CrowPi Lite laptop running Amikit 12, MIDI and real Amiga floppy disks

Recently I found out about a Raspberry Pi laptop solution called CrowPi Lite. I have seen plenty of these solutions in the past, but they were never truly mobile solutions - but this one is different. 

I decided to get one, and get it working with AmiKit 12, with MIDI hardware support and even using real Amiga floppies via drawbridge usb floppy drives! Keep reading for more details!

  The CrowPi Lite comes as a fully contained laptop case, which houses an internal Raspberry Pi 4 computer (optional) inside. I opted to have it included for a total cost of AUD$354. 

This system has an internal battery to use on the go, built in keyboard and mouse, laptop screen, webcam, extenders to allow HDMI output, multiple USB devices, and external connection port for STEM related purposes for kids wanted to learn how to tinker with electronics.

For me though, I want to use it for AmiKit 12 . Why use this, and not a Raspberry Pi400? 

I actually already have one of those, as covered on this blog here. I also have a Raspberry pi solution in a checkmate 1500 mini case, a build that I showed in detail here

I also have a Raspberry pi solution running on a real Amiga system as a Pistorm solution, as I built recently here.

So, I have plenty of options for this already, but nothing for using a Raspberry Pi solution on the go. 

In addition, this CrowPi Lite computer has a switchable bootable MicroSD port connector, allowing me to boot a stable AmiKit 12 release from one MicroSD card, and a dev release of AmiKit 12 on the other. I can also boot a different Pi distribution on the other MicroSD slot, eg. Ubuntu Mate, or some other Linux distribution.

It also has a third MicroSD storage slot, allowing connection of a shared SD card storage, to avoid having to duplicate data on each card. Very handy!

 I ordered my CrowPi Lite and it arrived in a week or so from China. Here is the box it came in - Note that I didn't choose to get the optional STEM kit as I know I would never use it.

I then unboxed the system - it comes with a USB-C charger, manual, wireless mouse and some Xmas decorations!

The laptop is quite small and lite, but obviously given a Pi 4 is inside, it does affect the thickness of the laptop unit in order to fit it in there!

It is not a fancy laptop, but I like the simple nature of it. 

It is sturdy and looks well built for a non-metal laptop. It is a cheap laptop though, so don't expect Apple build quality or overly fancy design here! That said, it has some cool things about it.

Closer view of the keyboard, the GPIO active pins shown above the keyboard, with a very small touchpad mouse also above the keyboard, and the power button on the top right:

The touchpad is really a in case of emergencies use thing in my view - it works ok, but being so small and oddly placed, I think you would use an external mouse most of the time with this laptop.

You can see the external port connector for STEM use, headphone jack, HMDI output, and USB C power connectors above.

Below, you can see the left side of the laptop, where the usual Pi 4 ports are visible.

You may see that one USB port is covered over and not accessible. There is a good reason for this. 

Inside the system case, they have run a USB expansion inside to provide additional MicroSD storage and other things too.

Flipping over the CrowPi laptop now, you can see the battery compartment, secured with screws, and the pi access compartment, which is held in by magnets and so it can be removed easily by hand without a screwdriver.

Opening the Pi 4B compartment on the laptop, you can see the CPU fan over the top of the Pi 4, with expansions boards connected to the various ports on the Pi.

The bootable MicroSD slot on the Pi 4 has a switchable A/B slot expansion attached, which allows switchable booting between two MicroSD slots!
I removed it carefully to take a closer look - it is a bit tricky to remove as it is close to the other board inside, so take care and wiggle out slowly:

The manual switch on the top allows the switching between the A and B MicroSD slots - only one is usable at a time.

Flipping it over, you can see the B slot on the bottom:

Looking to the left you can see the third MicroSD slot, for additional storage accessible to both bootable MicroSD's.

All this system was pre-assembled. I didn't have to assemble anything - it works out the box.

The expansion board connected to the micro HDMI ports on the Pi, and USB Port on the side of the Pi, as mentioned earlier.

Without changing anything, I connected the USB-C power supply to the CrowPi Lite, and booted the system up into the default distribution included on the MicroSD in the laptop.

This distro is clearly designed for STEM students learning about electronics and how to program them using the connectors in the system to external docks and other electronics.

