OK, I’ve got my new Raspberry Pi M2 all set up and moved in. My working space has had the old EVO removed to the “hacker office space” and the Chromebox has been unplugged and moved next to it. Both, now, in the “someday pile”. Yes, I’m that happy with this little guy.
I’m making this posting from the Pi M2 and the photos in it were edited with GIMP on the Pi M2. I’ve had a browser, GIMP, 3 or 4 terminal windows one with top running and a few other bits all running at the same time and performance was fine.
WordPress editing is very “chatty” and the load on both communications and processing can be significant (the perils of interactive graphical interfaces over an internet link…) Right now, for example, while typing I’ve got about 20% of one CPU used by IceApe (browser). It can drop down to near nothing if you stop typing (and no ‘save’ is happening) or rise to nearly 50% at other times (typing and a ‘save’ in progress.) Do note that with 4 CPUs, it is often the case that a 50% use of one by IceApe is about a 25% of total CPU cycles used for everything.
So there is a little bit of ‘type ahead’ rather like on all other platforms mostly due to network lag to WordPress.
On some machines, like the original R.Pi, it can be painful. On this box it’s about like on most other machines; or just a bit slower.
Well inside acceptable.
With that, on to the unboxing:
Unboxing The Pi
A very small package arrived from Amazon. In it were several other things the spouse had ordered, and a small plastic bag stuffed with bits. I opened the bag, and spread out the bits. Here’s what’s in the bag:
Here, upper left, you can see the nice little cardboard box that has the R.Pi inside. Bubble wrap over antistatic bag in a box. Very well thought out packaging. Just below that is the R.Pi M2 sitting on the antistatic bag (obviously after removal from the box…) and to the right is the other “inner bag” of small parts sitting on top of the shipping bag (that was inside the Amazon box with airbag padding..) Through the inner bag you can see the WiFi dongle, the mini SD car and adapter to full size for use in other machines, and the power brick in the background on the HDMI cable.
Inside the small parts bag:
Here you can see the HDMI cable (for connection to a modern TV, or in my case, to an HDMI capable monitor) in the upper left. Just below it is the power adapter in it’s bag. The power adapter is oversized for the power draw of the Pi. Nice. Added USB devices are easily powered (such as my keyboard, mouse, Wifi dongle and a SD adapter all at once as I uploaded pictures from the camera SD card).
To the right is the “Quick Start Guide” as background under the small parts. Those are the mini-SD card with adapter (in a very nice carry case), the two tiny sized heatsinks, the WiFi dongle wrapped nicely, and the clear case. On top of the clear case is a tiny bag with two microscopic screws. More on them below.
At first the case was a bit of a puzzle. It was not clear how to open it. Being clear, there were a lot of reflections and speckle from it. I figured out there were 4 snap hooks near each corner on the two long sides, but what to push, pull, or twist? Do the wrong thing with big Farmers Hands (as my Dad called them, or Smith’s Hands that was more accurate as we were a family of working smiths for many generations prior to the one generation of farming…) and you have several small bits of broken plastic…
As gently as I could, I tried things. What worked easily was to push on the long side of the top case just under the very large hole where the expansion pins are located. That ‘unhooks’ the clips from the sockets on the bottom and then the top can be rotated up on that side and the other side clips easily leave their sockets. Putting it back together is the reverse, more or less, and easier as the ‘clips’ are wedges that can just be pushed into place.
It would have been very nice if the “Quick Start Guide” had anything at all about mechanical assembly, but it doesn’t. It is a generic (and low skill level) intro to the setup and software of a R.Pi Linux system and board. Mechanicals left to the imagination. Not good. It tells you what the sockets are, and where to stick the micro-SD card, then goes into config land.
Here the case is opened. At the very far left is the thin strip I pushed (GENTLY!) to open the case. The “clips” are the ‘smudges” at each end of that strip. Yeah, hard to see. And this is with it already open… The R.Pi card sits in the bottom section. It ‘clips’ in sort-of. It’s a snug fit without any actual clips, but took a tiny bit more force than I expected to ‘seat’ it properly.
In the foreground of the R.Pi are, left to right, the Ethernet RJ-45 connector, and 4 USB connectors. Along the right side are the expansion pins for anyone wanting to do that kind of direct hardware work. On the left side are the small round connector used for headphones or other audio out (and where, but some method I’ve not explored, RCA video out can be plumbed if needed). The crosswise white bit is for plugging in LCD display panels, then there is the HDMI connector and in the fuzzy distance the power connector. Along the far edge is the (unused by me) camera connector.
