Philip P. Ide

Author, programmer, science enthusiast, half-wit.
Life is sweet. Have you tasted it lately?

User Tools

Site Tools


Pi Zero Plan

I've been wondering what to do with my Raspberry Pi Zero, and didn't think I'd come up with an idea for a few months. Like most things, it's not necessarily a good idea to go looking for a use for it: wait until a use suggests itself.

Anyway, I'd seen a project where someone had turned a Zero into a mobile phone. I kid you not. It didn't have a touch screen, but it was great for receiving calls and SMS text messages, and the fact that it looked like it was home-made has that nerdy appeal. I decided that maybe, one day I'll do that, but not this year.

The Project

I decided in the end to go for something that was outwardly less ambitious, but for me was just as useful yet push the Zero and test its limits. As with all great arch-villians, I began to lay out my plans in a structured manner, and I really did start to feel like an arch-vllian when I realised what I was going to put my poor Pi Zero through. Still, with the proper training (read: correct software properly configured) I felt that this under-powered computer-on-a-card that has less working memory than my MP3 player might actually be able to do it. There was only way to find out. Actually, three if you add in Pi social media groups and the official Pi forums, but where's the fun in that?

  • install a lite operating system, such as DietPi
  • configure SSH because a GUI is too heavy and we need a way in
  • attach the Zero to ethernet via USB because I don't want to turn WiFi on

That may seem odd, but I don't like WiFi. On the other hand, ethernet over USB is going to draw 280mAh. I'll see how it goes.

  • Add a powered USB hub to increase the Zero's one port to seven
  • Add on an external drive that has been laying idle and is expendable (because stuff happens)
  • Copy to it the local copy of my website
  • Launch and configure Apache web server (reducing worker threads from 250 to 25)
  • Test webserver is working

The Zero should be able to cope with Apache and PHP, but with only 512Mb of memory, this could be a point of failure. Even if I can't run Apache+PHP, we have a copy of the website on the hard disk, and that'll be important later on.

  • Install the two cron jobs that fetch data from NASA servers and updates the local and public websites
  • Install and configure the NAS (network-attached storage) software

the NAS software allows the Zero to manage the attached drives and make them visible to any other computers on the network. Initial testing will be with the single half-terrabyte drive I attached earlier. If everything is working fine, I can move all the other external drives over to the Zero. It will then be managing more than 8Tb. As a bonus, my desk will be less cluttered and the morass of cables I have to contend with will naturally tidy themselves up somewhere else.

I could go further and turn the Zero into a PiHole. If you're unfamiliar with this, you basically turn it into a DNS server and route all internet access through it by simply setting it as the DNS server in the network configuration on the other machines. Once it effectively become the gateway, it can block adverts - which is the whole point of of PiHole. Anyway, that's a decision for the future.

This website uses cookies. By using the website, you agree with storing cookies on your computer. Also you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy. If you do not agree leave the website.More information about cookies
blog/articles/info/pi_zero_plan.txt · Last modified: 2020/07/04 12:59 by Phil Ide

Except where otherwise noted, content on this wiki is licensed under the following license: Copyright © Phil Ide
Donate Powered by PHP Valid HTML5 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki
  • ISSplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigInternational Space Station

    This page has a portal through which you can view the current location of the International Space Station, updating in real-time. The tracker itself comes from the European Space Agency (ESA).

    There is also a handy link to get email notifications direct from NASA when the ISS is visible in your night sky.
  • Mars Weatherplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Weather

    Weather Reports Insight Lander Perseverance Rover Curiosity data to come [Current positions of Earth and Mars] Image courtesy of and © Dominic Ford

    This image is updated once per week. A daily update is available on the Mars Solar Conjunctions page when such events are active.

    You can check the position of Mars vs the Sun and Earth for any date here:
  • Downloadsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDownloads

    Orbital Calculator Current Version This is a portable application, meaning there is no installer. Just unzip into a folder and run the executable. Since it is portable, it can be run from a USB stick.

    A full description and a list of the features are available
  • Orbital Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator

    I needed to calculate orbital characteristics for any orbit around any gravitational mass (because I write sci-fi stories), so I wrote this program because I'm a programmer and I'm too lazy to do it by hand all the time. The program has expanded over the last few years, sometimes from suggestions by other writers. I make it freely available and as simple to use as possible. It now has a list of functions as long as your arm (assuming you're not a tentacle user), and the numbe…
  • Cookie Policy & GDPRplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCookie Policy & GDPR

    There are NO tracking cookies on this site!

    The Cookie policy is straightforward. This site only uses cookies that are required to make your experience of using this site better, and only uses session cookies (see exceptions below). Session cookies are deleted when you close your browser.
  • Book Reviewsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigBook Reviews

    Here you can find all the book reviews, broken down by genre, and further subdivided by author. If you want me to review your novel, please read my Rules on Reviewing.

    * Science-Fiction * Fantasy * Non-Fiction
  • Contactplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigContact

    If you have a burning desire to contact me, use the discussion form below. Anything you say remains private between you and me.