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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)


Getting Started

I have always loved the concept (single board computer) behind the Pi however in reality each release has let me down. Its lack of a Gigabit NIC (in addition to extremely slow transfer speeds) and inability to bitstream HD audio keeps me waiting for the next generation. That is until I ran across the ODROID-C2. It checks off both features and runs much faster to boot. Software support isn't nearly as strong as the Pi however with Ubuntu and LibreELEC (Kodi project) you have everything you need for either a "low-end" server or media client.

Now we are taking well under $100 so don't expect to be able to transcode multiple streams or flood your Gigabit network. Client wise with 4K and bitsteaming it can compete with the big boys. Let's take a look at the various pieces:

$47 - ODROID-C2 - Best suited as a media client
$5 - Case - most Pi cases will work although you won't have access to the SD slot
$7 - Power supply - Pi power supplies will work
$9 - 8GB microSD boot media - or use one you already have...
$4 - Shipping charges via ameriDroid.com
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$72 Total investment (as of 6/7/2017) - accessories are available from the C2 link

$62 - ODROID-XU4 - Best suited as a low-end NAS or general purpose Apps
$7 - Case
$7 - Power supply
$11 - 8GB microSD boot media - or use one you already have... or upgrade to the much faster and more expensive eMMC storage
$6 - Shipping charges via ameriDroid.com
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$93 Total investment (as of 6/7/2017) - accessories are available from the XU4 link

Assembly will take a good two minutes most of that looking for a screwdriver small enough for the enclosed screws to hold the motherboard and case together. Now that you have this beast together you'll have to decide what you want to do with it. In my case I decided to use it as a media server and once that was online I couldn't think of a reason not to use it as a client as well. I could have to a large degree combined both into one device but I decided I'd much rather keep them separate for numerous reasons and at their cost the advantages well outweighed the disadvantages.




ODROID-C2


  • Amlogic ARM® Cortex®-A53(ARMv8) 1.5Ghz quad core CPUs
  • Mali™-450 GPU (3 Pixel-processors + 2 Vertex shader processors)
  • 2Gbyte DDR3 SDRAM
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI 2.0 4K/60Hz display
  • H.265 4K/60FPS and H.264 4K/30FPS capable VPU
  • 40pin GPIOs + 7pin I2S
  • eMMC5.0 HS400 Flash Storage slot / UHS-1 SDR50 MicroSD Card slot
  • USB 2.0 Host x 4, USB OTG x 1 (power + data capable)
  • Infrared(IR) Receiver
For media client info scroll down to the Media Client section.

Media Server

You will need a few utilities to get started:

7-zip - Uncompress installation files
Win32 Disk Imager - Create installation flash drive | Also used for backup/restore
PuTTY - Remote access via Windows
vi - Text editor overview

As a media server I choose Ubuntu. Sure it's not as simple to install as the the one-click customized server "packages" Which makes installation and configuration perhaps a little more difficult but you gain the complete power of Ubuntu. Not a subset of this or that feature rather the ability to use all of its resources. This also comes in rather handy when you are trying to resolve an issue. There is strength in numbers and when you are trying to figure this or that out a Google search will almost always reveal the solution.

I used the following links/steps for reference during installation and configuration:


  • Download Ubuntu - I use minimal (headless)
  • Use fixed IP address - or assign via your router
  • Add user "adduser media" - change shared drive(s) directories to this owner & group
  • Configure/auto mount external drives - if your drive has data you want to keep be sure to skip creating the drive steps! - run "tune2fs -m 0 /dev/sdX1 to set reserved disk space to 0". (UUID=364e6263-2e2a-4d39-9982-3c5e3559bae8 /media/drives/drive0 ext4 errors=remount-ro,noatime 0 1)
  • Install Samba
  • Install MySQL Server - C2 only - before installing change setenv mesontimer to "0" in /media/boot/boot.ini and reboot - need to do this each time the kernel is updated (writes a new boot.ini) - per the LINK the actual file for my.cnf is /etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
  • Set MySQL kodi's password
  • Install CUPS
  • Allow remote CUPS administration
  • Plex Media Server on the XU4 - I haven't tried PMS on the C2
  • NFS (file sharing) - see related info below
  • edit /media/boot/boot.ini (XU4) to set CPU speed - "ondemand" stops the fan from cycling versus "performance"
    # --- CPU Governor Setup ---
    # Uncomment only one line. New governor is set after 90secs after boot.
    # ------------------------------------------
    # - Performance (Keep all the CPU's at Maximum frequency)
    # setenv governor "performance"
    # ------------------------------------------
    # - Ondemand
    setenv governor "ondemand"
Gotchas:


