laughterofelijah
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Joined: Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:04 pm

Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Wed Apr 24, 2019 3:11 pm

TL;DR version =)

1. Looking to improve usability/performance of 3b+ (especially Chromium) for casual browsing and YouTubing.
2. Not focused on faster boot times or lower CPU/RAM use at idle but ok if it's a side benefit.
3. Want to stick with Raspbian.
4. Asking to be pointed to a current guide to optimize 3b+ and Chromium.


I'm the proud new owner of a 3b+ and a total noob to Raspberry Pi. My goal is to improve the Pi's performance for casual internet browsing and watching YouTube with Chromium.

I don't really care about faster boot times or lower CPU/RAM usage at idle. Meaning, if a package, config change or Chromium extension makes the Pi more usable, I'll take the hit on CPU/RAM usage.

I did quite a bit of reading before posting so I'm familiar with several of the suggestions on improving performance but I've found that a lot of the info is outdated or contradicts info found elsewhere.

If anyone can point me to some recent guides showing how to improve usability or share their own setup I'd greatly appreciate it.

For Windows I would go into msconfig and into services to remove/stop stuff from starting but with Raspbian... I'm a bit lost. o_O

I've started with the latest version of Raspbian Stretch Full which may have been a mistake if there is a bunch of bloatware that slows the Pi down but that's where I'm at right now.

Most applications open and run fine but web browsing can be a bit painful and YouTube doesn't run smooth at 1080p.

Thanks in advance for any help provided!

I've already done the following:

Using a Samsung EVO+ SD card

Using a solid power supply with 5.1V and 2.5A (not a USB wall wart)

Added an iUniker dual-fan heatsink with the LAN heatsink and RAM heat spreader.

Set GPU RAM to 128MB using Raspberry Pi Configuration GUI

Enabled full OpenGL using sudo raspi-config (not really sure if it helped though)

Kept Chromium extensions to a minimum

Set several flags in chrome://flags to minimize Chromium's footprint (sorry I don't have the list off hand).

cspan
Posts: 116
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Location: Chattanooga, TN, USA

Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:14 am

I have mine set up for similar desktop use, but with a different focus - more office applications like calc, writer, impress. I do browse a fair bit but YT in 1080p isn't a priority for me.

When I got my first Pi, a 3B, I think 1080p HD video was only reliably achievable through setting up LibreElec, IIRC. It couldn't be done reliably in Raspbian; in fact, LibreElec's tagline was "just enough OS to run Kodi" or something like that. In other words, the OS was stripped down to bare bones and pretty much could only run the media functions. This implied to me that asking for 1080p in Raspbian was just on the edge of its capability, often a smidge beyond.

Now I have a 3B+ unit as well. I don't know if things have improved through hardware or software (raspbian, or chromium) to enable 1080p on the 3B+ to run reliably. It's not that important to me however. None of my TVs or monitors are better than 720p anyway.

My only concern with browsing is wear on the microSD card - swap files, random i/o, log files, stuff like that. But I now use A1 rated 64GB Sandisk cards, so I hope it's not going to be much of an issue. It's not my main desktop yet anyway so I haven't really pushed it to daily, primary machine use. I have noticed a thread here on the forums that details how to offload a lot of the random i/o to an external HDD or SSD, etc., and just leave the card for booting. However the instructions and thread are startlingly long ... it looks like it's more trouble than it's worth. It also looks like it would make OS updates difficult. If I had to wear out a $US20 microSD card annually to avoid all that trouble, I think that would be well worth it.

I do hope RPD continues as a variant. It would help me get to know Raspbian and Linux better, and it could be a great way to leverage the tremendous hardware available in everyday x86 computers.

Andyroo
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Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:33 am

Try the Midori browser rather than Chromium.
Need Pi spray - these things are breeding in my house...

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Gavinmc42
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Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Mon Apr 29, 2019 2:03 am

Try Gentoo64.
It has the fastest Chromium and Firefox response I know of on Pi's.
Generally becuase Sakaki keeps it more upto date than Raspbian which is based on an older but stable version of Linux.
Sakaki has been working on a dual Raspbian that is not bad.

These browsers are my benchmarks programs comparing them against equivalent Mobile phone SoC's and those browsers.
There looks like there is still room to improve the performance 3-4 times.
Good luck trying to get Chromium faster working on it by yourself, it's huge.

Latest browser code seem to be moving to using the GPU's with things like OpenCL.
So in theory Pi's could go faster if there was a real OpenCL interface not the incomplete version.

