Raspberry Pi

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Syncing Files on the Raspberry Pi

Introduction

Syncing files automatically from a Raspberry Pi is a good idea to make sure that nothing gets lost the Pi breaks. The problem is that due to the unusual ARM architecture, most of the common methods for syncing are not available. Dropbox does not have an ARM package. Google Drive never had a Linux client. There are ways around these limitations either by use of lower quality third party applications to interface with the major sync solutions or by use of open source and self hosted solutions.

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Raspberry Pi Pinout and IO

There are some great libraries that make it really easy to use the pins on the Raspberry Pi. It has relatively few pins and are a little less powerful than what you might expect from a microcontroller. Aside from those limitations, you should also keep in mind that pin manipulation is not done in a real time environment. Unlike an Arduino, which only runs your program, the Raspberry Pi takes turns running many programs like a normal desktop. While your program might be able to recieve the majority of the processor's attention, it will not be able to use all of it. Likewise, timing events may be slightly less reliable too. As great as Python is, it is even less reliable because of a process called garbage collection. It is not a problem for most situations, but it is definitely something to keep in mind.

There are two kinds of numbers to specify which pin you want to use. There is the physical pin number, which altenate sideways increasing from top to bottom. For nearly any device, if you look carefully on the board, there is an indicator near the "1" pin on a header. This is even true of integrated circuit (IC) chips. Unlike with ICs, orienting the pins with that indicator in the top left, the pin numbers are increased from left to right and top to bottom. The reason this appears differently on P5 is because the indicator is on the bottom side.

The BCM GPIO number is the number that the processor uses to differentiate the pins. Obviously, pins like 5V and GND cannot be addressed since they only have their one purpose and cannot be changed. As a result, the BCM number is different than the header number. It is important to keep track of which addressing system you are using. It might help you to remember that BCM is a reference to the signal name on the Broadcom datasheet for the processor on the Raspberry Pi.

You should also know that the pinout information only pertains to the revision 2 version of the board. You can tell that you are not using a revision 1 board by the presense fo the P5 holes. P5 was added in revision 2. Revision 1 is essentially the same, but has quite a few pins missing.

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Raspberry Pi Introduction

Setup

The Raspberry Pi minimally needs a micro USB-B cord to power it. If you have a phone charger, aside from an iPhone, it will likely use this cable since the EU made it mandatory for smartphones. So, you probably don't even need to buy another wall adapter or cable if you look around. You can also plug it into a computer to power it, though you are not able to communicate with the computer over it. Additionally, an Ethernet cable connecting it to the same LAN as a computer is one of the easiest ways to get started. Unless you can figure out what IP address the Raspberry Pi will get, you will also need a keyboard and a monitor or tv capable of using either HDMI or the yellow RCA connector.

The Raspberry Pi does not come with an SD card, which you will also need. You will need to install an operating system on it as well, so it should be at least 4GB to be comfortable. Some SD cards are faster than others. Higher speed is denoted by a higher "class" number. This class will primarily effect install, startup, and upgrade times and there is no mandatory minimum.

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BeagleBone Security System

Since the BeagleBone (and the Raspberry Pi) is Linux based, and has usb ports, it is actually very easy (and cheap) to make a security camera system. All you need are USB webcams. Just about any will do. I got four for $16 on Amazon. More expensive ones might say they have higher resolution, but what they are actually reporting is the still photo quality, not streaming video quality. Unless you get a USB 3.0 webcam, which would not be supported by either hobbyist computer, it is impossible to stream HD (1080) video, but some might be able to 720.

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ArduIMU

Introduction

An ArduIMU v3, taken form the top  An ArduIMU v3 picture, taken from the bottom

An IMU is something used to detect primarily orientation, but is a general term for an Inertial Measurement Unit. Needless to say, they can provide some vital information for mobile robots. In particular, flying robots need them since there is no way to guess orientation using wheel encoders.

An advantage to having an all-in-one unit instead of just using each of its sensors yourself is that the board can cross-check and merge the data for you. For example, a gyro gives you changes in orientation in each axis, but an accelerometer and magnetometer both send 3D directions - both in different directions too. Furhtermore, the acceleration doesn't even always point down.

One would hope that these sensors would be able to give velocity or even position information. Sadly, the sensors are just not accurate enough to be able to numerically integrate and avoid drift error. It can be possible to use the information to refine something that is capable of giving position information - like a GPS. That is partly why many of these boards include a GPS port. The other is that they are primarily used in flying drones, which usually want a GPS anyway and it is not too expensive to add the connector.

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