Raspberry Pi OS In-Place Upgrades, Not For The Faint Hearted

The Raspberry Pi series of boards are noted for their good software support, with a continuous flow of operating system upgrades such that an original Pi from 2012 will still boot the latest Pi OS. But these upgrades are best done by writing a fresh SD card, so oddly, the Pi remains surprisingly difficult in many cases to upgrade in place. [Iustin Pop] has taken a look at the problem, and finds that though it’s not always easy it remains possible with a bit or work.

An upgrade in place of a Raspberry Pi OS install that’s running on a headless device is probably the simplest of the lot, with a relatively small set of issues. Do it on a machine using the GUI though, and the switch from x.org to Wayland makes for a whole world of pain.

Perhaps most interesting for the insight it gives us into the way Raspberry Pi OS is derived from Debian, is the crossgrade process from the ARMhf build for earlier machines to the ARM64 one for the more recent ones. Here aside from a headache of differing paths and versions, he encounters the Pi-specific compilation tweaks put in place by the developers of Raspberry Pi OS, leading to the ARMhf version being a different branch from the original Debian than the ARM64 one.

Having read his examination of in-place upgrades we have to say that simply writing a new SD card remains the most attractive option. But sometimes along comes a remote system where that’s simply not possible, and this guide might just be very useful sometime.

Debian Buzz (1.1) running under Bochs. (Credit: Thomas Stewart)

Looking Back On 30 Years Of Debian

The early history of Linux is a rather murky period to most, long before the era of glitzy marketing and proclamations of ‘the Linux desktop’ being the next hot thing. This was also the era when the first Linux distributions were born, as the Linux kernel never came as a whole OS package – unlike the BSDs – which necessitated others to package it with the elements that make up kernel and user space, such as the GNU tools.

One of these original distributions was Debian, which this month celebrates its 30th birthday. Its entire history, starting with the initial 0.01 release is covered in great detail on the Debian website. After the first release of the Linux kernel in 1991, it would take until August of 1993 when [Ian Murdock] embarked on the Debian project, sponsored by the GNU Project of the Free Software Foundation. This was a pretty rough period, with much of 1994 spent figuring out the basics of the system, the package manager and establishing a release system. Continue reading “Looking Back On 30 Years Of Debian”

Debian Officially Adds RISC-V Support

As time goes on, more and more computer manufacturers are moving towards the ARM architecture and away from the bloated and outdated x86 instruction set. Apple is the most prominent producer to take this step, but plenty others are using ARM for its flexibility and efficiency. The only problem with ARM is that it’s licensed, so if you want to go even further down the open-source path the RISC-V instruction set is the next logical step. Now at least one mainline Linux distribution will officially support this architecture.

While Debian did have some support for RISC-V before this as a Debian port, which was not officially part of Debian. However, the official support will begin with the release of Debian 13, which is currently in the testing phase and hasn’t seen a stable release yet. To that end, the current state of this official version is extremely limited, being described as “almost empty” but with planned support for an initial 90 packages in the coming days. Most users working on a RISC-V platform will most likely to continue to use their Debian ports version.

It might be a little while before the RISC-V version is as full-featured as the ARM or x86 versions of this Linux distribution, but we are happy to see it move in this direction at all. And don’t think that RISC-V is limited to embedded systems or otherwise limited computing platforms, either. We’ve seen full Linux desktops with RISC-V processors since at least 2019.

When Pi Supply Falls Short, Thin Clients Stand Tall For Home Automation And Low Power Computing

Do you need a cheap, small computer for a low power computing project? Historically, many of us would reach straight for a Raspberry Pi, even if we didn’t absolutely need the GPIO. But with prices elevated and supplies in the dumps, [Andreas Spiess] decided that it was time to look for alternatives to now-expensive Pi’s which you can see in the video below the break.

Setting up Debian for IOTstack

Many simply use the Pi for its software ecosystem, its lower power requirements, and diminutive size. [Andreas] has searched eBay, looking for thin PC clients that can be had for as little as $10-15. A few slightly more expensive units were also chosen, and in the video some comparisons are made. How do these thin clients compare to a Pi for power consumption, computing power, and cost? The results may surprise you!

Software is another issue, since many Pi projects rely on Raspbian, a Pi-specific ARM64 Linux distribution. Since Raspbian is based on Debian, [Andreas] chose it as a basis for experimentation. He thoughtfully included such powerful software as Proxmox for virtualization, IOTstack, and Home Assistant, walking the viewer through each step of running Home Assistant on x86-64 hardware and noting the differences between the Linux distributions.

