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I bought 200 Raspberry Pi Model B’s and I’m going to fix them (jmdawson.co.uk)
472 points by stedaniels 34 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 155 comments

I think this guy would enjoy seeing some of the very low end of the used computer market in places like Pakistan - where they receive 20' container loads full of 5 year old Dell, HP office PCs and mix/match pieces into fully working systems that people can enjoy for more years to come. There's a whole street with at least ten different retail vendors/repair shops in Rawalpindi.

This was essentially my first job. As a 17-year-old I was hired for the summer by a large office to see how many working PCs I could get out of a large walk-in closet full of broken ones. Great work for a 17-year-old computer nerd: figure out what was wrong with each one (typically RAM or hard drive), decide which ones to keep as hosts and which ones to strip for donor parts, then mix and match and set them all up. Didn’t get paid much but I enjoyed it and learned a lot, and it was a great deal for the office, who ended up with about 20 extra working computers.

This was close to my Eagle Scout project. Around y2k companies were throwing out machines, so we collected them, made Frankenstein machines, and distributed them to local schools.

Based fellow Eagle Scout spotted. Nice project. I planted shrubs and trees to prevent kids from chasing their escaping soccer balls into a busy street. At that park the previous year a 7 yo got creamed chasing his ball when it rolled away :(.

This one was one of my first "jobs" as well, I would mix and match parts from donated broken computers and tech and splice them all together (again, usually ram, hard drives, or fan related issues) and then we would donate them to families or organizations in need (we would also sell some of them to keep the non-profit afloat). It was mainly volunteer work, but we were paid in parts. I would spend hours after school tearing things down, scouting through rooms full of old tech graveyards and just build.

FreeGeek is one of more popular organizations for doing things like this. They have a few locations around North America: Portland, Vancouver, NYC, Seattle, Fayetteville (AR).

I would do the same thing in grades 8-11 and do this for the local school district as well.

Funny, I did that, too. This was right about when the IBM XT came out, and the company's spares room was a mixture of original IBM PC's, IBM minicomputers of various vintages, dumb terminals, and teletype machines.

I remember putting together a bunch of IBM PC systems, loaded up with all kinds of things they didn't need like SDLC (Synchronous Data Link Communicator) cards "just in case."

And I must say that working with business PCs from vendors like HP is a joy, because they are optimized for quick and tool-less maintenance. I can open the PC and swap out power supply, HDD/SSD, 5.25 inch devices and expansion cards without any tools. Only the motherboard, CPU (depending on heat sink design) and cooling fans are screwed in. And there are even spare screws inside the case for unused slots/devices. And while somewhat unpopular, they use custom connectors that reduce the number of cables (modern PCs don't really need the fat ATX bundle), and cables are cut to length, and the case has holders for each cable - virtually no cable management needed.

I wish consumer devices were that easy to maintain and upgrade.

This is both a good and a bad thing in my opinion. If you have, for instance, a big pile of near identical Lenovo M78 small form factor desktops (https://www.lenovo.com/ca/en/desktops/thinkcentre/m-series-t...), it's easy to swap parts between them.

If you have just one unit and a failed power supply, instead of swapping in an ATX power supply you can buy in any local PC repair shop, you have to order the custom weird power supply online and wait for it to arrive. Or if you have a failed fan, maybe it's a standard 60mm or 80mm 12VDC fan, but it has a weird connector on it for how it plugs into the motherboard, so you'll have to take the 'ordinary' PC heatsink or case fans you have on hand and splice the old connector onto it.

Or if you have a failed motherboard (maybe a blown MOSFET?), but you're fairly certain all the other parts are good, instead of getting an ATX motherboard that will work with your CPU and RAM, you need a motherboard for that specific model of Lenovo M78, to match the weird shape and size of the case and rear I/O panel, and to match the specific DC power connections unique to that series and model of SFF desktop PC.

At least hard drives and RAM are common between whitebox PCs and enterprise type semi-proprietary PCs.

I mean, there is a legitimate reason for these SFF PCs having unique parts: normal/standard parts wouldn’t fit. A SFF PC is designed to be small.

but even a regular midtower sized dell or hp pc has a proprietary motherboard, proprietary power supply, other pieces... and there are industry standards for mini-itx motherboards (170x170mm), microatx motherboards, mini and microatx cases, and power supplies that are designed for use in common mini-itx size cases. and also standards for low-profile expansion slot height microatx size cases.

the lenovo m78 I have which I was using as an example is no smaller than an equivalent spec pc built from standardized parts.

I disagree, I’ve spent hours and hours of research on a build with similar volume as the m78 and it’s generally a nightmare.

Damn, now that you say that I never thought of business PCs to be easy to fix like that, but it makes complete sense!

I'm preaching to the choir how being able to repair your own stuff is a great thing. I wonder if there are lists of consumer purchasable hardware that follow this same philosophy to a degree. Would make future tech purchases much better for me personally.

