Yummy, yummy Pis – May 2021 Update

Yummy, yummy Pi's - May 2021 Update

I’ve decided this will become a running update of the Pi’s I am using and what I am doing with them. Updates will be posted to the top of the page.

Pi Board and spare Pi

May 2021 – Update

A lot has changed in home Pi world… ESX for ARM has been released and I’ve been testing this, it works and is stable. Hopefully OPNSense will come to the Pi natively and then there will be some interesting opportunities to run Pi firewalls, I have looked at OpenWRT on the Pi, but prefer the completeness of the xSense ecosystem. I’ve upgraded a couple of Pi’s due to performance issues. I have also migrated the Pi 400 to SSD and it’s a lot quicker. I have been keeping an eye on SD card performance and have settled on Samsung Evo Plus and SanDisk Ultras / Extreme.  There appears to be a shortage of 2Gb Pi’s at the moment, I need an additional one to replace the Pi in the kitchen which I am currently using for the CCTV Pi.

A full list below:

    • Pi 4 1Gb – CCTV Pi (upgraded from a Pi 3+ for more streams (including 3D printer and new Eufy Cams)
    • Pi 4 2Gb – OctoPi (3D printer control)
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi Sync
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi KVM
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Caravan HA
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Caravan Pi
    • Pi 4 4Gb – Bedroom Kodi
    • Pi 400 – Study Pi

Spare Pi (s)

    • 2x Pi 2
    • 2x Pi 3+
    • Pi 4 8Gb (currently testing ARM ESXi)
    • Pi Pico
    • Zero WH
    • Zero
  • December 2020 – Update

In addition to the Pi’s below, I now have two more in use

    • Pi 2 – Backup Pi – Using rsync and rclone to manage all my backups locally and to sync to OneDrive for Business.
    • Pi 4 2Gb – Pi KVM – Find out more in this post 

I have also managed to purchase a Pi 2 v1.2 to go on the Pi versions board. This completes my collection of historical Pi Bs. When the next version of Pi’s come out the Pi 4’s will slowly be retired to the board!

I am also working on a project with Pi Zero WH’s to create a multizone audio system using Volumio, this project will make use of HifiBerry’s popular DAC Hats as well as some custom integration work. I currently have 3 Pi “audio zones” and am awaiting the hats to begin testing.

Spare Pi(s)

    • Pi 2, Pi 3+, Pi 4 8Gb
    • Pi Zero WH
    • Pi 2 1.2 ready for mounting

Retired Pi(s)

    • Pi 3+ – First home assistant server migrated to new proxmox host

Why no love for the Pi A or Compute module? Although I have a good collection of old Pi’s you may notice that I don’t have any Pi A or Pi Compute modules on the list. This is because I don’t use them! I’ve never had a use for the compute modules. I do have a Pi A in a wildlife camera, but this currently isn’t being used. I love the Pi B and Zero form factors which is why I use them the most, if I have a project that ever uses the other form factors, I may well collect the back catalogue of those too!

Original Post – November 5th

From the moment they were announced I knew that the way I did computing at home had changed. Ideal as test boxes, development, media players and now even mini ESX servers! I’ve used them for many things…

The Pi’s I currently have in use are:

    • Pi 4 1Gb – Kitchen LibreELEC 
    • Pi 4 2Gb – 2nd Device in Lego Room
    • Pi 4 4Gb – Bedroom LibreELEC
    • Pi 400 – 2nd Device in Study 
    • Pi 3+ – CCTV Viewer
    • Pi 3+ – Garage
    • Pi 3+ – Home Assistant 

I have used them for other projects in the past including getting started with Home Assistant, mini ESXi Server, custom automations, OSMC media player, Plex Server, learning things with Ali, Wildlife Cameras, the list goes on. I hope they are around for a long time to come!

In the gallery below you can see the latest Pi 400, my display of Pi’s from the original Pi to the Pi 3 B+ (with space for the Pi4 1, 2, 4Gb version… the 8Gb version will start a new board). Next are my Pi’s ready for use (Pi Zero WH, Pi 3 B+ and Pi 4 8Gb), I also have a Pi 2 in the cupboard should I need something older to play with and yes that is a ZX Spectrum +2 behind them. Finally my Pi Zero Board up to the latest Pi Zero WH. 

Migrations & Pi KVM

Over the last month I have migrated my home server from a Gen 8 HP Microserver to a Lenovo P500 workstation. There are many reasons for my migration the two biggest were that I was being constrained by the amount of RAM the Microserver could take (16Gb vs 512Gb), the processor was also becoming a bit of a bottle neck.

