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MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC is In The House

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#226 sicviresco

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 11:00 AM

I just did 15 hours of nearly constant disk i/o testing with the Transflash/microSD port on my Minix and I didn't have any problems with the disk unmounting or becoming unavailable. In total I wrote 810 subs (10GBs total) using exposures of 10s, 60s, and 120s in Sequence Generator Pro using a QHY5III-178C camera.

 

I'm not doubting that some users are having problems, but I've never seen this issue on my Minix (since early 2017 when I first got my Minix). So, YMMV depending upon your sample of Minix (and firmware), the brand of SD card (I generally use Samsung Pro cards), and your particular work load.

 

In the process of this testing I had enabled WiFi on my Acer notebook computer so that I could do remote access to the Minix and that allowed Microsoft to download the latest release of Windows (version 1709, Windows 10 Fall Creators Update) so I decided to update my Acer and should be able to report on any problems that may have caused. The Minix is still running the Windows Anniversary update and I don't want to change that until Minix starts shipping the Fall Creators Update. 

I ran an ASI224MC via SGP all day on the 24th.  Collected 10+ hours of subs of various durations, also with no issues.  Monitored progress at different points from my desktop,  android tablet, corporate laptop (Win7 Pro, SP1) and phone via Windows RDC...no issues.  I'm with you James.  I'm sure there are folks having issues out there, and that is unfortunate. However my confidence level in the stability of my system is quite high.  



#227 james7ca

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 12:05 PM

Well, something does appear to be going on with the Transflash/microSD cards (for some users). Minix even seemed to acknowledge that since they practically endorsed a suggestion on their user support forums to replace the Windows 10 SD card driver with a copy from a Windows 8 system (not a good idea, IMO).

 

In any case, I'm doing more tests today, already have another 3 hours without any problems and by tonight I should have at least 26 hours of disk i/o tests (as well as a number of other sessions and tests done over the last year).

 

Also, to confirm an earlier question about your Windows Pro system. Is it true that you are using Microsoft's Remote Desktop to access the Minix (wirelessly) and that you did NOT need to make any changes to the system or add any third-party utilities to do that? It's my understanding that Microsoft's Remote Desktop is included with Windows Pro systems and thus it should just work out of the box (well, other than turning it on and given any setup for security). 



#228 sicviresco

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Posted 27 December 2017 - 12:50 PM

Well, something does appear to be going on with the Transflash/microSD cards (for some users). Minix even seemed to acknowledge that since they practically endorsed a suggestion on their user support forums to replace the Windows 10 SD card driver with a copy from a Windows 8 system (not a good idea, IMO).

 

In any case, I'm doing more tests today, already have another 3 hours without any problems and by tonight I should have at least 26 hours of disk i/o tests (as well as a number of other sessions and tests done over the last year).

 

Also, to confirm an earlier question about your Windows Pro system. Is it true that you are using Microsoft's Remote Desktop to access the Minix (wirelessly) and that you did NOT need to make any changes to the system or add any third-party utilities to do that? It's my understanding that Microsoft's Remote Desktop is included with Windows Pro systems and thus it should just work out of the box (well, other than turning it on and given any setup for security). 

James,

 

That's correct.  I am using only the native Win RDC on all machines, save the android devices, which use the Microsoft Remote Desktop App (flawlessly).  All wirelessly over my home network.  No third party software.  No special work-arounds or mods. 

 

Just so we can say we really went deep on this, I loaded (from the app store) Win RDC on my company iPhone 6 (although I'd never utilize it...this is just a test).  It also connects flawlessly with the Minix, and I have full functionality.  I just created a new test session in SGP and let it run with the iPhone...easy as pie!

 

I'm no computer guru, by any standard, just enough knowledge to be dangerous...  Given our individual successes across multiple platforms, software versions and gear, it becomes more apparent (to me, anyway) that the folks having issues are likely suffering from some self inflicted maladies.

 

An additional note on microSD cards:  I have two different brand dash cams in my vehicles, both use microSDs...but different brand cards.  If I swap the cards, the cameras get mad and wont read/write to them.  If I leave the manufacturer recommended card in the appropriate camera, the cameras and cards perform flawlessly.  Reviewing forums for the cameras reveals a similar situation as folks (some) have with the Minix.  Some brands of cards just don't play well with some firmware, whatever the hardware might be.  The trick is finding the perfect mate (kinda like life).  Based on your experiences, I purchased a Samsung Class10 card, and it works.  If we opted for a Sandisk or Patriot, etc...who knows.  Even a lower end Samsung card might have issues.  Perhaps Minix should take the lead on the issue, perform their own tests and provide guidance to their customers the brand/class of a recommended card for their units.


