About Rik

Myself Rik and I am founder of Riktronics. I study Electronics and Communication Engineering in IIE. My hobby is playing with electronics and making various projects, mainly about embedded systems. Love to do coding, and making tutorials about electronics/programming. Contact me in any need at abhra0897@gmail.com My blog : riktronics.wordpress.com

A Compact Camera Using Raspberry Pi A+ And Adafruit TFT Display

PiJuice at instructables.com designed an interesting compact camera project with raspberry pi. Raspberry Pi A+ is used in this project as it is the cheapest and smallest available Raspberry Pi. The real challenge in this kind of portable Pi projects is powering the Raspberry Pi. This issue is solved using PiJuice—an all in one battery module for the Raspberry Pi.

Required Parts

Required parts to make Raspberry Pi compact camera
Required parts to make Raspberry Pi compact camera

Set Up The Raspberry Pi

Download the latest version of the Raspbian image from the Raspberry Pi Website and burn it on your blank SD card. You can use win32DiskImager or your favorite software to get the job done. Now, you need to install the drivers for the TFT screen by running the DIY installer script, explained on the Adafruit page. Connect the TFT to the Raspberry Pi, attach the PiJuice with a charged battery, and switch it on. Your screen now should display boot up messages.

Connect The Camera

Insert the ribbon cable of your camera module properly ensuring that the blue side of the ribbon is facing away from the HDMI port. Now, go to the terminal and type the following command,

sudo raspi-config

Enable the camera in the menu and then reboot the Pi. The camera should work properly after a successful reboot. To test the camera, enter the following command:

raspistill -o pic.jpg

This will take a snap and save it in the /home/pi directory.

Connect A Push Button

You need a push button to simulate a shutter action. Locate the pin 17 on the GPIO breakout on the top of the TFT screen. Now, solder two wires to the terminals of the push button. You can either solder a right angle header to the pin 17 or you can directly solder one wire from push button to that pin. There is a pad labeled WP on the board. It is actually connected to the ground. Solder another wire from the push button to this pad.

Install And Test The PiCam Software

To install the software, the Raspberry Pi must be connected to the internet. Enter the commands given below to download and install PiCam.

sudo apt-get install git-core
sudo mkdir PiCam
cd /PiCam
git clone git://github.com/pijuice/PiCam.git

Once the software has been downloaded, navigate to the PiCam directory using the command:

cd /picam

You can run it by typing the command:

sudo python picam.py

Now, you can take pictures by simply pressing the push button. Once the button is pressed the picture will be taken. Once the captured image gets loaded, your photograph will be displayed.

Taking photograph with Raspberry Pi compact camera
Taking photograph with Raspberry Pi compact camera

Conclusion

Your Raspberry Pi camera is ready now. If you want to make it even more compact as well as portable, grab the official laser-cut compact camera case from the Kickstarter page by pre-ordering a Maker Kit. You can also build your own simple chassis for housing the camera.

Bismuth Oxyiodide (BiOI)—A Non-toxic Alternative To Solar Cells

Bismuth is considered as a “green-element” and bismuth-based compounds are gaining attention as potentially non-toxic and defect-tolerant solar absorbers. The researchers of the University of Cambridge and the United States developed theoretical and experimental methods to show that bismuth, which sits next to lead (Pb) on the periodic table, can be used to make inexpensive solar cells.

Bismuth oxyiodide light absorbers
Bismuth oxyiodide light absorbers

The study suggests that solar cells including bismuth can have all the exceptional properties of lead-based solar cells but without any worries about toxicity. Another study by a different group discovered that bismuth-based solar cells have the ability to achieve a conversion efficiency of 22% which is comparable to the conversion efficiency of most advanced solar cell available in the market.

Many of the new materials recently investigated show limited photovoltaic performance. Bismuth Oxyiodide (BiOI) is one such compound and it is explored in detail through theory and experiment. Most of the solar cells commercially and domestically used are made from silicon (Si) which is efficient enough but has very low defect tolerance compared to bismuth oxyiodide. Low defect tolerance in silicon implies that the silicon needs to have very high levels of purity, making the production process energy-intensive.

