PiDrive unboxing

Not so long ago ownCloud announced their cooperation with Western Digital. Outcome is PiDrive – basically home NAS solution. ARM board (RaspberryPi2) connected with HDD. And with the announcement of the cooperation came a challenge. Community was asked to come up with ideas regarding what would they do with it. Who was interested in working on the image that will be shipped as part of the final solution was offered a prototype of the device. I was one of the guys brainstorming about what to do with it. I had some ideas and already started working on some of them. More about them and the progress later. Currently I want to share some pictures of the PiDrive (as I already received the prototype) – obligatory unboxing and few thoughts on hardware.

Important note – whole this blog post is about prototype. Final device can be totally different.

So what do we have here? Let’s start with the ARM board. Raspberry Pi 2 has some advantages and some disadvantages from specs alone (just opened up the box, not booted up yet). It has only USB 2.0 (while drive itself supports USB 3.0) and only 100MBit ethernet, which is not that much nowadays. With BananaPi, it could get harddrive attached directly via SATA port and it would have 1GBit ethernet. But on the other hand 4 cores can be quite useful on device that is expected to run webserver. And if we learned anything from RaspberryPi it is that marketing matters a lot and thanks to it, there will be huge community around Raspberry Pi2 and thus plenty of interesting projects (and peripherals) can later come to PiDrive.

Box I got from post office

Box I got from post office
Picture 1 of 9

That kinda brings us to the box. As you can see on pictures, the prototype actually come with two boxes. One is black and other whiteish. Both of them are translucent, so you can see when some LED on your Pi is on or when harddrive is doing something. Both cases looks the same except of the colour. Really great idea is how to handle all the cables that go out of Pi. As you can guess, some are pretty mandatory – like power and ethernet. But there can be plenty of optional ones. More USB devices (keyboard, mouse, …), HDMI, some GPIO attached devices, maybe more. There would have to be plenty of holes to support all of them. The box solves the problem by letting you plug everything in and then having long and narrow hole in the back where you can guide out as many cables as you want. I really like the design of the box. Except one thing. I kinda miss the top of the box. In my case, top is open. You can see inside which is nice on one hand, but dust will be falling in quite heavily. I hope this will be fixed in final version or maybe just my devkit was missing the closure. One other small issue I have with box is that the stand that holds Pi and drive (board to board) doesn’t have hard plastic everywhere between them and I’m kinda worried that both board could touch if they vibrate enough and short out, but maybe it’s well tested and impossible and I’m just worried without any reason. But despite this criticism, I really like the boxing for the PiDrive. And I will somehow create a top of the box myself.

One last thing I haven’t mentioned yet is hard drive itself. It is 2.5″ 1T WD drive. More specs once I get the device booting. And there is a really cool cable attached to it. It has one power input, one power output as micro-USB (that goes to Raspberry), one USB that goes to USB port of Raspberry to connect it with drive and one micro-USB 3 that goes to the drive (both power and data). Kinda cool how it connects power and data while having four heads.

Overall I really like the idea and the project. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but I’m happy that I’ll be part of the effort. So take a look at the pictures for now and I will create another blog post once I’ll have something up and running and some practical experience with the setup.


openSUSE Summit Asia 2015

Me & BudhaLast year first ever openSUSE Summit Asia took place in Beijing. From all the reports it sounded really awesome and I regretted that I couldn’t go. This year, I was lucky enough to manage to go. I was selected to do a board keynote and I got some of my travel expenses sponsored by Travel Support Programme (big thanks!). So how was this years openSUSE Summit Asia from my point of view? In short, amazing 🙂 In long, read on…

Let’s start with my Taiwan trip. I have never been to Taiwan before and visiting this country, which is quite different from my homeland, was by itself amazing. Lot of small shops everywhere, old and new temples between modern shopping centers, scooters everywhere, free WiFi in turistic places in Taipei… And friendly people everywhere. One really handy thing I noticed is that on every underground station, some buses and on few other places as well are recharging stations for your notebooks/cellphones. It is only starting to happen in my home town and in past I had several occasions when I could really use something like that. In Taipei, quite often you can see people recharging their devices so they can continue travelling 🙂 Other really interesting thing is kinda Foursquare predecessor. On plenty of places, you have a rubber stamp that you can use to put a mark in your log. On underground stations, all tourist offices, tourist attractions and more. So as you are travelling, you have a log of places you have been to. Really interesting comparing to all the high-tech stuff you see all around. I could go on how amazing Taiwan was from tourists point of view, but lets get to the main reason I was there – openSUSE Summit Asia.

