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Raspberry Pi as a mini computer for the RV

February 24, 2017
Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi computers have been around for a number of years now.  They are very small (about the size of a deck of cards).  The cost is also quite low, with most models being in the sub $40 range, and even fully loaded ones with a case and a remote control or other add on’s at well under $100.  These devices are very versatile:

  1. they run off a cell phone micro USB cable, so they can easily run off AC or DC power.
  2. They have HDMI video for high res 1080p video.
  3. They have anywhere from two to four USB ports to connect portable hard drives, keyboard, mouse etc.
  4. They have wired network and the newer models have WIFI built-in.
  5. They have a Micro SD slot to store the OS and system files on.
  6. they have add-on plugs to add different modules like a camera or weather sensor

Not only is the hardware remarkably powerful for such a small device but there is a huge community of people who have created easy to install purpose-built systems.  The software is designed to be easy to use for anyone.  If you are comfortable adding RAM to your computer or doing a Windows/MacOS upgrade, chances are that you could handle doing many of the builds.  There are a number of common builds that could be very helpful for an RV’er:

  1. Raspberian: a general purpose OS which works like Ubuntu Linux and will give a basic computer with nothing more than a keyboard, mouse and a HDMI cable to your rig’s TV.
  2. Kodi: Kodi is all the rage right now with Kodi “pirate” boxes being readily available to purchase pre built.  Kodi in itself is a powerful legal media player that has been around for years.  For playing videos or music it is about the best media player on the market.  If you choose to flirt with the rules, simply adding plugins like Phoenix will turn it into a media player that will stream content from “less official” sources.  Some sort of remote will be needed.
  3. Open Media Vault: this is a build that with the addition of a small portable hard drive like a WD passport with make a USB (AC or DC powered)  portable NAS to store all your videos, pictures and files for all devices in your RV to access and share.  A small USB powered portable hard drive like a WD Passport will be needed.
  4. Retro Pi: retro arcade game system to play old Sega Genesis, NES, and other old video games.  The individual game files (ROM’s) will be needed for the specific game system and specific games.  In some places you may have to acquire the ROM’s online from “less official” sources depending on your country and their laws.  Some sort of joystick/controller would be needed for gameplay.
  5. Raspberry Weather: build a weather Station for your RV that is accessible via your phone.  This is a great way to check the weather while travelling or even when it is parked in the driveway.  A Raspberry Pi weather sensor will be required, note the outdoor sensor does not do humidity.
  6. PrivateEyePi:  this is a build that will allow you to monitor your RV via your phone.  You can make it as simple as just adding the Raspberry Pi camera with motion alerts or more complex by adding motion sensors, door sensor etc.  Sensors will be required, depending on what you want to monitor.

In most cases, after you build the system you want, you do not need the keyboard and mouse again.  Also in most cases, you can do all of these things in a single box.  However you can easily configure a number of purpose-built setups by buying separate Micro SD cards and swapping them around when you want to switch from Kodi to Retro Pi etc.  The most remarkable thing about these devices for an RV is they require so little power and can be run via a Micro USB cable and an old Android charging brick for AC or old Android car charger for DC power when boondocking.

Raspberry Pi on Amazon

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From → RV Tech

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  1. Raspberry Pie and RVing? – Camping Man's Blog

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