Jake_UK
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2018 12:54 pm

Newbie to Pi - build/use case review

Tue Oct 30, 2018 3:10 pm

Use case
- Pi Hole
- Transmission
- Kodi, to stream from NAS
- Steam, to stream from gaming rig
- Probably some emulators (SNES, etc.)
- HIDs: Steam Controller and mobile apps (e.g. Kore)

Questions
1) Which OS is best for this?

I have experience with Mint (Cinnamon & XFCE) and so perhaps Ubuntu Server is closest to that but runs on ARM? Other options include OSMC and Raspbian of course. As Pi Hole would potentially mean the machine would be running all/a lot of the time and the other applications would only used sporadically, having a solution that uses minimal power at idle would be very useful.

2) Does this hardware cover everything I'll need?

* Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Link
* Power: Micro-USB PSU Link
* Case: DesignSpark Raspberry Pi Case Link + optional VESA mount for back of TV
* Steam Controller
* USB keyboard for initial install & configuration
* Old 32GB SD card from mobile phone
* Old HDMI cable

3) Power consumption: As Pi Hole would potentially be running 24x7x365 I thought I'd look into the running cost of this thing. Doing some rough power calculations using 15p/kWh as a rough UK electricity price the Model 3 B+ using 1.9W at idle I think only costs around £2.50 per year... £0.15 x 16.644 (1.9W x24 x365 / 1000 = 16.644 kW) Does £2.50 sound about right for a Pi?!

wh7qq
Posts: 1131
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:50 am

Re: Newbie to Pi - build/use case review

Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:50 pm

PiHole seems to work well...I have it running on an earlier B+ (not 3B+) and it uses little power but the 3B+ is the worst choice from a power consumption standpoint. I am extra paranoid on the subject as we have the most expensive AC in the US where I live...$.46/Kwh. I even have the power and activity LEDs and the HDMI shut down. It is plugged into my router's ethernet port.

As for the best OS, that is a personal choice based on need. Nice thing about the RPi is that changing OS is as easy as changing a uSD card...you can have one for every occasion. That said, Raspbian is probably the best supported general purpose OS and the new version, with the removal of Wolfram, is a bit lighter. Raspbian lite seems a bit too lite for my taste. I have dabbled with Diet Pi and so far have not found a real need for it (and setup is a total PITA). With big uSD cards getting cheaper, a light OS seems silly unless, like Diet Pi, it runs in RAM.

A case, again, is a personal choice. For my PiHole, I have the old B+ running in an early case of unknown origin with a dark bottom and a clear lid. The B+ just snaps into place. It doesn't get hot enough to worry about ventilation. If you plan to use any hats, you need a case that will handle the increased height, if any. I have used a VESA mount on a model 3B on the back of my monitor and it worked out well enough but the old fluorescent backlight on the monitor did seem to make it run a little hot. The 3B+ should have no problem that way with its allegedly improved heat management. Leave the top open to optimize air flow.

As for your equipment list, the power supply you show is spec'd for the 3B, not the 3B+ but with its 2.5 amp at 5.1 volt rating, it might handle the 3B+ if you don't use a lot of accessories. The 1.5 meter cable scares me a bit unless the conductors are heavy. A 3.0 Amp or better would be a better choice, giving some head room for added goodies without resorting to a self powered USB hub. Get a new uSD card...they are faster and probably last longer than the old camera card. 16G, class 10 or better minimums...go with a top brand. I have had good luck with SanDisk Ultras bought from Amazon. Avoid auction sites at all cost!!! You can use the old camera card as a backup. By the way, get a uSD card extender...groping around the back of your monitor to slide a uSD into the slot on the underside of the RPi is a PITA!!! Unless you have tiny fingers, and even then... I also added some 1 cm spacers to move the RPi out from the mount a bit.

The older HDMI cable will probably work out ok as long as it works on a regular TV but I sprang for a new, short, flat one for the length between the VESA mount and the monitor input. I hate excessively long cables. The USB keyboard/mouse is a good way to go and especially if you plan to use it as a media center.

I can't speak to your other applications...no experience with them. I don't have the available bandwidth on my internet service to stream videos and play games. We get TV over the air and I may try later to use an older HDHomeRun box with an RPi for a PVR. I think you might do better with PiHole on a zero running on its own power and living close to your router. That minimizes power consumption and interruptions of its protections. I use the B+ as I already had it and it has its own ethernet port. Depending on your router, you might even power it from the router's USB port...if it has enough power there.

