My Raspberry Pi – The gift that keeps giving

Back in September 2018 I introduced a post about a recently purchased Raspberry Pi 3 (RP3) with the phrase: “Reading the post you will see why I value a device that cost less than thirty pounds, that at various points caused me to pull my hair out, but yet I wouldn’t want to be without“. This post looks at how it doing some three years later.

Writes Bob Windmill

Reader of the previous post may remember that I bought the it to see if I could get it to act as a cost effective printer server for my old-but-good USB only LaserJet P1005. I went this route after trying a couple of cheap TP-Link printer servers – think “but cheap, buy twice” – and discovering that commercial quality print servers could cost hundreds of pound. There was a small problem. I had no real idea how to do this, and little experience of typing arcane commands into a command line.

My old-but-good HP LJ P1005
My old-but-good HP LJ P1005

Getting started

As I wrote previously, it turned out that the world is full on amazingly talented and helpful people who put all the necessary command on the web that can be copied and pasted into the RP3’s command line to set it up as a print server. Who ever you are, I salute you.

While neither smooth not painless, mainly due to my limited ability to correctly follow the instructions, it was up and running in a couple of hours. And over three years later it’s still running, sitting quietly under my desk, waiting for the next print job to come along.

Keeping giving

Think about this: I spent about £35 on the RP3, and and spent two hours setting it up. That investment saved my buying a network capable printer and, importantly, kept a perfectly working old printer from being scrapped.

Definitely a gift that keeps giving.

And more

And the benefits keep coming. A while back I was getting seriously annoyed by the number and irrelevance of online ads I was being bombarded with. Ok, I know advertising is what keeps much of the internet free to use, but I wanted more control over what I saw than browser based solutions could give me.

Enter Pi Hole.

Pi Hole is a network level ad blocker. And yes, I had to go and find what that meant. I turns out that it is software that can be installed on fairly well any Raspberry Pi, not matter how old or slow it is, which can be set up to block adverts of the user’s choice. Just please don’t ask me how it works.

After installing and configuring Pi Hole on the my Pi, which to be clear I couldn’t have done with the previously mentioned wonderful people would freely publish on-line guides, and telling my various devices to use it as a DNS server – more thanks to the wonderful people who freely publish online guides – I now have a way of controlling what ads I see on any device connected to my network.

Neat……….

Adding to the collection

My two raspberry PIs, the RP3 and the new RP4
My two raspberry PIs

When the Raspberry Pi 4 was announced, with more memory – 4 GB rather than the 1 GB of the RP3 – and a faster processor I bought one as a media and back-up server.

With hindsight, I probably could have done this with the RP3 but, as they say, hindsight is a wonderful teacher. And more memory and processor speed are never a bad thing.

Another trip to the internet produced the necessary instructions and I could back up all my devices locally as well as using DropBox. Remembering the rule of three for backups, this was a result.

On top of this, I can now access my media collection from any device on my local networks and from the Internet. Total cost: £40

More neatness ……

More power to your ethernet

With two PIs and my various other devices, the wiring was getting a bit messy. Looking for way of sorting this out I cam across the idea of supplying power to a device through an ethernet connection. This is often referred to as Power Over Ethernet (POE). Even better, POE adaptors, called HATs in RP terms, were available for less than £10 each and POE switches, while not cheap, could be bought for as little as £15.

Remembering “buy cheap, buy twice” I settled on a pair of POE HATS and nice, mid-range, POE switch from Netgear for £35. The best bit? It was plug and play at it best. I literally installed the HATS, plugged in the cables, pressed the on switch and everything worked. Wow.

Rp Setup Pre POECabling ffter POE

Did I mention “neat”? I this case both technically and having fewer cable around.

What next?

When I have an idle five minutes I’ll probably put everything on the RP4 and keep the RP3 as a spare. It’ll save a smidgen of power and make the cabling simpler And I’ll definitely look at making it a VPN server, meaning that I can access all my network devices when I’m working away from home.

Of course, when i say I will do this, I mean that i will once again reply on the generosity of those wonderful people who publish the instructions that make the magic happen.

But none of this could happen without the original RP3 – truly a gift that keeps giving.

Over to you

If you have a comments on this post, or would like to share a story of something that you value, please leave a comment below.

Bob Windmill

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