The second was that in my professional life I have moved from VMWare ESXi to Proxmox and my home lab was the only ESXi server that I was left managing, it also meant I wasn’t reflecting my professional install base so making it hard to test things.

Migrations are horrible, no matter how much planning you do, they take time and suck! No matter how many trials and tests you do there will always be something.

I used an old desktop PC with a 500Gb SATA drive and a 240Gb SSD to migrate all servers other than the Windows server (not enough space or grunt).

Although exceptionally boring and probably of no interest to anyone this was my migration plan..

  • Shutdown new host
  • NIC in new host
  • Check Second Network Card
  • Restore firewall
  • Copy all Proxmox machines from test proxmox host 
  • —–
  • Migration
  • Copy latest backup
  • Run Full backup c:\backups\backup.bat
  • Check USB disk on another PC
  • Close OneDrive
  • Restart PC
  • Check OneDrive is stopped
  • Shutdown VM
  • Convert System Disk
  • Check Proxmox Boot
  • —–
  • Move 2Tb disks to think station
  • Create new ZFS 2Tb for File Server
  • Boot File Server
  • Add 1.8Tb disk
  • Setup OneDrive if needed

20/02/2020 20:12 <JUNCTION> data [d:\data]
17/09/2020 08:48 <JUNCTION> media [D:\media]
17/09/2020 09:07 <JUNCTION> server backups [D:\backups]

  • Start OneDrive
  • Undisable Start with Windows OneDrive
  • Check shares
  • Remove “to watch” from backups
  • USB pass through
  • Setup Proxmox Backups (Exclude File Server d drive)
  • —–
  • Remove SSDs from Microserver and check
  • Rebuild Test Proxmox as Hobby PC with 240Gb SSD
  • —–
  • Take old Hobby PC
  • Check 120Gb SSDs
  • —–
  • 2FA for SSH and Proxmox on New Host
  • Add New Host to Nagios

This was all in a text file which I constantly updated and changed during the actual migration. It went well and there were only a couple of hiccups. The testing had paid off.

 

Hopper – New Host

Running proxmox with a number of Windows, Linux and BSD VMs.

  • Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2609 v3 @ 1.90GHz (1 Socket)
  • 48Gb RAM
  • 2x 480Gb NAS SSD (ZFS), 2x 3Tb NAS SATA (ZFS), 1x 2Tb SATA (Backups)

The two USB cables – One going to an external HDD for file level backups, the second goes to the Pi KVM (for keyboard and mouse control)

The Pis

Tron – Pi 3+
4Tb USB Drive
Backup Pi (Rsync and rclone)

IP KVM – Pi 4 (2Gb)
Power/Data Splitter at the back
USB to HDMI Capture Card

Both are cabled into the network. The Pi 2 only has 100Mbps network, so it’s likely to need replacing soon to keep up with my internet, but for now it works! The Pi 3+ has “Gb network” however due to it using the same USB bus it can only realistically achieve 300Mbps.

Pi KVM

This part of the project nearly got it’s own page… However, I don’t have much to say! One of the biggest drawbacks of migrating to the workstation was that I lost iLO (intelligent lights out / IPMI). I use iLO rarely but it is an incredibly useful when you do need it!

I was looking at aftermarket cards and IP based KVMs and they are expensive! I couldn’t justify the cost for a single host or the amount of time I use it. 

Then I came across Pi KVM, it looked hugely daunting until I started reading about it. For simple KVM features (and a host of other features) it was incredibly easy to build a Pi 4 KVM (you can use other Pi generations but you will need to do more work). Just one cable and an HDMI capture card and it just works! 

They are also developing their own Pi HAT with all the features (including power management (i.e. remote reboot)), I’ll probably buy one when they are released as I can think of a number of locations where a sub £100 KVM would be a life saver, especially with the remote reboot abilities.

Pi KVM can be found here: https://www.pikvm.org/

Another Pi KVM project can be found here: https://tinypilotkvm.com/

Bits I bought to make my Pi KVM

That was it! I had a case, power supply and SD card knocking about any way… When the hat is released I will need to think about a different case.

Pi KVM (Currently only using KVM, power control to come later)

November 2020 Update

November 2020 - Update

The new echo has arrived it’s another decent iteration on the echo line up and has replaced the main echo in the living room. The old echo is now in a stereo pair in my daughter’s room and the sound is impressive! 

The switchbot curtain bots have arrived and the dining room now has Alexa powered curtains! I’ve added another provider, but… the unifi instant camera has shipped so it looks likely the NEOS cams will be gone by the end of the year.

I’ve moved home assistant to it’s own Proxmox VM, I did consider upgrading the Pi to a Pi 4, but found a great script to spin a new VM.