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DarkPlatinum
Posts: 538
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Re: Newbie to Pi - build/use case review

Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:28 pm

wh7qq wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:50 pm
PiHole seems to work well...I have it running on an earlier B+ (not 3B+) and it uses little power but the 3B+ is the worst choice from a power consumption standpoint. I am extra paranoid on the subject as we have the most expensive AC in the US where I live...$.46/Kwh. I even have the power and activity LEDs and the HDMI shut down. It is plugged into my router's ethernet port.
That's one expensive electrcity! Did you think about getting solar panels? Im pretty sure you could easily get the solar panels worth back more quickly then here in the UK. My electricity is 16pence/Kwh ~$0.20. Though im pretty sure you dont need to worry about the power consumption of a pi from the mains, running a pi 24/7/365 cost about £4.75/year (from what Ive heard)
1 * Raspberry Pi Zero W, 1 * Raspberry Pi 2, 1 * Raspberry Pi 3 1 * Raspberry Pi 3B + :mrgreen:

Check Out My Raspberry Site (Run on a Raspberry Pi Zero W :) ): Https://Html.dynu.net

wh7qq
Posts: 1131
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:50 am

Re: Newbie to Pi - build/use case review

Wed Oct 31, 2018 6:19 am

@DarkPlatinum: Expensive, yes. I do have a small solar bank...9 x 200W panels that keep me at the minimum administrative charge (~$22) most of the year, but for a few dark months...a solar/electric water heater as well, with the electric under RPi timing control.

Back to the case review, I just dusted off a first generation Flirc case, fingers sticking to the gooey aged flocking on the plastic tops and bottoms. 15-20 minutes with denatured ethanol got rid of that mess and made the case useable again. I put in another B+ I had around and overclocked it to the max (1 GHz) and ran it in a stress test flat out for 15 minutes or so of 100% cpu loading and it never got above 46 C (vcgencmd measure_temp). The new case for the 3B+ should do as well...sadly it won't do a VESA mount but it would be a shame to hide such a nice looking case behind a monitor. I am told by one poster that owns one, that the flocking on the new cases does not get nasty and sticky but worst case is denatured EtOH and paper towel and it leaves a nice matte black surface behind. It gives the RPi a very professionally finished appearance...not at all kludgey
.

Jake_UK
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2018 12:54 pm

Re: Newbie to Pi - build/use case review

Wed Oct 31, 2018 11:18 am

Thanks for the good info wh7qq! I started the thought process with a Pi Zero simply running Pi Hole and Transmission and powering off the router's USB port like yours. When I looked at the running cost of even the latest/most powerful/most power hungry Pi though I thought it was probably better to get more utility out of the HW rather than worry about a Pound or so per year on electricity so I started thinking about HTPC and game streaming.

I was looking at that metal Flirc case too - I think that's what I'd use if the Pi wasn't going to be mounted on the back of the TV but good to know the VESA solution works nicely though as that’s the most likely solution for the Pi as HTPC for me.

Looks as though the PSU is worth up-speccing slightly (I found a 3A with power on/off switch for example) and I think you’re giving a recommendation for Raspbian there.

Doing further research it seems like Pi Hole doesn't play well on OSMC so it looks like a straight up choice between Ubuntu Server and Raspbian. On the Ubuntu side it looks like Xubuntu (XFCE version of Ubuntu) might be an option as well as Unbuntu Server with a couple of guides (though based on x64) available for both approaches to getting Kodi and things set up:

- Ubuntu Server
- Xubuntu (minimal)

wh7qq
Posts: 1131
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:50 am

Re: Newbie to Pi - build/use case review

Wed Oct 31, 2018 7:11 pm

While I have used only "add-on" switches in the 5v line, it has not been a good experience...at least in my environment. At currents of an amp or two, the voltage drop of small cables and electrical contacts can be enough to drop the RPi below its limits and get that dreaded lightning bolt. Switch contacts can oxidise and develop voltage drop that messes up the RPi. My location is humid and salty so unless contacts are gold, oxide build up soon takes over. A desert dweller might have different experience. Better to do your on/off switching on the mains. I now use a power strip with individual switches for each outlet.

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