Build your own PC. Quite repairable.

I guess ifixit do that for new products, rating them by how easy to repair they are.

We have a nonprofit here in Slovenia that does exactly that, but puts Linux on them and gives them away to those who can't afford a computer. They've been invaluable during the pandemic when everyone was suddenly sent home and many households didn't have enough (or any) computers to support online schooling.

This sounds interesting, do you have any more information about the nonprofit you can pass along? I would love to learn more about it.

Here's their website [0], but they don't have an English version.

Basically, they have a handful of workshops around the country where people can drop off computers and other related hardware, but they also work with companies who donate write-off hardware (there's a tax incentive). Anything they can piece together into working systems gets sent out to people who request it (these days a lot also went to schools who distributed it further) and anything that's unfixable or too old gets sold to a recycling company and partially funds the operation.

They usually ship the computers with their own Linux distro [1] and they also provide free tech support to people that receive their computers. I think they've given away over 4000 computers since 2011 (keep in mind the population of Slovenia is 2M, so that's pretty significant) and provided at least half of the estimated required computers for schoolchildren when the first lockdown went into effect.

P.S.: if anyone is interested in starting something similar in their own country, the software they use to manage everything is open-source [2] and they've said in the past that they'd love to help people set up similar projects in other countries, so do get in touch

[0] https://racunalniki.duh-casa.si [1] https://sites.google.com/site/chaletoslinux/home [2] https://gitlab.com/franga2000/erso

thanks for the info, I've been hearing a lot of horror stories about kids lacking computers since the lockdown. I'm also in Slovenia (LJ), living here as an expat.

I never understood why anyone would want a Raspberry Pi as a low cost replacement for a computer. You still have to get potentially expensive peripherals and the overall experience is worse. Especially when you consider the risk of corrupting the SD card. That's negative value right there.

If you are desperate you just get an old Thinkpad on ebay for $200.

Beyond a certain point you lose more in value than you save in money.

So you should embrace that and choose a completely different computing experience for sub $200. At that point you are better off with a cheap tablet. They do not cost significantly more than a Raspberry Pi 4.

I kinda think you're missing the point of the Pi. It wasn't marketed as a low cost replacement for a computer, it was marketed as a low cost computer to learn and experiment with. In particular, having a raft of IO that you can hang cheap sensors, motors and all sorts of things off of and play with. Attempting that with a ThinkPad or any regular computer isn't quite as straight forward, and is a bit of a non-starter because out of the box they don't have these IO ports unless you go and find some external "box", which adds to your $200 cost, and is likely not inexpensive.

This is a weird niche, though. It's basically "I want a microcontroller, but don't want to program a microcontroller."

It's not a niche, in the same way that the Arduino isn't a niche. Back in the day the BBC Micro B had a thing called the "User Port". It was a TTL level bunch of pins you could attach all sorts of experiments to, controlled by a 6522 VIA. It was amazing, very few home computers had this feature (though the ZX81, Spectrum etc eventually got these add-on boards over time)

I for one, when writing BBS software, hacked together a thing to allow my BBC's User Port to detect carrier select, ring indicate and something else off of my old (pre-Hayes) modem to provide these signals from the modem's RS232 interface to detect calls and dropped calls etc, because the beeb only had RS432 which made it impossible to do this with (all you had was CTS, RTS, RX, TX and Ground).

The Beeb had an analogue port. You could hang all sorts of experiments off of that...external thermometers and the like. PC's (Apple included) "ruined" all that, and what external interface boards you could get to replicate this functionality were usually pretty expensive, because the world moved on, and this kinda thing wasn't built into the design spec.

The Pi was intended to recreate that 70's/80's fun, joy and excitement, and re-introduce the ability to do stuff like this that modern PC hardware simply doesn't provide for out of the box.

I don't mean this as a slight, but perhaps you missed out on that era, but have also missed out on the point of this stuff for "hacking" out ideas because where you've got an itch you need to scratch....like building a weather station out of bits.

The Pi, it's marketing etc is an amazing thing and should, and does, get folks back to hardware and software hacking for fun and intellectual curiosity without spending megabucks.

Sorry I missed the last part:

> "I want a microcontroller, but don't want to program a microcontroller."

But it encourages you to learn how to program a microcontroller, that's the whole point. Curiosity which leads to other things.

I had to fix things on my car but didn't wan't to learn or wasn't interested about how to fix things on my car...turns out I am now. And saved money. And learned things. And saved money. And satisfied some mysteries about how cars work. Again, to encourage curiosity which leads to other things.

RPi is a ton of computing power that you can shove almost wherever you want for low cost. Even the Pi Zero ($5) has 512MB RAM and an ARM11 running at 1GHz. It has HDMI & USB.

