Today in the post came the singularly impressive-looking NanoPi M4 unit complete with supplied eMMC for Android 8 and 16GB uSD for Lubuntu Desktop and the most spectacular heat-sink I’ve ever seen, not to mention (oh, go on then, if you insist) , a tiny Apple-reminiscent mains power supply able to deliver 5v at a stunning 4 AMPS. I’m IMPRESSED already.
For 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.
Antonio 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.
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...
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
Thr Roidmi website is out of date, featuring models 2 and 2s whereas the unit I have is model 3S.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.
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.
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
While 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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s a discussion going on in here about the M5 Stack and one of the guys says he wants to use ESP8266 – now then is possibly a good time to announce that I’ve been updating the code in ESP-GO for the ILI9340 and QD-Tech displays. It is all in the doc file but here are some pics… An ESP-12 board plus cheap display..
Above the ILI9340 and below the smaller and lower res QD-Tech display board, both dirt cheap, in the example below, boxed up on the wall as a stat display…. I’ve added the option to re-purpose gpio4 and 5 in ESP-GO for a maximum of 3 auto responders on input state change (trigger2, trigger4 and trigger5) making a thermostat display with buttons a snap.
For the DIY-er on a budget, this is a very inexpensive solution. The display layout of course is not fixed, you can set up your frame, select fonts and update icons as you see fit in Node-Red or other high level environment. The QD_Tech board is lower res than the ILI9340 but I got a bunch of suitable boxes from Ebay for just £3 each some time ago. The light you see is driven by one of those touch sensitive plates we discussed in the blog some time ago. In reality I will end up using 3 tiny buttons.
Fellow reader and collaborator who has helped me with “the script” over the past two years – Antonio Fragola, aka MrShark has asked me to put up something about his current work in progress.
He has begun working on Docker with a view to migrating “the script” to a fully “dockerised” container-based version.
In a nutshell this is a pretty looking ESP32-based box with display and buttons. Do with it what you will. It needs low voltage and the basic unit comes with internal battery supply. instructions, 0.1” pin leads and a USB C lead for charging and serial connection.
I just HAD to order one and so I thought I’d put a note in here for people into the ESP32 and I’m already seeing responses including a useful note from Bob H and comments from others. All in all I’m already convinced I need this gadget on my hallway wall even though I’m not yet entirely sure what to do with it. Perhaps people who are ahead of me might write in soon to save me re-inventing the wheel.
Update July 15, 2018
It has been said before and will be said again that I often refer to the Arduino Nano when I mean a copycat Nano board OR copycat Mini Pro. Let’s complicate this a little and add in variations using the 168 and 328 chips.