Minnowboard Turbot Review

I purchased a Minnowboard Turbot last month as, while I was very happy with my Raspberry Pi 2 and was looking at the 3, I wanted something that was significantly faster and, more to the point for me, used an x86 CPU. The Turbot is the 3rd iteration (that I’m aware of) of the Minnowboard, and the first one that I ever considered buying. Things like having the RTC battery holder soldered on already (although I am skilled at soldering), and improvements with HDMI output compatibility, along with performance improvements in both graphics and raw speed, garnered enough of my interest to warrant a purchase.

After putting it through its paces and installing a good half dozen Linux distros on it, I have to say that this would make an excellent low-end media center PC as, with a dual core CPU and 2GB of RAM, it can handle 1080p video without a problem, as well as low-end gaming & emulation. While Higan bounced between 10 -45 fps so often even SMW was unplayable, ZSNES (which I remember running SMW at playable speeds on my dad’s 486 SX 25mhz under DOS 6.22 18 years ago) offered a wonderful experience. Early MAME games were playable, but anything past 1989 is hit and miss.

Power usage is impressive, with idling watts as low as 2.9, though ~3.5 seems to be the norm under Lubuntu 16.04. Running the Nexiuz benchmark, I managed to get the power usage (as reported by EZ Watt at least) up to 10.1, although it was hovering in the high 9’s most of the time. I’m currently having it connect to my security camera via rtsp and it still hovers around the 4.5w mark.

When you factor in that this little unit makes no noise, and while it can get a bit warm, it could still be handled, even while compiling MAME, which took 12 – 18 hours (I fell asleep and it was finished when I checked after waking up).

While I am very impressed with the Turbot and have noticed the company behind them are coming out with faster (and quad core) versions, I am looking onward towards  the Intel Core M CPU’s, as they appear to offer remarkable performance, albeit at a higher price point than the Atom x64 CPU the Turbot uses.

I don’t regret getting the Turbot and enjoy having a computer that is always on and yet makes no noise and uses almost no power.

Turbot-Box-01 Turbot-Box-02 Turbot-AC_AdapterTurbot-In_the_Dark Turbot-Mighty_Mouse Turbot-Thumb_DriveTurbot_Mix_Power_Usage Turbot_Max_Power_Usage Turbot_Nexiuz

Linux Mint 18

I purchased a new Samsung 850 Pro SSD to use as a boot drive, and took the opportunity to install the newest version of Linux Mint while I was at it. This was roughly two weeks ago. It took me the better part of a day to install all of the various programs I use on a regular basis, though part of that was because I wasn’t rushing anything. Once I have Palemoon and Thunderbird setup with my profiles, everything else gets taken care of while I carry on my regular computer routine.

So far it is even nicer than the Linux Mint 17.x series, which was amazing all on its own. I am using the x64 MATE version with compiz as my window manager, and it actually feels even faster than before, even factoring in the newer, faster SSD, as it’s not just hard drive-related tasks that haven gotten faster. Bluetooth support is MUCH improved, and I have been able to pair and use several Bluetooth devices without a problem. I’m still putting it through its paces, but the thought that keeps running through my mind, is how smooth everything is, and how little has changed in a bullet point, “brand new features!” type of way from the user’s point of view. I know they have a list, but the lack of a dramatic change I consider a good thing.

Raspberry Pi 2 Camera

I decided to install the newest version of Raspian over Ubuntu MATE for the Pi2/3, as it is designed for the Pi after all. The last version I had on the Pi 2, was released over a year ago. Fast forward to the newest version “Jessie”, released late May, which I have to say, is really fast. I was able to get my Pi 2 setup almost completely via GUI, aside from having to edit the /boot/config.txt file to disable overscan for my TV (the same problem I had with the old version). I’m currently tinkering with the camera on a software level as I see what it can do, but it puts out a nice image for the price/size. I have it connected via ethernet to my switch, and have been able to remove the USB Wi-Fi module that came with my Pi 2 bundle that I purchased last February.

More as I continue…

Raspberry Pi 2 Update and Toshiba laptop boot bug.

I have ordered a Raspberry Pi Camera (the original model, there is a new model that came out a little over a month ago, but the jury is still out on that one) to enable me to use my Pi 2 as a webcam/deercam. I will post more on that after it arrives and I set it up. I have since upgraded the storage to a 32GB Samsung EVO Class 10 card. There are faster cards, but I don’t see the point with a Pi 2.


I found that if I enter the BIOS on my mom’s Toshiba laptop that I mentioned before, it causes the boot error to reappear. I fixed and verified this for myself. I don’t know if a BIOS update would fix it, but seeing as my mother will never even attempt to get into the BIOS, I will leave it be. I stand by my decision to buy a Dell next time.


New computers, new keyboard.