Next, one gets to guess what to do with the rest of the parts…
I guessed that the two micro-screws might fit into 2 of the R.Pi mounting holes and bind it to the matching holes in the standoffs below (as is often done). There were no threads in the holes, and the screws didn’t look ‘self tapping’ and that ought to have given me some clue. But it didn’t. So I set up to install the screws via finding my Jeweler’s Screwdrivers.
I laid the small screw bag on top left (despite the small static risk from the plastic) and set my screwdriver set next to it. Then carefully selected the right size driver. #3 was loose. #4 was ‘about right’, but #5 at ‘a bit big’ was also nicely snug.
Attempting to install the screws (in the small round gold colored screw holes near the corners) I discovered that they didn’t ‘grab’ anything. Just spin in the holes. Too small to do anything. I can only assume they are supplied to mount the board to something else, later, maybe…
Oh, and you get to figure out how to install the heatsinks. One gets to guess that it’s a peal off the cover and just stick on, and what orientation. I put the fins aligned such that air coming in the big hole could easily flow in, through, rise and exit.
Getting the ‘cover’ off the heat sink is not easy for large fingers, but doable. Then oh so carefully align and press onto the chips of the same size on the top of the board.
After that, time to close up.
So the screws were set aside (back in the R.Pi box with the bubble wrap and antistatic bag) and the top was simply clipped into place. This took a bit more force than expected since I’d not fully seated the board… but clipped together nicely. Especially after I specifically checked each clip and ‘homed’ the ones that were not fully seated… (i.e. squeeze each corner specifically).
With that, assembly was done. Time to hook it up and turn it on.
Here is a view from the bottom showing the power brick connected:
I’m a little concerned that the bottom has vents on the very bottom, but no clear exit for the warm air at board level. Maybe I’m not seeing the leakage areas, or maybe that chip doesn’t make much heat. Note at each end of the vent holes places to wall mount on screws. Also note the four tiny legs in the corners so the vents are off the table surface. In a few hours of use, I’ve not yet had any detectable heat issue, so it seems to work.
Also note on the far right the micro-SD card. I’d stuck my 64 MB chip in for the picture as it is a nice red/gray mix. In practice, I’ve used the supplied 8 MB card for bring-up as I didn’t want to take time loading the “NOOBS” code onto my card (yet).
(NOOBS is the Raspian bring-up install code that makes it an easy click-click …)
On the right side you can see the WiFi dongle in place.
Here’s the finished set-up with all the connections in place. I used wired Ethernet for the initial install (as I think the WiFi dongle likely doesn’t work with NOOBS, but I didn’t test it…)
HDMI and power connectors out the top. Keyboard and mouse in the middle USB slots on the left, WiFi dongle in the bottom one.
It is sitting on top of the Chromebox for a sense of scale. About the size of a pack of cigarets. Or like a double thick pack of playing cards. In this image you can also see the orientation of the heat sinks and where I installed them. I hope that’s the right choice…
And with that, the unboxing and connecting was done.
Next posting will cover software set-up and installation.
As of now, it’s my “daily driver”. We’ll see if I can live on this box “most of the time”, or if for some odd reason I revert to the others. The ‘type-ahead’ in WordPress is on the edge of an ‘issue’; but that might be networking (through a 10 mbit 20 year old hub, to the WiFi router, to the boundary router, to the internet, to…) or it might be that IceApe isn’t the best at this use. I’ll try Chromium next and see if anything changes. I’ve had ‘type-ahead’ problems with WordPress on many boxes that were fairly fast, so I suspect network issues as most likely. CPU running only 27% even as I type this with live spell check enabled. Though saving the draft runs IceApe at 100% of one CPU, and hitting ‘reload’ on another page things are slow. Clearly IceApe doesn’t know how to use more than one CPU.
All in all, I’m quite happy. Maybe not an ideal workstation for high end power users, but quite adequate for most uses. The quantity of available software for free, and the lack of Google-over-my-shoulder already make me happier than the typical Chromebox experience. (The Chromebox is likely better for folks who don’t want to deal with things like hardware, set-up, software installs, and such; and who don’t care about all the “Tell Google Everything You Do” mis-feature).
I’ve already installed GIMP, a couple of browsers, Libreoffice and more. Now it’s just a matter of trying it and seeing how good it is.