back to article Tough Banana Pi: a Raspberry Pi for colour-blind diehards

The Raspberry PI Model B+ is the hot new SBC (Single Board Computer) of the moment. The cheap price, low power usage, good support and ease of use make it a very good buy for DIY nerd projects and media front ends. One common complaint is lack of RAM and CPU. Now, however, there are choices for Power users – the Banana PI from …

  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Trademark Breach?

    Isn't called something a Banana Pi when its completely unrelated to the Raspberry Pi dangerously close to "passing off"? Since its some dodgy Chinese outfit I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

    Personally I would avoid it just because of that.

    Related: Is there such a thing as a plain banana pie? Shouldn't it be Banoffee Pie or Banana Bread? Or possibly Banana wrapped in foil with a flake inside and barbied?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trademark Breach?

      Pi is a maths symbol, hard to trademark that.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Trademark Breach?

        Apple is a fruit. Windows are on your house. Focus is something your eyes do.

        However I thought Pi is by design an open spec, so other people could build them if they wanted?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pi is a maths symbol (Pendant Alert!)

        No, π is a maths symbol, Pi is it's name!

        1. Rusty 1
          Stop

          Re: Pi is a maths symbol (Pendant Alert!)

          No, π is a letter in the Greek alphabet. It just happens to be used in maths.

          1. itzman
            Coat

            Re: Pi is a maths symbol (Pendant Alert!)

            no, TT is the Tourist Trophy - an Isle of Man motorbike race.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Headmaster

          Re: Pi is a maths symbol (Pendant Alert!)

          No, π is a maths symbol, Pi is it's [it is] name!

          If you're going to be a pedant, at least learn the meaning of the apostrophe when used with words like 'it'.

          1. Montreal Sean

            Re: Pi is a maths symbol (Pendant Alert!)

            @Stuart Longland

            He never claimed to be a pedant, he claimed to be a pendant.

            :)

      3. Gazman

        Re: Trademark Breach?

        @AC (Pi a maths symbol, hard to trademark that)

        Not necessarily.

        When seeking to register trademarks (trade-marks (Can.), trade marks (UK, Aus., NZ)), the basic question is whether the mark is distinctive (a threshold test including being 'not descriptive') in relation to the goods/services* for which that trademark is applied for (and not just distinctive per se).

        :.

        BICYCLE would be 100% descriptive of bicycles, so 'no go' there.

        But ...

        BICYCLE would be distinctive for medical services (so we would then move on to whether anybody else was using/had registered it).

        [*Strictly speaking, US law distinguishes between trademarks for goods and service marks for services but the substantive differences are not great.]

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Trademark Breach?

          Complicating the matter further is the matter of locale. We all know that different jurisdictions have different rules and a trademark applied and granted in one may not be recognized by another. Also raspberrypi.org has a trademark or word mark on "Raspberry Pi so if someone wanted to come along and call their board "Raspberry Piña Colada", "Raspberry Pinot Noir", "Piberry Colada" or, well you get the idea, it would become a rather arduous and expensive slog to take it through the courts especially for a charity foundation. No the best move is to keep the powder dry and hold your fire until they're really stepping on your toes with names like "Red Raspberry Pi", "Black Raspberry Pi" or "Razzleberry Pi" that are clearly capable of causing confusion.

    2. Jes.e

      Re: Trademark Breach?

      "Bannana Cream Pi"

      But yes, this does look like a trademark incursion.

    3. David Kelly 2

      Re: Trademark Breach?

      I think they are safe with "Banana" but Blueberry, Blackberry, or Apple Pi would have been asking for trouble.

  2. Sammy Smalls

    Dodgy piece of code

    If you couldn't guarantee it's provenience + authenticity, then it was a dodgy piece of code. This isn't a PI. A PI has robust development with specific goal - education. This is a cheap, generic board piggy backing off the PI brand.

    Put my backups on it. Not a chance. Your mileage may vary of course.

