Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero Goes Wireless

The Raspberry Pi product line has added a new member, the Raspberry Pi Zero W (RBPiZW), an updated version of the RBPi Zero, with the added advantages on on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability.

Although the new RBPiZW lacks the Ethernet and full-sized USB-A ports, it is only a fraction of the size of its flagship brethren the RBPi, and less expensive as well. Almost identical to the RBPi Zero, the RBPiZW is twice as expensive, and boasts of a wireless chip supporting the 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi for 2.4 GHz only, and Bluetooth 4.0.

Both the RBPiZW and RBPi Zero use the same BCM2835 that powered the original RBPi. However, the single-core chip is now clocked at a higher speed of 1 GHz, as against 700 MHz earlier. On the RBPiZW is a Cypress wireless chip, the same the RBPI3 also uses. Although the Raspberry Pi Foundation has claimed the maximum wireless speed of the chip as 150 Mbps, in reality it generally hits about 20 to 40 Mbps.

Apart from the addition of the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, there has been no change from the RBPi Zero to the RBPiZW. The designers added the Bluetooth and wireless LAN chipsets to the board, and included a PCB antenna layout licensed from ProAnt, Sweden.

The RBPiZW contains 512 MB RAM, a HAT-compatible 40-pin header, a CSI camera connector, a Micro-USB for power, Mini-HDMI port, a USB port for OTG, and headers for composite video and reset.

Although the new RBPiZW is a trifle heavier than its predecessor the RBPi Zero is, their dimensions are identical at 2.6×1.2×0.2 inches. You can also get a new case with the RBPiZW, with three interchangeable lids. The first lid is solid, the second has an opening in it for the GPIO pins, and the third has an opening for the camera module.

As the RBPiZW (and the RBPi Zero) come without the GPIO pins installed, they are able to maintain their slim profile, despite their full-sized GPIO headers. The user can solder the GPIO pins if the project demands, but the small size of the Zero boards are an advantage when using them to build a small robot or any other small system.

Even though the price is slightly higher, the RBPiZW remains incredibly cheap and is far more useful out of the box. Measurements of the performance of the tiny SBC confirm this. However, considering general performance when comparing with the RBPi3, such as during web browsing, it may be a frustrating experience. The RBPiWZ will have long pauses as the data loads and graphics renders in the Epiphany browser.

That means the RBPiZW is geared more towards hardware and software hackers, rather than those trying for a desktop experience. Those who want a replacement for their desktop computers would do well to use the RBPi3 instead.

Another factor weighing in for the RBPiZW is its low power consumption. Considering this board is meant for small systems and tiny robots, its low power consumption is a very big advantage when powering projects with batteries. Of course, the Wi-Fi support and network performance will affect its power consumption pattern.

PINE64 : A 64-bit Contender for the Raspberry Pi

Earlier, a DIY computing project could cost an enthusiast hundreds of dollars. Now, with single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi or RBPi or its latest kin, the Raspberry Pi Zero, anyone can start a new project at the cost of a cup of coffee. Seen from the other side of the fence, a competitor has to include a better choice of components, offer a better price or both. PINE64 Inc. has taken the third route.
PINE54 Inc. is attempting to improve on the legacy so far built up by the RBPi. According to the team, two mathematical constants make up the name of their board – Pi and Euler’s Number e. As it has a 64-bit processor, the name also includes the number 64 along with an A to differentiate it from future versions. The PINE A64 runs on an ARMv8 processor, the Cortex-A53, and is available for just $15.
PINE A64 measures 12.7×7.94cms and uses a 64-bit processor, a quad-core ARM Cortex A53 running at 1.2GHz. A dual-core Mali 400 MP2 handles the graphics. Memory includes a micro SD slot to handle cards up to 256GB and 2GB DDR3 SDRAM onboard. Ports available on the PINE A64 include one gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0, one HDMI 1.4 connector for 4K output, a stereo mini-jack connector and a charging circuit for a 3.7V Lithium battery.
PINE64 Inc. will also be offering separate modules to augment the functionality of PINE A64. The modules will add a touch panel port, a 5MP camera port, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi connectivity and a 4-Lane MIPI video port. The board runs on 5V power via its micro USB connector, but can fall back on its internal battery with on-board power management.
According to Johnson Jeng, the co-founder of PINE64 Inc., the company has designed a simple, smart and affordable computer. People can use this to bring their next big ideas to life. The 64-bit quad-core single board computer is available at an exceptional price. It is compatible with several open-source platforms, enabling people to build a community of innovation and creativity.
Just like other ARM-based single board computers, you can set up PINE A64 to operate as a gaming console or a mini-computer. You can control your connected home or allow it run your own media center. PINE A64 can operate with Android 5.1, openHAB, Ubuntu Linux, OpenWRT and Kodi. Additionally, it supports Miracast and offers the H.265 video standard to give your 4Kx2K output.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation concentrates on delivering performance without increase in costs, and hence, prefers to retain the ARMv7 architecture for the RBPi family even when ARMv8 64-bit chips are readily available. According to Eben Upton, the founder of the RBPi series, a more powerful processor will certainly come with a boost in the prices.
With companies now launching new Systems-on-a-Chip or SoC platforms that are 64-bit and super-cheap, PINE64 Inc. has decidedly stolen a march over the RBPi series. Allwinner started this trend with the 64-bit Cortex A53 processor for their tablets and now PINE64 Inc. has used it to power their PINE A64, A64+ and A64+ 2GB boards.

