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What do I do with this rPi?

An Amazon deal, the Vilros kit was on sale a while back, so I now have a Raspberry Pi 3 B to see what all the fuss is about. First thing up was to boot NOOB  (New Out Of the Box software) and install a basic Raspbian system, the LibreElec (just enough Linux for Kodi) and another media oriented system. Easy to do from NOOB and you get a rescue system as well as the multiple boot options. So now what?

The LibreElec option suggested replacing the media machine in the RV and it indeed works well with a Seagate 2 TB USB powered drive storing the AV collection. The 24″ Vizio TV supports the HDMI control link so its remote can be used to control the media player, somewhat. Shutting down the rPi also shuts down the TV. Nice. So now what?

The RV provided an idea. We get together on occasion with others out in the Nevada wilds where even cell phone coverage is spotty. How about a Rally Net so folks could share pictures, event schedules, and other information? Understand that this would be an obnoxious distraction for most of the rally participants but at under 5 watts, the rPi could run on the RV battery without much of an impact for a full weekend even without any recharging. That would be a good way to learn about networks and keep the rPi busy. Here’s what’s involved.

  1. Set the rPi wifi interface so it knows its address and how it’s going to function. That is done in /etc/network/interfaces
  2. To allow others to talk to your network, install hostapd, an access point service. This controls access to your network. hostapd is normally used as a conduit between a local net and a remote I’net but we will want to set it up like a honeypot. Andy Smith has good basic honeypot instructions on his blog and we can start with that.
  3. People who want to use your network need to get an address on the network and some information about how to find things. dnsmasq is used for this. This can be configured like a honeypot to steer all web page requests to a local service.
  4. A web server is needed. Apache is the old standby for this but Nginx is an updated program better suited to the rPi.
  5. For photo galleries, PhotoFloat was used. This isn’t on Wikipedia’s page of options but it is simple and uses the file system rather than a special database.
  6. For file sharing, Samba was configured so that the album folder could be shared using standard Windows type file sharing. After pictures have been uploaded, the system operator could run a python script to update the galleries being served via the local website.
  7. For website and photo gallery repositories, a 64 GB USB stick was used, This stick was partitioned for separate www and photo drives that were mounted in FSTAB by reference to the partition labels.

That’s only a start! I am looking at installing MySQL and WordPress to provide a more social web environment. Since the rPi doesn’t have a real time clock, I am considering adding a GPS module for satellite time. Reyax has one intended for vehicle tracking that could also serve as the basis for a weather station with its pressure, temperature, compass, and acceleration sensors.  I could also enable track logging to help create directions to the rally site and the compass could be an aid to those who want to set up their satellite TV systems, too.

Of course, the rPi wifi is very low power with an on-board ceramic antenna. This means that its range is quite limited. If someone actually did want to access the Rally Net, they’d have to either help me set up a more potent WiFi node or park a chair close to the window where the rPi sits. Meanwhile, I’ve got a good target for seeing what an inexpensive low power computer can do.