PC Engines APU4C4 Experience



  • Currently I am testing some APU4C4. I did update the BIOS to 4.6.8 as the stock version appears to require a workaround for pfSense.

    My lab router is running for 03:45 hours and seems to be okay.

    I would like to know if there are more people testing the APU4C4 at the moment.

    Reference:


  • Netgate Administrator

    APU4C4 doesn't seem to be a real part number unless my Google foo has failed me.

    Do you mean APU2C4? Or maybe APU4B4?
    I've never used either personally.

    Steve



  • We did order the APU4B4 but the distributor suggested the APU4C4. I gave them a call to verify what they meant with APU4C4 and they confirmed that they indeed suggested the APUC4C as we recently ordered the APU3C4 (optimized for LTE). I didn't know the 4C4 existed... but agreed with the 4C4.

    I did take a close look at the 4C4 today and I did notice the SIM slots and the four LAN ports. Quite happy with the choice at the moment. Uptime >5 hours without problems at the moment.

    The APU4C4 is listed in this PDF: https://pcengines.ch/pdf/apu4.pdf
    There isn't yet much more info (indeed).


  • Netgate Administrator

    Ah, OK. Interesting.



  • A small update about my experiment with APU4C4 boards.

    My lab router is up and running 3 days and >3 hours now.
    I am relieved it's running stable and smoothly with BIOS v4.6.8 and pfSense 2.4.4 ☺

    alt text

    I did also speak to my colleagues of technical services. They are running an APU4C4 in production. The did not encounter any problems.



  • what's the difference between apu4b4 vs apu4c4



  • @knowbe4

    It's an update of the APU4B4:

    • Minimize leakage from V3A to V3 rail (SD card compatibility)
    • Fix USB header J12 pinout.
    • Change SIM switch to FXLA2203, FXLA2204 went EOL.
    • 10 pin LPC header to allow for future TPM option.

    Reference: https://www.pcengines.ch/apu4b4.htm



  • The lab router was running fine for >5 days.

    I decided to update it from BIOS v4.6.8 to v4.8.0.5.
    Uptime is >1 day now.

    My reason to update is that I just want to find out if the latest BIOS version will result in a stable pfSense box (or not).

    I have got another APU4 running with BIOS v4.6.8 >6 days now. I might update to v4.6.10 when that APU4's uptime is >30 days. I am aiming to run 4.6.10 >90 days and then tag it as stable.

    Would 90 days be enough to call it stable?



  • You seem extremely concerned about stability, which is surprising considering your choice of bargain-basement hardware. Nobody can tell you that a platform is stable enough for your needs. That's up to you to decide. If you're really that concerned, buy a second unit and keep it on-hand for emergencies.



  • @kom While inexpensive, PC Engines has a good record for reliability. I've never had trouble with Alix or previous APU versions. Netgate sold PC Engines hardware in the past. I wouldn't consider them bargain-basement hardware. I do agree with your point about keeping spares. I'd test one for a bit, deploy it, only update the bios for some compelling reason, and keep a spare in case something goes wrong.


  • Netgate Administrator

    Yeah a better point here is why update the BIOS without some very good reason?

    The most "stable" is going to be the version most other people are running and most people probably never update Coreboot.

    Simply by updating you're putting yourself in a much smaller group of users running far less tested code. You should have a good reason for doing so.

    That said I updated my APU(1) to 4.8.0.1 just to test it a few months back and have seen no issues.

    Steve



  • @stephenw10 said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:

    Yeah a better point here is why update the BIOS without some very good reason?

    4.8.0.5 enables ECC



  • @bouke what's the up-time now? also did you face an issue ?



  • @knowbe4 I am glad you asked. The up time is approximately one month. I didn't face any further issues with this board.



  • @BOUKE do you have any more updates for us? Interested in getting rid of my old Supermicro Atom SoC server and building an APU4C4 pfSense box instead. Did you buy just the board or a whole kit with enclosure?



  • I've been getting the APU4C4's in kit form via a US reseller. I had trouble installing until I updated them to the most recent BIOS. I never bothered updating APU1 or APU2 units, but besides some doubled text output during boot, they work fine now.



  • @xparanoik said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:

    @BOUKE do you have any more updates for us? Interested in getting rid of my old Supermicro Atom SoC server and building an APU4C4 pfSense box instead. Did you buy just the board or a whole kit with enclosure?

