Senate Inquiry Report into CDC Ammendment released

So, at 4:58pm AEST, after two extension requests, the Community Affairs Legislation Committee released their report on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017.

It was not the news that we were expecting to hear. After reading through all the submissions, and seeing the number of submissions both by individuals and by community organisations representing many hundreds of thousand citizens across Australia, it was not expected that the committee would list a sole recommendation of

Recommendation 1

2.113    The committee recommends that the bill be passed.

It was expected that the recommendation would that the bill NOT be passed, or at worst, that the amendment should only alter the provision being repealed to allow the trials to continue. It is suspected that due to the committee makeup, that there was a hung vote on the recommendation meaning that the LNP Chair had the casting vote, and hence the  LNP were successful in pushing it through the Senate Inquiry also…

More analysis to come as we get a chance to analyse this report in its entiretly. In the meantime, you can view the report below, or view or download it from the Senate Committee page.

Also released at the same time was the review of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017 [Provisions], by the same Community Affairs Legislation Committee. This bill made it onto our radar when it was noticed that it also sought to amend the Cashless Debit Card provisions of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999. Whilst this bill had the same recommendation of being passed, it is good to note that it did, however, raise some issues that the government should address.

Recommendation 1

2.70    The committee recommends that the government consider whether there is merit in imposing a cap on the maximum percentage of a tenant’s divertible welfare payment which can be deducted under the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme, to ensure that an amount is available to meet a tenant’s other basic and reasonable needs.

Recommendation 2

2.71    The committee recommends that the government clarify how the scheme will interact with other forms of income management, such as cashless welfare arrangements, or other deductions made from a tenant’s income support payment under Commonwealth law.

Recommendation 3

2.72    The committee recommends that the government consider the arguments for including a provision in the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme guidelines for notification to be provided to a tenant when: a request for an automatic deduction is made by a lessor, the stated reason(s) for a request; the outcome of the Secretary’s consideration of a request; and, if the Secretary approves a request, the amount that will be deducted, the deduction schedule and information regarding government funded financial counselling and other relevant support services available to a tenant.

Recommendation 4

2.73    The committee recommends that the government consider whether there is merit in providing a review mechanism in the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme to provide a tenant with an accessible process for requesting a review of a decision made by the Secretary.

Recommendation 5

3.35    The committee recommends that the bill be passed.

As with the previous report, you can either view the embedded report below or can view or download it from the Senate Comittee page.


Final round of submissions

After some delay and procrastination, I have finally read what appears to be the last release of submissions to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017.

In this round, there were a few more organisational submissions, from some big names like the St Vincent de Paul Society and Uniting Communities. There is a submission from our friends at Say No Seven. There is also an individual submission from a resident of Ceduna who has followed the Cashless Debit Card all the way through and recounts her experiences, as well as a submission on behalf of a Kununurra action group who continue to object to the program being implemented in their region. There was also a submission from Indue, which sought to rebut some of the claims made about Indue., hence I  considered this an ‘Other’ submission as it made no specific comments on the legislative amendment. Finally, the new ‘Unknown’ is for the confidential submisions for which I don’t know the position off. I think we can make an educated guess that they are against the amendment bill, but since it’s only a guess, it gets its own category.



Consensus of the submissions to date


As always, you can view the tracker spreadsheet here (now with three graphs on the second sheet for those who like graphs), view or sync with my cache of the submissions, or you can get them directly from the Senate Inquiry submissions page.

If you wish to read some really detailed and well-written submissions, I strongly recommend you read either the St Vincent de Paul Society (#163) and Uniting Communities (#169)… they are long, but very detailed, and provide some much needed evidence-based recommendations and views as to how the government could improve the situation of people on social security payments, rather than drive them further into depression and poverty.

Finally, in summing up, a couple of quotes from some of the submissions this round:

The evaluations of New Income Management in the Northern Territory and the Cashless Debit Card are not conclusive or consistent across participants and their communities. There is no evidence to support community-led changes or long term behaviour changes

162, Northern Territory Government

The CDC is a blunt measure driven by ideology rather than evidence, and it risks compounding some of the very factors that contribute to ongoing disadvantage and disempowerment among those on low incomes.


