I Will Have A Raspberry Pi Please

Raspberry Pi B+ Single Board Computer
Raspberry Pi B+ Single Board Computer

The Raspberry Pi is the outcome of R&D by a non-profit organisation in U.K. that aimed to produce an economical yet relatively rugged device to teach computer programming to children. Quite safe to say, the adults took to the Pi with childish joy and today the Raspberry Pi is synonymous with buzzwords like IoT (Internet of Things).

The Raspberry Pi foundation has published a number of ebooks, videos about it’s invention and countless others are available all over the Internet.

When I ordered my device, I was excited about three aspects of the Pi:

  1. The Pi features GPIO (General Purpose Input Output) pins which can be connected to very economical sensors and actuators do bring about kinetics to computing without requiring expensive interfaces. Theoretically, I should be able to switch on a lamp when it becomes dark, trigger an alarm if motion is detected in the dead of night or even report the temperature indoors to my cellphone.
  2. The Pi features a Videocore Processor which is capable of decoding H.264 1080p video. Theoretically, I could convert my Panasonic VT20 Plasma TV to a Smart TV for just about $40.
  3. The Pi is a low-power device, consuming just 2 – 5W when working. Theoretically, I could build myself a torrent downloader that can be left powered on always without worrying about 90+ W power consumption (of my laptop) and the wear and tear of the HDD.

The Raspberry Pi B+ device that I ordered arrived after a week and I promptly set about configuring a MSD card with all the OS variants I could lay my hands on.

The software I installed first was BerryBoot which allowed me to install multiple operating systems on the same MSD card and switch between them during device bootup. Soon the primary OS that I had settled on was Raspbian and the primary function that my Pi performs today is function #3 – The torrent downloader.

Why not function #1 and #2? The principle reason is that I also bought a bunch of Arduino boards and I intend to do sensor related projects using them. I also bought a bunch of Android Media Player devices and I intend to use those as my HTPC (Home Theatre PC) devices.

The Raspberry Pi B+ board connected with Sandisk 16GB Pen Drive and Comfast WiFi-N adapter. A 10,000 mAh Portable Battery is powering it.
The Raspberry Pi B+ board connected with Sandisk 16GB Pen Drive and Comfast WiFi-N adapter. A 10,000 mAh Portable Battery is powering it.

Currently, my Pi features a Sandisk 8GB MSD Card as the device with the OS, a Sandisk 16GB USB Pen Drive as the main storage device used by the torrent downloader, a Comfast N150 USB Dongle to connect the Pi to my Internet Router and a Xolo 5V DC 1A Mobile Phone Charger as the power adapter for the Pi. I have placed the device in the anti-static bag it came in and the entire contraption is obscurely lying close to the Router.

The software installation and customizations that I have performed on the Pi are:

  • Configured Raspbian to use RAMFS to minimize disk-writes to the MSD Card. The RAMFS takes a small portion of the 512MB RAM on the Pi and uses it as a Temp-disk to write logfiles etc. From time to time, the RAMFS driver flushes the temp-disk and writes out the files to the MSD card.
  • Added the Sandisk 16GB Pen Drive as a device that should be mounted as boot with write-access to all users. The device is also formatted as FAT32 partition. Thus, I can also simply take out the Pen Drive from the Pi and plug it into a PC to transfer the downloaded files, instead of attempting to transfer them over the slow Wi-Fi networks.
  • Configured Deluge Daemon to save files to the USB Pen Drive. Also configured the other huge number of parameters that are required to keep Deluge up and running for days.
  • The Pi does not come with onboard battery-backed RTC (Real time clock) and it obtains the current date and time using NTP (Network Time Protocol) at every boot. For some strange reason, my ISP BeamCable disabled the NTP Port (Port No. 123) and thus caused every Windows, Linux, Android device in my house to lose time-sync ability. On the Pi, I downloaded and compiled the source code of HTPDATE which allows the users to synchronize the date and time of the machine by querying the date-time of well-known servers (such as Google, Microsoft etc.) over HTTP.
  • I also installed utilities like HTOP (colourful alternate to TOP) and MC (Midnight Commander, a File Manager). Very recently, I also performed a bunch of network  throughput tests using NETCAT.
  • Configuring SAMBA to share the USB Pen Drive over the network and accessing it from Windows computers was very challenging and most rewarding of all.

I am tempted to run the Pi as a Crypto-currency mining machine, NAS & DLNA Server, AmbiLight Clone. The B+ device that I bought for Rs.2900/- has now dropped in price to just $25 and the new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B board is now available at Rs.2900/- (originally priced $35 in USA). There are also tons of alternate Raspberry Pi like boards such as Orange Pi, Banana Pi, Odroid, UDoo etc. and these boards are a good reason to simply buy one board per purpose instead of expecting one board to do it all.

Have you bought your Pi yet?

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