Author Topic: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi  (Read 6112 times)

bonbonbaron

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Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« on: June 14, 2020, 12:10:52 PM »
A decade ago I wanted to develop some games, but I knew next to nothing about computers or programming. So I decided to buy a $1000 Dell PC, mechanical keyboard, two monitors, the works. After the computer arrived, though, I didn’t exactly get started right away... actually, it took nearly a decade! Life just got in the way.

I learned a lot of programming over the years, though. But after my master's, I joined a company that programs a computer vision system in robots whose controllers have only 256MB of RAM, which we only get a sliver of (probably around 30MB). This forces frugality upon us programmers; rules like "Don't use 4 bytes when you can use 1", "Make loops as tight and quick as possible", "Simplify math operations", "Try to use integer arithmetic instead of floating point, but use bitwise operators instead of integer arithmetic when you can", "Make everything reusable to save others memory and development time", etc. The end result is exceedingly fast and light, yet it does everything our competition does and more. It's even competitive against its open source counterparts out there that devour a thousand times as much memory and run 10-1000 times slower. (It's worth noting that my robot company has zero debt, thanks to the super lightweight hardware we use in our robots. We don't cut corners with easy-to-develop bloatware... We hand-craft and optimize everything in C. No debt, minimal liability, we saw no layoffs nor pay cuts during either COVID or 2008 recession... Our higher ups' handling of money is such a beautiful thing that we're all grateful for.)

That inspired me to go home, tear apart my Python game engine, and redo it in C. The goal was to produce 2D games that take up extremely little space, have no loading screens (the player is transported to each new scene in the blink of an eye instead of seeing that annoying "Loading..." text), and poses restrictions on the developer, inducing creativity. My tech-savvy cousin and I always reminisced over how simple games like Pokémon whose ROM would take up only 512kB, and yet it captivated the attention and inspired the imagination of MILLIONS!! We'd also marvel at how fast 8- and 16-bit systems in the old days were, how they didn't have any wait times while we have all kinds of waiting to do in our mega spaceship 64-bit quad-core systems-- it just makes no sense. So what else could one do with so few bytes? And what value could I squeeze out of a computer about as weak as our robot's? I wanted to know, and so I started down a new road.

I think Mustachianism collided with this journey at some point, because I started wondering, "What's the cheapest, most energy-efficient machine I can make all this with?" So I began playing with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. Linux command line blew my mind away... I discovered tools every bit as capable was the mammoth Visual Studio I was using— Vim, gcc, gdb, etc.— and would only take up 0.001% as much memory as VS. (Visual Studio would take upwards of 750MB, while vim nibbles a measly 12.5kB.) Vim, however, has just about all the commands VS has, and once one learns his way around the shortcuts, editing files and compiling them is even FASTER! Compiling my source code wasn't painful at all on the Pi, and they sing like a bird when the run. So the potency packed into this tiny yet feisty machine and its mega-lightweight OS were simply an insult to the old mega spaceship development environment.

Then I discovered I could even make music and images on other super lightweight applications through the VNC server!! I was elated when I discovered this. I’d never dared to dream before that I could replace a $1000 machine with a $10 one; that sounded just ridiculous. But the possibility was getting real now. Automatically backing up things nightly with github and cron, setting reminders for myself through calendar, making a simple chatting application for my cousin and me, a bot that does my dating apps for me with cron, nodejs, and zombie, I listen to the radio on a bluetooth speaker through it, browse and download podcast episodes and listen to them, etc. etc. etc.— the list goes on and on. That’s only what I’ve squeezed out of $10 *so far*. And meanwhile, I've sold my old machines for $500, which in turn went straight into the stock market. What a sweet deal. Also, my computational liability now follows my company's example; it's 1% of what my desktop PC was, and the power it draws is only a fraction of a percent!! Again, what a sweet deal!!

I’m simply blown away by the amazing things the free Linux OS (and all its free variants) and the Raspberry Pi developers have enabled us to do with chump change. I post this to get my enthusiasm for this out of my system, but also in hopes that someone else will realize how many options they have even with such a tiny, cheap machine, and not need to burn through big wads of cash to bring powerful automation and computing to their lives.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2020, 08:27:49 AM by bonbonbaron »

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2020, 03:12:31 AM »
Interesting that you can do everything on a Pi Zero. What desktop environment do you run? How does web browsing work on something like that?

I tried Linux (Ubuntu MATE and Mint) out to extend the life of my old MacBook. Unfortunately it was still not quite polished enough, and I still had little issues, so I bought a new Windows 10 computer.

bonbonbaron

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2020, 11:40:55 AM »
Interesting that you can do everything on a Pi Zero. What desktop environment do you run? How does web browsing work on something like that?

I use Raspbian Lite. This OS is so lightweight it feels like a normal desktop environment on a slightly aged machine. To access the desktop GUI, I turn on the VNC server through the "sudo raspi-config" command. However, I find command line tools for most applications easier to use than their GUI counterparts, so I rarely need to VNC. VNC still sings like a bird when I'm editing sound or 2D images. (But we're talking old video game graphics and sound, not photos or audio recordings. I'm not sure how those would go yet.)