And if the Government is genuinely committed to tackling complex social and health issues, such as alcohol and drug addiction, we encourage it to support initiatives that are grounded in evidence and implemented in genuine partnership with communities.

163, St Vincent de Paul Society

I do not drink alcohol of any kind and do not smoke, do not use drugs, do not gamble, and quite frankly, am insulted that the Government would label me as one who does.

164, Name Withheld

The money spent on this Trial would be better spent on providing comprehensive and appropriate services to those who need them. The evidence and reports from communities clearly indicate that the implementation of the Card does not achieve the results that are being claimed by Government and, that instead, it causes distress, shame and hardship to people.
The current Cashless Debit Card program is entrenching poverty. Not only is it entrenching welfare dependency, it is entrenching decision-making dependency and a loss of people’s autonomy – the imposition of the Card removes people’s sense of agency and could result, over time, in people becoming enculturated into a pattern of relying on government to make decisions that affect their private lives and choices.
It is alarming that the Government sees fit to implement a punitive program that is costing a great deal of money to administer, and that has proven to be deeply unpopular with those who have been subjected to the experiment to date.

169, Uniting Communities

Personally I would question not only how socially responsible the mandatory application of the card is, but I would also question how fiscally responsible the current mandatory approach Is when the trial in fact indiscriminately targets people who are clearly behaving responsibly.

To put things in a wider context I would also ask how many government programs are still in operation when they waste $750,000 dollars of every $1,000,000 dollars in expenditure. In my view such wasted expenditures would be better directed at the 25% of welfare recipients who actually really do need genuine assistance, Above all I can’t help but wonder how significant improvements could be made to the lives of welfare recipients if they were delivered much better wrap around community services…

170, Name Withheld, Ceduna Resident

This card is causing shame for the people, it is disempowering already vulnerable people rather than addressing drug, alcohol and addiction abuse in this region. Programs such as this should be designed with our community in a consultative manner. Furthermore, those people and families affected by these programs should be provided with the appropriate support to take control of their own finances and deal with any addiction, mental health problems or impacts of trauma.

171, Ms Beverley Walley and Ms Gailene Chulung

Canberra Public Hearing

Senate Public Hearing for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 held in Canberra on the 2nd of November, 2017.

There were two versions of the program for the day, there is the published one, and there was a second version emailed to participants to the proceedings which was slightly more up to date. The times on the program should match the recording, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find any a particular session if you are after it.

ParlView Video Recordings:

Hansard transcript is available here, with a PDF version here. There have also been additional documents tabled, including answers to questions put on notice, tabled documents and correspondence, but this is all currently from the 12th October Kalgoorlie public hearing.

You can either watch the recordings directly from the ParlView page, or download the entire or portions of the recordings.

If you just wish to see the Hinkler or BAG segments, I have downloaded just those sections of the day’s proceedings:


Batch 4 of submissions

We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine

Oh, sorry, still can’t get over Pauline Hanson’s latest demonstration of the excellent general knowledge our parliamentary representatives have… that multi-million dollar submarines can only go underwater for 20 minutes at a time!

The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee has been hard at work, and are up to 54 submissions that have been publicly released. They have again skipped a few submissions, as 50 was released all on it’s lonesome a few days ago, but now the missing 46 – 49 have been added. However, now 52, 54 & 55 missing, so unless they are confidential, they’ll probably turn up in the next batch.

I would summarise this batch as all the submissions being damning of the Cashless Debit Card (Trial), and the lack of evidence to support Income Management being effective whatsoever in curbing issues of alcohol, gambling and illicit drug dependence. And some submissions have gone as far to suggest or even show evidence that negative outcomes such as an increase in poverty, domestic violence, aggravated crime and child neglect will and have increased in this trial and in others.


