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Thread: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

  1. #1
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    R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    Hi guys,

    I am replacing our old computers with new Raspberry Pis (RPi)using ubuntu Mate. Now the thing is, the old computers ran off Windows XP and I decided that I can run them off ubuntu Mate too with the same customiztions I did for the RPis so that we will have the same ecosystem throughout our company. Now, these computers have old hard disks which are probne to crashing soon. Also, I figured, I want to boot ubuntu off from a USB drive because 1) They are easier to clone than a harddrive, so I can customize 1 unit, then make clones for the others, 2) They are easier to replace in case of failure as compared to a harddrive 3) They consume much less energy which I hope may help the computers' power supplies to last longer.

    Here are my questions:

    1) The computers are Core2Duo's which means they are 64-bit, but they are also just have 2GB RAM. Should I use the 32-bit Ubuntu or 64-bit ubuntu (64-bit because their processor is 64-bit, but 32-bit because of the RAM).

    2) I will actually be using micro-SD Cards mounted on a USB card reader for booting. Will this be equivalent to a USB pendrive or are their other complications I might encounter from this plan?

    3) I plan to remove the hard disks and load the OS directly from the USB card reader. Will there be any problems with doing this?

    4) Lastly, if the micro SD card and reader is transferred to another computer with a different set of specs, will ubuntu be able to change its settings and boot up properly? In my experience windows crashes on boot-up when the hard disk with Windows from a different computer is transferred to another one with a different setup. How about ubuntu, will it do the same, or will it still be able to boot up properly?

    5) Also, will the 32-bit ubuntu consume less space on the flashdisk than the 64-bit version? I only have 16GB space per micro SD Card

    Thanks so much?
    Last edited by QIII; August 13th, 2017 at 08:40 AM. Reason: title

  2. #2
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    As a general comment, the R Pi does not perform well enough to be a full blown PC replacement, particularly for a production environment. It can perform passably for light tasks, such as web browsing, word processing and other office productivity. Something like the ODROID XU4 or even the C2 would be more capable and they have more memory. The C2 costs only about $10US more than the R Pi.

    Quote Originally Posted by webmiester View Post
    1) The computers are Core2Duo's which means they are 64-bit, but they are also just have 2GB RAM. Should I use the 32-bit Ubuntu or 64-bit ubuntu (64-bit because their processor is 64-bit, but 32-bit because of the RAM).
    I would use the 64bit version.

    2) I will actually be using micro-SD Cards mounted on a USB card reader for booting. Will this be equivalent to a USB pendrive or are their other complications I might encounter from this plan?
    Can you mount from a USB device? No, not out of the box. But see my comment under your item 3.

    Regardless, MicroSD cards do not last long under the sort of read/write conditions that would be encountered in a production environment. The speed of SD cards is abysmal. Although the speed and data transfer rate of USB 2 devices is pretty slow, it is much faster than SD. MicroSD cards are fine for storage of data files that are not moved often. You would be better off simply using USB devices. You can even use a powered USB disk enclosure with a mechanical laptop drive. That's what I do. Don't use an SSD with a Pi. Commands like TRIM cannot be passed via USB. You would end up with write magnification and full erasure blocks that would be unusable.

    3) I plan to remove the hard disks and load the OS directly from the USB card reader. Will there be any problems with doing this?
    Out of the box, the Pi will not boot directly from a USB device and must boot from a microSD. However, many people, including me, run R Pis and other SBCs from USB devices. That is often accomplished by modifying the image on the SD card to mount on /boot and then turn the operation over to / on a USB device. You can go one step better on the R Pi Model 3 B by setting a bit in the firmware to allow them to boot directly from the USB. That's what I have done with mine.

    4) Lastly, if the micro SD card and reader is transferred to another computer with a different set of specs, will ubuntu be able to change its settings and boot up properly? In my experience windows crashes on boot-up when the hard disk with Windows from a different computer is transferred to another one with a different setup. How about ubuntu, will it do the same, or will it still be able to boot up properly?
    Forget Windows experience for a bit. Windows != Linux. Provided you do not add any proprietary drivers (not really an issue with the R Pi), in the vast majority of cases you will have no problem using the same card on another SBC.