Probably other ways to go faster like a separate YT viewer?
Use the Fifth browser or ad blockers?
I'm dancing on Rainbows.
Raspberries are not Apples or Oranges

laughterofelijah
Posts: 9
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Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Mon Apr 29, 2019 1:23 pm

Thanks to all for the suggestions. At this time I'm really looking to stick with the Raspbian distro and Chromium since I'm new to all of this and I don't want to stray too far out of my comfort zone just yet.

I noticed that over the weekend some YT channels played fine at 1080p while others did not. Even after doing some light overclocking of all components (CPU, GPU, RAM, SD card) I still had issues with particular channels. I don't know enough about YT to figure out the differences between a 1080p video that plays fine and one that doesn't but for now I'll just live with it.

Even before the overclocking the little Pi is fast enough for my casual use so the little added boost is plenty. As cspan commented, even if I burn through a $20 SD card once a year it's worth it just to keep the setup simple and clean.

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Gavinmc42
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Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:23 am

Wonder if you use a smaller screen like the Pi 7" 800x480 YT should be faster?
Portable YT viewer?
Good app for a 3A+? Or will 1GB be needed?
I will have to try this, on a FHD 1920x1080 it used to be slow.
I'm dancing on Rainbows.
Raspberries are not Apples or Oranges

stuartiannaylor

Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Tue Apr 30, 2019 11:45 am

The Pi3B+ has that GPIO header and is backed by a plethora of project addons.

Desktop hey each to their own and I guess we all have different criteria. For me the Pi3B+ is only good for a desktop if you don't use a desktop and its there for an ultra low power computing for the odd occasion for those with much patience.
IMHO I feel you shouldn't suggest a Pi3+ for a desktop role as if you where going to suggest any other technology from cars to any appliance where the Pi is in performance it doesn't even creep into what is now called basic entry level.

Even a 1st gen firestick had a BCM28155 with a dual core VideoCore IV and for multimedia is generally thought of as pretty stinky for that type of use.
Youtube it depends on source but as HD source is now common there is much that the Pi with chromium often struggles to play and that is just honesty.
viewtopic.php?f=28&t=239023&p=1461921#p1461921
Even going forward with with kernel 4.19 and raspbian buster the answer would still seem to be no but the compositing and Wayland stuff does seem to be coming on.
You can check the above as VLC does an absolute mighty job and the VC4 optimisation raspberry has done is not just coding excellence but pure code dark arts.
If you don't want to watch the jerky buffering stuttering 1080p source video then paste the link into VLC but in terms of browser convenience why should people and someone I guess will do a decent chromium addon to at least make it semi seamless.

As for £20 SD cards there is little point when £20 SSD is a available just pay the extra and find a compat USB adapter but check
viewtopic.php?f=63&t=238959&p=1461922#p1461922

What is the desktop is now a curious modern question as for many it can be found in a single source of a browser that sadly on the Pi sucks eggs mainly to Broadcoms Achilles heel of the horrid hardware hack of VC4 where at one time the Rasberry foundation may have to set funds aside for an engineers sanatorium for the poor souls still suffering the PTSD of the coding experience.

jamesh
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Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:19 pm

Just to correct some invalid posts above.

All models of Raspberry Pi use the same Video decoder HW, and its performance is independent of the OS being use, providing that OS uses the HW correctly. Which Raspbian has always done. So you should be able to get 1080p no problem in Raspbian.

Many people use the Pi3B (and earlier models!) as a desktop machine. As long as you keep browser windows to a minimum it should work fairly well. Just don't expect the performance of a multi $100 laptop or desktop.

The BCM28155 uses the same Videocore 4 as the Pi.
What is the desktop is now a curious modern question as for many it can be found in a single source of a browser that sadly on the Pi sucks eggs mainly to Broadcoms Achilles heel of the horrid hardware hack of VC4 where at one time the Rasberry foundation may have to set funds aside for an engineers sanatorium for the poor souls still suffering the PTSD of the coding experience.
I have no idea what is meant by the above paragraph, reads like nonsense to me. What VC4 horrid HW hack???


Stick to Raspbian, all other distro's lag behind in some way. Raspbian is the OS we distribute ourselves, is fully supported and constantly bug fixed and improved. You won't find much difference going from 32 to 64bit OS except some stuff will stop working.
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stuartiannaylor

Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:47 pm

jamesh wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:19 pm
Just to correct some invalid posts above.

All models of Raspberry Pi use the same Video decoder HW, and its performance is independent of the OS being use, providing that OS uses the HW correctly. Which Raspbian has always done. So you should be able to get 1080p no problem in Raspbian.

Many people use the Pi3B (and earlier models!) as a desktop machine. As long as you keep browser windows to a minimum it should work fairly well. Just don't expect the performance of a multi $100 laptop or desktop.