Over the past several years researchers have been looking for an alternative to silicon for making solar cells cost effectively. The most promising group of these new materials are called hybrid lead halide perovskites. Unlike silicon, they don’t need such high purity levels. Hence, production is cheaper. But, the lead contained within perovskite solar cells represents a definite risk to all living beings and the environment. So, scientists are searching for non-toxic alternatives without compromising the performance.

Dr. Robert Hoye of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy said,

We wanted to find out why defects don’t appear to affect the performance of lead-halide perovskite solar cells as much as they would in other materials.

The researchers are trying to figure out what’s special about the lead halide perovskites so that they can replicate their properties using non-toxic materials like bismuth.

Their research found that bismuth oxyiodide is as defect tolerant as lead halide perovskites are. Another interesting fact is, bismuth oxyiodide is stable in air for at least 197 days which is even better than some lead halide perovskite compounds. By sandwiching the bismuth oxyiodide between two oxide electrodes, the researchers successfully converted 80% of light to electrical charge.

Next Generation Solar Cell That Can Capture Nearly All Energy of Solar Spectrum

Researchers developed a multijunction solar cell on a GaSb substrate that can efficiently convert the long-wavelength photons typically lost in a multijunction solar cell into electricity. This prototype cell has an efficiency of 44.5% which is higher than conventional solar cells.

Next Generation Solar Cell To Absorb Nearly All Solar Spectrum
Next Generation Solar Cell To Absorb Nearly All Solar Spectrum

A GaAs-based cell is stacked mechanically with the GaSb-based materials to create a four-terminal, five junction cell with a spectral response range covering the region containing greater than 99% of the available direct-beam power from the Sun reaching the surface of the Earth. By comparison, the most typical solar cell can convert only one fourth of the available energy into electricity.

The working principle of this new solar cell is slightly different than the commonly available one. The cell is assembled in a mini-module that has a lens with a geometric concentration ratio of 744 suns. The lenses to concentrate sunlight onto tiny, microscale solar cells. As the solar cells have a very tiny form factor of  1 mm², solar cells using more complicated materials can be developed cost effectively.

The stacked cell acts like a filter with a particular material in each layer to absorb a specific range of wavelength of sunlight. The stacking procedure uses the transfer-printing technique which enables three dimensional modeling of these super-tiny devices with a high degree of precision.

Around 99 percent of the power contained in direct sunlight reaching the surface of Earth falls between wavelengths of 250 nm and 2500 nm. The entire range is not accessible by conventional solar panels as they are made from abundant, cheaper materials, such as silicon. Matthew Lumb, the lead author of the study and a research scientist at the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science, said,

Our new device is able to unlock the energy stored in the long-wavelength photons, which are lost in conventional solar cells, and therefore provides a pathway to realizing the ultimate multi-junction solar cell.

The cost of this specific solar cell is pretty high due to the high-end materials used and complex technologies implemented. However, the researchers achieved the upper limit of possibility in terms of efficiency. The new solar cell shows much promise in spite of being highly expensive. perhaps in future, the production cost can be reduced and the similar solar cell will be available commercially in the market.

Romeo BLE – An Arduino Based Powerful Robot Control Board With Bluetooth 4.0

Romeo BLE is an all-in-one Arduino based control board specially designed for robotics applications from DFRobot. This platform is open source and it’s powered by thousands of publicly available open-sourced codes. Romeo BLE can easily be expanded using Arduino shields. The most important feature—Bluetooth 4.0 wireless communication, allows the board to receive commands via Bluetooth. So, users can now use their smartphone, tablet, or computer to interact with the control board.

Control Robot From Smartphones by Bluetooth 4.0
Control Robot From Smartphones by Bluetooth 4.0

Even the codes can be uploaded over Bluetooth a USB Bluno Link adapter, without requiring any wired USB connection between the board and a PC. This is a great advantage for mobile applications where codes are debugged and uploaded frequently.

The Romeo BLE also includes two integrated two-channel DC motor drivers and wireless sockets, which makes project development more hassle-free. One can start the project immediately without needing an additional motor driver circuitry. The motor driving section also supports extra servos which need more current.

There are two ways to power the Romeo BLE board. But, the polarity must be correct. Otherwise, the board may get permanently damaged as there exists no reverse polarity protection. The two powering methods are:

  • Power from USB: Plug in the USB cable to the Romeo controller from a power source (i.e. wall jack or computer). If the input voltage and current are sufficient, the Romeo BLE board should turn on and a LED should light up. While powered from USB, do NOT connect anything else like motor, servo etc. except LED. Because the USB can only provide 500mA current which is certainly not enough for driving loads like motors.
  • Power from External Power Supply: Connect the ground wire from your supply to the screw terminal labeled “GND” on Romeo board, and then connect the positive wire from your supply to the screw terminal labeled “VIN”. The maximum acceptable input voltage is 23 volts. Do not exceed this value anyway.
Romeo BLE Board Pin Diagram
Romeo BLE Board Pin Diagram

Specifications:

  • Microcontroller: ATmega328P
  • Bootloader: Arduino UNO
  • Onboard BLE chip: TI CC2540
  • 14 Digital I/O ports
  • 6 PWM Outputs (Pin11, Pin10, Pin9, Pin6, Pin5, Pin3)
  • 8 10-bit analog input ports
  • 3 I2Cs
  • 5 Buttons
  • Power Supply Port: USB or DC2.1
  • External Power Supply Range: 5-23V
  • DC output: 5V/3.3V
  • Size: 94mm x 80mm

Features:

  • Auto sensing/switching external power input
  • Transmission range: 70m in free space
  • Support Bluetooth remote update the Arduino program
  • Support Bluetooth HID
  • Support iBeacons
  • Support AT command to config the BLE
  • Support Transparent communication through Serial
  • Support the master-slave machine switch
  • Support USB update BLE chip program
  • Support Male and Female Pin Header
  • Two-way H-bridge motor Driver with 2A maximum current
  • Integrated sockets for APC220 RF Module

You can program Romeo BLE using Arduino IDE version 1.8.1 or above. Select Arduino UNO from Tools –> Boards in the IDE. Go to arduino.en.cc to download the latest version of Arduino IDE. Read the Romeo BLE wiki to learn more.

Carrageenan, a seaweed derivative, can stabilize lithium-sulfur batteries surprisingly

Lithium-sulfur batteries are suitable for both vehicle and grid applications as they are ultra-cheap, high-energy devices. Sulfur is a very low-cost material and the energy capacity is much higher than that of lithium-ion. So, lithium-sulfur is one chemistry that can possibly meet the demand for energy storage at a cheap price. However, the serious problem is, lithium-sulfur batteries suffer from significant capacity fading that makes them almost practically unusable. But, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers’ recent surprising discovery could fix this problem.

Carrageenan is extracted from this red seaweeds
Carrageenan is extracted from this red seaweeds

The research team at Berkley Laboratory surprisingly found that carrageenan, a substance extracted from red seaweeds, acts as a good stabilizer in lithium-sulfur batteries. Better stability in a battery means more charge-discharge cycle and an extended lifetime. Gao Liu, the leader of the research team, said,

It (Carrageenan) actually worked just as well as the synthetic polymer—it worked as a glue and it immobilized the polysulfide, making a really stable electrode.

Lithium-sulfur batteries are already been used commercially in limited applications but the “critical killer” in the chemistry is that the sulfur starts to dissolve and creates polysulfide shuttling effect. Polysulfide shuttling is the primary cause of failure in lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery cycling. To solve the problem, the research team was experimenting with a synthetic binder that holds all the active materials in a battery cell together.

A binder is like a glue and battery makers want this glue to be inert. The synthetic polymer Liu experimented with, worked remarkably well. The reason is, by chemically reacting with the sulfur, the binder formed a covalent bonding structure and was able to stop it from dissolving. This finding motivated the researchers to find a natural material that would do the same thing. Finally, they discovered that carrageenan has similar chemical properties as the synthetic polymer they used in their initial experiments.