Consensus of the fourth public drop of submissions

As always, you can view the tracker spreadsheet here (now with three graphs on the second sheet for those who like graphs), view or sync with my cache of the submissions, or you can get them directly from the Senate Inquiry submissions page.

This batch brings with it submissions from some of the biggest critics of the card, who have been there right from day one when it was proposed as the BasicsCard. We have Professor Eva Cox, an Adjunct Professor from Jumbunna UTS, who wrote a piece for the Guardian to highlight the flaws in the ORIMA evaluation of the CDC. Then there is Dr Elise Klein from the University of Melbourne, who only happened to have undertaken a research project into the Cashless Debit Card based on thirteen months of field-based research in the East Kimberley region – so she has first-hand experience in what the CDC looks like, and how it was implemented.

Then there is a submission from Dr Janet Hunt of the Australian National University, who has rubbished the ORIMA Wave 1 basically from the day it was released, as when she read the report, she discovered that it was extremely flawed and did not provide adequate evidence to draw the conclusions that had clearly been drawn by the Minister, Alan Tudge, in that the trial was a success and should be continued indefinitely. UNICEF Australia weighed in also and was a bit naughty with a  whopping 25-page submission, none of which had anything good to say about the card or compulsory income management in general. Rather amusingly, they reference Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statement about this being “an exercise in practical love” and respond with

compulsory income management in the form of the Cashless Debit Card  model may not help build individual capacity or long-term community change, and may in effect build a dependency on welfare support

There is a submission by Professor Jon Altman from Deakin University, who has always opposed blanket income management, and was there at the what he refers to as the hastily convened Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry into the Provisions of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Bil 2007 and Associated Bills, highlighting then research in the USA showed that measures controlling the spending of welfare benefits have a high cost and limited benefits.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has unsurprisingly suggested

that the Bill should not be passed without broader community consultation to ensure the full effects of the trial, including on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, are properly understood.

The Mayor of Logan also made a submission, in which he highlights concerns that there were no consultations with organisations representing medical professions or drug treatment providers

who have stated they believe the proposed trials as currently crafted are unlikely to have the impact being sought and instead will result in negative and unintended outcomes rather than behavoiural change.

There was a submission from a former trial participant (wait for it!) who became former because they challenged ORIMA and the DSS as to whether it was ethical for them to evaluate a trial where participation is mandatory and participants have not given genuine informed consent – and 20 minutes later was informed they are exempt from the trial. Then, there was the minor detail of Orima Research only getting approval from an ethics committee five months INTO the trial, in clear breach of the guidelines. And then there is the small issue of the documented proof of the card being able to be used to purchase alcohol, both in Kununurra and at the Parliament House gift shop! More disturbing, and indicative of how out of touch this government is was this statement:

When I told the Department of Social Services that I was now homeless and sleeping on the street, they did not offer me any assistance or advice.

And finally there is a submission from our very own friends, Say No To The Cashless Welfare Card Australia/ Hinker Region on behalf of the 6000+ members of the group, in which there is a much-needed recount of the change in attitude that has been seen in this region already since the announcement that Hinkler is to be next:

Since the announcement of the card coming to the Hinkler region we have seen public attitude based on misleading information, constant bullying online towards people and families who have not committed any crimes, branded drug addicts, drunks and bludgers, constantly attacked for standing up for themselves. Our people do not deserve to be treated as second class citizens as we see one section of the community going through their fight for equality at law, we are now seeing another section of our community at risk of losing their equality at law

The Cashless Welfare Debit Card is nothing more than financial apartheid

Blaming people who cannot defend themselves is cruel. Meanwhile the working people just carry on, drinking, drugging and mismanaging their incomes, still partaking in domestic violence and the like, whilst at the same time pointing the fingers at people on social security payments;


Batch 3 of submissions

I firstly need to get some administrivia out of the way. I have changed the name of the third category which I have been assigning submissions that don’t appear to be adopting a position from ‘Unclear’ to ‘Other’. This was due to when I first chose the category name it was based on a submission that was exactly that – unclear, and I have come across other submissions since which are more advisory, and hence are not adopting a position for or against the CDCT, hence go into that now ‘Other’ category. Consequently, I have also moved one submission out of the Other category, the “ME, CFS and Lyme Association of WA” one, as it is against the CDC, even if it is only for its particular group.