    Normally I just buy the whole kit: enclosure, board, mSATA SSD (msata16h), power adapter.

    I can recommend Meconet if you require a 19" enclosure:
    https://shop.meconet.de/meconet-mBOX-case-solutions/19-Inch-cases/for-PC-Engines-260mm/mBOX-19-260mm-for-one-PC-Engines-ALIX-APU-with-4-x-LAN-1-x-serial-1-x-USB-1-x-power-for-external-power-supply::117712.html

    But be very specific if you order at Meconet. Always verify your choice by e-mail before ordering! They have a lot of different enclosures.



  • @dotdash said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:

    I've been getting the APU4C4's in kit form via a US reseller. I had trouble installing until I updated them to the most recent BIOS. I never bothered updating APU1 or APU2 units, but besides some doubled text output during boot, they work fine now.

    Indeed. You really have to update the BIOS for the APU4 board.
    I just update to the newest BIOS version before an APU2/3/4 is being installed for a customer:

    I have bought two "Flash recovery adapter for apu2/3". The flash recovery adapter also works fine on the APU4 boards (I did verify this by e-mail at PC Engine's support and I did test it myself). So, when you brick a board, you can easily recover it.



  • Hallo

    i just got my APU4c4 Board yesterday - installed Pfsense on it - everything works like a Charm.
    Then i decided to update Bios of Board for Max stability ...

    I Chosse the File "apu4" from https://pcengines.github.io

    Update runs fine everything looks good.

    After Reboot PFSense wont boot any more - allways run into Kernel Panic (dont know if this is the right word for this issue)

    then i tryed to Reinstall Pfsense again - but even if i try to boot from USB Installer i get same Issue

    ![alt text](image url)ScreenShot2998.jpg ScreenShot2997.jpg



  • @gtrdriver Try to downgrade the BIOS. When unsuccessful: use a debricker. These cost a few Euros/Dollars.

    https://www.pcengines.ch/spi1a.htm



  • Hi

    What Version of Bios do you think should i choose ?



  • @gtrdriver said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:

    Hi

    What Version of Bios do you think should i choose ?

    You could give the legacy Bios 4.0.28 or mainline Bios prior to 4.10.0 a try - the versions above contain some significant changes that may interfere with your other hardware.
    IMHO,
    fireodo



  • Hi

    i have created a bootable Debian Stick - and tryed this

    BIOS version v4.9.0.7

    With this Bios Version Pfsense Seem to boot correctly - i will test.



  • @gtrdriver said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:
    Hi,

    BIOS version v4.9.0.7

    should be fine ...

    With this Bios Version Pfsense Seem to boot correctly - i will test.

    it would be helpful if you let us know what kind of SSD/HDD you use for you pfsense installation and if there is also other hardware (wireless etc.).

    Regards,
    fireodo



  • Hi

    i use a Plain APU4c4 Device without Wireless - only the 4 NIC´s
    I also use the "original" SSD Device wich comes within the Bundle.

    There is no Vendor on the Delivered Msata SSD so i think its bulk



  • @gtrdriver said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:

    Hi

    i use a Plain APU4c4 Device without Wireless - only the 4 NIC´s
    I also use the "original" SSD Device wich comes within the Bundle.

    There is no Vendor on the Delivered Msata SSD so i think its bulk

    OK, thanks - those SSDs that come with the APU4 shouldnt make any trouble, but there is always a "but" possible ...



  • Hi

    i also see that this Boards can be rund with a SD Card

    Does there exist eny long Time exp whats better SD or SSD ?
    I use SD on some Raspberry Projekts - no Problems at all ...



  • @gtrdriver said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:

    Hi

    i also see that this Boards can be rund with a SD Card

    Does there exist eny long Time exp whats better SD or SSD ?
    I use SD on some Raspberry Projekts - no Problems at all ...

    SSD is the better alternative. The SD-Card is slower and if you have packages like squid or other, write intensive, packages a SD-Card would not be a good choice because of limited write cycles. In fact it depends how you intend to use pfsense.



  • @gtrdriver said in PC Engines APU4C4 Experience:

    What Version of Bios do you think should i choose ?

