ArkOS, another excellent RG351P firmware

Last updated: 25NOV2020

Fresh off the heels of 351ELEC, another RG351P operating system is now available. This one is called ArkOS, and it has some features that may make it my favorite operating system yet.

The developer who created ArkOS is not new to RK3326 chipset devices like the RG351P, as they had previously developed an operating system called TheRA-NTFS that was used on similar ODROID GO ADVANCE handheld devices (and clones). But there were enough deviations from TheRA-NTFS to warrant a new name, and now we have ArkOS (Another RK3326 OS).

What I really love about this OS is that it has a lot of quality of life features: online updating, 32-bit and 64-bit userspace, background music, and screensaver options. So let’s dive into this OS and show why I think this might be the best one yet.

ArkOS features

ArkOS is based on UBUNTU 19.10, and being based on a full Linux build give the developer a lot of room to work with. For example, he was able to create a 32-bit and 64-bit userspace, which effectively doubles the possibilities in terms of emulators and apps that can run on the device in this OS. A good example is the fact that this OS can now run both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of RetroArch, which means that certain cores that are unique to those versions are now available across the board. Similarly, if there are 64-bit (or 32-bit) standalone emulators that can be ported over, they’ll work as well. This means there is a lot of promise for future emulator options with this OS.

Like 351ELEC, ArkOS features a separate partition for ROMs, which allows you to drag and drop game files from your PC/Mac directly onto the microSD card. However, ArkOS features the more modern exFAT file system, which is more Mac-friendly compared to 351ELEC (and EmuELEC 3.7) which use FAT32 file systems. Note that the ability to view and manipulate multiple partitions is only available in Windows 10 and MacOS; so if you don’t see the partition and you’re using Windows 7 or 8, that’s the reason.

One of my favorite aspects of this OS is that future OS updates (unless it’s something fundamentally BIG) will be provided through OTA (over-the-air) updates. In other words, you’ll just connect to WiFi and initiate firmware updates — much like you would on your phone. That’s super awesome to me. Moreover, the versions of RetroArch that are on this OS also support online core updates — so you can just jump onto the network and update your cores to the latest builds seamlessly. This is extremely beneficial to me because it means that users don’t have to remove the microSD card from their device at all, unless they want to add/delete ROMs on their computer.

Finally, the quality of life benefits on this OS are pretty impressive. You can load your own background music to play while you’re navigating the menus; I loaded up the soothing PS4 main menu drone music, and now my RG351P plays that soft music while I’m in the main menu. It’s a small touch but it really does make my experience more enjoyable. Additionally, there is a screensaver function that will cycle through the videos associated with the games you have installed on your device. It’s a very entertaining feature, but it’s also useful — you can just press START while a video is playing and launch that game right then and there. This is also a very small feature, but I have been using it constantly.

How to install ArkOS

Another thing I love about ArkOS is that its installation guide is quite comprehensive. So rather than re-type their guide, I am just going to say that you should go to this GitHub page to read through the installation instructions and download the necessary file. The method is simple: download the file, unzip it, flash it to a new SD card using Win32 Disk Imager (PC) or ApplePi Baker v2 (Mac), then put the card into your device to finish the installation. The video above will also walk you through the process.

After that, you can put the microSD card back into your PC/Mac and add your ROMs to their appropriate folder within the “EASYROMS” partition on the card. Note that this OS does not come with bios files, so you will need to add them yourself. If you still have your stock SD card, you can grab them from the “Games” partition on that card. Additionally, the developer created this handy guide which shows every system supported by ArkOS, what emulator it uses, what file types are supported, and what bios files are required (and where to put them).

Overall, setting up ArkOS is fundamentally similar to the other RG351P operating systems, because they all use EmulationStation as their frontend. So my RG351P Starter Guide and Screen Configuration Guide are still applicable here.

Notes

  • ArkOS is frequently updated, so be sure to consult the Changelog to see what features have been recently added.
  • Because there are two versions of RetroArch on this system, you will have to configure both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of RetroArch separately. This means setting up HotKeys will have to be done twice, and so on.
  • Additionally, these versions of RetroArch use the RGUI menu driver (RetroArch theme) by default, so it’ll look a little different from the XMB menu driver you’re probably used to. I personally switched mine back (Settings > Drivers > Menu Driver > XMB) to the old format because that’s what I prefer, but it’s up to you. Both menu drivers have the same settings, but are organized just a bit differently.
  • WiFi FTP is still possible, but you need to select “Enable Remote Access” in the Options menu every time you want to connect to your device. The address will be your IP address (192.168.86.##), username is “ark”, and password is also “ark”.
  • To set up background music, place any .mp3 files in the home/ark/.emulationstation/music folder (if there isn’t a music folder, just make one). You will need to connect to your device via WiFi FTP (SSH) to find this folder. Once you have loaded your mp3s, go back into your device and press START then go to Sound Settings > Frontend Music > ON.
  • To set the time, you will first need to connect to WiFi to set the system time, but the timezone will be stuck on UTC. To change that, you have to access Terminal using an OTG adapter and a USB keyboard — more info here. Once in Terminal, you need to adjust the timezone using a timedatectl command like in this guide. I tested it and it worked great, but it was a bit of a pain to figure out. The developer is aware of this issue and is working on a fix.
  • If you’re looking for hotkeys (like how to exit a game, and so on), be sure to check out this section of the ArkOS FAQs.