I’d say that your criticism could be seen as “why use a microcontroller when you could just use a PLA?” Well, there are a lot of reasons why you might choose a PLA, but microcontrollers are cheap these days and easier to program. And the Raspberry Pi is also cheap and easier to program than microcontrollers.

The Pi is easier to program than a microcontroller, more powerful, and still quite cheap. Cheap enough that it’s sometimes being kept in “production” designs.

> Even the Pi Zero ($5) has 512MB RAM and an ARM11 running at 1GHz. It has HDMI & USB.

If I had one of these as a teenager in the early 80's I'd have fainted with idea overload. But as it stands we had 8 bit processors running at 1-2MHz and 32-64k of memory.

> Even the Pi Zero ($5)

may I ask where can I buy Pi Zero for 5 dollars? Even on Aliexpress (perhaps I wrongly assume it's the cheapest place to buy) there options start from $15 and up https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=S...

I'm not trying to invalidate your argument in any way, just genuinely curious. Also, does anyone know the actual production cost of such device?


it says 1 is 4.99, but multiple is 10$ when I saw it

They are trying to get new people involved to hook them into the hobby and of course get them to buy more stuff from them. Remember you need an SD card, power, keyboard, mouse, oh look it's a RaspberryPi book, oh cool, they have a magazine and suddenly that $5 loss has turned into $80 of sales.

The person buying 10 at a time is just buying the boards, so no extra items other than maybe a PSU. If you really want 10 at $5 go every day at lunch, that's what I did.

That niche is basically “education and hobby”.

Are microcontrollers that unapproachable for the hobbyist?

For a seasoned hobbyist, not really if you get the correct tools and software.

How exactly do you program a microcontroller? With a pc.

So having a pi with NOOBS on the boot drive where u can just plug in peripherals and be off to the races is easier.

I don't thinks so at all. I'm basically a dummy and that's what I use make a living.

Used to be the thing that makes life difficult for a hobbyist is either you need to learn a lot of arcana to string free tools together and learn to debug blind. Or you needed to spend a bunch of money on tools.

With a bundled in circuit emulator and IDE it's easy to get started. That used to cost a couple of thousand. Now it's a few hundred to $1500 or so.

Depends heavily on the project: For more electronics and hardware-oriented projects an Arduino or microcontroller might even be easier to use.

But imagine making e.g. an internet-controlled LED light strip. With an Arduino setting up the WiFi, accepting TSL connections, etc. would probably be a major pain and require additional hardware. With a Raspberry Zero W, this can be done via ssh in a few minutes, and it still has PWM ports to connect the hardware to.

Not really, not if the tooling is half decent. And for stuff like the Arduino it's fairly good, even for a beginner with a wee bit of programming knowledge.

I used to be pretty fluent in 6502 back in the early 80's, it's a long forgotten skill in my brain. I bought an Arduino kit back in 2010 and had a bunch of flashing LEDs working in about half an hour. And I'm not that clever. It's all about the tools.

Its a maker niche mostly. Its definitely not a microcontroller since it runs a full OS. It is a good tool for any project that needs a full computer OS and what comes with that, along with IO ports. Plus its tiny and relatively cheap

Not a replacement; just a great experimentation system for doing a mix of work, electronics, game emulation, IoT.

Let's compare to used laptop:

It has uart and i2c which require a ftdiH dongle or arduino to use on a PC.

Plenty of pwm and motor controller shields not available for PC.

Up to date wifi and Bluetooth on the model 4, which you won't get on a 5 year old laptop.

You can try a couple different OS setups by merely swapping the sd card, or start from scratch in a couple minutes

There are no proprietary batteries that might die; instead you can run off a usb supply or battery brick which you can get anywhere.

Dual HDMI on the 4

Different form factor; can clip on your belt for some sort of wearable Frankenstein project

But yeah, I'd be sure to have a working conventional system first

Edit: forgot i2s digital audio and camera ribbon port

I think it depends on how you work / how much resources you need. Yes, writing much on the SD card is not a great idea, but you can always use a USB stick instead. At least I did use a pi0w as a laptop for a few months. Granted, my requirements for a mobile Linux machine are pretty different from what the masses use these days, but it was a great experience for me. With a power bank, I could go on for days. I even wrote a post which describes one of my first iterations: https://blind.guru/./blog/2016-06-12-brlpi.html A few days after that post, the 0w was released, so I upgraded pretty quickly and some of the things I had to do on the pi0 were no longer necessary.

While your point is valid when thinking of the Raspberry Pi as a replacement computer, they do have a few advantages when it comes to projects.

The size and I/O capabilities are desirable for anything from a plug-and-play media centre to building electronics projects. While there are disadvantages with respect to the latter, being able to write code on the Pi vastly simplifies things compared to microcontrollers.

It is also worth noting that a fully equipped Pi can cost significantly less than $200. Everything that you need to add to it can be salvaged e-waste: discarded USB power adapter, old keyboards and mice, lower capacity SD cards, as well as televisions are things that are often discarded in working order.