Edited by sicviresco, 27 December 2017 - 05:38 PM.


#229 james7ca

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Posted 28 December 2017 - 02:53 AM

I finished another 8 hours of testing (consisting of 740 subs) on the Minix and its Transflash/microSD card slot. I used 10s, 60s, and 240s exposures with a QHY5III-178C under Sequence Generator Pro. All was okay.

 

It also appears as if the update to the Windows Creators release (version 1709) has improved the performance of the wireless display feature that I documented in post #74 (at the below link):

 

  https://www.cloudyni...-3#entry7754612

 

As a review, the wireless display feature is built-in to the Home version of the Windows Anniversary release (and later) and it uses a very simple setup and it does NOT require that you have an existing wireless network, it's basically a point-to-point WiFi connection and it works without any third-party extensions.  It's almost like a version of Microsoft's Remote Desktop, but for the rest of us who don't have Windows Pro or for those who don't want to setup a WiFi network. It doesn't support file sharing but it does provide a remote connection over WiFi to a virtual desktop with full graphics and keyboard/mouse support (and sound). However, it does require that the connecting client is running Windows 10 (so no support for iOS, or Android, or the Mac OS).

 

One thing to note, in the above link I talk about using a keyboard script that will allow the Minix to auto connect to the remote PC. However, I probably didn't make it that clear that you do NOT need to use that script if you keep a keyboard connected to the Minix (just a keyboard, you don't need it connected to a display). With the keyboard you can just type the three key strokes that you need to perform on the Minix when it first boots in order to establish the Wireless Display session (and this is a one-time process, but required after any restart of the Minix). And these keystrokes are not really timing dependent, they just need to be done after the Minix has finished booting to its desktop. Once that is done you can disconnect the keyboard (if you like).

 

[UPDATE]

Another 8 hours of more of tests done with the Minix and its Transflash/microSD card (and no problems, knock on wood). I was even able to image for a few hours last night and the Minix worked flawlessly (while using the Wireless Display feature of Windows for remote WiFi access). However, I did have some problems with Sequence Generator Pro (SGP), but that problem is something that I've seen before even when not using the Minix or remote access. It was the often reported issue of having SGP hang when trying to stop a short exposure from the Focus and Framing tool. It may be related to the camera's driver and I think the newest releases of the drivers and SGP have lessened that issue, but I'm still running software from earlier in the year so that problem bit hard last night (requiring me to force quit SGP on an number of occasions to get out of its endless "downloading" state).

 

Well, that and the fact that SGP is ridiculously slow at saving subs to disk. It's more than just a relatively slow download from the camera, it takes SGP five or six seconds to save a 12MB sub even though I can measure 60 to 70MB per second writes to my Samsung Pro microSD card. It's almost like SGP is buffering its writes in 1 or 2KB segments which is never going to be that fast except on an ultra-high performance SSD.

 

If my analysis is correct (which it may not be, I haven't  seen the source code), then what the programmers at SGP need to do is change the code so that it reads from the camera as fast as possible into a series of DRAM buffers, followed by an aggregation of all the data from that sub into a single image held in DRAM, followed by a single write to disk for the entire file (in my case, the full 12MB). If they were doing that then I suspect it would take less than three seconds to both download the data and save the file (now that process is more like 8 seconds long).

[/UPDATE]


Edited by james7ca, 29 December 2017 - 12:32 AM.

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#230 pnyxxpress

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 08:17 PM

Can one of the usb ports be used to power my Canon 5ti or would a seperate usb hub be needed?


Edited by pnyxxpress, 11 February 2018 - 09:23 AM.


#231 james7ca

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 08:19 PM

Can one of the usb ports be used to power my Canon 5ti or would a seperate usb hub be needed?

Well, the UBS ports on the Minix are powered but I don't know what kind of requirements are needed for the Canon.

 

In any case, the Minix has no problems powering my ZWO cameras and a filter wheel.


Edited by james7ca, 11 February 2018 - 08:21 PM.

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#232 ccs_hello

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 09:29 PM

Canon 5ti or any DSLR/all brands are not powered directly by USB.

Some models you can charge the internal battery thru USB, but in this case, camera is turned off.