Bekley Lab's researcher is working with advanced light source
Berkley Lab’s researcher is working with advanced light source

With this discovery to stabilize lithium-sulfur batteries­ Liu now wants to improve the lifetime of lithium-sulfur batteries even further. The target of the researchers is to get thousands of cycles from lithium-sulfur chemistry. They are striving to find answers to questions like after this polymer binds with sulfur, what happens next? How does it react with sulfur, and is it reversible? Liu said,

Understanding that will allow us to be able to develop better ways to further improve the life of lithium-sulfur batteries.

As lithium-sulfur batteries are much more lightweight, cheaper, and have higher energy density compared to lithium-ion batteries, they are ideal for airplanes and drones. Hence, Berkeley Lab researchers’ surprising discovery may be a game changer in the world of batteries.

Temperature Controlled Stair lights With Raspberry Pi

Ever wished to know the temperature on your way to breakfast after waking up in the morning? Now you can find it out in a fascinating way as Lorraine Underwood at The MagPi magazine designed a temperature controlled colorful stair lights system with raspberry pi. In this tutorial, we’re going to discuss that project.

Temperature Controlled Stair Lights
Temperature Controlled Stair Lights

Required Parts

  • Strip of 50 neopixels
  • A 5V power source for the lights
  • 2 x terminal blocks
  • 2 x male to female jumper cables
  • A raspberry pi zero with SD card with Raspian installed
  • Power supply for the Pi zero (temporary)

 

Make sure that the raspberry pi power supply gives exactly 5 volts and is capable of outputting 2.5A current.

Make The Circuit

At first, examine your LED strip and find out which pin is what. Connect two wires to GND, one wire to Din, and one wire to +5V pin. Now, connect the 5V pin to the “+” terminal of the female jack and GND pin to the “-” terminal. Tighten the screws of the terminal block to ensure that the wires are connected properly.

Connect the Din and GND pin of the LEDstrip to the GPIO 18 and GND of the Raspberry Pi respectively, using the male-to-female jumper wires. Please note that Broadcom numbering (BCM) is used in this tutorial, not the physical numbering. It will look like below after making the connections:

Connecting Wires To The LED Strip
Connecting Wires To The LED Strip

Set Up The Weather API

You need to set up a weather API in order to get the outside temperature in your area. In this tutorial, forecast.io is used as they allow you to make 1000 queries per day free of cost. Go to forecast.io and select Developer option. Then, click sign up to create a developer account and provide your email address. A secret key will be sent to that address. Store it securely as you’ll need in the next step.

Prepare The Raspberry Pi

At first, you need to install the Adafruit NeoPixel library rpi_ws281x. Go here and follow the instructions to install the required files on your raspberry pi. Once installed, navigate to the examples folder, run any script you wish, and check if the LED strip is functioning properly.

Now, save the below script as stair_lights.py in the Raspberry Pi:

#!/usr/bin/python3
from urllib.request import urlopen
import json
import time
from neopixel import *

apikey="get_your_own_key" # get a key from https://developer.forecast.io/register
# Latitude & longitude - current values are Lancaster University
lati="54.005546"
longi="-2.784876"

LED_COUNT = 50 # Number of LED pixels.
LED_PIN = 18 # GPIO pin connected to the pixels (must support PWM!).
LED_FREQ_HZ = 800000 # LED signal frequency in hertz (usually 800khz)
LED_DMA = 5 # DMA channel to use for generating signal (try 5)
LED_BRIGHTNESS = 8 # Set to 0 for darkest and 255 for brightest
LED_INVERT = False # True to invert the signal (when using NPN transistor level shift)

def color(strip, color, start, end): 
 for i in range(start, end+1):
 strip.setPixelColor(i, color)
 strip.show() 
 
strip = Adafruit_NeoPixel(LED_COUNT, LED_PIN, LED_FREQ_HZ, LED_DMA, LED_INVERT, LED_BRIGHTNESS)
strip.begin()

count = 0
try:
 while True: 
 #get the data from the api website
 url="https://api.forecast.io/forecast/"+apikey+"/"+lati+","+longi+"?units=si"
 meteo=urlopen(url).read()
 meteo = meteo.decode('utf-8')
 weather = json.loads(meteo)

currentTemp = weather['currently']['temperature']

