Discover more from Random Wire℠
AllStar Node on Tiny PC: Part 2
Installing the Debian AllStarLink image file and configuring the PC
The Tiny PC
I went with an Amazon purchase described as:
I described the upgrades I made to it in the first AllStar Node on Tiny PC post. Summary: I added a lot of RAM and installed a 500 Gb M.2 NVMe drive. I picked this particular platform because of the processor, the ability to install an NVMe drive, and price.
You can probably guess my long-term plan when you see my short stack of tiny PCs!
Eventually, I envision a collection of several tiny PCs for experimentation and for a few dedicated purposes. Three or four of these little units will be about the size of a small bookshelf stereo system.
Booted only to Windows
Out of the box, the tiny PC would only boot to Windows. It would not boot to a USB thumb drive or to the new NVMe drive. Next, I went into the BIOS to see the boot order. (To get to the BIOS, start by rebooting the computer. What I do is repeatedly press the Enter key during bootup until a screen pops up that gives me the option to press F1 to enter the BIOS.) I made two changes in the BIOS: (1) allowed boot from legacy systems, and (2) changed the boot order, putting USB first, NVMe second, and the existing SATA drive (where Windows is installed) third.
Installed the Debian-based AllStarLink package
Installing the Debian AllStarLink (ASL) package to the NVMe drive means I left the Windows 10 Pro installation on the SSD drive completely intact. It also means that to boot into Windows, I’ll need to twiddle with the BIOS each time. That’s acceptable to me because I don’t expect to be running Windows on this machine very often.
The installation of the ASL package took a while. I accepted default choices for disk partitioning, making sure that the new operating system would be installed on the NVMe drive and not on the SSD drive. Once the installation was complete, the system rebooted and presented the login screen:
Set up ASL and updated software
Once Debian was installed, I logged in with the username and password already included in the ISO. From the command line in a terminal window, “asl-menu” brings up the ASL setup window. I went through the setup prompts until completing the DHCP network choice, then rebooted the machine.
After the reboot, I completed the configuration of ASL by starting “asl-menu” again and selecting the second choice on the menu. Then I rebooted the machine.
At that point, I opened the terminal and ran update and upgrade commands:
sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade
Then I rebooted the machine again.
I installed the GNOME desktop since I’ll often be running this machine connected to a monitor. Installation was through the terminal:
sudo tasksel install desktop gnome-desktop
There were a lot of files that took quite a while to download and install. After that, I instructed the machine to boot into the desktop environment:
sudo systemctl set-default graphical.target
I tested ASL by opening a terminal window and starting “asl-menu” and was pleased to find that it still worked.
Can I still log into Windows? Tested that, and yes, I can still run Windows. By having the two operating systems on separate drives, each operating system is blind to the existence of the other system. I am hoping this helps me avoid some issues I’ve had in the past with dual-boot machines.
Got another node number
I applied for another node number from AllStarLink.org and was given 58841. The “tiny node” is now node 58841.
Tiny screen for the tiny PC
For $55, I picked up a 7-inch screen for the tiny PC:
The capacitive touch does work. Even though the backlight peeks through at the base of the screen, that’s because the bezel has a bit of a gap. I don’t think it will bother me enough to try to block the light. The four tiny screws in the package for securing the bezel to the backplate were too short for the threads to engage. Fortunately, I had some extra screws in a pill bottle that worked fine.
One cautionary note: the display has a single HDMI port and the tiny PC has two DisplayPorts instead of HDMI ports. I have a DP-to-HDMI cable that worked perfectly.
Even though the 1024-pixels-wide screen is small, it is sharp enough to be readable. Eventually, I want to put the whole package in a portable box, and the screen will be a big help in terms of usability. By then, I will probably have ditched the tiny PC in favor of a much smaller and lighter single-board computer.
To access the tiny node, I can also use PuTTY from my Windows machine on my home network. That gives me command line access to the tiny node.
In keeping with the theme of some tiny components, I also picked up a small keyboard. Rather than use a Bluetooth board, I opted for a USB keyboard:
This little keyboard is slightly less than 12-inches wide. I find it surprisingly comfortable to type with.
Checked Supermon and installed AllScan
I made sure that Supermon was running properly. I did not upgrade Supermon from the installation package as I plan to use AllScan for controlling the node.
As I’ve noted before, I find that AllScan provides a very easy interface for connecting to other nodes. I installed the latest version with much difficulty. Discussion of AllScan and a few screenshots are available in my Intro to AllStar post.
Part 3 of this series is going to be about interfacing a microphone to the system. That is likely going to be the most difficult aspect of this entire project. While Windows supports a wide range of microphones, the Debian ASL package is much more limited.
What I want to do is interface an Alinco EMS-57 speaker-microphone to the tiny node. To do that, I will have to pass signals through an adapter. That means generating some solder smoke! More on this phase as I get to it in the next few weeks!