Onion Omega2 Initial Review

Onion Omega2 Initial Review by Free Radical Labs

Definite Positives:

  • Price point for board and expansions are great
  • Console GUI is great way to manage the Omega2
  • Form factor - its tiny even with expansions
  • Webcam addition was one-click

Opportunities for Improvement:

  • There are still some bugs in the system - its not ready for mass market just yet
  • The forum is helpful, but it can be daunting to find your particular issue
  • Security on the device is iffy right now - lots of default passwords that are difficult to change

Recommended for:

  • Intermediate to advanced DIY'ers
  • Users who are comfortable with SSH, Linux and Command Line interfacing
  • Experienced hardware early-adopters

Its hard not to see the Onion Omega2 as a product of the revolution that the Raspberry Pi started.  Where the Raspberry Pi changed people's perception of what a computer is, the Onion Omega2 is a good example of what you can do with a single board computer.  Although it does have its foibles, a promising foundation has been laid for a new ecosystem in the DIY electronics universe.  Oh, and its $5.

I've had about 8 hours to play with the Omega2 and I can say that my first 8 hours with the Omega2 have been more productive than my first with the Raspberry Pi all those years ago.  This is not a knock on the Raspberry Pi because it was so groundbreaking - it is in fact Genesis - but you can see the effort that the folks at Onion have put in to the initial user experience.  It is not perfect though.

The first issue that everyone seems to have is connecting to the board once you've applied power.  The guide will tell you to go to http://www.omega-ABCD.local (where ABCD is the last 4 digits of the boards MAC address) but I was not able to get that to work.  It seems to be finicky when it comes to which browsers it works with.  The best advice I would offer is follow the instructions, but use as the way to log into your device. 

From here the only other issue I had getting the Omega2 up and running is when I went to set up my Wi-Fi, the application seemed to time out.  I waited about 5 minutes and reset the board- when I logged back in the Wi-Fi was working and the firmware update and console installation were a snap (but make sure your Wi-Fi is set to AES encryption).  There is a known issue where boards do not reset after they get their software update but I just hit the switch on the expansion dock and kept on trucking.

I played around in the console and found a webcam app that you can add.  It took a couple of tries, but once I got it installed I plugged an old Logitech webcam I had and just like that I had a webcam streaming through my Omega.  By comparison, adding a webcam to the Pi was a little trickier but in all fairness it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.  I'm thinking about making a sleek baby monitor, but the other issue with having to log into the Omega2 comes up as well. 

Right now, I'm having issues securing the device so I'm not going to just let the world watch my kid sleep.  I've looked through the forum, but have not yet been able to really find a solution.  The forum is nice but there seems to be a strata of advanced users pushing the device to the limit and starters who have day 1 issues - it can be daunting at first.  There is good search functionality though.

If you are unfamiliar with Free Radical Labs, our primary focus is hands-on education and sharing the DIY experience with others.  I believe the Omega2 definitely has the potential to make it into our classroom rotation.  The price point is great for those looking to incorporate it into STEM learning, the only issue is working out the kinks - which is by no means a deal breaker.