Raspberry Pi 3 fun

I wrote a few simple Python programs to play with my new Raspberry Pi Sense Hat, and display the time, temp, humidity level and barometric pressure readings in a message that scrolls across the sense hats 8×8 color led display. It was fun.

The Raspberry Pi 3 is an amazingly powerful device. I’ll bet it’d be a lot quicker if I connected a usb disk and mounted a disk based filesystem over the sdcard root filesystem. Just use the sdcard to boot into the disk based OS, and bang, zoom!

The only thing that really limits the pi is that you can only attach one hat to a pi. No stacking of hardware add-ons. So I ordered a new pi, or rather, the pine64 pi3 competitor. Has the same 40 pin GPIO bus, but runs a 1200MHz cpu instead of the pi3’s 900MHz cpu, both a quad core ARM A53 based chip. The Pine64 also comes with 2 GB RAM instead of 1 GB, and Gigabit ethernet instead of 100 megabit. I read someone complain about build quality issues, but we’ll see. So far I haven’t been able to get any response out of it. No audio/video signal on the HDMI port, no blinking lights anywhere to let me know something is working. Just a single red led that is on all the time. Isn’t there a law about manufacturer using red leds to mean anything but there is a problem? For that matter, pi3 has red led power on light too (as well as green activity indicator – not sure what activity, but it blinks)

Just for fun, I did get LXC Linux Containers working just fine on the pi3. Running containers isn’t resource consuming at all. You just can’t use any of the armhf prebuilt distros in the templates, you have to use the raspbian jessie repo and debootstrap the containers yourself, and create an lxc config file for it by hand too. But it works.

Even though the Raspberry Pi 3 is running an ARM v8 64-bit CPU, it’s still running an ARM v6 based OS, for backwards compatibility with the original 512 Mb Raspberry Pi model A. Even the Pi 2 was an ARMv7 chip, but same thing – no armv7 or armv8 OS available for the pi user. The Raspberry Pi foundation says they are still investigating the matter, but they are worried about making it too complex for regular creators, who just want to learn and build, and not worry about any compatibility issues.

I wish they could go ahead and release a beta 64 bit base OS, and any of their tools that are portable, like the python support. They already release a Debian Jessie based Raspbian-lite, without all their tools. Do the same in 64-bit ARMv8 mode for the experimenter. The ARMv8 chips running the 64 bit instruction set are proven to be 25-40% faster than the same cpu executing 32-bit code, so why NOT allow anyone who wants to, to play with a free speedup, we’ll figure out what does and doesn’t work over time. Let the early adopters find out for you if there are going to be any weird compatibility issues to worry about. Maybe they’ll even solve some of them for you.

What has shocked me the most is that no enterprising soul has done it for themselves, even! I’d have figured some hardware hacker would have deciphered how to boot a 64-bit kernel on a pi3 by now. Apparently not, though.

I even ordered another Raspberry Pi Zero, and usb to db9 female rs232 serial port cables, to build a cheap terminal server for my four headless lab servers. I can run screen on the pizero, and use four windows running c-kermit to connect to the tty consoles on each of them and store all the console log messages as screen logs.