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Photographing the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

On April 8, there will be a Total Solar Eclipse covering an large swath of the US, offering hundreds of millions of people the opportunity to witness one of the most spectacular displays of our sun.

Jeff Geerling Photographing the Total Solar Eclipse

I wrote two blog posts about the recent 2017 eclipse, as well—check those out:

For this year, I was considering going all-in on a custom Raspberry-Pi-based solar tracking system, recording video and images... but Will Whang already built a custom solar imaging setup that would put anything I build to shame.

Waveshare's PoE HAT is the first for Raspberry Pi 5

Pi 5 PoE HAT Waveshare F

Power over Ethernet lets you run both power and networking to certain devices through one Ethernet cable. It's extremely convenient, especially if you have a managed PoE switch, because you get the following benefits:

  • A single cable for power + Ethernet (no need for separate power adapters)
  • No need to have electrical service near every device
  • Simple remote power on/off capability (assuming you have a managed switch)
  • Centralized power management (e.g. one UPS in a rack room covering all powered devices)

I have used the Raspberry Pi PoE and PoE+ HATs for years now, allowing me to have 4 or 5 Raspberry Pi per 1U of rack space, with all wiring on the front side. I also use PoE for cameras around my house, though there are dozens of use cases where PoE makes sense.

The Raspberry Pi, since it only requires 3-10W of power, is an ideal candidate for PoE, assuming you can find a HAT for it.

SimpliSafe Video Doorbell: Halt and Catch Fire

SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro burnt wires

This SimpliSafe doorbell burned up less than a week after I installed it. I never would've thought a doorbell would be the most dangerous thing I set up at my studio!

I learned a LOT about powering 'smart' doorbells, and talked directly to SimpliSafe about it. They did sent a replacement, but it has it's own problems.

I'm still happy with SimpliSafe overall, but I don't like how I've spent about 8 hours troubleshooting a 'smart' doorbell. The only thing that's been 100% reliable on this thing is the basic ding dong I could've gotten with a five dollar dumb doorbell!

This blog post is based off my latest moving vlog, episode 12, where I talk about my SimpliSafe doorbell problems, the new 10G and 25G networking gear I'm testing, and a new 'retro corner' in my office. Check it out below:

Raspberry Pi IPO: Selling out?

Raspberry Pi 5 blended into 100 dollar bill USD

Raspberry Pi is looking into an IPO (Initial Public Offering).

But wait, Raspberry Pi's a non-profit! They can't do that? And who would want stock in Raspberry Pi anyway? Their core market hates them—they abandoned hobbyists and makers years ago!

And there are like tons of clones and competitors, nobody even needs Raspberry Pi? Plus, aren't they crazy-expensive? It's like a hundred bucks now, and that's if you can even find one to buy!

Well, hold on a second... there are a lotta misconceptions out there. In this post, I'll walk through what's actually happening, and also through things I see online.

This blog post is a lightly-edited transcript of a video on my YouTube channel, which you can watch below:

When did Raspberry Pi get so expensive?

Raspberry Pi 5 and N100 GMKtec Nucbox G3

I just bought this N100-based Intel x86 mini PC (brand new), and it was cheaper than an almost equivalent—but slower—Raspberry Pi 5.

This GMKtec mini PC is called the Nucbox G3, and it comes with an Intel Alder Lake N100 4-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256 GB M.2 NVMe SSD, and Windows 11 Pro—and mine cost just $131, after a couple coupons.

That's... a lot of computer for a very good price. But the Raspberry Pi—the famous "$35 computer", should be well below that... right?

Well, I bought all the parts required to build a Pi 5 to the same spec—including the adapters and parts to assemble it into one small unit—and it turns out... the Pi is more expensive. And slower.

The Pi 4 still starts at $35 (for a 1 GB model), but the Pi 5 starts at $60 (for 4 GB) and climbs to $80 for the maximum 8 GB model.

MNT Reform - a hackable laptop, not for everyone

MNT Reform bottom with purple battery cells

The MNT Reform's design, the components, everything—is open source. If iFixIt did a teardown, they'd probably give it an 11 out of 10.

You can replace individual battery cells! Some people with these laptops hacked in their own speakers, added more internal Ethernet, or even swapped out the CPU itself.

Does that mean I think you should buy it? No, probably not. It's expensive (starting at €1199), and it's built for a certain type of person. It's not gonna replace a MacBook or a cheap Chromebook.

But why does this exist, and why am I excited about it?

Disclaimer: The reform used in this review was sent to me for testing; it's already been shipped back to MNT Research. They haven't paid me anything, and they have no input into the content of this blog post.

A Pigeon is still faster than the Internet

Jeff Geerling holding a homing pigeon

In 2009, a company in South Africa proved a homing pigeon was faster than an ADSL connection, flying a 4 GB USB flash drive to prove it.

Besides IEEE's speculative work, nobody's actually re-run the 'bird vs. Internet' race in over a decade.

Now that I have gigabit fiber, I thought I'd give it a try.

Video

I published a video with all the details—and even more background on the graceful birds used in the experiment—over on my YouTube channel:

Soundproofing my studio: what's in a wall?

Jeff with resilient channel

Soundproofing is... kind of an art. It's not as simple as buying something and slapping on your walls. And the word 'soundproofing' is a bit of a loaded term.

You could mean deadening sound, so you can record podcasts with that signature radio sound. Or you could mean isolating a room from outside noise, which is an entirely different process. Or you could work on reducing resonance, echo, or just certain frequencies.

In my case, I wanted to build kind of a 'sound cocoon' in the middle of this space, so I could record any time, day or night, even if my AC is running.

Time Card mini adds Pi, GPS, and OCXO to your PC

For LTX 2023, I built this:

CM4 Timecard mini GPS locked

This build centers around the Time Card mini. Typically you'd install this PCI Express card inside another computer, but in my case, I just wanted to power the board in a semi-portable way, and so I plugged it into a CM4 IO Board.

The Time Card mini is a PCIe-based carrier board for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, and by itself, it allows you to install a CM4 into a PC, and access the CM4's serial console via PCIe.

But the real power comes in 'sandwich' boards: