RaspBerry Pi – 1st Encounter

Back Story
I have wanted one of these boards to replace my Apple TV2 running XBMC for a long while now but as everybody knows the first version sold out almost immediately and the average price for one on the after-market is sometimes 3-4 times what the Element14 sells it for. They announced the second version and I decided to try get my hand on one before it hit the after-market. Long story short, after about a month of waiting on order fulfillment, I have it.
What to do?
At my office a couple of the guys have these configured as HTPCs (XBMC of course). I couple have positive feedback while others are so-so. The number one complaint I have heard it the speed. and digging further, I find a couple of them attribute it to slow SD cards. So I was worried that I might have to purchase another SD even though I already have one laying around. Of course I decided to try what I have on hand first, and I am happy with the results so far.
Here is what I have:
Hardware
Software
Ā Configuration
  • Installed with python script (install.py) from the site with a downloaded image
  • Install NTP
  • sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata for America/Montreal
  • Inside XBMC (Settings > Appearance > International) set location to Canada/Montreal
  • I use NFS shares, so I add those with the appropriate scrapers and allow it to scan the library
Conclusion
This is not my final setup but I think this gets me back to where I was before and I am okay with that. The main thing I wanted to test here is the performance of the SD card with RaspBMC and that seem to be working out. I don’t know if Class 4 would be too slow or if the doubling of the RAM from the previous model is making all the difference here (512MB vs 256MB). I don’t have a class 4 to test the difference, so all I know is this setup works…..for now šŸ˜€
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DIY HeadPhone Amplilfier

Background

I have always been interested in building something like this since my second year at university. But apart from repairing small things likeĀ re-solderingĀ a power cord, my adventures down this alley have normally resulted in failure. The most memorable was my attempt at building an FM transmitter from an internet schematic (I can’t even tell what was wrong with this, it just did not work). Recently though, I was encouraged by my “success” in replacing the bulb in my flashlight with LEDs. I put success in quotes because there was no notable increase in theĀ illuminationĀ from the torch but it was at least not worse than it was before. So I count it “success”…….. šŸ™‚

This project came back to the forefront a few months ago when I decided to learn the bass guitar but as you might expect, this was not kind on the ears of the people who had to listen while I slowly and painfully attempted to get to the skill level of the likes of Fred Hammond. So I thought this was a great opportunity to convince my wife why it was necessary for me to get a headphone amplifier šŸ˜‰

Assembly

And so the journey begins. I did quite a bit of research on my options (to build or to buy??). I ended up striking the middle ground by buyingĀ this kit off eBay and try to recreate my recent success in the field of DIY electronics. It basically contains a printed circuit board and all the parts needed (that was another reason I got a kit as opposed to buying individual parts. It is hard to get exact parts locally and as a beginner it is not easy to substitute parts). Anyway, 6 weeks later the package arrived and I dove into the construction.

The first thing I noticed was that the schematic referred to a Ā pair of capacitors which were not in the package.

Kit as shown on eBay....notice the 2 blue capacitors beside the board?

I decided to put it together anyway even though all internet references to the project showed that a couple of capacitors should be in the mix.

Other than that the process was mostly without event. But it was a huge learning experience with regards to soldering. For instance, I don’t know the differences between the type of solders (need to read up on that shortly) but the one that was included in the kit had a tendency to “blot up” more than the one I had. It was as if it was harder to melt and I had to be making a special effort to get clean, neat solder-points. When I started using the one I had before, as soon as I touched it with the soldering iron it just melted and it was like it formed the perfect shape all by itself (as opposed to spreading out all over the board). Also, the opamp chip should be removed from socket before the socket is soldered….it will burn :-D.

Pics of the process and the finished product can be seen here.

I carved a housing for it out of an extra power brick which I had lying around in a box. This was quite a challenge though because I didn’t have any of Ā the tools to make the holes or properly mark out the spots to be cut. As you can see it wasn’t a total disaster.

Conclusion

Apparently the capacitors weren’t needed as the completed amp worked perfectly without it. As a-matter-of-fact when I added some capacitors of values which some other sites were recommending for their projects, it sounded significantly weaker.

So, as is, the amplifier sounds loud and clear with even my cheap/free BB earbuds and does enough to let me hear the guitar without disturbing anyone else. Overall this experience is worth far more than the $25 I spent on this project.

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