I am sure it works well for STEM students, but my interests lie elsewhere and so it is unlikely to be used again.

I did try out some YouTube videos on it, which worked well enough:

As mentioned, I already have AmiKit 12 working on Raspberry Pi 4 based systems, so I could get started very quickly by imaging the existing Pi MicroSD card I setup before, and writing it out to another 128GB MicroSD card for this CrowPi Lite system to use:

I then put the 128GB card in Slot B on the CrowPi, and switched it to use Slot B instead of the included distro that is in slot A.

I quickly booted into AmiKit 12 on the CrowPi, already setup how I had it on the Raspberry Pi system before! Great time saver!

I did install the latest AMiKit updates to get up to the latest version, and soon enough I had a fully working AmiKit 12 system on my CrowPi Lite:

I did have to make an adjustment to the screen mode, as the default 1080p is too small to read well on this laptop. The native screen size is somewhat smaller, so I chose 720p:

This worked well:

I connected my Amiga wireless tank mouse to the CrowPi, and adjusted the settings in AmiBerry by pressing F12 while AmiKit 12 is running, to add my USB competition pro joystick. I also ensured the sound output settings used the HDMI output, and not the headphone jack on the pi, since it is not connected to anything internally.

That done, time for some gaming with the 2023 released AGA version of Turrican 2:

The game runs perfectly, as I expected.

I also tried out Inviyya and Worthy, another relatively new games on the Amiga, which also work great under AmiKit 12:

I also enjoyed some of TBL's amazing AGA demos included on the AmiKit distro:

I also ran the AGA demo I helped write, called 'Terminal', originally released in 1998, and also included on AmiKit 12.

With AmiKit 12 up and running, I added the AmiKit logo sticker from the case the SD card came in to the top of the laptop - because, why not? It looks great:

But I am not finished yet. I wanted to use real Amiga floppy disks on this CrowPi Lite. On my other Checkmate 1500 system build with a Pi running AmiKit 12, I used a Greaseweazle v4 card and PC floppy drive, which I mounted internally in the case. If you want to learn more about that, the details of that setup are here.

The Greaseweazle is a great solution, but not so great with a laptop with the board, bulky floppy drive, external power needed for the drive, and no housing for it to be easy to transport.
This is where Drawbridge solution from Rob Smith comes in.
Drawbridge is a small hardware add-on you install into a standard USB PC floppy drive, which enables you to use real Amiga floppy disks in AmiKit 12 by using functionality included in recent Amiberry versions. It also works with WinUAE on Windows and linux if using Wine too.

I tried it previously on my blog, but it didn't work with the USB floppy drive I tried back then. 
So, I needed a new USB PC floppy drive to use to try this out - $20 later on Amazon and here it is:

I pulled it apart via the single screw:

The circuit board I need to replace is at the back:

I carefully remove the ribbon cable connecting to it, and then replace it with the Drawbridge, which has it's own attached usb cable:

I then put it back together. 

I tested it on the Alienware PC I have first, since I had previously configured it for Drawbridge use in AmiKit 12, so I could try it straight away.

the USB floppy drive was detected straight away and worked perfectly to read Amiga floppy disks - Here I booted the Workbench 1.3 floppy disk under AmiKit 12, using a 1.34 configuration in Amiberry.

It works fine with protected non-DOS Amiga disks too, here I tried Turrican 2 booting from the original Amiga floppy disk and it worked perfectly.

I also tried Ooze, a newly ported game to the Amiga from floppy disk, and it also worked well:

Having confirmed it works, I took the Drawbridge usb floppy drive and connected it to the CrowPi Lite.
I initially hit problems with it detecting the drawbridge, which I worked with other testers in the AmiKit discord to troubleshoot, eventually working out I needed to run Amiberry using sudo rather than non-sudo as is the default. After I did this, drawbridge worked perfectly on the CrowPi lite.

The Amiberry developer is aware of the issue, and hopefully we should have a fix soon that gets around this problem - for now though, running sudo amiberry to run amikit get drawbridge usb floppy drive support working on the CrowPi lite.

Sadly, I was not able to make it to the Perth Amiga User Group meeting in December this year as my money had run out and I couldn't afford any more travel this year. The group had released a very retro demo using the RSI demo maker to announce the meet X, and this was such a cool idea. 
What better choice to test the drawbridge on the CrowPi lite using a Workbench 1.3 configuration in Amiberry? It works perfectly, booting and running the demo from floppy disk with no problems.