    5) Also, will the 32-bit ubuntu consume less space on the flashdisk than the 64-bit version? I only have 16GB space per micro SD Card
    That difference is negligible. But again, I would highly recommend against the use of SD cards in a production environment.
    Last edited by QIII; August 13th, 2017 at 08:41 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    I have not tried any heavy benchmarking yet, but it seems to me that there is not much difference running an OS from a micro SD card in an USB card reader and from a flash drive. I think nowadays Ubuntu, (Puppy and other OS's), mainly run in RAM, (if there is enough RAM).

    Occasionally the screen goes grey and freezes up when using memory intensive programs and browsers, but I have seen this happen when installed on mechanical hard drives also.

    My RPi runs Kodi great but I would not try it as a CAD workstation.

    Flash drives are said to be good for a minimum 10000 writes and have wear leveling but I have not heard about the life span of a SD card.

  4. #4
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    Quote Originally Posted by webmiester View Post
    Hi guys,

    I am replacing our old computers with new Raspberry Pis (RPi)using ubuntu Mate. Now the thing is, the old computers ran off Windows XP and I decided that I can run them off ubuntu Mate too with the same customiztions I did for the RPis so that we will have the same ecosystem throughout our company. Now, these computers have old hard disks which are probne to crashing soon. Also, I figured, I want to boot ubuntu off from a USB drive because 1) They are easier to clone than a harddrive, so I can customize 1 unit, then make clones for the others, 2) They are easier to replace in case of failure as compared to a harddrive 3) They consume much less energy which I hope may help the computers' power supplies to last longer.

    Here are my questions:

    1) The computers are Core2Duo's which means they are 64-bit, but they are also just have 2GB RAM. Should I use the 32-bit Ubuntu or 64-bit ubuntu (64-bit because their processor is 64-bit, but 32-bit because of the RAM).

    2) I will actually be using micro-SD Cards mounted on a USB card reader for booting. Will this be equivalent to a USB pendrive or are their other complications I might encounter from this plan?

    3) I plan to remove the hard disks and load the OS directly from the USB card reader. Will there be any problems with doing this?

    4) Lastly, if the micro SD card and reader is transferred to another computer with a different set of specs, will ubuntu be able to change its settings and boot up properly? In my experience windows crashes on boot-up when the hard disk with Windows from a different computer is transferred to another one with a different setup. How about ubuntu, will it do the same, or will it still be able to boot up properly?

    5) Also, will the 32-bit ubuntu consume less space on the flashdisk than the 64-bit version? I only have 16GB space per micro SD Card

    Thanks so much?
    I'm not sure I follow you correctly. You want to replace the Windows computers running XP, with Raspberry Pi computers? You have used a Pi before? You do understand they boot from an SD card, not from a hard drive. Although you would probably need to attach an USB drive to increase the hard drive space, as with an SD card you probably will have less than 64 GB of space.

    Also, about the architecture. You are confusing me. The RPi uses an ARM microprocessor and system on chip. This means it is not a 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x86_64) computer like the common desktop or laptop with an Intel or AMD CPU. The processor it has is similar to a mobile phone processor. This means all software needs to be available specifically for the ARM architecture. The ARMv7 in the RPi I think it's a 32-bit processor, while other mobile phones use the newer ARMv8 which is 64-bit. This refers to the low level instruction set, which requires recompilation of programs for the ARM CPU. So, you cannot just dump a .deb from the normal Ubuntu repository and install a program there, it will not work as it's binary incompatible.

    It is hard for me to comment more, because I am not sure you understand everything about the requirements for running the RPi. If you want to run generic stuff like Python programs, or even LibreOffice, it should work, because there are ARM versions of those programs for the Raspberry Pi. But running more things, specially heavy programs that require a lot of RAM, the RPi is not a good solution.

