PiConfig arrives

Another Kickstarter I’ve been eagerly awaiting recently is PiConfig. Described as the easiest way to set up networking on the Pi this USB stick of wonders looks just the business for when I need to rapidly reconfigure up to 6 Pis on my stand at Bristol Digimakers. Essentially the problem I face is that at home my Pis mostly use DHCP where-as at Digimakers I set up a LAN requiring them all to be on static IP addresses. It’s a real faff having to eject 3 SD and 3 micro SD cards, find the adaptor, and then one by one edit config.txt on a laptop, while trying to remember which card came from which Pi (note to self: must get out label printer).

Much easier, then, just to load PiConfig on my Mac, select the config setting for each Pi in turn, write to the Pi and hey presto all is done. This saves some time going from DHCP -> static (selecting the profile needed each time) and a whole lot when going from static -> DHCP (one config to rule them all). In both directions it wholly eliminates errors as well in the configuration of any card. Win.

So, the question is: does it work? The answer is yes, albeit with a few errors along the way.

The first thing one has to do is run an installer script on each Pi. For some unknown reason this is not included on the USB stick and instead wget must be used. This is a shame as the stick is 4GB in capacity and over 4GB is available. Hang on, that can’t be right:
piconfig_size
Well, apparently it is. Seeing this makes me wonder about the quality of the USB stick from years of reading “is your SD card genuine?” blog posts. Hence, best to take a backup of the software just to be sure. Weirdly this is where I encountered my first problem: right-clicking on the piconfig folder on the stick and choosing Compress “piconfig” results in an error that one file or the other could not be added to the archive. Hmm, this is now getting concerning. I confirmed the stick isn’t write only by creating a new folder on it temporarily.

Instead I copied the whole piconfig folder to my desktop and archived it to a zip there without problem.

Running the PiConfig application presented the program with pretty obvious fields to be completed. But, here again I found a problem: after entering configuration data for the LAN and clicking on the save profile button I was presented with an error, my profiles all disappeared and I had to quit and reload the program again to see them.

[UPDATED]Fortunately the Developer, Mihaly Krich responded very quickly to a message I sent him detailing this fault and has released an updated version of the PiConfig software that addresses this. With the update installed this bug is fixed. On Mac OS X 10.10 when you download the update and run the program you will be presented with a message telling you that only applications from known developers and the App Store can be run. This is a security feature on Mac OS X. To add PiConfig to the list of applications that can be run:

  1. Open System Preferences (quick shortcut: CMD+Space to open Spotlight, type pref and press enter)
  2. Click Security and Privacy
  3. Unlock the preference page by clicking on the padlock in the bottom left and entering your password
  4. Ensure that under Allow apps downloaded from you have “Mac App Store and identified developers”
  5. You will see that the Preferences already identifies that piconfig.app was the last application to need such permissions - click Open Anyway to add it to the safe application list.

piconfig_mac_preference_security

The software author has chosen to save my configuration data inside the Mac OS X package. This means that when when a patched version is released care must be taken to extract the files from /Volumes/PICONFIG/piconfig/osx/piconfig.app/Contents/Resources before replacing the application, else one’s configuration will be overwritten. On Twitter he noted to me that this was due to requiring sudo permissions in Mac OS X which the application does not have.

This save location prohibits the dual-use of any configuration file in Windows and Mac OS X as Windows computers cannot see inside Mac application packages (Mac apps are stored inside.app directories that masquerade as executable programs). I confirmed this to be a problem by loading the Windows executable on a different laptop and sure enough my previous profiles were nowhere to be seen. Given the profiles are saved to a plain text file, a format readable by both operating systems this should have been made accessible to both Mac OS X and Windows.

The final test though is: does this thing work? I can report that yes it does, and very well indeed. As advertised one of my Raspberry Pis is now on a static IP from DHCP... and now it is back to DHCP again after using PiConfig for a second time. Once over the configuration hurdles you can swap configuration on any Pi reliably in well under a minute.

Ultimately, despite less than ideal software and a USB stick that raises a Mr Spock eyebrow, PiConfig does do what it says on the tin and will be an essential part of my exhibition toolkit from now on. It saves me time and makes event setups that much easier.

4/5 “almost spot-on”
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PaPiRus ePaper HAT: what about the software?

In my previous post I mentioned that I was still getting the software for PaPiRus installed. Well, success and all is well. Here are a few screenshots of the 2.7” screen. Note as before that this is a pre-production model and I’ve been told that the screen I am using is an earlier version than what will be shipped to backers.

PaPiRus is available for three more days on Kickstarter.

PaPiRusScreen1

PaPiRusScreen3

PaPiRusScreen2
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