Edit: for clarification.

The added benefit being that people who learn to do that are going to be our next generation of mechanics and engineers.

Had a nine-year-old show me a proposal his mom made him write for buying a somewhat elaborate Raspberry Pi system. He asserted it would do everything a Mac does at 1/10 the cost. Right before me, almost by chance, I saw the future of the PC industry.

I have 6 Raspberry Pis but only 1 at home.

I set up some to stream media from my home server and gave them to friends and family.

I have a couple at relative's houses for remote monitoring. I have the Pi set up to make a reverse SSH tunnel back to my house. I can then tunnel VNC / RDP and help debug any issues they are having with their own home computers.

One Pi is used to wake up my remote file server with a Wake On LAN packet. The Pi idles at under 2W while the file server uses about 80W when on. I run my backups and then put the file server back to sleep.

They also work great as low-powered servers for open source services. I have a pi on my network that only uses a few watts of power, but it acts as a DNS proxy, voice chat server, media server, web server, and it holds my git repos.

Heck. I got an old iMac from Microcenter for $400 a few years ago. Still runs great.

There used to be a place in Mountain View called Weird Stuff Warehouse full of systems of all eras.

Walking down the aisles it filled you with both fascination and melancholy.

They would sell exotic yet thoroughly obsolete $10,000 SGI systems, and also semi-obsolete $20 add-in cards for $1.

It was sort of like a cross between the great pyramids and the star wars trash compactor.

That place was awesome and I got some good stuff there, but I always wondered how they made rent for a huge place like that. My hypothesis was that they actually got paid by companies to haul away stuff for recycling, but then instead of recycling it they let it pile up.

I did exactly this as a job about three years ago in Nothern Kentucky.

We would get semi trailers full of pallets of 5-10 year old laptops and PCs. Mostly from businesses upgrading. Then we would wipe them, fix anything that needed fixing (always with repaired/recycled parts), and sell them.

Not the most reliable machines for the end users, but super cheap!

It was kind of interesting, we would use RAM that had been sent back through a solder reflow oven to fix bad solder joints, figure out ways to repair dented and broken machines, etc.

I hated the job since it was super monotonous, but it paid.

Haha, on our country we get things like this from japan. It's FUN mixing and matching parts that work. Some are hard to find drivers (LOOKING AT YOU NEC) but a good positive is most parts are durable / quality parts.

> a good positive is most parts are durable / quality parts

Exactly. Surviving parts are often high quality, due to that process of "natural" selection, and are just in the middle of their bathub curve.

On the other side, you also do get a lot of parts with idiosyncratic or hard to diagnose deficiencies (like, RAM with a few bad bytes that you need to ignore, harddisks with bad sectors (same), CPUs and GPUs that randomly lock up, parts that work only in a certain temperature range, etc).

How can I learn more about this? Anything you can point me to online?

You'd have to go there in person, they don't care much about having an internet or social media presence in my experience. Or know one of the electronics recyclers in the US/Canada that collect and ship the products overseas.

There's a whole street approximately here, if you were going there in a taxi you would ask for "bank road, saddar, rawalpindi" and then look around for the computer store.


or this side-street which is perpendicular to bank road, centered on approximately this latitude/longitude


at those google maps URLs, if you turn on satellite view so you can see the shape/size of the narrow side streets, scroll around a bit within a 500 metre radius and you should find at least a dozen things that are some variety of computer store.

Look up R2 or RIOS recyclers on youtube to get an idea of what it looks like in the US. Same concept, doing basically the same thing.

Free Geek is Vancouver does similar, minus the containers. They do a very thorough QA of every part.

I used to volunteer there, it's a great place!

10th grade computer engineering involved doing this. So much fun. So educational. And the computers were all a write off so there was plenty of learning to be done.

I'm all in for re-using, re-purposing old computer hardware but I'm weary of the power consumption at the same time. So if there is a choice of SBC(ARM) vs old x86 computer, I would definitely recommended a SBC especially since it consumes fraction of the power and matches or sometimes even exceeds the performance of a 5 year old x86 computer depending upon the task.

The horror of Apple: not just one repairshop, but a whole street full of them.

Have you ever been to Rainbow Centre in KHI? (although that might be more software)

I’d love too! Maybe one day once the pandemic is over.

I once saw Kali Linux CD-ROMs for sale at a market in Kathmandu. Blew my mind.

Pretty neat. Definitely recycles a lot of electronics in a good way. On the GPIO pins I would definitely replace the connector! I can tell you from experience that even if the pins straighten out, some random plugging/unplugging later and the pin will break off and the next person will end up replacing the connector. This is much easier if you have a setup already for doing the work.

