raspberry pi

Kubesail's PiBox mini 2 - 16 TB of SSD storage on a Pi

Kubesail Raspberry PiBox mini 2 front side exposed

Many months ago, when I was first testing different SATA cards on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, I started hearing from GitHub user PastuDan about his experiences testing a few different SATA interface chips on the CM4.

As it turns out, he was working on the design for the PiBox mini 2, a small two-drive NAS unit powered by a Compute Module 4 with 2 native SATA ports (providing data and power), 1 Gbps Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2, and a front-panel LCD for information display.

The Hardware

The PiBox mini 2 is powered by the Compute Module 4 on this interesting carrier board:

PiBox mini carrier board with Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4

Getting a Raspberry Pi to boot after cutting it in half

This blog post starts with the question: If I cut the ports off a Raspberry Pi 4 model B, will it still work?

Cut Raspberry Pi 4 model B

My early conclusion? Sorta.

With most Raspberry Pi generations, there is a full-featured model B, and a smaller, trimmed-down model A. The Pi 4 never had a model A, so I thought it would be interesting to see if I could make one. I looked at the Pi 4 with this really cool X-ray tool, as well as using this album of X-ray images from reddit user u/xCP23x:

Xray image of Raspberry Pi 4 model B

The cut was calculated to try to avoid anything important, though as we'll find later it may not have been measured carefully enough.

Automating the Uncommon - AnsibleFest 2021 presentation

At AnsibleFest 2021, I presented a session titled Automating the Uncommon - Ansible automates everything!.

Since watching on-demand versions of the AnsibleFest sessions requires a signup, I thought I'd also post the session to my YouTube channel, so everyone can learn from it without registering. The session seemed well-received, and I hope it shows that, as I state in my 'Rule of Golden Hammers':

Jeff's rule of Golden Hammers - If you know a tool well enough, and the tool is good enough, it's okay to do weird things with it.

I demonstrate how I use Ansible to:

Attaching to a Raspberry Pi's Serial Console (UART) for debugging

Sometimes a Pi just won't boot. Or it'll boot, but it'll do weird things. Or you don't have an HDMI display, and you can't log into your Pi via SSH. Or maybe you're like me, and someone 'accidentally' cut your Raspberry Pi in half, and you want to see what it's doing since it won't boot anymore.

Raspberry Pi with UART Serial Console Debug cable connected

The Raspberry Pi can output information over a 'serial console', technically known as a UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter). Many devices—including things like storage controller cards, which in a sense run their own internal operating system on an SoC—have a 'UART header', which is typically three or four pins that can connect over the RS-232 standard (though many do not operate at 12v like a traditional serial port! Use a USB-to-TTL adapter like the one I mention below).

Simply Embedded has a great overview of UART if you want to learn more.

Face detection for my leaf blower

In the class of 'out there' projects, I recently added a little AI to my leaf blower:

Leaf blower with Raspberry Pi on top for AI ML Machine Vision blasting

The short of it: I have a face detection algorithm running which, when a certain individual enters the field of the Pi's vision, triggers a servo that powers on the blower, releasing a powerful air blast.

Red Shirt Jeff gets blasted by air cannon

I've been wanting to play around with face detection on the Pi for some time, but the Pi Zero I use in most of my camera projects is seriously underpowered for this kind of work.

CM4Ext Nano

So when Harlab (Hardware Laboratory) told me they'd like to send me a CM4Ext Nano board for testing, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to play with machine vision on the Pi.

Raspberry Pi 4 model Bs arriving with newer 'C0' stepping

Owing to a mishap with the Pi 4 model B I use for testing—more on how Red Shirt Jeff ruined that board later this week—I had to go buy a new Pi 4 last week.

The local Micro Center only had the 8 GB model in stock, so I went a little over budget and bought it. When I arrived home, I checked the board, and noticed a bit of a difference on the Broadcom SoC:

Raspberry Pi 4 model B C0 stepping on BCM2711 SoC

Can you spot it? The model number of the BCM2711 chip on this board is 2711ZPKFSB06C0T, which is the same as the chip found on the Pi 400.

This is a newer stepping of the original Pi 4 model B chip, which has the model number 2711ZPKFSB06B0T. The difference is the third-to-last character, the C versus the B.

Raspberry Pi KVMs compared: TinyPilot and Pi-KVM v3

In a strange coincidence, the authors of TinyPilot and Pi-KVM both emailed me within a week of each other and asked if I'd be interested in one of their KVM devices.

TinyPilot vs Pi-KVM v3 Price comparison

Michael Lynch, founder of Tiny Pilot, said he'd used some of my Ansible work in building the TinyPilot update system, and Maxim Devaev, of Pi-KVM, liked my Pi open source content, and wanted to see what I thought of the new v3 kit that's currently on Kickstarter.

I took them both up on the offer, and dug into both devices.

Both have HDMI and USB inputs, so you can plug them into any Mac or PC and get full control, up to and including BIOS/UEFI settings, remote desktop management (with no software on the managed computer), and mounting of USB ISO images for re-installing an OS or maintaining a system.

Monitoring my home's air quality (CO2, PM2.5, Temp/Humidity) with AirGradient's DIY sensor

A few months ago, I found this Hacker News post about the AirGradient DIY Air Quality Monitor. I had already been considering buying an AirThings Wave Plus sensor to monitor my home's CO2 levels, but the high price and limited 'ownership' of the data coming from it turned me off.

AirGradient DIY Air Quality Sensor - Focus Stacked by Jeff Geerling

So I built two AirGradient DIY air quality monitor boards (see above), and integrated them into my Prometheus + Grafana home monitoring setup I've been using to monitor other things in my house:

AirGradient DIY Grafana Dashboard for CO2 PM2.5 Temperature Humidity monitoring

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.

Why build a Raspberry Pi Cluster?

Raspberry Pi Cluster next to a banana for scale

After I posted my Raspberry Pi Blade server video last week, lots of commenters asked what you'd do with a Pi cluster. Many asked out of curiosity, while others seemed to shudder at the very idea of a Pi cluster, because obviously a cheap PC would perform better... right?

Before we go any further, I'd say probably 90 percent of my readers shouldn't build a Pi cluster.

But some of you should. Why?

Well, the first thing I have to clear up is what a Pi cluster isn't.

Note: This blog post corresponds to my YouTube video of the same name: Why would you build a Raspberry Pi Cluster?. Go watch the video on YouTube if you'd rather watch the video instead of reading this post!