DietPi Version 9.1: Now With Raspberry Pi 5 Support And More

DietPi recently released version 9.1, which among other changes includes new images for the Raspberry Pi 5, Radxa Rock 4 SE and NanoPi R5S/R5C & 6. The Radxa Rock 4 SE image was necessary because the Rock 4’s RK3399 SoC is subtly different from the RK3399-T’s SoC in terms of memory support, which prevents a Rock 4 image from booting on the Rock 4 SE. Meanwhile the Raspberry Pi 5 image is all new and still a bit rough around the edges, with features like the changing of the resolution and camera module support not working yet. These new images are all available for testing.

We covered DietPi previously with their 8.12 release, along with the reasons why you might want to use DietPi over Armbian and Raspberry Pi OS. Essentially DietPi’s main focus is on performance combined with a small installed size, with the included configuration tools and the setup allowing for many more features to be tweaked than you usually find. If the performance improvements, lower RAM usage and faster boot times seen with the Raspberry Pi 4 holds up, then DietPi can just give the Raspberry Pi 5 a nice little boost, while saving power in the process.

Thanks to [StephanStS] for the tip.

Raspberry Pi Changes HATs

Following on the heels of their Raspberry Pi 5 launch and some specifications for their RP1 all-in-one peripheral chip, the Raspberry Pi folks have now released an update to the HAT peripheral hardware specification reflecting the new model. Called the HAT+, it represents a major step forward with some significant changes.

Most visible will be changes to the mechanical specification, for while the original HAT specification was very rigid this new version is much looser. A HAT+ must only mate with the 40-pin connector, including the ID pins, and line up with only a single mounting hole compared to the four on the original. Electrically, a HAT+ must recognise the standby power state in which the 3.3-volt line is powered down while the 5-volt line remains active, while software-wise, there are changes to the content of the ID EEPROM including the ability to inform about stackable smaller HATs.

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Raspberry Pi 5 Goes Under The X-ray

Most Hackaday readers will know to some extent what lies inside their computer, even if this is only at a block diagram level listing the peripherals. But what is physically on a modern computer board? [Jeff Geerling] has subjected a Raspberry Pi 5 to a medical imager, and shares with us the many layers of parts and PCB he found there. With a six-layer board and a heap of large BGA chips on it, there’s a lot to look at.

For readers who are used to working with printed circuit boards, it’s likely the techniques involved in the design will not be new. For us, the magic lies in the scale. The sheer number of interconnects on the board is impressive enough, but when it becomes possible to peer into the SoC package it becomes evident that there’s an internal PCB with some of the smallest vias we have ever seen. [Jeff] goes on to show us part by part around the board, on the way reminding us that some of the earliest Pi boards had to be reworked to replace Ethernet jacks without magnetics.

There’s a beauty to these ghostly images which might not be apparent to anyone who hasn’t stared obsessively at a PCB in a CAD package while it takes shape. The images show the work of the PCB designer’s art at a fine scale. We’d almost go as far as to suggest they be viewed as fine art instead of industrial design. Take a look, the video is below the break.

If this art is a bit big for you, then look at ASIC design – which takes things down to the microscopic level of the doped silicon structures within these amazing chips.

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The Raspberry Pi 5 Can Use External Graphics Cards Now

The Raspberry Pi line is full of capable compact computers, but they’ve never been the strongest in the bunch when it comes to graphical output. Nor have they been particularly expandable in that regard. However, that’s all beginning to change, with [Jeff Geerling] reporting success getting external GPUs to work on the Raspberry Pi 5.

Unlike previous Raspberry Pis, the Raspberry Pi 5 has a less quirky implementation for its PCI Express bus. Previous editions have thrown up issues when trying to work with GPUs, but [Jeff] has found much more success this time around. He’s gotten an AMD RX 460 to work with the setup, and has got it running quite a bit of the glmark2 test regime. He’s working on a variety of other AMD cards too, but suspects NVidia parts could be harder due to some initialization issues that are proving difficult to quash.

It still takes some funky adapters and a lot of work, but finally GPUs are starting to work with the platform. Keep up with his list of card trials on the PiPCI website. We’ve seen [Jeff]’s work with earlier iterations of the Raspberry Pi before, too. Video after the break.