I haven't found a light enough Internet browser to use with it yet other than Lynx (which is text-based) though. But since I access it with a $110 Chromebook, I can just use that for any Internet tasks the Pi can't handle. They complete each other.

If one wants heavy graphics, audio, and internet power all in one machine, the Pi 3 and 4 ought to be considered. There's a YoutTube video where this guy runs 3D model editing, photo editing, a ton of open tabs on the Internet, etc. on the $75 Pi 4 with 8GB RAM, and it still sings like a bird. Pretty amazing if you ask me!
« Last Edit: June 18, 2020, 11:54:41 AM by bonbonbaron »

MilesTeg

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2020, 05:17:56 PM »
A decade ago I wanted to develop some games, but I knew next to nothing about computers or programming. So I decided to buy a $1000 Dell PC, mechanical keyboard, two monitors, the works. After the computer arrived, though, I didn’t exactly get started right away... actually, it took nearly a decade! Life just got in the way.

I learned a lot of programming over the years, though. But after my master's, I joined a company that programs a computer vision system in robots whose controllers have only 256MB of RAM, which we only get a sliver of (probably around 30MB). This forces frugality upon us programmers; rules like "Don't use 4 bytes when you can use 1", "Make loops as tight and quick as possible", "Simplify math operations", "Try to use integer arithmetic instead of floating point, but use bitwise operators instead of integer arithmetic when you can", "Make everything reusable to save others memory and development time", etc. The end result is exceedingly fast and light, yet it does everything our competition does and more. It's even competitive against its open source counterparts out there that devour a thousand times as much memory and run 10-1000 times slower. (It's worth noting that my robot company has zero debt, thanks to the super lightweight hardware we use in our robots. We don't cut corners with easy-to-develop bloatware... We hand-craft and optimize everything in C. No debt, minimal liability, we saw no layoffs nor pay cuts during either COVID or 2008 recession... Our higher ups' handling of money is such a beautiful thing that we're all grateful for.)

That inspired me to go home, tear apart my Python game engine, and redo it in C. The goal was to produce 2D games that take up extremely little space, have no loading screens (the player is transported to each new scene in the blink of an eye instead of seeing that annoying "Loading..." text), and poses restrictions on the developer, inducing creativity. My tech-savvy cousin and I always reminisced over how simple games like Pokémon whose ROM would take up only 512kB, and yet it captivated the attention and inspired the imagination of MILLIONS!! We'd also marvel at how fast 8- and 16-bit systems in the old days were, how they didn't have any wait times while we have all kinds of waiting to do in our mega spaceship 64-bit quad-core systems-- it just makes no sense. So what else could one do with so few bytes? And what value could I squeeze out of a computer about as weak as our robot's? I wanted to know, and so I started down a new road.

I think Mustachianism collided with this journey at some point, because I started wondering, "What's the cheapest, most energy-efficient machine I can make all this with?" So I began playing with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. Linux command line blew my mind away... I discovered tools every bit as capable was the mammoth Visual Studio I was using— Vim, gcc, gdb, etc.— and would only take up 0.001% as much memory as VS. (Visual Studio would take upwards of 750MB, while vim nibbles a measly 12.5kB.) Vim, however, has just about all the commands VS has, and once one learns his way around the shortcuts, editing files and compiling them is even FASTER! Compiling my source code wasn't painful at all on the Pi, and they sing like a bird when the run. So the potency packed into this tiny yet feisty machine and its mega-lightweight OS were simply an insult to the old mega spaceship development environment.

Then I discovered I could even make music and images on other super lightweight applications through the VNC server!! I was elated when I discovered this. I’d never dared to dream before that I could replace a $1000 machine with a $10 one; that sounded just ridiculous. But the possibility was getting real now. Automatically backing up things nightly with github and cron, setting reminders for myself through calendar, making a simple chatting application for my cousin and me, a bot that does my dating apps for me with cron, nodejs, and zombie, I listen to the radio on a bluetooth speaker through it, browse and download podcast episodes and listen to them, etc. etc. etc.— the list goes on and on. That’s only what I’ve squeezed out of $10 *so far*. And meanwhile, I've sold my old machines for $500, which in turn went straight into the stock market. What a sweet deal. Also, my computational liability now follows my company's example; it's 1% of what my desktop PC was, and the power it draws is only a fraction of a percent!! Again, what a sweet deal!!

I’m simply blown away by the amazing things the free Linux OS (and all its free variants) and the Raspberry Pi developers have enabled us to do with chump change. I post this to get my enthusiasm for this out of my system, but also in hopes that someone else will realize how many options they have even with such a tiny, cheap machine, and not need to burn through big wads of cash to bring powerful automation and computing to their lives.

Real mustachians only code in hand optimized machine code. 80. Everything else is a waste. Future mustachian coders use assemble language as training wheels.