Raspberry Pi Zero for a Real-Time Sensor Dashboard

Using the Raspberry Pi or RBPi, the single board computer (SBC), and a few applications from Google, you can have a functional dashboard showing real-time parameters from sensors. Google offers its App Engine in the form of a Platform as a Service or PaaS. The advantage is you can deploy and run your own applications using the Google infrastructure without bothering about exclusive ways of setting up hardware, servers, or Operating Systems.

Google also offers the free and powerful Google Charts that you can use as simple charting tools for plotting the data from the sensors into line charts. An HTML5 templates generator such as the Initializr is also useful for generating templates for the dashboard. Initalizr has several useful frontend resources such as Bootstrap and jQuery.

RBPi Zero is the perfect hardware platform to use for this project. This SBC is a full-fledged computer, but smaller than a credit card. It features a single-core CPU running at 1 GHz and 512 MB RAM. Along with a 40-pin GPIO header, the RBPi Zero has USB and a mini HDMI port.

When you connect a few sensors to the GPIO pins, the RBPi Zero sends their data over to the Google App Engine. On the dashboard, you can see the values and the charts updating in real-time as new data arrives from the sensors. Github carries the instructions for building and deploying the project for the RBPi Zero app and the App Engine dashboard.

For this project, Java is the programming language, as both the RBPi Zero and the Google App Engine support it – both use the Pi4J library. However, those who prefer Python can easily change the code, as both RBPi and the Google App Engine support Python as well. As the latest version of Raspbian, the Operating System of the RBPi comes pre-installed with Oracle Java 8, it is easy to deploy and run an executable JAR on the RBPi Zero.

The JAR acts as the go-between with the sensors and the Google App Engine – it reads inputs from the sensors and passes them on to the Google App Engine. You can use the Apache Maven to compile and build the code on the RBPi Zero. Of course, you may also build the code on your laptop or desktop and copy the resulting JAR over to the RBPi Zero.

You can use Cloud Endpoint on the Google App Engine side. This is a powerful service for creating a backend API by using annotations. This includes the client libraries for web and mobiles. It generates a Java based Android client for use with the RBPi Zero application. Google Qauth 2.0 authenticates the API for installed applications.

The RBPi Zero based hardware provides readings from three sensors – voltage generated by a solar cell, temperature from an analog temperature sensor, and illuminance or LUX from a photocell. A 10-bit Analog to Digital converter with SPI interface is necessary to covert the analog signal to a digital format suitable for the RBPi Zero. All the sensors work with a supply of 3.3V, and the RBPi Zero is capable of sourcing this.

The Raspberry Pi Goes to Zero

If you thought the legendary Raspberry Pi or RBPi was the smallest single board computers could get, well, you need to think again. Not only has the famous SBC shrunk in size, it has become a lot cheaper as well. The charitable Raspberry Pi foundation that launched the best selling computer in the UK is now offering their next model, the RBPI-Zero and in the US, it costs just $5.

RBPi-Zero comes with a 512MB RAM and a core that boasts of being 40-percent faster than what the RBPI-1 came with. The miniaturized SBC sports a Mini-HDMI port and two Micro USB ports, one of them for power. While comparing the RBPI-Zero with the first RBPI, the Raspberry Pi Foundation says the RBPI-Zero is equally revolutionary. They explained it would be manufactured in Wales, run the full Raspbian, while including other applications such as Minecraft and Scratch.

Similar to the requirements for the RBPi, the RBPi-Zero requires the user to attach their own power supply, keyboard, mouse or any other input device and the display screen. The cost of the new board is low because several components from the RBPi board are no longer present or have been simplified for the RBPi-Zero. According to Uben Upton, the founder of Raspberry Pi, all components on the new board justify their existence.

