Feb 13, 2017

We need more Pi!

I am a HUGE fan of the Raspberry Pi, and have found so many uses for fun and utility for the Pi around the house. At any given point I have no less than 3 Pi's actively filling some role around my house, with a few more always sitting around for projects/testing/etc. The Pi 3 has really made the Pi a computing powerhouse for the price ($35 retail) and the size, and is not only significantly more powerful and faster than the Pi 2, but has integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well!
I think a common misconception is that Pi's are just for programmers and tech-savvy folks, but that simply is not the case. Because the Pi was created to be an introduction tool for learning some basic programming and understanding to how computers work, there is a massive amount of excellent documentation and tutorials that can walk you through setting up operating systems, installing programs, and creating all sorts of projects with your Pi.
Yes I know Massdrop has had some kits in the past (https://www.massdrop.com/buy/seeed-raspberry-pi-3-b-w-starter-kit), though the kits are not great (for example, the linked post included a USB wireless adapter....even though the Pi 3 already has integrated Wi-Fi), and better kits are cheaper elsewhere. I would LOVE to see some kits actually curated for some specific projects/uses on Massdrop BY Massdrop (I know there are some employees there totally capable of coming up with a great kit!!). Massdrop also already sells some great controllers that can be used with the Pi (https://www.massdrop.com/buy/8bitdo-snes30-sfc30-retro-bluetooth-gamepad) made by 8Bitdo at prices that are lower than anywhere else!
I thought I'd share a little about what I use my Pi's for, hopefully as a way to get even a few other people interested in them! I don't intend for this to be a guide (if more interest is around, I can do some though), just a teaser post to see what the interest actually is.
I think the absolute MOST FUN you can have with a Pi 3 is by setting up RetroPie. RetroPie can turn a Raspberry Pi into a full fledged retro-gaming machine, capable of playing games from early systems like Atari and SNES, handheld games from Gameboy and Gameboy Advanced, all the way up to Nintendo 64 and Playstation. Talk about Nostalgia overload!
For my RetroPie, I wanted it to look the part as well, so had a 3D printed case made and threw in a Green LED that turns on when the system is on just to give it some vintage NES vibes. I also have a case fan that runs constantly just because it can get pretty hot when running games that require a lot of processing power (mainly N64 and Playstation games). For those that are truly terrified to even try to set up RetroPie, you can even buy SD cards preloaded with thousands of games and RetroPie on ebay for relatively cheap (though I'd HIGHLY recommend setting it up yourself!)
The Pi can be used for more than just fun and games though. One of my favorite utility uses for the Pi is as a Pi-Hole (https://pi-hole.net/). Pi-Hole is a piece of software that acts as a network-wide ad blocking solution. This works on any device, regardless of the hardware or OS.
Pi-Hole works with many Linux distros, including Noobs and Raspbian, the software that comes with many Pi 3 kits. Set up is unbelievably simple, requiring a single command in the terminal, which will bring up a GUI to help finish the installation. During the installation you will set a static IP address for your Pi, and when installation is finished you simply need to open up your router configuration and change the DNS server to the IP address of the Pi. That's it.
I have a Pi 2 running Pi-Hole in my house and LOVE it! I had an extra 3.5 inch screen that I use to monitor Pi-Hole in real time:
(Just ignore my utterly obsolete router, forget you even saw it ;)
This is honestly even a little excessive, because you can easily access the admin page (which is being displayed on the screen) on any device on your network, I just wanted to use the screen for something. The admin page gives you detailed info about what the Pi-Hole is up to, and gives you access to features like a whitelist and blacklist.
The last thing I always have Pi's for around the house are as fully functioning computers for web surfing and general use. I have Ubuntu running on a Pi my wife uses as her home PC that mainly just involves checking email, and have a Pi running the stock Raspbian OS in my guestroom. Ubuntu is fun to have, though Raspbian does run noticeably quicker, and comes with everything you need from a browser, a full office software suite, and even Minecraft! When I upgraded my main PC's monitor, it was a no-brainer to put the monitor I replaced to use as the guest computer!
The Raspberry Pi is a very affordable little piece of tech with nearly unlimited potential. I'd love to see what some of you are using your Pi's for! I know many folks that use them as a media center alternative to things like the Roku and Apple TV. If there are any Pi specific things you'd like to see drop, or have ideas for kits, or just want to discuss the Pi in general please comment!


Add a comment...
Excellent job. I am putting together a retro pi setup right now. Where did you get the Nintendo looking controller with the joysticks and extra buttons?
That's awesome, I'd love a shot at 1 of these. Pretty awesome projects, LSB!
Currently working on getting my pi-hole up and running. ;) Then plan to add in RetroPie for some gaming goodness. Eventually I might tackle the OnionPi project for some Tor network security. All from a little $35 computer. Super cool for sure!
Thanks Andy - definately second this one.

I have 7 Pi's at the moment, five of them are actively employed.
1. Pi 3 Retropie Arcade machine (bartop/full size convertible) http://i.imgur.com/RIot2OT.jpg
2. Pi 3 OSMC - Kodi based media center front-end using TV Addons for streaming shows that aren't available on Netflix, Amazon, or any channel specific apps (ABC, FOX, etc.). LOVE this setup. I recommend an air mouse and learning basic shortcut keys for kodi (M to bring up video controls for example). Setup Instructions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lpDtM2Shsw
3. Pi 1b Musicbox - http://www.pimusicbox.com/ Mine's installed and setup but my receiver is on the fritz so I haven't actually deployed it yet in my living room. It's recommended to use a cheapy USB sound card for better sound output with this one.
4. Pi 3 - Desktop compy in my shop connected to a 32" LCD tv I got for free - I have game nights, shop nights, and hangouts out there all the time and it comes in handy for looking up vid tutorials for something I'm building, researching ideas, youtube watching, etc.
5. Pi 2b - Pi-hole - Haven't deployed yet, I'm working on installing an AP first. https://pi-hole.net/

I've seen some NES/SNES/Atari themed stickers/decals for the official Pi case floating around that would be a fantastic addition to a Retropie themed run - I could certainly design some original ones if MD is inclined to source a case and give me some dimensions. The cheap $5 USB NES/SNES controllers floating around china are surprisingly good as well. Of course you could also do a full arcade kit with buttons, joystick, and usb controller interface.

dude your arcade cabinet is awesome!!
Thanks! I'm definitely in love with it. I can't make up my mind for kiosk art and the base needs a door in the front and it will be officially done on the hardware side; I'll probably always be messing with the software trying new systems and games and software improvements.
Add a comment...