Daley

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2020, 07:47:35 AM »
Real mustachians only code in hand optimized machine code. 80. Everything else is a waste. Future mustachian coders use assemble language as training wheels.

640K of memory should be enough for anybody.

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LWYRUP

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2020, 09:34:54 AM »

As a non-tech person, your post was pretty much like speaking in Latin to me but I appreciate your ingenuity.  :)

Gronnie

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2020, 10:17:13 AM »
So basically you are doing some fun projects on the Pi, but you haven't completely replaced it as your only computing device.

marty998

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2020, 06:54:24 AM »

As a non-tech person, your post was pretty much like speaking in Latin to me but I appreciate your ingenuity.  :)

Me too. I didn't get most of it but I like the sentiments. It's always bewildered me that apps on phones are so freaking huge they're big on android and seemingly twice as fat on Apple for whatever reason. How it takes 200MB or whatever to install / operate simple messaging apps like whatsapp or messenger I have no idea.

My favourite ever games as a kid were Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario on the Sega Mega Drive and the SNES. 16 bit or something they operated off. Seems like they ran off no capacity at all.

I sound like a luddite.... laugh all you want, I don't care.

techwiz

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2020, 07:29:29 AM »
Very Cool, I love your focus on efficient coding. That skill is becoming a lost art form these days. The amount of lazy shortcuts and software bloat which keeps driving the hardware race gets to me. It's one of the reason I love virtualization and consolidation of compute processing in day job. 

I have a couple of Raspberry Pi 2's running OSMC and OpenELEC for my media needs, however I am not taking the mustachian step like you of selling my other powerful PC's to cut my power costs and waste of computing.   

For gaming I starting going down the rabbit hole of (MAME) open-source emulator of arcade game systems. I am thinking of creating a retro full size arcade box using the Raspberry Pi, currently that project was put on hold when I realized it was going to take more time and money than I was willing to spend on it at this time. 

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2020, 08:00:58 AM »
RasPi are super efficient. The backstory on them is cool.

I have pi-hole running on them at my home, and my dad's home too. Need to get another one to replace my HTPC.

Am planning on buying the RasPi 4 8GB Kit for my older daughter, she wants to learn Linux, etc. She says it's not fair her dad gets to "play" with Linux and Cloud all day.

She saw this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbaJcRxASo0 and now wants to do similar.

Syonyk

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2020, 11:05:54 AM »
The 8GB Pi4s aren't in stock anywhere right now that I can find (at least not for anything resembling retail price).  Wait for the next run, or grab a 4GB one.

I've been working on gutless wonder computers for a while now, and while I do have some more powerful stuff, the various small board computers have been getting good enough that they're absolutely useful as daily drivers now for light to moderate use, to include full graphical web, software development, etc.

The main key is getting the root storage volume off the SD card, and then setting up compressed swap (and while some will argue, I would suggest that zswap is a far better solution than the commonly listed zram, because it can evict old pages out to the backing file, and has better limits on RAM use than zram if faced with less compressible data).

Even a USB2 to SATA SSD adapter on a Pi3 is far better than the SD card interface, though USB3 makes it even nicer still.

I've done quite a bit of writing on the topic over on my blog - I /think/ I can still link to it from this forum, mods, let me know if not and just remove the links.

My original light desktop was a Pi3 - I did some work on the thermals, and tried a compressed filesystem to remove the chokepoint over the USB2 bus.  That was a bad idea.  btrfs and USB don't get along.  It ran fine, until it consumed the filesystem.  Just stick with something reliable like ext4...   https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2018/03/project-pi3desk-building-awesome-pi3.html




When the 3B+ came out, with MOAR CLOCK SPEED, I set about poking with it, and realized that it was quite hard to keep it cool enough under heavy load to stay at the rated 1.4GHz - it pulled back to 1.2Ghz easily under sustained load, even with a good heatsink case.  But not with more heatsinks!  I Kerbaled it up pretty good, and ended up with something that ran for quite a while as my light utility desktop.  https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2018/09/project-pi3bdesk-making-even-better.html



The Raspberry Pi 4 is a respectable bit of hardware, especially if you happen to crank the clocks up to 2GHz (you'll need a good heatsink case to hold performance with that, but it's totally doable - and it's no slouch at 1.5GHz stock clocks either).  Plenty of RAM, USB3, 4k output, though it didn't have fractional scaling when I last poked with it - so don't use 4k on it.  But it's absolutely capable of desktop grade work.  https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2019/12/building-raspberry-pi-4-desktop.html



My current light desktop is actually an nVidia Jetson Nano - it's a bit more expensive, but came out before the Pi4 by a while, and had 4GB of RAM.  Plus a desktop grade GPU, not that I really care for my uses.  I was interested in the RAM.  That's been in service for well over a year now, and it's doing just fine.  https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2019/04/nvidia-jetson-nano-desktop-use-kernel-builds.html



