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So for the past 48 or so hours, I have been using a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ as my primary work computer. Short story is that my laptop took a dump, I had been using my wife's Macbook Pro, but the Macbook is driving me crazy. I'm not used to MacOS, and it is really, REALLY slow. That was my first impression on it, just how slow it is. I expected a lot more out of such a high cost laptop. My wife says I'm just impatient, but I don't see why my $500 laptop blows her $1300 laptop out of the water in terms of speed. Anyways, this all led me to the dumb idea of wondering if my old Raspberry Pi 3 was up to the task. I really only need email, word and spreadsheet processing, and internet browsing. And since my work uses the Office 365 Suite for everything, I thought maybe the web-based system could work. So I grabbed my RPi3, dusted it off, and reloaded the SD card with a fresh copy of the Raspian OS to start from scratch.

For those that don't know, the Raspberry Pi is a small, cheap single board computer. the model 3 has 1gb of RAM, four USB ports, a HDMI port, built in wifi and bluetooth, and a ton of things you won't need unless you're a programmer or maker.
The Raspian Operating System is a super lightweight Linux-based operating system. It comes pre-loaded with LibreOffice (similar to Microsoft Office), Chromium web browser, and a ton of other stuff I don't need. It's free, optimized for the Raspberry Pi SBC, and super easy to use.

Results!
It's not perfect. Far from it, if I am being honest. It is actually a little faster than the Macbook. But is has frozen for a bit twice, once requiring a reboot, which is less than ideal, obviously. The Libre Writer (Word knockoff) is actually pretty decent, but one gripe is that the bullet point function is weird. Other than that, it's great. The web-based Outlook is wonderful for my emails, but the web-based Word doesn't seem to be a fully featured version, so I have just used Libre. Maps seem to be an area that the RPi3 falls short, though. I often use Mapquest for route planning, and it just falls flat on its face any time I try to use it, or even just Google Maps for research. Multi-tasking is okay at best. I am currently writing this, have a list going in Libre, and my email open in another tab, and that's about all it can handle. Again, fine for basic stuff, but if I am working like this, and then get a phone call and need to pause to do something else, the RPi3 tends to get a little unhappy. Most of this I'm sure would be MUCH improved using the RPi4, since it has a whopping 4GB of RAM. One thing that cannot be fixed, and the biggest reason I don't see myself using this long term, is the architecture. It cannot run Dropbox, which is integral to my work. I can use the web-based Dropbox to access my files, but opening them requires me to download them, open open them in Libre, make my changes, save, and then upload to Dropbox. Whereas the installed version of Dropbox, I have all the files at my fingertips, and saving them syncs it across all devices. I also do occasionally need to use Adobe Illustrator, which I'm pretty sure would explode this little thing.

This was a fun little project, and it's really cool to have a full on desktop computer that is smaller than the size of my iPhone. I will eventually buy the RPi4 in the 4GB configuration (it's available with 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of RAM) and will run this little experiment again. But for now, I need to save my pennies for a new laptop. I knew this would never be my full replacement, just getting by until Black Friday. In addition to my main 9-5 job (which is never actually 9-5), I also do vinyl decals and the design work behind it, so I use Adobe Illustrator and the software that runs my cutter very frequently, two things that a single board computer won't be able to do any time soon.

So tell me, what projects have you done with the Raspberry Pi (or similar sbc's)? Mine started out as a project I was working on for my B5 Audi. I was basically building a carputer using the CarPi OS. Plan was to be able to run music, NAV, and ODB2 functions through it. Ended up needing to sell the car before I finished, so it has been sitting for a few years now. But this experiment lit my fire again, so I plan to do something with this. Just not entirely sure what yet. Ideas?
 

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'18 and '19 Crosstrek Limiteds
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The obvious answer is to replace the crappy Harman HU... ?
 

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The obvious answer is to replace the crappy Harman HU... ?
Haha, I have a 2014 with the base Clarion. It does bluetooth streaming and that's all I wanted. I'm sure I'll replace it with a nav unit at some point, but I'm not in a rush on that. But I do have a nice 7" display with 10 finger touch... maybe I do a tablet style media center, that can be removed from the car when desired, kinda like what people do with iPad minis sometimes...
 

