The Gearhead Toolbox: Raspberry Pi tools

And what tools they are! A Pi-based personal cloud, automatic license plate recognition a la Pi, and running x86 code on ARM. W00t!

development tools toolbox code data programming
Credit: Shutterstock

I opened the Gearhead Toolbox to see what I hadn’t covered and, wow, there’s a lot in here so, today, let’s pick out a few Raspberry Pi-oriented goodies …

screen shot 2017 03 25 at 4.36.56 pm Mark Gibbs

Tonido Personal Cloud Server: Create a Pi cloud

Tonido Server is one of those gems that’s been around for a long time but doesn't seems to have got the love it deserves. Using this feature rich system you can build your own personal cloud service running on various Linux distributions including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE, as well as macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, and Windows Phone, and on multiple architectures including x86, PowerPC, MIPS, and, for your Raspberry Pi pleasure, ARM.

Published by CodeLathe, Tonido Server is proprietary, closed source software but it’s also free! You install it on whichever machine is to be the center of your cloud and you get, again for free, a public link such as so that you can access your content via Web browser. Next, on the clients, you can install Sync Clients (available for Windows, macOS, and Linux) and Mobile Clients (available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Blackberry Playbook.

The Tonido Server for Raspberry Pi runs on either Raspbian and Raspbmc and installation is simple. There’s a lot of potential for this software to be used in IoT and mobile applications. 


alpr OpenALPR

RPi License Plate Reader: Halt, who DRIVES there?

The uses for ALPR, Automatic License Plate Recognition, cover a wide range from monitoring traffic and locating stolen vehicles, to controlling gates and parking access. Using a Raspberry Pi for this is a great opportunity to create a low-cost, easily deployed system and OpenALPR is one of the leading ALPR packages you can choose.

OpenALPR is a free, open source library (the publishers also offer a range of charged-for alternative solutions) written in C++ with bindings in C#, Java, Node.js, Go, and Python, and published under the Affero GPLv3 license. Either static images or video streams can be used and the output, in either text or JSON format, is the text from the regions of the image or frame where something like a license plate is detected along with an estimated probability of each result. Here’s an example of the command line version’s text output using the image above:

user@linux:~/openalpr$ alpr ./samplecar.png

plate0: top 10 results -- Processing Time = 58.1879ms.
    - PE3R2X     confidence: 88.9371
    - PE32X      confidence: 78.1385
    - PE3R2      confidence: 77.5444
    - PE3R2Y     confidence: 76.1448
    - P63R2X     confidence: 72.9016
    - FE3R2X     confidence: 72.1147
    - PE32       confidence: 66.7458
    - PE32Y      confidence: 65.3462
    - P632X      confidence: 62.1031
    - P63R2      confidence: 61.5089

OpenALPR can decode plates from all U.S. states as well as generic European, British, Australian, Singaporean, and Korean plates. See OPENALPR INSTALL FOR RPI AND UDOO AND TRE AND YUN for detailed instructions on Raspberry Pi installation.


screen shot 2017 03 25 at 4.34.48 pm Eltechs

ExaGear Desktop RPi VM: Running x86 on ARM!

Okay, this is an awesome concept: ExaGear Desktop published by Eltechs is a virtual machine that will let you run x86 code on a Raspberry Pi with runs an ARM processor! Let me underline that: A virtual machine that works across processor architectures not just across operating systems. Where this has real value is in being able to port over x86 Linux apps that you either can’t or don’t want to recompile for the ARM architecture. This means you can run closed sources apps such as Skype and LibreOffice quite successfully as well as those x86 games you can’t stand not having on your RPi.

Several reviewers have managed to get Windows x86 apps running on top of Wine, the x86 Windows API compatibility layer, but report that the performance hit will be significant for processor-bound (versus keyboard-bound) applications. This performance hit will also be noticeable but less so with Linux x86 processor-bound games.

Perpetual licenses for ExaGear Desktop are priced at $16.45 for the Raspberry Pi Zero and Zero W, $27.45 for the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B and 3 Model B, and $16.45 for all version of the Raspberry Pi 1. Which host and guest images are supported depend on the board type and, as of writing, only 32-bit applications are currently supported on Raspberry Pi 3 Model B boards.

I’ll be publishing a review of the ExaGear Desktop for Raspberry Pi in the future; if you’ve tested this product yourself, please let me know what you think of it.


If you’ve missed previous Gearhead Toolbox posts, here you go:

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