  • /media/boot/boot.ini - (C2 only) set mesontimer to "0" - enables MySQL Server to install and run (needs to be redone after kernel update when boot.ini is overwritten)

Points of Interest:


  • Android OS is available
  • The ODROID-C2 uses less than 2 watts at idle and tops out at 5 watts - my external drives auto sleep after x minutes
  • (C2 only) /media/boot/boot.ini - set nographics to "1" to disable HDMI graphics - remote access only (reduces power usage)
  • To backup insert the SD card into a Windows PC, run Win32 Disk Imager, select a filename to save as and click on Read
  • To restore insert the SD card into a Windows PC, run Win32 Disk Imager, select your backup (file) and click on Write
  • (C2 only) - You can manually configure the CPU speed and number of cores... to a large degree
  • Access floats around 35-40MB/s (90MB+/s for XU4/USB 3.0) for reads and writes to USB drives (USB 2.0 bottleneck)
  • Backup/sync - rsync -avr /drives/drive0/ /drives/drive1 & - & places the process in the background, a = keeps date and permissions, v = verbose and r = recursive - add the n option if you want a "dry-run" to see what changes will occur (use --delete) to delete files no longer in the source directories
  • Disk image - dd if=/dev/sda | gzip > /drive0/backup/image.gzip - you can use dd to create a img of your boot drive by replacing /dev/sda (fdisk -l) with your boot drive and changing /drive0/backup to point to your externally mounted drive. Copy the file to your PC (via samba) and use Win 32 Disk Imager (after uncompressing) to restore
Kodi has native support for NFS which is typically (much) faster than Samba. I installed NFS on my server (XU4) and used the following to export (share) the files:

  • /etc/exports - /drives/drive0 192.168.1.0/24(rw,sync,no_subtree_check,insecure) - These surely aren't the best options but they are working at the moment
Once shared Kodi will find it when you Add a source. If you are using Ubuntu (client) and wish to access the directory/files via your desktop you can auto mount the NFS share during boot. I used the following:

  • /etc/fstab - 192.168.1.10:/drives/drive0 /nfs/drive0 nfs noauto,x-systemd.automount,x-systemd.device-timeout=10,timeo=14,x-systemd.idle-timeout=1min 0 0 - Again these probably aren't the best options but they are working
The directory won't be displayed by default in Nautilus (file manager) although you can Bookmark it for easy access.

I installed Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. Configured one auto mount external drive and one manually mounted external drive (for backup). Installed Samba and MySQL Server for Kodi clients and just for fun the print server. The above certainly isn't a walk-thru but does cover a couple of gotchas I ran into. Without them I'd guess roughly 4 hours for a geek and 2 hours if you have heard of Linux.

Performance wise it is slower than most NAS or HTPC boxes but more than fast enough to serve several clients concurrently. For me the print server works wonderfully. Windows jobs are instantly queued whether the printer is on or off. The moment it comes online they are spooled.

When you get a configuration you are happy with insert the flash drive into your PC and use Win32 Disk Imager to back it up. You can always "go home again" if you mess things up... simply restore the image to the flash drive.





Media Client

Not sure I need to post anything here as the process couldn't be much easier. Again the ODROID-C2 supports HD audio bitstreaming and has plenty of power to handle the various video codecs. The C2 is officially supported by Kodi/LibreELEC which ensures ongoing updates and compatibility.

