We have a few projects in the pipeline. I’ve been reaching out to companies about technology we can add to Sleipnir as well as ways we can make our living more frugal and allow us to stop borrowing money from family for support. We have been struggling in recent months trying to get the RV fixed and working properly, so some projects have fallen to the side as we work on things like food, internet, and taking care of ourselves in the immediate timeframe.
First, we have a Pepwave Surf SOHO wifi router. It is currently sitting at Tiffany’s parents house waiting for us to get to Florida so I can install it. It will require running some ethernet cable and I’ll probably put a Raspberry Pi in between the modem and router to act as a firewall and VPN server. Because we will usually be at a campground with electricity, then we don’t have to worry about having a large battery bank and solar panels to keep those batterie charged all the time.
We also have power strips, a USB-powered hub, and some other small items that will help keep the system running. I want to be able to run a simple script that will shut down the various Pi’s we’ll have running for different aspects, so that should reduce the problem of having errors with the Pi’s not shutting down properly.
I then want to do some cleaning up with the various computers we have doing too many functions at once. Basically, we have OneDrive, downloads, openHABian, Plex, and the VPN. I would like to make this all be their own computer so the demands on each are limited and we can easily back them up and keep the disk image saved somewhere. Each device will be powered by a Raspberry Pi 3 (except the Plex server), and all connected to the network through ethernet. Because the Pepwave only has four ethernet ports though, we need to have an ethernet switch to connect them to the network. I’ll break down each computer/function here.
OneDrive is Microsofts cloud storage system. We pay for Office 365 and get 5 – 1TB cloud accounts. We only use two of them and probably won’t need to use any more. I’m researching it, but I’m hoping I can use rclone to set up automatic synchronization with raspbian, so we never have to worry about backing up our data manually. It’ll take a bit of work, but it doesn’t seem too complicated. Then, with addition of an SMB share, we can connect from the MacBooks to the OneDrive automatically, so when Tiffany uses her computer, so can have access to her OneDrive account, and when I use my computer, I can do the same with mine.
Because our OneDrive accounts are only 1TB each, I’m probably going to get two 1TB drives, one for each of our accounts. This way I can also set it up so that each Pi only access one OneDrive account, so there shouldn’t be any confusion between the two on the network. I’ll probably name each one some variation of OneDrive-Name-Backup or something, but I’m not sure.
So for this project to work, we need two Raspberry Pi 3s, a case for each, set them up with SSH and SMB sharing, add the protocol to run OneDrive backups, and then we should be able to set them up and forget them. We would also need a separate 1TB drive for each one. If we really need to, we might be able to instead get four 1TB drives and set them up as a RAID so we don’t have to worry about losing data in the event that OneDrive ever disappears.
I already have a microSD card setup with openHABian, so once I have an extra Raspberry Pi 3 B+, I can just assemble it, plug in the card, and be able to access it throughout the network. I’ll have to update and upgrade everything, and then I can start adding smart devices to work on the Smart Home on Wheels project and plug everything together. With the openHABian machine connected to the network over ethernet and thus through the Pepwave to the wifi, so if all the smart home devices can connect over wifi, it should be fine.
Plex Media Server
Because I’ve had issues with running Plex on a Raspberry Pi, I’m going to keep it running on a desktop, but I’m going to run it on an Ubuntu computer instead of Windows. I haven’t yet figured out how to make this all work or afford it, but the idea is that we’ll have one computer just running Plex Media Server and let it do just that. For this to work, we don’t need fast components since the Plex box will just be serving out media and not to more than two screens at a time. With Ubuntu running with SSH and SMB, we can access this computer from our other computers and have it set to run updates early in the morning so as to not go down while we are watching a movie.
To get this computer up and running, we’ll need modest specs at best. Ubuntu can run a lot more efficiently than Windows 10 does, so we can get an older computer, add some internal hard drives and maybe up the RAM, and be done with it. I need to figure out somewhere to put the computer though and I’m still trying to find a small computer that can be hidden away in a cabinet and never touched. With network access to everything, we can transfer files from one to the other, hopefully quickly, and be done with it.
I’d like to add a Raspberry Pi between the modem and the Pepwave to operate as a firewall and VPN. I want to protect our internal network and keep our traffic anonymous. I’ve looked into what it would take to set this all up and its not very hard. I do need to get another microSD card though since I think the one 8GB card I have may have gotten corrupted and that could be why it didn’t work with Plex.
