Home Assistant SSD

One of the things I like about blogging to myself is that the process tends to motivate me to do other things. This is one good example! I blogged a little about moving my Home Assistant server from a FreeBSD jail to a Raspberry Pi 4 (Pi) in my New Year blog here. In that, I also mentioned upgrading the OS from the micro SD (mSD) card to a more robust Solid State Drive (SSD). This is about how I created my Home Assistant SSD.

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Random Update

I’ve often finished a blog staying I’ll come back with an update after some use and experience, but I’m conscious that I rarely do, so thought I’d try and do a random update blog which touched on a few previous blogs with some more detailed thoughts!

 

Logitech Keyboard and Mouse

I blogged about this here when I was actually planning on blogging about the next thing on this list, the Portable Monitor.

I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Logitech, as I love some of their products, but generally hate the customer experience they provide. I use one of their Harmony Elite remotes every day to control my TV, and it’s brilliant. Logitech has abandoned the macOS support on it though, which is rubbish.

I also backed a Kickstarter campaign a few years ago for some wireless headphones, Revols. At one point it looked like these would never come to fruition, and I was lucky to have the option of jumping ship and getting a refund some 18 months into the project. The company eventually got bought by Logitech, and they delivered a product, but by all accounts, it was pretty rubbish, when Logitech should have had the resources to make it a success.

So what about the Keyboard and Mouse I bought this year? Well, to begin with, I really liked it and felt it was a great upgrade from my Apple Wireless Keyboard and Mouse. After about 3 months though, I was having some problems using it across multiple devices. Reaching out to Logitech proved to be a complete waste of time, but I eventually resolved the issues by resetting the device and using the USB receiver with my iMac, which is what it connects to 90% of the time.

Overall they are both Logitech products I like and would recommend if it wasn’t for the atrocious support that you have to expect from Logitech. Just imagine how good they could be if they could just offer a decent level of support?

Portable Monitor

This has probably been one of the best purchases of 2020, and at the time I bought it I really wasn’t sure exactly what I’d use it for. It’s become a permanent fixture on my office desk, propped up with a pretty cheap and cheerful Amazonbasics tablet stand, connected via a small HDMI switch (another great purchase from Amazon).

By day it’s switched to my work HP Elitebook as a 2nd monitor, and by night to my Raspberry Pi 400 as a desktop computer, and potential replacement for my 2011 iMac which will die at some point and need to be replaced.

The only issue I had with this, was the settings being lost when it was connected only by USB-C as it won’t remember the brightness settings and defaults to 30% which isn’t really bright enough. I suspect this is a power-saving thing, as when it’s just connected by USB-C, it’s drawing power from the device it’s connected to, but it was a problem when I was using as a second monitor with my MacBook Air.

It’s not a problem how it’s currently configured, as it’s powered by USB-C and then connected to the two devices via HDMI and keeps the settings when powered off, even disconnecting the USB-C cable. I’d happily buy another as the picture quality is excellent and other than the settings issue it’s worked perfectly, It’s not really been used much as a ‘portable’ monitor, but at some point, it will and I fully expect it to continue doing a fantastic job.

Raspberry Pi 400

Given how strange this year has been with COVID-19, it doesn’t seem to have impacted on the quality of tech? The Raspberry Pi 400 is another device I’ve fallen in love with, that I really didn’t need, but I now use daily.

Is it perfect? No! They redesigned the board to fit the keyboard, but in doing so removed one of the USB ports so it only has one USB 2.0 and 2x USB 3.0 ports. The USB-C port is just for power, so you need an adapter to use any USB-C devices. They also removed the 3.5mm audio jack, which sounds fairly insignificant, but it’s surprising how much I’ve missed it.

But the form factor brings back such happy memories of computing from years gone by which I blogged about here. It runs faster and cooler than a standard Pi 4 and generally maintains the compatibility, although I’ve not had any success running Windows for Arm on the Pi 400 when it works perfectly fine on a Pi 4. I’ll blog a little more about that in 2021 I’m sure.

