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How Do You Make A Raspberry Pi On A Stick?

We agree with [magic-blue-smoke] that one of the only things more fun than a standard Raspberry Pi 4 is the Compute Module form factor. If they are not destined to be embedded in a system, these need a breakout board to be useful. Each can be customized with a myriad board shapes and ports, and that’s where the real fun starts. We’ve already seen projects that include custom carrier boards in everything from a 3D Printer to a NAS and one that shows we can build a single-sided board at home complete with high-speed ports.

[magic blue smoke] used this ability to customize the breakout board as an opportunity to create a hackable media player “stick” with the Raspberry Pi built-in. We love that this Raspberry Pi CM4 TV Stick eliminates all the adapters and cables usually required to connect a Pi’s fiddly micro HDMI ports to a display and has heat sinks and an IR receiver to boot. Like a consumer media player HDMI stick, all you need to add is power. Continue reading “How Do You Make A Raspberry Pi On A Stick?”

Raspberry Pi Cameras Stand In For Stereo Microscope

Handling tiny surface mount components and inspecting PCBs is a lot easier with a nice stereo microscope, but because of their cost and bulk, most hobbyists have to do without. At best they might have a basic digital microscope, but with only one camera, they can only show a 2D image that’s not ideal for detail work.

The team behind [Stereo Ninja] hopes to improve on the situation by developing a stereoscopic vision system that puts tiny objects up on the big screen in three dimensions. Utilizing the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, a custom carrier board that enables the use of both MIPI CSI camera interfaces, and a 3D gaming monitor, their creation combines the capabilities of a traditional stereo microscope with the flexibility of a digital solution.

With two Raspberry Pi cameras suspended over the work area, and the addition of plenty of LED light, Stereo Ninja is able to generate the 3D image required by the monitor. While the camera’s don’t have the same magnification you’d get from a microscope, they’re good enough for enlarging SMD parts, and looking at a big screen monitor certainly beats hunching over the eyepiece of a traditional microscope. Especially if you’re trying to show something to a group of people, like at a hackerspace.

Of course, not everyone has a large 3D gaming monitor on their workbench. In fact, given how poorly the tech went over with consumers the last time it was pushed on us, we’d wager more hackers have stereo microscopes than 3D displays. Which is why the team’s next step is to have the Raspberry Pi generate the signals required by the shutter glasses, allowing Stereo Ninja to show a three dimensional image on 2D monitors; bringing this valuable capability to far larger audience than has previously been possible.

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Waveshare’s Pi CM3 Laptop Arrives A Bit Too Late

The good news it that you can now buy a pretty decent laptop that’s based around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module (CM). The bad news is that it was conceived before anyone knew the interface was going to change for the new CM4, so it doesn’t have any of the features that would make it really interesting such as support for PCI-Express. Oh, and it costs $300.

Waveshare, the company that most of us know best as a purveyor of e-paper displays, also made some rather interesting design choices on their laptop. See that black pad under the keyboard? No, it’s not a trackpad. It’s just a decorative cover that you remove to access an LED matrix and GPIO connectors. Make no mistake, a laptop that features a GPIO breakout right on the front is definitely our jam. But the decision to install it in place of the trackpad, and then cover it with something that looks exactly like a trackpad, is honestly just bizarre. It might not be pretty, but the Pi 400 seemed to have solved this problem well enough without any confusion.

On the other hand, there seems to be a lot to like about this product. For one, it’s a very sleek machine that doesn’t have the boxy and somewhat juvenile look that seems so common in other commercial Pi laptops. We also like that Waveshare included a proper Ethernet jack, something that’s becoming increasingly rare even on “real” laptops. As [ETA PRIME] points out in the video after the break, the machine also has a crisp IPS display and a surprisingly responsive keyboard. Though the fact that it still has a “Windows” key borders on being offensive considering how much it costs.

But really, the biggest issue with this laptop is when it finally hit the market. If Waveshare had rushed this out when the CM3 was first introduced, it probably would have been a more impressive technical achievement. On the other hand, had they waited a bit longer they would have been able to design it around the far more capable CM4. As it stands, the product is stuck awkwardly in the middle.

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Adventures In Overclocking: Which Raspberry Pi 4 Flavor Is Fastest?

There are three different versions of the Raspberry Pi 4 out on the market right now: the “normal” Pi 4 Model B, the Compute Module 4, and the just-released Raspberry Pi 400 computer-in-a-keyboard. They’re all riffing on the same tune, but there are enough differences among them that you might be richer for the choice.

The Pi 4B is easiest to integrate into projects, the CM4 is easiest to break out all the system’s features if you’re designing your own PCB, and the Pi 400 is seemingly aimed at the consumer market, but it has a dark secret: it’s an overclocking monster capable of running full-out at 2.15 GHz indefinitely in its stock configuration.

