Hey there the mighty maker! Last week I bought an “Orange Pi PC Plus” for 20$ from aliexpress, and I have to admit it was a little bit challenging setting it up properly. But don’t be afraid to purchase one of these cheap yet powerful SoC’s. I will show the way so you won’t have to give in hours of “How the heck will this work?”.

1st Important Note : The official website (orangepi.org) is full of down links and outdated stuff. The manufacturers clearly don’t support the software enough like it was advertised.

I have tried several Linux distributions and the one that worked best for me was Armbian. You can download the image from this page, finding your own Orange Pi model. Keep in mind that if you want a graphical interface you should download the Desktop Version, if you just need terminal than Server Version is there too. Don’t forget to uncompress your download.

If you connect the board to a monitor and boot it up you will see that it comes with Android 4.4 installed to the flash storage. But we wanna use this board as a Raspberry Pi, so we will just install our Armbian image with an SD Card bigger than 4GB. (Maybe less is enough?)

Because I am on a Mac, I will use the UNIX tool “dd” to write the Armbian image to my SD card. You can read this page to figure out this step for every OS.

When your bootable SD card is ready, insert it in and power the board. First boot takes around 3 minutes then it reboots and you will have to wait another one minute to login. This delay exists because system updates package list and creates 128Mb emergency SWAP on the SD card.

After you boot up Armbian, you can login with username root and password 1234. You will need to change the root password and create a new user which you will use from now on.

Once you are logged in, you should run some commands:

sudo apt-get install lightdm

If you get errors when trying to install “lightdm”, you should first do:

sudo apt-get purge lightdm

Then reboot, then try to install “lightdm” again.

If you want you can keep booting Armbian from the SD card, but for a faster and smoother experience, I also installed Armbian on my board’s 8GB flash storage.

To install Armbian on your eMMC, you need to run:

sudo nand-sata-install

Here is a note for this process from Armbian:

On Allwinner devices after switching to boot from NAND or eMMC clearing the boot loader signature on the SD card is recommended: dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/mmcblkN bs=1024 seek=8 count=1 (replace /dev/mmcblkN with the correct device node – in case you run this directly after nand-sata-install without a reboot in between then it’s /dev/mmcblk0). When booting from eMMC to get SD cards auto-detected on Allwinner legacy images please consider changing mmc0‘s sdc_detmode from 3 to 1 in the board’s fex file (see here for details).

Aaand that’s it, you have a working Linux machine for just 20$! On my next post I will cover setting up WiFi, WiringPi C library and WiringPi-Python wrapper-library to start playing with those GPIO pins. Leave a comment below!