This is also a really great way to "pay yourself" to learn to do rework. Buying 200 at £61 and selling the fully restored ones (which appears to > 100) at £9 is at least £900 revenue from the experience. Granted, since you are "learning" that would be slow work at first, but later it would become fairly routine. So something someone in high school could easily do.

> This is also a really great way to "pay yourself" to learn to do rework.

Author will be donating the money to the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I agree - it is a fantastic way of turning £61 into a ~ £1200 donation!

> I’m doing it for the blog content and the experience and to hopefully provide you guys with some very cheap Raspberry Pi’s for your projects!

One other thing here that makes me happy is that these repaired Pis will not end up in a landfill, which I bet would have otherwise been the end result. Yes, there are electronics recycling services, but who knows if the original owner would have gone that route, and I imagine there still ends up being quite a bit of unrecycleable waste, not to mention the energy required to do the recycling itself.

Meanwhile, I have a thermoelectric wine fridge that died recently. Looks like it's the logic board, but the manufacturer doesn't make them anymore (couldn't find anything on ebay etc. either). I feel really awful that I'll likely have to have to toss the thing due to what is probably a really cheap and easy-to-replace dead part. (I need to take another look at it to see if there's something obvious like a blown capacitor that I can replace.)

> Instead I will be donating the proceeds of the sales to the Raspberry Pi Foundation and they can decide what to do with the Money!

This is just really awesome. Kudos to the author.

tangential, but you can get a thermostat with a relay that you could potentially hack in in place of the logic board. fixed a fridge with a broken thermostat this way. i think it cost about $15

You could get ESP32 and EspHome software, and turn the fridge smart in an afternoon.

Serious question, what exactly does a smart fridge do for you? Unlike with other appliances like stoves, I usually don’t interact with my fridge other than to put food in, or take it out. Do people change the temperature in their fridges often?

I honestly don't know! Maybe report it's power consumption? When a door is open?

This is a story about an ordinary computer

When it was made they found something wrong with it

They threw it away like a piece of rubbish into an old dark storeroom

Then, from outer space, a Clever Man brought it to life with his cosmic dust!

...adapted from an ancient piece of welsh folklore: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ouLJ-dP1Wps

Interesting that the video uses space alien technology as a name for magic. Just look at that magic, cosmic powder, as it's sprinkled on the teddybear. Is it a coincidence that in Land of Lisp, space aliens help humans, and in SICM, the programmer is a wizard?

I used to love that show as a kid. But what surprised me was that despite not watching that show in more than 30 years, I still recognised that quote.

i have forgotten mostly everything else about the show, but i can still quote the entire intro :) not sure what made it so much more memorable than other cartoon intros of its day, but memorable it was.

I just retired my Raspberry Pi 1 B (2011) last week. I had OpenVPN installed on it for accessing my home network, but since my new router has OpenVPN integrated, I don't need it anymore. I played with installing RetroPie on it, but it is far too slow to be usable.

If you have it running still, what do you use it for?

The Raspberry Pi 1 is still a great device to experiment with alternative operating systems, most of which are far less resource hungry than Linux:

- Plan 9 (http://9p.io/sources/contrib/miller/)

- Inferno (http://lynxline.com/projects/labs-portintg-inferno-os-to-ras...)

- RISC OS (https://www.riscosopen.org/content/downloads/raspberry-pi)

- NetBSD (https://wiki.netbsd.org/ports/evbarm/raspberry_pi/)

- FreeBSD (https://wiki.freebsd.org/arm/Raspberry%20Pi)

- Interim Lisp OS (http://interim-os.com - this runs on Raspi 2 only, so porting to the ARM v6 in the Raspi 1 would be a nice project) - btw., this is a project by Lukas Hartmann, who is also the creator of the open MNT Reform ARM laptop (https://mntre.com)

- (shameless plug) my bare metal "crosstalk" Smalltalk-80 (https://github.com/michaelengel/crosstalk)

I'm pretty sure this list isn't complete...

Some operating systems are not supported at the moment:

- OpenBSD only seems to support the Aarch64-based models 3 and 4

- Haiku seems to be looking for a maintainer for the Raspberry port

Let me just add 9front even though you already said Plan 9.

Do any of those operating systems have particularly good support for messing around with the GPIO ports?

That would be an interesting project for a university operating systems class.

Isn't a VM just as good and more convenient, though?

Not who you asked, but there is something amusing about fiddling with a physical system, plus you can keep it on regardless of your main computer, and doesn't take up a window/tty/otherwise clutter the host.

Maybe, but try to get into the mind of someone who installs a minimalist OS. They might think that Linux is too heavy and an RTOS is too constrained, right?

That kind of perspective probably wants to be fairly close to the metal, and virtualization is a sizable abstraction layer.

Yes, unless you want to play with peripherals too.

