Web servers and SLITE Editors Rethink

ApacheFor some considerable time now I’ve been using Apache (web server) on my various SBCs to present a basic web page, run PHPLITEADMIN (local  SLQLite Database Manager and do other menial jobs. A LONG time ago I got rid of MySQL (which I had used on and off along with MS SQL on larger machines for a long time)  despite it’s undoubted qualities as MySQL tends to be not ideal for the likes of little Raspberry Pis with their limited resources and limited life SDs. Well, that was a start but now it is possibly time to move on from Apache to something a little lighter on it’s feet as well. 

NGINXAntonio is busy having another so at setting up Caddy as an alternative web server, but he’s having a busy week and I could not help but give Nginx a go – I WILL play  with both that and Caddy in the very bear future and the winner will no doubt get into “the script”. Any web server for me has to run PHP, preferably v7 as I like to be up to date – warning - I’ve only tested this  on a Raspberry Pi 3 (2 will work) but as there was nothing specifically Raspbian-ish in the setup I’ve no doubt this would work elsewhere.

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Easy Backup 2

Having satisfied myself that RPI-CLONE does a good job of creating backups of Raspberry Pi (no guarantees you won’t lose data but it hasn’t happened to me yet) I started the search for a solution for other boards. I find the Orange Pi +2E to be a particularly nice piece of hardware, but useless without an easy backup.  armbian-config will let you copy from SD to EMMC but not the other way around – so no backup capability for eMMC users. So I've been working on this...

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Easy Backups and Webmin

This article started off as two separate subjects - and has now gone SO much further - you really need to read this one...

So I’m messing here with a NanoPi NEO PLUS2  (though this applies to other board too) – and I’ve had all sorts of issues getting SSD1306 drivers working on them – well, not so much getting them to work – that’s easy – more stopping this infernal “segmentation error”. I needed a backup solution. Well, I found more than one !

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Xiaomi Roidmi 3S Bluetooth Music Car Charger

This Xiaomi Roidmi 3S cigarette-lighter-sized Bluetooth transmitter and car charger has two USB outputs totalling 2.4 amps output AND is able to talk via Bluetooth to your mobile phone so that those without Bluetooth on the car radio can tune into a special low power FM transmission and play their phone music via the car stereo. Not only that but it is inexpensive! The unit came from GearBest – here’s the link…

Xiaomi ROIDMI 3S Bluetooth Music Car Charger: https://goo.gl/uzmHh6

Roidme 3S

Thr Roidmi website is out of date, featuring models 2 and 2s whereas the unit I have is model 3S. Operation requires little explanation so really the GearBest link above is good enough. Once the unit is paired to your phone by Bluetooth, all sound output from your phone or tablet will go to the unit and be retransmitted by radio (FM) to the car radio. The unit also of course has 2 USB charging outputs which can be used for example to charge your device or devices - always handy in the car.

Roidmi 3S

The Roidmi 3S is solid enough, if you are unfortunate enough not to have Bluetooth on your car stereo, it could prove useful. The brief instructions (which I didn’t need) were in English. It has now been in use for weeks in our little Spanish car and operates flawlessly.

I must admit to being sceptical at first, I’ve seen similar units over the years promising to send music over FM and usually ending up with disastrous sound. This unit on the other hand has true, clear stereo and sounds GREAT with no interference from other stations, at least, not here in the Granada region of Southern Spain. My UK car has full Bluetooth but our little Spanish run-around has no Bluetooth and as the radio stations are Spanish, has, up to now been essentially useless.

Now, we can stream my wife's favourite American Rock station from her Smartphone  to the radio andeven  keep the phone charged at the same time – marvellous.

Highly recommended.

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Xiaomi Mi Band 3 Smart Bracelet

Last month, the mailbag brought a number of goodies including a new smart wrist band for Maureen, the Xiaomi MI Band  3, supplied by GearBest. Several weeks later, this little fitness band is in full time use, as Maureen absolutely loves it. The battery lasts a week or more between charges, which is far more than can be said for some other bands out there including pretty colour bands that are essentally usless because of short battery life - no such problems here.

Xiaomi MI

Here’s the link:

Xiaomi Mi Band 3 Smart Bracelet: https://goo.gl/hKj4PN

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SD CARD Backup

Update September 2018

I read about the most convoluted ways to back up SBC systems…. some back up only data, some use arcane commands to do the job – few if any are a single click job for a complete backup that can even handle larger or smaller SDs. That is except for RPI-Clone.

