The MK808 Android TV stick with a PCM2704 USB audio interface runs Debian Jessie with MPD and serves as our mediaplayer for audio files. It draws its power from the USB port of our cable modem so it’s always on. Most of the time Indie Pop Rocks is playing. It’s hooked up to the network via WiFi. We use MPDroid to control it.
The Raspberry Pi runs OpenELEC with Kodi. We use this for watching all kinds of video files that we stream from our NAS (an aging WD My Book Live that runs Debian Lenny) via an NFS share. It is connected to the network via ethernet.
The Chromecast is for watching Netflix. When we just got it we had some issues with connecting it to the network but after replacing our old router with an ASUS RT-AC68U it worked flawlessly.
The Technics SL-1210MK2 with Ortofon headshell and cartridge is for listening music on vinyl, you know those round black plastic units from the past with grooves in them. It doesn’t have any network connections and doesn’t run an OS. It does send electrical current to a NAD C 325BEE Stereo Integrated Amplifier with Dali Concept 2 speakers. Yeah, I’m a 2.0 guy.
The TV is an old pre Smart TV Samsung but as it still works we probably won’t replace it for the time being. It does have CEC so we can control the TV, RPi and Chromecast with a single remote.
As our collection of MP3 CD’s was wearing out I thought why not put a small embedded board with a big drive in our car? I dug up a Cubieboard2 that was gathering dust and started hacking. The goal:
- Small system based on Debian Jessie
- MPD to serve the audio files
- Remote control via WiFi
- Big drive
- Acceptable boot time
- Basic protection against file system corruption
Putting a bog standard Debian Jessie on the Cubieboard2 was quite straightforward with the help of the linux-sunxi.org wiki. The board booted with the standard kernel but unfortunately no sound. Luckily I had just received some ultra-cheap PCM2704 USB audio interfaces and these worked and sounded great too. WiFi worked out of the box but the rtl8192cu driver of the 3.16 kernel for the Realtek RTL8192CU chipset has the tendency to quickly go into suspension and as this driver doesn’t have any power management options I ended up with a hacky for loop in /etc/rc.local that pings all IP’s in the DHCP range. I quickly dropped this iffy set-up as it just didn’t work out that well and ended up using a DKMS based solution that made it possible to control power management of the WiFi dongle. Next hurdle was hostapd that stopped working with this alternative driver. But with the help of the hostapd-rtl871xdrv GitHub repo I managed to cook up a fully working hostapd Debian package.
Next up was the hard drive. I first tried a USB drive but the Cubieboard2 just couldn’t provide enough juice to power the drive properly together with the WiFi dongle. I also tried with my Raspberry Pi’s but those had the same issues. So I had to resort to a SATA drive. Of course I bought a 3.5″ drive first because those are cheaper. But you can’t power a 3.5″ drive with the SATA cable that comes with the Cubieboard2 and as I had a bit of a deadline I returned it for a 2.5″ drive and that works like a charm. I installed MPD, copied my music collection to the hard drive, fired up MPD and was greeted with a segmentation fault. Apparently the Jessie MPD package has issues with the sticker database file so I installed MPD from the backports repo and that version runs without any complaints so far.
For some basic protection against corruption by sudden power loss I created separate partitions for /home and /var on the SD card that are mounted rw with a couple of options to reduce corruption (sync,commit=1,data=journal) and / is mounted ro, just like the big hard drive with the audio files. /tmp is being mounted as tmpfs in RAM. Boot time is about 15 seconds and I’m OK with that. To remotely shut down the CarPC via WiFi I use a JuiceSSH homescreen shortcut of a connection that runs a simple shutdown -h now snippet.
After I had mounted everything in our car the thing wouldn’t boot though. Swapped the 1A USB car adapter for a 2.1A version and then the CarPC came up properly. Installed MPDroid on my Nexus 5 to control MPD via WiFi and so far, so good!
Cubieboard2 based CarPC
Sometimes the CarPC became unreachable via WiFi. The culprit was that the DHCP service (udhcpd) didn’t always come up because it was sometimes started before hostapd. I fixed this by copying /var/run/systemd/generator.late/udhcpd.service to /etc/systemd/system/udhcpd-custom.service and adding hostapd.service to the After line and adding a Requires=hostapd.service line. I also added a [Install] stanza with the line WantedBy=multi-user.target. I then disabled udhcpd.service and enabled udhcpd-custom.service.
Hostapd didn’t always start flawlessly either so I copied /var/run/systemd/generator.late/hostapd.service to /etc/systemd/system/hostapd-custom.service and added sys-subsystem-net-devices-wlan0.device to the After and Wants lines. Also added an [Install] stanza, disabled hostapd.service and enabled hostapd-custom.service.