Jelle van der Waa bio photo

Jelle van der Waa

I'm a software developer at Kopano and an Arch Linux Developer...

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The NanoPI NEO is a little 8 dollar ARM device with an interesting form factor and specifications.

  • 512/256 MB ram (single slot)
  • Cortex-A7 Quad-Core
  • USB 2.0
  • 100 Mbps ethernet
  • 40 x 40 mm board size
  • SD card slot

FriendlyARM NANO

Mainline support

FriendlyARM provides an UbuntuCore image, but of course I want to run Arch Linux ARM on it.

To use Arch Linux ARM on the NanoPI you will have to compile your own kernel and u-boot, I’ve used the armv7 tarball from archlinuxarm.org. The mainline kernel does not support the board yet, so a posted DTS file is required on top of the mainline kernel. This will provide a kernel without ethernet support, ethernet support can be added by compiling this Linux tree which hopefully lands in 4.9 or later. The DTS file has to be edited to add ethernet support, just append the following underneath the usbphy node.

&emac {
       phy-handle = <&int_mii_phy>;
       phy-mode = "mii";
       allwinner,leds-active-low;
       status = "okay";
};

After setting up the correct .dtb and zImage for the kernel, u-boot has to be compiled. U-boot master contains support for the nanopi_neo and has to be compiled as following.

make -j8 ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-eabi-  nanopi_neo_defconfig
make -j8 ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=arm-none-eabi- 

Power usage

The board connected with an ethernet cable uses 5V and ~ 0.10 A which means 5 * 0.10 / 1000 = 0.0005 kWh. Running the nanopi NEO a year will costs 0.0005 * 24 * 365 = 4.38. The dutch price per kWh is ~ 0.22 cents, so 4,38 * 0.22 cents = 1 euro!

Heating issues

The board seems to have some power issues reported on the sunxi wiki, so it’s recommended to use a heatsink.

Summary

Overal it looks like a fun, low powered board which can be useful for example running small services: mqtt, taskd server, a webcam server or collecting sensor data using the gpio pins.