My custom garage door opener appliance is running FreeBSD 11.0-ALPHA5 on a Raspberry Pi 2B. It has worked fine for about 8 years now. However, I want to migrate it to FreeBSD 13.2-STABLE and from libDwmAuth to libDwmCredence. And just bring the code current.
The tricky part is that I never quite finished packaging up my device driver for the rotary encoders, and it was somewhat experimental (hence the alpha release of FreeBSD). But as of today it appears I have the rotary encoder device drivers working fine on FreeBSD 13.2-STABLE on a Raspberry Pi 4B. The unit tests for libDwmPi are passing, and I’m adding to them and doing a little cleanup so I’ll be able to maintain it longer-term.
I should note that the reason I went with FreeBSD at the time was pretty simple: the kernel infrastructure for what I needed to do was significantly better versus linux. That may or may not be true today, but for the moment I have no need to look at doing this on linux. The only non-portable code here is my device driver, and it’s relatively tiny (including boilerplate stuff).
Looking back at this project, I should have made a few more hardware-wise. The Raspberry Pi 2B is more than powerful enough for the job, and given that I put it inside a sealed enclosure, the lower power consumption versus a 4B is nice. I’m pretty sure my mom would appreciate one of these, if just by virtue of being able to open her garage doors with her phone or watch. The hardware (the Pi and the HAT I created) has been flawless, and I’ve had literally zero issues despite it being in a garage with no climate control (so it’s seen plenty of -10F and 95F days). It just works.
However, today I could likely do this in a smaller enclosure, thanks to PoE HATs. Unfortunately not the official latest Raspberry Pi PoE HAT because its efficiency is abysmal (generates too much heat). If I bump the Pi to a 4B, I’ll probably stick with a separate PoE splitter (fanless). I’ll need a new one since the power connector has changed.
The arguments for moving to a Pi 4B:
- future-proofing. If I want to build another one, I’m steered toward the Pi 4B simply because it’s what I can buy and what’s current.
- faster networking (1G versus 100M)
- more oomph for compiling C and C++ code locally
- Some day, the Pi 2B is going to stop working. I’ve no idea when that day might be, but 8 years in Michigan weather seems like it has probably taken a significant toll. On the other hand it could last another 20 years. There are no electrolytic capacitors, I’m using it headless, and none of the USB ports are in use.
The arguments against it:
- higher power consumption, hence more heat
- the Pi 2B isn’t dead yet
I think it’s pretty clear that during this process, I should try a Pi 4B. The day will come when I’ll have to abandon the 2B, and I’d rather do it on my timeline. No harm in keeping the 2B in a box while I try a 4B. Other than the PoE splitter, it should be a simple swap. Toward that end, I ordered a 4B with 4G of RAM (I don’t need 8G of RAM here). I still need to order a PoE splitter, but I can probably scavenge an original V2 PoE HAT from one of my other Pis and stack with stacking headers.
Over the weekend I started building FreeBSD 13.2-STABLE (buildworld) on the Pi 2B and as usual hit the limits. The problem is that 1G of RAM isn’t sufficient to utilize the 4 cores. It’s terribly slow even when you can use all 4 cores, but if you start swapping to a microSD card… it takes days for
'make buildworld‘ to finish. And since I have a device driver I’m maintaining for this device, it’s expected that I’ll need to rebuild the kernel somewhat regularly and also build the world occasionally. This is the main motivation for bumping to a Raspberry Pi 4B with 4G of RAM. It is possible it’ll still occasionally start swapping with a ‘
make -j4 buildworld‘ , but the cores are faster and I don’t frequently see a single instance of the compiler or llvm-tblgen go over 500M, but it does happen. I think 4G is sufficient to avoid swapping during a full build.
Update Aug 26, 2023: duh, a while after I first created mcpigdo, it became possible to do what I need to do with the rotary encoders from user space. With FreeBSD 13.2, I can configure interrupts on the GPIO pins and be notified via a number of means. I’m going to work on changing my code to not need my device driver. This is good news since I’ve had some problems with my very old device driver despite refactoring, and I don’t have time to keep maintaining it. Moving my code to user space will make it more portable going forward, though it’ll still be FreeBSD-only. It will also allow for more flexibility.