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Pineberry Pi HatDrive: Using NVMe SSDs With The Raspberry Pi 5

When the Raspberry Pi 5 launched, many were left chomping at the bit after seeing the PCIe FPC connector alongside the promise that an ‘NVMe SSD HAT would be forthcoming’. Although the official Raspberry Pi NVMe HAT is still a long while off, the Polish company Pineberry Pi is ramping up to release its Top & Bottom versions of its very wittily called HatDrive.

They sent a prototype to [Jeff Geerling], who has been putting his grubby mitts all over them before putting together a video showing off the HatDrive Top, which can accept 2230 and 2242 size NVMe drives.

The primary goal of adding an NVMe drive to the RPi is of course to get rid of those slow and fragile SD cards. Although the SD card standard supports near-NVMe-like speeds with UHS-III, the Raspberry Pi 5 bottoms out at UHS-I, around 100 MB/s. Despite this, using an NVMe drive for booting still takes some work, as [Jeff] lays out in a clear article. Most of this involves tweaking the /boot/config.txt file to enable external PCIe support, editing the onboard EEPROM to change the boot order (in lieu of having a PC-like BIOS screen) and getting the OS image flashed onto the NVMe drive you intend to boot from.

Although things seem to work fine during [Jeff]’s testing, some caveats remain, such as the RPi 5 officially supporting only PCIe Gen 2 x1, with Gen 3 possible, but with potential data integrity issues. There’s also the fundamental limit of having only a single lane of PCIe available. If that’s no problem, then Pineberry Pi offers the aforementioned HatDrive Top for traditional HAT-style mounting, and a Bottom version that can accept up to 2280 format NVMe SSDs. Including the provided ribbon cables, you can order the Top and Bottom for €20 and €25.99 respectively, with the first batch to ship in early December.

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Getting PCIe Working On The New Pi 5

After the Pi 4 released, a discovery was quickly made that the internals of the popular single-board computer use PCIe to communicate with each other. This wasn’t an accessible PCIe bus normally available in things like desktop computers for expansion cards, though; this seemed to be done entirely internally. But a few attempts were made to break out the PCIe capabilities and connect peripherals to it anyway, with varying levels of success. The new Pi 5 seems to have taken that idea to its logical conclusion and included a PCIe connector, and [George] is showing us a way to interface with this bus.

The bus requires the port to be enabled, but once that’s done it’s ready to be used. First, though, some support circuitry needs to be worked out which is why [George] is reverse engineering the system to see what’s going on under the hood. There are a few handshakes that happen before it will work with any peripherals, but with that out of the way a PCIe card can be connected. [George] removed the connector to solder wires to the board directly in order to connect a proper PCIe port allowing a variety of cards to be connected, in this case a wireless networking card and an old Firewire card. This specific build only allows Gen 1 speeds, but the bus itself supports faster connections in theory with better wiring and support circuitry.

While it might not be the prettiest solution, as [George] admits, it does a great job of showing the inner workings of this communication protocol and its use in the new, more powerful Raspberry Pi 5. This makes a lot of things more accessible, such as high-speed PCIe HATs allowing for a wide range of expansion for these popular single-board computers, which wouldn’t have been possible before. If you’re still stuck with a Pi 4, though, don’t despair. You can still access the PCIe bus on these older models but it’ll take a little bit more work.

Thanks to [CJay] for the tip!

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Reduce The Pi 5’s Power Consumption At A Stroke

The Raspberry Pi 5 is the new wunderkind single-board computer on the block, so new in fact that users are still finding out its quirks. One of those quirks is a surprisingly high power consumption when powered down, despite halting the SoC, it leaves the power on and consumes over a watt even in standby. [Jeff Geerling] has a solution, and it’s a simple config change.

It’s useful to know how to fix this, and we’re indebted to him for finding it, but it’s hardly the most complex of hacks. Where the interest lies is in why the board leaves the lights turned on when nobody’s at home in the first place. It seems that some HATs have an issue when the 3V3 rail shuts down, but the 5V rail doesn’t. The Raspberry Pi foundation took the most compatible route and kept the rails on all the time. Perhaps future OS releases will come up with something more elegant, but at least there *is* a fix.

If you’re new to the Pi 5, you can take a look at our review of a preview model, and see why it’s the closest yet to a usable everyday PC that they’ve produced.