Of course the Pi runs NetBSD

NetBSD, a rather good Unix-like operating system has released support for the Raspberry Pi Zero amongst other Raspberry Pi boards. Version 7.1 was made available on 11 March and can be downloaded from the NetBSD site. Instructions are also provided.

I first came across BSD years ago when a version was supplied on a magazine's cover disk for the Amiga. It started my absolute love of Unix, which culminated in my purchasing two Sun workstations (an Ultra 5 and Ultra 10) to run Solaris some years back. The FreeBSD project has a page that briefly covers the history of the various BSD operating systems and is worth a read.

What is very, very notable about Unix and BSD is stability: the release cycles are such that upgrades happen at a steady pace with very stable component packages. Oh, and to add: NetBSD supports a ridiculous list of computers. Scanning through that list I can see the Acorn Archimedes, Amiga (huzzah!), Cobalt Microservers (I owned a Sun Cobalt Raq 4 for quite a while), Psion PDAs (yes, really), Sega Dreamcast (yes, really really) and many more.

As NetBSD's tagline says: "Of course it runs NetBSD".

I am definitely going to be running NetBSD on one of my Raspberry Pi boards soon. If you are looking for an interesting alternative to Raspbian then do give NetBSD a try.

Zumo George gets upgrades (part 1)

Everything eventually needs an upgrade. You may think that pencil 1.0 was great, but if Apple has taught us anything: we all need pencil 2.0. I jest, although that said it is time for Zumo George, one of my Raspberry Pi robots to receive the 2.0 make-over. This is brought on by two things:

Previously I had thought of upgrading from the Raspberry Pi A+ to a Zero purely to save some space, enabling me to get a bit o'real-estate back as George measure but 10cm x 10cm. However I would still have the WiFi dongle a-dongling, only it would be dangling from a micro to full-size USB. Dongles dangling from dongles (there's a song in there somewhere) made me sad: "if only a variant of the Zero came with WiFi", I thought. Fantastic news Pi fans: the Foundation delivered.

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is essentially a Zero (same CPU, same RAM, same form factor) with the added bonus of a combined WiFi and Bluetooth chip. Also for our inner geek the Foundation has included the coolest antenna I've seen yet which features a triangular resonant cavity. The MagPi magazine covered the antenna in detail just the other day in Issue 55. Proant, a Swedish company, have licensed the tech to the Foundation.
The MagPi, Issue 55. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Given the move to the slimmest of Raspberry Pi's it is also time to move from the Pimoroni Explorer Pro to the Explorer pHAT. This half-pint size board has many of the features of it's larger sibling and is a perfect match for the Zero W.

Putting it all together here are collection of parts:

Zumo George Pi Zero W upgrade

Any observant bod will quickly notice something missing. Yes I hang my head in shame and join the "forgot to order a 40-pin header for the Zero" club. D'oh! eBay quickly to the rescue. Given this tiny omission the build is on temporary hold for a few days. Still, let's get the blade in place because sumo blades == awesome. While we're at it let's have a preview of where the Zero is going to go. With all ports along one long edge I can now have these poking backwards from George. You can also see the extra space I am gaining from the move to the Zero W from the A+.


I am expecting great things from the sumo blade and am already thinking about how to modify my BDD behaviours and code to take advantage: Zumo George shall no longer retreat in fear from Cartmanzilla.

Stay tuned for Part 2, entitled: "Ahah the header has arrived!"

PS: yes those wires are going to get significantly shortened ;)