Sort of Getting the Pi

I’m running tech and DT for the Manchester Cadet next weekend.

One of the things we were asked to look in to this year was streaming the event. There’s a number of ways to do this, ranging from hiring camera crews and per piste cameras through to cheap webcams showing the entire venue.

I also needed some kind of box to capture the feed and push it somewhere useful, say Youtube Live.

There’s a off the shelf devices that can do this, but they tend to start and more than pennies and go to OMG-lots. This is a first year test, we simply want to see how it works. So I ordered a Pi, a case and a Pi Camera.

I’ve not really used a Pi previously. I’ve not had a need. I have a big machine that I use to do programming on, and if I want to do embedded-type things I tend to lean towards Arduino. But I needed more than an Arduino and less than a full PC, so I Pi it is.

And I think I sort of get it now.

There’s a few distinct advantages to the Pi platform:

  1. Cost. It’s practically disposable. Board, camera, and case cost me ~ 50 GBP. If something happens to it, I’ll be annoyed, but not … painfully upset. Because I need two, I can just order another set of components for not much cash.
  2. Modularity. I have two Micro-SD cards. The first one, an 8GB is running Raspbian, with a few scripts on to start the camera and stream to Youtube live. It’s configured to run on the network that’s sat next to me on boot, which I can then access via ssh. The second one, a 16GB SD card, is rigged for fun, and is running RetroPie with a whole load of ROMS. We killed a couple of hours last night having fun playing old SNES games with a 360 controller. Switching between these two very distinct functions simply involves removing the camera, and changing the MicroSD card. Superb.
  3. Cloneability. I need a second camera. I just buy a second set of components, clone the MicroSD (which should take a whole five minutes) and I have a complete, second unit. Oh, and quickly change the second static IP address.
  4. Dispos…ability? I screwed up the first attempt at getting the camera working. All I did was clone a new SD card, and we were going again.

There’s other advantages with HATs, shields, GPIO, electronics. Cool. But as a basic “throw it together” platform to solve problems[tm], it’s superb. And a lot of fun.

When this event is over, one is going to be used more pernamently for emulation, the other may become a holiday cat-camera or some such. More ideas to come.