[Freedombox-discuss] Help getting hardware in EU

Jonas Smedegaard jonas at jones.dk
Sun Feb 4 13:24:13 UTC 2018

Quoting Kruffalon (2018-02-03 12:04:19)
> I've been following the development of freedombox for a few years and 
> now I want to get started using one.
> I understand I'm not the target audience for fbx just yet, but I 
> really want to give it a try as I think it's an amazing project and 
> idea.
> I'm fairly intimidated by purchasing hardware since I don't have the 
> knowledge (or confidence) to get it right or the money to make big 
> mistakes.
> So I'm asking you for help to order a set of hardware (including all 
> the necessary cables, a box and a libre wifi-thingy) from one provider 
> within the EU to just assemble and then I can get started.
> I think olimex.com looks good but if you have other suggestions I'm up 
> for that.
> I've been looking at the A20-OLinuXino-Lime2 and -MICRO (I don't 
> understand what's different in the two models) since they seem to be 
> the most libre options and very cheap too.


In my opinion the A20-OLinuXino-Lime2 is the best choice for Freedombox 
currently - outside of the EU as well.

Both LIME2 and MICRO supports externally connected SATA disk, but only 
the MICRO has the option of a casing with space inside for a disk (but 
see "Storage" below why I recommend *against* that).

The MICRO board is an older design targeted more for tinker people as it 
has more connectors, e.g. VGA and audio. Beware that default Debian 
install sends console output to serial port - redirecting to VGA or HDMI 
requires tinkering with the system setup (I don't know if the "official" 
Freedombox images custom-applies such tinkering already, as I generate 
images with Boxer - some of my images are at https://box.redpill.dk/ ).

I generally recommend the original A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 variant.  You 
might consider the -e4GB variant - but again beware that may involve a 
bit of tinkering to make use of the eMMC storage.  (I intend to make 
Boxer-based images for the -e4GB variant soon - my board should arrive 
within a week).

Do *not* waste money on -n4GB or -n8GB variants: NAND storage is not 
supported in mainline bootloader or Linux kernel, and even if/when it 
becomes supported that (like eMMC above) requires a bit of tinkering to 
make use of.


I recommend to *not* buy SDcards at Olimex.  I instead buy from a 
general online computer shop, and follow the recommendations from 
Armbian for which SD cards are currently of best quality: 

If curious, here are some details on the work leading to Armbian's 

Personally I prefer (for systems where SDcard is not adequate) to use a 
separately cased and powered external harddisk, as I then limit the 
heating of the board and in case system freezes there is slight chance 
that buffers internally to the disk gets flushed properly (and it allows 
me to use 3.5" disks that I have lying around anyway, which I also - 
possibly wrongly - imagine is more sturdy compared to 2.5" disks).

If you want to use an external harddisk and have it powered from the 
box, then make sure to use one that starts gently without an initial 
power spike.  Simple way is to buy the disk sold at Olimex - I prefer 
however to shop disks at bigger online shops with more options. For 
conventional rotational disks you likely want to look for the "green" 
variants which rotates slower (also having the likely benefit of making 
a lower pitch more tolerable sound when they get older).


You can feed power through USB, but that is *not* recommended, since the 
board can draw more power than defined in USB 2.0 spec (and you 
therefore need to rely on your power supply violating the spec).

If you don't have a pile of old 5V power supplies piled up at home 
already, then I suggest buy one of those sold by Olimex: 


If you want to use an external harddrive, then you need a SATA cable.  
Beware that it is regular SATA (not eSATA which is officially what 
should be offered for out-of-the-box scenarios).  Personally I use 
separately boxed harddisk and a special SATA-to-eSATA cable (bought from 
different supplier than Olimex).

If you want to use an external harddrive with power supplied from the 
board, then you will want to buy the special SATA+power cable from 
Olimex (but see "Storage" above for why I avoid such setup): 

For regular use of Freedombox you need no special cables.  If however 
you want to be able to get console access in case the system misbehaves, 
you should buy the special serial cable at Olimex (or tinker with 
creating such cable e.g. from a scrap Nokia data cable): 


You might consider buy a battery at Olimex.  It should be supported with 
no custom tinkering (I have a battery lying around but haven't played 
with it yet).


For LIME2 your choice is only which color :-)

For MICRO cases exist with and without extra space for a harddrive (but 
see "Storage" above why I recommend *against* that).


I recommend *against* buying wifi equipment at Olimex: They are not 
specifically tested for FSF RYF compliance (i.e. work reasonably with 
soldered-on firmware, without loading firmware at runtime).  Try one of 
the RYF compliant online shops, or maybe try save a few bucks (but with 
higher risk of failing) by shopping similar devices at general online 
computer shops.

 - Jonas

 * Jonas Smedegaard - idealist & Internet-arkitekt
 * Tlf.: +45 40843136  Website: http://dr.jones.dk/

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