Nerd For Tech
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Fixing a Defective Orange Pi R1

A couple years ago, I got a great deal on a few Orange Pi R1’s. I’ve always had an affinity for the Orange Pi series of Raspberry Pi clones. They are stupidly cheap, generally solid and tend to have far better hardware features than you would find on a similarly priced Raspberry Pi. They also have good software support which is not a given for Pi clones.

This lot of Orange Pi R1’s has been languishing in a hardware bin, waiting for a potential use case. The other night, I decided to pull one out for a project (which I may write about in the near future). However, no matter what I did, I kept receiving a kernel crash early in the boot-up process. I tried different OS’s, official Orange Pi Ubuntu and Debian, then Armbian. All of them crashed, though with different errors.

Unfortunately I did not capture one of these errors, however it looked something like this error:

But in my case I could see that it was attempting to load the “rtl8188e” module right before these errors. Since this was consistent, and I knew that this module is a driver related to WiFi, I was able to deduce that I either had a defective WiFi module, or something else was going on.

If you refer to the image at the top of this article, you will see a little daughter board that the arrow is pointing to, this little board is the WiFi + Bluetooth board. As you can see from the picture, it is edge-soldered to the motherboard. Since I had nothing to lose, I decided to try to reflow this solder. On my board there was a dearth of visible solder around the edge of the WiFi board, and I figured there was a decent chance that this was the culprit.

After carefully hitting all the sides with my portable heat gun, I let the board cool for a couple minutes and tried to boot it. This time it worked! I was able to get through a full boot, however after about 10 minutes, once the board had fully cooled down, I started getting more WiFi card related errors and then the kernel crashed. Encouraged, I took the board back to my soldering bench, added some flux and drag soldered all the edges for the board, carefully checking for bridges. The only tricky part was soldering along the back edge where the Ethernet Jack is due to the limited space. Below is a look at the board after the soldering job (the wires are to the serial console):

After plugging it back in, it has been running for multiple days without any issues. So, it seems like a faulty edge solder was the culprit. Hope this helps someone else out if this problem turns out to be common.

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