I’ve just been up to Northern Spain with a friend and our wives looking at some property up there and when we got to our hotel and got the wine open, Aidan showed me his new toy – Amazon Echo.
The Echo Moment
Well, I was so excited I’ve ordered the new Dot which should turn up next week – after all my failed experiments with Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana trying to fire text at Node-Red so I could control things, this might just do the job – but that is something for next week.
Of course – you could always hang around and wait for the forthcoming fluffy version called FABRIQ – which appears to be rechargeable – but no mention of microphone arrays so you take pot luck on how good the audio capture is. You could even take the kit route with Seeed’s ReSpeaker – but by the time you add up the cost of ReSpeaker and the microphone array… well, I’m wondering if they’ve lost the plot. They sent me a ReSpeaker to play with minus the microphones – I nearly choked when I saw the additional cost. If you have an Amazon account you can play with Alexa here.
I’ve not had a lot of luck with the Raspberry Pi versions, one only works in the USA, others are out of date and require button presses… anyway I’ve ordered a USA mic any my DOT turns up next week so maybe in a couple of weeks this will start to fly at this end.
We came back to the cave on Friday and yesterday my friend Jonathan rang me up full of new stuff he’s been playing with.
Glasswire and Divvy
So first things first – for Windows enthusiasts – check out GLASSWIRE. I have it sitting here making pretty graphs of my network – I’m not saying it is any good – I’m saying it is extremely pretty and possibly deserves a corner of your desktop. Something else you might like to play with is DIVVY from MIZAGE. I’ll leave you to look those up. I found them interesting.
Meanwhile as some of you know I’ve been experimenting with Armbian on my little Nanopi NEO. Lovely operating system and I managed to get my script working on it no problem – but for one thing – WIFI - the NEO doesn’t have WIFI and so you have to stick one of those cheap Chinese WIFI dongles in – and on most of the SBC boards I’ve tried – no problem. However after jumping through some hoops to get the WIFI working on this little Neo board – I was very disappointed – WIFI performance was so poor you could see delays when doing the likes of apt-get update etc. I wrote off to the Armbian forum and the response was along the lines of “you should try an Orange Pi Lite if you want WIFI” – well that’s all very nice but I already have two NEOs.
Well, I was sitting getting depressed about this when my friend Jonathan rang me up with some new things to try.
WinDiskManager and Etcher
So first things first – you know that Win32DiskImager that everyone uses to FLASH Linux SDs – he’s spotted something not only a little faster but a little nicer looking called Etcher – so the first useful takeaway from this blog entry is Etcher. I installed it on my Windows 10 64-bit system no problem – none of your “administrator-only” stuff – and Etcher works - point it to an image file – and it flashes it to SD!! Mind you that’s ALL it does. If you need to READ images onto your PC you still need Win32DiskManager.
The DietPi Moment
He then reminded me that before I was playing with Armbian I’d had a go at DietPi for the Raspberry Pi. It only worked on the Pi itself - it was a nice, lean installation of Debian – but hey – the normal Pi setup was fine – so I put Diet-Pi to one side.
WELL – take a look at DietPi today – it is no longer for the Pi only – and it can install lots of goodies – kind of complimentary to my script (with a nicer interface). And in the process of this conversation I noted it has a setup for the NEO and other FriendlyArm boards.
Well, wouldn’t you know it – there’s a menu driven setup for WIFI – and it WORKS!!! And the funny thing is – the designer credits Armbian – WELL!! Ok, so there’s a LOT more to this and I’m only at the beginning – I noted that this Diet-Pi on the NEO seems to run even faster than the hardwired version on Armbian – and I’m only at the surface of finding out why – but one reason it seems nippy is you have full control over logging – which by default is running in RAM and at a minimal – a very sensible starting point.
In the process of setting things up I discovered some sillies in my script (which takes a basic Debian setup and installs a while raft of useful goodies centred around Node-Red) and I’ve fixed those.
I have now run my updated script on DietPi on the NEO and M2 and up to now everything seems to work – and it’s a small installation for a small board – and nippy… I need to go way more deeply into this – there is SO much in Diet-Pi now but I’ve no idea how much of it actually works – I DO know that not everything works on all boards but as I’ve only installed this on the FriendlyArm M2 and NEO I’ll keep my mouth shut except to say I’m mildly enthusiastic – my little NEOs are now useful wireless devices – which is a great step forward.
Experiments above with Node-Red, MQTT and serial – all working. And below – with a simple mod – a nice colour terminal… all on my NEO soon to be replicated on M2 and T2.
Now there DO seem to be some issues with DietPi – I’ve reported them – on a real Pi the serial port needs permissions altering to work (added to script just for belt and braces) – and on all installations, Mosquitto fails to run at power up – MAYBE starting too early I don’t know but taking a line out of the RESTART bit of the start-up script and putting it in /etc/rc.local does the job.
Up to now everything seems ok and I’m working with MrShark to looking toward the lightweight LIGHTTPD.. we’ve already improved my script – and you know how it goes – once someone triggers you off…
More of that soon – for now – I have my script (as of today) running (with the caveats above) on a Pi2, M2, NEO and BananaPiM2 – and that’s only due to restricted time… DietPi has the advantage of making a MUCH smaller footprint at under 2GB compared to nearly twice that on, say a standard Pi – as there is only in there what’s needed.
Oh while I think on, here’s the link to my original Neo article.
Expect to hear more about this in the coming week – I’m off now travelling with my wife and 3 cats ALL the way up Spain – 24 hour ferry – ALL the way up England… you won’t hear anything from me in here as I’ve not mastered blogging on a phone
.By now Aidan has his Alexa turning his lights on and off via Node-Red and so that will be the next job – integrating this whole lot together.