Like another commenter said, being able to put it on a shelf is nice. You can crack it open 5 years down the line to play with, or just give it to a friend that's interested in trying different OS's

I'm using one right now to build a Fireman Sam dispatch console for my son. Lots of leds and buttons. An arduino would be better, except I want it to play MP3s so the computer voice can tell where the fire is, beep the right beeps, etc

Neat project! There is a small, inexpensive MP3 player board called DFPlayer that can be controlled from an Arduino and probably would work well for similar use cases, if using a full Pi isn't an option.

That’s an excellent idea. Will you be writing a blogpost about it (please please)!

I do something like this every few months, and I've never tought them worthy a blog, to be honest.

It isn't particularly complicated. Base is a strong enough cardboard box from the local supermarket. I took screenshots of the console from an episode and cleaned them up with krita.

Electronics is a matrix where some rows have leds abd others buttons.

Software low level scans the matrix and drives leds and checks buttons. High level a state machine that changes state based on button presses.

I mainly us whatecer I have lying around at the moment, and don't spend much money on components.

The thing before this was a lego based crossroad with leds and an arduino

I use one for driving a ILI9341 TFT display.

It uses a 433mhz receiver and picks up temperatures from a couple of commercial temperature sensors, uses pygame to display them to the screen, plus a few bits of other info.

Pretty basic, but it works. It struggles with timings though, which I've discovered is pretty important when receiving and decoding 433 signals. Looking to use a Rasberry Pico instead shortly.

In my experience NES, SNES, and Sega Masterdrive/Genesis are perfectly playable on a model B (especially when moderately overclocked).

It works great as a backup Pihole. I have the compressed ram config installed due to a large blocklist and rsync the DB over from my primary instance.

Works great in the times that I have the primary Pihole (containerized) down for maintenance/upgrades.

I have 2 original Raspberry Pi model B. I used it for a short time as a Synergy server (keyboard/mice). My future plans for these are:

* PiHole (original model should be enough) * Home automation, ie Garage door opener / automation * CCTV monitoring using old webcam (not fast though, perhaps less than 5 fps but that's good enough for what I need) * CCTV recorder (not video, but just capturing photo every second, which is good enough for me) * file server for low throughput device (or TimeMachine server) * Server/PC status display (displays server status) on TV * Prometheus, htop, GoAccess, etc... * Lo-fi player * pivpn

I didn't think that Time Machine servers could be run on non-macOS systems.

Time Machine just runs over SMB now (older versions used AFP). There’s some extra options you have to set in Samba to get it working, but it’s not that much. Setting up mDNS properly will also make it show up in the UI like a Time Capsule as well. Synology and TrueNAS (née FreeNAS) also support it (it took me all of 2 minutes to set up in FreeNAS a while back).

I am using mine as a DHCP, DNS, and VPN server.

Something I've noticed is that the SD card corrupts easily, though that may be simply because I'm using a phone charger as the power supply.

I discovered that although the Model B does not support natively booting off USB, you can still put an updated bootcode.bin [1] on the SD card which will enable this functionality. Hopefully my flash drive will not corrupt as easily.

[1] https://github.com/raspberrypi/documentation/blob/master/har...

I’ve used them for Pihole, Home Assistant, ESPHome (a thing for getting ESP8266 and ESP32 chips semi-magically flashes for your particular needs).

Edit: somehow missed the model you have, these may not be options.

Not an RPi 1, but a v2.

- pihole

- custom media player based on VLC, with a web UI

- a weather service that aggregates and displays info of small weather stations around the house (ESP8266 + a bunch of sensors)

We are thinking about moving to a v4 to have more RAM

I'm still running the 512mb model with kodi. I don't really watch movies or shows that often and don't even have a TV capable of 4k, so it's still doing well.

Pi-Hole runs great on a 256MB Pi with a 2GB SD card.

I use one of the first batches to control a few sensors around my front door. Movement detection, reed switch door opening sensor and it controls the siren and the light at the front door.

I burnt through sooo many SD cards until I started using Alpine Linux which runs perfectly on the Pi and runs from a RAM disk. No more dead SD cards for me

I put u-boot on the SD card, then set the SD card R/O using the hardware switch on the SD card (i don't know if it's a standard thing, but mine have one).

Then I put the OS on USB and boot from there. SD cards stopped dying :)

fun fact: read only switch on SDcards is a dummy piece of plastic, it just flips a real switch in the card slot letting the controller know your wish.


That's interesting. I have a Pi 1B running non-stop since 2013 with the default Raspian image and the SD card still seems to be fine. Maybe I've just been lucky till now…

It only dies when it's powered down unexpectedly. (while writing)

Oh Alpine sounds cool - I’ll have to look into that. I’ve always just kludged raspibian into running read-only, but it’s fiddly. Your solution sounds much nicer.

I did the same before discovering alpine. I am much happier now :D

I have 3 Pi running, including the original Pi 1. Unfortunately, the Pi 1 is just sucking up electricity. It used to be my main OSMC (Kodi), but that is my Pi 3's job now, and my older Pi (2014) is running PiHole.

