11 Uses for a Raspberry Pi Around the Office

Look, I know what you’re thinking: a Raspberry Pi is really just for tinkering, prototyping and hobby use. It’s not actually meant for running a business on.

And it’s definitely true that this computer’s relatively low processing power, corruptible SD card, lack of battery backup and the DIY nature of the support means it’s not going to be a viable replacement for a professionally installed and configured business server for your most mission-critical operations any time soon.

But the board is affordable, incredibly frugal with power, small enough to fit just about anywhere and endlessly flexible – it’s actually a pretty great way to handle some basic tasks around the office.

And, even better, there’s a whole world of people out there who have done these projects before and are happy to share how they did it.

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Linux on the Desktop: Are We Nearly There Yet?

The numbers are pretty stark: Linux might be the backbone of everything from embedded devices to mainframes and super computers. But it has just a 2% share of desktops and laptops.

It seems the only way to get most people to even touch it is to rip away everything you recognise as Linux to rebuild it as Android.

Until recently, I was in the 98%. I honestly wasn’t even conflicted. I used Linux most days both for work and for hobbies – but always in the cloud or on one of those handy little project boards that are everywhere now. For my daily driver, it was Windows all the way.

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Adding PWM, a Free Password Reset Tool, to a Windows Network

People asking you to reset their passwords all the time?

Would it lighten your workload to have them reset it themselves with a web-based interface?

Trying to implement a better password policy to break your users out of bad practices?

Well, there’s a Microsoft service that can handle this for you. But there are license costs. And it turns out that it’s actually not even as good as the open source alternative: PWM. This is a very powerful, self-service password reset tool that integrates with your existing MS Active Directory infrastructure using LDAP.

This guide will show you how to configure PWM start to finish with SSL cert installation and MYSQL database setup included.

I will be using Ubuntu Server 16.04 for this guide. I have tried with 18.04 but with varying degrees of success. It seems that 18.04, at the time of writing this article, has some compatibility issues with some of the packages that get installed in the process.

The official installation instructions are actually pretty good – even a Windows guy like me could figure out most of it. But I got stuck a bit trying to configure the SSL certificates and configuring PWM to use a remote database. Having taken the effort to figure these bits out, I wanted to share what I’d done to make it easier for the next guy 🙂

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5 Things Influenza Taught Me About the Evolution of the Desktop Computer

The flu took me completely out of action recently. It hit me pretty hard.

And, as tends to happen with these things, I ended up binge watching more TV and movies in two weeks hidden under a blanket than in 2 years as a member of wider society.

In the most delirious moments, the vicious conspiracy of fever and painkillers gave me no choice but to stick to bad 80s action movies.

When I was a little more lucid, though, I got really stuck into some documentaries around the early days of desktop computing: Computerphile episodes, Silicon Cowboys, Micro Men, Youtube interviews, all sorts of stuff.

Here are the big things that have stuck with me from it:

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Making Remote Desktop Connections More Secure

The Remote Desktop Connection features in Microsoft Windows allow staff on the road, all over the world, to access their workstation. The productivity benefits of this are obvious.

The security implications are also obvious. Get this wrong and you are handing over full control of the machine to bad people who will harm you if they can profit from it.

So what’s the right way to go about this?

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Playing Badass Acorn Archimedes Games on a Raspberry Pi

The Acorn Archimedes was an excellent machine and years ahead of its time.

Debuting in 1987, it featured a point and click graphic interface not so different to Windows 95, 32 bit processing, and enough 3D graphics power to portal you to a new decade.

These days, it’s best remembered for launching the Acorn RISC Machines processor. ARM processors went on to rule the world. You almost certainly keep one in your pocket.

What’s less well appreciated is that the Archimedes was rad for games. For a few years, it was the most powerful desktop in the world and developers were eager to show what they could do with it.

But with such power came a great price tag. The Archimedes was never going to be in as many homes to make as many memories as Sega or Nintendo.

But now, the Raspberry Pi’s ARM chip makes it cheap and easy to play these games on the same operating system and CPU architecture they were written for.

Even better, the rights holders to much of this machine’s gaming catalogue have been generous enough to allow hobbyists to legally download their work for free.

This is a cheap and easy project. In fact, if you already run a Raspberry Pi home theatre or retro gaming rig, all you really need is a spare SD card.

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IP Addressing for a Small Business That Might Grow

The keystone of a well-designed network that can grow is a future-proofed IP addressing scheme.

Central to this are the two main tenets of Consistency and Hierarchy. These are vital to making your network coherent and orderly and assists in all manner of troubleshooting and planning issues.

It might be fine for your home network or small business to use a Class C (192.168.1.0) private addressing scheme for right now, and maybe for a while.

In the real world, this tends to be something that doesn’t get changed until it absolutely has to – at which point your network’s already grown to hundreds of devices. That’s large enough that changing the addressing scheme will always be a massive pain in the neck, taking hours upon hours of work and getting in everyone else’s way.

I’ve been a part of IP Addressing scheme changes in the past. It sucks. It takes forever, it’s tedious as hell for the poor saps who have to do it, and expensive for whoever foots the bill. And there is always bound to be things that go wrong and things you miss.

It’s always better to do things right the first time! So why not start with a scheme that can take you all the way from your small suburban office to an underground global headquarters where you torture British spies while patting a white fluffy cat.

Start it off right and you never have to make significant changes to it again.

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Streaming Australian TV Channels to a Raspberry Pi

If you’re anything like me, it’s been years since you’ve even thought about hooking an antenna to your television. With so much of the good stuff available by streaming and download, it’s easy go a very long time without even thinking about free-to-air TV.

But every now and again, something comes up – perhaps the cricket, news and current affairs shows, the FIFA World Cup – where the easiest thing would be to just chuck on the telly.

When I first started tinkering with the Raspberry Pi as a gaming and media centre platform, the standard advice for watching broadcast TV always seemed to involve an antenna and a USB TV tuner.

Which I guess is fine if you can be arsed.

But what if you utterly can’t?

What if you bitterly resent the idea of more clutter, more cords to add to the mess, more stuff to buy? What if every USB port is precious and jealously guarded for your keyboard, mouse, game controllers and removable storage? What if the wall port for your roof antenna is in a different room?

That’s all a bit of a hassle for a thing you might use only a few times a year.

In 2018, shouldn’t we just be able to stream free TV from the internet?

It turns out that, yes, we can access legal and high quality TV streams from any Australian IP using Freeview. And thanks to a cool Kodi Add-on by Matt Huisman, it’s now really easy to access this service from a Raspberry Pi.

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