Friday, April 8, 2016

I Guess I'm not Really Annoyed at the Raspberry Pi

But, I just spent three days recovering another one. Almost exactly a month later than the last failure of one of my Pi's, the one serving as a house controller lost the SD card as well. Not terribly surprising, since I replaced the card at roughly the same time as the one that failed last month, but man it's annoying not being able to update the device without getting the latest OS (Jessie).

My whining last month (link) was because there was no way to do the update, upgrade cycle without Jessie being installed. This time I expected that, but I didn't expect them to have changed the way the USB handled USB serial devices. Took a few hours of poking around to figure that out, and of course, it was relatively simple to take care of.

In the interim, my Pi 3B came in and I got it running. That little thing is a whole lot faster than the preceding generations. It almost runs like a laptop. Boot up into the Xwindows system is pretty quick and it works exactly as expected. I didn't experiment with the blue tooth and wireless yet, but they seem to work just fine; the wifi connected to the house on the first try. I don't like wifi for controlling things around the house; the reliability just isn't good enough, but it's nice to have available. Blue tooth is a waste for my purposes, but it makes the boards sell better, so who am I to complain.

I didn't install it as my house controller because that would limit how I got to play with the new board, so my house is still running on a version 1B Pi. I hate the form factor of that board though, so I'll definitely be upgrading it to the Pi 3B to get the better form factor. Especially since I've already gone through the pain of upgrading my software to Jessie.

Lessons were learned. It was really inconvenient having to turn the darn lights off myself. My bedroom was dark when I went to bed; I actually had to turn on the overhead lights all by myself. I'd forgotten how to run the control panel on my pool and had to hunt down the manual for a couple of things. I couldn't check the garage doors from my phone and actually had to drive home once to be sure it was closed (it wasn't). Stupid water heater wanted to run during peak period.

The only thing that didn't drive me nuts was the house thermostats; they're mostly autonomous, so they took care of themselves.

Obviously, I depend too much on a single device. I guess I'll split functions to different devices and do things like have a default configuration for the water heater that always shuts down the electric element during peak periods. The pool will have a dedicated device that makes sure it doesn't run during peak periods. This will be easy since each piece has it's own code that has been made independent of what machine it runs on; I've just been complacent about setting up such a system.

Yes, it will mean more little machines that will have to be backed up somehow so that failures aren't hard to fix. There will also be problems with the stupid power supplies failing. Most of my power supplies have failed at least once; the manufacturers just don't understand that we need a good supply for these things at a reasonable cost.

Speaking of Pi power supplies. I just got a couple of these from Gizmo Junkies.
It's a real power supply that was actually designed to power one of these little computers. It actually supplies 5.3V and can slam out well over an amp of power without getting hot. I haven't pushed it to the limits to see what happens, but they do things like supply a REAL usb power cable so you don't get a huge voltage drop over the cable. I got mine on Amazon (prime shipping), but they're cheaper on the Gizmo Junkies site. I might just save up some money and get a few of these to scatter around the house. They only take up one plug on a power strip and you can change the cable and power Arduinos off of them as well.

Sorry about the randomness of this posting, but I'm still a bit frazzled from trying to remember all the packages I had installed on the Pi to make it work.

I think I'll rebuild a tractor hydraulic cylinder or fix the fuel system on my gas string weeder (again) to recover.