I have a first gen Pi running miniDLNA and an FTP server plugged into a cheap 1TB USB drive. I threw it together on a lark, but my wife gets a ton of use out of it watching content that isn’t available on Netflix.

which router do you have?

Linksys WRT3200 ACM. My Linksys 4200E started dropping connections after 10 years of use because of overheating. Beforehand, I had a Linksys WRT54G v2.2, so I'm also emotionally attached to the design. :)

Kudos for bringing back to life dead electronics. This is an example for the world. Hold on - back in 1996 the world was still spinning and doing business with simpler devices. So many uses that these can be put to. No matter whether selling or donating, that’s not the point here really.

When I was just a young (and poor) kid in high school I was looking for ways to make some side money and help my family out over long summer breaks.

I learned the IPhone 3G and 3GS were both (1) Super cheap when ‘broken’ on eBay and (2) *very* easily repairable phones. No need to solder stuff or tear apart a whole phone just to replace a screen for example.

At the time, I’d buy them from anywhere between $15-$30/phone depending on damage, swap out parts from unrepairable ones, or buy new(ie Battery replacements) and sell for around double the price.

I miss the days where you didn’t need a license and special training to repair these things.

Me too! My very first smart phone was a 3GS I needed to put a new screen on. Was actually pretty easy.

I like the idea of doing something a little nutty just so you have something interesting to write about.

Very niche, but hey -- this is HN.

If you like this type of stuff, I highly recommend the YouTube channel "TronicsFix"[0][1].

[0] https://www.youtube.com/c/Tronicsfix/featured

[1] https://www.youtube.com/c/Tronicsfix/videos?view=0&sort=p&fl...

I prefer my mate Vince. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChY9Cgv-iyPDvf1Bkyx20OQ

There's probably other better channels. Anyone?

Louis Rossman is a good one although it’s pretty focused on MacBook repairs.

He does share a lot of pointers that do apply for any other component level repair:

* you can never have too much flux

* do not clean the board before fixing it (corrosion can help point towards the actual cause of the issue)

* importance of the availability of schematics

I wish there would be more of this offerings for broken single board computers out there. They are ideal learning projects for getting used to hot air stations, microsoldering and debugging circuits.

So I was hoping to see some actual repairs, but author is just going to be bending pins and re-soldering connectors? I'd like to see a repair of traces or even a chip replacement.

200+ for just ~$84 (current rate is 1/1.34), that's 42 cents each. This is worth if only to get out the parts, not to mention once you repair 10 of them you're already turning a profit. Where can I get such a deal? eBay doesn't anymore, I looked.

These must have come from some school or other educational organisation. Would explain why so many of them are physically destroyed.

The article claims he got them from ebay, so...

Good Luck with your repairs!

Still I am using Pi B for pihole + openvpn at home.

The other one Pi B works like public wifi to ethernet. Public wifi goes to wifi dongle + Pi and ethernet wire from Pi to ddwrt router. That one creates access point and is not a public wifi anymore lol. Thats for tor network or researching purposes. Boots from an old flash stick I found on the street.

I thought at the time Pi B was broken, turning off in 1 min while booting without any reason. LCD was going crazy on off. I booted without an lcd and pluged in. Yes time to type in usr+psw lcd on of went crazy but I managed to measure temperature it was 56°C in seconds +70°C and Pi went down. Then I went to the basement and attached huge fan from old gpu card and temperature of cpu is always +34°C works like a bee.

After some time I found third Pi B, SD card slot was broken I have soldered that one, works. But I have no use from it. Still thats an old hardware.

The tinkerer in me is a bit sad that he has 3 categories of faults:


> These will not be fixed


> I will not be fixing these

USB/Power (Power is a separate connector)

> I will revisit these in the near future.

I know that even fixing pins and easier problems is also valauble, but now I'm just afraid I'll miss the follow-up I want to see D:

Yeah, this post was very disappointing. I was expecting the author to at least attempt to fix everything, but they only did pretty much the low-hanging-fruit repairs over two posts.

I was using an original Pi as an ssh client to talk the the serial ports of a couple of systems at work. They're fine for any non-graphical that runs tmux and serial software. It could probably run VNC server with TWM or some other retro WM.

I think it would be nice exercise to go through a couple hundred failed units and repair them just to learn what exactly happened. If I was somebody who created a product like that I would probably want to do this.

To the author of the post, in case you're here: I almost went to follow you on Twitter as suggested at the end of the post, bu then I scrolled through your timeline a bit and saw loads of "Hey @{username}, Thank you for the follow!", and promptly decided against it.

No offense, it's just extra noise and I figured I'd share in case you do want to grow your Twitter following as that's the kind of thing that I'd wager puts a lot of people off of following you.

Neat project, I enjoyed the posts on it!

This is pretty neat. I have a trading bot running on my raspberry pi, it also waters my plans every other day. It's pretty awesome to see such tiny devices be so incredibly powerful.

My macbook pro 2015 is getting slower. Its already SSD. I wonder why. Is it the OS? Maybe its the fan that I need to clean? If it is both I’m going to just make this into a Linux laptop.

+1 for turning it into a Linux laptop. Although I'd understand if you kept it Mac (probably best if it's still supported).

For my 2010 MBP, I'm running Linux on it and it's really brought it back to life. Especially with the 5.4 LTS kernel and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, both with support until 2025. I say go for it, you'll have a ton of fun on it.

And if making it look like macOS is your thing, here's how I got mine looking: https://i.imgur.com/QgyRvrD.png

I cleaned out a MBP of similar age while replacing the battery. There was quite a bit of dust trapped in the CPU fan, as well dried out thermal paste. Between new battery + cleaned fan + new paste it runs 'like new'.

(Unfortunately the dGPU on the machine appears to have developed a fault which might put it into retirement for good)

I have the same issue with a 2013 model. It was perfectly fine until earlier this year. Running Xcode was a bit sluggish, but otherwise it was fine. Now ever webbrowsing is slow. The OS hasn’t been upgrade in that period though, so I’m unsure what might be the cause.

2017 model but I factory reset my Macbook to clean up clutter and free up disk space and it runs notably faster now that I have 200 free gigabytes.

Thermal paste replacement and through clean of fans etc helped me.

> If it is both I’m going to just make this into a Linux laptop.

IIRC 2015 was the last MBP with good Linux support (my 2016 MBP didn't have audio or suspend/resume until recently, after I gave up and ditched it), so that might work out well for you.

You’ve forgotten how fast it felt compared to the previous computer you had when you first bought it? You’re working up to convincing yourself to buy an m2 MacBook 16? (I know I am). There’s less than 25gb of free space on the HD?

Do a clean reinstall of the OS and give it a week to cache files from regular use. I have a 2015 mbp too

I’m sure my pc experience would be different and block everything, but that site has way too many ads, subscription, cookie notification stuff on mobile

This is awesome. I'd love to read the SD card repair post, because I have a Model 3B+ which died four weeks after I bought it in a quadcopter accident. My suspicion is that the problem is solely with the micro SD card reader as the card was bent in half when I retrieved it. The power LEDs still turn on, but USB boot doesn't appear to be working either.

I stupidly mistook the headphone socket of my Pi 1B and plugged in some sort of DC current into it. As a puff of smoke appeared I remembered it took microusb power. Anyone know if mine is reparable?

should make a beowulf cluster

Sounds mostly fixable except SoC faults, but even that could be gathered from highly broken boards with healthy SoCs, I believe.

This guy should start a YouTube channel - would be contrast to my retro computing and console repair bubble...

Thanks for the share!

This would make a great vlog...

how did he source them? and what is the script to diagnose each PI?

> how did he source them?

it says right in the first sentence: > the 200+ Raspberry Pi Model B’s I purchased on ebay

Mine some bitcoin with them :)

so dumb...

"I’m sorry to disappoint but I won’t be building a cluster or decorating my walls with them! In fact I don’t have a project planned for these instead they will be sold on starting at £4 for a “Model A” and up to £9 for a fully boxed un-repaired Model B. I’m not doing this to make a quick buck I’m doing it for the blog content and the experience and to hopefully provide you guys with some very cheap Raspberry Pi’s for your projects!"

Seems reasonable to me...

The odd part is this:

> £9 for a fully boxed un-repaired Model B.

Why is he selling them un-repaired if the whole point is repairing them?

I think that he means there was nothing broken so it didn't require repairs.

Exactly that!

He only has to sell 7 units to break even.

Why is it dumb to repair electronics?

It reduces e-waste.

"not doing this to make a quick buck"

yet its a blog site absolutely new-years-eve-plastered with ads and user hostile content

Whilst the ad revenue normally doesn’t even cover the hosting costs of the site - which isn’t even expensive! It does give me the motivation to write more content.

If you don’t like ads feel free to use an Adblock - I use https://adblockplus.org/

If you want to buy a Pi for a very low price you could even setup pihole: https://pi-hole.net/

There’s nothing misleading when I say I’m not doing this to make a quick buck. I’m really not it’s just a lockdown project as there really isn’t much else to do in my spare time.

Also I do appreciate the feedback, I have tamed down the ads on the site- I’m usually behind my pihole so didn’t realise quite how annoying they were.

Instant "I'm outta here" design. Thanks for speaking up, sometimes I just feel like an old man yelling at kids to get off my web, but this person is managing to nail every one of my pet peeves.

Do you not use an adblocker? The internet is generally unbearable without one. With ublock origin I don't see any ads at all on his blog.

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