    Quote Originally Posted by C.S.Cameron View Post
    ...
    Flash drives are said to be good for a minimum 10000 writes and have wear leveling but I have not heard about the life span of a SD card.
    All flash drives, USB memory drives, RAM sticks, SD cards, etc. use the same basic technology which is called "solid-state memory". It is based on transistors instead of rotating magnetic materials like traditional hard drives. So, unless the technology is widely different, I'd expect they all have about the same lifetime and degradation behavior.

  5. #5
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    I'd suggest if you are planning on using the older systems, you look around for some used hard drives, I have several sitting in a box in the 400GB - 500GB range that I haven't found a use for yet. Check out local LUGS or other computer clubs to see if there is anyone willing to help you out.

  6. #6
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    I guess it depends what your company does with the Win XP / RPi computers, If you are making lots of money at it, please let me know of any IPO.

    Good thread: https://superuser.com/questions/1735...-of-an-sd-card

    For the record I bricked a 2TB and a 4TB mechanical drive plugged into my RPi a month ago, nothing is perfect.
    Last edited by C.S.Cameron; August 14th, 2017 at 02:15 AM.

  7. #7
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    Hi guys,

    I am so sorry. I think my statements were kinda vague and confusing. Even my title is wrong. I dont remember typing in "R Pi" in the title. I really appreciate your comments, but I think I wasnt able to send my question properly. I am really sorry.

    Thank you for bearing with me. For clarification, the RPis are already in place and will be replacing old Microsoft XP based computers. They will only use web browsers so it is fine. I was able to get the printers to work, so they will do great. So far, I have 1 installation which has been running for 3 months without problems, so I hope the others will follow suit.

    OK, my question was about the old Microsoft XP computers. I wanted to replace the Windows XP with Ubuntu Mate and customize them so they will look and feel just like the RPis. The computers are Core2Duo with 2GB ram. I want to remove their hard disks (Hard disks of the PCs not the RPi), and boot out of a USB MicroSD card reader with a 16GB Class 10 Micro SD card installed. It will be easier to clone these Micro SD cards than it is to clone hard drives. In case of SD card failure, I am hoping it wont be so hard to rebuild one from a stored image, so we will have all the cusotmizations and drivers already present upon rebuilding a card. I will just need to stock up on enough of these microSD cards to last long since as mentioned, they might not last that long.

    My questions were all directed to the Windows based PCs and not the RPi's. The RPi's are already done. What I want to do is make my PCs look and feel like the RPis so that the staff will have the same ecosystem throughout our system.

    Thank you so much for your comments. I really appreciate them. I am sorry for the ambiguity of the way I wrote my question. Illl try to be clearer next time.

    webmiester

  8. #8
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    As a general comment, the R Pi does not perform well enough to be a full blown PC replacement, particularly for a production environment. It can perform passably for light tasks, such as web browsing, word processing and other office productivity. Something like the ODROID XU4 or even the C2 would be more capable and they have more memory. The C2 costs only about $10US more than the R Pi.
    Thank you, I considered the Odroid too. In the end, I chose the RPi 3 because it has a larger community to draw experience from.

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    I would use the 64bit version.
    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    Can you mount from a USB device? No, not out of the box. But see my comment under your item 3.

    Regardless, MicroSD cards do not last long under the sort of read/write conditions that would be encountered in a production environment. The speed of SD cards is abysmal. Although the speed and data transfer rate of USB 2 devices is pretty slow, it is much faster than SD. MicroSD cards are fine for storage of data files that are not moved often. You would be better off simply using USB devices. You can even use a powered USB disk enclosure with a mechanical laptop drive. That's what I do. Don't use an SSD with a Pi. Commands like TRIM cannot be passed via USB. You would end up with write magnification and full erasure blocks that would be unusable.

