Optimal Uses for Raspberry Pi or other Low Power SBCs?

Hi All,

I’m looking for some ideas of what to use old low powered single board computers for. Recently I’ve been messing around with repurposing two old Steam Links that I have laying around, along with an old Raspberry Pi 3B+.

I’ve already been successful in compiling an up to date kernel and booting the Steam Links into ArchLinux from a USB drive using chroot and Kexec, so the hard part of repurposing them has already been tackled. (I have lots of links for reference materials if anyone is interested, I just don’t want to sidetrack the main topic. I’m also working on an updated Git repository with detailed instructions, but I haven’t made that public yet.)

I have a relatively powerful Gen 1 Threadripper PC set up as a server with Proxmox installed, so I’m really looking for software or applications that lend themselves to running on power efficient machines rather than in a container.

For example, I have already set up one of the Steam Links to be a NUT/WOL server to monitor my UPS. Once I’m done configuring my primary server, this will allow me to power down/up the power hungry systems when the power goes out while keeping the Steam Link powered up via the UPS battery.

Are there other applications anyone can think of for these machines where they are just better suited than spinning up another container or VM? I’m primarily focusing on infrastructure uses, as I have them all mounted on a DIN rail next to my network switches and my server, but I’m open to other ideas as well.

I’ve done a lot of reading on Pi project sites, but for most of those projects, virtualization makes more sense in almost every way.

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The main advantages of the Pi are that it can physically be somewhere. So actually using the display out, audio jacks, bluetooth, something like that.

So I’ve used it for photo frames, radio, and basic security cam, and emulation. It really depends on your exact use cases, but having something that is fully independent of main stack and always comes up on power does have advantages.

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Offhand, the things that come immediately to mind are things like pihole and/or other ‘core network infrastructure things’ (unifi/omada controllers, home assistant, NUT, netboot.xyz, etc.). Both for redundancy’s sake, as well as like you said - letting you be a little freer should the TR box need some downtime for upgrades or other tinkering.

Color me curious, I’ve got a couple collecting dust. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Definitely. I have one Pi set up to automatically detect audio from a record player and stream to HomePods around the house using Owntone.

I’ve also built a photo booth using a Pi, for family events. I have a couple of other fun projects in mind that I will eventually get to as well.

I forgot to mention in my original post that the Steam Links are headless devices, as HDMI out doesn’t work when booting them this way. Limits their usefulness a bit, other than for hosting headless applications or monitoring things.

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Sorry for the delay, I decided to just go ahead and add the repo to Github and finish editing the instructions later. You can find all of the necessary files and instructions there, along with a References section in the README file that has all of the links to the resources I pulled from.

https://github.com/craw0967/steamlink-archlinux

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I think you could cluster them up for useful applications like Firefly III (expense management), Joplin (server for note taking in md), Immich (photo gallery backup), Tailscale or Wireguard, a custom homepage, Searxng (meta-search engine), DNS handling, password managers, file sharing (though I’m struggling to find an alternative to Pwndrop since it’s not updated anymore).

There’s also USB over the network that could be useful sometimes and those devices are perfect for these kind of jobs. And, along this line, the Pi could serve sensor data if you want to.

Can’t think of many more since these are mostly the ones I use on a Pi.

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To help give future searchers another idea, here is what I settled on for the Pi 3B+.

I’ve set it up on my home network to be a retro computing file server.

I’ve installed Raspberry Pi OS Lite as the operating system. For software so far, I’ve installed the following:

  • Netatalk to enable AFP file sharing (and possibly AppleTalk) with my old Macintosh.
  • Samba to enable file sharing with other compatible OSes, including my modern Windows machine and mobile devices.
  • Webmin to easily enable web based administration of the Samba Share configurations
  • A Netatalk module for Webmin to do the same for the AFP Shares
  • A USB external SSD set up to automatically mount on boot. This will allow me to power down the Pi and take the SSD with me to another location as needed, or just for faster file transfer speeds.

I’m aware the Pi only has USB 2 and that could be a pretty significant bottleneck, but I’m ok with it. Most retro computing files are small enough it doesn’t matter, and that’s if the old machine can even saturate the USB 2 connection anyway.

