Pinebook is going the way of Betamax?
#1
I've bought one a year ago, attracted by the idea and the somewhat low price point (somewhat because the shipping and import tax doubled the price, but I wanted to support the project) plus the idea of getting better at working with linux.

A year later, I have to say this failed big time. You built a neat product, looks sleek, the premise is awesome. But the included software is ancient, so you start looking for a new OS. Now, I am somewhat proficient with linux in that I can apt-get my way around the command line and maybe understand a simple script or symlink, but compiling something or building something myself is not something I know how to do. And that's where things break down.

None if the images (and I tried neigh all of them) that are mentioned as being fit for the Pinebook were stable in any way. I haven't been able to use any of them with any measure of success. My latest install of Manjaro ARM KDE lasted for 2 bootups: After the first major 'update' the system broke down and the wifi is since inoperable. I'm sure it's easy to fix for a linux guru or when I get down to it and put a couple of hours of research into it, but having to fix a new issue every freaking fresh install is getting up my nerves after a year. I've had update cycles break the system, but often the system will just break itself and stop working after X bootups. Weird audio issues. Weird mouse issues. Weird display issues. Weird network issues. Every time I give it a go something else breaks without me having even touched the system or the configuration. 

The actual 'installation procedure' is either boot from SD, install from a capable installer FROM SD to EMMC or the dreaded "DD" which for me, no matter the amount of instructions from people who assume half an word is enough, has never worked. I've tried scripts, after failing those I contacted the people who made the scripts, and they didn't respond or stopped responding after I asked a question. Numerous attempts from users to create something viable have died out, and many of the builds still being produced by avid enthusiasts are riddled with issues. 

I know this product was sold with a big disclaimer. It's supposed to be a 'learning experience'. It's such a shame the product is so unusable even that is not an attainable goal because the 'experience' is condensed down to keeping the bloody thing running (or even getting it to work). 

I would have loved to be able to have some form of Debian running on it, because that's a system I know. But the 'armbian' images are DD only (and I've tried ever method I've found to DD the installation to the EMMC, every try has borked the system and did not give the described results) so I couldn't get them to work. Heck, I couldn't even figure out why it didn't work as described, and attempts to find support have landed me nothing. 

Can't say that I'm anything but dissappointed in this project, and my purchase.
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#2
If you want to run Armbian on your Pinebook, I can try and help you set up the latest image, even with the infamous DD, hit me up here or on the IRC/Discord chat channel for the Pinebook.
Come have a chat in the Pine A64 IRC channel >>
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#3
Honestly, my only disappointment is the hardware. The CPU is almost two generations old. However, that is also to be expected at this price point so it really isn't much of a disappointment.

Even the "new" rockchips aren't keeping up with Apple and Samsung, and that's what's needed for a feature device. Of course, a "feature" device will cost 10x -- 15x more money units...

Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk
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#4
(11-28-2019, 01:47 PM)trigger Wrote: But the 'armbian' images are DD only (and I've tried ever method I've found to DD the installation to the EMMC, every try has borked the system and did not give the described results) so I couldn't get them to work.

What's wrong with the nand-sata-install feature that can also install to eMMC? The name might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but that's the name it has given it's origins, and it's also availbly as a menu option in armbian-config.

https://docs.armbian.com/User-Guide_Gett...d-sata-usb

For my pinebook, I try the more recent images every now and then, and would really like to go with Manjaro ARM, but until the issue with it not charging properly is fixed, it's a no-go for me (for an eMMC install, anyway). I will have to try again, as there has been another mainline kernel release since I tried last. For my regular eMMC install, I've stuck with ayufan's ubuntu builds... can't remember if I upgrade to bionic or not, or stuck with xenial. It might be old, but it is an LTS build, and still works well.
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#5
What charging issues ?
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#6
Well, trying to flash the Armbian Bionic image to an SD card right now, see what results we get.

It's telling that this thread is months old and still on top in the topic list of this subforum, the userbase for this piece of tech is just incredibly small.
I find it a bit wry that the company has since moved on and is selling new tech with new and improved promises about what it could do when the previous product is in my eyes a bit of a failure. Software support is just very sketchy even if you are a bit of a tinkerer.

Addendum: Like I mentioned earlier, it's a non-stop issue fest.

I managed to nand-sata-install the Bionic Armbian install to the internal EMMC, but...

- The screen brightness is very dim. I cannot adjust it through hotkeys, there are no options in the menu to do so.
I tried doing it manually through XRANDR in the CLI but while my commands execute without error, nothing changes regardless of the value I set from 0,1 tot 1.

- The speakers give only static whenever audio is playing. You get the visual indicator in the volume control panel that audio is coming in correctly, but the speakers only hiss at you. That is on the mono output, the stereo output of course does nothing.


-- edit --

When you lower the volume (when playing back on mono) low enough (it was on 100%) to about 20% you get something other than static... you get the actual sound of the video I was trying out IN SLOW MOTION.
Seriously... how am I even going to begin figuring out what myriad of errors I'm running into here? See my point?
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#7
You may be interested in knowing that there has been talk in the last month of offering an upgrade kit for the old PB (I still boot up mine, but the PBP is still preferable) that would pump the PB to an RK3399, like the PBP. If this does happen, it should allow a lot of the newer development to benefit the PB, too.