    Out of the box, the Pi will not boot directly from a USB device and must boot from a microSD. However, many people, including me, run R Pis and other SBCs from USB devices. That is often accomplished by modifying the image on the SD card to mount on /boot and then turn the operation over to / on a USB device. You can go one step better on the R Pi Model 3 B by setting a bit in the firmware to allow them to boot directly from the USB. That's what I have done with mine.
    Thank you. Although I was referring to the PCs not the RPi regarding booting from USB card reader (I think the way I wrote my question was quite vague, its my fault, I will word my questions better next time) this answer is quite useful. I did see some youtube videos where their RPis would boot from USB, and was wondering how they did this. Your response will be helpful for future projects

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    Forget Windows experience for a bit. Windows != Linux. Provided you do not add any proprietary drivers (not really an issue with the R Pi), in the vast majority of cases you will have no problem using the same card on another SBC.

    That difference is negligible. But again, I would highly recommend against the use of SD cards in a production environment.
    Yeah, I am trying to get rid of windows. One of my dreams before was to come up with a Linux-based Windows simulator for students who insist on learning windows, hahaha. It wil run linux and have an environment which looks and feels just like windows. Unfortunately, that project didnt pass with government school regulators, so I have to return to windows. But this is still in my mind though.

  9. #9
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    Quote Originally Posted by C.S.Cameron View Post
    I have not tried any heavy benchmarking yet, but it seems to me that there is not much difference running an OS from a micro SD card in an USB card reader and from a flash drive. I think nowadays Ubuntu, (Puppy and other OS's), mainly run in RAM, (if there is enough RAM).

    Occasionally the screen goes grey and freezes up when using memory intensive programs and browsers, but I have seen this happen when installed on mechanical hard drives also.

    My RPi runs Kodi great but I would not try it as a CAD workstation.

    Flash drives are said to be good for a minimum 10000 writes and have wear leveling but I have not heard about the life span of a SD card.
    HI, the quality of the SD cards vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer I think. In our case, we will only be using it for web browsing. A local server runs a web application which does the heavy weight lifting. The server runs on ubuntu server and LAMP .

  10. #10
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    Re: R Pi: Using an SD card with reader for OS

    Quote Originally Posted by vocx View Post
    I'm not sure I follow you correctly. You want to replace the Windows computers running XP, with Raspberry Pi computers? You have used a Pi before? You do understand they boot from an SD card, not from a hard drive. Although you would probably need to attach an USB drive to increase the hard drive space, as with an SD card you probably will have less than 64 GB of space.

    Also, about the architecture. You are confusing me. The RPi uses an ARM microprocessor and system on chip. This means it is not a 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x86_64) computer like the common desktop or laptop with an Intel or AMD CPU. The processor it has is similar to a mobile phone processor. This means all software needs to be available specifically for the ARM architecture. The ARMv7 in the RPi I think it's a 32-bit processor, while other mobile phones use the newer ARMv8 which is 64-bit. This refers to the low level instruction set, which requires recompilation of programs for the ARM CPU. So, you cannot just dump a .deb from the normal Ubuntu repository and install a program there, it will not work as it's binary incompatible.

    It is hard for me to comment more, because I am not sure you understand everything about the requirements for running the RPi. If you want to run generic stuff like Python programs, or even LibreOffice, it should work, because there are ARM versions of those programs for the Raspberry Pi. But running more things, specially heavy programs that require a lot of RAM, the RPi is not a good solution.


    All flash drives, USB memory drives, RAM sticks, SD cards, etc. use the same basic technology which is called "solid-state memory". It is based on transistors instead of rotating magnetic materials like traditional hard drives. So, unless the technology is widely different, I'd expect they all have about the same lifetime and degradation behavior.

    Thank you for bearing with me and sorry for my vague question. I built a lot of RPi units to replace our Windows based XP computers. They will only use browser, so its quite light work for the RPis and the PCs would be overkill...

    Now, what would I do with the old Windows XP based computers? Should I junk them? Well, I decided that some of them can be reused by installing Ubuntu Mate on them and making them look and fell just like the RPis. In this case, whether our staff uses the PCs or the RPis, they will have the same ecosystem. So my questions were on the PCs converted to run Ubuntu. Should I use 32-bit or 64-bit? Is it adviceable to boot them off a USB card reader instead of a hard disk (since the micro SD cards are faster to setup are faster to setup), etc.

    Thank you so much. After going through some comments I realize that I should have versed my questions more clearly.

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