The computer I was using in my room to provide me with a computer to use when I’m too dizzy to get out of bed, died back in July, and so I decided to replace it with an Intel NUC. I chose a NUC5i5RYH, which has an Intel i5 CPU and loaded it with 16GB of RAM, as well as a 256GB M.2 Samsung 850 EVO drive. Since there was space in the machine to put a 2.5″ HD inside, I elected to put the old 120GB SSD that my dead computer was using, to provide extra storage. After initially only getting one of the RAM sticks to register, I pulled out and re-inserted the second RAM stick (I always worry with some of these machines, and tend to apply less force, rather than more, for fear of damaging the socket). After verifying that all the RAM could be seen by the BIOS, I quickly installed Linux Mint and have been happily using it since. I would post pics of the setup process, but frankly, I’m sure there are plenty of other pictures out there already, as I had originally planned on posting about this 6+ months ago. So, instead, here are a few general pictures of the unit after it was put together, along with shots of the power usage when idling and running benchmarks. It’s a nice machine, although I look forward to when the one fan in the machine, for the CPU, is no longer needed. Speaking of which…


My mom’s laptop is roughly 6 years old, and is towards the end of its life. While I will be wiping Windows 7 and replacing it with Linux Mint when she sends it to me, she really does deserve a new laptop. What I picked out for her, is a lot like what I was talking about over a year ago. I picked out a Toshiba Satellite Radius 11, which has a quad core Intel Pentium CPU, along with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Best of all, no fan whatsoever, and a touchscreen to boot.

Toshiba_in_box Toshiba_in_box_open_01 Toshiba_in_box_open_02 Toshiba_in_box_open_03 Toshiba_warningsToshiba_out_of_the_boxToshiba_out_of_the_box_off Toshiba_out_of_the_box_on_installingLinux

I never bothered to even let the machine boot into Windows 8.1 before installing Linux. I ran into one problem after installing and rebooting the laptop once. It turns out that Toshiba (apparently along with Sony and HP), will NOT allow the laptop to boot in UFI mode, only allowing UEFI, which gave a “Reboot and select proper boot device error”. Fortunately, there is a way around this, as detailed here. Archive link.

That being said, I cannot recommend this laptop for that reason and that reason only as, while I was able to work around it, I shouldn’t have had to. Dell (who has long supported Linux) has a similar laptop that I have recommended to my neighbor, who is looking for a new laptop, as her 6 year old Celeron-based laptop is showing its age, although Linux Mint 17.3 XFCE has bought her some time and piece of mind after MS decided to force her computer to “upgrade” to Windows 10, which proceeded to BSOD.

I also had a problem with the built-in Wi-Fi disconnecting periodically. There are instructions here to fix it. Archive Link. I imagine newer versions of Linux Mint (and other Distributions) won’t have the same problem, although it’s helpful to know that there’s a fix in the meantime. I’m giving my mom an external Wi-Fi USB adapter just in case, as a computer that can’t connect to the Internet, is severely limited in its functionality.

The lack of moving parts means that the laptop is truly silent and, when they’re able to cram at least an Intel i3 CPU into the same silent form factor, I will look at getting one for myself. I imagine this will happen in another year or so when Intel releases their Kaby Lake CPU’s, although it might have to wait until Cannon Lake (with its 10nm fabrication process).

Finally, my Razor Black Widow keyboard was dying, with several keys failing to register, then double registering as I attempted to type. Although I could default to my wireless keyboard, I honestly don’t like to do any serious typing on standard keyboards. Looking online, I was shocked at not only prices of the newer models of keyboards, but the fact that most of them require Windows (and subsequent drivers) to function. Fortunately, there was a review amongst them that pointed me to Unicomp, and their Ultra Classic White Bucking Spring Keyboard (I grabbed the PS2 model because of the limitations of the amount of keys you can hit at once with the USB models – something that requires special hardware to overcome). Having learned to type on an actual typewriter in the 80’s, before moving on to electronic typewriters and the keyboards found on the IBM 5150 and XT/AT computers, this keyboard is exactly what I’ve been looking for. After S&H, the keyboard was $99, and given how well-built they are, I know it will serve me well for many, many years. Some people might not like the noise, but I live alone, so it doesn’t bother me one bit. The only down-side, is that when I built my next computer (not for another few years), I have to make sure it still has a PS2 port. Fortunately, the high-end motherboards seem to be keeping one of those ports on their offerings. Hopefully that is still the case in a few years.

Hopefully I won’t go so long without updating, and I really enjoy posting, especially when I have interesting things to post about. I hope things are going well in everyone else’s lives.

Life updates

My Dad’s computer that I built back in May 2010 was finally starting to die. Even with a brand new install of Windows and a new power supply, it was glitching up constantly. This was confirmed under Linux as well. Rather than fighting with the computer, I simply gave my Dad my i7-2600K backup computer that was already setup as a dual-boot Windows 7/Linux Mint machine. He’s quite happy and, being that the computer was rarely used, he has a new machine to make use of that is significantly faster than his previous AMD Machine.

I finally got a new washing machine after over a year of doing laundry by hand and using a spinner to get as much water out as possible before hang drying it. I am still hang drying my clothes, as I’ve always tried to avoid dryers as much as possible, though they have their uses.

My weight seems to be relatively stable, fluctuating a bit from week to week, though still in the 140 – 150 lbs range. I am planning on getting back into exercising on July 4th, though I will start very light and go from there.