I also booted the Workbench 1.3 disk I tested on the Alienware PC before, and that works also:

Not every original disk works on drawbridge. I couldn't get Silkworm to run the game from original floppy disk, although it did get some of the way:

The sequel to Silkworm, called SWIV, worked perfectly from the original floppy disks using Drawbridge on the CrowPi Lite:

Happy days - I enjoyed playing SWIV for a while!

My last task for this initial setup of the CrowPi Lite was to test the latest AmiBerry release (used for AmiKit 12), which includes support for connecting the Amiga emulation to external USB connected MIDI devices!

I have wanted this support in emulation for quite a while, so I was very excited to try it out.
I moved my CrowPi lite laptop to the Amiga room, to connect it up to a USB Edirol UM-1X midi interface, which plugs into my Roland SC-88 Pro MIDI device.
I ran a native linux MIDI sequencer to make sure everything was working fine in the host OS first, which it is:
I then configured the new Amiberry 5.6.5 release to use the detected Edirol interface as the input and output for MIDI in the IO port settings

I then downloaded and installed the MIDI sequence Horny Lite (on Aminet), and also installed Deluxe Music 2 on the CrowPi Lite by using the original floppy disks:

I played back some MIDI files using Horny Lite MIDI sequencer and it works perfectly:

I also tested using Deluxe Music 2, and that works well as well, although it is more picky about which MIDI files it will load into it.

The developer of Amiberry posted some videos I shared on AmiKit Discord of the playback in action on his facebook page - I didn't include them here to avoid potential copyright issues, but evidently he was not so concerned about that as I am! They are MIDI files of course, but still... anyway, you can view the videos on his page here if you are interested to hear the MIDI output running 

Lastly, I added another 512GB MicroSD card to the storage slot, and loaded it with mods, demos and videos, accessible from both bootable MicroSD operating systems. 

At this point I am very happy with my CrowPi Lite solution, and very glad I bought it.

As new versions of AmiKit come out, I can load them into the other slot to test out without breaking this build, and enjoy my Amiga anywhere in the world! 

I can also now take my Amiga setup to any worldwide Amiga shows in the future without risking my fragile Classic Amiga systems on planes. Fantastic!

At the moment, in addition to this system setup, I am also doing a lot of testing for AmigaOS 4.1 for the upcoming A1222+ system. As this is covered under strict NDA I can't sadly discuss any details, but it is great to be part of helping test this new next gen Amiga system, for the Amiga community to enjoy in the near future.

In addition, off topic, I also tried out the Amico Home game system setup on my Samsung Galaxy S6 Lite Android tablet, using my iPhone 14 Pro as the controller. 

The Amico is a new system from the reformed Intellivision company, which back in the dawn of home console gaming in the late 1970's released the Intellivision, my first computer. I covered my Intellivision setup before here, and the Intellvision homebrew game scene here.
Astrosmash is a modern interpretation on Amico Home of the original Intellivision game!

I pre ordered the physical Amico system in 2020, and the release of this system looks far away due to significant money issues, so they released the in progress Amico Home system on Android for everyone to enjoy, and presumably to get some much needed income from game sales to help finish releasing the actual hardware. 
For Amico system pre-order people like me, they gave us two of the new games to play with for free - I chose Astrosmash as one of them.

I look forward to having the real Amico hardware one day - but this at least allows me to experience what it will hopefully be like, assuming it ever sees the light of day. 

It is a good game, and a nice taster of more to come!

Anyway, enough about Intellivision! I didn't think it was detailed enough for its own blog entry so I included it here instead!

Also, like many others, I also got the recently released Atari 2600+ system, but I think that deserves it's own blog entry in the future when I receive the homebrew games I ordered for it!

As 2023 draws to a close, so does my blog entries for this year too.

I will take some time out to relax, and enjoy Xmas with family. I need to travel for work in the new year again. Unless I find some free time along the way, I expect the next blog post to be in late February 2024 when I return from overseas.

If you have free time, please read some of my other 10+ years of blog posts here - I have covered so many things here you may not have read yet!

In the meantime, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. I look forward to seeing you all again in 2024 with more blog posts!