So there’s a random update on a few blogs from either in the year. The picture below shows them all in action and includes the Raspberry Pi HQ Webcam from this blog. I’ll be covering FreeNAS in much more detail in another New Year blog. Where last year most of the big changes were hardware related with the FreeNAS0 build, this time it’s much more of a software update, so watch out for that next week…

 

Blogs that never made it

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I’ll often create blogs with just a title with the good intention of coming back to write and publish a blog post. Some times I don’t, and end up deleting the draft, so here’s just a quick paragraph or two on some of those blogs that never made it in 2020…

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Raspberry Pi 400

Raspberry Pi 400

Where to start with this one? I’ve already blogged about my Raspberry Pi’s here, and given the Raspberry Pi 400 isn’t much different from a Raspberry Pi 4 from a compute perspective, there’s probably not much point going back over old ground. No, what’s special about the Raspberry Pi 400 is how it makes you feel and the memories it resurrects! 

 

I’ve got vague memories of a computer at home before the Sinclair ZX80, but those memories are more about trying to teach my 70-year-old Grandad how to use it some 20+ years later. It was a Sharp MX-80K and had everything built in – the computer, a monitor, keyboard and a tape deck!  It was my Dad’s fascination with these that drew me in and now lives on in me today.

 

It’s actually the ZX80 that sticks in my mind more though, and I remember it arriving and my Dad having to ‘build’ it before you could actually use it. I was still probably a little young when it was launched and it was never really ‘my’ computer, although I have ended up with it in my garage, along with various other Sinclair antiques!

 

 

The ZX81 and it’s whopping 16KB RAM pack was most definitely mine, and I remember playing around with basic to write simple programs and loading some very simple games from the tape deck. We also had an Atari game console, which was a much better games machine at the time. I’m pretty sure my Sister has acquired that, although struggled to get it working with a modern TV, which doesn’t have the input required! It’s much easier to relive these games on a Raspberry Pi today, which I’ve blogged about before here.

You might think the ZX81 would logically lead to a ZX Spectrum, but in my case it didn’t! I’m not entirely sure why but the next computers in the house were both Dragon conputers, first a 32 and then a 64 a year or so later. By this time we’d started to use computers at school, and it was this that inspired the next one.

 

At school, we were using BBC Micro B computers, but these were still quite expensive. Step forward the baby brother, the Acorn Electron. It was a great little computer, and it helped a lot with school, but I was always a little jealous of the kids with ZX Spectrums and Commodore 64s which had much better games.  They didn’t have Elite though!

 

I eventually swapped my Acorn Electron with a friend for his ZX Spectrum and a Big Trak! I thought it was the best deal in the world at the time, although I’m not entirely sure my Mum or Dad agreed. 

I still have the ZX Spectrum in the garage (with the ZX80, 81 and a Sinclair XL that I have very little recollection of ever using) and I built a robot similar to Big Trak with my daughter earlier this year, which I blogged about here.

 

We were now entering the birth of the current x86 era of computing that for me, like many people, started with an Amstrad 1512.  Oh, the power of 2 5 1/4″ Floppy Disk Drives!  Again, we had some of these in school and I’m sure when it was bought this was used as much by my Dad as it was me. It did eventually become my computer at University though.

 

During my 1st year at University, they had an offer to buy a 286 PC with a 20MB (not GB) Hard Disk Drive and a 3.5″ FDD (although it didn’t look exactly like the picture).  My Dad gave me the money to make use of this offer, but the deal was that he got the 286 computer and I got the 1512!  I did end up with the 286 during my final year, and the remaining journey is a pretty boring one with upgrades of beige boxes with ever-faster processors on a far too regular basis!

 

 

I have blogged about some of the laptops I’ve bought and used over the last 20 years here, and also some of the Raspberry Pi’s here.  So what is it about the Raspberry Pi 400 that inspired this blog?  I think it’s the form factor of a computer in a keyboard that was so similar to those early computing days back in the 1980s, some 40 years ago.  It really is quite a throwback, but so much has changed.

I never had a Commodore 64, but I do remember a time when you were either in camp Spectrum of Commodore!  Many friends had them and we spent hours playing pretty much the same games and comparing the similarities.  Even though I had an Electron and then Spectrum, the 64 probably was the better machine and the one to have.

It’s probably not a very fair or realistic comparison, but some of the numbers really are quite unbelievable.  I’m looking forward to playing more with my new and incredibly powerful new toy…

RetroPie

I’d mentioned Retropie briefly in another Raspberry Pi blogs here, but it really is worthy of its very own blog. I’ve always loved playing video games and grew up in the Pong, Atari, Spectrum/Commodore generation, so being able to go back and relive some of those moments has always been a draw. Nothing has ever made it easier than RetroPie on a Raspberry!

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