Category Archives: Pi Zero

Pi Zero and the USB Problem

The £5 Raspberry Pi Zero has great potential as a cheap gadget but it has one major problem – lack of USB. So it has no ETHERNET – your ONLY option is WIFI – but will the WIFI work and how the HELL are you supposed to figure that out when you only have ONE USB socket. You can have mouse, or keyboard but not both.

IF you happen to have a USB hub lying around you’re all set – but if not, here’s a GREAT idea from a pal of mine…   if you happen to have an original Raspberry Pi (ie NOT the Pi2) – plug the WIFI into that, set everything up on that – then transfer the SD and the WIFI over to the Pi Zero.

SIMPLES – I really don’t understand why I didn’t think of that first – well done David. I just happen to have one old PI lying around and I was looking to giving it a job! Node-Red on a Pi Zero? Keep an eye out for further news.

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Raspberry Pi Zero

Pi ZeroIf you have been hiding recently you may not be aware of the new Raspberry Pi Zero. Hot on the heels of the CHIP and other low cost micros and by the look of it a zillion miles ahead of that daft BBC “Micro Bit” (there’s a shocker)   the Raspberry Pi Zero has some great potential not least because of the price tag – $5 which as you may know is around £3.30 right now.

So what do you get for this ridiculously small amount of money. A Raspberry Pi 1 at double speed, amazingly. Yes, running at 1Ghz the Pi Zero is a full Raspberry Pi and it is tiny.

The official MagPi magazine is out today and will GIVE AWAY one of these on the cover.. not kidding!!! So now every child in Britain etc. CAN have a computer. I have to tell you I am so pleased there’s an alternative to the BBC’s second and hopefully failed attempt at world domination.

Raspberry Pi ZeroSo what could be wrong – £3.30, a full Raspberry Pi – what’s stopping you?

Well, before you rush off.. there is tax – which for example in Chicago is a miniscule 39 cents. Oh yes, this is real – my Pi Zero is ordered and waiting for me to pick it up at the shop – a grand total of $5.31 which is £3.51

But… mostly the ads say “available NOW” – just as they did with the original Pi until you get to the bottom of the page where it says “due to high demand we are currently out of stock” – surely there must be a law against that but hey ho.

I gets worse but before I gripe about British rip-off merchants, let me clarify – this is ALMOST a Raspberry Pi – it has no ETHERNET.. and that’s a big but! Why? Because if you’re familiar with the Pi, you will know that most if not all of the WIFI dongles available for the Pi, which working, are not the most reliable items in the world. This would be IDEAL as, say a dedicated MOSQUITTO server or BLYNK server or similar but would I trust one of those WIFI dongles 24-7 – no.  A real shame.  However, by the time I get my hands on this device and get it back in the office to play with I may well have found someone to prove me wrong about the WIFI reliability. If you know better – please do write in. It was suggested that you could plug in an Ethernet to USB adaptor – but judging by Ebay prices it would be cheaper to buy an Orange Pi which is a better bet than Pi Zero + external Ethernet – or will be once they sort out the software.

So – you can run Raspbian (not entirely sure how to do that yet without the Internet – perhaps BerryBoot might come to the rescue here). – Oh and before I forget – the really good new news on Raspbian is that future versions will have Node-Red built in by default (I love it when I make the right choices) and this just opens up SO many possibilities.

Remember - £3.51 all in -  I just bought one for (the few places in Chicago that do have these in stock are offering one per family so there will be a couple of families going to the store with me Smile )

So here we go - https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-zero/  - MADE IN WALES – which is on the same tiny land-mass as the rest of Britain right?  So if the Americans can charge me £3.31 – what bargains might I get in England you wonder, a mere stones throw from the factory..

Let’s take a look shall we, at the bargains available in the UK right now. http://cpc.farnell.com/raspberrypizero?&ICID=I-Rpizero  - a mere £10.54 + VAT which comes to £12.65 – or a mere NINETEEN DOLLARS. Oh yes, you get a couple of cables with that – you know, the ones you could pick up for a couple of quid from Ebay.

Pi Hut http://thepihut.com/products/raspberry-pi-zero offer the basic Pi Zero at £4 which is a little more like it – but it is all irrelevant as they are out of stock.

Pimoroni also charge £4 for the basic item - http://pimoroni.com/zero but when you press the buttons – they don’t work – I’ll assume that means out of stock.

For around £6 you could buy the MagPi magazine and get a Pi Zero for nothing!! Except you can’t  as they are out of stock. http://swag.raspberrypi.org/collections/magpi/

So – assuming you CAN find somewhere to buy this – I do think it has a bright future unless someone comes along with the same thing plus Ethernet for £6  - but remember this is a souped-up Raspberry Pi – NOT a Raspberry Pi 2 which remains a superior beast.

IF a cheap WIFI dongle can be found on EBay that works reliably and If the likes of BerryBoot will pick up on that dongle so you can simply download the operating system without needing a PC or jacked-up-price-SD card, then I predict a bright future for this device – not least because of the massive amount of PI-related information out there, the friendly nature of Raspbian and of course the stunningly brilliant Node-Red.

Expect more on this next week – I pick mine up on Saturday, just before heading back to the UK as we have Thanksgiving here in the USA today and there’s no chance of getting into the stores in time today.

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