    I upgraded one to v4.10.0.1 three weeks ago. There wasn't any issue since then.



  • @gtrdriver Looking at the error message again... could there be an issue with the partition? Did you remove the existing partitions and try a clean installation?

    I did read about the attempt to reinstall in your comment - but it once happened to me that I accidentally didn't boot from the USB stick but straight from the SSD... It looked like I was booting from USB but I wasn't. This happend after a power issue some time ago.

    I am running BIOS 10.0.0. I am using one of those mSATA SSDs of 16 GB.



  • Hi

    First of all - im sure that this happen on USB Boot !
    I tryed this 5 Fimes and for security i created a new USB Media ...

    Perhaps The Installer "see" the bad Partition and Crash - dont know ...

    Booting from the Debian Live Stick worked fine - then downgraded Bios and Attemp new Boot works fine then ... (Still with the bad parition ...)

    So - after all - im nocht 100% sure but 95% ...

    Second:

    After some Tests im realy Impressed about this box:

    Here we have 2 100Mbit VDSL Modems and use Wan1 and Wan2 with Load Balancing - works fine.
    But more Impressed im about the OpenVPN Performance

    I use the Box to Connect to a Virtialised PFSENSE (Fat Host Hardware) in a DataCenter for S2S VPN

    Do some Tests with Iperf:

    85Mbit Down / 32Mbit Up in TcpIp Mode
    88Mbit Down / 34Mbit Up in UDP Mode

    I think when i put the Overhead of OpenVPN to this results im Near to the Max Cap of one of our Lines (and we dont get 100/40mbit - i think its 98/36Mbit)

    The Results are Steady even after much more Tests.

    The Best thing is that in Real User Practise (We use RDP 8.x to Connect to Remote Windows Server in Datacenter i can Stream a Youtube Video over RDP in Fullscreen with arround 40-60Mbit/s over VPN in UDP Mode without any Issues
    And RDP is not the Best Way to Stream a video ...

    This is not our Business Case but when a Fullscreen Video run Smooth than 15 RDP Workers can run Office and Craphical Tools smooth over a simple 100Mbit Connection with VPN.

    With our old Hardware we had Dropouts on such Payloads.

    Now i Hope this Kind of Box runs stable....


  • Netgate Administrator

    @gtrdriver
    That is a filesystem error. Almost certainly nothing to do with the Coreboot update.

    https://docs.netgate.com/pfsense/en/latest/hardware/troubleshooting-disk-check-errors-fsck.html#manually-run-fsck

    Steve



  • Just a hint:

    To the best of my knowledge the APU family has no power button, but from time to time one has to power down, certainly after a bios update, as this is highly recommended. I have encountered many that power down using the power cord, which is understandable, but this may result in file system damage. The best way is to use the "Halt System" option in the GUI and wait until the system is powered down fully. It can take up to 5 minutes until all LED's are off, but this way you are certain that the system powers down gracefully.



  • Hi

    I think (but don't know) that this is one of the differences to their own negate devices (special arm)

    I think they use other file system methods to avoid this. (Ro temp and so on....)

    I also think not every power loss will END ON A damaged file system.

    Here I use usv ....

    Does anyone know if those apu devices have a watchdog which works with pfsense ?

    Or does the original arm netgate devices have a watchdog ?

    In terms of price this kind of apu devices are same price as the sg1100

    If I'm understand right the sg1100 have also a 2.5gbps backplate for the 3 Ethernet devices ...



  • One of the things I personally like about the APU is that they use Intel NIC's

    https://pcengines.ch/apu2.htm



  • Personaly i agree but I think if you have original pfsense hardware I think this should also be stable



  • Such filesystem errors due to power outage seem to occur with UFS only.
    Install pfSense with ZFS and you will be relaxed. That was recommended here already many times.





  • @bouke
    I agree with that. That affirms what I wrote above.

    ZFS seems to be very robust against power outage (incomplete write processes). I'm running pfSense on ZFS at home for almost two years and had recently multiple power outage due to a fault device a week ago with no effect to pfSense. It boots up and does its job every time when the power come back.



  • Did a

    /root: fstyp -l /dev/gptid/091891e1-98b3-11e8-9310-000db9416710
    
    ufs
    
    

    Bummer, seems I did not choose ZFS during install


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