So, 17th of October, and just under a month to go before the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs is due back to the dreaded Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017. Between this release of a further eleven submissions and the last batch, there has also been the first of two public hearings – the Kalgoorlie, WA one on the 12th of October. I have yet to fully review that hearing, but the little bit I did hear for a ‘for the card’ submission was not going well for them – with a Senator grilling them on evidence of community consultation and informed community consent to the card being implemented in their region. It was also satisfying to hear the Chair also instruct Senator Pauline Hanson to focus on questions, rather than grandstanding (although they were admittedly not the words used, but the meaning was quite clear). If you missed the live audio, I have a partial recording of it uploaded which you can listen to whilst we wait to see if a transcript is released (UPDATE: Blind me… it was there already!).

However, the eleven submissions released today. This batch was a mixed bag… four submission have been relegated to the ‘Other’ category – although having said that, they still outline issues with the CDCT, and are hence not singing praises of the currently policy. There are six more submissions that are strongly against the bill/CDC, and finally one in favour, thus bringing support for the CDCT to a staggering 4 submissions out of the 45 released thus far. Thus the ‘score’ so far is 4 submissions for, 6 other, and 35 against. Twiggy and Co must be fuming by now!


Consensus of the third public drop of submissions


And as before, you can view the tracker spreadsheet here (with two graphs on the second page for those who like graphs), view or sync with my cache of the submissions, or you can get them directly from the Senate Inquiry submissions page.

Of particular significance in this batch is the release of the Council of Single Mothers and their Children Victoria submission, which has attached at the end what they referred to as “Anna’s story” – which is the first-hand recount of how one single mother was impacted by the CDC’s restrictions – being unable to buy second-hand goods, unable to make that quick visit to the shops because of minimum EFTPOS purchase amounts, delays in the balance being update on her card and in the app, which was costing too much in data fees to use anyway. It is a much-needed demonstration of how the CDC does nothing to achieve its stated goals, and how it can drastically impact the lives of those who are already struggling.

For the rest, there were a lot of excellent points raised, even by the more ‘neutral’ advisory submissions. I’ll finish this post with some of the more interesting excerpts I cam across, in no particular order.

Commonwealth Bank:

For communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage, the CDC is one option to help combat this disadvantage, however it is not a panacea. An investment in job creation, particularly in regional areas of Australia, is needed over the long term to support those on the CDC to transition into meaningful economic participation.

Queensland Advocacy Inc:

Create jobs, not stigma … punitive and presumptive card … [t]he Card is a retrograde step, further eroding a system that already is frayed at the edges.

Law Council of Australia:

… questions of whether there is a rational connection between the cashless debit card and the harm it seeks to prevent, and whether it is a proportionate restriction on human rights …

Council of Single Mothers and their Children Victoria:

the Cashless Debit Card deviates from all the best evidence available in fields such as behavioural economics, behavioural change, addiction studies and public health, by exerting strong external power over not only an affected individuals income, and thereby, their ability to manage their lives, but that of a majority segment of a community

UnitingCare Australia:

limitations placed on individuals’ ability to purchase certain items when using the card that would have no impact in reducing levels of harm associated with alcohol consumption, drug use and gambling

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples:

evaluations of the BasicsCard under the Stronger Futures measures have shown that the policy does not work, the CDC represents even more dictatorial measure in that it restricts a higher proportion of income

Reconciliation Australia:

No evaluation has found that compulsory forms of income management have resulted in medium or long-term behavioural change at the individual or community level

And finally, I leave you with this enlightening quote from the sole submission for the Bill for this batch, from the Cape York Institute:

Any suggestion that the introduction of cashless debit cards, supported by local reformminded leaders, is worsening the situation or that the cards themselves can be causally linked to the suicide epidemic, is seriously misconceived.

