Chuck's Cool Reviews and Info

Projects, news and stuff going on. Pictures link is to the right.

I have always been intrigued by the Raspberry Pi mini computer. It was designed to be an affordable means for people to learn programming and Linux. Starting at $29 and having sold millions, it has accomplished its goal and more.

When it was first released, there were waiting lists for months to get one You can now get one any time from Amazon with free 2 day Prime shipping. They have also released version B, which adds more RAM to the original's 256 megs. Version B has 512 megs of RAM.

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Pictured is the Raspberry Pi and clear case with the following items added for scale: Last night's mostly eaten pizza, Miller High Life Tall Boy, 12 oz retro Miller Lite.

Here we will discuss setting a Raspberry Pi up as an XBMC (Xbox Media Center) computer for playing stored video files either locally attached to your Pi via USB or located on your network share. Never heard of XBMC? It is way cool and is the OS that the Boxee device is based on. It is free Linux software. Here is a mega guide for XBMC installation, tips tricks and customizations: Guide

Why do we want to do this? Well, because we can and it is a learning experience. Also, we love getting the most out of the least. My Pi is streaming 1080p video in the form of the movie "Need For Speed 6" from my network storage device (Synology) perfectly right now. During the streaming, the Pi is drawing between 2-3 watts of electricity according to the killawatt meter it is plugged into. Using it this way, it is a living room device you shouldn't need another remote control for, as we will be using a cell phone for remote control functionality via the XBMC Remote App.

For our Raspberry Pi project, here is a list of what you will need: -Raspberry Pi computer. I recommend the B model with 512 megs of RAM for $39.

-Some case for your Raspberry Pi. There are tons of options for sale on Amazon or elsewhere that cost a few bucks depending on your style. I chose a clear case.

-A Flash Memory Card for storing and running the Raspberry Pi operating system. (It must boot from this flash device) Here is one that should work, and is a Class 10 (fastest spec currently) access drive. Capacity is not so much of a concern here since you will be streaming files over the network or attaching a separate USB drive with files on it for playback.

-An Android device cell phone charger with the Mini USB connector. Most any modern, name brand charger will do. This is the power supply for your Raspberry Pi.

-An HDMI cable for connecting to your TV -USB Mouse and keyboard for initial config and setup -Memory card reader for initial loading of the operating system from your computer. This one is cheap and should work:

-XBMC Operating system for Rasberry Pi Here are instructions for installation:

-Cell Phone or other device with an app store where the app: XBMC Remote is available for download (free). This is what you will use for remote control of your XBMC system.

-Wired network connection that can get to the internet.

-Chilled Beer of your choosing. I like the retro Miller Lite cans as my personal preference at this moment. Liquor works well too, or you can mix them. I like to start the night off right with an Irish Car Bomb (1/2 glass Guinness with a shot of 2/3 Baileys Irish Creme, 1/3 Jameson). Drink as a shot by dumping mix into Guinness and then pounding. Nothing gets the party started quicker and easier.

Lets Roll! Step 1: Collect your memory card reader, flash drive and beer Step 2: Plug reader and flash drive into your computer Step 3: Follow directions here for installing XBMC boot environment on your flash drive: LINK Step 4: Plug Flash drive into Raspberry Pi and drag over to your TV. Plug HDMI cable in to TV and Raspberry, plug keyboard and mouse in, connect network cable, and connect power to your Pi.

Raspberry will boot up and present its status on the screen for you. It will connect to the internet and download the operating system and any updates needed. This will take 15 minutes. It suggests drinking coffee. Do this if you are lame or are on the 12 step program.

It will then reboot your Pi and present your shiny new XBMC user interface. Boom you are there. Pour some beer out for the homies that don't have a Raspberry Pi with XBMC because as of now, that aint you.

Now on to configure, customize and have some fun with. Hook up your media by following the prompts and entering your relevant info, hook up your cell phone as the remote by entering the IP address of your Pi and you are home free. See first Guide link up top for more in depth configuration and customization options. Watch a movie. I recommend something 1080p right off the bat to make sure your Pi is up to the task.

How to build a wall mounted computer

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Desired result: Space saving, quiet computing IPCop firewall server. Extra points for cool looks the girlfriend doesn't mind looking at.

*EDIT 11-23-10 See below for version 2 of this wall mounted solution. I build one for my home VMware ESXi rig. Details are at the end of this post.

