Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

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ChrisB
Posts: 4
Joined: 16 Aug 2019, 19:28

Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by ChrisB » 16 Aug 2019, 19:46

I have just bought a new Bubba 3 from Rodeus Technologies and want to get an SSD for it.

I have read a few posts in the forums which say that there are some/many SSDs which are not compatible
with the B3 as U-Boot doesn't recognize them and therefore you have to boot from a USB stick with a Linux kernel on it to be able to use them.

Can someone please advise on what SSDs would be good bets for this. I see that SSDs which use the Silicon Motion controller are not compatible. Would a Kingston SSD which uses a Marvell 88SS1074 controller or a Samsung 860 EVO SSD which uses a Samsung MJX controller be compatible ?

Any advice or help which you can give me would be useful as I have only used a Bubba 2 with a Samsung HDD previously.
Thank you
Chris

fredrikj
Posts: 30
Joined: 27 Jul 2011, 12:31

Re: Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by fredrikj » 18 Aug 2019, 03:26

I have used two different generations of Intel SSD in my b3 without any problems. I currently use a Intel DC S3500, which is a bit on the pricey side, but I wanted a drive with power loss protection.

Like you, when I search the forum I see no clear pattern of which SSD:s works or not. There's at least one mention of a user using a Samsung SSD. Can you buy and try? The 850 EVO might just work.

It would be nice to have the specifics of the compatibility issue with u-boot and SSD:s identified and documented. My guess is that it's a matter of immature non-compliant hardware in some SSD:s from the early era of drives. But that's just speculation.

Gordon
Posts: 1349
Joined: 10 Aug 2011, 03:18

Re: Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by Gordon » 18 Aug 2019, 05:42

What you need to realize is that the u-boot used in the B3 is from 2010 (June 29). This means that any hardware requiring newer drivers will not be supported. According to Johannes the EVO 840 series was supported, but Sakaki- mentioned some four years back that she owned a Samsung SSD that was not recognized by 2010.06. I fear you'll need to consider the possibility that no SSD currently available in stores will be bootable with the B3, although it may be possible that some professional series SSDs that will obviously cost you top dollar is specifically created to work with legacy devices that are from the same era.

Honestly it's not that big a deal to let the B3 run the (first) kernel from USB and then run from the SSD. With the current Arch, Gentoo and Bubbagen images using an interstitial kernel to kexec into the actual kernel with customizable command line options this has even become extremely simple. There's just one catch: you really need to make u-boot look at the USB port during boot without having to press the button on the back to enter programming mode.

ChrisB
Posts: 4
Joined: 16 Aug 2019, 19:28

Re: Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by ChrisB » 18 Aug 2019, 17:57

Thank you for your speedy replies - it definitely gives me a new perspective on things. I'm not too concerned with having to use a USB key to boot the Bubba 3 but would like to try and use it with an SSD since there are now 1TB ones available in a reasonable price bracket. I do have an old Samsung EVO 840 or maybe 850 which I could test first maybe but I think I'll probably just go ahead and get one or two to try out as i have another PC which could also do with an upgrade so it would give me a couple of options.

Thanks both for your suggestions on ones which you know have worked in the past and other insights. I appreciate also that the u-boot version is fixed at the time that the hardware was made and I guess that would be an extreme task to try and upgrade that - firmware maybe ?

I will let you know how I get on when I receive the Bubba 3 and an SSD drive to try with it. I'm sure that I will need some help from you Gordon to set up u-boot so that it looks at the USB port first during the boot process. Is there already a guide / howto on the forum to explain how this is done please ? I have seen a few mentions of using a USB stick and interrupting the boot process to amend the u-boot configuration but I'm not sure if these were for general use cases or specific issues.

Gordon
Posts: 1349
Joined: 10 Aug 2011, 03:18

Re: Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by Gordon » 19 Aug 2019, 05:10

Hi Chris,

What I found was that changing u-boot environment variables from userspace doesn't actually work. That is, at some point I did manage to get it to to do what I wanted but it looked ugly and I kind of expected the hack to start failing at some point. So I ended up doing what I didn't want to do at first and that was create a serial console connection.

First thing to do is to disassemble the unit. Don't worry, you'll need to do this anyway to install the SSD [2]. The unit comes with a small phillips head screwdriver to remove the two white encircled screws on the back after which you can pull out the disk tray from the front. You need an additional torx 10 screwdriver to remove the two screws in the upper right and lower left corner. This will allow the back plate to be taken off. Beware that if you got the Wifi version that the antenna wires do not have a lot of slack, so don't yank it off! You can then pull the main board out from the back.

Reference the Wiki [1] for creating the serial connection and next this post [2] for mounting the SSD to the mainboard. You may like to verify that the serial console is working before you reassemble the unit, at which time you should see the following:

Code: Select all

U-Boot 2010.06 (Jun 10 2011 - 09:06:51)
BUBBA|3

SoC:   Kirkwood 88F6281_A0
DRAM:  512 MiB
In:    serial
Out:   serial
Err:   serial
Device not ready on port: 0
Failed to wait for completion on port 0
ATA operation timed out
Failed to wait for completion on port 0
ATA operation timed out
Failed to wait for completion on port 0
ATA operation timed out
Net:   egiga0, egiga1
88E1116 Initializing on egiga0 @08 done
88E1116 Initializing on egiga1 @18 done
Hit any key to stop autoboot:  0
The "ATA operation time outs" are caused by the unsupported SSD as reported in this thread [3] and you may be interested in this reference [4] that is mentioned in there [3] as well and identifies a nasty bug that explains why you can't change the u-boot environment from userspace.

