Multipurpose Raspberry Pi: Installing a Media, Gaming, PC Replacement

Have Your Pi and Eat It!
 

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Kodi Media Center Logo
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In this post I’ll be documenting how I set up a Raspberry Pi 3 (you can also use a Pi 2) as a lightweight PC replacement, combining a fully-fledged desktop GUI (Raspbian), Media Center (Kodi), and video games console and computer emulation suite (RetroPie).

The Pi 3 actually makes for a very capable PC replacement; this, and recent, posts, including graphics work, have been undertaken solely on the machine.

Topics Covered in this Post

A Little Background

I have a couple of older Raspberry Pi machines, each of which is limited to a single task. The Model 1 Pi has been doing duty for a couple of years as a media center, and is dedicated to running XBMC (named for XBox Media Center, showing the roots of the project which is now known as Kodi).

The Pi 2 is currently used for retro video gaming, running an installation of RetroPie 2; I ill-advisedly used the retropie_setup.sh script option to delete Raspbian files that were not directly needed by RetroPie, thereby removing the option of using the machine as a desktop replacement.

Having taken delivery of a shiny new Raspberry Pi 3 I was keen to take advantage of the increased power of the machine, along with a sizable 64GB SD Card, using it to perform multiple duties: a media center, a retro-gaming system, and PC workstation. I also wanted to avoid the need for swapping SD Cards, which is both a hassle and introduces needless wear and tear on the card port.

Raspberry Pi 3 within Camac Case, with PiHut Heatsink
Raspberry Pi 3 within Camac Case, with PiHut Heatsink

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Overclocking and Stability Testing the Raspberry Pi 2 – Part 4: SD Storage Testing

Stability Testing an Overclocked Raspberry Pi
 

In the final part of the series of posts concerning Overclocking and Stability Testing the Raspberry Pi, we will be checking SD Card Storage reliability with the elinux.org Stability Test Script.

Smashed Hard Drive – Image: thefileroom.com
Smashed Hard Drive – Image: thefileroom.com

Introducing the Overclocking Stability Test Script

The Stability Test Script is a program from elinux.org, described on that site as:

…a script to stress-test the stability of the system, specifically the SD card. If this script runs to completion, without any errors showing in dmesg, then the Raspberry Pi is probably stable with these settings

Why Stability Test the Pi’s SD Storage?

As noted in Part One of this series, in the early days (and years) of the Pi’s existence there were apparently widespread issues whereby overclocked machines experienced corrupted SD card data. The official, definitive, information on this issue comes from elinux.org: SD Card Usage with Overclocking

Stability of SD card operations when using overclocking is independent of:

  • Filesystem type, ext4, NTFS or other.
  • SD card vendor.
  • The Raspberry Pi model.
  • SD card size – verified for 16 GB and up.

What does matter is when you under-power your Raspberry Pi (that is, less than the Raspberry Pi base setup specifications!).

There initially was an increased likelihood of SD card corruption when using overclocking. This is no longer an issue (with firmware from Nov 11 2013 or later).

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Looking after your Pi – Part 2 – General Handling

Following on from the previous post, which covers the importance of using a quality power supply with the Raspberry Pi, this post will cover:

  • General handling of the Pi, electrostatic discharge, and using an enclosure
  • Best practices for connection and disconnection of peripherals
  • Pi shutdown and SD card handling

General Handling

An earlier version of the aforementioned Raspberry Pi Regulatory Compliance and Safety Information (specific to Model A and B variants of Pi) offers some general handling advice, which applies equally to all electronics:

“Take care whilst handling to avoid mechanical or electrical damage to the printed circuit board and connectors.”

“Avoid handling the Raspberry Pi while it is powered. Only handle by the edges to minimize the risk of electrostatic discharge damage.”

Further useful general handling tips can be found in the article Working safely with your Pi, which includes the following advice:

“…in general, turn it off before changing what it’s connected to

The exceptions to this are the USB and Ethernet ports, which are designed to be pluggable. The non-exception to this is the HDMI port which, unlike for every other console or computer you’ve owned recently, you should only connect or disconnect with the power off.

The silent killer for components is static electricity
get into the habit of grounding yourself, by touching something large and metal, before touching the components”

It goes without saying that enclosing the Raspberry Pi in a suitable case can only help increase the robustness and lifespan of the device, aiding in protection against accidental knocks and reducing electrostatic discharge risks.

As noted in the System Overview post on this blog, my Pi is encased in a Carmac enclosure which provides a balance of protection and passive cooling

image

SD Card handling

A helpful guide covering best pratices for shutting down the Pi correctly to avoid SD card corruption is the article 3 reasons why your Raspberry Pi doesn’t work properly from MakeUseOf.com; this also contains further recommendations to use a quality Psu with quality cabling.

If the Pi doesn’t do anything when powered on, one thing to check is the SD card, as noted in in the aforementioned Raspberry Pi User Guide 2nd edition:

“If your Pi’s power light glows when you connect the micro-USB power supply, but nothing else happens and the OK light remains dark, you have an SD card problem”

(chapter 4, troubleshooting)

Related Posts
Links: Raspberry Pi and Gaming Emulation via RetroPie

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