#233 dciobota

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 09:39 AM

Something like this might work:

https://www.amazon.c...=A33PMTTWR7KAJH

 

There are also versions that connect to two usb ports, in case one port doesn't provide enough power.



#234 mxcoppell

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Posted 14 September 2018 - 03:56 PM

All, I am actually looking for the upgrade options from Minix NEO Z83-4. 

 

The machine is still too slow as OTA sit-on-top computer. For example, with my SGPro sequence working with ASI1600mm-Pro.

 

- Auto Focusing (Lum filter)

- Plate Solving (Lum filter)

- Ha (refocus with Ha)

- O3 (refocus with O3)

- S2 (refocus with S2)

- Meridian Flip (refocus, platesolve)

- Image History (Star analysis, very slow)

- Focusing frames download (8MB each, bin2x2)

- PlateSolving frames download (8MB each, bin2x2)

- Light frames download (32MB each, bin1x1)

 

With all the tasks above in the sequence, I can only get 4.5 hours of data out of 7 hours session time. bow.gif

 

What I am looking for is:

- Much faster USB transfer speed (preferable USB-C)

- Better CPU performance for SGP Image History, HFR calculation etc.

- Power source: DC 12V

 

Anybody using a better machine than the Z83-4? Could it be Minix N42C-4 (Intel N4200 processor with USB-C).

 

Thanks in advance!

-Min 



#235 Salacious B Crumb

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Posted 14 September 2018 - 09:50 PM

I agree, as much as I like my Minix on top of the OTA, I'm getting tired of waiting. Hence the reason why I was asking the current download times for the ZWO native driver (post #11);

 

https://www.cloudyni...e/#entry8811116

 

I would like to keep the computer where it is now so I look forward to see what people recommend and a what kind of dent would a new computer make to my wallet.

 

 

- Mikko



#236 mxcoppell

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Posted 14 September 2018 - 10:30 PM

Mikko,

 

For my case, I think multiple factors are giving impact to this:

- USB 3.0 Stick speed (I am not using that precious 32GB built-in eMMC, and it's as slow as the external stick)

- CPU speed (maybe a little, but still valid).

 

The new N42C-4 with a "true" SSD installed can reach write speed of 400MB/s - meaning only cost a fraction of a second to store my 32MB bin1x1 file from ASI1600.

 

-Min



#237 james7ca

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Posted 14 September 2018 - 11:05 PM

Mikko,

 

For my case, I think multiple factors are giving impact to this:

- USB 3.0 Stick speed (I am not using that precious 32GB built-in eMMC, and it's as slow as the external stick)

- CPU speed (maybe a little, but still valid).

 

The new N42C-4 with a "true" SSD installed can reach write speed of 400MB/s - meaning only cost a fraction of a second to store my 32MB bin1x1 file from ASI1600.

 

-Min

A faster disk system will help, but if you are using Sequence Generator Pro (SGP) you will never get that kind of throughput to the disk. SGP is kind of slow to write data to disk, more likely it will take one or two seconds to write each file to disk (even to a good SSD). In fact, I use "fast" Samsung Pro micro SD cards on my Minix and the writes take more than four seconds for a 12MB sub, which isn't bad but the disk itself can run at about 60MB/s (on the Minix, maybe 80MB/s on a standard PC) which should allow a sub to be written in less than one second.

 

In any case, a "fast" micro SD card will probably be faster than just any given USB3 memory stick (thumb drive). Many of the thumb drives have write speeds a lot lower than a Samsung Pro micro SD card (the advertised read speeds on thumb drives can look pretty good, but writes can be significantly slower).

 

Also, you may want to review some of my comments in this thread about disk i/o on the Minix, there is more involved than just the speed of the storage system.



#238 mxcoppell

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Posted 14 September 2018 - 11:15 PM

Thanks James, 

 

Are you using the Samsung Pro Micro SD card on Z83-4 or the new 4200 model?



#239 james7ca

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 12:03 AM

Thanks James, 

 

Are you using the Samsung Pro Micro SD card on Z83-4 or the new 4200 model?

I can't seem to find the Samsung Pro cards any longer. Looks like they may be been discontinued, either customers wouldn't pay the slight extra premium or they had problems with the design. However, I recently purchased a Samsung EVO Select 64GB card from Amazon ($18) which benchmarks on my Core i3 notebook computer at around 60MB/s for writes, about 90MB/s on reads. However, I haven't tried it yet on my Minix.

