounted at “/store”, so you can’t simply do “zpool import data_tank”, because the mountpoint is already in use.  Your import command should instead be:-

zpool import -R /tmp/old_store data_tank

…and all of your old data will be mounted to /tmp/old_store where you can access it normally.  But wait, there’s more!

If you already have an existing pool named “data_tank” on your current system, you can have “import” rename the old pool to something different (to prevent embarrassing mistakes) by simply appending a new name to the previous command:-

zpool import -R /tmp/old_store data_tank old_data_tank

Now when you do a “zpool status” or “zpool list” the pool mounted from the old disk will show up as “old_data_tank”.

When things go awry

What about if you’ve already suffered some late-night brain fade and just destroyed the live pool on your current system  by mistake?  Well, as long as you realize your mistake fairly promptly and haven’t already scribbled all over the disk, import can help you with that, too.  The “-D” option will show you any pools which have been destroyed, but for which ZFS can still find valid metadata.  So:-

zpool import -D

…will display all pools, including previously destroyed ones, which still appear to be available for importing.

zpool import -D -f -R /tmp/old_store data_tank old_data_tank

…will import the original “data_tank” pool (note the -D -f options to force import of a previously destroyed pool) with the new pool name of “old_data_tank” and mount it at /tmp/old_store.

More pool recovery tricks

There are additional options to “import” which can further aid recovery of incomplete pools (see the zpool manual page entries for import and check the “-F”, “-m” and “-n” options for more information on how import can provide extra help for getting out of sticky situations).

Doing things nicely

While the import command will do it’s very best to save you from yourself, you can help things along considerably by doing the right thing and using the “export” command on any pool which you intend to re-import elsewhere at a later date.  Note that this command will make the target pool unavailable on the system where you run it (that’s the whole point …to effectively shut down the pool cleanly and prevent any further modifications by marking it as still being reserved space), but the subsequent import shouldn’t have any difficulty at all when re-importing a previously exported pool.

The J3355 is DUAL-core

Regular readers will probably know by now that I’m enamoured of the tiny, all-in-one, Intel-based systems generally referred to as “Mini-PCs”.  They are more expensive than a Raspberry Pi, but they come with a case, a PSU, an on-board RTC, generally a decent amount of memory and sometimes built-in eMMC storage, too.  Prices have increased over the past few months (the C-19 effect, again), but the bottom-end models (generally the quad-core Atom Z8350 equipped systems) are still available for around the $100 range (GearBest, FastTech, CDiscount, etc).

I already have a few of these mini systems and one which underwhelmed me on first impressions was the AP35 Beelink J3355-based box, mainly because it was advertised as “fanless”, but does have a CPU blower and because the eMMC just would not work reliably.  I gave up on the eMMC and put in a small, internal SSD and since then it has been giving sterling service as a mini NAS (ZFS filesystems with TimeMachine as a backup server for various Macs) as well as running a couple of Bhyve virtual machines (doing very light duty).  Once I stopped trying to use the eMMC and put it in the basement “computer room”, my opinion of it increased considerably.  It’s a little work horse and, although not a speed monster, performs well enough for my requirements and has been absolutely reliable over the past year (again, since I gave up on the eMMC).

I mention that system specifically simply because I’ve been keeping an eye on prices, with the idea of adding another machine to the collection, if the price is right and the target machine has more than two USB-3 ports.  I’ve noticed that there are a few other J3355-based models appearing, with a form-factor pretty much the same as the Z8350 systems and priced in the same general area (ie:- the bottom end of the price range).  One thing which I’ve noticed recently though, is that almost all of the advertisments for these systems specify the J3355 as a “quad-core” CPU chip.  It isn’t.  Here’s an excerpt from the dmesg output of the AP35:-

