Sunday, June 29, 2014

APpy, APpy, APpy

After getting the Raspberry Pi to talk to the internet the other night and before going to bed, I decided to check some software out to see if any new versions were out - things like JMRI for the club PC, browsers and such. As you do, I also checked for anything new for the Raspberry PI - you guessed it - a new version of Raspbian was out. So I started the downloads of the new NOOBS 1.3.8 and just because, the full Raspian (Debian Wheezy) that was also released on the 20th of June. Then I hit the sack happy with my progress that night.

The front of the Raspberry Pi board

So on Saturday night I decided to do more playing on the Pi - nothing much on TV and I'm sort of past the let's go out and party just because it's Saturday (does that me me old?  Yup - and I don't care!). So the Pi was plugged into the wall socket and away I went.

The back of the Raspberry Pi board

First order of business was to grab an SD Card of 4 GB capacity and get it ready to use the new version of the operating system. I used the “SD Formatter 4.0 for SD/SDHC/SDXC” program available at:      to get the SD Card ready.

This is the case that came with my Starter Kit

So I then followed the instructions from the Raspberry mob at:     to format the SD Card and to install “NOOBS” on the SD Card, and NO it has nothing to do with BOOBS! This NOOBS thing is a sort of boot loader that installs the operating system you want onto the SD card once it is on your Raspberry Pi itself and has no mammary glands involved with it (damn shame...). NOOBS actually stands for New Out Of Box Software. I chose to use the “Raspbian” operating system when it asked.

The SD Card in the Starter Kit had NOOBS on it ready to roll

So we now skip to where we have followed the Raspberry instructions and now have the Raspbian operating system installed on the Pi via our NOOBS process. We have also set our locale and other minor settings and the thing now boots up and you can actually login to it. To test that the beast was working I plugged in my ethernet cable and fired up a web browser and hit the internet. I then pulled out the ethernet cable and plugged in the USB Wireless Dongle and configured it via the WiFi Config tool sitting on the desktop of my Pi. It then able to talk to my phone and hence to the internet – all good as per the other evening in fact.

Nano sized USB Wireless Dongle

I'll digress here for a tad. Now there are many places to buy your Raspberry Pi and the bits and pieces for it. I'll mention in this blog where I got mine from, but don't let that be your bible of where to get things - always suss out the competition, as you can save money sometimes and location or service may suit you better with other places of supply. Now I got my Pi from a place called Element 14 on the internet. I purchased the Model B Raspberry Pi which was available in a "Starter Kit" for $71.50. This got my an SD card, Power supply, the Pi and a case for it. The basic Pi is $41.80 and you could source the other bits yourself or may even have some at home - I know I have SD Cards all over the place with my cameras and such. Anyway, that's how I got my Pi.

My Zipp & Port USB Powered Hub

While I was at it I decided to buy, from the same supplier, a HDMI to VGA convertor cable so that I could use my old monitors to watch my Pi on. If you have a new monitor or TV, then you would have HDMI sockets on them and would only need a simple HDMI cable to connect your Pi. But I don't and went the slightly more expensive way and got my convertor - a "PiView" at just over 40 bucks, which of course is made to work with the Pi. The other items I needed were a powered USB Hub and a USB Wi-Fi Dongle. I got the Hub from Big W - it was a "Zipp USB 7 Port Hub" and was $16 and the dongle I got from Jaycar - it was an "N150 Nano USB 2.0 Wireless Network Adaptor" and was 19 dollars and 95 cents. There was nothing else I really needed, as I already had a spare USB Keyboard and USB Mouse kicking around the house.

HDMI to VGA Convertor Cable - "PiView"

OK, back to the actual build of my Pi system. A very handy piece of software to install next was of course some remote access software. This way we do not need to have a monitor, keyboard or mouse attached to the Raspberry Pi – we can remote control it from other PC’s. Again I have followed the Raspberry instructions and used “TightVNC” software. I have then gone and set it up to auto start every time the machine is turned on. I have to admit I also got some help from this website for this install:

With this TightVNC installed, I was able to install the client part of the software on my PC and remote control the Pi. I no longer needed the monitor on the Pi turned on while doing the rest of my work on the Pi. Now, I had already used this next site, and probably most in the club had bypassed the articles in Semaphore – I am talking of the Raspberry Pi based articles that Greg B in the club has done. He is currently the Raspberry Pi guru for me. So his main article that was in Semaphore is available from his blog and I have been following it with minor changes here and there to suit my hardware I am using:

Picture of my PC screen remoted into my Raspberry Pi with TightVNC

As mentioned earlier, the Pi by default was able to connect to the internet with my purchased dongle (via my house wi-fi). My next step was getting this WeeFee gadget to work as an Access Point. Because the WiFi Dongle I bought was not quite a bog standard AP driver that the Pi could use, I had problems. From research on the web and the use of commands found out there, I was able to deduce that the Jaycar USB Wi-Fi Dongle had a RealTek RTL8188 chip in it. But with the help of this bloke and his website, I was able to get my gadget to act as an AP:     He has written a very good article and a script on how to do it and it worked marvelously.

So by the end of the evening, I was able to connect my iPhone and Tablet to my Raspberry Pi via Wi-Fi. This was a decidedly good result and I was able to then go to bed before midnight - APpy.

Next job will be to setup the bits to then be able to install and use JMRI on my Raspberry Pi. First up will be to put my NCE USB board into a box to keep it tidy and safe. So bye till next time. Here is that NCE USB board:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Do You Want Cream With That?

What do you want with your Pi?  Trains Please!

So I got myself a Pi, a Raspberry Pi that is. No it is not something edible, it is a tiny computer. I'll not explain it all here, but suffice to say it will replace the need for a laptop on our club N Scale Exhibition Layout.