Most of the time the development of software for this hardware is up to the community. Pine64 does make an effort to get working software available, but it's all really being down by the community. In an official capacity, the Pine company has only provided Android images. Something I've picked up over the last few years, maker board community developers tend to have varying hardware and will gravitate toward newer products.
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#8
(01-05-2020, 08:05 AM)tophneal Wrote: You may be interested in knowing that there has been talk in the last month of offering an upgrade kit for the old PB (I still boot up mine, but the PBP is still preferable) that would pump the PB to an RK3399, like the PBP. If this does happen, it should allow a lot of the newer development to benefit the PB, too.

Most of the time the development of software for this hardware is up to the community. Pine64 does make an effort to get working software available, but it's all really being down by the community. In an official capacity, the Pine company has only provided Android images. Something I've picked up over the last few years, maker board community developers tend to have varying hardware and will gravitate toward newer products.

Yes, I've seen the messaging around the PineBook Pro. While I think the project is interesting, the following applies:

- the product will be a lot more expensive (further) abroad due to taxes, shipping, import etc
- there is no guarantee at all about support for that board or availability of software
- I'm not about to pay extra to fix an issue I think shouldn't have existed in the first place

I don't want to be negative to the community in any way, and apologize if that might be the impression I'm giving. I know the community works hard for next to no gain (and certainly not for fame or money) to support their work to an extent. I think I was wrong in assuming I could make this work with a combination of a shiny new toy (the PB), my own knowledge and zeal and the community as a package deal. But either I painted an all too rozy picture or the message was a little to overzealous, because the reality is the hardware support is too limited for the community to fix Smile

I've had this thing for almost a year now. Even assuming I wanted to pay for a board upgrade; by the time it arrived and support for the new hardware might or might not be forthcoming this thing will be 2 years in my possession and I haven't gotten a single day's use out of it in any capacity other than a presse-papier. 

It would help if the vendor would at least churn out one stable OS from time to time other than Android. Something Ubuntu based for instance, so they basically only have to worry about the kernel + driver support and can profit from the wide software base available. They shipped it with KDE Neon which would be a good start instead of having this myriad of half-finished OS's supported only by providing a tool to flash them to SD. 

What I would want is an extremely lightweight OS (ultra simple GUI or maybe even an I3TWM-like environment) based on Debian or Ubuntu, but with full support for what's inside, so a working audio/video solution, webcam.... that would provide a broad base to start from and expand, hardware ánd software wise. Hell, I wanted to solder in some keyboard backlighting and a usb-c power connector but I never got around to that because I figured it wouldn't be much use if I can't get the laptop itself to work normally.
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#9
(01-06-2020, 09:21 AM)trigger Wrote: < SNIP >

What I would want is an extremely lightweight OS (ultra simple GUI or maybe even an I3TWM-like environment) based on Debian or Ubuntu, but with full support for what's inside, so a working audio/video solution, webcam.... that would provide a broad base to start from and expand, hardware ánd software wise. Hell, I wanted to solder in some keyboard backlighting and a usb-c power connector but I never got around to that because I figured it wouldn't be much use if I can't get the laptop itself to work normally.

Hi, trigger.

Have you seen Daniel Thompson's Debian Installer for the Pinebook Pro? It's worth dropping him a message in that thread, to see if he thinks that you could use this with minor changes, to install on the original Pinebook. My assumption is that you'd use a different kernel and DTD for your machine, but the rest of his work is probably fully applicable.
https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=8487

If this is a viable route to image the Pinebook classic, it likely fulfills your wishes for a functional Debian base system upon which you could install I3TWM or openbox, etc.


The git sources are here:
https://github.com/daniel-thompson/pineb...-installer
— Jeremiah Cornelius
"Be the first person not to do some­thing, that no one has thought of not doing before’’
— Brian Eno, "Oblique Strategies"
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#10
Lightbulb 
I am a bit confused about the support issues in this thread.  My original Pinebook 14" shipped in 2017 and everything still works just fine.  The Xenial LTS that came with it is still supported for about another year (April 2021), and with software updates it still comes up to the latest version of Firefox 64-bit.  This is a testament to efforts of the community members who developed it (thank you!) and I am still otherwise happy myself.  The original Pinebook has fulfilled my every expectation.

As to the future, even if production of the 14" Pinebook returns, it would presumably be based on the 11.6" configuration and have different guts.  So other than an upgrade kit, if I want to keep the original form running I've received suggestions in the Manjaro forums about either using Armbian or trying to tweak the parameters of the existing Manjaro ARM since the deltas are conceptually small (the Manjaro team doesn't possess a 14" Pinebook).

Maybe we need a top-level thread in this section of the forums devoted to the original Pinebook 14" since it seems like "Pinebook" is now a synonym for the 11.6" model and as we've seen in this thread others will also be looking for a path forward for these classic machines?

Thanks & regards,
rcs
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