  3. I Am Spartacus
    Boffin

    All things come to he who waits ....

    for the Banana Pro.

    "LeMaker finally confirm Pro as the upgraded version of Pi. Pro contains three features to benefit customers: 1, Wi-FI module is integrated on board directly; 2, TF card slot is introduced for the great convenience; 3, GPIO is extended to be compatible with Raspberry Pi B+; and thus it further protects the investment of our customers. "

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      "protects the investment of our customers"

      Because no documentation, software via Dropbox and gdrive, an OS called Bananian which features a giant trademarked Raspberry logo as the wallpaper, and a link to the competition's website which could only be described as passing off are what customers look for when "investing".

      This board wouldn't sell half as much if it weren't for its name and it probably wouldn't get a review here either.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not “plug compatible” in software terms

    "Unfortunately, the RPi and Banana Pi are not “plug compatible” in software terms."

    So the software's not compatible, the hardware's not compatible, and all they have in common is

    3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169

    What would motivate anyone to buy one of these rather than (say) a BeagleThing or similar? BeagleBone Black is only around a tenner more expensive than this Chinese knockoff of indeterminate quality and indeterminate future?

    Just askin', like. Readers need to know.

    1. PNGuinn
      Joke

      Re: not “plug compatible” in software terms

      Ah - so your'e confirming that it's not Intel x86 then.

      BTW - How many Intel engineers it takes to shear a sheep in a vacuum? Enquiring minds need to know.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: not “plug compatible” in software terms

      What would motivate anyone to buy one of these rather than (say) a BeagleThing or similar

      In theory - Beagle same as PI is a 100MBit Ethernet. So if you are looking at 1G which is essential for a decent thin client this will do (if you can find a trusted source of software).

      In practice, 100Mbit is more than sufficient for backup as well as most controller apps. 100Mbit is in excess of 25GB/hour effective backup speeds which is more than sufficient for an SME. Pi's problem for these is not its speed which is lamentable - it is on par with a 2003 Crusoe I have lying around. It is the power on the USB.

      In any case, if you are looking at SATA, GigE (and potentially - legacy inerfaces like VGA) the correct board is the CubieBoard (model 2 or 4). This looks like a bootleg clone of a Cubie by the way with some very dubious software thrown in.

      1. Spoonsinger

        Re: not “plug compatible” in software terms

        Re:- "In theory - Beagle same as PI is a 100MBit Ethernet. So if you are looking at 1G which is essential for a decent thin client this will do (if you can find a trusted source of software)."

        The Beaglebone Black already has an O/S & desktop on board when you get it, so no need to download anything if you don't want to.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: not “plug compatible” in software terms

          @Spoonsinger.

          Again - Beaglebone is _ONLY_ 100MBit. The only SBCs available in quantity with decent "generic" Linux support that are 1G are the various Allwinner clones.

          100MBit t in this day and age is not enough for a decent thin client. The difference between 100Mbit and 1GBIt for any of X, VNC or RDP is staggering. 1G is perfectly usable desktop. Not much worse than the real thing for most day-to-day use. 100Mbit... err.. not really...

          Similarly, the difference between accessing $HOME (for local applications) over 1G is quite significant. In this day and age there are way too many idiotic apps which constantly scribble over a SQLite backend (example - the whole mozilla family). That is lock, read, write, unlock, reading and updating metadata every time. As a result where 100MBit was more than sufficient for a accessing a home directory 10 years ago, it distinctly sucks today.

          So while the beaglebone is a tolerable desktop when taken on its own it sucks royally as a thin client.

          1. Spoonsinger

            Re: not “plug compatible” in software terms

            Good point on the 100mBit thingy - although people these days are spoiled - I remember bla, bla, bla. Anyway I was just going for the 'If you can find a trusted source of software' bit.

  5. Rogue Jedi

    1GHz SD RAM?

    does the Banana Pi include RAM? is that just the speed and you need to popurchase the RAM seperately (I did not see a RAM socket)

    the capacity should be more useful than the speed, or did the author mean 1GB?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1GHz SD RAM?

