Build an IoT device with Ubuntu Appliance and Raspberry Pi

The new Ubuntu Appliance portfolio provides free images to help you turn your Raspberry Pi into an IoT device: just install them to your SD card and you have all the software you need to make a media server, get started with home automation, and more. Canonical’s Rhys Davies is here to tell us all about it.

We are delighted to announce the new Ubuntu Appliance portfolio. Together with NextCloud, AdGuard, Plex, Mosquitto and openHAB, we have created the first in a new class of Ubuntu derivatives. Ubuntu Appliances are software-defined projects that enable users to download everything they need to turn a Raspberry Pi into a device that does one thing – beautifully.

The Ubuntu Appliance mission is to enable you to build your own secure, self-updating, single-purpose devices. Tell us what you want to see next, or let’s talk about turning your project into the next Ubuntu Appliance in Discourse. For now, we are excited to bring these initial appliances to your attention.

The initial portfolio of five

  • Plex Media Server allows its users to organise and stream their own collection of movies, TV, music, podcasts and more from one place.
  • Mosquitto is a lightweight open source MQTT message broker, for use on all devices from low power single board computers to full-scale industrial grade servers.
  • OpenHAB is a pluggable architecture that allows users to design rules for automating their home, with time- and event-based triggers, scripts, actions, notifications and voice control.
  • AdGuard Home blocks annoying banners, pop-ups and video ads to make web surfing faster, safer and more comfortable.
  • NextCloud is an on-premise content collaboration platform that allows users to host their own private cloud at home or in the office.

How it all works

Head over to the Ubuntu Appliances website, click the appliance you would like, select download, follow the instructions, and away you go. Once you get to this stage, there are links to tutorials and documentation written by the upstream project themselves, so you can get next steps from the horse’s mouth. If you run into any bother let us know with a new topic and we’ll get on it.

But why bother?

The problem we are trying to solve is to do with the fragmentation in IoT. We want to give publishers and developers a platform to get their software in the hands of their users and into their devices. We work with them to securely bundle the OS, their applications and configurations into a single download that is available for anyone to turn a Raspberry Pi into a dedicated device. You can go to the portfolio and download as many of the appliances as you like and start using them today.

How to add your project to the Ubuntu Appliance portfolio

All of this gives a stage and a secure, production-grade base to projects. There are no restrictions on who can make an Ubuntu Appliance; all you need is an application that runs on a Raspberry Pi or another certified board, and to let us know what you’ve got so we can help you over the line. If you need more information, head to our community page where you’ll find the rules and the exact steps to become featured as an Ubuntu Appliance.

Try them out!

All that’s left to say is to try them out. All five of the initial appliances work on Raspberry Pi, so if you have one, you can get started. And if you don’t have one – maybe your Raspberry Pi is still in the post – then you can also ‘try before you Pi’: install the appliance in a virtual machine and see what you think.

The list of appliances is already growing. This launch marks the first five appliances, but we are already working with developers on the next wave and are looking for more. Start with these ones and go to our discourse to tell us what you think.

Thanks for having me, Raspberry Pi <3

11 comments
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I did try the Nextcloud Appliance and … well
1. Why do I need an Ubuntu account to access an LAN appliance? I cannot log on locally. I need a keyboard and a screen to configure the device but can only log in via SSH?
2. I skipped the copy of the SSH key because I thought there will be a possibility to fix it later — log in on a screen. I have an Ubuntu account with a rather old key in it. The system imported that – I can’t remember the password. Basically I am locked out of the device because of that. How do I even import a new key in case my “SSH machine” gets stolen or breaks?
3. I configured the Nextcloud and saw: I get a plain Nextcloud on a Raspberry Pi with no special modifications. It even tried to install the Community Server of ONLYOFFICE but failed for obvious reasons. So at this point I stopped bothering because I run NextCloudPi since ages and that project – no offense – is superior.
4. Why would I need AdGuard with the same strange restrictions if I just could use Pi-hole?
The whole thing feels like a reinvention of the wheel with strong ties to Ubuntu. It’s hard to find love for the project right now to be honest.

Reply to Juergen

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Does their Nextcloud set up do LetsEncrypt?
And yeah, why this faffing about with tying your install to an Ubuntu account? I’m already running Nextcloud on a device that had the one, clearly stated on the “label”, and had no need of the other.

Reply to tudza

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No, there is no step involved to set up Let’s Encrypt. NextCloudPi has a pretty admin interface where you can set up Let’s Encrypt, force HTTPS, do automatic backups / updates and much more.
I can’t find any reason using the Nextcloud appliance mentioned here.

Reply to Juergen

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Do I understand correctly that this solution builds a single-purpose device, i.e. I cannot install Mosquitto and ADGUARD on a single board?

Reply to Nemad

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I hope that’s not the case. Something like Mosquitto does not take much in the way of system resources (and it’s dirt-simple to install). While I appreciate the idea of a software appliance, it seems like it would be overkill to dedicate an entire Pi to running it.

Reply to Steve

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Why was my comment deleted?

Reply to Steve

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I’ve checked but I can’t see any recent comments from you in Trash – there are some much older ones there which appear to have been inadvertent duplicates, and I can see your most recent published comment replying to Nemad above and a few others on other blog posts a bit further back, but that’s all – a mystery I’m afraid.

Reply to Helen Lynn

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Thanks for the response Helen, Could you contact me via email? There seems to be a larger technical problem here, and I don’t want to take this space to discuss it (and you can feel free to delete this comment if you like!)

Reply to Steve

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Okay, obviously you’re not going to contact me. I was just going to say that the comment that was deleted was actually published on the site for 2 full days before it disappeared (there was nothing remotely inappropriate about the comment, i might add — it was actually very complimentary). This is not the first time something like this has happened…so it really looks like there is a problem with the comment system on the blog…maybe the spam filters? Anyway, I just wanted to make you aware of that.

Reply to Steve

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I have smaller problem. I have a Raspberry Pi 4 / 8. I downloaded the Ubuntu Server 20.04 image and then installed the Ubuntu Desktop on it. I can’t get better screen resolution other than a very basic low res (which is fine for a server). Could it be possible that the server image lacks the components to provide higher desktop resolutions? I wish to make Ubuntu 20.04 on the pi my desktop computer in the law library where I work. After that is established I want to take a run at owncloud on a Pi 3.
I am also pleased to tell you that 20.04 runs very well on a 9 year old laptop with 4 gigs of RAM and a 7 year old desktop.

Reply to John Eddie Kerr

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great article, has been a great help

Reply to alice

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