Plusnet are doing some maintenance this month so I am hoping to see an FTTP offering, if not I will be migrating to Zen early next year!

Alexa Curtains

Unifi Network

Unfi Network

My unifi setup as of November 2020. Access points and network are all on unifi hardware. The gateway / firewall is a OPNSense VM, having abandoned the USG in 2020 in readiness for FTTP.

Smart Home Hardware

Smart Home Hardware

Infrastructure

Alexa

Amazon Alexa, is a virtual assistant, first used in the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers. She is the central "hub" to all my systems, start with an Echo Dot and build it from there! Just added an echo auto to my car and it's changed everything all over again!

OPNsense - Firewall

OPNsense is an open source, easy-to-use and easy-to-build HardenedBSD based firewall and routing platform. OPNsense includes most of the features available in expensive commercial firewalls, including IPS / IDS. I only really use OPNsense as a firewall, IPS/IDS and VPN server, but you can use it for almost all network scenarios.

Unifi - Networking

Although no the cheapest solution on the market. The centralised management and power over ethernet make them a worthwhile investment. They are ideal prosumer devices.

Unifi - Cameras

Unifi's CCTV solution is brilliant, the Flex is the bargain of the range and well worth the investment. Using the 3rd party monocle skill (https://monoclecam.com/) you can ask Alexa to bring up any of your cameras, with minimal setup.

Home Assistant

Open source home automation that puts local control and privacy first. Powered by a worldwide community of tinkerers and DIY enthusiasts. Perfect to run on a Raspberry Pi or a local server.

Hardware

Broadlink

Using the Broadlink mini RM 3. You can control a number of IR devices using Alexa. Make sure you purchase an EU version or it won't work! Suited for the bedroom, kitchen or study, where the harmony hub is overkill. Be warned always setup devices as TVs for them to show up in Alexa.

Wiser

My second smarthome heating system, the first a Salus didn't support Alexa. The wiser system does and the app is brilliant!

Sonoff

The cheapest and most flexible devices in my current smarthome. Using the ewelink app to create scenes and linking the solution with Alexa for voice control. The app recently got a much needed update!

Harmony

By far the best control system for A/V equipment. The app is great the Alexa skill is one of the best I have. Full control of multiple devices and routines within the app are simple. A worthwhile investment!

Philips Hue

Everyone has heard of Hue, it is an expensive system, but by far my favourite lighting system out there. So far I have only used the bulbs and motion sensors, but am considering an outdoors project next Spring!

SwitchBot Curtain

Curtain bots are cool and at £60 per set of curtains, a lot cheaper than the £400 rails I was looking at before!

Govee

The only govee product I own is the ambilight which is great for watching films, I only really use this with Alexa to create scenes and automation routines.

Shelly

Possible replacement for Sonoff with a much more open approach to development and firmwares.

Flic

A small button that can control nearly any connected device or service with a push. Simple smart light switch, advanced routine trigger, etc. I mainly use these buttons to control lights and mix manufacturers. They work really well with node-red which is something I am building on especially in the smart static project!

Hacking

Tasmota

Total local control with quick setup and updates. Control using MQTT, Web UI, HTTP or serial. Automate using timers, rules or scripts. Integration with home automation solutions. Incredibly expandable and flexible.

ESP8266

The IoT hackers board of choice. They are cheap and easy to program. Buy 2 to start with just in case you smoke one (like I did).

AWS

AWS is amazon's cloud computing services. You can create amazing skills and routines for really customising your smarthome routines. AWS is also the infrastructure behind Alexa.

NFC

Often found on your phone NFC is the technology used in contactless payments. You can buy simple stickers that when you pass a phone near can trigger actions. Such as joining a wifi network, turning off a light, etc. I have linked to a starter pack which I would recommend.

Old Stuff

LightwaveRF
(Retired 2020)

The oldest component in my smarthome system. I still recommend lightwave for controlling devices like lamps, plug sockets and other plugin systems. The new generation support two way comms, but I haven't moved to gen 2.

Unifi - USG
(Retired 2020)

The unifi USG is the protector of the perimeter of my smarthome. Offering a robust firewall and some advanced features including VPN (remote access) and IDS / IPS (intrusion protection and detection).

IFTTT
(Retired 2020)

IFTTT makes it easy to create simple actions that you want to trigger using something like an AWS IOT button, NFC sticker or an ESP8266 creation.
Removed due to subscription costs!

TP-Link
(Retired 2020)

TP-link make great networking kit, ideal if you are just starting out. My first tip would be to get rid of your ISP supplied router and go with a tp-link. They also make a range of Alexa compatible plugs that don't require a hub.

NEOS
(Retired 2021)

An insurance company that sells incredibly cheap (and good) internal cameras that work with Alexa. The app is ok and includes geofencing for auto arming.