If you're curious as to how all these little boards compare in terms of performance, I did some head to head benchmarking as well.

https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2019/11/battle-of-boards-jetson-nano-vs.html

What I'd suggest, if you're interested in going this route, is a Raspberry Pi 4.  It's the best all around SBC at this point for desktop use, and it has the best software ecosystem.  The Nano is a respectable little machine, but doesn't have mainline kernel support, and... I'm probably going to replace it when I can get my hands on the 8GB Pi4.  When I reviewed the Pi4 initially, it wasn't enough of a jump to justify replacing the Nano, and my board had some hardware issues anyway (it wouldn't reboot cleanly and was hard to get powered on reliably).  But with 8GB, well, that's enough to justify the jump, and I'm using it more for various things than I was before due to some other shifts in how I use computers.  Run the 32-bit OS with the PAE kernel unless you really like pain.  aarch64 is nice, but there are many things that simply don't work.  Apple moving to ARM should fix a lot of this, though, as software repos get fixed.

I'm also experimenting with the PineBook Pro - it's a $200, 14" ARM laptop.  I quite like it, but I'm also deeply familiar with the quirks of running Linux on ARM at this point, and things like kernel troubleshooting don't bother me.  It's not ready for mainstream use IMO, but if you're the sort of person who has followed most of what I've talked about, you'd probably be fine.  It's a properly good looking little laptop that's also open source and repairable in the deal - the sort of thing I'm very, very excited about.

At this point, I mostly use Intel hardware for work, and the occasional heavy task in personal use, but I'm moving more and more to using light and cheap ARM hardware for personal use.  I'd replace some of my heavier Intel hardware but there's nothing between the SBCs and the heavy workstations right now, and I don't need a $3k ARM workstation.  I also don't game, so there's that...

bonbonbaron

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2020, 12:30:30 PM »
So basically you are doing some fun projects on the Pi, but you haven't completely replaced it as your only computing device.
No. For my purposes, it completely replaces my old machine.

My favourite ever games as a kid were Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario on the Sega Mega Drive and the SNES. 16 bit or something they operated off. Seems like they ran off no capacity at all.
You know, Sonic on Sega Genesis was an amazing feat. Get this: Its ROM size was 1MB. So that incredible game was about 0.5% of the nominal phone app size you mentioned.

Real mustachians only code in hand optimized machine code. 80. Everything else is a waste. Future mustachian coders use assemble language as training wheels.
Very funny. But variants of this sarcastic remark are parroted all over the Internet-- sometimes rightfully so (e.g. in response to "I want to rewrite Destiny 2 in Assembler [to stroke my ego]"). Generally, however, those (oftentimes myopic) cynics are the very propagators of bloatware. They encourage companies to rushing super-sized products out the door so people have to pay ten times the amount for machines that can handle them.

Very Cool, I love your focus on efficient coding. That skill is becoming a lost art form these days. The amount of lazy shortcuts and software bloat which keeps driving the hardware race gets to me. It's one of the reason I love virtualization and consolidation of compute processing in day job.
.
I'm right there with you. One major source of bloatware is deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Lightweight tools without all the neat menu bars, tool buttons, etc. have steeper learning curves (cough) vim (cough), which drive up newbie development time (and hence near-term costs).

One thing the pandemic has brought to light is the power of efficient operating costs. If a 12kB text editor like Vim can do the same thing as a 750MB mega IDE (and if one applies that lightweight substitution for every other app possible), then consider how much cheaper of a computer each worker can use. And multiply that difference by the number of developers. And the maintenance and repair costs for all the developers too. And the portability and desk space required, hence the overall office size. Also, since Linux is a multi-user OS, lots of people can even log into the same machine, so you don't have to have a one-to-one ratio of machine to people. This whole philosophy (Mustachian business model?) isn't just great in a disaster; it's exponentially greater when business is booming!!

I'm not saying that all businesses can run on Pi Zero Ws by any stretch of the imagination. I'm saying it makes no sense to needlessly inflate liabilities whose smaller counterparts do the job well enough. In my mind, this mindset carries over to a million other areas too. Like working from home, or even sharing entire office buildings across shifts with other businesses in the same industry (though I admittedly haven't thought as far as how to handle security around each company's assets).

Back to the original topic of this post... If my Pi breaks, big deal! My image is backed up, and it's just $10 for another one. A smoother road to FIRE for me, and lots of fun learning on the way!
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 01:00:21 PM by bonbonbaron »

turketron

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2020, 12:48:08 PM »
This is pretty cool! My first thought was that this reminded me of hypermiling cars, but for code- a lot of the satisfaction is in the challenge of eking out the extra bit of efficiency rather than from the end result itself.

I'm not a developer but I work directly with developers at a tech company so I can respect the effort you've put into doing this. I've thought about picking up a pi just because they seem kinda fun, but I dunno what I'd do with it other than a pi-hole.

Gronnie

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2020, 02:19:17 PM »
One of my college professors spoke fondly of her day's in the Navy where they controlled the entire Pacific fleet using 16k of RAM or something ridiculous.

