open source

Time Card and PTP on a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4

Ahmad Byagowi, the project lead for Open Compute Project's Time Appliance, reached out to me a couple weeks ago and asked if I'd be willing to test the new Time Card Facebook had announced in mid-August on a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4. Since I have a sort of obsession with plugging anything and everything into a Pi to see what works and what doesn't, I took him up on the offer.

The official specs had PCI Express Gen 3 on a x4 slot as a requirement, but it seems the Gen 3 designation is a little loose—the card and its driver should work fine on an older Gen 2 bus—like the one the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 exposes if you use the official IO Board:

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 IO Board PCI Express Slot

The slot is x1, but you can plug in any width card using an adapter like this one or by hacking an open end into it with a razor saw or dremel tool.

Raspberry Pi OS now has SATA support built-in

After months of testing various SATA cards on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, the default Raspberry Pi OS kernel now includes SATA support out of the box.

SATA card and Samsung SSD with Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 IO Board

In the past, if you wanted to use SATA hard drives or SSDs and get native SATA speeds, and be able to RAID them together for redundancy or performance, you'd have to recompile the Linux kernel with SATA and AHCI.

Sure you could always use hard drives and SSDs with SATA to USB adapters, but you sacrifice 10-20% of the performance, and can't RAID them together, at least not without some hacks.

There's a video version of this post: SATA support is now built into Raspberry Pi OS!

Freenode is dead. Long live IRC?

This is the text version; I have a video version of this post on YouTube: Freenode is dead. Long live IRC? [video].

I've been on IRC since I started participating in the Drupal community in the mid 2000s. For over three decades, countless programming and open source communities have centralized their real-time discussions on IRC servers. While overall IRC usage has declined in the past twenty years, Freenode became the most influential hub for IRC users, with the majority of users and channels, especially for open source discussion.

But all things must come to an end, and it seems like Freenode's new leadership—who took over the network over the past few years—are doing everything they can to drive it into the ground, fast.

When I first heard about a bunch of Freenode staff and volunteers forming a bit of a suicide pact, I knew something was up, and immediately many open source communities started discussing what they'd do if their main discussion platform went belly-up.

OBS Task List Overlay for livestream TODO / Checklist

For a few of my task-oriented livestreams, I wanted to be able to have an easy-to-follow list of tasks present in an OBS scene, with an indication of which task was currently in-progress.

I had seen a similar overlay on NASASpaceflight's livestreams (example), and liked the simplicity:

NASASpaceflight Live stream overlay task list for Flight Test

I started searching for an OBS plugin I could use to replicate that overlay, but was coming up with nothing. There was some plugin that seemed like it fit the bill, but it had been abandoned a while back. Most of the other overlays were a lot more specific to gaming, had few options for customization, or only worked with services other than OBS.

Using the Shelly Plug to monitor Starlink's power consumption

I recently wrote about using a Raspberry Pi to remotely monitor an Internet connection, and in my case, to monitor Starlink (SpaceX's satellite Internet service).

Power Consumption Grafana dashboard with Shelly Plug US power usage coming through

One other important thing I wanted to monitor was how much power Starlink used over time, and I was considering just manually taking a reading off my Kill-A-Watt every morning, but that's boring. And not very accurate since it's one point in time per day.

Shelly Plug US

Microsoft repo and key are automatically added to Raspberry Pis

A couple weeks ago, I noticed when running apt-get upgrade on one of my Pi projects that a new repository was added.

VSCode Repository added to Raspberry Pi OS automatically during apt upgrade

It was a little odd, because Linux distributions don't typically 'inject' new repositories like this. And it was even stranger because this particular repository was for VSCode, from Microsoft.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation just posted an article to their blog about Visual Studio Code coming to the Raspberry Pi—but that post didn't address any of the controversy surrounding this change.

There's also a video that goes along with this post: Is Microsoft Spying on your Raspberry Pi?

What Happened

In late 2020, Microsoft released a version of VSCode compatible with the Raspberry Pi.

Cracks are showing in Enterprise Open Source's foundations

I've worked in open source my entire career1. To say that I'm worried about the impact recent events have on the open source ecosystem would be an understatement.

Red Hat and Elastic logos

In the past couple months:

  • Red Hat effectively killed CentOS
  • Elastic effectively killed Elasticsearch

People may rightfully refute these statements, but the statements are more complicated than you might think. Killing a project doesn't mean the project will vanish overnight, but what has happened so far is two very large companies in the 'enterprise open source' space have shown the chinks in the armor of the monetization of open source software.

For many years, everyone in the industry pointed at Red Hat as the shining example of 'how to build a company around open source'.

And for the past decade, the open source Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana logging ecosystem was on a tear, becoming a standard in the open source cloud stack.

The Raspberry Pi makes a great USB webcam for $100

There are many Raspberry Pi projects where I spend a few hours (or dozens of hours) building something with a Pi, and realize at the end that not only could I have purchased an off-the-shelf product to do the same thing for half the component cost, but it would work better too.

But this is not one of those projects:

Pi Webcam on Tripod - Pi Zero W and HQ Camera

The Raspberry Pi and its HQ camera make a surprisingly potent webcam, and if you want to cover the basics, and rival the image quality of all but the highest-end dedicated webcams, you can do it for under $100.

Still frame grab from recording on Dell XPS 13 using Raspberry Pi Webcam

Above is a single frame from a recording I did with the HQ Camera on my Raspberry Pi Zero W connected as a standard USB webcam using the Camera app on Windows 10 on my Dell laptop.

Travis CI's new pricing plan threw a wrench in my open source works

I just spent the past 6 hours migrating some of my open source projects from Travis CI to GitHub Actions, and I thought I'd pause for a bit (12 hours into this project, probably 15-20 more to go) to jot down a few thoughts.

I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. For almost a decade, Travis CI made it possible for me to build—and maintain, for years—hundreds of open source projects.

I have built projects for Raspberry Pi, PHP, Python, Drupal, Ansible, Kubernetes, macOS, iOS, Android, Docker, Arduino, and more. And almost every single project I built got immediate integration with Travis CI.

Without that testing, and the ability to run tests on a schedule, I would have abandoned most of these projects. But with the testing, I'm able to keep up with build failures induced by bit rot over the years and review PRs more easily.

What went wrong with Travis CI?

From the outset, Travis CI was built to integrate with GitHub repositories and offer free open source CI. At one time it was showered with praise on Hacker News and elsewhere for its culture and ethos.