#negative number will always be on 
 color(strip, Color(0, 0, 255), 0,7) # Blue
 
 #what's the temp?
 if currentTemp > 0:
 color(strip, Color(75, 75, 255), 8, 15) # light Blue
 if currentTemp > 5:
 color(strip, Color(0, 255, 0), 16, 23) # dark Green
 if currentTemp > 10:
 color(strip, Color(75, 255, 75), 24, 31) # light Green
 if currentTemp > 15:
 color(strip, Color(255, 100, 0), 32, 39) # yellow 
 elif currentTemp > 20:
 color(strip, Color(255, 50, 0), 40, 47) #orange 
 elif currentTemp > 25:
 color(strip, Color(255, 0, 0), 48, 50) # Red 
 #check every 5 minutes (change to crontab)
 time.sleep(300)
 
except KeyboardInterrupt:
 print("Exit")
 color(strip, Color(0,0,0), 0, 49)

Enter your own secret key in the apikey field on the 7th line. Also, replace the longitude and latitude values on line 9 and 10 with the coordinates of your area. Now save the file and you are almost done.

To start the script automatically after each reboot and check the outside temperature every five minutes, set up a cron task by entering the following command:

sudoE crontab -e

A file will be opened and add the following lines at the end of the file:

*/5 * * * * /usr/bin/python3 /home/pi/stair_lights.py
@reboot /usr/bin/python3 /home/pi/stair_lights.py

Save the file and exit.

The Color Scheme

The following table shows which color represents which temperature range. You can modify the script to change the current color scheme.

Temperature (°C) Lights (Nos) Color
 0 – 4  9 – 16 Light Blue
 5 – 9 17 – 24 Dark Green
 10 – 14 25 – 32 Light Green
 15 – 19 33 – 40 Yellow
 19 – 24  41 – 48 Orange
 25+  48 – 50 Red

 

Renesas Electronics Achieves Lowest Embedded SRAM Power of 13.7 nW/Mbit

Renesas Electronics Corporation announced the successful development of a new low-power SRAM circuit technology that achieves a record ultra-low power consumption of 13.7 nW/Mbit in standby mode. The prototype SRAM also achieves a high-speed readout time of 1.8 ns during active operation. Renesas Electronics applied its 65nm node silicon on thin buried oxide (SOTB) process to develop this record-creating SRAM prototype.

Renesas Embedded SRAM prototype with SOTB Structure
Renesas Embedded SRAM prototype with SOTB Structure

This new low-power SRAM circuit technology can be embedded in application specific standard products (ASSPs) for Internet of Things (IoT), home electronics, and healthcare applications. The fast growth of IoT is requiring all the devices be connected to a wireless network all the time. Hence, products must consume less power to prolong battery life. With this new technology applied, much longer battery life can be achieved enabling maintenance-free applications.

One essential part of the development of IoT applications is the miniaturization of end products. This can be achieved by lowering battery capacity requirement of ASSPs. As an effort to reduce the power consumption in ASSPs for the IoT, there is a technique in which the application is operated in the standby mode and only goes to the active mode when data processing is required.

Now, the conventional way of saving power is to store all important data to an internal/external non-volatile memory and cut off the power supply to the circuit. If the wait time is long enough, this method is effective. But in most of the cases, the device has to switch between standby mode and active mode very quickly causing data-saving and restarting process extremely inefficient. There are even cases where, inversely, this increases power consumption.

In contrary to above, the new technology by Renesas Electronics uses a method where power consumption in standby mode is reduced a lot enabling switching operation to be performed frequently without leading to increased power consumption. Hence, it’s no more required to save data to non-volatile memory. This improves the efficiency further.

The low-power embedded SRAM which is fabricated using the 65 nm SOTB process, achieves both the low standby mode power consumption and increased operating speed.  Such features were difficult to achieve with the continuing progress of the semiconductor process miniaturization.  Renesas plans to support both energy harvesting operation and development of maintenance free IoT applications that do not require battery replacement by enabling ASSPs that adopt the embedded SRAM with SOTB structure.