 

As for my next mini PC, I'm still looking at the new Gemini Lake models. I'm probably going to get the one based upon the N4100 processor which has performance similar to the "old" N4200.

 

In any case, it sounds like you may want something even faster than the N4100/N4200. You can get fanless, Core i3 based mini PCs from manufacturers like Zotac that aren't wildly expensive and that come in small enclosures (same size as the N4100/N4200 based products). Something like the following:

 

  http://a.co/d/i7YMjDU


Edited by james7ca, 15 September 2018 - 12:06 AM.


#240 Salacious B Crumb

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 11:02 AM

So would a Samsung Pro SD card be faster than this ScanDisk flash drive I'm using now? Like said, I'm experiencing almost 30 sec breaks between frames with downloading, star analyzing, etc.

 

64Pro.JPG

 

USB3.JPG

 

 

- Mikko



#241 mxcoppell

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 11:06 AM

James,

 

There are many options for the Samsung Pro SDXC and SDHC cards on Amazon. Not sure if those are what you mentioned.

 

The ZBOX looks pretty big. I actually prefer the N4100 based Beelink S2. Still looking for the mounting options to mount it on top of my WO GT-81.

 

Thanks,

-Min



#242 mxcoppell

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 11:08 AM

So would a Samsung Pro SD card be faster than this ScanDisk flash drive I'm using now? Like said, I'm experiencing almost 30 sec breaks between frames with downloading, star analyzing, etc.

That's what I got as well. frown.gif

 

Especially when I do the session in my class-9 backyard - I only do 150s for Ha and 100s for O3 per sub. The overhead is getting really big there.

I am thinking if switching to N4100 + SSD, the 30 seconds might become 8 seconds? I will take 8 seconds!


Edited by mxcoppell, 15 September 2018 - 11:09 AM.


#243 Salacious B Crumb

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 11:11 AM

I can live with narrowband sessions as I'm taking 10 min subs but these download times are a killer for LRGB imaging.

 

 

- Mikko



#244 james7ca

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Posted 15 September 2018 - 06:19 PM

I’d be careful about any memory card that is NOT sold directly by Amazon or another well-known source. Right now Beach Camera seems to be selling the Samsung Pro+ card at a good price and that seller should be okay, but other “unknown” third parties could be selling counterfeits (there are lots of buyer comments about this problem).

As for the Zotac ZBOX “looks pretty big,” yes, it is somewhat larger than the smallest mini PCs, but not really by that much. Look at the spreadsheet that I posted in the “A New Champion Processor For Mini PCs” thread, that has the actual dimensions for several of these small PCs.

 

Here is the link:

 

  https://www.cloudyni...s/#entry8693689


Edited by james7ca, 15 September 2018 - 07:46 PM.


#245 mxcoppell

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Posted 05 October 2018 - 08:09 AM

Just to report back:

 

Finally I gave up the power-saving CPU series and bought a 8550U/16GB/256GB SSD fanless (Kingdel). The machine will not be mounted on top of OTA - replaced by an USB 3.0 hub. Only one USB 3.0 cable runs from the top of the OTA to the fanless PC. Pretty clean.

 

This really, really cuts down the overheads with the SGP session:

- 32MB bin1x1 sub download < 1s

- Star Analysis < 3s

- AF

- PlateSolve (very comfortably with ANSVR and the full index catalog).

 

Yes, it's a power hog - 12V/5A max. But most of the time I can find a powered site or at backyard. For <475 bucks it's a worthy move.



#246 cuivienor

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 06:34 AM

Resurrecting this thread - I bought the Minix (was only 100 USD!) but hadn't seen this thread, and am having issues with my Samsung U3 128GB MicroSD card as well. However, I've noticed that the thing disconnected when I was using PixInsight at the same time as SGP and PHD2 (to check the downloaded images). And the error I see on the peripheral is a "Not enough power" type of error.

 

So my guess is that the Minix simply runs out of power when its CPU is stressed too much (using more power) and if the SD card is accessed at the same time, it becomes a victim of the power shortage. Right now I'm working around this by not connecting via TeamViewer as much as possible, and definitely not using any other programs than SGP and PHD2 in parallel. I've also enabled the email alerts so I know if I need to connect to the Minix and check what is happening.

 

Otherwise, I like that little computer - it is slow to download images and slow to do auto-focus, but it isn't sacrificing too much time when doing narrowband.




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