All in all, if you’ve ever considered stepping out of the Pi ecosystem and into general Linux computing, this tutorial will be an excellent starting point. Of course [Andreas] isn’t the first to bark up this tree, and we featured another thin client running Klipper for your 3D printer earlier this month. Have you found your own perfect Pi replacement in these Pi-less times? Let us know in the comments below.

Continue reading “When Pi Supply Falls Short, Thin Clients Stand Tall For Home Automation And Low Power Computing”

Thin Client And Smartphone Step In For 3D Printer’s Raspberry Pi And Touchscreen

It’s no secret that Raspberry Pi’s are a little hard to come by these days. Unless you had the foresight to stock up before the supply dried up — and if you did, we want to talk to you — chances are good that you’ve got a fair number of projects that use the ubiquitous SBC on indefinite hold. And maybe that’s got you thinking about alternatives to the Pi.

That’s apparently what was on [Crimson Repair]’s mind lately, the result being the discovery that an old thin client PC makes a dandy stand-in for a Raspberry Pi, at least in some cases. The video below is on the long side, true, But it’s chock full of command-by-command instructions for getting a Dell Wyse 3040, a thin client that can be found on the secondary market for $25 or so, up and running as a Klipper alternative for a 3D printer. These machines, which usually see use in point-of-sale applications and the like, sport a 1.4-GHz Intel Atom processor and a couple of gigs of RAM, and the form factor is just right for tucking into the base of an Ender 3.

Getting one up and running is a matter of getting a Debian image onto a USB key and configuring the thin client to boot from USB. After that it’s a simple matter of installing Klipper and wiring up a buck converter to power the machine. It’s not exactly rocket surgery, but why muddle through the process when someone has already been down the path ahead of you? And if you want to take it further, the second video below walks you through all the steps needed to add a touchscreen using an old Android phone. With a 3D printed bracket, the whole thing is a nicely complete printer control solution.

Continue reading “Thin Client And Smartphone Step In For 3D Printer’s Raspberry Pi And Touchscreen”

More Software-Defined Radio Projects Using DragonOS

DragonOS, a Debian-based Linux distribution specifically packaged for software-defined radio functionality, roared onto the wavelengths during the beginnings of the various pandemic lockdowns last year. Since then [Aaron], the creator of the OS, has been busy adding features to the distribution as well as creating plenty of videos which show off its capabilities and also function as how-tos for people who might want to learn about software-defined radio. The latest is a video about using this software to detect radio signals in certain specified spectrums.

This build uses two  RTL-SDR devices paired with the DragonOS software suite to automatically detect active frequencies within a specified frequency range and that aslo exceed a threshold measured above the average noise floor. The video includes the setup of the software and its use in detecting these signals, but also includes setup of influxdb and Grafana which provide logging capabilities as well. Using this setup, multiple receivers either local or over the internet can then be configured to dump all the identified frequencies, powers, and time stamps into DragonOS.

[Aaron] has also been helping developers to build the SDR4space.lite application which includes GPS support, so he hopes that in a future video a user will be able to easily associate location to identified frequencies. Projects like these also serve as a reminder that getting into software-defined radio is as easy as buying a $10 USB radio receiver and configuring some free software to do anything that you can imagine like tracking ships and airplanes in real time.

Continue reading “More Software-Defined Radio Projects Using DragonOS”

Software-Defined Radio Made Easy

Just a few decades ago, getting into hobby radio meant lots of specialty hardware, and making changes to your setup to work on various frequencies wasn’t particularly easy. Since software-defined radio (SDR) came onto the scene in an accessible way for most of us, this barrier to entry was reduced significantly and made the process of getting on the air a lot easier. It goes without saying that it does require some software, but [Aaron]’s latest project makes even getting that software extremely simple.

What he has done is created a custom Linux distribution based on Debian, called DragonOS, with the entire suite of SDR programs needed to get up and running. Out of the box, it supports RTL-SDR, HackRF and LimeSDR packages and even includes other fun tools you’ll need like Kismet. There are several video demonstrations of his distribution, including using RTL-SDR for ADS-B reception, and also shows off several custom implementations of the OS in various scenarios on his YouTube channel. The video linked below also shows how to set up the distribution in a virtual machine, so you can run this even if you don’t have a computer to dedicate to SDR.

Getting into SDR has never been easier, and the odds of having something floating around in the junk drawer that you can use to get started are pretty high. The process is exceptionally streamlined with [Aaron]’s software suite. If you’re a little short on hardware, though, there’s no better place to get started than with the classic TV-tuner-to-SDR hack from a few years back.

Continue reading “Software-Defined Radio Made Easy”