To learn about all the complex technical information which is not covered in the scope of this article, visit the press release page of Renesas Electronics.

SUNY Polytechnic Creates 3-in-1 Device That Can Be A Diode, A MOSFET And A BJT

In a recently published study, a team of researchers at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, New York, has suggested that combining multiple functions in a single semiconductor device can significantly improve device’s functionality and efficiency.

Nowadays, the semiconductor industry is striving to scale down the device dimensions in order to fit more transistors onto a computer chip and thus improve the speed and efficiency of the devices. According to Moore’s law, the number of transistors on a computer chip cannot exponentially increase forever. For this reason, scientists are trying to find other ways to improve semiconductor technologies.

To demonstrate the new technology which can be an alternative to Moore’s law, the researchers of SUNY Polytechnic designed and fabricated a reconfigurable device that can be a p-n diode (which functions as a rectifier), a MOSFET (for switching), and a bipolar junction transistor (or BJT, for current amplification). Though these three devices can be fabricated individually in modern semiconductor fabrication plants, it often becomes very complex if they are to be combined.

reconfigurable 3-in-1 semiconductor device
the reconfigurable 3-in-1 semiconductor device

Ji Ung Lee at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute said,

We are able to demonstrate the three most important semiconductor devices (p-n diode, MOSFET, and BJT) using a single reconfigurable device. We can form a single device that can perform the functions of all three devices.

The multitasking device is made of 2-D tungsten diselenide (WSe2), a new transition metal dichalcogenide semiconductor. This class of materials is special as the bandgap is tunable by varying the thickness of the material. It is a direct bandgap while in single layer form.

Another challenge was to find a suitable doping technique as WSe2 lacks one being a new material. So, to integrate multiple functions into a single device, the researchers developed a completely new doping method. By doping, the researchers could obtain properties such as ambipolar conduction, which is the ability to conduct both electrons and holes under different conditions. Lee said,

Instead of using traditional semiconductor fabrication techniques that can only form fixed devices, we use gates to dope.

These gates can control which carriers (electrons or holes) should flow through the semiconductor. In this way, the ambipolar conduction is achieved. The ability to dynamically change the carriers allows the reconfigurable device to perform multiple functions. Another advantage of using gates in doping is, it saves overall area and enable more efficient computing. As consequence, the reconfigurable device can potentially implement certain logic functions more compactly and efficiently.

In future, researchers plan to investigate the applications of this new technology and want to enhance its efficiency further. As Lee said,

We hope to build complex computer circuits with fewer device elements than those using the current semiconductor fabrication process. This will demonstrate the scalability of our device for the post-CMOS era.

Samba : Set Up Your Raspberry Pi As A Local Network File Server

Samba is the Linux implementation of the SMB/CIFS file sharing standard used by Windows PCs and Apple computers and widely supported by media streamers, gaming consoles, and mobile apps. In this tutorial, you will learn how to use a Raspberry Pi as a file server where you can save backups and share files with all the other computers on your network using Samba.

You need the following things for this tutorial:

  • A keyboard (Wired or wireless)
  • A mouse (Wired or wireless)
  • Raspberry Pi (Model 3B is recommended)
  • A 32GB (or smaller) micro SD card
  • Internet connection (Only to download Samba)

The SD card must have a reasonable amount of free storage space without requiring any extra steps to make it accessible. However, if you want extra storage, simply mount a large USB drive and create a Samba entry for it. If you want to keep your Samba file server compact and portable, install Raspbian on a 128Gb or 256GB SD card. Before purchasing, check online whether the SD card is fully compatible with Raspberry Pi or not.

Install Samba

Samba is available in Raspbian’s standard software repositories. Update your repository index, make sure that the operating system is fully updated, and install Samba using apt-get. Open a Terminal and type:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install samba samba-common-bin

The download and installation process will start and it will take a while depending on your internet speed.

