I recently purchased an Orange Pi Zero 256MB with the intention of using it as a USB Host for some music equipment. In the end I feel like it’s yet another SBC (single board computer) which has limited support.
It’s very small, has an Ethernet and Wifi interface too, so it could be very useful for those interested in IoT.
This post is intended to show how you can work with it from a Debian host. I also want to do a small light review of this board.
First thing’s first, there is a dedicated community out there (sunxi) which aims to bring support to the Allwinner SoCs, including the H2+ that is used on the OPiZero.
I’ve already played around with it, creating patches for uBoot and configuring different kernels as well as some bare metal programming. Doing this is possible with this board, but it does take some time getting used to the processes.
Although the datasheet is 600+ pages long, it still doesn’t have much information about the actual registers of certain peripherals (eg DE2.0, TV) and there is a great deal of reverse engineering required to write certain drivers.
Luckily the legacy 3.4 armbian image provides support for pretty much all the SoC peripherals. Though if you’re looking at using the cutting edge mainline Linux branch 4.X, be prepared for buggy/non-existant drivers and a whole heap of DIY. Not all is lost as there is a dedicated community (sunxi.org) working to bring mainline support to these SoCs.
With only 256MB don’t expect to really be able to use it to browse the web via the GUI. Although Firefox does work, memory usage is basically at 100% all the time. As expected the OPiZero is most suited to headless applications.
If you have an OPi and are looking to get it working as a remote desktop, check out my tutorial on how to get it working (coming very soon).
Really cheap ($10)
Lots of features
Lack of documentation
Lack of proper support
Gets really hot (55 degC)