I work in embedded firmware so I can appreciate being judicious with memory usage.

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2020, 10:31:52 AM »
The 8GB Pi4s aren't in stock anywhere right now that I can find (at least not for anything resembling retail price).  Wait for the next run, or grab a 4GB one.
https://www.canakit.com/raspberry-pi-4-8gb.html has the next board-only shipping July 15, 2020. They have 8GB kits in stock (getting the complete kit for my older kid).

billy

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2020, 10:28:21 AM »
That's great you're using a pi zero instead of a $1,000 dell, I always thought it was not fast enough for daily driver. I didn't know they have a 8gb pi, when my hacked chromebox dies I'll look at the pi or intel nuc. I just heard apple is switching to their own arm chips in 2 years.

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2020, 12:52:13 PM »
older kid using the RasPi as her desktop for over a week. No issues so far. Only software I installed was Firefox ESR and VLC player.

VLC player is able to use the Microsoft webcam, for which we don't have Linux drivers, as an input source. No tweaking required.

If all you need to do is watch youtube, surf the internet, use Google Docs/Sheets, send email, social media sites, the RasPi suffices. Plus I have some monitoring jobs setup via cron running in the background.

jim555

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2020, 06:43:05 PM »
I've had older versions of the Pi and found it interesting but too slow.  I don't know if the newer ones are better now. 

I picked up a refurbished Core 2 Duo for $30, 4gb, put in a SSD, and it runs Win10 and Linux with no problems.

Simpli-Fi

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2020, 06:54:17 AM »
I have accumulated a pile of Pi's over the years and and have a RPi4 running Ubuntu Server using Docker and it is a beast...so capable.  I discovered VIM during this pandemic and have gotten really familiar with command line again, which I do find efficient.

Pi-Hole is probably the best use of any computer if you are going to use the internet, haha!  Running Diet Pi on a RPi3 is so freeing and it powered by the USB hub on the router itself...I recently relocated and I'm on guest wifi; I forgot how dirty the raw internet with advertisements.

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2020, 10:07:52 AM »
I have accumulated a pile of Pi's over the years and and have a RPi4 running Ubuntu Server using Docker and it is a beast...so capable.  I discovered VIM during this pandemic and have gotten really familiar with command line again, which I do find efficient.

Pi-Hole is probably the best use of any computer if you are going to use the internet, haha!  Running Diet Pi on a RPi3 is so freeing and it powered by the USB hub on the router itself...I recently relocated and I'm on guest wifi; I forgot how dirty the raw internet with advertisements.
Thanks for that info nugget, decide to use the USB 3.0 storage port on my Nighthawk router as a power feed to the RasPi.

Wrote about using it as a PiHole 2 years ago, just updated my RasPi3B+ to v5.1.1 today.
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/pi-hole-in-my-home-network/

BTDretire

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2020, 07:53:28 AM »
And I thought it was cool when I upgraded my Sinclair 1000,
from 4k of memory to 16k of memory!

Just Joe

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2020, 07:46:10 AM »
TRS-80 - good memories. First computer I ever laid hands on. We played moon lander on it in 6th grade.

FrugalFukuoka

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #22 on: August 12, 2020, 05:57:48 PM »
After reading this thread decided to look into the Raspberry Pi a bit further, and I made the switch..
Been WFH for about 4 months now on a laptop (roughly 1000USD at the time), and replaced my laptop with a Raspberry Pi 4 which functions as a thin client. Works like a charm.
Added benefit is I get to explore Linux for a bit.

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2020, 12:19:28 PM »
After reading this thread decided to look into the Raspberry Pi a bit further, and I made the switch..
Been WFH for about 4 months now on a laptop (roughly 1000USD at the time), and replaced my laptop with a Raspberry Pi 4 which functions as a thin client. Works like a charm.
Added benefit is I get to explore Linux for a bit.
One of us! One of us!
Glad to see you're enjoying it.
Lots of Raspberry Pi forums and projects on the internet.

My pi-hole has reduced the network traffic by ~37%. That's the nonsense overhead of trackers and ads.
If you had a bandwidth cap, imagine a third of it used to track your online activity and bombard you with targeted ads. Ridiculous!
« Last Edit: August 13, 2020, 12:22:12 PM by jinga nation »

FrugalFukuoka

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #24 on: August 14, 2020, 04:18:02 PM »
After reading this thread decided to look into the Raspberry Pi a bit further, and I made the switch..
Been WFH for about 4 months now on a laptop (roughly 1000USD at the time), and replaced my laptop with a Raspberry Pi 4 which functions as a thin client. Works like a charm.
Added benefit is I get to explore Linux for a bit.
One of us! One of us!
Glad to see you're enjoying it.
Lots of Raspberry Pi forums and projects on the internet.

My pi-hole has reduced the network traffic by ~37%. That's the nonsense overhead of trackers and ads.
If you had a bandwidth cap, imagine a third of it used to track your online activity and bombard you with targeted ads. Ridiculous!