Client Installation:






Points of Interest:


  • Android OS is available
  • HD audio bitstreaming support
  • The C2 has a built-in IR sensor that I haven't used and know nothing about (perhaps I'll update this later)
  • If you are looking for a IR sensor try this - very powerful and I have used it for years with all types of hardware
Now is the ODROID-C2 perfect? Certainly not and I'm sure there maybe a better solution based on one's needs. At the same time for my usage I can't think of a better solution for either. I do wish it supported WoL and network speed was faster (USB 3.0 like the XU4 model would be great). Although at its price point and even based on my needs they aren't deal breakers.

How About a Faster Server

Want more power and USB 3.0? Take a look at the ODROID-XU4. You'll also be adding a fan and losing a lot of Kodi support such as bitstreaming HD audio. You can swap the fan for a heatsink but the CPU will step down once it heats up. From experience if you set the CPU governor to anything other than performance (see above for details) the fan won't spin and you won't lose any performance as it will "step up" when needed.

If you are all in serving this is a valid option. Ubuntu is supported and you should be able to flood a Gigabit network. What's another $30?

After using the C2 as a server for several weeks I took delivery of a XU4. Best way to describe the difference is like going from a Celeron to a i7. Real world usage is roughly two to three times faster and even on the client side it is instantly noticeable. Streaming files jump to the screen and moving around is effortless. Not quite flooding my Gigabit network (90+MB/s) however I haven't done any tweaking yet...



New passive cooling model has been released.



ODROID-XU4


  • Samsung Exynos5422 Cortex™-A15 2Ghz and Cortex™-A7 Octa core CPUs
  • Mali-T628 MP6(OpenGL ES 3.0/2.0/1.1 and OpenCL 1.1 Full profile)
  • 2Gbyte LPDDR3 RAM PoP stacked
  • eMMC5.0 HS400 Flash Storage
  • 2 x USB 3.0 Host, 1 x USB 2.0 Host
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • HDMI 1.4a for display
  • Size : 82 x 58 x 22 mm approx.(including cooling fan)



Points of Interest:





Another (newer) Faster Option...

The ODROID-HC1 is a XU4 with a lot removed and something added! What's added? A native SATA connector with a frame/heatsink designed to hold a 2.5" drive. What's missing? HDMI, eMMC, the external USB 3.0 ports (replaced by the SATA interface and Gigabit Ethernet), power switch and boot selector. Overall designed to be a headless NAS. Priced currently at $49.95.



For single drive storage this is an obvious winner over the XU4 and you can stack them via the Ceph filesystem (Ceph FS) to show as one volume. However I have had zero issues using USB 3.0 on the XU4 and it offers more storage flexibility (such as attaching a USB 3.0 drive for backup) so I'm up in the air. At this point I wouldn't swap my XU4 for a HC1. When they start shipping in September 2017 I'll take another look and see what's happening.

Close But No Cigar

Why wouldn't you use the C2/XUA as a server:


  • Not as "idiot proof" as a dedicated NAS - arguably as stable and maintenance free once configured however you will have to invest some time in getting online
  • USB (only) storage - I believe you can rig SATA drives although in most cases you are limited to USB and as such I wouldn't get too deep into ZFS/RAID/etc
  • You intend to transcode video endlessly for multiple clients

Why wouldn't you use the C2 as a client:


  • If you don't care about 4K and audio bitstreaming you might make a case for the Pi - it offers far better software support
Unsolicited Review

The C2 is working so well now I've pulled my Dune Smart HD and Popcornhour A500 from my equipment rack and am using the C2 as my primary media player now.

Important note:
For anyone looking to buy and can't decide between the C2 and Raspberry Pi... the much more powerful C2 has no problem flawlessly playing HEVC/h.265 content- the Pi's (even the latest Pi III) can's play HEVC/h.265.


Known Issues


  • None at this time!
Current Affairs

I'm running a XU4 as a file server and couldn't be happier. It performs the following...


  • NFS file serving to Kodi clients
  • MySQL Server for Kodi "shared" data
  • Plex Media Server powerful enough to transcode one stream - clients include Roku and PC
  • Print Server for Ubuntu and Windows clients
  • Backup client shared/important data
  • rsync offline backup

I'm running a C2 as a media client. It runs...



