Raspberry Pi articles on Opensource.com

I published a couple of articles about the Raspberry Pi on Opensource.com during the past 2 weeks. Check it out:

  1. Listen to streaming music with Pi MusicBox
  2. Create your own musical light show with Raspberry Pi

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A bonus with the Asus Zenbook UX305 and Fedora

One thing I forgot to mention about the Zenbook UX305 on my review was that it comes with a “free” Ethernet USB dongle. This morning I finally had the chance to play with it, and it works like a charm with Fedora 21.

Ethernet USB Dongle

Ethernet USB Dongle

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[Update] ASUS Zenbook UX305: A very sexy Linux laptop

I bought a Macbook Pro 13″ Retina Display a couple of weeks ago and then this week when Apple released the Macbook and an update to the Macbook Pro 13″ line, I quickly went back to my purchase date, and realized I could return my MBPr 13″, get a refund and order the new one.

That’s when I saw the following tweet by ASUS, and heard about the Zenbook UX305, I was intrigued.

It turns out the $1600+ MBPr I had ordered could possibly be replaced by this machine that may not be as powerful, but it is very portable, sexy looking and more than 50% cheaper! I canceled my MBPr order, and decided to give the UX305 a try.

Ironically, I ended up buying the Zenbook at the Microsoft store. It arrived this morning, and I have been trying it out ever since. And that’s where this post really begins… a quick look, review of the Zenbook UX305FA-USM1 from a Fedora user (who really likes Apple Hardware) perspective.

First things first…

One of my biggest pet peeves in the “PC” world is how crappy the boxes in which the laptops come really are. It is something silly, but I always appreciated the fact that buying an Apple computer the experience started at the “box” level. Well, it seems like ASUS has picked up on that message, because the Zenbook box is beautiful!

Zenbook Unboxing

Zenbook Box

Then the next 3 things I’ve noticed were:

  1. It really is made out of aluminum.
  2. It really is thin.
  3. It really is sturdy (well built).
very thin

very thin

aluminum

aluminum

It really is a beautiful computer, but it is not perfect. The two ONLY major issues I have with it right now are:

  1. The power adapter for is pretty horrible. It is kind of lose on the connector, so if you move the laptop lets say from the table to your lap, the chances are the connector is going get lose and stop charging the laptop. If you move it around, you have to press on the connector to make sure it didn’t disconnect. :-( [Update: 03/16/2015 – Thanks to the OP on this post: http://www.reddit.com/r/SuggestALaptop/comments/2xfwwg/research_thread_asus_zenbook_ux305/
  2. The metal is cool and slick, but the oil from your hands leave stains all over the hardware. A nice little flannel cloth comes with the computer for you to keep it clean, but it is visible, and some people may think it is very annoying. I 6 hours of usage my touchpad (compared to an Mac’s glass touchpad) looks like it is a couple of years old.
very poor power adapter connector

You have to push in the connector hard, it almost feels like it “clicks” twice before it is all in. Then the connector will stay put.

stains from hand

stains from hand

And for the record, I am a bit of a neat freak, my hands are always clean, so I know it is not me.  This coating (if any) they have on this machine isn’t very protective it seems.

The Specs

Let me make a confession… I am getting old! I don’t know my stuff as I used to. I honestly cannot keep up anymore with the different generations and models of Intel CPUs. Frequency, Cache Size, Cores, Threads, Graphics Processor, Thermal Design Power, etc, etc, etc… They become more efficient, needing less power, frequencies that aren’t that high anymore almost gives the impression that we are going backwards in the race of powerful CPUs. Yet as the speed of SSDs, RAMs and the bus start catching up and it makes the bottlenecks of computing wider and wider.

With that said, here are the specs of this Zenbook:

  • 13.3-Inch FHD (1920×1080) anti-glare matte display with an ultra-wide 170-degree viewing angle.
  • Latest Intel Core M-5Y10 (turbo up to 2GHz) processor. Fan-less design that is quiet, clean, and energy-efficient.
  • 8GB RAM, 256GB Solid State Drive. 10-Hours Battery Life.
  • Dual-band 802.11AGN Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0 x 3 ports, and HDMI port.

The base frequency of the CPU is 800 Mhz, which to be honest made me a bit worried at first. Is this Core M-5Y10 just another name for a Celeron or Atom? That’s when I started looking around for generic benchmarks against this computer and saw that overall it was a pretty decent machine. Definitely not the machine for a hardcore gamer, but much comparable to the Macbook Airs when it comes to functionality, which is basically what I am looking for.

The display is beautiful. On Windows it basically does the whole HiDPI thing (ie Retina Display) running at 1280×720 (If I recall correctly), and on Fedora, I am running it at 1920×1080 with font scaling at 1.2, and HiDPI on Firefox.

Fedora 21

I obviously didn’t buy this computer to run Windows. I have absolutely almost 0 use for Windows personally, so the first thing I did was to get my thumb drive that has Fedora 21 live image on it and try to boot into it…

Something unexpected happened. The BIOS did not recognize the USB thumb drive. It turned out that for being such a new machine, it was using secure boot, efi, the works, and I was not able to make it recognize the flash drive. (Even after I disabled the secure boot, and enable every legacy option on the BIOS). Nothing.

So, I dug around the house for a USB optical drive, and burned a Fedora 21 DVD, and boom! BIOS recognized the disk, and installation started. I was able to install it with secure boot and EFI turned on. No issue.

Once I was into Anaconda, I was still a bit worried grub was going to flake out on me, so I decided to reduce my Windows 8.1 partition instead of completely wiping it off. I left about 50 Gb for Windows, and left the rest of the space to install Fedora on.

