The mk802 Computer

I bought one of these miniature computers in July, 2012. It's roughly the size of a fat USB stick. If you believe the name on the box, it is a "Android 4.0 Mini PC." That's it: no manufacturer name, no real product name. It's most commonly called the "mk802" around the Web, and less frequently the "Rikomagic mk802" or the "ak802." Rikomagic may be the manufacturer. It has an Allwinner A10 (ARM Cortex A8) chip, Mali video, and 512MB or 1GB of RAM. It comes with rooted Android 4.0.3 installed, and will run Linux from the microSD card slot.

As you'll see in the photo, when it's all connected up it ends up looking more like a fat connector than a computer. I forgot to attach the power, a small plug that goes right beside the USB on the right. You can also power it through the mini-USB port seen at the top, although I have a mouse connected through a converter here. And on the left is a mini-HDMI out.

If you buy one, get the model with 1GB of RAM rather than 512MB (which mine has): the cost difference is minimal, and it should hugely improve performance. If you're buying, I'd recommend Deal Extreme - I have no connection with them beyond being a satisfied customer. (I didn't buy the mk802 from them, would have saved $40 if I had.)

Note that distros meant for one amount of memory apparently won't work with the other amount!

Love

  • Size!
  • Price ($70-$100)
  • the microSD slot allows booting from another OS (Linux so far, see links below)
  • Android is rooted
  • Android video playback is flawless

Hate

  • in Android mode, a power outage will cause a factory reset on restart
  • port placement on the body has wires sticking out all over
  • pretty damn slow (but not bad for $100)
  • the Linux distros for this aren't great yet

If you're wondering (after I've done the "love/hate" thing) why I didn't buy a Raspberry Pi instead ... I bought that too.

The mk802 seems to be marketed primarily as a video player, and generally it does that well: lovely playback of standard AVI files, and it played a 720p MP4 file just fine. Where it did screw up was that it entirely refused to play a M4V file - both the supplied "2160p" player and the "Mobo" player claimed it was unplayable, and yet the same file plays fine on my old model Patriot.

Related Links

Distributions

Most of these distros run at 1280x720 - with unaccelerated video, we get much poorer support than Android has - it runs at 1920x1080 (and claims to run at 2160p, although I can't prove it). My TV (a Toshiba Regza HD that happily supported the Android install) wouldn't recognize the 1280x720 resolution, so I had to switch to my only computer monitor with an HDMI in. The only distro I tried to run at 1920x1080 produced coloured static when I booted it.

Writing 4GB image to a microSD card takes a pretty uniform 35-40 minutes over USB2.0. The 8GB Rikomagic Lubuntu image takes ~70 minutes.

Puppy Linux for the Mele 1000

This distro was intended for the Mele 1000, but since the mk802 has very similar hardware, this boots and runs on it as well.

Puppy has always been an ugly distro, and this version is no different. Orange and yellow icons from 1990 on a mostly blue background - courtesy of Rox and Rox-Filer, which are actually functionally pretty good. Nevertheless I've always had a certain respect for Puppy as they manage to crank out a lightweight but functional distro. I could have lived with the ugliness if there weren't an abundance of other problems. The first major relief came in the form of wireless: Puppy has written their own network manager, and, while it's a bit clunky, it got me connected with my WPA2 wireless network fairly easily. But after that it got uglier. The package management system appears to work, downloading updates, but then runs through thousands of basic errors and fails to show any packages as installable. Reading the page for the distro, he provides a huge package that, if installed (and it's irreversible), you'll be able to compile stuff. Compiling on such an underpowered system didn't appeal to me, and it was a deal-breaker to find out that the web browser doesn't work at all - compiling a web browser is NOT an appealing thing. It also turns out to be very difficult to get the Dvorak keymap - I didn't crack that in the time I was working with it. Despite being Ubuntu-based, it doesn't have "xkbmap" or "dpkg-reconfigure." I was also entirely unable to mount USB sticks, even though they appeared in the log when connected to the system.

Miniand Lubuntu 12.04

Both versions of this (it's available for both 720p and 1080p) produce pretty coloured static on my more versatile screen. Obviously the distro works for the people who created it, but doesn't work for me at all (and yes, I'm using the correct version for my amount of memory).

Toby Corkindale's Linaro 12.06 armhf build

Coloured static on boot, no joy here.

As Corkindale points out, the armhf build should be better than the armel builds used by other distros ... but that's offset by his use of the full GNOME desktop. If I could boot it.

Rikomagic Lubuntu 12.04

3.0.36 kernel. I wasn't too happy with this distro initially, but having used the Puppy Linux distro later, this one improved in hindsight. Something most people won't care about - I was able to set the Dvorak keymap relatively easily. Not with "xsetkbmap" as I expected, but with "dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration". I was unable to convince the wireless to work at all the first time I installed this. The Linksys USB100TX USB-to-ethernet adapter I'd hoped to use isn't supported: the paradise.ko kernel module isn't available in the distro. It's worked quite well with i386-based distros.

On the second installation of this distro, I got coloured static after the login. Reading about it, I discovered that I'd forgotten to apply the suzuke uboot fix: the image is intended for the mk802 with 1GB of RAM, and without this fix it doesn't work. After applying this fix, it booted and logged in fine. Then I followed another bit of online advice, running "sudo depmod -a" (why that wasn't done when the image was built I have no idea) and that made wireless work flawlessly.

Lubuntu looks reasonably good and works well, I have access to full package repositories - this is looking promising.


http://www.gilesorr.com/code/mini/mk802.html (9.0Kb)
Last modified 20120822 by giles