some uses for a raspberry pi computer – introduction

A Raspberry Pi is a small low power computer that hopefully has a use that chimes for you. I don’t think you’d want to use a Pi for emails and web browsing – it’s a tad inconvenient when compared to a laptop or Chromebook. But that is one negative out of many positives. The Pi is silent and it can be left running 24/7. And because of its low-ish price, I can dedicate this computer to a single task. I have four and this is not a world record but the popularity of the RPi does however break world records.

Coincidentally the Raspberry Pi was designed here in Cambridge – at the time when my uni team was working with their uni team. When I first heard of it, I wasn’t sure it would rip through schools, though it pretty much did! I scooped this interview with two of the Raspberry Pi’s designers.

Some uses for a Raspberry Pi

  • A RPi will run Home Assistant, a home automation server that manages the lights, the heating and more. A chunk of this website is dedicated to showing why that’s useful.
  • I use a RPi to continuously display a web page (on a monitor in the cloakroom) showing all the information that my home automation server collects about train times, the weather, the amount of electricity and heating oil I’m using.
  • I use a RPi to run Octoprint which allows me to keep an eye on a 3D printer. It’s wonderful how much more functional that printer has become.
  • A RPi can take the role of the printer server called CUPS. Old printers don’t have wifi but CUPS connects them to the wifi and makes them available via Google Cloud Print.
  • The above same RPi has access to a disc where I can backup and archive files. This is network attached storage. Rarely do I copy a file with a USB stick.
  • There are other uses to toy with. You can use a Pi to run Volumio to deliver all your stored music. It’s an excellent app, but these days I listen to streamed music and my stored MP3s and CDs are history.
  • You can use a Pi to run Kodi or Plex – capable are media apps that deliver your home movies, stored movies, music, photos to your TV. (You need to approach this as a proof of concept as the RPi will struggle when it comes to delivering video. I’ve since moved my installation to an old PC as I love this feature too much). If your TV was a plain TV, Kodi or Plex would make it cleverer. It works well with an Amazon Fire Stick/Box but with full control over your media. For live (terrestrial) TV I use a HDHomerun which has an aerial and an ethernet connector. The HDHomerun feeds live TV over the home via ethernet. Plex Media Server picks up this TV and add an all-channel TV guide to it. Using Plex in your browser or on your phone you can watch or record TV.
  • You can use a Pi to run Openhab, which like Home Assistant, is a home automation platform.
  • You can access a huge array of server software that runs as Docker containers. These server packages include Qbittorrent for background downloading of huge files; Pi-hole for removing ads; Frigate or Shinobi Video for a CCTV setup; nginx proxy for added internet security; Wireguard for safe remote access to the home network. To do this first install RaspOS Lite, then openmediavault, then Docker and Portainer. OpenMediaVault is the key to sharing files on an external drive. See the Youtube projects by ‘DB Tech’.
  • For more uses for a Pi, see this article: 26 Awesome Uses for a Raspberry Pi
This is the web view of octoprint (or octopi), a outstanding, featureful 3D printer controller. One can also film time lapse video as an item is made.

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