Kalgoorlie Public Hearing

Senate Public Hearing for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 held in Kalgoorlie on the 10th of October 2017.

The program for the day is available on the inquiry public hearings page, or via this link.

As the Community Affairs Senate Committee was not sitting in Canberra at the time, there is no video, but the audio was live streamed at the time. I have a few minutes recorded of the mornings proceedings until morning tea, and then from after morning tea until the end of the day. Apologies if there is any dings or chimes as I didn’t have time to ensure that all notifications were disabled on the machine doing the recording…

Edit 1: Some additional documents have been uploaded, which are answers to questions that were put on notice at the hearing.

Edit 2: I have since been in touch with the Australian Parliment House’s ParlAV division, and they have made available their audio for the public hearing.

Batch 2 of submissions

The second batch of submissions dropped sometime this afternoon, and after spending about an hour and half working my way through the next set of 14 submissions (21-34 for those of you keeping track)… the ‘score’ in the Alan Tudge & Andrew Forrest vs the People of Australia debate is looking even worse for Tudge and co before… it’s up to 28 against the CDC, and still only 3 for it thus far. The number of unclears is up to 3, with the two additions to that category either insisting that funding to support services is essential if the CDC is to continue to be expanded and extended, or that if it is implemented, it should not apply to a particular section of the community (i.e. not a blanket ‘against’).


Consensus of the second public drop of submissions

Score Keeper Spreadsheet

Google Drive cache of submissions

Senate Inquiry Submissions page

Most revealing in this drop is the organisations such as the Queensland Teachers Union, which have condemned the CDC on behalf of their 44.500 members, due to issues ranging from the cost of implementation (in contrast to the rewards), the fact that the card  “will humiliate the recipients and further denigrate those who are the most vulnerable in our society” and that “[p]roponents of the cashless welfare card have argued that the fact that children access school breakfast programs is a sign of the need for this initiative. This gross oversimplification ignores the extreme rates of unemployment in the region and the fact that welfare payments keep the income of most recipients below the poverty line.” It also fails to take into account children that travel long distances so don’t have breakfast before they leave, those children that have second breakfasts, and those children that see school breakfast programs as a social event! Hence “[i]t is shameful that these breakfast programs are used in a political way to justify the introduction of the cashless welfare card.”

Consumer Law Action Center have made multiple submissions over the years, starting with the 2015 Bill when the CDC was first announced. As far as they are concerned, nothing has improved since then, and in fact, the situation has worsened. For example, they close their submission with “[I]t is apparent that Indue is not concerned to engage with organisations that represent consumer interests, and thus we question the appropriateness of its involvement with the CDCT.” Why did they make this statement? Because, “In June 2016, Consumer Action wrote to the CEO of Indue seeking a dialogue about certain concerns. That letter attached correspondence sent to the Australian Bankers Association and the Customer Owned Banking Association (members of the latter are also the owners of Indue Ltd, i.e. certain credit unions and mutual banks). A response was received effectively dismissing any concerns and referring us to the Department of Social Services.” They also raised issues with the DSS upon hearing of the potential expansion of the card… and those concerns have not been addressed… but they do at least have an acknowledgement receipt!

The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission have also written rather scathing submissions about the CDCT, and have also made submissions in the past, both at the inquiry for the previous Bill, and also in other reviews of the CDCT. They are both also rather enlightening and informative reads (which is the case for pretty much all of the submissions in general).

However, I want to draw attention to one final submission – which summarises a conversation which is contained in a submission that has yet to be released. This is a story that puts a human face on the issues that people who are placed on the card suffer, which supporters of the card claim is not the case. It’s probably best if I just include it in closing as an excerpt.