      ARM SOCs usually have memory built-in.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1GHz SD RAM?

        "ARM SOCs usually have memory built-in."

        Bit of a generalisation there, I'd have said.

        You'd probably have been safer to say systems based on ARM SoCs typically don't come with socketed RAM. Or just say nothing.

        As I understand it from the literature, Raspberry Pies to date have had an SoC with external RAM, soldered in (piggybacking with the SoC to save space).

  6. joeldillon

    Does 'ARM Holdings based GPU' mean Mali?

    1. Volker Hett

      Yes, a Mali 400 GPU. It's Allwinner A20 based just like Cubietruck and Cubieboard 2 or the Olinuxino Boards.

  7. theOtherJT

    Interesting little board. I really wanted to use a rpi for a tiny streaming NAS, but without a SATA port it's not doable, and since the pi keeps it's network socket on the USB bus, external USB disks aren't a great solution if you want to get decent speed.

    I wonder when we'll see a Raspberry Pi 2... I vaguely recall them mentioning that they wanted to do one a while back.

    1. b166er

      Couldn't you do iSCSI?

  8. DropBear Silver badge

    Me, I'm rather partial to the Olimex variants (the "Olinuxinos") - much the same hardware (Allwiner chips), but at least there's a legit store, download links, and some github sources (oh, and some on-board LiPo battery support including charging)...

    1. xj25vm

      And interestingly enough, the A20-Olinuxino-lime is down to £27.96 on Ebay inc. delivery - new! Thanks for the tip! It looks like ARM SBC's with SATA onboard are finally coming home to roost towards the £20 mark. I've been waiting for this for a while.

  9. benjymous

    Colourblind

    Is the complaints about it being "for the colourblind" followed by a complaint about the "green" background (when it's clearly yellow in the screenshots) some sort of attempt at irony?

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Colourblind

      Looks a banana-ish Mustard Colour. Not green

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        Re: Colourblind

        It's the colour of an unripe banana that's been stored badly in a supermarket warehouse.

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Re: Colourblind

      Clearly an example of improved engine green.

      1. PNGuinn
        Thumb Up

        Re: Colourblind

        Reminds me of the days when I still ran legacy software.

        Got so fed up with the regular BSODs that I changed the colours to yellow text on vomit green. Made me feel slightly less sick.

      2. Anna Logg

        Re: Colourblind

        Upvote for the first Stroudley reference on The Reg

    3. harmjschoonhoven
      Boffin

      Re: Colourblind

      Besides color vision deficiencies, which affect some 8% of males, the appreciation of a colour is highly influenced by the surrounding colours. Here the Banana PI background goes astray. Near the triangle the (R,G,B) values are (210,210,0) - i.e. yellow. The brightness decreases in concentric circles without change in chromacity to (152,153,0).

      The lack of colour (chromacity) contrast makes it hard to judge the colour.

  10. lorisarvendu
    Black Helicopters

    Prescient Minecraft User?

    I met a Minecraft user called BananaPi a couple of months ago. I wonder if she had insider knowledge?

    1. Phuq Witt

      Re: Prescient Minecraft User?

      "I met a Minecraft user called BananaPi a couple of months ago. I wonder if she had insider knowledge?"

      I wonder if she was a she.

  11. Simone

    It is a copycat...?

    There is a problem with this board (if not many). It is not Raspberry Pi compatible; this is confirmed by the article. It also does not use the same CPU chip as the RPi so any software that needs the firmware of the RPi will not work, not to miss that the code for the RPi firmware is not available

    The Raspberry Pi Foundation is opposed to this board, pointing out their trademark rules (http://www.raspberrypi.org/trademark-rules/). As the law stands they have to defend their trademark

    Not only that, there are threads on the RPi forum that start with "I can't get XXX working" and end with "I am using a Banana Pi, does this make a difference?". That seems to annoy the regular posters who offer a lot of help. This demonstrates that it is easy to confuse or associate the two. Why didn't they use a different name?