However, cutting features was not the sole process of getting the RBPI-Zero down to the bare-bones pricing of $5. The major contribution comes from the grand success of its predecessor, the RBPi, being the most successful computer in the UK for decades. The massive sales have enabled the Foundation to cut costs to unimaginable levels. The sheer numbers in sales have given them the economies of scale.

One of the processes in reducing the cost of the RBPi-Zero was keeping all components on one side of the board instead of two – it simplified manufacturing by removing half the assembly costs. According to Upton, they have moved the physical product around and the cost of metal connections has made an impact.

By redesigning the RBPi-Zero, the engineering solution to the necessities of space and cost has resulted in an extraordinarily aesthetic board. The precision and beauty of Zero comes out in its compactness and its symmetry. Just like its predecessor, nothing is hidden and all its inner workings are exposed to anyone with an interest. As Upton says, it is nice when things look attractive because they are functional.

The small form factor of the RBPi-Zero makes it simple for the board to be used in many more projects, whether it is robotics or Internet-connected devices. The easy to use board massively increases creative possibilities. You can use the RBPI-Zero in places where the RBPi would be difficult to fit. Presently, the Zero, a full-featured computer, will provide raw power somewhere between the first generation of the RBPi and its second generation.

The launch plans for the Zero are massive, with tens of thousands ready to ship. Raspberry Pi magazines such as the Magpi will feature a freebie RBPi-Zero with its 10,000 issues. Upton is expecting five such launch partners.

The Raspberry Pi Zero Has It Simplified

The release of the new Raspberry Pi Zero or RBPi-Zero has taken the technical world by a storm. This tiny SBC has a 1GHz ARM11 System on Chip, 40 GPIO pins, micro-USB ports, a mini-HDMI port, a micro SD card slot and works with 512MB RAM. The 65×30 mm card has gone on sale with a price tag of a mere $5.00.

The Broadcom BCM2836, clocked to 1GHz, runs Raspbian Linux. Not only is the RBPi-Zero 40 percent faster than the original RBPi Model B, it is also 40 smaller than the B+ model of the RBPi. Although almost identical in size to the RBPi Compute Module, the RBPi-Zero has the real-world ports that the former lacks. However, like the A+ Model, the Zero lacks the Ethernet port.

People looking for the Broadcom chip on the RBPi-Zero will be disappointed at not finding it on either the top or the bottom side of the board. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has adopted the Package-on-Package or PoP manufacturing technology for RBPi-Zero. Therefore, although the Broadcom chip is present on board, the Elpida 512MB RAM chip sits piggyback on top of the Broadcom chip, hiding it from view.

The RBPi-Zero lacks the USB ports, DSI and CSI ports and the audio jack. That is because it is intended for IoT- and embedded-focused hackers. The manufacturers have kept the same 40-pin expansion header other modern RBPi boards possess. Therefore, users can attach available HATs or other expansion boards and adapters. Moreover, the Zero can run any application meant to run on the Model B+.

To use the RBPi-Zero, users will need additional cables. Although most users will have these lying around, others may need to buy them and some more. The best way to start is to go with the Adafruit kit, which is selling two versions in the US market – the Budget Pack and the more expensive Starter Kit. Other vendors offer different combos for accessories.

The Budget Pack of Adafruit comes with a RBPi-Zero board along with a 5V, 1A power supply, USB-A to USB-micro B cable, an 8GB Class 10 SD Card for the OS, a Micro-USB to USB OTG cable, 2×20 Male header strips and a Mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter.

The Starter Kit from Adafruit includes the above and adds more 2×20 male and female headers, USB Console cable and a Wi-Fi dongle. With the USB Console cable, you can put up an alternative display in place of the HDMI.

The Essential Kit from PiHut offers all the items of the Budget Pack of Adafruit (except the SD Card) and includes four rubber feet, one single row of 20-pin GPIO header, one dual row of 40-pin GPIO header, one dual row 40-pin female GPIO header and one dual row 40-pin right-angled GPIO header.

Pimroni offers similar kits to the two above, but offers useful zero-sized PiHATs. These include the Explorer pHAT, the Scroll pHAT and the pHAT DAC. The Explorer HAT is suitable for building a tiny robot as it can drive a motor over an H-bridge, has buffered digital IOs and four analog inputs for low-cost sensors. With the Scroll HAT, you can drive 11×5 LED matrix and the pHAT DAC adds a digital to analog converter to your RBPi-Zero.