Orange Pi One & Lite as music streamers (Part 1)

Meet the Orange Pi One:

Orange-Pi-One-1

Orange-Pi-One-2

and its brother, the Orange Pi Lite:

orange-pi-lite

They are single board computers (SBCs) much like the Raspberry Pi, but they will set you back just over 10€ plus shipping. That is just insane value.

They offer a quad core ARM Cortex A7 processor running at 1.2GHz, 512MBs of DDR3 RAM, an Ethernet port (One) or WiFi (Lite), a couple of USB ports, an HDMI port, etc.
They run Linux (of course..) or Android.

I came across them (the One actually) while watching Dave Jones’ channel on youtube and thought I would give it a try.

I needed an inexpensive way to listen to internet radio while I was in my kitchen. I already had a low end system set up, consisting of a couple of bookshelf speakers, a power amp and a Squeezebox Classic, but I had to move the Squeezebox to another room so I needed something to take its place. The Orange Pi One plus an inexpensive I2S DAC would fit the bill very nicely.

The idea was to load a stable Linux distribution onto the One and set-up MPD to work with my el-cheapo I2S DAC.

The steps that I am about to describe took me about a day to figure out and needless to say, I learned a lot in the process.

Let’s start with the basics.

You will need an Orange Pi board, a proper power supply (USB power will not work – I suggest that you buy a bundle of Orange Pi + Power Supply from aliexpress), a 4GB (or bigger) Micro SD card and an I2S compatible DAC that does not require a MCLK signal (like an ES9023-based one with an on-board oscillator). For the initial setup you will also need a monitor with an HDMI (or DVI with an adapter) input plus a USB keyboard. If you are a bit more hardcore, instead of using a monitor & keyboard, you can just use the Pi’s serial port with a serial to USB module and putty.

The first step is getting our hands on a Linux distribution that will be a good fit to our application. You might notice that there exist a number of official One distributions: http://www.orangepi.org/downloadresources/ The Lite is not so lucky.

The general consensus is that most of them have issues. The best choice appears to be the Armbian distribution:

For the One: http://www.armbian.com/orange-pi-one/
For the Lite: http://www.armbian.com/orange-pi-lite/

Armbian is based on Debian and is very similar to Raspbian (also based on Debian), so if you’ve used Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi you will feel right at home.

For our application we are going to go with the Jessie Server image. We need to put this image file on a Micro SD card. I use Rufus.

We insert the SD card in the Orange Pi, we connect our monitor, keyboard, ethernet and power the thing up.

After about 15-20 seconds, the green power-on LED will start flashing and soon after you will see the initial login screen:

orange_pi_one_1

The default credentials are root/1234.

You need to change the default password to one of your liking. Following that, your Pi will request that you create a new user account:

orange_pi_one_2

Once you’ve done that, you will be asked whether you would like to change your Pi’s resolution to match your screen’s:

orange_pi_one_4

In my case, my lab’s monitor has a 1920×1200 resolution, so I chose to go with the highest supported resolution, so I typed:

h3disp -m 10

One reboot to go and we will be done with the initial setup.

At this point I should point out that I routinely log in to my Orange Pis as root. I can see some of you cringing but I don’t care. Security is way low on my list of concerns when it comes to my SBCs that I use for music playback. If you use a normal user (and not root) on your SBC, all you have to do is prefix the commands that I use with the command “sudo”.

So now, if you have a Pi One and it is connected to your network, it should have acquired an IP from your DHCP server. If you have a Pi Lite, you will need to do some extra work to get it to connect to your WiFi network.

To configure the Lite’s WiFi adapter you need to edit the interfaces file:

nano /etc/network/interfaces

If you would like your Pi to get an IP automatically from a DHCP server, you do this:

# Wireless adapter #1
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

If you are the more traditional type and you would like to go for a static IP, you put in:

# Wireless adapter #1
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet static
address 192.168.0.200
netmask 255.255.255.0
gateway 192.168.0.250
wpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

replacing the above IPs with ones suitable to your environment.

You might notice that in both cases we are mentioning a supplicant.conf file. This file does not exist yet, so we have to create it:

nano /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

and then type in:

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
update_config=1

network={
ssid="your_ssid"
psk="your_password"
key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
priority=99
}

Again, replace your_ssid and your_password with your actual SSID and password. Note that it doesn’t matter if you are using WPA or WPA2, the script is the same.

When you are done, save the file (Ctrl-X and then Yes a couple of times) and reboot your Lite.

When the system comes back up log in and check if you are connected to your access point by typing:

ip a

You should see something like this:

1: lo:  mtu 16436 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
    inet 127.0.0.1/8 scope host lo
    inet6 ::1/128 scope host
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
2: tunl0:  mtu 1480 qdisc noop state DOWN group default
    link/ipip 0.0.0.0 brd 0.0.0.0
3: wlan0:  mtu 1500 qdisc mq state UP group default qlen 1000
    link/ether 00:e0:4c:99:f8:3b brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet 192.168.0.200/24 brd 192.168.0.255 scope global wlan0
    inet6 fe80::2e0:4cff:fe99:f83b/64 scope link
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

You should see that your wlan0 interface now has an IP.

Congrats, your Lite now has network access. This means that you can put away the monitor & keyboard that you used to configure your Lite and continue on your desktop / laptop by logging in through SSH (using Putty or any other SSH compatible terminal program).

Logging in from Putty, we come to this prompt:

orange_pi_one_5

Next, we have to do a full update & upgrade of our installed packages:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

The update part should go pretty fast, but the upgrade part will take some time, depending largely on your SD card’s performance.

This concludes Part 1 (a.k.a. “the boring part”). Part 2 will include enabling the Orange Pi’s I2S output and setting up MPD.

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