  12. Glen 1 Bronze badge

    Benchmarks?

    I get that the extra CPU grunt is being used to decode things, but for NAS type work, surely the key issue is I/O? If the SATA port is also on the USB2 bus, then you're going to have the exact problem as the Raspi...

    Fortunately a google away puts the combined disk-to-network speed at ~55-60 MB/s read/write, easily out pacing the Raspi's 3-8 MB/s over its shared USB2 bus.

    Source (one of many)

    Looks like a much more appealing proposition when put in this light...

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Benchmarks?

      These are using a completely different SoC than the Raspberry Pi; it has the SATA interface as an integrated peripheral of the SoC, hence the difference in speed.

    2. mafoo

      Re: Benchmarks?

      I orderd one last week as a low power l2tpd server and ill probably chuck arch Linux on it and have it dlna or daap server while I'm at it.

      the raspberry pi's sub host is such a limiting feature of the platform.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Old Used Programmer

    Looking at the board picture and seeing that Allwinner A20 in the middle, plus reading the spec leads me to conclude that this is not a Raspberry Pi imitation (except in name). It's a Cubieboard 2 imitation. Since working with the Cubieboards has many of the same issues (small, fragmented user community, hard to find software, etc.) there is some consistency between those two The reviewer might give a Cubieboard 2 a spin to compare to the Banana Pi.

  15. poopypants

    Clarification

    The Banana Pi can run the following operating systems:

    Raspbian

    Android

    Lubuntu

    Scratch

    Fedora

    ArchLinux

    OpenSuse

    Bananian

    from http://www.bananapi.com.au/software-download/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: download page => malware?

      I followed the link for downloading OpenSuse, and on the 2nd click (still on the lemaker site, on a page filled with GoogleDrive, DropBox, etc links) I got a malware warning from Avast.

      Could obviously be false positive, but I can't remember the last time I saw a malware warning anywhere.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Clarification

      For what values of 'run'. For example how many enable hardware acceleration?

      1. eulampios

        Re: Clarification

        With any of the available distros, one important fact is that they are all GNU/Linux distros, despite all the ARM SoC mess.

        You might find these kernels interesting. The desktop option supports CedarX video decoding. Not sure about Maili/Lima though.

  16. Clive Galway

    "Gigabit Ethernet is also a very welcome edition"

    Edition?

    Surely you mean Addition?

    English FAIL.

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: "Gigabit Ethernet is also a very welcome edition"

      "English FAIL"

      FAIL for you if you think making them feel like shit for a miss-spelling will encourage them to do better.

      1. Anonymous IV

        Re: "Gigabit Ethernet is also a very welcome edition"

        Isn't it ironic that someone should misspell "misspelling" as "miss-spelling"!

        If you wish to be marital-status-neutral, perhaps you should have used "ms-spelling"?

      2. Clive Galway

        Re: "Gigabit Ethernet is also a very welcome edition"

        "Feel like shit"?

        A bit strong.

        More like a bit of shaming.

        El Reg's proof-reading is very sloppy, pretty much every article has typos or grammatical errors of some kind.

        From a publication that would not hesitate to rip the piss out of other organizations for similar transgressions, I call this fair game - how could any self-respecting journalist justify anything less than perfect command of the language they write in on a daily basis?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Gigabit Ethernet is also a very welcome edition"

      Being a basically-decent human being FAIL.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Less is More?

    Doesn't this go against the ethos of the Raspberry Pi?

    Whats next, a 2GB Nvidia card?

    1. LaeMing Silver badge

      Re: Less is More?

      It isn't related to Raspberry Pi.

  18. Chronos Silver badge

    WiFi only on Banana *Pro*

    The original Banana Pi has gigabit Ethernet but no 802.11 on board. The Pro has both, along with an extended R-Pi "compatible" 40 pi GPIO connector. There's also an BPi-R1 router board with a four port switch and space for a 2.5" HD on board.