  • LibreELEC (latest release)
For more information/help you can visit the ODROID's official forum and or post here and perhaps I can help...

Like to play but don't need a server or client? Take a look at ODROID Magaizine and you might find several compelling reasons to bring one online!

Can you guess which of the attachments have nothing to do with this "project"?.. just happened to be the next image on the roll.
 

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Pretty cool Charles. I looked into the dismantled Roku 2 and it looks very close to the Pi3 and C2. Agreed Roku added their own proprietary stuff. In a few months I am going to venture towards the C2 and this is going to be useful.
 

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^ Thanks Charles,
I'm eagerly awaiting my C-2, will be configured as a simple client.

I ordered the 8GB eMMC Module for it, anything different during setup/config/use vs. the micro-SD card?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I ordered the 8GB eMMC Module for it, anything different during setup/config/use vs. the micro-SD card?
Not that I'm aware of. Generally the eMMC should be faster. I happen to have a couple of Samsung Pro SD cards (faster than the SanDisk tested) which perform on the high-end of SD cards so I'm not sure how much I would gain. Also they are more easily reusable if/when I punt the ODROID-C2s. However if I order a ODROID-XU4 I think I'll order one of the red eMMC cards for the heck of it. Here's a speed test via ameriDroid.

 

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Thanks again Charles.

I have at least 1/2 dozen spare class 10 micro-SD cards sitting around, but I figured for $16 (which includes the eMMC card and USB adapter) I'll give the eMMC module a try.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I originally did a rsync to copy the files on the "permanent" drive to the backup drive. I don't auto mount the second drive since it's just for backing up. It's a pretty easy task:


  • drive0 - is auto mounted at boot and shared via samba for serving Kodi clients and file maintenance
When I want to backup the drive I simply...


  • Power up the second/backup drive
  • mount /dev/sdb1 /drive1 - the mount device will vary based on which port it is connected to
  • rsync -vr /drive0/video/ /drive1/video/ & - & places the process in the background - add the n option if you want a "dry-run" to see what changes will occur
  • umount /dev/sdb1 - once completed!
  • Power off the backup drive
rsync has a multitude of options and most of them are rather powerful. As such it's probably best to create a backup script and execute it when needed. Especially if you are using "scary" options such as delete. That way any typos (or brain fades) won't wreck havoc on your data.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I ordered the 8GB eMMC Module for it, anything different during setup/config/use vs. the micro-SD card?
One thing to keep in mind... typically the smaller memory cards are dramatically slower than the larger ones.

I also ran across this note...

The Black eMMC modules work with only ODROID-C0/C1/C1+/C2.
Other Blue/Red eMMC modules work with all ODROID boards.
 

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^ thanks!
I'll do a few write speed test comparisons with my SD cards before formatting it for the C-2.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'll do a few write speed test comparisons with my SD cards before formatting it for the C-2.
I don't think you can do a apples to apples comparison since (I believe) one of the big advantages of using eMMC is its faster interface. To do a "true" test you would have to have each type installed via their native interface. Even then it might vary by how they are implemented in each device.
 

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^ makes sense.

Different topic- does the current version of Kodi have a 30fps output option for 720/1080p?
Reason I'm asking, my LG TV displays judder at most fps settings regardless of the source with smoothing option disabled... unless the input feed is at 30fps (regardless of source encoding). So I set my Dune player to output 30fps all the time and it's all good without the TV's smoothing/soap opera setting enabled.

Thanks....
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Different topic- does the current version of Kodi have a 30fps output option for 720/1080p?
You can configure Kodi to auto adjust the refresh rate (based on content) or easily force a refresh rate under System settings. That being Kodi "finds" the refresh rate supported by the display during the HDMI handshake. Other wise you would have to try and force it via manual means... Kodi being Kodi I'm sure you could set it in one of the config files.

One thing to keep in mind is that Kodi is available on numerous platforms and is continuously being updated. As such features may or may not be supported on x platform or y release. Video is probably the most fluid aspect and you can see from the above link there are multitudes of options to configure if one digs. Luckily in most cases one can install and be good to go...
 

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Thanks Charles,

I don't know how I stumbled on the fact that my display likes 30fps... but there's literally no judder with 30fps input no matter the content's native frame rate.
As long as the TV gets 30fps in- it's extremely happy.... which makes me extremely happy too :)
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
I couldn't resist and ordered a ODROID-XU4. This time I also ordered a eMMC (32GB) card along with the power supply and case. It will be installed in my server room so the fan doesn't scare me although I believe it doesn't spin until it heats up quite a bit. Looking the eMMC cards over the 32GB appears to be a sweet spot. The smallest you can go and still get close to the best performance.

I'm more than happy with the ODROID-C2 as a server. If you are doing the initial data copy (to the server) I think the XU4 would be well worth it for the faster transfer speed. But once the data is there I don't expect to see a lot of difference. Hopefully I'll be mistaken.

Note the XU4 has two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port (versus four 2.0 for the C2). Since I now don't need two C2s it looks like eBay will get one.
 

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Charles,
My C-2 is being delivered tomorrow, but I could always use a spare.
PM me ....


BTW- I went into the video config on one of my Pi's (512MB model1 B+) and set it to 30fps... perfect h264 no-judder playback on my LG TV.
It's can't play HEVC however... maybe my Pi3 can, but I'll be using the C-2 for that- don't want to fry the Pi3.
 

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My C-2 got delivered this morning- I'll play with it tonight.

Have to configure my Harmony One for it- I saw others recommended "Microsoft Media Center Extender".

Any recommendations for a good TV series scraper?
I do have Plex server running on my NAS- can I use that for a scraper or to supply Kodi w/metadata-cover art?


Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Have to configure my Harmony One for it- I saw others recommended "Microsoft Media Center Extender".
Harmony has native support for hardkernel - odroid-c1. I'm guessing MCE would work as well.

Any recommendations for a good TV series scraper?
I do have Plex server running on my NAS- can I use that for a scraper or to supply Kodi w/metadata-cover art?
You can use the various Plex Add-ons. With Kodi 16 I use the Titan skin and haven't found any reason to supplement Kodi's or Titan's ability to scrape or whatnot. With 17 I find Kodi's default skin usable and might skip Titan altogether. Plex options should mirror the typical Kodi/LibreELEC installation.
 

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Got a chance to play with the C-2 last night, my early impressions:

- Nice build quality, not thrown together or poorly soldered on par with the current Pi's build quality.
- eMMC storage "chip" is not meant to be removed & reinserted like SD cards. It's connector is tiny and delicate, pop it in and out a few times and it will break. For testing- use an SD card, then switch to eMMC once you've finalized your setup.
- Way faster than any of the Raspberry Pi's I have (Model I, II & III). Kodi is very snappy on the C-2
- Played DD+ (AKA Enhanced AC-3) flawlessly.
- Played HEVC (h.265) video effortlessly at under 10% CPU utilization- all my Pi's were unusable for HEVC content.
- Scraping (using Kodi's built in scraper) is very fast and doesn't impact playback or navigation.
 

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The only issue I have to resolve (and I know it's caused by my LG TV that needs 30fps refresh to stop judder) is to get Kodi on the C-2 to be able to output 30fps @ 1080p.
Currently at 1080P the only refresh options Kodi offers (even in Expert mode) are 24fps & 60fps.
All of my Pi's running Kodi when attached to the same TV give me many more refresh options including 30fps?

Ideas anyone?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
eMMC storage "chip" is not meant to be removed & reinserted like SD cards. It's connector is tiny and delicate, pop it in and out a few times and it will break.
Looks like eMMc chips are typically soldered onto the board and they more or less "modified" it accordingly. Not sure there is any standardization of parts to accomplish such.

Currently at 1080P the only refresh options Kodi offers (even in Expert mode) are 24fps & 60fps.
You can try forcing it via Kodi's advancedsettings.xml. I had to do such before with good results.
 
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