The (web)life of (Raspberry) Pi

I have already been running my own website on my ESX testlab server on a virtual machine running Ubuntu 13.x.

As that test server (XW6400 workstation) is consuming quite some power, I was looking for a low power ARM based server but there were not a lot of alternatives that provided enough performance. Until the quad core Raspberry Pi was launched 🙂 Raspberry has it’s own version of Debian (raspbian) which is easily upgraded from Wheezy to Jessie (latest release). Install NGINX, PHP, MySQL, do some configuration and optimization and you’re new LEMP server is good to go.

Overall I’m quite impressed with such a small device and even more with my (reduced) power bill.

Synology upgrade

Some years ago when I needed a NAS system, I ended up with a Synology DS209 after quite some research on the net. Good support, plenty of (regular) updates and a good amount of features. Upgraded the disks from 1 TB to 2 TB and after some years I upgraded to the DS211 (good thing I did as Synology decided not to develop DSM 5.x for the DS209 any further). Again upgraded the disks from 2 TB to 3 TB (all inline upgrades by swapping out the disks 1 by 1 and then expanding the volume) and all was good.

Last week, I found a pretty good deal for a DS214+ (dual core, more memory and hot swappable disks) and this is when the fun started. I started with 1 of the original DS211 disks, ran the Synology assistant, it detected the old DS211 configuration and asked if I would like to migrate it. No problem, migrated the system, updated to the latest DSM version, checked if all was running fine, no issues found. Hot swapped the second disk into the system, repaired the disk set, waited for the disks to be in sync again and rebooted the NAS.

That’s when the fun started. Saw numerous messages about failed packages, repaired all of them, but did get some strange errors referring to database upgrades. When I started the download manager, it complained about a network connection failure. Removed and reinstalled the download manager, same problem. Checked the logfile and there were a number of messages about postgres DB issues. I verified if this was a software or hardware problem by reinstalling DSM on a single 500 GB disk. No problem at all. After some googling, I found a post on clearing out the postgres database.

Simple enough, just delete or rename the directory /volume1/@database/pgsql and restart the NAS. Checked if all packages ran fine, tested download manager and problem fixed 🙂


Revenge of the Qlock two dot something

Quite a while ago, I had already started a project to build my own version of the famous Qlock Two by Biegert & Funk. I decided to build a dutch version and display the time in different format than the original. The original used 5 minute intervals with an extra led in each corner to show any extra minutes needed. I wanted to show all minutes instead in the “It’s now eight hours and twenty two minutes” format so one could see straight away what the time was.

The original was built with an Arduino Duemilanove (2009 in Italian) with an extra ethernet shield for network connectivity to fetch the time through NTP.


This worked fine but the added shield made the board quite thick and the communication between the Arduino and shield had some intermittent issues as well. I also had some other issues with the proper visibility of the words which led to a complete rebuild of the clock. The old version used high intensity white leds but with sunlight shining on the clock, it was still quite hard to see which leds were on and off. The new version now uses red leds and has an extra red plastic plate in front to filter unwanted sunlight out.


I purchased a new Intel Galileo as this board has integrated ethernet and should be Arduino compatible. Should be. It turned out the board runs on a mini Linux kernel with Arduino code on top and the time library is completely different. My old code even wouldn’t compile properly.

After some weeks of struggling with the code and board, I decided to get a proper Arduino compatible board with integrated wifi.


The Cactus Micro is basically an Arduino Lilypad compatible board with an ESP8266 wifi controller. However, I did oversee one small but important matter: Even though the Cactus Micro is fed with a 5V power supply, the digital outputs are 3.3 V. The MAX IC’s which drive the led matrix need at least 3.5 V for a “1” signal so this didn’t work.

As I got a little bit fed up with this (understatement), I have used the original Duemilanove with a DS1309 RTC for timekeeping to at least finish up this project. At some point in time, I’ll replace it with an Arduino Yun (integrated wifi and ethernet) to fix the ethernet connectivity and add some extra features to the clock.


May the force be with you…in Cologne

As someone working in the IT industry (for quite a while now), it is nice to see how technology can be used in a entertaining and productive way. A friend of mine asked if I was interested to go to a StarWars exhibit in Cologne and as a true Sci-Fi fan, I simply couldn’t refuse 🙂 We had visited a similar event in Brussels quite some years ago and I expected it to be the same setup with props from the movies (the last 3 ones hadn’t been released by then).

Turned out, I was quite mistaken. Each visitor got an audio guide and rubber bracelet and as you entered you had to pick a character and through the exhibition, various choices had to be made (with the bracelet) which would build your unique character. The audio guide reacted to sensors in the floor and walls and would start an audio or video comment when you were in the vicinity. Really nice educative and entertaining setup 🙂

Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to use a flashlight and tripod for your camera but my Nikon D3S handled that quite nicely with a 50mm 1.8 lens.

Toys for boys

Once in while men tend to revisit their old hobbies. Women may validate this as a midlife crisis, I simply categorize it as getting back time lost while pretending to be a grown up 😉 Tomatoes, tomatoes, who cares anyway?

About 25 years back I bought my first (and up till now my only) synthesizer: The Roland D70.

Really nice synthesizer, I still love the sound of it but it had been gathering dust for a while and as I wanted to see how much technology had advanced in the meantime, I checked out what is currently available. As usual, things are not as easy as it seems. At first, I had a preference for either the FA-60 or FA-80 but after some very sound advise from the shop where I bought my D70 (Spanjaard in Alkmaar), I finally decided on a separate keyboard controller/synthesizer combo: The A800 Pro controller and Integra-7.

integra-7_angle_gal A800+Pro_2

In one word: Awesome! 6000 sounds, extra sounds can be loaded into virtual banks, 16 voices and each voice can have each own effect, motion surround, etc…

My current setup is the A800 Pro connect through Midi to the Integra-7 and the Integra-7 hooked up through USB to my Mac (running Logic Pro). I had some initial issues with the A800 Pro not sending data through Midi out but it turned out the device is a bit too intelligent: If you use USB to power it, it expects to send the Midi data through USB as well. In other words: You’ll need to purchase the external power supply which is not included.

The Roland D70 has been completely cleaned and repaired (broken backlight) and is now being used by my niece. I already advised her to be careful with an instrument older than her 😉