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endecotp

Do you recommend Espressobin?

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Hi Everyone,

I'm considering getting an Espressobin to use as a simple NAS. Is this a good idea?

My requirements are quite basic; a single SATA SSD and a single ethernet port, running NFS and Samba. I do need a newish version of Samba (required to support "Time Machine" backup from my Mac) which I believe is in Debian Buster but not in Stretch. I've been a Debian user for decades; I guess I might be happier if the hardware supplier provided a Debian image, but it's great that Armbian is available.

This board's hardware looks good; it has a SATA connector. But there are a few posts here mentioning stability issues, related to power supply hardware or possibly u-boot. And the board has recently had an update (v7) which may have made it better in some ways but less reliable???

Anyway, I'm posting this mainly to see if anyone shouts "No, Bad Idea!". What's the verdict? I'm looking for something that "just works"; I don't want to have to fiddle around with things for days! (I've done enough of that in the past.)

Also: can anyone recommend an enclosure that would take this board and an SSD?
Also2: is it correct that I don't need an SD card or eMMC if I have an external SATA disk for the root filesystem?

Thanks, Phil.

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49 minutes ago, endecotp said:

I guess I might be happier if the hardware supplier provided a Debian image


Perhaps that happiness will be called frustration? :) Armbian exists because most of the vendors have little competence for providing proper "Debian" images. Not even close to what you are used in x86/amd64 world. I use Debian as a daily driver on my Dell XPS Laptop but on ARM single board computers (except perhaps Rpi where Linux is 2nd grade citizen) support is between non existing, poor and acceptable for some old hardware. The same is on most of general purpose Linux distributions that care about ARM.

 

Armbian is https://docs.armbian.com/Quick_facts/

 

56 minutes ago, endecotp said:

I'm considering getting an Espressobin to use as a simple NAS. Is this a good idea?


Why not?

 

57 minutes ago, endecotp said:

This board's hardware looks good; it has a SATA connector. But there are a few posts here mentioning stability issues, related to power supply hardware or possibly u-boot. And the board has recently had an update (v7) which may have made it better in some ways but less reliable???

 

I think we have covered most if not all stability issues but I am not fully up to date.

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Honestly? I would not. The frequency with which issues about Espressobin pop up here is worse than for other NAS boards. Just skip through a thread like: 

 

 

I would not say Espressobin is not working, but your saying: 

Quote

 I'm looking for something that "just works"; I don't want to have to fiddle around with things for days! (I've done enough of that in the past.)

 

 

And I am not sure you will have that experience with Espressobin. 

 

---

 

If you are just looking for a simple NAS board, maybe have a look at a Helios4 (if you can get them still somewhere) or Helios64 (just released). Or check out Clearfogbase (which has no SATA put pcie) or the PCEngines APU2 series: https://pcengines.ch/apu2.htm (these are x64 boards which run a mainline debian, no ARM although their power consumption is equally low).

 

This is not meant to keep you from getting an Espressobin, but to point out possible alternatives, so you can compare them.

 

Regards,

count-doku

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I bought a V5 (IIRC) EspressoBIN with exactly this purpose in mind, but eventually I gave up.

 

The board specs look good on paper, but the hardware ends up being marginal: USB works sometimes in one port but not the other (e.g. the Bluetooth USB part of a miniPCIE WiFi card not working). The miniPCIE support seems to have restricted compatibility (needs some patches to restrict the advertised/used PCI gen IIRC). The power circuitry seems to be a joke (seriously why didn't they remove the non functional attempt at powering the board via microUSB in later revisions?), including the reverse gender Molex connector for SATA power (apparently fixed in V7). They changed the SPI flash at random with no notice a number of times (leading to half bricked boards once their unreleased bootloader was overwritten) just for the lulz.

 

Then add apparent stability issues when the kernel was fixed to actually run the board at the advertised speeds. My verdict is that the hardware design is probably too complicated to work reliably.

 

What actually made me give up was finally the IO weirdness. Given that the SoC is a 1.8V part, adding any peripheral would require level shifting to more usual 3.3V levels.

 

But then... The SPI HW can't run at speeds below 80 MHz, so no interfacing to cheap SPI LCD screens for the status display, even if I somehow managed to find level shifters working at that speed. And no PWM for fan control either: while the SoC seems to have some PWM channels, the kernel support doesn't export them.

 

All in all, I put a significant amount of time on this one, but sadly I eventually decided it wasn't worth it.

 

I don't like sounding so negative, but the truth is I can't recommend this product at all based on my experience.

 

At this point I would probably bet on the Helios64 promise instead, if I hadn't already gotten an X86-64 based mini itx NAS.

 

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Thanks for the comments and suggestions everyone.

The other option that I've been considering is the ODROID-HC1. I guess I'll post a similar question about that in the appropriate forum.

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