Recent Blog Posts

Everything I know about Kubernetes I learned from a cluster of Raspberry Pis

I realized I haven't posted about my DrupalCon Seattle 2019 session titled Everything I know about Kubernetes I learned from a cluster of Raspberry Pis, so I thought I'd remedy that. First, here's a video of the recorded session:

The original Raspberry Pi Dramble Cluster
The original Pi Dramble 6-node cluster, running the LAMP stack.

Run Ansible Tower or AWX in Kubernetes or OpenShift with the Tower Operator

Note: Please note that the Tower Operator this post references is currently in early alpha status, and has no official support from Red Hat. If you are planning on using Tower for production and have a Red Hat Ansible Automation subscription, you should use one of the official Tower installation methods. Someday the operator may become a supported install method, but it is not right now.

I have been building a variety of Kubernetes Operators using the Operator SDK. Operators make managing applications in Kubernetes (and OpenShift/OCP) clusters very easy, because you can capture the entire application lifecycle in the Operator's logic.

AWX Tower Operator SDK built with Ansible for Kubernetes

The best way to keep your cool running a Raspberry Pi 4

From home temperature monitoring to a Kubernetes cluster hosting a live Drupal website, I have a lot of experience running Raspberry Pis. I've used every model through the years, and am currently using a mix of A+, 2 model B, and 4 model B Pis.

Stack of Raspberry Pi model B and B+ 2 3 4

The 3 model B+ was the first generation that had me concerned more about cooling (the CPU gets hot!), and the Pi 4's slightly increased performance made that problem even more apparent, as most of my heavier projects resulted in CPU throttling. I've written about how the Raspberry Pi 4 needs a fan, and more recently how it might not.

Upgrade the Raspberry Pi 4's firmware / bootloader for better thermals

In October, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released an updated bootloader/firmware for the Raspberry Pi 4 which dramatically reduces power consumption and overall temperatures on the Pi 4 by setting the USB controller and CPU into a more power-friendly mode.

I wanted to post here the instructions for checking the current version, and upgrading, because I have a large number of Pis to upgrade over time, and I needed a quick reference. For more details, check out the Raspberry Pi Documentation page Raspberry Pi 4 boot EEPROM.

Checking if the current bootloader is up to date

Upgrade system packages and install the rpi-eeprom utility:

$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt -y full-upgrade
$ sudo apt install -y rpi-eeprom

Check if an update is required:

$ sudo rpi-eeprom-update

If you see a difference in the output, you can restart to update to the newer version. If everything's the same, you're already on the latest version.

The Raspberry Pi 4 might not need a fan anymore

tl;dr: After the fall 2019 firmware/bootloader update, the Raspberry Pi 4 can run without throttling inside a case—but only just barely. On the other extreme, the ICE Tower by S2Pi lives up to its name.

Raspberry Pi 4 cooling options including ICE tower cooling fan and a case mod fan
Three options for keeping the Pi 4 cozy: unmodified Pi 4 case, modded case with fan, and the ICE Tower.

A few months ago, I was excited to work on upgrading some of my Raspberry Pi projects to the Raspberry Pi 4; but I found that for the first time, it was necessary to use a fan to actively cool the Pi if used in a case.

Two recent developments prompted me to re-test the Raspberry Pi 4's thermal properties:

If you're having trouble formatting a new SSD in a Mac, it could be the cable

tl;dr: If you see weird errors when using or formatting a drive internally on a Mac (especially after upgrading to a newer and/or faster SATA hard drive), it could mean the SATA cable needs to be replaced.

Mac mini mid-2011 lower SATA hard drive cable with connector
Who would've thought such a tiny cable could cause so many problems?

I have an older Mac mini (mid-2011 i5 model), and I use it as a general media server and network backup. It handles Time Machine backups for two other Macs, it has about 20 TB of external storage connected, and I also use it as a 'home base' to store all my Dropbox, iCloud, and Photos content locally, and store an extra Time Machine backup of all that. I'm a little nutty about backups... but I haven't lost a file in two decades and I don't want to start now ;-).

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