FreeBSD 12.1-RELEASE-p6 GENERIC amd64
FreeBSD clang version 8.0.1 (tags/RELEASE_801/final 366581) (based on LLVM 8.0.1)
VT(efifb): resolution 800×600
Skipping TSC calibration since no legacy devices reported by FADT and CPUID works
CPU: Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU J3355 @ 2.00GHz (1996.80-MHz K8-class CPU)
Origin=”GenuineIntel” Id=0x506c9 Family=0x6 Model=0x5c Stepping=9
Features=0xbfebfbff
Features2=0x4ff8ebb7
AMD Features=0x2c100800
AMD Features2=0x101
Structured Extended Features=0x2294e283
Structured Extended Features3=0x2c000000
IA32_ARCH_CAPS=0x1
VT-x: PAT,HLT,MTF,PAUSE,EPT,UG,VPID,VID,PostIntr
TSC: P-state invariant, performance statistics
real memory = 4294967296 (4096 MB)
avail memory = 3894444032 (3714 MB)
Event timer “LAPIC” quality 600
ACPI APIC Table:
WARNING: L1 data cache covers fewer APIC IDs than a core (0 < 1)
FreeBSD/SMP: Multiprocessor System Detected: 2 CPUs
FreeBSD/SMP: 1 package(s) x 2 core(s)

…and, just in case you think FreeBSD might be mis-reporting, you can go to the Intel information page for the CPU and check.

Having said all of that, here’s a link to a system on FastTech’s site to an MII-V with 4GB/64GB, GbE and four USB-3 ports which, at $112.45 (with free shipping), seems to be the best, generally available deal on this class of machine at the moment …just remember, it is DUAL-core (no matter what they say).

[ …and, Beelink please take note, so is the N3350. ]

Support for ESP32 and Ethernet in TASMOTA

Development on TASMOTA continues apace (with the ongoing C-19 movement restrictions, possibly even more rapidly than usual) and lots of new and interesting stuff has been popping up in the code recently (for instance, if you want to connect an anemometer, to add wind-speed to your weather-station, Matteo Albinola has you covered). However, one of the most exciting recent additions has been the arrival of baked-in support for the ESP32, based on Jörg Schüler-Maroldt’s work. This first appeared in version 8.2.0.6, back at the beginning of May, after Jörg created the libesp32 compatibility library and an initial pull request back in April. Since that time there have been a lot of “#ifdef ESP32” lines added to the code.

Now (version 8.3.1.5, as of June 17th 2020) we not only have the ESP32 compatibility and compile additions but also the addition of ESP32 hardware Ethernet support with the recently added xdrv_82_ethernet.ino driver file. The new, tasty goodness doesn’t end there, though. Olimex ESP32-POE  If you take a quick look at the headers of that driver file, you’ll find the pinout defines and TASMOTA template for the Olimex ESP32-POE, so not only do we get the ESP32 and ethernet, we also get PoE thrown in (the Olimex board currently sells from their site for €17.95, but is also available from the likes of Mouser and even Amazon in some areas).

If you bought one of the exceedingly cheap ESP32-CAM boards (AIThinker/Geekcreit), you now have the option of TASMOTA enabling  it, too.  Look for a second new driver file, xdrv_81_webcam.ino, to see the pinout details and TASMOTA template for that device.

Okay, so new, sexy additions to the code, but how do we compile TASMOTA for the ESP32. Well, if you’re using PlatformIO (and you should be!), it couldn’t be much simpler. Copy the Sonoff-Tasmota code into a clean directory (or git clone the repository) and then:-

  • In that directory, copy the platformio_override_sample.ini file to platform_override.ini.
  • Edit your new platform_override.ini file and uncomment line number 29 so that “; tasmota32” becomes just “ tasmota32“.
  • Type “pio run“.

Sit back and watch for a couple of minutes while the compile runs. It will compile two different versions. The vanilla “tasmota” (ESP8266 version) will be created in .pioenvs/tasmota/firmware.bin. The tasmota32 (ESP32 version) will be created in .pioenvs/tasmota32/firmware.bin.

[ For anyone who hasn’t compiled TASMOTA before, the customizations for your local network settings and for the target device itself are made in the ./tasmota directory. The simplest method for a first time compile is to use the user_config_override.h file to update only the bare essentials. Once you’ve made sure that you can compile successfully, you can modify the (very much more complex) ./tasmota/my_user_config.h file for full customization. ]