Definitely. It's amazing to see how many resources are out there.
Everything free,  lightweight, efficient.. I can live with this.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #25 on: August 22, 2020, 01:16:15 AM »
Can you run Pi-Hole with a Pi Zero W, or does the lack of an Ethernet port cause issues?

The Pi itself would be better if I could just run it from one of the 1A power bricks I have lying around, but of course the Pi 4 can't do that anymore.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2020, 01:18:41 AM by alsoknownasDean »

Simpli-Fi

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #26 on: August 22, 2020, 09:31:20 AM »
since all traffic will be directed through the pi-hole as a DNS server, you'll want the ethernet port.

Padonak

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #27 on: August 22, 2020, 09:46:30 AM »
Can PI be used as a remote computer? Similar to vpn but without actually using a VPN. For example, your PI is in Arizona and you log on from Florida, then remotely use your Arizona computer with an Arizona IP address.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #28 on: August 26, 2020, 05:30:52 AM »
since all traffic will be directed through the pi-hole as a DNS server, you'll want the ethernet port.

Thanks for that. I've just ordered a Pi Zero and a microUSB to Ethernet adapter. We'll see if it works :)

Although for now my main PC is sticking with Windows. It just meets my needs better at this point in time than Linux platforms.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2020, 05:32:23 AM by alsoknownasDean »

Gronnie

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #29 on: August 26, 2020, 07:29:57 AM »
Can PI be used as a remote computer? Similar to vpn but without actually using a VPN. For example, your PI is in Arizona and you log on from Florida, then remotely use your Arizona computer with an Arizona IP address.

You can install OpenVPN server on your Pi and connect through it to have that Arizona IP address from your Florida computer.

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #30 on: November 25, 2020, 08:48:26 AM »
if you're using the default-supplied Raspbian OS on your RasPi, please try switch to Ubuntu.

on my 8 GB RasPi4, I've installed Ubuntu 20.10*. This is officially supported. https://ubuntu.com/blog/ubuntu-20-10-on-raspberry-pi-delivers-the-full-linux-desktop-and-micro-clouds

Used the Raspberry Pi Imager to load the OS. (make sure to erase and format the microSD card first, otherwise the verify stage will fail).

As a result, the experience is snappier and faster. Installed an open source application which displays the battery levels of my wireless Logitech mouse and keyboard.

*Raspberry Pi models with 4GB or 8GB RAM gain full support for the Ubuntu Desktop.

Syonyk

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #31 on: November 25, 2020, 09:12:19 PM »
It's faster than Raspbian?  I find that at least slightly hard to believe, but haven't actually tried it - my Raspbian install is working fine and I don't have a spare Pi4 laying around yet.

I have benchmarked the 32-bit vs 64-bit Raspbian installs, and on most of the Pis, 32-bit is noticeably faster (though I've not messed with trying Thumb binaries, I expect that would help even more).  There's just not much L1/L2 cache to work with on them, and 64-bit pointers chew it up a whole lot faster.

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #32 on: November 27, 2020, 06:11:25 PM »
@Syonyk data is anecdotal. i didn't benchmark. The ubuntu distro has official support from Canonical.

I "felt" Ubuntu to be faster than Raspian and it comes with less pre-installed/default packages than Raspbian.

My 6 and 8 year olds said Ubuntu is faster at loading their school learning websites.

I use a 24 inch Asus monitor. With Raspbian, set to 1920 x 1080 (max resolution), there was still a 1 cm black strip all around the desktop, wasted screen space. Google-fu said this was an issue. Ubuntu doesn't have this issue.

Similarly, I'd have to use a workaround to get Raspbian to see my wireless keyboard and mouse. And then the devices would suddenly disappear. No such issues with Ubuntu.

TL;DR - Ubuntu has superior out-of-the-box hardware support than Raspbian.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #33 on: December 09, 2020, 05:59:00 AM »
So I finally caved and ordered a 4GB Pi 4 (with an Argon1 Neo case and an official power supply) after wanting a Pi for ages. Not sure what I'll do with it since I'll have to return these monitors once I'm back in the office. Maybe a retro gaming machine.

It was that or a Pi 400, but I decided that the standard Pi was a bit more flexible in case I didn't like the keyboard or wanted to repurpose it as a little server or connect it to my TV for retro gaming.

I have considered getting a lower-end power efficient desktop computer, but I'd probably more likely lean towards a lighter low-powered x86 machine running Windows for that (either a NUC or one of those little Pentium Silver mini PCs).

SnipTheDog

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #34 on: January 07, 2021, 09:22:20 AM »
The great thing about the Pi's are the GPIO and how easy it is to control the I/0.

Syonyk

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #35 on: January 07, 2021, 02:39:11 PM »
The great thing about the Pi's are the GPIO and how easy it is to control the I/0.

... which has literally nothing to do with them for desktop use, does it?

