gde061
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:24 am

My experience with Pixel x-86

Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:28 am

I have Pixel-x86 running off the live USB (made with Unetbootin -- Startup Disk Creator complained about an invalid version string or something... moving along) and it is doing a decent enough job on the 15+ year old ThinkCentre A21 that I picked up years ago for parts for $5 (add the cost of a new hard drive and the total setup cost me about $50). This is a great recycling opportunity.

I am helping with setting up a Pi in my daughters school - the biggest problem was that they don't have monitors with HDMI. The focus is on using the Pi as an extension of hour-of-code activities with things like Scratch and Minecraft Pi. The potential for repurposing old x86 machines to serve this function is huge. Even the experience for them to install an operating system at home - an experience that has become highly mediated - will let them appreciate how hardware and software work together.

As for some tips: to get it to run from the USB, you have to go into the IBM BIOS and set the startup sequence so that HD1 is ahead of HD0. The USB drive is not assigned to the 'removable media' category as you might expect - that is appreantly for the old floppy disk drive (very cool to still show that to kids. I have no idea where to get them now though.)

I read in the announcement that the possibility of getting the x86 version of pixel to 'install' might be considered in future. I am going to post separately on that point, but I mention it here as well: having to run off a USB or DVD in a school setting means someone has to constantly make sure the OS doesn't take a walk. Also it means deploying a setting where the budget is shrinking and Google Education is getting all the attention, I have to do stuff under the radar out of my own pocket. I think I could scrounge up donations of ancient x86 machines pretty readily (although the desktops are becoming harder to come by as pretty much everybody above a secretary now gets a laptop... and those tend to die from other problems - screens principally - long before the hardware is 'give away for $5' obsolete.) However, if I had to pay out of pocket for each student to get even an 8GB flash drive... well, it's not going to happen. (Just like they all have to share the same SD card on the pi).

fruitoftheloom
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Location: Delightful Dorset

Re: My experience with Pixel x-86

Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:48 am

Maybe adding to existing Post would keep information in one place?

viewtopic.php?f=63&t=168852
Rather than negativity think outside the box !
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gde061
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:24 am

Re: My experience with Pixel x-86

Mon Jan 30, 2017 2:47 am

... should add for sake of others experimenting that the lack of a GPU in the above mentioned ThinkCentre means that it dies when you try to launch Python games.

willieaames
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2016 6:14 am

Re: My experience with Pixel x-86

Mon Jan 30, 2017 10:25 am

I can't grok LXDE. What is the point of it? By the time you add in the missing functionality it's resource usage and complexity is similar to xFce. Without that functionality you may as well just use Openbox for minimal resources and less complexity.

jamesh
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
Raspberry Pi Engineer & Forum Moderator
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Re: My experience with Pixel x-86

Mon Jan 30, 2017 10:40 am

willieaames wrote:I can't grok LXDE. What is the point of it? By the time you add in the missing functionality it's resource usage and complexity is similar to xFce. Without that functionality you may as well just use Openbox for minimal resources and less complexity.
In the same way, what's the point of XFCE? Once you remove excess functionality, it's resource usage and footprint are the same as LXDE.

They are simply different ways of presenting usability to the end user.
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ejolson
Posts: 5380
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:47 am

Re: My experience with Pixel x-86

Tue Jan 31, 2017 2:27 am

gde061 wrote:I think I could scrounge up donations of ancient x86 machines pretty readily.
That's my experience as well. It seems possible to get Pentium 4 class machines essentially for free. While the size, weight and power consumption are orders of magnitude greater than a Pi, the capability of such machines to run x86 Pixel is fine. You can likely install the current x86 Pixel image to the hard disk by simply copying it there; however, there may be better ways in the future (but maybe not either).

I suggest experimenting with Linux Mint 18.1 Mate (32-bit) on one of those old PC's to see if you like it. This is a well supported system designed for older machines with about 1GB of RAM. Most of the software that comes with x86 Pixel is available, but you will need to install it yourself--usually a few clicks of the mouse suffice. Setting up one computer is pretty easy; setting up and maintaining 20 or 30 needs to be automated. If the educational program started by the Raspberry Pi foundation is successful, there will soon be many people knowledgeable enough to do such things.

Some sort of PiNet for the x86 would make it possible for all the old PC's to boot the same image from the network. In this case only one server has to be maintained. Alternatively, one of the educational activities could be for each pair of students to install Linux locally on one of the old computers. Those same students would then be responsible for fixing the machine when it breaks.

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