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Welcome back - there have been changes


Mea Culpa .. it's been ages since I've written anything, either here or on the other blog, but now I have got my writing-mojo back again. You may have noticed that there have been a few changes to the site: not massively visible on the web pages, but "under the hood" things are very different. Read on for more info!

Goodbye to the Onion

The original hardware platform for this site was the Onion Omega2, and it did amazing service over the past couple of years. I had every confidence in it (which is why I chose it), and once I'd managed to get around the quirkiness of what was essentially an embedded system, it ran very well. However, some things I wasn't able to get around so easily, and what turned out to be minor niggles at first turned out to be a pain-in-the-arse longer term. My big issue was the network availibility which was initially caused by the onboard WiFi which seemed to have problems connecting to the correct router. Yes, I have 2: a main device with WiFi, and a repeater. Depending on which way the wind was blowing, the Onion would usually connect to the wrong router and end up with a different IP address. This would then confuse the main web server proxy which was looking for the correct address and not finding it.

So the first solution was to add an ethernet "hat" which would bypass the wifi altogether and provide cable-connectivity. This worked very well until it failed(!) and then it was back to wifi. I tried to get another "hat" but they'd been discontinued... Then recently the IP address loss then became a major issue and I made the difficult decision to retire the Onion and replace it with something else.

Enter the Raspberry Pi Zero

I'll have to be honest; the decision to use yet another Raspberry Pi was a bit of a no-brainer. I've had dozens of the things and still run a small, core selection for important tasks. Of course, trying to buy Raspberry anything in a post/mid Pandemic market was difficult to say the least, and at one stage I was getting despondent. That was until I decided to check out my old project drawer in my desk: would you believe I found 5 Pi Zeroes, ranging from the original version 1.1 to the latest 1.3. This is not the new Pi Zero 2 with 4 cores; that's actually overkill for what I need and of course it helps keep the power consumption down.

But then of course there was the potential for WiFi shennanigans, so I needed to add ethernet capability. Not a problem! By coincidence, I'd found a rather neat ethernet "hat" on The Pi Hut some time ago for another project and I was delighted at the performance (and price). The great thing about this hat was that it doesn't need the GPIO header pins on the Pi: it connects via the OTG micro-USB port with a special connector. I then built it into what was sold as a "cluster case" which would protect the Pi and the hat. Here it is in all its glory.

The Mighty Pi Zero

As for the power consumption, well, that was a pleasant suprise, although previous tinkering with the TravelPi had confirmed that the power consumption would be in keeping with the aims of the project. Current usage is: 5 volts, 0.28A, 1.47-1.55 watts (average).

So are we going solar? Well, judging by previous attempts and the overall dearth of clear, sunny days in Yorkshire, I'd say not. I may change my mind later though, in which case you'll be the first to know...

Other Hardware

As the Pi is absolutely dependent on it's MicroSDHC card to function, I drew on the positive experiences of another project and used a "RaspiKey" instead. This uses an EMMC chip instead of the usual SDHC chip and so far has been more robust and faster. Despite the whole "disk" usage figure being 1.4Gb, I used a 32Gb device which should make the whole thing last longer due to the unused space.

I also used an external MicroSDHC card plugged into one of the ethernet hat USB sockets, and moved logging and swap space there. Mind you, given the low memory usage of the software and OS, the swap file has only seen action twice since the project started. Still, it keeps wear on the EMMC down.

In Conclusion

So to sum up, what's actually becoming my favourite web server seems to be enjoying its new home, and hopefully you'll see the same or better levels of reliability as the Onion. Please come back and visit again as it's now easier for me to add more features while still using as little power as possible.


Pi ethernet hat

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Last Modified Sun, 19 Dec 2021 10:43:27 GMT