SnipTheDog

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #36 on: January 09, 2021, 11:40:20 AM »
Which is why you'd want something other than a Pi as a desktop PC.  If you want to develop code and use the Pi as a method of controlling IO, then it's perfect.

Syonyk

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #37 on: January 09, 2021, 12:23:52 PM »
Which is why you'd want something other than a Pi as a desktop PC.  If you want to develop code and use the Pi as a method of controlling IO, then it's perfect.

Except this whole thread is about using Pis as desktop PCs.  Which, I assure you, can be done - and with the Pi4, isn't even that hard.

I've done it, extensively, on:
- Pi3: https://www.sevarg.net/2018/03/18/project-pi3desk-building-awesome-pi3/
- Pi3B: https://www.sevarg.net/2018/09/16/project-pi3bdesk-making-even-better/
- nVidia Jetson Nano: https://www.sevarg.net/2019/04/14/nvidia-jetson-nano-desktop-use-kernel-builds/
- Pi4: https://www.sevarg.net/2019/12/14/building-raspberry-pi-4-desktop/

The Pi4 is my current office utility desktop, though I'll bring some other stuff online as needed.  I've got an Intel NUC I use for x86 development/virtualization (lately, I'm doing some work with Intel QuickSync for realtime video transcoding related to live streaming, so that's a useful testbed), and I recently purchased an Apple M1 Mac Mini for development work (I have a thing for little ARM systems and making the software ecosystem suck less for them).

I assure you, a Pi4 with SSD is a desktop-grade system for an awful lot of people.

Gronnie

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #38 on: January 10, 2021, 02:45:15 PM »
Respectfully, personally I can't use a system that can't even do YouTube without dropping TONS of frames as a desktop replacement.

techwiz

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #39 on: January 10, 2021, 09:03:27 PM »
Respectfully, personally I can't use a system that can't even do YouTube without dropping TONS of frames as a desktop replacement.

Not sure if your poor experience with dropping frames is related this issue or not, but something to try.

https://www.tomshardware.com/how-to/play-netflix-raspberry-pi

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #40 on: January 10, 2021, 10:50:17 PM »
My son's in his 20s now and doesn't own a traditional computer. He has his smartphone, gaming console, and a Raspberry Pi 400. The 400 being the version of the Pi 4 with a slight overclock and built entirely into the keyboard. He originally ran it with a 4K monitor no issue and then his 1440p monitor he's got now. He's moved out of my place now, but last I saw it ran whatever he wanted including doing youtube fine.

Also as an aside, unless you're running an old version, Raspbian isn't distributed anymore, the current distribution name is Raspberry Pi OS. https://www.raspberrypi.org/software/

The only kind of significant issue I ran into when trying to help him get specific software was that Pi OS is still apparently a 32-bit operating system? So certain software that required a 64-bit kernel doesn't run on Pi OS. He was content to just leave that as it is though rather than experiment with running any alternate OS on his Pi. He's very much just a "I want it to work, not to work on it" kind of person, which is fair enough. Kind of like how not everyone wants to be an auto mechanic rather than just driving their car.

I have to say though, it gave me a dose of nostalgia for back when I was a kid and got my first Commodore 64. I wanted to buy a Pi 400 for myself but I can't justify such a frivolous purchase right now. Maybe at a later time though, I do like the fact they use virtually no power (2 to 4 watts shown on my Kill-A-Watt depending on workload) and are still what amounts to a real computer of sorts.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #41 on: January 11, 2021, 02:33:27 AM »
Will using a higher end SD card make a big difference? I've got an old 64GB Sandisk Ultra in mine and apparently it doesn't reach the thresholds in the SD card tester. Works OK in Raspberry Pi OS, but Ubuntu MATE (I prefer the MATE desktop to Pixel/LXDE) is a bit of a slug. I do have a spare 128GB SSD somewhere too, hopefully my Pi does USB boot :)

I'm having issues with running my current laptop semi-permanently as a desktop, and was thinking of using the Pi to replace it. Although now I'm leaning towards a NUC or Asus PN50 and sticking with Windows 10.

What about the Gemini Lake Celeron/Pentium chips? Worthwhile or garbage?

I can appreciate the whole 'use only the amount of PC you need' approach.

I thought about getting another 2GB Pi 4 for some projects, but they're a little more than $35USD+tax here. My 4GB Pi 4 was $92.40AUD (about $71USD at current exchange rates, but that includes 10% GST).
« Last Edit: January 11, 2021, 02:40:45 AM by alsoknownasDean »

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #42 on: January 11, 2021, 11:21:47 AM »
Will using a higher end SD card make a big difference?

Maybe? I guess it depends but I swapped the included 16gb SD card for a 32gb Samsung Evo+ based on the data in this review: https://www.jeffgeerling.com/blog/2019/raspberry-pi-microsd-card-performance-comparison-2019

Syonyk

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #43 on: January 11, 2021, 10:10:45 PM »
Respectfully, personally I can't use a system that can't even do YouTube without dropping TONS of frames as a desktop replacement.

