I should have just entitled this “Raspberry Pi” as it keeps expanding (now covering the rest of the Pi boards – but keep reading).. as you will see, the title is a little restrictive given what we’ve done over the last few days. Friend Antonio over Italy and I (still stuck here in the frozen wastes of the Northeast of England) have been working quietly in the background on making the script compatible with the new Raspberry Pi Zero WiFi (RPiZW) having already managed to get it working on a range of boards and operating systems including RPi2, RPi3, Debian, Xenial, various Orange Pi boards, various FriendlyArm boards, the Odroid C2 and more.
At under a tenner, no-one can claim this tiny WIFI enabled RPiWZ is going to break any records. It is slow. very slow compared to a Raspberry Pi 2 or perhaps an Orange Pi Zero… and at first attempt I nearly gave up after waiting a whole day for my script to run (and fail) – something that can take maybe an hour on more powerful single board computers such as the RPi3 or the Odroid C2 etc.
However, having failed to get the script to run on the official Raspbian distribution for this board, for a variety of reasons, we next tackled DIETPI. Here, this slimmed down operating system comes into it’s own and the PI Zero WiFi runs a lot more swiftly than it does with stock Raspbian. Still, by lunchtime yesterday I’d stopped the script due to various errors. By late last night however, with a little manual injection I had everything running on this tiny board – Apache, PHP, Node-Red with all my usual Nodes, MQTT, Sqlite, PhpLiteAdmin, Ha-Bridge, MC and much more, all with no manual intervention (just as well, given the time it takes).
This weekend while I was out shopping for a new milk-frother, our friend Antonio over in Italy was busy working on some last minute amendments to the script which, you’ll recall now runs on a range of devices and systems including Xenial and Debian. We’ve now completed the updates to the script, including the ability to run on the RPiZW. The sheer size of the RPiZW (or rather lack of it, being exceedingly thin) means you could fit this board, able to control a house, on the back of an LCD display and have the whole thing mounted in a reasonably slim wall-mounting box. The Orange Pi Zero on the other hand has that large Ethernet connector which means a slim case is out of the question.
There is of course competition for this board, the Nanopi Neo Air is actually smaller (different format of course, being square) – and no doubt a lot faster – but like the RPiZW it has no Ethernet. One issue I’ve had with many boards is that of WIFI reliability. Up to now, the WIFI on the RPiZW is rock-solid – just as well, as it doesn’t have hardwired Ethernet capability (well, not without some soldering or a compact-size-defeating USB dongle). The NanoPi on the other hand works well and is way better technically but I’m not 100% happy about the WIFI on the latter. All of this could change of course with future software updates.
Raspberry Pi Zero WiFi: Here’s what I did (total time 4 hours – VERY little of which I was actually doing anything – well, watching YouTube videos actually):
- I grabbed the file DietPi_v145_RPi-armv6-(Jessie).img
- I used SD Formatter to format a 16GB card then Win32 Disk Imager to blow the image onto the SD card.
- I plugged the card into the RPiZW and powered the board up, plugged into a screen – and with keyboard and mouse connected via a USB hub.
- I started up the Pi – that takes a little while and it eventually wants you to login as root (initial password dietpi).
- As per initial dialogs in DietPi-Config, I set up the WIFI.
- The board went off to do some downloading and came back to the DietPi-Software – I swapped from DropBear to OpenSSH Server and lighttpd to Apache2 – but didn’t install anything else.
- At the end of that I could get into the board remotely using WINSCP and no longer needed the keyboard and mouse.
- I copied the script across to the root directory – ensuring it was in Linux format (Line feeds only) and that it had execute permission.
- It went off and automatically set up a PI user with password “password”. I logged into the board (using WinSCP) as user pi. I copied the script across again and once again made sure it had execute permissions. I ran the script.
- Several items were downloaded. I waited patiently until the main menu came up. I accepted all defaults but added HA-Bridge.
- I was asked for a user name (user) and password – and an admin name (admin) and password… (you can opt out of that now and leave defaults if you like) and at that point the script – as you’d expect – went off for 4 hours (using a half-decent microSD from Samsung) doing it’s own thing. And yes, watching the WEBMIN setup DOES feel like watching paint dry.
- At the end of all of this – I rebooted the board – and that was the end of that – a perfectly working RPiZW.
Something that has come out of this – is the importance of SD speed… I’ve always known this but NEVER has it been as obvious as it is here with this slower board. 4 hours – recall I mentioned an earlier attempt which failed but also took longer. Well, now I’m using a decent Samsung microSD.
Raspberry Pi Original: Which brings me to the Raspberry Pi – not the 2 or 3 but one of the originals. The script appears to be working perfectly now even on pre-Pi2 boards with full size SD card (Raspberry Pi © 2011.12). Sadly when I was using those I was not aware of the need for the best SD and THIS install took 7.25 hours – if you plan to try one of these – get a decent SD! Still – all working so an otherwise useless Pi is now up and running.
Raspberry Pi Zero: On a whim, I took a copy of the microSD I used on the RPiZW and dropped it into the lowly, cheap and cheerful Raspberry Pi Zero (the one with nothing) – I then took a USB adaptor and plugged it in, with one of those really cheap unbranded WiFi USB blocks at the other end. I plugged in power, waited, checked for new IP addresses and LO AND BEHOLD that was online too!
Raspberry Pi 2: I tested the modified script on the Pi2 and as well as being a darn sight faster to install than the units above – it does work well. I did however notice that the yellow Node-Red GPIO node does not work – possibly something missing in DietPi. However – there’s a great utility called GPIO which gives you full command line access and I’ve now added that as an option to the script. I’ve tried GPIO access including PWM and it all works a treat as Pi user.
git clone git://git.drogon.net/wiringPi
The above it what I added… then use GPIO – now, with the –g option, the pins correspond to the actual connector which is nice – so for a nice dim LED on GPIO13
gpio –g mode 13 pwm
gpio –g pwm 13 20
Not tried that on the Zero but I assume it will work as well. If anyone knows why that yellow GPIO node sits at “connecting” do let me know. Remember in all of this we’re using the DIETPI image – NOT original Raspbian – which IMHO is a little heavy handed if you don’t want a graphical interface.
Things are looking up.
And now for something completely different: Meanwhile I thought you might like to see this Raspberry Pi battery backup (not for good reasons) – I bought this a couple of weeks ago and it turned up today. 4 brass spacers and it fits onto my Raspberry Pi 3 a treat.
But – pull the power out – and the Pi reboots – who on EARTH dreamed this up!!! They claim 9 hours of backup but no good if power loss causes a reset… worse – I bought it from Europe at £9.49 and I COULD have bought it from where they probably got it from in the first place at £8.73 and no postage. Oh well. I’m assuming I got a bad one – surely they could not have designed it this way. Anyway, it has a 3800maH battery and it all fits perfectly on the back of a Pi. On the FRONT of my Pi I have an LCD display and the whole thing was intended to form the backbone of my updated home control in Spain when we go back there in April. A clue to the problem may be that there is a small yellow power indicator on the Pi, suggesting the pack might just be putting out insufficient voltage for the Pi + LCD. So – I tried it with a Raspberry Pi 2 on it’s own – same result. Just thought you’d like to know in case you were thinking of buying one of these. THIS looks GOOD (Thanks Antonio) – any experience of this?? I have some goodies from another company coming in the next couple of weeks which look promising as uninterruptable supplies– more on this soon.