Press any key anywhere before that line where it instructs you to do so is shown to drop into the interactive console of u-boot. To boot from usb first you need to change the value of bootalt1 to read as follows:

Code: Select all

bootalt1=run usbboot || run sataboot || reset
Use 'setenv' and 'saveenv' commands twice(!) [3][4] in succession to change this value. Note that 'usbboot' is already defined in the u-boot environment and requires the stick to be formatted as ext2. Should you wish to keep the stick as FAT/DOS formatted you can also change the value of 'usbboot' to use 'fatload' instead of 'ext2load'.

[1] http://wiki.excito.com/w/index.php/Seri ... cess_on_B3
[2] http://forum.excito.com/viewtopic.php?f ... 665#p25665
[3] http://forum.excito.com/viewtopic.php?f ... 76&p=27187
[4] http://forum.excito.com/viewtopic.php?f ... 59&p=19832

ChrisB
Posts: 4
Joined: 16 Aug 2019, 19:28

Re: Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by ChrisB » 19 Aug 2019, 18:38

Hi Gordon

Thanks for your very detailed instructions on how to amend the u-boot configuration so that the B3 unit will look at the USB port first for a boot drive.

A few things occur to me here. Firstly, I am a computer programmer more than an electronics guru so I've always steered clear of soldering wherever possible - especially anything really fiddly with lots of pins which are very close together. This doesn't look too bad although I'd have to be confident that I could see the required pins before attempting it and I'd probably also want to solder on some pin headers so that the wires/pins can just be pushed in and the whole cable removed again after the job is finished.

Looking at the instructions for setting up serial console access it also looks like you don't have to have any power to the B3 mainboard while you are connecting the board to your PC with the TTL-232RG-VREG3V3-WE cable to a USB port. Have I got that right ?

And lastly I assume that if you are booting from a USB drive that the USB drive has to remain connected to the B3 unit all the time even after the initial boot process has completed, or can that also be amended so that the running kernel is at that point on the SSD and the USB kernel is like the init ramdisk kernel image in a normal Linux boot setup and can be removed maybe ? If not then its important to use a tiny (physical size) USB drive so that it doesn't get in the way.

Apologies for all the questions but just wanting to make sure I understand various elements before doing all this !

Thanks for your expert guidance.

Gordon
Posts: 1349
Joined: 10 Aug 2011, 03:18

Re: Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by Gordon » 20 Aug 2019, 04:53

I get that. I like to have the cable detachable as well, particularly because I have multiple units. The points indicated in the wiki are not suited for positioning headers though. There are however in fact three different places on the board where you can create a serial connection, apparently depending on your board's revision. More info here

The board does need to be powered. You are just connecting read, write and ground here to allow your PC to act as a dumb terminal. If your PC is Windows I recommend using PuTTy. On my Linux PC I use minicom.

The kernel is actually completely loaded in memory. Most distros will in fact have the boot partition that contains the kernel image unmounted as the system is running. Of course if you detach the USB stick that means you will need physical access to the B3 to be able to boot it again, e.g. after a power failure. If that's okay with you there is in fact no real reason to do any soldering because then you can also start the unit in maintenance mode.

I'll try to explain. Below is the content of the boot partition of the current release of bubbagen:

Code: Select all

  boot/
      / System.map
      / config
      / uImage
  firmware/
          / kirkwood-b3-green.dtb
          / kirkwood-b3-purple.dtb
          / kirkwood-b3.dtb
  Module.symvers-4.19.52-gentoo-b3
  System.map-4.19.52-gentoo-b3
  boot.ini
  config-4.19.52-gentoo-b3
  vmlinuz-4.19.52-gentoo-b3
Something similar can be seen on the arch and gentoo releases for the B3. When you boot the B3 normally the u-boot will load [sata 0:1]boot/uImage which in this case contains a small ramdisk file system containing a script that mounts [sata 0:1], reads boot.ini for additional parameters like location of root partition and then boots into the actual kernel (vmlinuz-4.19.52-gentoo-b3).

All that needs to go onto the USB stick here is the 'boot' folder containing uImage and here's the fun part: if you rename the folder to become 'install' and rename uImage to become 'install.itb' it will do the exact same thing if you boot the B3 in maintenance mode (press the button on the back while connecting power).

ChrisB
Posts: 4
Joined: 16 Aug 2019, 19:28

Re: Excito Bubba 3 - compatible SSDs ?

Post by ChrisB » 13 Sep 2019, 20:27

I received my Bubba 3 this week and bought a Samsung V-NAND SSD 860 QVO (2TB) to use with it. This SSD uses the Samsung MJX controller as do most / all of Samsung's current SSD models.

This evening I installed the SSD, assembled the B3 unit and installed the software supplied on the USB stick (also purchased from Rodeus Technologies) and it all went very smoothly. I logged in to the B3 server on my network set up the initial configuration and a user for general use etc. I can't believe how easy it all was !
Also the board has a screw hole in exactly the right place - yes just one hole - to hold the SSD in place, but it does the job well.

Prior to assembling the B3 I tried to update the SSD firmware with the drive in an external enclosure attached to a Windows 10 PC using Samsungs Magician software but it didn't recognize the SSD drive over USB so this wasn't possible. I may try to update it now its installed in the B3 but I expect that it wont be too straightforward.

Also the initial software is a very old build of course - Kernel 2.6.24 I think so I must have a look at updating that sometime too.

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