Below “Original article” was written back in 2016 – things have changed a little since then. Bill Wilson has revamped his rpi-clone project and the current version of this superb command-line tool for the Raspberry Pi is here.. https://github.com/billw2/rpi-clone

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Orange Pi Plus 2E revisited

Update September 2018: Despite my earlier enthusiasm below, it seems things have changed. The Stretch version of Armbian for this board which I grabbed today has a broken armbian-config and the excellent rpi-clone program produces a read-only version of the operating system. The "bionic" version of Armbian for the board kills "the script" very early on.  I gave up after several attempts with both versions. As there seem to be no realistic alternatives to Armbian for the board, I guess it is back to the cupboard for the Plus 2E.

Original July update: I’ll not review this as I’ve already reviewed the Plus 2E.. but I recently ordered another one as my enthusiasm for the Plus2E, despite my overall dim view of Orange Pi, is a smashing board – everything  just works.

Orange Pi Plus 2E

The Orange Pi Plus2E (in brief) has 16GB eMMc, 2GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet and WIFI, IR sensor, microphone and lots more. It is an H3-based board so not state of the art but very powerful and easy to use. I tested multiple serial ports and multiple I2c channels and they just work. See my original review for more.

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Koogeek Smart Light Strip LS1

Koogeek lightWhile we were down at the coast paying a fleeting visit to Gibraltar, a package arrived for me from  www.koogeek.com – their LS1 Smart Light Strip – which is available from TomTop - https://www.tomtop.com/p-ls1-1.html

Here it is, it arrived well-packed – it is worth noting that apps are available for both Android and IOS. The box describes the product and spec in English, Chinese and what looks like German. For IOS users the strip works with Apple HomeKit. Somewhat less info is provided on the box for Android.

Koogeek light

At this point I got the urge to open the box and take a look. This time, there were instructions in several languages including French and Italian. The manual has in total three sides in English including specifications and safety warnings.

The strip is for indoor use only and the product includes a 60-LED, sealed, adhesive-backed strip (somewhat waterproof-looking) and inline controller with USB at the end – all in white. Control is over WiFi - 2.4G only.

I plugged the strip into a handy USB supply and with the one button on the controller, turned it on. Double-click doesn’t seem to do anything so at this point it looks like an on-off control only – giving a smooth fade into a satisfyingly bright white.

Koogeek light

On removing and re-applying USB power, the lights come up again in white, regardless of the last button state (on or off) so you could end up with a room full of lighting during the day in your absence – not a good thing. I think there may be an assumption here of the user always being present – and power always being on (i.e. no power cuts or brown-outs).

The light works with Google, Siri (Apple) and Alexa voice technologies none of which I had handy to test.

Rather too much Apple bias for me – and that shows in the Android Store who gave the app “Koogeek Smart Home” a rating of 1.7 – particularly low.

I downloaded the app onto my Android phone.

The unit comes with full colour control in the App and setup was particularly easy, however, again  if you get a power failure, when it reconnects, app settings are lost and worse, you have to be at the light strip to turn the power on otherwise the App has no idea of the state of the lights. As this is presumably all down to software I’m sure this can be sorted but right now at v2.2.14 it isn’t, which leaves the current strip as a novelty but little else.

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Big Timer

tmp17DBBig Timer is (probably) the best-ever timing node for Node-Red, providing a general purpose timer as well as  handling summer/winter correctly as well as (importantly) lighting up time (for which you should provide longitude and latitude). After all you probably don’t turn the outside lights on at 6pm!! You turn them on when it gets DARK.

As always - available at node-red-flows and at npmjs.com

Short extract from the readme file:

The ultimate Timing node for Node-Red

Purpose

BigTimer is a powerful timing node offering a range of timing facilities for Node-Red. BigTimers can be used singly or in groups. Full support for dusk/sunset dawn/sunrise and variations also day/week/month (and special days) control. The node offers outputs suitable for MQTT, speech and databases. You can also manually over-ride the UTC time setting on the host computer if required.

Usage

Suitable for general use and very powerful (yet simple), BigTimer has 3 outputs, the first of which triggers when there is a change of state and presents one of two messages (for, for example, MQTT or other control mechanism), the second output is a simple 1 or 0 every minute in the payload and also has additional outputs reflecting the status message in msg.state and message time and others. The third output presents a message which could be used for speech or debugging.

New: “toggle” mode. Now with new seconds timer mode AND updated for the latest Node-Red 0.17.5+ including new help formatting and tips on input and output.

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GL iNET MT300N V2 Mini Router

I recently bought this low-cost Mini-router without having a clear idea of how to use it, other than to somehow get past the RIDICULOUS GEO-restrictions that providers such as the BBC and others put on their TV content. My MT300N (Mango) is yellow incidentally, like the photo. Only today after very carefully reading the instructions and comparing to other routers did I realise what a winner it really is, or could be if I could get it to vpn connect reliably.

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