Thursday 25 January 2024

Youyeetoo R1: First Impressions

Unboxing and Language

In my search for multiple core ARM processors in SBCs (I was drooling over AmpereOne's 192 cores), I found a new board called youyeetoo R1. It appears to be an Orange Pi 5 competitor. Its got a Rockchip RK3588s 8 core, big little (A76/A55) 4 and 4 core and the big cores burst at 2.4GHz. Also like the OPi5, it has a Mali 610 GPU - and more features that seemed attractive like an NPU (neural processing unit, can do simultaneous operations like you'd want in a neural net firing your activation / objective functions and back propagation weighting adjustments), and a NFC (Near Field Communication) sensor (that could be used to read you Yubi key, phone, or allow for lil' robot communication if they are in proximity to each other). It also has support for two monitors via MIPI-DSI and HDMI ports. I ordered an 8/64 EMMC with Debian pre-installed so I could play... 

It arrived well packaged.

Double bubble wrap!

And the box wasn't squished in any way.

The box confirmed what I bought - though the Wifi module was misleading (it was not included). The power supply was typical 12V 4A barrel tip.

Inside we had a spacer and two anti-static bags.

The board was on top of the heat sink.

Board looked clean.

The heat sink looks like it blanket covers the CPU and other chips. It came with some thermal double sided tape.

The board is bigger than the Orange Pi.

I booted it up.  To my surprise, it did NOT launch a frame buffer (fb) console. It has U-Boot installed, and apparently dumps its console via serial tty (so if I had a debug serial cable that fit and a FTDI USB adapter, I might be able to watch it boot, and or interact with U-Boot.) See the picture below for the UART debug plug on the bottom of the board (and its #1, so pins are not shared with GPIO block.)

So it has a Debian/Linaro build with XFCE4.  I like XFCE4. But, I don't read simplified Chinese (though I have about 100 Mandarin/pinyin words in my vocabulary.)

So the first step, let's get a language we know.  Open a console, and install English.

sudo dpkg-reconfigure locales

sudo update-locale LC_ALL=en_US.UTF-8

The first command brings up a CURSES dialog in Chinese, but it is easy to find and select en_US and create the resources. The second command sets the default language to English. You need to `sudo reboot` after this.

Installing Software

So we are running a 5.10 kernel.  My Orange Pi is pegged at 5.15.  My Odroid and other machines are on 6.1.

There are a few tools I can't live without.  Most important for me are benchmarks, partition managers, developer tools, process monitors, and graphics drivers...

sudo apt install xfce4-terminal

sudo apt install gnome-system-monitor

sudo apt install gparted

sudo apt install build-essential

I hit my first glitch.  The system is pegged (more on this later).  Turns out I needed to force a dpkg and reinstall to get current build-essential.

sudo apt install --reinstall dpkg-dev libdpkg-perl

So now I can re-install build essentials.  Great. I try chromium browser, and get errors about bad dates and certs. Ok, lets fix the time ISO style.

sudo date -s "2024-01-25 17:15"

But I really want to autoset the time on boot - not just for the duration of whatever capacitor is on the board.

linaro@linaro-alip:~$ sudo timedatectl set-ntp true

Failed to set ntp: NTP not supported

Huh. No NTP?  Not good. And I can't  install timesyncd as its pegged. So how many packages are locked?

linaro@linaro-alip:~$ apt-mark showhold | wc -l 

No way. Update only told me 96 packages were locked. Now I am worried. Where are the Debian packages actually coming from?

linaro@linaro-alip:/etc/apt$ cat sources.list

deb bullseye main contrib non-free

deb-src bullseye main contrib non-free

deb bullseye-updates main contrib non-free

deb-src bullseye-updates main contrib non-free

deb bullseye-backports main contrib non-freedeb-src bullseye-backports main contrib non-free

deb bullseye-security main contrib non-free

deb-src bullseye-security main contrib non-free

Now I am worried. I am locked into an unofficial, Chinese repo. This is not uncommon.  The Orange Pi is also tied to Huawei. I know we also have Hon Hai / Foxconn SBC. I have heard horror stories (usually about Mini PCs) of all sorts of spyware and malware, usually on "Windows" distributions.  I install stock Ubuntu intel from Live USB on all my Minis.  It suffices to say, `netstat -epa` and process monitor's network traffic made me feel much better that information was not being sent somewhere I didn't want it to go. However, I could not redirect to official repos (that I can with Korean Odroid.)  This makes me unhappy.

Quick Orange Pi Comparison

The form factor is slightly bigger. But we have more ports. And we favor one side, that actually isn't bad (as it is more rack friendly.)

I am irritated by both that we don't have an EMMC socket (like Odroid). This means to flash the EMMC, you need to treat the board like an ADB/USB micro storage device (will cover in another blog).

On the Orange Pi 5 (that does have a fb console), we only have a power button.

But on Youyeetoo R1, we have 4 buttons.  From left to right: Reset, Power, Recover, and Boot.

I have not figured out exactly what the async behind the buttons actually does aside from the obvious (but I will talk about it in another blog post).

Quick GL Performance

XFCE4 performs well.  There is no cursor flicker (like on Le Potatoe). `glmark2-es2` runs okay, but oddly, benched about 760 compared to the Orange Pi 980 at same resolution (it should be the same, right, as it has the same hardware.) There were some odd artifacts with GL, so I suspect the Mali (Panfrost?) driver isn't current. Also,, not there, so glmark2 will run with the LLVM pipe (effectively unaccelerated software rendering), that means any game emulators will need to support GLES. 

Other Quirks

When I tried to get to a fb console via `alt Fx`, the device hung.

I managed to completely corrupt OS and eventually the root partition... fixing that is for another blog.

Next Steps

My next step is to try build and install Ubuntu, as unfortunately there is not an image. I understand Youyeetoo plans to provide one eventually, but I believe this device is currently not for a casual hobbyist.  To do that, the following would need to happen
  • Baked in GRUB support
  • USB boot
  • fb console
  • Use of official repositories
  • Not locking down packages 
Note that vendors lock packages to have a stable OS. But this is at the expense of developers. So... 

I do look forward to continuing to play with the device, in particular its NPU and NFC, however I won't be sticking it in a game cabinet any time soon.  It will likely get added to my home-lab rack.

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