Sitting around drinking beer one day a buddy and I thought we needed to make something cool to house his IPCop server. He had it in a case on a shelf in his laundry room, but this was not pretty, quiet or cool. I said, why not mount it to the wall or something, and then we started drawing. After much discussion and a discovery trip to the hardware store, this is the result:

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Build list: Plywood Acrylic sized to plywood 1/2 inch copper tube from the plumbing section Various rubber washers from plumbing section 1/2 inch screws 4 inch screws Wall anchors Zip ties Gloss black spray paint and primer Double sided tape

Computer: Intel Atom dual core 1 gig RAM 40 gig hard drive PicoPsu 60 watt and AC to DC power supply Zalman chipset heatsink for Atom chipset to replace stock heatsink and fan so it is quieter PCI riser cable Dual NIC

Photos of the build:

enter image description here Laying out parts on painted plywood.

enter image description here Motherboard and NIC mounted using rubber washers to make them standoff from the wood. We didn't want to but realized that we had to mount the NIC upside down. Oh well. Notice this NIC is older than dirt and has coax input. It is a 16 year old 10Megabit card, but it is still going strong. His internet comes in at 3 Megabits, so no speed bottleneck there.

enter image description here Hard drive mounted with double sided tape. This hard drive will be replaced with a 3.5 inch drive at the last minute when we got lazy and used the drive that was serving IPCop when it was in the normal case so as to save time not having to install it to the laptop drive. (I got overruled here. I thought we should use the laptop drive to make it a quieter system that used less electricity. Ultimately, it was Steve's computer so his choice.)

enter image description here Acrylic mounted using 4 inch screws and copper pipe as standoffs. There is room here to stick a hand in to do maintenance without taking off the acrylic.

enter image description here Almost finished. Got it all installed, and need to drill holes for hard drive led and power switch.

enter image description here Mounted to the wall using screw in drywall anchors. The computer weighs less than 20 lbs. Power comes from a laptop type power brick included in the PicoPsu kit.

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The builders Steve and Chuck

Final thoughts: Using the Atom saves electricity and allows for a fanless solution. There is enough room between the wall and the acrylic for air to pass through and heat to be dissipated. The hard drive is the only moving part. Next time maybe we will mount a CF card so that there are no moving parts. The old NIC is there due to the fact that the onboard NIC wasn't supported in IPCop, we would have had to add a 2nd NIC via the PCI slot anyways, and it was a nice excuse to put the old dual NIC to use. The PCI riser was what saved us and allowed us to mount it onto the wall nicer.

This would be a good solution for an ESXi box or a Windows Home Server box too. Moving and maintenance are more of a pain, but it doesn't take up floor space. The PicoPSU is a good solution where you aren't using a gaming PC since it provides solid power with no noise and good efficiency to lower wattage computer loads.

*Chuck's ESXi wall mounted computer. Take two of Steve's IPCOP wall mounted rig. Simpler and quieter. I decided to build one of these after staring at my ESXi box sitting on the floor and wondering why it is sitting on the floor.

Went through the same process as above, but simpler. Didn't bother with the acrylic cover and used a rubber band hard drive mounting solution for the drives to reduce noise due to drive vibration. The only moving parts in this solution are the drives. No fans, no power supply fan either thanks to the picopsu power supply.

This rig pulls 25 watts of power at the outlet when idle. It has 4 gigs of RAM and a dual core Intel processor. Can't remember the model, but one of the ones that Toms hardware put up against the Atom processor as just barely pulling more watts, but blowing it away in performance.

2x 1TB Western Digital green hard drives.

These aren't as fast as other drives, and might not be the best choice for an ESX box where VMs are sharing the drives, but when you look at the stats and don't get bogged down in numbers, the real world speed difference between these drives and others are minimal and acceptable for the power savings.

As you can see below, I decided to take the CPU fan off. This CPU cooler is overkill when compared to the stock CPU cooler, the processor is 45nm and power efficient not overclocked, and I want it quiet and I enabled overheating processor throttling in the BIOS. I also turned the cooler so that the natural heat rising is able to radiate from the cooler as efficiently as possible.

None of these things matter really though, as the CPU and cooler just don't get hot enough for any throttling or heat related issues. It all works quietly and flawlessly. This isn't for everyone though, you may not want to take this risk and will want to test this to be sure that it is acceptable for your installation.

Note those are 3 inch screws and the hard drives do not touch anything solid. They are fully isolated by the rubber bands. This is the same idea as some of the quietly designed Antec cases. They mount the hard drives with similar rubber bands.

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