Raspberry Pi, now in a Mini-ITX form factor

mess

Shown above is a fairly simple Raspberry Pi setup. There’s the Raspi itself, a 2.5″ hard drive, a USB hub, GPIO expansion, and wireless and Bluetooth adapters. Throw in the power supplies for all these devices, and you’ve got a real mess on your hands. There is a solution to this problem of a Gordian knot of USB and power cables: the Fairywren, a board that turns your Raspberry Pi into a Mini-ITX computer.

The basic idea behind the Fairywren is to take the basic outline of a Mini-ITX motherboard and add goodies like a real-time clock serial port, and USB hub while providing a secure mounting place for a Raspberry Pi. It turns a Raspberry Pi into a proper computer, with all the ports in the rear, and is compatible with a whole slew of Mini-ITX cases.

At £40, the Fairywren isn’t exactly cheap. In fact, it’s more expensive than the Raspberry Pi itself. That being said, you do get a whole lot of hardware for the price, and if you already have a small Mini-ITX case lying around, it may be just the thing to clean up the mess on your electronics bench.

Comments

  1. lee says:

    wait, so this makes the rapsberry pi into an ordinary mini-itx computer that is more expensive but less powerful than an intel atom? I guess it does have GPIO, but we used to call that a parallel port…

  2. fartface says:

    Or buy a more powerful platform that is itx factor.. the Olimex boards. they even have one that has SATA.

  3. The USB A to USB A cable necessary for their USB hub is nasty. It has the potential to damage USB devices if used incorrectly to hook two USB hosts together. They should have put a USB B socket on the board, or terminated it to a 4-pin header or similar.

    • thedoktorj says:

      Why would connecting one usb host to another be an issue. They should both be putting out ~5 volts… Is a USB TX line really going to fry if you send digital pulses at it in the wrong direction or for that matter, even in both directions? I guess it could be confusing if you weren’t paying attention, but I highly doubt it would damage any hardware.

      • The D-/D+ pins probably aren’t much of an issue, but the power pins could be. Devices like the Raspberry Pi provide no diode protection of the USB port power supply, so by connecting two Raspberry Pi’s together with a USB A to USB A cable, you could well be overloading the 5V regulators on one of the boards, as regulators don’t work well in parallel[1].

        There’s also no guarantee as to the relative relationship between the 5V pins on two different host devices, so if one device effectively used -5V for GND and 0V for +5V, while another device used 0V for GND and +5V for +5V, you could end up shorting out the power supplies.

        Standards exist for a reason, and the standards state categorically that USB A to USB A cables are wrong.

        [1] A similar but related issue was discovered in the first revisions of the Raspberry Pi board, where the Ethernet chip was being overloaded try to provide 1.8V for the entire board, while the 1.8V regulator sat idle. http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=14489

    • openmakersdaily says:

      USB A-A- is an awful heresy, it’s striclty forbidden by the usb spec and I can’t believe you can still buy them.
      A 5V input header would have been a good alternative to the boring atx socket.
      Moreover the project is not clear: what does “some of the money will be used for manufacturing” means? This project owner clearly does understand nothing about manufacturing electronic things.
      Will not be a backer.

  4. h_2_o says:

    Personally i like the idea and believe it has some real merit, however reading through the entire thing and dealing with small businesses every day their Risks and challenges sections is no less than a huge red flag with a bright red flashing light behind it saying stop to me. I hope they prove me wrong but their wording in that just scares me.

    • Franklin Templeton says:

      *Touches finger to nose* me too. Perhaps I will wait for the knockoff. As others have stated, there are many other more cost effective ways to accomplish the same goal.

  5. Matt Brunton says:

    Can anyone point me to a source for short USB or Ethernet cables as used here? Shorter cables would make mounting a Pi in any case much easier e.g an old router case.

    • kaidenshi says:

      http://monoprice.com is where I go first to find oddball cables.

      • Fritoeata says:

        +1 monoprice. They are getting more expensive these days, however. everything I’ve bought is legit! TV wall mounts, Desk monitor mounts, Cat5e, hdmi, 8port gigabit switch, displayport changer, etc. I’ve read that their new hi-res monitors are supercool!
        All good feel and quality, but <Wallmart prices.
        …Albeit the prices are going up.

        • kaidenshi says:

          The only item I’ve gotten from them that was a worthless piece of scrap was an optical audio to coaxial audio adapter. It never worked, and when I cracked it open, it consisted of an I/C with a few resistors and an optical receiver that wasn’t even connected. Even after soldering the receiver to the board it didn’t work.

          Otherwise, I’ve never had an issue with them, and small orders with a few short cables should be very cheap on shipping since they default to USPS in the States.

    • Tiersten says:

      Buy a decent RJ45 crimping tool and a bag of plugs. You’ll be able to fix leads that have had the latch tab broken off and make patch leads to the exact length you need.

      What kaidenshi + Fritoeata said about monoprice for general cables and other bits.

  6. LordNothing says:

    if i was gonna go through the trouble of getting a mini itx adapter board i think i would get an actual mini itx mobo with some more beef than a raspberry pi can offer. pi is ok if you are not expecting to connect every peripheral you have to it.

    id rather see pi sized board that is stackable that has an integrated 5v switch mode supply, usb hub and perhaps some gpio breakouts and come with a case that can hold both that would be cool (and might exist already), but this is kinda overkill.

  7. Scuffles says:

    While this is cool. The reason I got a Pi was to use it more as an embedded platform. Essentially as an Arduino replacement with a boost in processing power.

    So far the only Directly Pi related peripheral I have seen need for was a breadboard breakout for the GPIO. The only USB it has at present is a WiFi dongle, Putty works great.

    Really if I had wanted a Mini-ITX system I would have bought a Mini-ITX system.

  8. Screw this Mini-ITX. I’m going to make a Raspberry Pi based MTX board. 356mm X 425mm of PCB goodness. I’ll build my own board with Blackjack and Hookers!

  9. ATC says:

    You can say it is an expensive usb hub

  10. dwan says:

    Wait, people actually using the pi as a REAL computer ? They sure are living in a dimension where time flies faster than ours by some orders of magnitude.

  11. Pedro says:

    use a notebook lcd with digitalizer on top and you get a raspi tablet

  12. HackJack says:

    When you need a HDD and all the peripherals. The Raspberry Pi is likely a wrong choice anyway.

  13. Jason Knight says:

    … at which point, just buy a cubieboard, which is dropping in price and FAR more capable than the pi. (and actually has USEFUL pinouts)

  14. MaxsBlogger! says:

    Really don’t see the point in this at all, just turns it into a Mini-ITX computer, if you want one go buy one? It kills the point in the Raspberry Pi, It’s a small and neat computer. Pointless putting a PCB on another PCB to give it the features of some extra USB ports, currently working on a case which will have most of the features this will.. hopefully

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