We have a heat wave coming up, with temps expected to be 101°F+ for two or more days starting Sunday. My 5,000 BTU AC unit might not be super powerful, but it’s better than nothing, especially since I sit about 10 feet from it.

The price for a gallon of Whole Lifeline (Montana based) Organic Milk is now $6.99, with a 1/2 gallon of Organic Valley Half & Half hitting $6.59. A gallon of whole Lifeline Organic Milk was $5.69 back in early February. Food price increases are really getting crazy and this is only the beginning. I am trying to stock up on various foods while I can, as I don’t see this slowing down.

Bomi Media Player

While I like VLC, as well as the various other media players available for Linux, I really hate the screen tearing that comes with watching videos on my computer. I used to use the SVP (SmoothVideoProject) with MediaPlayerClassic HC under Windows to boost video to 60fps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get this to work under WINE on Linux. I tried to install it in my VirtualBox XP/7 machines, but to no avail (I am curious if the upcoming release of VirtualBox 5.0 will fare better).  Doing a bit of looking I first found mpv, a cli media player, and then Bomi, which has a rather nice GUI.

Bomi supports GPU hardware accelerated video decoding which, if you have a supported card and are running the appropriate drivers, results in a nice smooth display. By default Bomi calculates what refresh rate your display is running and boosts the video to that fps rate. My Samsung TV was correctly identified as running at 60Hz, and that is what the fps are set at. Watching a various types of media, I am really quite impressed with how smooth playback is, with no detectable tearing, even during fast action scenes.

I am still testing it out with various media, but as of right now, I feel I’ve found a new media player to replace VLC.

Bomi Media Player Homepage


Pi 2 – Benchmarks

I ran a few benchmarks via hardinfo the other week and took pictures (with the flash off). I now have my Pi2 on a 3-way HDMI switcher (bought years ago for monitor) along with one of my backup computers, so it’s easier to mess with the Pi2 from time to time. I’d rather not have to physically switch HDMI plugs as my TV, nice as it is, only has two HDMI inputs.

First we have some info about the Pi2 as reported by the program.

Sysinfo 1

Info about the Pi2

Sysinfo 2

Info about the Pi2

Onto the actual tests.

Raytrace test

The Pi2 running the Raytrace test.

N-Queens test

The Pi2 running the N-Queens test.

Fibonacci test

The Pi2 running the Fibonacci test.

FFT test

The Pi2 running the FFT test.

Cryptohash test

The Pi2 running the Cryptohash test.

Blowfish test

The Pi2 running the Blowfish test.

Raspberry Pi 2 camera flash bug

I noticed while taking snapshots of my Raspberry Pi 2, that the flash seemed to make it lose power. I didn’t notice immediately, because I was absorbed in photographing the machine. As it turns out, it wasn’t my imagination, since I ran a search on DuckDuckGo and found quite a few links mentioning the bug. At least I know the cause, as I thought I had gotten a defective unit.

Raspberry Pi 2 – Continued

Since I last wrote, I’ve had a little bit of time to try out the Raspberry Pi 2. I’m still working on the software side of things, including finding out how much it is capable of. Below are a few pictures I took as I unboxed the Pi 2, as well as a size comparison with its power adapter and a 16GB flash drive.


Unboxing the Pi 2

Unboxing the Pi 2

Unboxing the Pi 2

Unboxing the Pi 2

Unboxing the Pi 2

Unboxing the Pi 2

Unboxing the Pi 2

Unboxing the Pi 2

The Pi 2 is only slightly bigger than the power adapter plug.

The Pi 2 is only slightly bigger than the power adapter plug.

I hooked up the Pi 2 to my 55″ Samsung TV, and booted up the first time. I was greeted by the NOOBS screen and decided to install Raspbian as well as create a data partition. I would repeat this a few days later, when I formatted the microSD card and put a new version of NOOBS onto the card. Both times the installation was the same. It took roughly 10 minutes or so to install everything, though it could have been longer, as I wasn’t timing anything. I elected to overclock the Pi 2 from 900MHz to 1GHz, as well as disable overscan (it was only showing up on a portion of my TV screen), as well as assign 256MB of ram to the GPU.

The NOOBS screen.

The NOOBS screen.

Installing Raspbian.

Installing Raspbian.

Installing Raspbian.

Installing Raspbian.

After installing Raspbian OS, I began to install various applications to test how usable a Pi 2 would be as an office computer.

I installed Synaptic, then began installing various applications. LibreOffice, The Gimp, Ice Weasel, and Ice Dove were all installed and ran without any problems. I’ve yet to do any serious “work” with any of the applications at this time, though the system did feel reasonably responsive provided I stuck to one app at a time. While 1GB of ram that the Pi 2 sports is a significant upgrade, apps like Ice Weasel will grab a huge amount of that with more than a few tabs open.

I plan on doing a bunch of app/game testing over the next few weeks, though I will say so far, that in a pinch, the Pi 2 could be used to do some basic office tasks without too much trouble, in addition to being a capable programming platform.

To be continued.