In retrospect, there were hints dropped everywhere. The system-on-a-chip that runs the show on the Model B is a Broadcom 2711ZPKFSB06B0T, while the SOC on the CM4 and Pi 400 is a 2711ZPKFSB06C0T. If you squint just right, you can make out the revision change from “B” to “C”. And in the CM4 datasheet, there’s a throwaway sentence about it running more efficiently than the Model B. And when I looked inside the Pi 400, there was this giant aluminum heat spreader attached to the SOC, presumably to keep it from overheating within the tight keyboard case. But there was one more clue: the Pi 400 comes clocked by default at 1.8 GHz, instead of 1.5 GHz for the other two, which are sold without a heat-sink.

Can the CM4 keep up with the Pi 400 with a little added aluminum? Will the newer siblings leave the Pi 4 Model B in the dust? Time to play a little overclocking!

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Getting Over 4Gbps Out Of A Compute Module 4

For the average home gamer, good old fashioned Ethernet at 100 Mbit/s is only just starting to become a bottleneck as things like 4K video streaming begin to demand more bandwidth. As always, though, there are those who wish to push the limits of what is possible. [Jeff Geerling] is one such operator, who set out to maximise the network throughput on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4. 

The build began by taking advantage of the PCI-Express 2.0 single lane interface on the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module. Hooked up to an Intel four-port Gigabit Ethernet card, and in combination with the onboard Gigabit-E port, [Jeff] was able to get 3.0 Gbit/s out of the setup without too much fuss. However, he wanted more, and set about finding where he was being held back. It turned out that ksoftirqd, a daemon that handles network packets, can only run on one core on the Raspberry Pi 4, and it was getting maxed out at this data rate. Overclocking the CPU helped, getting the max rate up to 3.4 Gbit/s.

Further analysis showed that the onboard interface was only contributing 200 Mbit/s, with the Intel card maxing out at 3.2 Gbit/s. In the case of the latter, this was due to the limits of the PCI-E interface. In the case of the former, however, [Jeff] knew that more was available. The trick turned out to be recompiling the Linux kernel to allow the internal interface to be able to set to use a higher Maximum Transmission Unit. This allows each network transmission to carry more data without extra CPU load. With the internal interface and the external card all set to an MTU of 9000, the Pi was able to spit out a scorching 4.15 Gbit/second. Details of the hack are available on Github for the curious.

It’s a hack that doesn’t offer a lot to the average user, though [Jeff] states he has some interesting applications in mind. He’s also contemplating what can be achieved with a 10 Gbit card, which we can’t wait to see. If you want to learn more about the Compute Module’s features, including a couple of tips for laying out yor own board, check out our review. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Prize China Finalists Announced

In the time since the Hackaday Prize was first run it has nurtured an astonishing array of projects from around the world, and brought to the fore some truly exceptional winners that have demonstrated world-changing possibilities. This year it has been extended to a new frontier with the launch of the Hackaday Prize China (Chinese language, here’s a Google Translate link), allowing engineers, makers, and inventors from that country to join the fun. We’re pleased to announce the finalists, from which a winner will be announced in Shenzhen, China on November 23rd. If you’re in Shenzen area, you’re invited to attend the award ceremony!

All six of these final project entries have been translated into English to help share information about projects across the language barrier. On the left sidebar of each project page you can find a link back to the original Chinese language project entry. Each presents a fascinating look into what people in our global community can produce when they live at the source of the component supply chain. Among them are a healthy cross-section of projects which we’ll visit in no particular order. Let’s dig in and see what these are all about!

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Balena Introduces DIN-Capable Pi Compute Module Carrier Board

Although you don’t hear about it very much over the clamor of emulating old video game systems, one of the biggest uses of the Raspberry Pi outside its educational roots is in industry. The Pi makes for a great industrial control system, and if you mount it to a DIN rail, you’re golden. This is the biggest reason the Pi foundation is still making the Pi 1, and it’s one of the big motivations behind the Pi Compute Module.

Now that the Pi Compute Module 3 and 3+ have been out for a while, it’s only fitting that these modules get a great carrier board. The balenaFin 1.1 is out now, and it’s the perfect carrier board for the Pi compute module.

Balena (formerly resin.io) is a software stack designed for managing fleets of Linux devices, and there’s no better example of that than a factory filled with Pis fiddling relays and such. Balena has found its way from tracking sea turtles to monitoring oil rigs, and with that comes a need for a developer kit. The Pi compute module is supposed to have a very long support life, so the obvious solution is to make a great carrier board for this fantastic module.

Features of note include two camera connectors, PoE (with a Hat), USB headers, an RGB indicator LED, an industrial temperature range, and a case designed for a DIN rail. So far, so goo, but there’s also a microcontroller with a Bluetooth radio that can operate without the compute module being turned on, and an RTC for time-based operation. There’s a mini PCI express slot designed for cellular modems, and a SIM card slot just for fun.

While most Pi builds we see could make use of these features, they are assuredly one-off builds. You’re not going to be deploying hundreds of Pis if you need to 3D print an enclosure for each one. That’s when actual engineers need to get involved, and if you’re doing that, you might as well go with the Raspberry Pi compute module. If you’re looking for a fleet of Pis, you could do worse than to look at this very nice compute module carrier board.