It should be able to do it, so perhaps look around for advice on doing it.  I think it requires getting the hardware decoders working in the browser, which is far from a trivial task, but I thought stock Raspberry Pi OS or whatever they're calling it these days had it configured to work.  I'm not sure you'll ever play a 4k video on a Pi, but lower res stuff should work fine.  I know a pi3 can play 720p stuff smoothly enough, though I'm not sure if it's doing software or hardware decoding.  My Pi4 just tends to be... a bit experimental, and I definitely ruined video playback at some point.

The only kind of significant issue I ran into when trying to help him get specific software was that Pi OS is still apparently a 32-bit operating system? So certain software that required a 64-bit kernel doesn't run on Pi OS.

The default RPiOS is still 32-bit, yes.  However, as of the past... oh, 6 months or a year, maybe, it does ship with a 64-bit kernel that you can enable.  And, sometime halfway recently, they started releasing an actual 64-bit build.

But the reality is that the 32-bit OS is the right option for the Pis (perhaps with the 64-bit kernel).  I did some benchmarking a while back that I need to redo with current builds, and the 32-bit OS is actually faster in most things that people want to do, by a non-trivial margin.  Even though 64-bit offers some additional ARM operations and more registers, unless you're doing things that actually are heavily bound by the lack of those, the better memory density of 32-bit code gains you real world performance.

Will using a higher end SD card make a big difference?

Not really, though it can help with application loading times.  SD cards, even fast ones, are horrid at random 4k IO which is what OSes do.

Quote
I do have a spare 128GB SSD somewhere too, hopefully my Pi does USB boot :)

Doesn't matter, and IME USB boot is a pain in the rear.  Just copy your root filesystem to the SSD, keep a scrap SD card in for /boot, and call it good.  I've done writeups for all the recent Pis over at my blog about how to do this.

Quote
Although now I'm leaning towards a NUC or Asus PN50 and sticking with Windows 10.

Ew. :p  Windows.

Quote
What about the Gemini Lake Celeron/Pentium chips? Worthwhile or garbage?

No idea, I've not messed with them.  Probably closer to garbage, but likely still faster than the Pi4.

change_seeker

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #44 on: January 12, 2021, 04:22:13 PM »
Can I use a 8 GB RasPi4 to drive my son's Creality Ender Pro3 3D printer?  We currently only have a Chromebook for three kids.  Would like a desktop that is more geared to them learning and practice STEM-y things.

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #45 on: January 12, 2021, 05:55:10 PM »
@Gronnie I've been able to play 1080p video on my 8GB RasPi4 running 64-bit Ubuntu 20.10 (https://ubuntu.com/raspberry-pi).

Haven't played any 4k content as it is connected to a 24" 1920x1200 monitor. I will try hook it up to my 4k TV and let you know if any frames dropped.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2021, 08:43:40 PM by jinga nation »

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #46 on: January 12, 2021, 05:56:13 PM »

jinga nation

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #47 on: January 12, 2021, 05:58:09 PM »
Can I use a 8 GB RasPi4 to drive my son's Creality Ender Pro3 3D printer?  We currently only have a Chromebook for three kids.  Would like a desktop that is more geared to them learning and practice STEM-y things.
Maybe this will help?
https://howchoo.com/g/ntg5yzg1odk/using-octoprint-with-the-creality-ender-3-3d-printer
or this?
https://johnwyles.github.io/posts/flashing-the-creality-ender-3-with-a-raspberry-pi/
« Last Edit: January 12, 2021, 05:59:40 PM by jinga nation »

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #48 on: January 12, 2021, 08:12:18 PM »
Respectfully, personally I can't use a system that can't even do YouTube without dropping TONS of frames as a desktop replacement.

It should be able to do it, so perhaps look around for advice on doing it.  I think it requires getting the hardware decoders working in the browser, which is far from a trivial task, but I thought stock Raspberry Pi OS or whatever they're calling it these days had it configured to work.  I'm not sure you'll ever play a 4k video on a Pi, but lower res stuff should work fine.  I know a pi3 can play 720p stuff smoothly enough, though I'm not sure if it's doing software or hardware decoding.  My Pi4 just tends to be... a bit experimental, and I definitely ruined video playback at some point.

Oh yeah! Now I remember. We installed the H264ify plugin for Chromium and that fixed youtube playback on my son's Pi.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/h264ify/aleakchihdccplidncghkekgioiakgal

I guess the VP9 codec relied on raw compute, but H.264 has a codec built into the CPU or SoC in this case.

Gronnie

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Re: Replacing $1000 Dell with $10 Pi
« Reply #49 on: January 13, 2021, 04:11:56 PM »
So after making the mods when you go into "Stats for Geeks" it doesn't show it dropping tons of frames anymore?

Last time I tried it even after trying all the tips and whatnot the Pi 4 was still dropping tons of frames at 1080p and a fair few at 720p.