The BCM28155 uses the same Videocore 4 as the Pi.
What is the desktop is now a curious modern question as for many it can be found in a single source of a browser that sadly on the Pi sucks eggs mainly to Broadcoms Achilles heel of the horrid hardware hack of VC4 where at one time the Rasberry foundation may have to set funds aside for an engineers sanatorium for the poor souls still suffering the PTSD of the coding experience.
I have no idea what is meant by the above paragraph, reads like nonsense to me. What VC4 horrid HW hack???


Stick to Raspbian, all other distro's lag behind in some way. Raspbian is the OS we distribute ourselves, is fully supported and constantly bug fixed and improved. You won't find much difference going from 32 to 64bit OS except some stuff will stop working.
Chromium your choice of single source browser sucks on a Pi3B+ that is just honesty and OK sorry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VideoCore it is the same but still doesn't mean it sucks any less as all users need to do is try it with Chromium like many do and have.
Even as a TV stick its not seen to make the grade anymore.
If its not such a horrid hardware hack how come DRM/KMS driver and Gallium3D-drive in 30/4/19 provide the results it does?
I have my fingers crossed that Pi4 will be the only place 4 will be attached but for three years now I have been waiting for something that works less like a lottery to video playback quality and with 1080p sources it just doesn't cope,

stuartiannaylor

Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:02 pm

stuartiannaylor wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:47 pm
jamesh wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:19 pm
Just to correct some invalid posts above.

All models of Raspberry Pi use the same Video decoder HW, and its performance is independent of the OS being use, providing that OS uses the HW correctly. Which Raspbian has always done. So you should be able to get 1080p no problem in Raspbian.

Many people use the Pi3B (and earlier models!) as a desktop machine. As long as you keep browser windows to a minimum it should work fairly well. Just don't expect the performance of a multi $100 laptop or desktop.

The BCM28155 uses the same Videocore 4 as the Pi.
What is the desktop is now a curious modern question as for many it can be found in a single source of a browser that sadly on the Pi sucks eggs mainly to Broadcoms Achilles heel of the horrid hardware hack of VC4 where at one time the Rasberry foundation may have to set funds aside for an engineers sanatorium for the poor souls still suffering the PTSD of the coding experience.
I have no idea what is meant by the above paragraph, reads like nonsense to me. What VC4 horrid HW hack???


Stick to Raspbian, all other distro's lag behind in some way. Raspbian is the OS we distribute ourselves, is fully supported and constantly bug fixed and improved. You won't find much difference going from 32 to 64bit OS except some stuff will stop working.
Chromium your choice of single source browser sucks on a Pi3B+ that is just honesty and OK sorry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VideoCore it is the same but still doesn't mean it sucks any less as all users need to do is try it with Chromium like many do and have.
Even as a TV stick its not seen to make the grade anymore.
If its not such a horrid hardware hack how come DRM/KMS driver and Gallium3D-drive in 30/4/19 provide the results it does?
I have my fingers crossed that Pi4 will be the only place 4 will be attached but for three years now I have been waiting for something that works less like a lottery to video playback quality and with 1080p sources it just doesn't cope.


I don't really want to argue about it as what you guys have managed with what you have is amazing, but all anyone has to do is try it with many commonly available sources.
Its that simple and apols for being critical but if I am to have any honesty what else can I say?
Continue on without my comments as I shall refrain as otherwise you will just lock the thread and continue in the pretence it actually works.
https://dri.freedesktop.org/docs/drm/gpu/vc4.html

stuartiannaylor

Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Wed May 01, 2019 6:18 pm

As a tip for those who would like quicker than copy and paste https://chrome.google.com/webstore/deta ... mkaj?hl=en
Is a great extension to play the vid in VLC and prob should be installed by default to stop the need for faffing with the relatively simple nodejs install.

I am not sure what happens to vlc in pixel though as via Stretch lite it is near perfect on a zero and perfect on anything higher for 1080p sources but via pixel Stretch desktop something goes awry.

Open in VLC™ media player is a handy extension for the pi and prob should be default with h264ify and ublock

fruitoftheloom
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Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Wed May 01, 2019 6:38 pm

stuartiannaylor wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:18 pm
As a tip for those who would like quicker than copy and paste https://chrome.google.com/webstore/deta ... mkaj?hl=en
Is a great extension to play the vid in VLC and prob should be installed by default to stop the need for faffing with the relatively simple nodejs install.

I am not sure what happens to vlc in pixel though as via Stretch lite it is near perfect on a zero and perfect on anything higher for 1080p sources but via pixel Stretch desktop something goes awry.

