reviews

Homelab Pi Rack upgrade, just in time for AnsibleFest 2022

AnsibleFest is fast approaching, and this year it'll finally be back in person, in Chicago. Since that's a short jaunt from St. Louis, I'll be headed up to talk about my Homelab this year!

More specifically, I'll be giving a talk titled Ansible for the Homelab, and I'll walk through how I have at least part of my sprawling homelab environment automated using Ansible.

Raspberry Pi Rack Pro by UCTRONICS

Two Macs in my Rack: Mac Studio rackmount review

No stranger to rack-mounting Macs that were never meant for the task, I reached out to MyElectronics to see if they had a rackmount solution for the Mac Studio when I bought mine in March.

They said they were already working on a Mac Studio Rack Mount system, and they'd gladly send me one to review, since they knew how much I loved rackmounting my M1 Mac mini and all the Raspberry Pis I run in my homelab.

MyElectronics Mac Studio rackmount with M1 Mac mini

Mac Studio is 4x more efficient than my new AMD PC

Last month, I built an all-AMD PC to try out Linux Gaming with Steam and Proton, and so I'd have a faster native Linux build machine for my various compilation tasks.

This month, Apple introduced the Mac Studio, and as a now full-time video producer, it was a no-brainer for me to upgrade from an M1 Mac mini.

Mac Studio M1 Max Hero

My Mac Studio arrived Friday, and over the weekend, I spent some time benchmarking it against not only my M1 mini, but also my new AMD Ryzen 5 5600x PC build.

My Mac Studio's specs:

BliKVM - a PiKVM (KVM over IP) box based on the Compute Module 4

I received a couple BliKVM units recently, and since I don't have as much of a need (my only 'remote' PC is about 2' away from my desk...), I brought them to my Dad's radio station, and we set it up in their main on-air PC so operators could access the PC and fix problems at home, instead of driving in!

Check out our video on this board on the new Geerling Engineering YouTube channel:

You can buy the BliKVM on AliExpress, and try your luck finding a CM4 to use in it!

Home Assistant Yellow - Pi-powered local automation

I've dipped my toes in 'smart home' automation in the past.

Typically I approach 'smart' and 'IoT' devices as a solution to one simple problem, instead of trying to do 'all the things'.

For example, I wanted to make it easy for my kids to control a home theater with four different devices and complex audio/visual routing, so I bought a Harmony remote and programmed it to control TV, a game console, an Apple TV, and radio. I don't want Logitech to start controlling other aspects of my house, or to give intruders an avenue by which they could invade my home's network.

However, many smart devices require a persistent Internet connection to use them, and that I cannot abide.

Home Assistant Yellow - inside enclosure

Autofocus on a Pi - ArduCam's new 16MP camera

ArduCam with other Raspberry Pi Cameras - v2 HQ and Autofocus 16MP

ArduCam recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign for a 16 megapixel Raspberry Pi camera with built-in autofocus.

The camera is on a board with the same footprint as the Pi Camera V2, but it has a Sony IMX519 image sensor with twice the resolution (16 Mpix vs 8 Mpix) and a larger image sensor (1/2.53" vs 1/4"), a slightly nicer lens, and the headline feature: a built-in autofocus motor.

Autofocus performance

Getting right into the meat of it: autofocus works, with some caveats.

First, the good. Autofocus is quick to acquire focus in many situations, especially in well-lit environments with one main subject. Using ArduCam's fork of libcamera-still or libcamera-vid, you only need to pass in --autofocus and the camera will snap into focus immediately.

Raspberry Pi holds its own against low-cost ARM NAS

Earlier this year, I pitted the $549 ASUSTOR Lockerstor 4 NAS against a homebrew $350 Raspberry Pi CM4 NAS, and came to the (rather obvious) conclusion that the Lockerstor was better in almost every regard.

Jeff Geerling holding Raspberry Pi Radxa Taco NAS board and ASUSTOR Drivestor 4 Pro

Well, ASUSTOR introduced a new lower-cost NAS, the $329 Drivestor 4 Pro (model AS3304T—pictured above), and sent me one to review against the Raspberry Pi, since it make for a better matchup—both have 4-core ARM CPUs and a more limited PCI Express Gen 2 bus at their heart.

Around the same time, Radxa also sent me their new Taco—a less-than-$100 Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 carrier board with 5x SATA ports, 1 Gbps and 2.5 Gbps Ethernet, an M.2 NVMe slot, and an M.2 A+E key slot. (The Taco will soon be available as part of a kit with a CM4 and case for around $200.)

The specs evenly matched, at least on paper: