Sometimes I wonder why I do it.
At other times I know, it is because I must.
Or, as I’ve been known to say: “Sometimes I wonder about myself, the rest of the time I’m sure…”
So most of the last few days has been spent banging my head against 3 boards x 4 operating systems. The 4 operating systems are: Armbian, Devuan, Odrobian, and Ubuntu (honorable mention of Debian as substrate to all that.) The 3 boards being the Odroid Family. The 64 bit C2, the marvelously complicated 8 core of two types XU4, and the C1 that arrived in the post today. (Yes. I failed miserably at not “going there” when I told myself several times I would just buy more R.Pi M3 boards…)
I have a perfectly workable solution in hand. Devuan on the R. Pi M3 boards. I could have bought about 4 or 5 of them for the money I put into the Odroid boards. I’d have had a homogeneous solution with one operating system, one instruction set built on one Arch type of armhf and working OK. A simple “proceed to building cluster and starting applications work” in hand.
I was CURIOUS… I wanted to Optimize…
OK, It’s done. I did it. I admit it. I like playing with new shiny things…
First off, the conclusions:
1) You can’t get there from here. You’ve got to go ’round the other way!
You can have nice fast running desktops out of these things, as long as you accept the OS choices others have made. IFF you INSIST on having it your own way, you will need to bake your own cake. BTW, the store is low on flour and salt.
So Armbian seems to work GREAT on all of them. It even let me put up a GUI of my choice quickly and in keeping with the simple directions. It’s fast, efficient, and works well. Yet in it’s heart beats the SystemD vampire waiting to such the ambition from the experienced Systems Admin as it changes how everthing is done and erases the utility of 30 years of experience…
Odrobian promisses much, but so far has been a Royal PITA to get running. Sometimes booting, to a black screen. (What? It’s the appliance image, of course you will attach jumpers to your terminal device…) or sometimes just not really clear why.
Armbian easily up-converts to Devuan. But on the XU4 seems to “have issues” with not bothering to use the A15 cores much, or maybe at all… Uses them great prior to the conversion…
Ubuntu generally runs fine in the “as built” images. Well, as fine as Ubuntu ever does. Using 2 or 4 times as much resources as anyone else, forcing you into Their Way Straight Jacket. Fat, obnoxious, but functional… kind of like a Jabba The Hut.. do what HE wants, and you live. Fight? Well….
So I’ve not yet tried all possible combinations. There’s more space to explore. (Including a ‘hybrid’ arm64 kernel with armhf user-land applications Debian upshifted to Devuan… like adding MORE complexity will solve the problem of too much complexity and mixed bits… /sarc; )
In the end, the stable comfortable place where I go to lick my wounds and do my posting and work on things in peace is the good old reliable R.Pi M3 with Devuan on it. Sigh. Like the guy who goes to the Vegas Hooker and finds out he’s nervous as hell and doesn’t like her perfume and What The Hell Is THAT?!? she’s doing… so goes back home for comfort.
Glitz is fine and all, but it isn’t very comfortable, and often doesn’t “Get ‘er done!” and costs too much for the return. Yet: “OOOooohhhh! The Shiny Thing!!!”
OK, Enough With The Bitching
So, fish, cut bait, or beer run?
The Good News is that I’m sure I can “re-purpose” any given board into something productive. There’s always a way to use old (or new and cranky) hardware. I’m OK with running straight Armbian with systemd on it for a variety of “never change much servers and not my desktop box”. I’m also pretty sure that over time these things will get ever more operating system choices on them. Odroid is just too good a hardware design not to go mainstream. They are fast, sturdy, and cheap. That they come with appropriately (BIG!) sized heat sinks says a lot about their engineering.
So really it just comes down to 2 things:
1) How long will the wait be for someone else to do it?
2) Will I “be somebody” and take on the bug stomping in Devuan on Armbian on Odroid?
For now at least, I’m drowning in other priorities, so I’m in the #1 column.
Maybe in a year I’ll be #2.
Which puts me in “adapting land”.
Which value do I compromise?
Accept SystemD, even though the design is Very Wrong Not The Unix Way?
(And a PITA for The Experience Admin)?
Accept that running the Only ArmDevuan (Armbian uplifted to Devuan) will “have issues” and just get on the bug reporting list and send ’em in (then after a 1/2 year or so realize I’m the only one who cares so sign up to fix them…)?
Just put “something that runs” on the Odroids and stick them off in very unchallenging roles as file servers or distcc nodes or “whatever”?
The basic point is that “funny architectures” take a long time to get robust and low bug count support. At this time, the arm64 64 bit architectures are still in that mode. The XU4 with mixed Big-Little 2 different CPU types in the same chip A7 and A15 is way cool, and way weird from a kernel writer perspective. So no real surprise they are not going great guns with 12 different fully debugged operating system choices.
But the Odroid C1 is a straight quad core A7 CPU machine that’s been out a while. I expected more from it… Then again, I’ve had it all of about 4 hours, so lots more exploring to do… But I put a straight Odrobian image into it, booted, and had nothing but Black Screen… (Likely whatever image I used expects me to run headless or be in a wired to the GPIO serial connectors… Just daft.) So maybe I’m crying in what’s left of my beer too soon. Time will tell.
For now, I’ve done the quick tests and have some quick results. Armbian works well, is very efficient, and has an easy install of a windowing system. I’m likely going to just bring it up on the various Odroid boards (much like the Orange Pi board) and find a use for them. When running the XU4 on it as a browser desktop it was quite nice, so might do that for my “Dirty Driver” box that gets reset from time to time (and where SystemD weirdness is irrelevant, really) Or maybe I’ll use the arm64 C2 for that as the v7 instruction set of the XU4 means it’s a compatible distcc platform…
Further exploration of the edges for Another Day… We’ve scattered choices to the wind and tried a lot of strange mixes; it’s time to throttle back and make some bits production. Set aside the more bizarre explorations. Pick Something Good Enough and put it to work.
What will that be? Likely I’ll just drop back to that LXDE Armbian that worked very well and make it the Dirty Driver browse anywhere choice. Fast enough that fat web pages don’t matter, and none of my stuff on it. Make a dedicated Financial Chip for use in the Pi M3 with financial sites. Set up one of the GigE Odroids as the File Server where the I/O speed matters. Pick one to hold aside as “Exploring how to get ALL that I want” playground…
So goes a day in the life of a Systems Programmer / Sys Admin type.
The best bit of the day was going outside during the eclipse and seeing hundreds of little crescent sun images cast by the pinhole cameras of tree leaves under trees all up and down the street ;-)
The ambient temperature dropped rather fast, especially considering we were only in a partial eclipse area. One wonders where the “warming back radiation” was ;-)