Raspberry Pi fails me again

I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but I absolutely *hate* Raspberry Pi. The thing is useless. I have tried to like RPi — everyone I speak with raves about them. But for me, the board falls in the Uncanny Valley, between “Arduino” and “a real computer”. Every single time I have attempted to put a RasPi into service, I have utterly failed.

You may or may not know me. I’ve been a Unix hack for a long, long time. I know my way around a sudo and an apt-get. Let’s talk about inode tables sometime.

Here’s the latest fail.

I have some IP cameras hanging about; they produce video on http://camera/video.cgi. I don’t care about motion capture. I don’t care about audio. I just want to see what the camera is pointing at, in an easy way.

So, I built myself a dumb little HTML file, with a table, an iframe for each camera, and a label for each camera. Imagine 15 lines of HTML. Load the HTML from a local file into a browser, and magic.

So I decide “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to have a machine that runs a little webserver to statically serve up this one page of 3 iframes?”, and, like the sucker that I am, I started looking up how to do this with Raspberry Pi.

Just install lighttpd, put your index.html in the appropriate place, and off you go.

three hours later, I finally had all the permissions and apt-get updates and &c done, and I was able to point a browser (from a real computer) at the Pi, and magic.

Then I decided to point a browser from the Pi to the exact same URL, and nothing. I tried a few different browsers, I played with ffmpeg (which is now called avconv) and mplayer and mjpg-streamer and…

five hours later, I gave up in disgust, plugged the monitor from the Pi into the Real Computer, and put a full-screen browser window up “on the second monitor”.

I wasn’t asking much of the Pi. And it wasn’t super loaded-down, either. CPU was at 0 most of the time, and never spiked when I was requesting the iframes. There were even a few moments where I was able to sort of get something displaying (like when I used avconv to RE-ENCODE the video, and then mplayer could play it back), but nothing like a couple lines of config here, and then magic.

For most projects I build, at most I’d need an Arduino (although I have been enjoying going no-chip and “doing it in hardware” lately). Read a couple sensors, blinky the LEDs, turn the motor… all that is dead simple with a ┬Ácontroller, no OS required.

But there are times when you’d like to be able to connect over Ethernet (perish the thought that I could get a stupid RPi to bring a wifi connection online by itself, but that’s another story), or store a bit of data to spit back later, and all of a sudden, the idea of a little Linux box starts sounding good. Great, break out the second keyboard and mouse and monitor, boot the little board, and prepare yourself for a few hours of battle. And once you’re all done, you’re going to find that the Pi is not beefy enough to do the job.

9 times out of 9, I need an Arduino. The 10th time, I’ll try a Pi, fail to get it to do anything useful, and figure out how to 1) live without, 2) do it in a simpler way on an Arduino, or 3) waste a “real computer” on a dumb little job.

If you get your dander up, and decide that you absolutely need to show me the error of my ways, let’s talk about the projects I’ve been working on, and let’s get these little guys up and running!

Stupid Raspberry Pi, always ruining everything.

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Julia Set, a fractal

Pretty pictures with math.

Pretty pictures with math.

c = -0.79 + 0.15i

generated with a Python script (150 lines)

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Bees in the yard, must be spring

We hived our three new packages of bees yesterday; the apiary has been expanded from 2 hives to 4. All 4 hives are abuzz with activity; Hive West has its first honey super on, and we’re hoping to get a little maple honey for the first time. It’s a warm, sunny day, with a bunny hopping around the yard, all 6 chickens laying, and the lawn covered in dandelions

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Excellent Pot Roast

Pot roast should be one of those fairly easy to cook dishes, but mine usually turned out fairly dry and overcooked. So, the last time that I tried it, I hunted Google for some tips, and came across this gem. Start with some chuck, onions, and carrots, and end with lots of compliments on a job well done. Thanks, Pioneer Woman!

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Rainier Watch

After a couple weeks of clouds, rain, and wind, last night was clear and cold under a waning gibbous moon. Temperature this morning was 28 degrees.

We are in the “too cold to rain” part of the year, which I expect to stick around until a couple weeks before solstice.

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I tested out the power and internet in our camper.

I’m using the same deep cycle battery and inverter setup that I’ve used before to drive the observatory, and the 4G WiFi “puck” to pluck internet from a cellular signal.

So here I am, with no wall power and no ethernet, and yet here I am posting on the blog. Not bad.

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Buzz Buzz

It’s good to have bees in the yard again. We got a couple nice hours this afternoon, and the air was suddenly full of honeybees buzzing around. They’re still getting their bearings, so there’s a lot of bees landing on you a lot as you’re walking around. But, in all, it feels very much like spring.

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Give us this day…

It's impossible to describe what the kitchen smells like right now.

It’s impossible to describe what the kitchen smells like right now.

This represents 3/4 of my second attempt at baking bread from scratch. Sorry, one loaf had to be sacrificed to the wolv– I mean, family — before I could get enough peace and quiet to get a photo taken. ­čÖé

I’m happy to report that this bread run was just as successful as my first.