The National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) is keen to share a conversation that we had with a year 12 student who resided about 250 km outside of Alice Springs. The implementation of the CDC, meant that she could no longer purchase food and goods nearby her small community but needed to go to the additional cost and the time to travel to Alice Springs. This trek was commonly completed once per fortnight, but there were times when they needed to include a weekly visit. The CDC reduced her access to fresh food and it has resulted in local markets disappearing. It was during one of their shopping expeditions that she encountered humiliation at the hands of a supermarket chain. The groceries included a mouthwash. This item was put aside whilst the cashier, over a speaker, checked if this purchase was allowable because it contained alcohol.

NCSMC seeks that the Committee will read Anna’s story which is contained in the submission presented by the Council of Single Mothers and their Child (Victoria). It is hoped that Anna’s willingness to share her experience will influence the Committee.



Batch 1 of Submissions released

Today it appears that the first batch of submissions for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs have been publicly released.

What is the inquiry about? It’s basically a review of the proposed legislative amendment, and gives all the stakeholders a chance to make their positions heard. As it’s in regards to a legislative amendment only, there is no terms of reference for this inquiry – the submission is solely about the proposed amendment – and the impact that it will have if implemented. This particular amendment is rather simple, but also very far reaching. It’s probably easiest to reuse a picture I threw up on facebook over a month ago, which visually shows what the amendment does.


Effect of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017

So as you can see… it is a pretty simple amendment . But it will have some far-reaching effects if it is passed, as there will no longer be an overall duration and ending to current and new ‘trials’. Nor will there be a cap on the number of trial sites or number of participants. The Minister for Social Services, Alan Tudge, justifies this as needed to extend and expand the trials… but wouldn’t  he have simply amend the limits if that was truly the case? However, that’s not the focus of this post.

So, submissions for the Senate Inquiry closed last Friday (29th September), and yesterday 20 of the submissions were publicly released. As I have been following this saga from day I heard that my electorate had been proposed as a site, I lodged a submission myself, and have been waiting to see what the other submissions were. To make it easier to track what is happening with the submissions, I made a Google Docs spreadsheet so I could collate a list of submissions for and against the CDC.  I added a third category, unclear, on reading one submission that was intending to make a more formal submission at the second public hearing. I’ve decided to make this spreadsheet public to make it so that others who don’t want to suffer and read through them all can get an idea as to what the submissions are about, and what the consensus is thus far. There is also a cache/copy of all the submissions as I download them and skim them… which anyone can access as a shared folder if they wish.

Thus far, what I am henceforth going to refer to the ‘score’ in the Alan Tudge & Andrew Forrest vs the People of Australia debate stands at 3 / 16 with one unclear, making the first drop of submissions clearly in our favour!! I hope to see this ratio stay somewhat similar as more submissions are released in the coming few days. Then of course there are the public hearings in Kalgoorlie on the 12th of  Oct and Canberra on the 2nd of November. And unless an extension is needed, the report from the Inquiry on the 13th of November. I know there will be a dissenting report from the Greens… that is a certainly, but I’m also hoping to finally see the ALP take a position, and also have a dissenting report as well.


Consensus of the first public drop of submissions

pine64+ 1G SoC 64bit computer

So, I know it has been absolute ages since I posted last, mainly due to life, illness or study getting the way. So, I thought it was time for an update, and what better way to update than to discuss my latest toys, or projects.

So, I have recently become involved in four kickstarter projects. One scored me a 3D printer, another was for a more stable ESP8266 wireless MCU, and the other two were for some ‘cheap’ SoC (System on a Chip) computer boards – one for $9, and the other for $29.

For this post, I’ll focus on the last one. So you’ve probably heard of the Raspberry Pi by now… these days, just about everyone has. It really is a great board… small, inexpensive, well documented, and is more than just a computer. With the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi, you can also dabble with some electronics, and make things like home automation projects. It is especially good when you would want the beefier processing power of a computer, but don’t want the size and power-hungriness of it. However, unless your needs are relatively undemanding, it won’t be replacing your desktop computer anytime soon… it’s not THAT powerful… but it is getting better with every revision.

