raspberry pi

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:

Raspberry Pi microSD follow-up, SD Association fools me twice?

 ____________________________________________
/ Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, \
\ prepare to die. (Klingon Proverb)          /
 --------------------------------------------
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

(Excerpt from Ansible for DevOps, chapter 12.)

The fallout from this year's microSD card performance comparison has turned into quite a rabbit hole; first I found that new 'A1' and 'A2' classifications were supposed to offer better performance than the not-Application-Performance-class-rated cards I have been testing. Then I found that A2 rated cards offer no better performance for the Raspberry Pi—in fact they didn't even perform half as well as they were supposed to, for 4K random reads and writes, on any hardware I have in my possession.

A2-class microSD cards offer no better performance for the Raspberry Pi

Update: See follow-up post about A1 vs A2 performance, Raspberry Pi microSD follow-up, SD Association fools me twice?.

After I published my 2019 Raspberry Pi microSD card performance comparison, I received a lot of feedback about newer 'A2' Application Performance class microSD cards, and how they could produce even better performance for a Raspberry Pi.

A2 Performance Class SanDisk and Lexar microSD cards next to older Samsung and SanDisk cards
None of these cards are fakes; grainy halftone printing is visible because I shot this with a macro lens.

The Raspberry Pi 4 needs a fan, here's why and how you can add one

The Raspberry Pi Foundation's Pi 4 announcement blog post touted the Pi 4 as providing "PC-like level of performance for most users". The Foundation even offers a Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit.

The desktop kit includes the official Raspberry Pi 4 case, which is an enclosed plastic box with nothing in the way of ventilation.

I have been using Pis for various projects since their introduction in 2012, and for many models, including the tiny Pi Zero and various A+ revisions, you didn't even need a fan or heatsink to avoid CPU throttling. And thermal images or point measurements using an IR thermometer usually showed the SoC putting out the most heat. As long as there was at least a little space for natural convection (that is, with no fan), you could do almost anything with a Pi and not have to worry about heat.

Raspberry Pi microSD card performance comparison - 2019

Note: I also posted a separate review of some A2 'Application Performance' class cards, see this post: A2-class microSD cards offer no better performance for the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi Noobs SD card adapter with a number of Samsung and other microSD cards

As a part-time tinkerer and full-time developer, I have been fascinated by single board computers (SBCs) since the first Raspberry Pi was introduced almost a decade ago. I have owned and used every generation of Raspberry Pi, in addition to most of the popular competitors. You can search my site for tons of articles on these experiences.

Basement electrical work - electric dryer and clothes washer wiring

The Geerling household is preparing for the largest home project to date; and while my wife and I have decided to spend a bit extra to have a contractor do the work for the actual kitchen reno, we are still doing what we can to maintain a functional household during the extensive refurbishment of our original kitchen, dining, and laundry area to make it a lot more amenable to our family lifestyle (our current layout is difficult with three kids and two kitchen peninsulas!).

'Phase 1', as I'm calling it, was the electrical work to support moving our electric dryer, clothes washer, and maybe even dishwasher to the basement during the course of the project. I installed a 75A sub-panel in the basement last year (it was my last major home improvement project before the surgery), and it's time to start putting the extra slots in it to good use!

As with most of my projects nowadays, I recorded the entire event as a time-lapse with a Raspberry Pi Zero, using my Raspberry Pi Time-Lapse App. And here it is, for you to enjoy!

Kubernetes' Complexity

Over the past month, I started rebuilding the Raspberry Pi Dramble project using Kubernetes instead of installing and configuring the LEMP stack directly on nodes via Ansible (track GitHub issues here). Along the way, I've hit tons of minor issues with the installation, and I wanted to document some of the things I think turn people away from Kubernetes early in the learning process. Kubernetes is definitely not the answer to all application hosting problems, but it is a great fit for some, and it would be a shame for someone who could really benefit from Kubernetes to be stumped and turn to some other solution that costs more in time, money, or maintenance!

Raspberry Pi Dramble cluster running Kubernetes with Green LEDs

Raspberry Pi microSD card performance comparison - 2018

Raspberry Pi microSD cards Noobs Samsung Kingston Toshiba Sony SanDisk SD SBC

Back in 2015, I wrote a popular post comparing the performance of a number of microSD cards when used with the Raspberry Pi. In the intervening three years, the marketplace hasn't changed a ton, but there have been two new revisions to the Raspberry Pi (the model 3 B and just-released model 3 B+). In that article, I stated:

One of the highest-impact upgrades you can perform to increase Raspberry Pi performance is to buy the fastest possible microSD card—especially for applications where you need to do a lot of random reads and writes.

Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Review and Performance Comparison

Three generations of Raspberry Pi - model 2 B, model 3 B, model 3 B+
Three generations of multi-core Pi: model 2 B, model 3 B, model 3 B+

Whether it's been a 6-node Raspberry Pi cluster running Drupal 8, or a distributed home temperature monitoring application, I use Raspberry Pis for a wide variety of fun projects. The Raspberry Pi model 3 B+ is the latest iteration of the 'top of the line' Pi, with all the bells and whistles, and it still comes in at just $35. This year's iteration improves the CPU frequency, wired LAN performance, and WiFi performance, among other smaller changes, and I ordered one and have taken it for a spin.

What follows are my benchmarks and impressions after a couple weeks poking and prodding the new model 3 B+.

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