I used the same Betty Crocker recipe that was taught to me by my Bread Jedi instructor, a Sage of the Woods who shall otherwise remain nameless. (Thank you, N__!)

The recipe is pretty simple, but it still takes enough work that it’s worth doubling to get 4 loaves instead of 2.

With supreme confidence, I totally skipped blooming the yeast, in favor of just mixing the whole thing together at once. It seems not to have caused any problem whatsoever.

I picked up 4 bread pans at the local grocery store, along with a couple of large Tupperware tubs (I mixed in these, and there’s also another batch of dough in the fridge, waiting for me to bake it over the next week or so).

This was a standard double-rise, hand-kneaded dough. I really enjoy kneading. Everyone complains about it, but I find it a great stress reliever. It’s also really easy to tell when the dough is done, because you literally have your hands all over it. Having said that, my daughter helped out with the measuring and mixing part, but strangely disappeared as soon as it came time to knead.. hmm…

Here’s a quick look at the loaves after the first rise and punch down (I love that you actually have to effect violence on the dough… this is not like roasting). See? Four loaves. Honest. I wasn’t sure when to add the poppy seeds… this was not the correct time. Oops. No harm done.

Those who are about to rise, we salute you.

Those who are about to rise, we salute you.

I slashed the tops this time (hadn’t done that the first time around), and also experimented with some toppings; poppyseed, anise seed, rosemary, and granola. I like the way the V slash came out the best (poppy), but I have high hopes for the scallop slash (granola). Also, I need to brush on water, butter, or egg, to make the toppings stick, I think. Shrug. That’s for next time.

The oven had been pre-heating for awhile, because I’d picked up a 12″x12″ piece of granite at Home Depot to eventually use as a baking stone, and I was making sure it could deal with temperature changes. The baking was done in about 30 minutes (recipe calls for 35). The tops are looking pretty “GB & D”, the bottoms are perhaps a little overdone (but the bottom crust is still very tasty). The crumb is… well, the bread is awesome, if I do say so myself. Loaf #1 was gone in about 15 minutes flat.

I picked up a breadmaking book (no plug until I taste your recipe!), and I’m going to try Brioche next — I like egg bread a lot, and we’re up to about 45 eggs at the moment, so I need to dig into our backlog.

Thank you again to my teacher and master breadmaker, N___. Couldn’t have done it without you!

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Bees, Year 2 begins

We got our new crop of bees this morning; my wife drove down in the middle of the night to meet the bee guy at like 6 in the morning or something. I slept through that part, so I’ll spare the details. The Clearwater Apiary also picked up a pair of packages — 4 hives between us should keep everyone on their toes this year.

There was a spray of sunshine around 4pm, so we decided to get the bees installed before it decided to start raining again.

Hives East and West, about to rise again.

Hives East and West, about to rise again.

This time, we were able to give the hives a good start; 2 full frames of honey each, as well as 6 frames of pre-built foundation. The bees will need to do a little cleanup, but otherwise, they should be off and running as soon as they run the marshmallow gauntlet.

Each of us took a hive and installed it individually — without loss of generality, I took Hive East. Things went pretty smoothly — I got most of the bees out of the package and into the hive. The only rub was that I couldn’t get the cork out, so I had to push it in, and then load the queen box sideways so it wouldn’t block the exit. Hive West went together without any difficulty.

We are trying frame feeders this year. I have the syrup built, but haven’t installed it yet, because it’s still a little warm. I think they’ll be OK with the honey for a day or two.

Be well, Hive East and Hive West!

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Ray Tracer : in the weeds

I’ve spent the past week fighting minor math errors in my ray tracer.

In order to confirm that my surface normals were being calculated correctly, I added boxes (axis aligned only at this point) as an additional primitive type. That required a couple days of debugging the normals calculation for the boxes too.

Then I added checkerboards, to confirm that I was getting proper reflections, and found that all my reflections seem to be upside-down.

I was also being driven nuts by the original datafile format, which was leading to a lot of “did I set that or not” type errors, so I switched to a hand-tooled JSON format. With only minor tweaks, the JSON file format is working! It’s about little successes right now.

I think there’s a basic error somewhere early in the process — I suspect that I’m having trouble distinguishing when something should be a “point” (a non-normalized 3D position in space), and when it should be a “vector” (a probably-should-be-normalized direction); and most particularly, when things should be pointing “at” the intersection point, and when they should be pointing “away” from the intersection point. I feel like I need to go through the whole thing with a fine-toothed comb, and rename variables to help me understand what’s going on. It would be nice if I could figure out a way to draw all the vectors visually, as well — I think that would really help the debugging process.

Anyway, I’m limping toward a solution, but it’s all going very slowly right now.

I’d love to be able to move on to transformations, texturing, and triangle intersection, but for now I’m stuck on kind of the basics: Am I even shooting a vector in the right direction? and How do I characterize what it is that I hit? and What do I do then?

More vectoring.

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