I probably could have technically done this with my TrueNAS setup, but USB drives in TrueNAS are tricky, and more so with the passthrough I would have had to do.

Finally, TrueNAS is deprecating their AFP support and I’ve found my old Macintosh’s connection to AFP Shares I’ve set up on it to be flaky at best.

With that, if I come up with one final idea for my last Steam Link, I’ll be sure to post a final update out here.

I’m contemplating creating a self built Philips Hue and Zigbee combo hub, but since I have no smart home devices for either, that seems like a solution in search of a problem.

It’s a terrible application, very insecure and resource intensive on a Pi2. My suggestion is to go for OpenMediaVault as a base and to easly manage all the basics on.

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I dont think so. Webmin can be secure as you want. You can easily enable 2FA. Works under https by defaut (when i install it on DietPi)

I like :heart: webmin, nice gui, allows me to easily configure basic linux stuff and monitoring.
Also I like (as far as I know, if I’m wrong, please correct me) that it don’t use database (for monitoring and graphs) so it’s not persistent - and data for graphs are stored only locally in browser localStorage

I’m using webmin on all my Raspberries (RPi4, RPi Zero 2W, and RPi5, also on Odroid H3)
My most used webmin features are:

  • just to see current CPU, RAM and SSD usage and temperatures.
  • trigger package updates (one click)
  • browse files (and sometimes also edit / delete files)
  • trigger custom scripts

That’s what Grafana is for :wink: .

Could run ollama:

perhaps not optimal given performance, but depends on use case.

I could see it being too resource intensive on a Pi2, but seems to be fine on the 3B+.

As for security, this device won’t be used to access the internet or be available anywhere except the local network. It’s simply a convenient way to make config changes, that’s all.

I do like OpenMediaVault but I already have TrueNAS up and running and setting up another NAS feels a bit extra when all I really want is a portable USB drive that can be shared over the network via AFP and SMB.

Practical case: Setup a Pi4 as a redundant auto-backup for a friends business.

Wrote a simple python script to download and timestamp select databases from a web service. Set it as a cron job to run once a day/week: auto magic backups.

Just had to add #!/usr/bin/env python3 to the first line of the python file.

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New home had a lot of in-wall speakers scattered about. I used pi4s with amp hats to power the speakers. DIY home audio with apple AND android as the controller is a scary world. Every now and then I replace one with a wiim streamer and cheap fosi amp. The pis have been an excellent intermediate stepping stone to determine which units are most used.

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I have two here at the moment. one runs AdGuard Home for my network and the other is a Network Audio Endpoint so I can stream to my stereo with control from an iPad/iPhone.

Maybe I’m mistaken or remember reading about an older version that was really not safe to use. Not judging your choices though, at all! I’m gonna give it a go, read about it and see if it improved or not.

OMV can do more than just be a NAS OS, is well rounded in my opinion. And useful if you want a GUI to easly interact with the system instead of always going through the shell.

had to do some tweaking to the backup script. fighting with python env for one of the libraries required since this was an externally-managed-environment

so I made a .sh wrapper to set source then call python.

#!/bin/bash

# set env so python can find libraries
source env/bin/activate

# run python backup and pass along arguments
python backup.py "$1" "$2" "$3"

and now the crontab calls the backup.sh instead of the python file directly. great success!

did some more tweaking.

the external drive the files are backing up to keeps unmounting for some reason. I added to fstab but still giving issues. maybe its power saving?

now we check if its mounted, if not then mount -a

if grep -qs '/dev/sda1' /proc/mounts; then
    echo "/dev/sda1 is already mounted."
else
    echo "/dev/sda1 is not mounted. mounting..."
    mount -a
fi

and moved the crontab to sudo crontab.


next was setting up mail notifications for job status.

gave up fighting with sendmail configuration… switched to ssmtp and was able to get it working with a generated app password.

set the MAILTO and now it sends the output from the jobs!

Apr 03 17:44:18 raspberrypi sSMTP[19424]: Sent mail for root@raspberrypi (221 2.0.0 closing connection l4-20020a17090270c400b001e0d62e077esm13887054plt.247 - gsmtp) uid=0 username=root outbytes=1071

great success!