The installation went without any problems!

fedora 21 screaming

fedora 21 screaming

I am happy to report that everything works out of the box on Fedora 21, with the exception of the Function Keys for brightness, which I am going to guess just needs to be configured, and I haven’t gotten to it yet. But the brightness on the GNOME toolbar works just fine.

The laptop is powerful enough to run virt-manager, and RHEL 7 on a VM, it works really well. The keyboard, and touchpad work really well too. I have no complaints. Even though, I don’t care about it the keyboard is not backlit (in case you do care).

Did I mention the laptop is fanless? Oh, and from what I’ve been able to see so far, Suspend/Resume works pretty well. The battery life so far seems to go way beyond 5 hours (with Windows claiming up to 10 hours of battery life). I have not used powertop in Fedora to try to tune the power settings yet. Maybe the subject for a future post?

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Raspberry Pi 2 and Canakit Tutorial

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Having fun with the Raspberry Pi B+ and Pi MusicBox

Now that Christmas is over, I needed to find the next “thing” for my Raspberry Pi. After some googling, I decided to give Pi Musicbox a try. Musicbox is basically a spin of the Raspbian Linux distribution with Mopidy allowing you to play all sorts of streaming services like Spotify, TuneIn, SoundCloud and local sound files on a ‘headless’ Raspberry Pi.

In this post, I will describe a bit of the work I had to do to get Pi Musicbox working to my satisfaction including some of the issues I am still encountering.

First:

The Hardware:

Installation:

The first thing I had to do was ‘dd’ the musicbox image into my mini SD card using a SD card adapter on my laptop which is running Fedora 21:

sudo dd bs=1M if=musicbox0.5.2.img of=/dev/mmcblk0

Once that was done, I mounted the card on my laptop and modified the config/settings.ini file in the MUSICBOX partition. In that file, you can set the root password for your server, enable ssh, set up wifi (*), configure your Spotify account (**) among other things.

(*) I started my set up using my canaKit wifi usb dongle, but once I started doing things with samba mounts to share music, I quickly noticed a lot buffering issues with the system while trying to play music, so I gave up on the wifi and plugged it in directly into my router’s ethernet port.

(**) You must have a Spotify Premium account for you to be able to connect to it via Pi Musicbox.

After saving my changes to settings.ini file, I unmounted my card, took it out of the adpater and plugged it into the Pi. Once it booted it up, I just accessed http://192.168.1.30/ (the IP my router gave my Pi) from my laptop.

Pi Musixbox Web Interface

Pi Musixbox Web Interface

Configuration:

Depending how fancy you want to go with your set up, this is probably be the part of the project that will take most of your time. In my case, I wanted to make the songs I had on my mac playable from the Pi.

I shared a Music folder I had with some albums on my mac, and mounted the share o the Pi.

MusicBox has a set of options in the settings.ini to allow you to enter a Samba share information in there for the system to scan, but I could not get that to work with a share coming from a mac, so I went and edited the /etc/fstab on my pi and added:

//192.168.1.79/music /mnt/music cifs username=myusername,password=mypassword,nounix,sec=ntlmssp,noperm,rw 0 0

My guess is that Musicbox tries to mount a samba/cifs share without using the sec=ntlmssp option, which is required to mount a share from a Mac OS X host in Linux. Again, it is just a guess at this moment.

Note that I am mounting the above on /mnt/music. I had to modify the /etc/mopidy/mopidy.conf file. I had to set media_dir option to /mnt/music

My playlists from Spotify automatically in the system

My playlists from Spotify automatically in the system

My premium membership to Spotify had expired, and when I first started playing with Musicbox the part related to Spotify would just spin on the web interface and nothing would happen. I ended up finding the log for the application and noticed when mopidy started it said non-premium accounts couldn’t access the content I was trying to access.

The log location for mopidy on Musicbox is: /var/log/mopidy/mopidy.log

ssh enabled. Note the samba mount from my mac for "local" files over the network.

ssh enabled. Note the samba mount from my mac for “local” files over the network.

Remember to enable ssh and set a root password on the settings.ini (as previsouly mentioned) so you can access the log file.

Local Radio:

Probably my second favorite feature on Musicbox is the ability to interact with TuneIn, which allows you to listen to local radio stations that have an online presence. And, in case you are wondering, my favorite feature in the Spotify connectivity.

Pi Musicbox uses the TuneIn API to give you access to local radio.

Pi Musicbox uses the TuneIn API to give you access to local radio.

Problems:

As much fun as I am having in setting this up, there are a few issues I am fighting with. Some of them may be of my own doing, and others may be related to mopidy itself, but at this point, I just see them as problems. So, this is meant to be for information’s sake and not criticism on the project at all.

  • Samba configuration on settings.ini doesn’t seem to work with OS X shares.
  • Streaming from a samba share via wifi (using the canaKit wifi dongle at least) doesn’t quite work. Too much buffering.
  • local file refreshes doesn’t seem to work unless the system is rebooted.
    • I tried running ‘mopidy local scan‘ to force a file scan, but it aways fails with the error: UnicodeDecodeError: ‘ascii’ codec can’t decode byte 0xc3 in position 4560: ordinal not in range(128)
  • I also had the error above on the mopidy.log when I was trying to scan for thousands of files on my Samba share. I reduced the files to about 480, and made sure only files with “ascii” characters where available and then my local files showed up on the web interface.
  • Manually restarting (or stopping and then starting) mopidy doesn’t seem to trigger a local file scan either.

Conclusion:

Yet another great little afternoon project for the Raspberry Pi. I now have a music/radio streaming service in the house that can be remotely accessed via a web interface. It doesn’t require a monitor or TV, no keyboard or mouse. Just a network connection and some speakers. That’s all I have to say about that. :-)

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