    GbE tops out around 600mbps in tests here which, although isn't quite as fast as desktop adapters, is still a substantial improvement on 100baseTX. Downside is a dynamic MAC address on the Ethernet, so if you're doing DHCP with static leases you'll need to hardcode a MAC somewhere, either in the fex/script.bin or the OS itself.

    If you don't want the snot green desktop, give Bananian a go. It doesn't make assumptions, just gives you a nice, almost pure Debian install to build upon. Repos are pure Debian armhf, no funny business. Accelerated 2D/GL-ES/video is a bit of a ballache but is doable if you follow the instructions on the sunxi-linux wiki.

    Oh, and as for "against the ethos of the R-Pi" perhaps it is, but you still get dual core ARMv7 with NEON, 1GB of RAM (minus graphics and stream decode) and SATA on *less* power than the original R-Pi B. The B+ has a switching regulator setup rather than the linear setup of the original B, so it a little more frugal and beats the Banana, but it's still only single core 512MB.

    Posted, unsurprisingly, from a Banana Pi :-)

  19. ilmari

    This board seems much the same as every other ARM based board that isnt Raspberry Pi: Much better hw for less or same price, but awful software support.

    On paper, with somewhere around 8 times the compute performance, twice the ram, and vastly superior bulk IO, one would be could crazy to buy raspberry pi. However, not having to build your own operating system makes rpi win.

    Raspberry Pi is in a strange position with regard to future direction. They're more or less stuck with the particular and peculiar Broadcom GPU. Powerhungry GPU designed for set top boxes, with a tiny CPU as coprocessor for displaying the tv guide.. By now there's so much effort put into modifying software to work with the nonstandard drivers and APIs, that switching to another SoC will be starting from scratch. Rpi foundation possibly only entity capable of it, if they can get their users enthusiastic about it.

    1. Andrew Tyler 1

      The Broadcom chip is what sunk the Raspberry Pi from my perspective. I can't imagine it saving so much money as to make the lack of documentation worthwhile considering the Pi is meant for tinkering and education. The TI SOC's on the Beagleboards come with abundant, fairly high quality documentation. Regardless of anything else, that alone is worth the extra $10 for a Beaglebone Black.

      That was a truly tragic choice on the part of the Pi Foundation. I could excuse almost anything else on economic grounds but that.

  20. Paul Hayes 1

    I looked a this a while ago for building a low power NAS. Apparemtly the Sata port is connected to the usb controller so it is no faster than using a usb hard drive. The usb controller is supposed to be a touch better than the rpi but its not enough of a benefit for me compared to the lack of software support.

    its like the 80s all over again. Companies bringing out hardware platforms without realising that without software, they are useless!

    1. Chronos Silver badge

      Re: AHCI controller

      PH1: Apparemtly the Sata port is connected to the usb controller

      No, it isn't.

      [ 1.561275] sw_ahci sw_ahci.0: controller can't do PMP, turning off CAP_PMP

      [ 1.572528] sw_ahci sw_ahci.0: forcing PORTS_IMPL to 0x1

      [ 1.585288] sw_ahci sw_ahci.0: AHCI 0001.0100 32 slots 1 ports 3 Gbps 0x1 impl platform mode

      [ 1.600184] sw_ahci sw_ahci.0: flags: ncq sntf pm led clo only pio slum part ccc

      Incidentally, the controller on the A20 *can* do port multiplication with a hack but it then needs the PM connected all the time - it won't run with just a drive connected without removal of the hack.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there a collective name for Raspberry Pi enthusiasts?

    Pythonists, maybe?

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: Is there a collective name for Raspberry Pi enthusiasts?

      Surely Pi-oneers?

      1. David Pollard

        Re: Is there a collective name for Raspberry Pi enthusiasts?

        Pilgrims?

