There is just something exciting about playing with tiny computer hardware. The amount that you can do with a small credit size computer is pretty impressive, especially when it’s a Raspberry Pi. I have a Raspberry Pi 3 and a Raspberry Pi Zero W so I am always trying to come up with new ways to play with them.
Admittedly, I’ve never made a robot or anything mechanical with a Raspberry Pi, but I still run different projects for fun. Currently, I have Open Media Vault installed on my Raspberry Pi 3 and I have Motion Eyes installed on my Raspberry Pi Zero W.
Motion Eyes with a Camera for Raspberry Pi Zero W
The idea started with a question every cat owner asks: what does my cat do when I am not home? To find out, I installed what is called Motion Eyes on a Raspberry Pi Zero W using the Raspberry Pi camera (with an IR filter so the image quality is better during the day time). The setup was quite easy and it actually ran well considering the Pi Zero W has very little power.
Oh, and my cat really does not do anything when I’m not there. Sad.
Open Media Vault with the Raspberry Pi 3
I was very interested in headless Network Attached Storage so I decided to install Open Media Vault on my Raspberry Pi 3 (I don’t have a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ or I would have used that instead). This allowed for me to run file history, automatic backups, and a plex server. A word of warning is that Raspberry Pi networking is simply too slow for my liking meaning that I no longer use it for file history or backups. I use a Samsung NVMe drive in my computer, and it is incredibly fast. Switching to the Raspberry Pi felt as if I was once again using a floppy disk. While it is not that slow, it only gets between 2-4 MB/second. I believe this has to do with the low power of the Raspberry Pi and also the fact that the bandwidth for USB 2.0 is shared with the ethernet port.
Despite slow transfer times, I was very pleased with Plex. I think that it functioned very well and it was able to serve 1080p video to my television without any problems. I do not think it would work for anything 4K because the network transfer speed on the Raspberry Pi 3 is too slow.
Next Up: Retro Pi
Now that I know that my Raspberry Pi 3 does not work well for Open Media Vault (at least not how I would like it to), I think I will turn it into a Retro Pi for old console games like NES and Super Nintendo. I’ve heard you can find good value controllers and cool retro cases on Ebay. I want to pick some up soon and get started on this new Pi project.
Where Can I Go From Here?
There are so many fun single board mini computers on the market. All Raspberry Pi products look lackluster in terms of specs when compared with products from Udoo, Latte Panda, and Hard Kernel, but the amount of community support makes them a joy to work with. Of course, make sure they have enough juice to do what you want to do or you will be disappointed.
The more I play with a Raspberry Pi 3B, the more I want to purchase an Udoo Bolt when it comes out in the next 6 months or so (click here to visit UDOO’s website). The UDOO Bolt can run any x86 full version of Linux and it also has much more CPU and graphics power due to it’s AMD Ryzen CPU and AMD Vega graphics. It makes very few compromises when compared to a typical single board computer and has better graphics than a new MacBook Pro 13″. However, it will be about 10 times the price of the Raspberry Pi 3B+, making it much less of a casual hobby board, although it should bring much more than 10x performance. I’ll probably buy the UDOO Bolt because I’ve still got the Pi bug and I want to do even more powerful projects. Of course, once the Raspberry Pi 4 comes out, I will purchase one too.
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Author: Kelton Johnson