Something that I've been wanting to do for a while is create the hardware that could act as the physical infrastructure for the emerging decentralized web.
In theory, little computers could carry out specific functions in order to hand some control back to users, much like how routers, and not our main computers transport packets around networks.
Single board computers have reached a point where they are both small enough, cheap enough, and powerful enough to fill this gap, but they usually need extra accessories, adapters and lots of fiddling to work. What we really need is a small, cheap, and basically plug and play device.
This is why I've created the NODE Mini Server, which takes various readily available SBC's and tries to make them more suited to this purpose.
The goal is to create an open source platform that people can rally around and specifically start developing for. Let's take a look.
- Youtube link
- Archive.org mirror
The NODE Mini Server has a slightly bigger form factor than the Raspberry Pi, and this is to accomodate a few more features.
Firstly, it has a fully 3D printed case, so anyone can use their own printer, or a service like 3Dhubs to easily make one.
The other main difference is that all the ports are now on the back, including the micro SD slot and HDMI port, so you'd never need to open the device to set it up.
As well as that, there is now a SATA adapter built in, allowing you to attach a 2.5 inch laptop hard drive. This specific case design fits drives from 7 to 10mm thickness, so with current drive technology, you can add a 3TB drive.
The drive just slots in directly onto the device, and you secure it using 2 M3 screws.
This version uses the Raspberry Pi3 B+ as the brain, giving you decent processor speed and 1GB of RAM. The cool thing about the design is that it will also fit other more powerful boards, like the Asus Tinker Board, so you can have 2GB of RAM and faster CPU and GPU. The ODroid-C2 may work too, though I'd need to test the micro SD placement before confirming.
It's worth noting that this is a little beefier than the regular Pi, so you will need to use at least a good quality 3A power supply to power all the components.
In order to reduce the size of the device, I had to modify the Pi, and create a few custom PCB adapters.
Firstly, I removed the middle double USB port, and replaced that with a single one. I then placed a custom micro USB adapter above it, to be used as the power port.
The freed up USB port then allowed me to add a custom flex cable adapter underneath the Pi, enabling me to connect the hard drive directly to it.
Speaking of the hard drive adapter, this is the W25P2 USB 2.0 to SATA adapter, which I've modified by simply removing the mini USB port, and the LED, and then adding a 4pin 1mm pitch FPC connector directly onto the board.
For the backplate of the device, I used an off-the-shelf HDMI FPV extender, which has a 10cm cable. You can find these on Ebay, Amazon, or AliExpress no problem.
Finally, I also created this custom micro SD card adapter, which simply plugs into the micro SD slot. If you make your own, you'll need to use an 0.8mm thick board for it to fit correctly.
Since Pi 3's are notorious for their heat generation, I tried to really think about how I could keep this under control.
To start off, the case is designed so the SBC uses standoffs. This allows air to circulate around the board at all times. Additionally, the back and bottom of the case is open, so air can flow through the entire device, reducing heat build up.
The front also has a 25mm 5v brushless fan which helps with that circulation. It runs constantly, but you could also set it up manually on the Pi to run when the CPU temperature reaches a certain level. I still really need to test this for an extended time to see what works best. The SATA adapters can also sometimes run hot, so maybe constant air blowing on them will be better, but obviously this limits the life of the fan.
On top of that, as the micro SD card is moved off the board now, this should help mitigate some of the overheating issues they can be prone to having.
A bit of heat resistant kapton tape on the flex cables might also be useful.
I'm still working on a few alterations, but it's mostly finished. Once I have gotten everything done, I will release all the files for the case and the PCB's, along with a guide on exactly how to make one.
I also wanted to mention that I'm currently in the process of moving away from Github, and self-hosting all of the other project files, so please bare with me on that.
I'm looking at revamping the shop soon too, so these and the Pi Plug adapters should be in there eventually. I'll keep you updated.
I just wanted to say thanks for watching, and for being patient. I know I've been a little quiet lately, but I felt like shutting my mouth for a while and working on some stuff instead. Hope you like it. I'll see you in the next video.