Me & MascotEverything started on Friday by openSUSE Leap release party. It was combined with Ubuntu party. Both communities mixed well together and it was obvious that they know each other well and are friends. As everywhere in Taiwan, everybody was really friendly. I met there guy from Canonical who had Ubuntu phone, I showed him my Jolla, he showed me his Ubuntu phone, we talked and I was giving it some thoughts. I was thinking about what to buy as my next phone as Jolla was in deep troubles back than. Luckily they are now out of the dark, so I can look forward to next Jolla phone, but Ubuntu phone is still interesting especially as it can be probably converted into openSUSE phone 🙂 There was some talking in Chinese by the host that everybody seemed to enjoy and then lightning talks. One Debian guy did a presentation of C web framework. After that I stepped up and did presentation of my favourite C++ web framework afterwards. We had some pizza, some local food, something to drink and even birthday celebration of one of the community members. It was a lot of fun.

During the weekend was the summit itself. There was plenty of talks and workshops, some of it in Chinese, some of it in English. I did the keynote on behalf of openSUSE Board. Than I tried attending the Chinese workshop, but I got lost quite quickly, so I ended up following only the English part of the track. Regardless, there were some really interesting talks. One I would like to stress out is the talk that emphasises the importance of summit in Asia. There was a talk and long discussion regarding input methods. I found out that input methods varies a lot. Some uses English transcription, some maps keys on English keyboard to some Chinese signs, not sure whether full characters. But it varies a lot and it is not that easy to set it up. Now it is easier thanks to Chameleon tongue 🙂 And it is a type of problem, that is not that interesting in Europe/America, but is really important in Asia.

Apart from talks, there was as on every conference a lot of talks in the corridor and connecting with people and making new friends. We even had a visit from lizardy mascot 🙂 I learned what to visit on Taiwan, where to buy stuff, how is the conference infrastructure setup, that there is ongoing effort to publish openSUSE Japanese magazine and much more. I was a lot of fun. As a proof of how much fun was it, you can take a look at the pictures taken during the conference.


Introducing OCTV – ownCloud + ARM + old TV

CRT TVDo you remember my post about how Raspberry Pi revived my old TV? This is partially continuation of that post but also something new. Lets start with recap of what I did almost a year ago. I connected my Raspberry Pi to old CRT TV, installed video player and hacked together few CGI scripts to manage it. I got my old useless TV to do something useful again. Over the time, I made few modifications, introduced caching and added support for mpv to support not only Raspberry, but also better computers, like CubieBoard.

Now for the other part of the story. I was using CubieBoard as my home server for pretty long time, actually since the preordered one arrived. Unfortunately it aged a little and I upgraded my home network switch to gigabit one and this was one important part of infrastructure that didn’t supported it yet. At the same time my relatives could use some simple home server on slow local network. So I decided to pass on my CubieBoard and get myself a new board. As my father was also eyeing for my Raspberry I decided to replace both my ARM boards with only one. And as I needed it fast, I went for BananaPi because

  • they had it in local store in stock (no waiting)
  • it has composite video output I need for my old TV till I get a new one
  • it’s Allwiner and thus quite well supported
  • it has gigabit network card

Since I was doing major changes, I also wanted to improve my scripts a little. As I considered file browsing capabilities of my scripts the biggest weakness (well together with caching that was trying to address part of the problem of the browsing capabilities and broke from time to time), I decided to do some bigger change. Since I knew opensource web app that has great file browsing capabilities, I decided to take advantage of it and rewrote my scripts to became ownCloud app. An so I did. It is simple and clumsy, but it does something. It can play movies and you can control the player from the WebUI. If you don’t care about security too much. And do few important security holes into your system.

Few non-obvious tricks for BananaPi. If you want accelerated video and composite video output, you have to use old sunxi 3.4 kernel (which doesn’t build with gcc 5). Apart from that you have to give quite some memory to graphics card. I used following on kernel command line:

sunxi_g2d_mem_reserve=32 sunxi_ve_mem_reserve=128 sunxi_no_mali_mem_reserve sunxi_fb_mem_reserve=32

And to make it work, you need libvdpau-sunxi to get accelerated drivers and you probably also want xf86-video-fbturbo to have non-video Xorg faster as well. I made packages out of those and you can currently find them in my personal repository (together with kernel package) but don’t worry, I’ll be pushing them somewhere more official over the time (xf86-video-turbo should be in Factory already).

Everything ended well, in the end I switched from Raspberry Pi to something more powerful what can still bring my old CRT TV into 21st century. But I’m back at square one(with hopefully better technology to start with) and need to re-add features I got used to and learn a little bit more about ownCloud internals to be better/more efficient ownCloud developer 🙂

PS: Pull requests are welcome as I don’t know much about ownCloud or CSS or JavaScript or whatever it is I’m doing 🙂


OBS Screensaver

screensaverSome of you might know that I was and in part still am a Gentoo user as well. I always found something reassuring in watching terminal with compilation going on. It is a nice sight. Compiler crunching all those sources and preparing something new for you. On some conference I even saw Gentoo guys showing a recording of Gentoo installation – a lot of compilation in there. I really liked it and I thought that it would make a nice screensaver.

