Author: Johari Abdullah
Affiliation: FCSIT, UNIMAS, Malaysia.
Last updated: 13th-March-2013
Apart from installing pinger (for monitoring host) in a normal PC environment, there is an interest in deploying pinger in smaller form factor machine and embedded system. One of the main motivation is to be able to have a small portable monitoring host with subsequent benefit of reducing cost, and maximizing space utilization. Furthermore, such small form factor usually correlate with lower power consumption and enable the utilization of batteries and renewable energy. One such initiative under the PingER project is ePingER project in Zambia which was suggested by Marco Zennaro of ICTP Trieste. Details of the project is available from the SLAC confluence site from this link.
UNIMAS is also interested in developing a portable pinger monitoring host due to the existence of several rural telecentre project such as eBario, eBuayan, eLamai, and eLarapan. There are several other ongoing deployment of telecentres under the ISITI (Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations) in UNIMAS. Since all these telecentres are connected to the Internet, there is an interest to monitor the Internet performance. Thus, such portable machine will enable the monitoring of end-to-end of Internet connection for these centres.
Single Board Computer (SBC) is the term given to a complete computer built on a single circuit board, with microprocessor, I/O, and other features of a functional computer. The SBC can be ARM based on x86 based. This page from Wikipedia provide a list of SBC available on the market. A quick glance shows that there are more ARM based SBC as compared to x86 based SBC. An example of currently popular ARM based SBC is the Raspberry Pi and for the x86 based is the PC Engine ALIX system boards.
To kickstart the ePinger project in UNIMAS, two sets of ALIX2D2 have been purchased to experiment with pinger deployment in SBC. OpenWRT has been chosen as the operating system but there are issues with drivers and installation with regards to the pinger software. As of february 2013, we have not successfully configure OpenWRT for the ALIX2D2 SBC and have not managed to install the pinger software on this machine. There are many challenges/drawbacks in using the ALIX2D2 SBC such as:
Due to the above challenges, x86 based SBC is not a straight forward solution for the deployment of a portable pinger monitoring host. This is where Raspberry Pi ARM based SBC comes into the picture.
Raspberry Pi is a small form factor SBC the size of a credit card (as shown in Figure 2 below) developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the objective of promoting the teaching of computer science in schools. The Raspberry Pi is manufactured through licensed manufacturing deals with Element 14/Premier Farnell and RS Components. Both of these companies sell the Raspberry Pi online. Fortunately, the Raspberry Pi can be purchased and delivered in Malaysia by Element 14 through this website.
The Raspberry Pi has a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC), which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, and originally shipped with 256 megabytes of RAM, later upgraded to 512MB. Table 1 below shows the specification for the raspberry Pi Model B 512 MB model. It does not include a built-in hard disk or solid-state drive, but uses an SD card for booting and long-term storage. Another important goal for the foundation is to produce and sell the Raspberry Pi at low cost so that its is affordable by the general public especially in education sectors. he Foundation's goal is to offer two versions, priced at US$25 and US$35. The Foundation started accepting orders for the higher priced model B on 29 February 2012 and the lower cost model A on February 4, 2013. As of January 2013, over one million Raspberry Pi boards have been sold (Source: Techcrunch).
|SoC||SoC Broadcom BCM2835 (CPU, GPU, DSP, and SDRAM)|
|CPU||700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S core (ARM11 family)|
|GPU||Broadcom VideoCore IV, OpenGL ES 2.0, 1080p30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder|
|Memory (SDRAM)||512 Megabytes (MiB)|
|Video outputs||Composite RCA, HDMI|
|Audio outputs||3.5 mm jack, HDMI|
|Onboard storage||SD, MMC, SDIO card slot|
|Network||10/100 Ethernet RJ45 onboard network|
|USB||2 x USB 2.0 slots|
As for the operating system, there are several ARM Linux distro options such as Raspbian Wheezy (recommended, Debian port), Fedora ARM, Arch Linux ARM, Debian Squeeze, Raspbmc (as media server) and several others as listed at this link.
It is a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. Apart from that, it is a suitable and low cost platform fo kids all over the world to learn programming. The possibility is endless (kind of...) but there are many projects listed all over the Internet which shows RaspBerry Pi being used for: web server, home automation, Web Cam server, media server, weather station, traffic monitoring, game machine and so on. This page lists many cool ideas for using Raspberry Pi in various projects.
The Raspberry Pi unit that has been used for this exercise is purchased from Element 14 through this website. The following Table 2 shows the component purchased and the price (at the point of purchase, Feb 2013). Apart from the Raspberry Pi SBC, all the other components can be purchased separately at your local IT shops or you might have it already. The Raspberry Pi itself only costs RM111.00 and if you already all the other components, the total cost equal to the price of the board itself. The Raspberry Pi itself does not come with any enclosure but different type of enclosure can ber purchased and there are many third party vendors that produce and sell enclosure with different design. On a personal note, the purchase was hassle free and delivery (to Kuching, Sarawak) was fast (within the next day of purchase). At the time of purchase the main board itself (Raspberry Pi) was quoted as having a three weeks lead time due to high demand, but I received the item after 1 week of purchase.
|RASPBERRY-PI Model B 512 MB||RM111.00|
|SDHC Memory Card 4GB with Raspbian Distro||RM43.78|
|POWER SUPPLY, 5V, 5W, USB TO UK/MSIA 3-pin||RM28.33|
|USB Cable A MALE-MICRO B MALE||RM6.46|