Create A Shared Directory

Now you need to create a shared directory that will be accessible by other PCs/mobiles connected to the same network. You can put it anywhere, but in this tutorial, it will be at the top level of the root file system of the Pi’s microSD card. Type the following command:

sudo mkdir -m 1777 /share

To help prevent the directory from being unintentionally deleted, the above command sets the sticky bit (1) and gives everyone read/write/execute (777) permissions on the shared directory.

Configure Samba

In this step, edit the smb.conf  file to configure Samba to share the selected directory and allow users to perform various actions like read, write etc. Open the smb.conf file using the following command:

sudo leafpad /etc/samba/smb.conf

You need to add the following entry:

[share]
Comment = Pi shared folder
Path = /share
Browseable = yes
Writeable = Yes
only guest = no
create mask = 0777
directory mask = 0777
Public = yes
Guest ok = yes
Configure Samba On Raspberry Pi
Configure Samba On Raspberry Pi

As per the above configuration, anyone can read, write, and execute files in the shared directory, either by logging in as a Samba user or as a guest. Just omit the guest ok = yes line if you don’t want to allow guests. To share a larger external hard disk, simply create a smb.conf entry for the path you want to share across the network (here the external hard disk).

Create A User & Start Samba

Everything is configured and now it’s time to create a user. To set up a password for the user, enter the following command:

sudo smbpasswd -a pi

Then set a password as prompted. It’s recommended that the password should be different from your Pi’s login password. Finally, restart the Samba and set it to start automatically when the Raspberry Pi starts up. Enter the following command:

sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

Once you’ve made sure that you can locate your shared folder on the network, you can safely disconnect the mouse, monitor, and keyboard from your Pi and just leave it running as a headless file server.

WD PiDrive Node Zero – A low-energy hard drive coupled with a Pi Zero

The WD PiDrive Node Zero is a compact, all-in-one unit that includes a WD PiDrive connected to a Raspberry Pi Zero through a custom adapter board with 2 USB ports. This unit offers an affordable, low-power storage node with an onboard computer. Suitable for data logging, offline analytics, and applications where stand-alone operation are required due to network or privacy-related limitations restrictions.

The PiDrive is Western Digital Corporation‘s low-energy hard drive, designed particularly for the Raspberry Pi. It replaces the regular SATA III port with a micro-USB connection. It’s a compact combination of USB hub, Pi Zero and 2.5″ hard drive that could easily be VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) mounted behind a screen or tucked away in a neat case.

WD PiDrive Node Zero Exploded View
WD PiDrive Node Zero Exploded View

The WD PiDrive Node Zero comes with a 4GB microSD preloaded with a customized version of the popular NOOBS (New Out of Box Software). On first boot, Raspbian gets installed in the primary hard disk and not on the 4GB microSD. The SD card boots the device, but you run it from the hard drive. So you do not have to switch between the two drives.

Western Digital suggests this device as:

Ideal for video recording, data logging, offline analytics, and applications where stand-alone operations are needed because of network limitations or privacy/security restrictions.

As the Pi Zero has neither onboard WiFi module nor ethernet connector, you have only two options for taking a PiDrive Node Zero online. Either add a USB-to-Ethernet adapter and hook up to a wired network or use a USB WiFi dongle to access WiFi connection. The newer Pi Zero W has onboard WiFi chip. So, you can replace the Pi zero of WD PiDrive with a Pi Zero W to gain easier WiFi access.

The WD PiDrive Node Zero kit comes with the following:

  • WD PiDrive 314GB
  • Raspberry Pi Zero
  • USB Adapter board (PCBA) with full sized ports
  • 4GB microSD card (with preloaded software)
  • Mini HDMI adapter cable
WD Pi Drive Node Zero Kit
WD Pi Drive Node Zero Kit

Once you are connected to a network, you can make amazing DIY projects like data logging weather station, JukeBox with something like Volumio or PiMiusicBox for streaming your whole music collection, mini-DLNA and Samba file server, mobile backup device and much more.

Conclusion: Out of the box, this product runs fantastically. The inclusion of the customized NOOBS installer was a smart move and makes installation a lot easier. Disassembling the unit is not at all user-friendly and the lack of networking option is a limiting factor. But it remains a charming and handy piece of kit.