Raspberry Pi PoE prototypes: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Our new boards arrived, with the modifications made based on the feedback we received from previous prototypes. Board itself looks Good.

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On the flip side is the Ugly. 

RasPoE_back

 

That bare metal ring? It should have been voided, as the other screw holes are. Oh well, it doesn’t degrade the functionality of the board, we just have to use plastic spacers with this one. Obviously we’ll fix it before the production.

The Bad was found from our previous prototype round. By now we have three broken Ethernet ports on Raspberry Pi’s. It seems that when the PoE cable is disconnected, there is a transient voltage spike in the data lines which gets coupled to Raspberry Pi and eventually destroys the Ethernet interface of circuit. This damage can be avoided by always disconnecting Ethernet cable to Raspberry Pi before disconnecting cable to PoE switch.

We obviously have to fix this issue before we launch the product. A protection scheme has already been designed and it will be prototyped on current design. This issue will not delay our campaign launch in May. We’ll be individually in contact with those of you who ordered a kit and ask if you want to have this version of the board or one with the transient protection a few weeks later.

We’re still waiting for a few of the higher quality parts, but of course we could not wait to test if it works as designed.

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The board works well, and it’s next task is to test the protection scheme. As we’re going to make another round of prototypes, option to buy kits is open! Contact us at Indie@ell-i.org and we’ll arrange things from there. We’ll sell the kits with no mark-up, but you’ll have to be skilled with soldering iron to assemble one. You can find earlier experiences of hand soldering the board from Vaasa Hacklab’s blog post. Be sure to sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you updated of our progress.

Raspberry Pi 2 + Power over Ethernet + Owncloud + DD-WRT + Kodi + HiFiBerry DAC+ = Awesome media center

By now we know that our Raspberry Pi can be run with Power over Ethernet. Next question is: what to do with it? I’ve a little media center with TV, speakers and a blu-ray player back at my home, but I’ve not been satisfied with the ways to deliver content to it. Even if a smart T can play files automatically from my collection, given recent fiascos with smart TV’s and privacy I’m not willing to give one an Internet connection.

PC or laptop would feel like an overkill, so Raspberry Pi to the rescue! Last time I tried to run a media server with Raspberry Pi I was using model B. At the time the device was not powerful enough for the smooth experience, and I ended up donating it to my local hackerspace where it still serves as a IRC client. Let’s have another try with the new Raspberry Pi 2, as it is 6x faster, according to the box.

First thing was to plug the Power over Ethernet -board on it, so far so good. As the player software I selected Kodi, previously known as XBMC.  The steps to setup Raspberry Pi as a media PC is documented well enough around the internet, here for example. I already do have an ownCloud installation, which supports WebDAV file transfer. Kodi can be configured to access files over WebDAV, so I’m not limited by the 8GB of SD-card space anymore.

Next thing was to add a HiFiBerry DAC+ to Raspberry Pi for as good sound as possible. Setting it up was straightforward with the instructions found at their website, and I was ready to listen to the results. Everything worked… sorta. But there were a few user experience issues I wanted to correct. First of all, streaming media over WebDAV was laggy between songs. Maybe Raspberry Pi had to download entire song between playbacks? Anyway, this was simple enough to solve. Plug in USB-stick, download media locally to it and play from there.

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Final version of our board won’t have electric tape, no worries 🙂

Another issue was that I didn’t really want to go through the trouble of controlling the thing with keyboard and mouse. There are remote controls, but I’ve too many of those already. Kodi has a few web interfaces, I went for one known as Chorus. It allows me to control the Raspberry Pi through my LAN connection, so I can play music from my main speakers, adjust volume etc. Chorus also lets me to stream music to my local computer, in case I’m in another room and I don’t want to annoy my neighbours by turning the volume up.

At this point, I was pretty satisfied with the results. One more little thing, though. While I’m entirely happy to access my music by checking which IP was assigned to my Raspberry Pi by my router’s DHCP and entering something like 192.168.1.128:8080/ to my browser, my friends might not be that technologically oriented. My router runs DD-WRT, and it was pretty simple to assign a static IP-address and a hostname to my Raspberry Pi through the management interface of my router. Then there was the matter of routing the Kodi’s port 8080 to HTTP default port 80, but luckily I’ve done my fair share configuring Apache in the past.

Now I’m all set, all I have to do is to log into my home network, navigate to musiikki.a11 and enjoy.