So how can I have such a nice experience in binary distribution like openSUSE? All the packages are built by OBS and I get only binaries. No obvious way how to heat up my apartment with my computer. But I can still get the nice almost warm feeling of packages being compiled! Solution is pretty easy, I just configured xscreensaver to use my script and show me what OBS is working on! The outcome is, I have a screensaver that shows in the cool way compilation output of what OBS is working on right now. I still can smell fresh packages being baked, but without heating up my CPU.

How to do it? Quite simple. You need the following simple script:

  1. #!/bin/bash
  3. mkdir -p ~/.obs-saver
  4. cd ~/.obs-saver
  6. while true; do
  7. URL="$(curl --connect-timeout 2 '' 2> /dev/null | \
  8. sed -n 's|.*/package/live_build_log/\([^"]*\)/\([^/]*\)/\([^/]*\)/\([^/]*\)".*|\1/\3/\4/\2/_log|p' | \
  9. sed -n "`expr 5 + \( ${RANDOM} \* 10 / 32767 \)` p")"
  10. if [ "$URL" ]; then
  11. curl --connect-timeout 2 "$URL" 2> /dev/null | tee "`date +%s`"
  12. LAST_BL="`ls -1 | tail -n 1`"
  13. if [ "`wc -l "$LAST_BL" | sed 's|\ .*||'`" -lt 5 ]; then
  14. rm "$LAST_BL"
  15. cat "`ls -1 | sort -R | tail -n 1`" 2> /dev/null
  16. else
  17. rm -f "`ls -1 | head -n -10`"
  18. fi
  19. else
  20. cat "`ls -1 | sort -R | tail -n 1`" 2> /dev/null
  21. fi
  22. done

Save it as obs-saver in your ~/bin and make sure it is executable. Then if you are using xscreensaver, select “Phosphor” screen saver and in settings -> advanced, use following command line:

phosphor -root -scale 3 -ticks 5 -delay 2000 -program ~/bin/obs-saver

Now if you are connected to the internet and you will wait for screensaver to kick in, it will randomly select one of the latest packages being build on OBS and it will start showing you it’s build log 🙂 I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do! Feeling of stuff being compiled without actually wasting that much of electricity is great 😉


Introducing ZXDB

Lately I have been playing a lot with some cool technologies. I had a lot of fun, so I want to share some of it and at least point you to the interesting pieces of technology to check out. And it also inspired me to my new project which I would like to introduce with this blog post.

ZeroMQ & friends

Lets start with ZeroMQ. It is lightweight messaging library with really nice API. And the tools around it? CZMQ brings even nicer API and there is also zproto which let’s you generate protocol handling code and even state machines easily. You just describe it and zproto will generate all the code for you. I know that you might think that code generation is evil. And quite some time it is. But this one is not 🙂 Generated code is nice, readable and it really helps with productivity. You don’t have to write copy&paste code and drown yourself in writing stuff that was written thousand times before already. You can concentrate on the logic of your application – the only important part – and disregard all those irrelevant boring processing functions. So ZeroMQ in combination with zproto is one of the interesting stuff I’ve been playing with lately. And I would recommend you to do so as well 🙂


Other interesting opensource project I’ve been playing with is TNTNET, TNTDB and CXXTools. It’s actually three different libraries, but they are under one umbrella. They also have a really nice API, this time C++ compared to C one in ZeroMQ.

TNTNET is a way how to write web applications in C++. And as most of the we b applications need database, TNTDB is database abstraction layer that let’s you write applications that can easily be deployed against SQLite or MySQL or even PostgreSQL without any modifications to the code. And CXXTools is just a collection of handy utilities that doesn’t fit in neither, but can be used and are used by both.


Now let’s introduce my new project – ZXDB. It combines both. As I was writing some web application (in C++), I found it quite boring dealing with database and doing all those selects, keeping data somewhere, doing updates and stuff. As it is boring and copy&paste and boring, I thought about the abstracting it a little bit and I wrote initial gsl (templating system zproto uses) template, that will generate all the boring code for me.

Now I’m able to easily add or remove properties, I don’t have to deal with database directly as I have a nice class based abstraction on top if and this generated abstraction is using TNTDB to be database independent. I was quite excited when I started playing with this. So much that now I’m even generating unit tests for those generated classes 🙂

It is far from perfect and it is missing plenty of features, but it already does something, so it is time to ship it (it compiles at least for me 🙂 ). I put it on GitHub alongside with some instruction. If you are interested, go take a look. And if you will get interested even more, patches are welcome 😉

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