Quick Post: My New SBC Computer – the Asus Tinkerboard

A while back I picked up a Raspberry Pi 3 and turned it into a NAS and LAMP stack server (Apache, PostgreSQL, Mysql, PostGIS, and so on).  Later I came across forums mentioning a new entry from Asus into this space called the Tinkerboard.  Now I’m not going to go into an in-depth review since you can find those all over the Internet.  However, I do want to mention a few things I’ve found and done that are very helpful.  I like the board since it’s supports things like OpenCL and pound for pound is more powerful than the Pi 3.  The two gig of RAM vs one with the Pi 3 makes it useful for more advanced processing.

One thing to keep in mind is that the board is still “new” and has a growing community.  As such there are going to be some pains, such as not having as big a community as the Pi ecosystem.  But things do appear to be getting better, and so far it’s proven to be more capable and, in some cases, more stable than my Pi 3.

So without much fanfare, here are my list of tips for using the Tinkerboard.  You can find a lot more information online.

  1. Community – The Tinkerboard has a growing community of developers.  My favorite forums are at the site run by Currys PC World.  They’re active and you can find a lot of valuable information there.
  2. Package Management – Never, EVER, run apt-get dist-upgrade.  Since it’s Debian, the usual apt-get update and apt-get upgrade are available.  However, running dist-upgrade can cause you to loose hardware acceleration.
  3. OpenCL – One nice think about the Tinkerboard is that the Mali GPU has support for hardware-accelerated OpenCL.  TinkerOS an incorrectly named directory in /etc/OpenCL which causes apps to not work by default.  The quick fix is to change to /etc/OpenCL and run ln -s venders vendors.  After doing this, tools like clinfo should properly pick up support.
  4. Driver updates – Asus is active on Github.  At their rk-rootfs-build site there you can find updated drivers as they’re released.  I recommend checking this site from time to time and downloading updated packages are they are released.
  5. Case – The Tinkerboard is the same size and mostly the same form-factor as the Raspberry Pi 3.  I highly recommend you pick up a case with a built-in cooling fan since the board can get warm, even with the included heat sinks attached.
  6. You can follow this link and install Tensorflow for the Pi on the Tinkerboard.  It’s currently not up-to-date, but much less annoying than building Tensorflow from scratch.
  7. SD Card – You would do well to follow my previous post about how to zero out a SD card before you format and install TinkerOS to it.  This will save you a lot of time and pain.  I will note that so far, my Tinkerboard holds up under heavy IO better than my Pi 3 does.   I can do thinks like make -j 5 and it doesn’t lock up or corrupt the card.

I’ll have more to say about this board later.

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