Open in VLC™ media player is a handy extension for the pi and prob should be default with h264ify and ublock

"Pixel Desktop" was obsoleted a couple of years ago, maybe it is time to fully update Raspbian Stretch so you have the "Raspberry Pi Desktop" desktop environment
adieu

My other Computer is an Asus CS10 ChromeBit running Chrome Operating System.
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LTolledo
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Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Wed May 01, 2019 11:18 pm

Below is the hardware and software setup of my main RPi3B+ desktop

Hardware:
1. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
2. in fan-cooled Armor Case, fan power derived from microUSB port
3. non-RPF PSU 5v 3.0A
4. I2S DAC (hifiberry-dacplus clone)
5. Network connection via GbE LAN
6. Logitech Unifying receiver connected to HDMI USB KVM
7. 21" HDMI monitor (not connected to KVM)
6. native USB boot from 120GB Crucial BX500 SSD. (no microSD in microSD slot)

Software:
1. Raspbian Stretch with Desktop (updated and upgraded to latest version)
2. swap file on SSD, swap file set to 1024MB
3. Samba share of /home/pi/share folder

Chromium is always opened with at least 8 tabs (Pi-Hole console, Deluge, CNN, BBC, Amazon, Raspberry Pi Forum, Facebook, Youtube)
sometimes I can have as much as 16tabs open when doing online shopping at Amazon, with 2 other Youtube tabs open.

Watched Youtube in full-screen mode, with 12tab-chromium, 2 console terminal open, Arduino IDE and VNC viewer (accessing 2 other RPis) running in the background. No problems doing that.

My preferred video app is Kodi as it still plays most videos better than VLC. Even with the conditions above (YT back to default mode, YT video play stopped), no effect on Kodi video playback.

Its my everyday use desktop...

my other casual desktop is a RPi3B based one (but has no I2S DAC).
a PiTop version has the same spec as the RPi3B, but using 2.4GHz WiFi connection instead
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stuartiannaylor

Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Thu May 02, 2019 2:18 am

fruitoftheloom wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:38 pm
stuartiannaylor wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:18 pm
As a tip for those who would like quicker than copy and paste https://chrome.google.com/webstore/deta ... mkaj?hl=en
Is a great extension to play the vid in VLC and prob should be installed by default to stop the need for faffing with the relatively simple nodejs install.

I am not sure what happens to vlc in pixel though as via Stretch lite it is near perfect on a zero and perfect on anything higher for 1080p sources but via pixel Stretch desktop something goes awry.

Open in VLC™ media player is a handy extension for the pi and prob should be default with h264ify and ublock

"Pixel Desktop" was obsoleted a couple of years ago, maybe it is time to fully update Raspbian Stretch so you have the "Raspberry Pi Desktop" desktop environment
Raspberry pi desktop pixel or whatever you want to call it the very latest april 2019 download and chromium on it will not even cope with what is nowadays relatively common and budget ip camera of 1080p h264.
Its a fresh install of the latest stretch desktop and there is no update and currently forcing upstream to 4.19 / buster makes no difference either.
VLC will as strangely if it full screen resolutions nearing 1080p 60hz will freeze if windowed but full screen plays OK.
The problem is sources as when most sources where 720p then things where great but now so much is native hd and no one here will have an answer for that.

I have actually asked on github if its possible (Open in VLC) to stop chromium playing and launch full screen as options as guess its a reasonable workaround, so maybe fingers crossed I just copy and paste and flick to full screen quick but anyone can test with a known source I have been using Full HD (1920x1080) and there is 60hz/30hz to choose from and they will both cause problems for the PI.
http://bbb3d.renderfarming.net/download.html
VLC only chokes @ 60hz when windowed but chromium is just a forget, unless your not epileptic and micro stutters is your thing.
Also just because it may say 1080p you need to check the source much on youtube if you check the settings is 720p but quite a lot is higher now. Vimeo often pushes higher https://vimeo.com/30215350 which is 7 years old
For some its a game breaker for some its obviously OK but as a recommendation its debatable and there should be at least some honesty that with some higher resolutions it will micro stutter unless VLC or like is used.

laughterofelijah
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:04 pm

Re: Optimize 3b+ for use as a casual desktop

Tue May 14, 2019 6:34 pm

Thanks to all for sharing your experience and suggestions.

The only task I've had trouble with on the 3B+ is running 1080p video so I think I'm going to settle for 720p and call it good. Now if I could just find a way to make YT play in 720p by default I'd be in good shape.

I've been down the rabbit hole of overclocking the Pi and tweaking Chromium settings until I couldn't keep the options straight in head anymore and it wasn't too much help.

Thanks again!


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