If you’re looking for other tips, be sure to check out the developer’s ArkOS FAQs.

29 thoughts on “ArkOS, another excellent RG351P firmware

  1. Kinda frustrated with a couple things.

    *There is no fbneo folder. Adding the folder doesn’t add the games.

    *Putting my MAME-2003 games in the MAME folder results in them not running. It won’t let me change the default core (no core even appears in the setting). Putting them in the MAME-2003 folder works, but there’s no artwork for it in the menu, so it’s just some barely visible black text.

    *The brightness setting automatically jumps down a notch or two when you implement it. So if you put it at 1% it drops to zero and the screen turns off.

    *I can’t find any manual way to update the game list.

    Like

  2. Hey Russ

    Both of these new os look great. I’m going to need some more memory cards so I can test them and switch back and forth.

    I really don’t know where you find the time to learn about all these new developments and also to test and video them! Thanks very much!!

    On Mon, 16 Nov 2020 at 12:00 AM, Retro Game Corps wrote:

    > Russ Crandall posted: ” Fresh off the heels of 351ELEC, another RG351P > operating system is now available. This one is called ArkOS, and it has > some features that may make it my favorite operating system yet. The > developer who created ArkOS is not new to RK3326 chipset devic” >

    Like

  3. Thanks for your guides and videos. You helped me a lot.
    This firmware is nice and I like RGUI over XMB, but everything doesn’t work out of the box coming from 351Elec. For example, I had to edit the /etc/emulationstation/es_systems.cfg in order to use P-UAE core for Amiga hdz games. ArkOS uses Amiberry by default and I haven’t been able to change it from the UI.
    And some file extensions are missing (7z for pcengine for example)

    Like

  4. Russ, great video as usual man! Thank you. Quick question: are you able to change the volume on ArkOS using the volume wheel on the RG351P? Mine was ignoring it and I could only change it via the menus. I flashed back to 351ELEC for now, but ArkOS is looking like the better long term OS right now and I want to hop back over.

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      1. Yeah I planned on it after seeing if you had the same issue! I plan on reinstalling ArkOS on a different card and making sure I can duplicate the issue before I submit just to make sure I don’t waste anyone’s time. Thanks Russ!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Russ,

    I’m loving Arkos so far and it makes the RG351 an amazing little retro pocket console; your channel and website are a great help in setting it up to be the best it can be, so first and foremost thx! There’s one thing though: After having scraped boxarts, there appears to be no way to refresh as I can’t find it in the menu. Maybe there’s something obvious that I’m missing but there are 2400 boxarts dying to be added. Thx again’

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      1. Hi Russ, haven’t been able to fully try and check it because of failed scrape, even though I’m a registered member so that’s kind of weird. Will set up another account at screenscraper.fr. However I did just notice two missing boxarts that I remembered did pop up. Hopefully a dedicated refresh menu button will be added at some point, like in Emuelec. Thanks for responding, as a token of gratitude I got you some new members because my 351 has gone viral among my retrogame loving friends and family and they’re expecting theirs shortly😆

        Liked by 1 person

      2. One thing I forgot to mention, but you can also press SELECT and select “Edit Game Metadata” and re-scrape that individual game (and perhaps change the search parameters to find the exact game if there is an issue with its naming).

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  6. On your point about having multiple SD’s with different OS.
    I also plan to do this to try out the different options, however my question is on save states.

    How do you work your save states/files between SD/OS?
    I don’t want to play 10 hours on ArkOS then go back to standard OS and lose progress?

    On my Android devices this was easy (GPD XD+ etc) but when I had RG350 / Bittboy I got fed up with save state issue.

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    1. dubsmachine, I was able to transfer saves between OS’s with no problems, I just backed up my entire roms folder then transferred it to the card with the new OS.

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      1. Yup that worked for me too on initial setup of 2nd OS card but looking for a smarter way ongoing.
        I don’t want to copy 200gb of roms back and forth all the time.

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  7. So far I like this OS better than the others, among other reasons, it seems the text in menus , I’m just having a few things to work out. I can get connected via FTP, but I’m not sure where to add additional themes. I am also having trouble getting turbo fire working on TG 16 games. On the other OS’s I can turn on a toggle for Turbo Fire through Retroarch (via options), and while I can still do that here and it tells me Turbo has been toggled on, it doesn’t actually work. I also seem to be unable to scrape videos,although that’s not a huge deal to me right now. I was also having an issue where in menus, the controls were not responsive (sometimes it wouldn’t react, and sometimes it’d just scroll automatically) which seems to have went away after I took the wi-fi dongle out, so maybe that was interfering with the control signal somehow? Sorry for the dump of questions, this site has been an excellent resource for getting my 351 going 🙂

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      1. I mentioned the turbo controls in the issues, and by the end of the day, he had an update that fixed the problem 🙂

        Like

  8. Great guide Russ.
    I’m going to end spending more on SD cards and accessories as i have done on the device lol.
    The only thing i’ve not got to work is the menu music.
    My folder structure is different to yours, so probably putting it in the wrong directory.

    Like

    1. I hear you, I’ve been buying cards left and right :). The developer is pushing a new update later tonight/tomorrow that will change the BGM folder to the roms folder, so you’ll just have to drag/drop in the future. That’ll be an easy fix!

      Like

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