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I think the best thing I've done with a Raspberry Pi was to load in the Arm build of the Total Phase libraries, and run python scripts to control an Aardvark to drive test messages over I2C to am IMU test rig we were building.

Why use the Aardvark? Well, with the SDK I could proto on my PC, then we ported the code (no changes actually) to the RPi, and ran it headless through vnc from our EEs PC in the next room. Saved me from writing both PC and RPi test harnesses.

But your right, as a lightweight PC they are pretty good. I wouldn't want to use it for compiling code, but for basic word processor and spreadsheet, it competes.

Oh, I often my Chromebook as a vnc client to my headless RPi. Yup a $300 machine as mouse and keyboard to a $30 machine.

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I was thinking of using a pi zero w essentially as a scangauge II for cheap. I have the pi from a project in college and figured this would be a good use for it. It’s a lot less expensive than a scangauge for sure.
 

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I was thinking of using a pi zero w essentially as a scangauge II for cheap. I have the pi from a project in college and figured this would be a good use for it. It’s a lot less expensive than a scangauge for sure.
So given you have a $40 RPi to use. Add $8 for a 2x24 char lcd, $6 for an odb ii Plug, and $8 for a project box. Then you use a couple of junk cables to wire this up, that comes to about $70 in parts, for you about $30.

Now if there's code already to install, your home free, but I suspect there's some integration of screen driver and odb driver and then parser for the messaging. Just searching for The software components is going to take an hour or two, then you have up anywhere between 4 hours and a month of SW work to get it running.

I know my time is worth $100-150 per hour if I were consulting, so this becomes a very expensive project for me to do myself. Of course I'd be learning ODB, but that would only be of value of I worked in that industry.

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So given you have a $40 RPi to use. Add $8 for a 2x24 char lcd, $6 for an odb ii Plug, and $8 for a project box. Then you use a couple of junk cables to wire this up, that comes to about $70 in parts, for you about $30.

Now if there's code already to install, your home free, but I suspect there's some integration of screen driver and odb driver and then parser for the messaging. Just searching for The software components is going to take an hour or two, then you have up anywhere between 4 hours and a month of SW work to get it running.

I know my time is worth $100-150 per hour if I were consulting, so this becomes a very expensive project for me to do myself. Of course I'd be learning ODB, but that would only be of value of I worked in that industry.

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Pi zeros are $15, and yes the software and drivers are available. There are several tutorials on it online. Pi’s have a large open source community around them, which makes seemingly complicated projects much more approachable.

I was thinking more something to do on a weekend and not something to quit your day job for. I don’t know how to put a price on free time, so the cost savings is really just an added bonus. I feel the need to tinker and create things.

What kind of consulting are you involved with? There must be a nice take home at that rate.
 

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Pi zeros are $15, and yes the software and drivers are available. There are several tutorials on it online. Pi’s have a large open source community around them, which makes seemingly complicated projects much more approachable.

I was thinking more something to do on a weekend and not something to quit your day job for. I don’t know how to put a price on free time, so the cost savings is really just an added bonus. I feel the need to tinker and create things.

What kind of consulting are you involved with? There must be a nice take home at that rate.
Sure, when you have to pay 100% of you medical insurance, instead of 10-20% and you are also paying for licences for dev tools, and test equipment. You also have to cover the cost of down time between clients, vacation, sick time, noon billable hours for book keeping, and finding clients. At the end of the day, I gross about the same either way, but I'd rather have a full time job.

Embedded software.

And yeah, I know there's a lot of 3rd party SW out there, and probably a full functioning ODB reader with screen drivers for a selection of screens, both character and dot matrix. It should take an hour or so to troll GitHub, find something you like, buy the screen they used and then compile and run.

I was assuming a Pi3 or 4, which is ready for anything, the little ones are cool.

My work weeks are pretty full, and I like doing something not SW related at weekends.

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