  22. wx666z

    Luddite

    This does look interesting.. OTOH my Pi does exactly what I bought it for, low power SAMBA server and minidlna server. It works well, wife and I can both stream high quality video to our respective Linux desktops at the same time. It works, why fix it? YMMV. Hell, it even works with Windows Media Server when guests visit...

  23. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Seems to me...

    Seems to me (as a few commenters have commented),the current feature set (SATA port, gigabit ethernet, but not working video accel) makes this sutiable as a nice little server. Looks like the VPU is not supported yet. I wonder if ffmpeg is built with NEON support, that would provide a good speedup.

    1. Chronos Silver badge

      Re: Seems to me...

      Video acceleration is doable, Henry. The 2D accelerated fbturbo driver is a doddle to install. You need UMP and the mali kernel module for 3D OpenGL-ES which is sod-all use on Linux at the moment but a shim layer and a GLU implementation exist to translate a subset of GL functions to GLES. Yes, it's faff, but it is available and is slowly finding its way into distros. The fact that the much more expensive Cubietruck (comparison to the cubieboard2 is wrong since the CB2 only has 100mbps Ethernet) uses the same chipset helps enormously, although the CT has 2GB of memory and a VGA connector.

      There exists an XBMC image with acceleration enabled.

  24. Conundrum1885

    Re. Seems to me...

    Main annoyance on the Pi is a lack of a SATA2 port.

    If this had been included then doubtless sales would have been a lot higher as then any old cheap HDD or SSD could be used instead of an expen$ive USB thumbdrive.

    Also a handy feature would have been an IR emitter and learn mode so the Pi could turn the TV to the correct channel without additional complexity.

  25. aqk
    Pint

    Hey- add a DDR3 memory slot and maybe a PCIe-3 slot and it will be one helluva motherb...uh, I mean a computer!

  26. fnj

    What sets it apart

    The fundamental thing that sets this apart from the Raspberry Pi and Beagle Bone in my eye is the SATA. If you don't need it, then you're not compellingly drawn to this board. But if you want to hook up an HD or an SSD for a specific reason, neither of the others is any good at all.

    All the rest is just details. Yes, the CPU is ARMv7 like the Beagle Bone rather than the archaic Armv6 of the Raspberry Pi.

  27. amacater

    Crucial thing is armhf

    ARM v7 / armhf - so compatible with any Linux distribution on ARM. The Raspberry Pi is an evolutionary dead end with ARM v6 and floating point. For it's intended market - cheap for education and a couple of hobbyists, - ideal. Nobody expected that they'd sell 4 million++ in their wildest dreams, I expect.

    The Banana Pi is reasonable / the Cubietruck is excellent- but the provided software from the manufacturer is not the strong point What mattrers is that the hardware is very capable.

    A Raspberry Pi 2 - with say, full armhf, WiFi, ,well supported video with FLOSS drivers, GigE,, NAND flash AND the Raspberry Pi Foundation behind it -that would be something to behold :) :)

  28. Jon Green
    Stop

    ...and not one penny goes to the Raspberry Pi Foundation

    ...so far as I can determine. So they're "passing off" - particularly since they claim to be selling an updated version of RPi - and ripping off, since the money's not going where it ought, given their (ab)use of trademark and reputation.

    Will not buy. Recommend you don't, either. Stick to dev boards that are at least honestly produced.

  29. RNixon
    Pirate

    I'm waiting for the Banana Jr. 6000 model.

    Oliver Wendell Jones is my hero.

  30. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    At least...

    ...it runs Android!

  31. game0fyou

    Why?

    If the Pi was not enought for people, and you want an arm based alturnative Cubie Boards are already available as alturnatives, The cubietruck features the same processor and feature set, with a mature OS variant, the up coming one to be leased leaves this Banana in dirt as it will have an 8 core arm processor (cubie8).

  32. sinovoipcherry

    BPI-M3 otca core single board computer

    however BPI-M3 otca core single board computer sample has come out.....

    you can contact me for details :D

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