I’m not sure how to get a firewall working, but I’ll figure that out before we get in too deep. When we get back to Florida and I am setting up the Pepwave, I’ll set up the Pi to do that as well.
Connecting it all together
The Pepwave will most likely be in the back of the RV near the modem. We will then need an ethernet switch near where all the Raspberry Pi’s will be, most likely up in front near the TV in the current media cabinet. The Pi’s can then be put in there and most likely in a 4 shelf case to hold then all together. They will be plugged into a USB power brick so if I can run a script to shut them all down before we travel, I can then just plug it in when we get to our destination and turn them all on at once.
This means we’ll have to run an ethernet cable from the Pepwave up to the front where the switch will be. If we can get a small PC that we can run Ubuntu on for the Plex server and get it to fit in the media cabinet, then it’ll all be self contained. I’m also going to add an inflow and outflow fan to keep the cabinet cool and, if possible, I’ll ad a temp sensor to have it turn on and off as the heat demands require.
Having the Pepwave in the back shouldn’t be a problem for coverage as the RV is only about 30 feet long so the speed from front to back shouldn’t be limited by distance.
I reached out to several companies for food ideas. Since we don’t leave the campground very much and don’t have a tow vehicle, traveling in the RV is difficult. If we can limit trips to the grocery store for when we are leaving or arriving, we can hopefully buy enough food to last us the whole time we are at the campground. I reached out to one company and have samples on the way to Tiffany’s parents, so we will be getting some dehydrated foods that can be reconstituted for use. Dehydrated foods last a year or longer usually. If we can replace things like eggs, milk and cheese with dehydrated foods, then we can bake things or use the microwave and have a variety of food.
We found Brandless a few months ago and have been ordering food from them about once a month. The benefit is that everything they sell is $3, GMO-free, and canned or dry goods. They don’t have a huge variety, but they have enough. If we can buy our staples through them, supplement it with dehydrated foods, and then go to the store once a month, we should be pretty well off.
11th Street Coffee has been very helpful as well. Tiffany requires at least one cup of coffee a day and at 11th Street, we can order enough K-Cup pods to last at least a month and not worry about. It is usually a little bit cheaper than buying it in the store and they have a huge variety of coffees and teas. If we can figure out a way to get creamer and sugar, then we won’t need to get anything else.
I’m working on getting the funds together to get our DirecTV Trav’ler fully setup. We have installed the satellite dish, but we haven’t purchased the receivers yet nor service, so once we can get those, we’ll be able to watch live TV whenever we want. The service is only about $45 a month, which isn’t terribly expensive, but with our other bills right now, it might have to wait a few months until we know we can afford it. I also have to finish securing the dish to the roof as right now it is not held on very tight. It has a few bolts through the ceiling that keep it in place but it could use more to make sure it is tight.
I want to replace my MacBook Pro with a Chromebook. For everything I do on my laptop, a MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and a quad-core i7 is far overkill. I’ve been researching apps and Chromebooks to find the best one to fit my needs, but as with everything else, funds are limited. When I do get one though, I’ll be giving my MacBook Pro to Tiffany and we’ll sell her MacBook Air. It needs a new battery, but the money received by selling it should be enough to cover the cost of my Chromebook.
For projects, I think that is all we have going right now. We’ll do reviews of the food, the Pepwave, and the Chromebook when we get them. I’ve also signed up for an affiliate account for a dehydrated food store, but I’m waiting to hear back from them before I place my first order. When that is done, we’ll see if we can make it a month on dehydrated and canned products.
We also need to work on budgeting, especially for food and cat supplies. We’ll hopefully be making a trip to the grocery store or Walmart once a month, buying everything we need for the month, and then going to the campground and relaxing for the rest of the month. We’ll be installing shelves in the large closet across from the bathroom, so we can fill that up with things like dry goods, canned goods, cat food and litter, as well as paper towels and toilet paper. If we can get ourselves into the pattern of buying everything at the beginning of month and making it last the whole month, then we’ll be set.
Living on a budget is difficult, I’ll grant you that. We have been working on this since July and getting better at it, but still running out of things before the end of the month. If we can write down everything we need, a few things we’d like but don’t need, and maybe one or two items we want once in awhile, then we’ll be stable finally and living within our means and on a good schedule.