Capture2

We still have a few sets of boards for the next round of prototypes available, so if you want to order one PoE boards + parts, contact us at Indie@ell-i.org and we’ll arrange things from there. We’ll sell them at cost, but you’ll have to be skilled with soldering iron to assemble one. You can find earlier experiences of hand soldering the board from Vaasa Hacklab’s blog post. Be sure to sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you updated of our progress.

 

Raspberry Pi PoE: To pinch pennies or not to pinch pennies?

Good, cheap, small production run – pick two. That’s the question we’re facing this week. We have gotten some feedback about the pricing of our PoE HAT, two main viewpoints are:

1) It’s going to be expensive anyway, so at least it should have ALL the premium features

2) It absolutely must not be more expensive than the Raspberry Pi itself!

Unless we’re getting thousands of orders, we’re not going to split the product into “Economy” and “Premium” models. We would like to include:

  • Mounting hardware, as in 4 * board spacers.
  • Ethernet patch cables, which connect the HAT to Pi.
  • Long pins on pin header
  • High quality electrolytic capacitor on output
  • High quality input filtering for less radiated noise
  • Shielded ethernet connectors for more reliable data transmission

These are going to be stretch goals in our crowdfunding campaign.
Please let us know what you consider important by answering the survey here. Your answers help us to set the order of the stretch goals.

We’re also delighted to hear any suggestions for more features! Contact us at indie@ell-i.org with any comments and feedback.

Next revision of Raspberry Pi Power over Ethernet board

Our first round of prototypes gathered a lot of interest. We have received a lot of great feedback and suggestions for the board. The next revision of board will incorporate the following changes:

  •  Fuse F1 has been changed to 0805 footprint
  •  Transformer T1 and aluminum capacitor C6 have larger pads for easier handsoldering
  •  Pads for attaching wires directly to raw PoE lines have been added
  •  Ethernet connectors have been switched to SMD-ones to avoid shorting ethernet connectors to USB connector below.
  •  Camera slot has been reduced for increased mechanical strength.
  •  Some silkscreen text has been changed and moved around, “Internet” to “PoE switch” for example
  •  Some silkscreen issues, such as references being over pads have been fixed.
  •  Extra path for lesser filtering has been removed
  •  Mounting holes have solder mask opening as per Raspberry Pi HAT specification.
  •  Fiducials have been added for automated assembly

A 3D-render of board gives a rough idea of how it looks, even though we haven’t made models for project specific parts.

raspiboard

Our shield is not going to be officially HAT compliant, as the Ethernet connectors and signal termination come over the HAT boundaries of 65 mm. We considered squeezing the design into HAT dimensions, but since we’re going to have connectors over USB and Ethernet ports we decided to extend the board over the area.

Hopefully we receive some of the Raspberry PI HATs we ordered this week so we can get into testing integration of our previous prototype shield and existing HATs. Stay tuned, and join our mailing list by signing up at https://ell-i.org/poe-for-raspi/.

We always love to hear from you, please feel free to contact us at indie@ell-i.org with your comments and questions.

Raspberry Pi PoE-shield: first round of prototypes

We are designing a Power over Ethernet (PoE) board for Raspberry Pi
models B+ and 2. Our first prototypes have been assembled and they work as hoped,
however there were some rough edges in first round of design.

Vaasa Hacklab is building their own 3D-scanner based on Raspberry Pi’s powered with PoE, and they were kind enough to give our boards a try. Below is our translation of their blog post outlining their experiences with the boards.

by olmari · March 21, 2015 (English version Eero Hakala/Ell-i) – original blog posting: http://vaasa.hacklab.fi/2015/03/21/raspberry-pi-poe-shield/

We got the prototype boards for the Raspberry Pi PoE shield from Ell-i
co-operative so just just heat the soldering iron and start working – as a
first timer on plate that has SMD components on it.

Starting the work was a kind of shock as the 1608 packaged (0603 imperial)
surface mount component was indeed really small, a kind of tiny weeny piece
of …, but I got it connected on the plate. Thanks to the good planning that
left lots of space around the parts for working not to mention that the
pads themselves were quite big. Also good quality of soldering iron helped.
I succeeded to make one dry-joint in the beginning but giving it more hot
iron did melt it away.

All things were not quite perfect because the board was still a prototype.
We found that the connector pins of RJ-45 connector made contact to USB
header of Raspberry, we got it corrected with electric tape. In final
version of the board the pins will be moved a bit or the part will be
replaced with a surface mount version. Thermal fuse was also a bit bigger
than the place for it, with good enough aim we got it in place, this will
also be corrected in the production version.

See below for some pictures of the board and ready made system.