miriam english (miriam_e) wrote,
miriam english
miriam_e

Banana Pi

Yay! My Banana Pi computer arrived today, just one week after ordering it online. Very cool. It cost me just AU$ 69.02. The shipping from China was free.

It's like the famous Raspberry Pi (which I also have), but considerably more powerful. One of the nicer surprises is the ability to plug a 2.5 inch SATA drive directly into machine.

I've just downloaded one of the several versions of Linux operating systems made for it and will try it out tonight if the thunder storms don't move in first.

ADDITIONAL: Having tried it out, I'm a little surprised at the amount of energy it requires. My power source only supplies 1 amp -- at 12 volts  5 volts that's 12 watts  5 watts. The Banana Pi works on that, but just barely. The display cuts in and out. It really needs an electricity source capable of supplying 2 amps. I don't know how much of that it will draw, but the extra capabilities of the Banana Pi appear to have a much greater energy cost. I originally wondered if I should have bought the (more expensive) Banana Pro, but with onboard WiFi it would have sucked even more electricity.

I'm hoping next week to have a solar panel suitable for running this (or another computer) plus my 12 volt, 9 watt screen. A monocrystalline 20 watt panel is $70, and a 40 watt panel is $130. I already have three small 12 volt, 7.2 amp-hour batteries that I already use during thunderstorms to power some other very low energy computers.

This is the season for floods and week-long blackouts. I should get this organised soon.

CORRECTION: Sorry. I was fiddling around with 12 volt batteries, and forgot that the Banana Pi runs on 5 volts. (I use a 12V DC to 5V DC adapter.) I've corrected my numbers above. Power consumption looks a lot more sane now.

(Crossposted from http://miriam-e.dreamwidth.org/326512.html at my Dreamwidth account. Number of comments there so far: comment count unavailable)
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  • 8 comments
Sounds cool. But i have just about zero idea of... well computer things and i wouldn't know what to do with it if i had it.

miriam_e

December 7 2014, 08:15:09 UTC 2 years ago Edited:  December 7 2014, 16:57:52 UTC

:) Despite its odd appearance it is just a desktop computer. You plug your keyboard, mouse, screen, internet, and disk drive(s) in exactly the same way you do with your current desktop computer.

It lets you use web browser, email, wordprocessor, movie player, music player, etc., just as you would any other computer. But instead of costing hundreds of dollars it's about $60; instead of being a big box requiring both arms to lift it, it is about the size of a pack of playing cards; instead of chewing up 500 watts or more of electricity it manages perfectly well with less than 25 10 watts. (Corrected: sorry, I figured out the power consumption wrongly.)

This kind of desktop computer is the future. In a few years we will remember the big boxes we currently use as cumbersome monstrosities that wasted insane amounts of energy.
I hand't heard of this variation until you mentioned it. Looks like a nice all-in-one variation. Ta for the heads-up.
Then-again, I only heard last night about the "audiophile-quality" Wolfson Audio Card...a friend in Canada just set-up such a system as a weekend project and said it sounds great after he sorted-out the software.
Very nice to hear about the speed of evolution of the Raspberry Pi ecosystem. :)

Hmm, power requirements are a bit of a concern. WiFi aside, I guess that big processor comes with a cost. Maybe get a Model A+ (200mA, 1W) if you need a low-power alternative?

miriam_e

December 7 2014, 16:55:34 UTC 2 years ago Edited:  December 7 2014, 17:35:32 UTC

Oops. My ability with numbers is terrible. Sorry. I was fiddling around with 12 volt batteries, but forgetting that the Banana Pi runs on 5 volts. God! I'm such an idiot. That means the Banana Pi uses less than 10 watts (5 volts x 2 amps), and barely works on 5 watts (5 volts x 1 amp). I'll edit my piece above to correct it.

I hadn't heard of the Wolfson Audio Card for the Raspberry Pi. Looks interesting, though a bit of a waste for me with my crappy hearing. I'm gradually going deaf. I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the Raspberry Pi's onboard sound and the specialised card. That said, I can definitely tell the difference between my Edubook's inbuilt sound and a dedicated mp3 player. I love my little Edubook, but its sound is pretty terrible.

The Banana Pi can get by with 5 watts if used as a server or router or similar, but the minute you add keyboard, mouse, and screen, power consumption tips it over the edge. I believe that goes up even more when instead of plain text you use a graphical display that engages the quite powerful graphics chip. Though it still stays below 10 watts I believe.

One of the things I'm looking forward to is trying out full screen high resolution video, which the Banana Pi is said to handle effortlessly. That suits me more than the Raspberry Pi, which I didn't have much success getting good video out of. I'm looking for something that can be a good general-purpose desktop computer that I can run on solar panels and batteries. I'm hoping Banana Pi is it.

I notice the Raspberry Pi A+ has improved sound output. They're using switching power supply instead of linear regulators, which reduces the power consumption quite a lot. But I think it's probably not powerful enough for the general-purpose computing I want, though at only $20 it's almost worth buying one anyway. :)
Looking at your revised numbers, this is good news -- less of a drain on your solar/battery system / longer uptime during interrupted mains power.

Keep in mind that any regulated power supply will be 90-95% efficient as a conservative estimate. Same goes for the step-down between your solar/battery and computer if you're using an inverter. The difference between the Raspberry Pi A and A+ is a nice illustration of how you can improve efficiency by using a more efficient the power supply.

Tangent: do off-grid solar homes have a low-voltage DC system in addition the regular 240VAC? It would be nice to bypass the inefficiency of boosting to 240VAC and then converting back to 12/24VDC. Power-over-ethernet looks attractive for a solar home with many devices / Internet of Things.
I don't know what most off-grid solar installations do. When Julie got solar panels on this house they had to be grid-tied in order to get the government assistance. This means there is an enormous inverter converting the DC (I don't know what voltage) from the panels into AC 240V. I do understand why Julie did so, but I don't like it. I've never liked 240V systems and I hate being locked into the grid because of the frequent power failures. There are few things more annoying than having done a whole lot of work on the computer, then the power fails either momentarily or for some hours, losing all that work. I've developed the habit of saving frequently, but there will always be something not saved when the power fails. And there is always the chance that it can fail during disk operations, which leads to corruption of your data, even in journaling filesystems. It is especially galling that there are all those solar panels on the roof and they don't protect against the frequent mains failures; they just feed back into the grid.

I'm setting up my own 12V panels with my own batteries for my own computers and lighting. It will be under my control and if it fails it will be my fault. That should be far less frustrating. It also means I'll be safe from lightning strikes. At the moment I have to turn everything off when a storm moves in. Well, not everything. I already have my batteries which let me run some low power computing during storms. Solar panels will simply give me more flexibility. And the Banana Pi may let me do even more.
The way you put it, it sounds like a keep-it-simple solar-recharged UPS. :)
Yep, that's what it will be. For a couple of years I had a mains-powered UPS, but one lightning storm recently I was too slow switching everything off and lightning totally destroyed it. Often the first warning I get of a thunderstorm is the loud explosion of lightning hitting the hill behind the house. Not an ideal situation for mains-connected equipment. Unfortunately I often become too engrossed in what I'm doing to notice the dark clouds massing outside.

With a completely self-contained solar system I can lose myself in my computer and it won't matter. It will be a great relief.