We use a laptop computer to run JMRI and the wireless component of it so that we can all use out phones and tablets to control our model trains. We have of course our NCE 5 amp DCC system in place and rather than use their radio addons which have a few limitations, particularly at shows, we will use JMRI and "wireless" technology which doesn't have the same problems.

Over a bunch of posts and time, I will detail out my purchases, setup and testing of the Raspberry Pi on the club layout. This will of course come in real handy once I get my own layout up and running as it will be one of the ways I will be controlling my trains at home.

So tonight I finally cleared a space on one of my desks in the house that used to have up until a few hours back, my old PC on it. There is now space where I put all my bits and pieces for my Pi so I could see them and hook them together.

But tonight I will not bore you with all the details, I'll leave that for another day, tonight I can advise I was able to load up NOOBS v1.37 and install Wheezy Raspbian (7 Jan 2014). I was able to browse the web using the ethernet connection as well as disconnect that cable and plug in the wireless dongle and connect to the web via a wireless connection via the iPhone. So I am on my way with it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Video Time

OK, so here are the videos of the Rigel (Titan) trio putting up my Carport and Patio:

2 Blokes and a Sheila

A Carport as a Patio

Have fun watching the build.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Peeking around the Back Corner

So after the majority of the front carport was done, the back carport or as I call it The Patio, became the focus of everyone's attention.

First item in the list of things to do is to get all the parts spread out so you know where they are.

So once everything was found and laid out, it was time to put up the main structure - easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

As these four sections went up, the posts got bolted to the slab in the same way as the front carport was done. The hard yakka was left up to our only lady on the job, and she knocked it off nicely.

Now originally I had wanted a patio with insulated roofing material - you know the stuff - two sheets of tin with foam in the middle. I had thought, and rightly so, that the more insulation over my noggin, the cooler I'd be in the hot sun - or out of it.

But Titan don't do patios, but they do have carports. The sales dude pointed out that a flat roofed carport is constructed with a pile of "C" beams that lend themselves to having insulation popped in between them and sheeting screwed into place to hold it all in. This then gives the required insulation and noggin protection. It is also cheaper - I liked that part too.

So now was time for all the "C" beams to get bolted into place - This thing looks cyclone proof, earthquake proof and dynamite extra hot chilli bean curry proof!

After these "C" beams were in, it was a few strips of tophat metal strips to tie things together a bit.

At the same time that one fella is doing these strips, the other bloke was bolting the bracing in place to hold the main four beams to the posts.

It was now time to weather proof the structure and give it a roof. So one bloke is up on the roof bolting the sheets loosely in place while the other one is on the ground handing up the 7.5m long sheets of iron.

Once the iron is up there, both blokes go at it hammer and tongs and apply the 5,000,000 screws to hold the iron down to the structure.

And that is pretty much it. A bit of tidying up by the team and they were outta there with a job very well done!

All I had to do was to do a bit of hosing to get the dirt off the slab. Boy was I exhausted! - hehehe.

After hosing the slab,  I dragged out a small table and some chairs and grabbed a sixpack or two. So, beer for my neighbours Alex and Daniel and myself and later on Sharon came down with some vino and Graeme came down with some tokay and we christened the new patio. So here is the last shot just before the lights went out for the night.

I've still got some video material to put together of the build, which I hope to sort out over the weekend - so stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I Spy with My Little Electronic Eye

So 6:30 am this morning, three cars turn up, one of them towing all the tools a fella could want - to be able to put sheds and such up. Yes, the Rigel (Titan's erector group) peoples were here. No slackers in this mixed bunch, we had a couple of blokes and a sheila doing the hard slog today. The target was to get a double carport (gable type) erected out the front of my place for my car and trailer to sit under, as well as a second double carport out the back to act as my new patio, for me to sit under.

So we started the day with two nice clean slabs of concrete and the building materials that arrived a week or so back.

The front carport was the first to be built, starting with the gable ends being laid out and the fascias for them cut out to fit and then fixed to them.

Then the ends were stood up and propped in place for the time being.

The main 7.2 metre side beams were then added and the main roof A-frames put into place and all bolted together.

Then it was time for all the base plates to be bolted to the concrete. They take three concrete bolts to hold each one down.

Next to go on were the metal tophats. These are named because they sort of resemble a tophat in cross section.

After the tophats were on, then the diagonal metal straps were cut and bolted into place - these help to keep it all square.

Then of course there are the braces between the posts and the roof beams to add more strength. This thing is bullet proof! (OK then, cyclone proof)

Coloured side panels came next along the main beams. Then of course the guttering brackets were screwed into place.

Following this was the obvious - the guttering.

Here are our two intrepid blokes. And nope, the lady of the group was not out making a run for pies and sausage rolls - she was actually starting on the patio and getting roofing materials ready for the front. No mucking around here - the fellas have to go get their own tucker!

It was now time for the roof panels to go on. Whilst our lady friend was getting the roofing iron and handing it up, one of the blokes was screwing it down. Once he had it roughly screwed into place it was time to put the 5,000,000 screws into the iron to hold it down against the gravitational pull of the sun... and wind.

After all the roofing screws were in, it was time for the ridge capping to go on.

With the neat cutting tool, they can cut the ridge capping to match the curves of the corro iron sheeting - beats hand snips, that's for sure.

The front and rear fascia edges were the last to go one and that was it - complete - fini.

After the guys had cleaned up and left, I got the hose out and cleaned the footprints off the cement and we were done.

I'll do the back patio and videos of both in the next few days. Needless to say, I christened the back patio tonight with a few beers, wines and tokays with the neighbours and upstairs :o)