October 2020 Update

October 2020 Update

I have added home assistant to the mix, after years of watching from afar, the IFTTT subscription and eWeLink subscription finally pushed me to install it on a spare Pi, I want to reduce my reliance on 3rd party clouds, especially with some of the less well known manufacturers. It works with nearly all my smart home stuff (with the exception of the flic hub I am hoping the new API will fix this). There is now a plugin for sonoff which works without having to change the firmware so I can wait a bit longer for the Shelly UK plugs which should be coming soon. 

I have updated the garden TV to use a firestick, which gives me Alexa in the garden through the voice enabled remote. I have also purchased a Chromecast with Google TV, it’s impressive but not impressive enough to move away from Roku. Alexa in the garden has always been something I wanted to have, but I didn’t really want a device outside full time that would allow people to control my house!

In new smart home news, I have the new Echo on order and the curtain bots have shipped, I’m really looking forward to trying both these products! Unifi have announced a G3 instant camera which will be a great replacement for the NEOS cameras and consolidation is what this iteration of the smarthome is all about. FTTP is now available, so I am weighing up my options when it comes to providers as I will have to leave my current provider (Plusnet) as they have no FTTP offering. I am currently looking at the 900Mbps service from Zen. I am unlikely to change until after Christmas though! 

June 2020 Update

June 2020 Update

The year is now 2020 and things have changed in the smart home. After a lot of soul searching I decided it was time to remove lightwave from the setup, the product hasn’t really moved with the times from it’s promising start, it felt old, expensive and stagnant. I replaced all my remaining lightwave switches and plugs with products from sonoff, some of them are running the custom tasmota firmware others are still running the default sonoff firmware, I am likely to start buying Shelly stuff as it becomes available in the UK because of its flexibility. 

I am also really interested in Broadlinks new offering especially the zero app series that is likely to arrive in the UK in the next few months. I have added a couple of NEOS cameras to watch Hollie while I am at work these integrate nicely with Alexa and I now have a Show 8 and Show 5 to make use of video based skills. 

My hue install has grown and now covers the garden as well as the house, an additional govee ambilight has been added to the TV, and although it integrates with Alexa, it mainly stands alone.

Alexa has expanded to include my car using the Echo Auto and the control outside of the house is a nice feature, with geolocation it could become almost as game changing as the original echo.

I have migrated from the Unifi USG to OPNsense. With the promise of BT FTTP coming in the next couple of months and continuing issues with the USG (it just isn’t powerful enough to do everything it says it can). I decided to move back to OPNsense (I moved from pfSense to OPNsense about 5 years ago when I didn’t like the way pfSense licensing was heading).

December 2018 Initial Post

My Smarthome Adventure

I have been thinking about writing a blog post about the smarthome things I have been doing for a while. When I sat down to write it I realised it was more than a single post. I have tried and tested all the technologies below. These form the basis of my own smarthome.

I have done a few installs for friends and family (and a couple of customers). So… here we go!

Where to start?! I will be looking at this chronologically, this isn’t the way I would do it now!

This journey properly started about 10 years ago when I started to install lightwaverf bulbs on my hall and landing with sensors that automatically turned the bulbs on. This was to stop having to leave the landing room light on all night. I built the lightwave solution up to include sockets and other lights. This was way before Alexa! I was using TP-Link switches and a pfSense firewall. These are great solutions for starting out on.

I then added the Logitech Harmony hub to consolidate all my various remotes. At this point there was no central management just a collection of mobile apps that all worked on their own and were really good point solutions.

Then the world changed… Alexa was born, by this point the company I work with had moved to ubiquiti, I migrated my home network to unifi switches and access points. 

I was given an Echo dot and it immediately changed the game, lightwave and logitech had Alexa skills. I could control the two together, build routines that included the TV, Xbox, DVD player and the lights / plugs.

I upgraded my smart heating to a Wiser product that had an Alexa skill. Replacing a Salus system, that was smart but no skills for Alexa.

Then in early 2018 I purchased a hue hub and a couple of bulbs, since then I have migrated all my lights to hue. The Philips solution is expensive but there is nothing quite as integrated or sophisticated.

Late 2018 saw the addition of a Broadlink mini IR blaster to control TVs elsewhere in the house.  Nowhere near as comprehensive as the logitech, but a lot cheaper.

In 2018 I also began “hacking” the systems to make them work the way I wanted. This included IFTTT to set routines, ESP boards to make custom solutions, AWS including their IoT button to build services around ESP custom actions. Finally I added some NFC stickers to trigger certain routines, such as turning off all the lights or joining our guest wifi network.