Pine64+ 1GB with a MCP23017 attached to the I2C bus for testing

So what’s so special with the $29 computer board I gottten (shown right) since the Raspberry Pi’s so great? Well, a couple of things. But to clear something up first, technically it was a $15 board, but I got the one with double the memory, and with the wifi module, hence $29. And in doing so, I have hinted at one of the advantages the Pine64 has over the Raspberry Pi – it has a a built-in wifi module. One of the things a lot of people get for the Raspberry Pi is a Wifi adapter, and in doing so, depending on which model you get, you loose 1 of 2 or 1 of 4 USB ports immediately. Not so bad with the 4 USB port models, but can be painful for the 2 port models.

Then you say “but most of the Raspberry Pis have an ethernet port”… so connecting to a network is easy if you have a ethernet cable nearby. That is true, but there is another catch… the ethernet and USB share the same chip (I’m not sure if this changed for the Raspberry Pi 3, but this was the case until at least then)… meaning if you had wanted to do something like have a raspberry pi share files over a network from a USB drive… then don’t hold your breath… not only was it slow… but the ethernet would shut down every now and then. The pine64 doesn’t have this issue as it has a separate ethernet control chip (as does the Cubietruck, which is the board I currently use as as network attached storage (NAS) drive).

Another advantage is hinted in the name. The pine64 has a 64bit processor, whereas the Raspberry Pi, and most other SoC boards have a 32bit processor. This is starting to change, as there are a few other boards starting to come out on the market now. However, the pine64 is one of the first, cheapest, and feature rich I have seen to date. Why does 64bit matter? Well, it only matters if you want to be able to proces a lot more data more quickly, or be more power efficient than it’s 32bit cousins when processing the same amount of data.

Just like the Raspberry Pi, the Pine64 has support for a directly connect LCD and camera, so you don’t loose those options if you want them. It has a Raspberry Pi compatible header (the 40 pinout), as well as it’s own Euler bus and an expansion header for power switches, LEDs and the serial console. It boots from a microSD card, so that makes switching operating systems as easy as swapping out the microSD card. If you need to be able to run it from a battery, there is even built-in support for that… just plug in a compatible batter, and move a jumper, and you’re set.

So, I’ve been singing praises about the Pine64, so what’s the catch? Well, the Raspberry Pi header isn’t 100% compatible, but so far, the variances are only minor once you’re know about them, and can be easily remedied. The gigabit ethernet (another big plus if you want to transfer a lot of data fast) appears to have issues with some setups – if this is software fixable is yet to be determined. Probably the biggest failing point of the Pine64 is the documentation, or the lack thereof. For instance… unlike other boards… the new user will probably get the board, and then go to the forum asking “where do I start?”. There is no “getting started” guide. There is no friendly walk-throughs on getting your new toy up and running. Not even a video tutorial to show you what all the different ports and sockets do. What you will find is a random collection of information scattered all throughout the forum, two wiki pages, and a site that backer created which will hopefully fill a lot of that gap up.

Now, since this was a kickstarter project, the thing that happens to nearly 90% of tech related kickstarters happens… they were way behind schedule. And providing timely updates wasn’t a strong point of this project, so there are several threads where people are understandably upset over why they don’t have their board, and hadn’t received any responses to emails. However, shipments are nearly done, so that phase is nearly over. People have their boards, and are starting to ask questions about how to get this and that working. This is unfortunately another problem arises… whilst some people on the forum are very helpful, some others just aren’t. They think they are, and they do have a lot of valuable experience to share, but also can give beginners completely wrong, conflicting information, or sometimes respond when they don’t know anything, but want to make it appear that they do. Unfortunately, this individual is a moderator, and when confronted, likes to wave that authority. So until the dust settles, and more people come on board, the forum is a bit of a train wreck waiting to happen.

Finally reached the end of Torts… for now!

To change things up a bit, I’ve done a voice recoding for this last entry. The player should be visible just below this text (after have a brief but futile (on my normal file sharing sites part – it is currently not in my good books) argument about whether it would actually share the audio!). There are also two documents – the first is a quasi transcript, and the second is the completed questionnaire for the end of Torts B.


Rate Your Confidence