First and foremost, let’s start with the bare-metal parts I’ll be using. I’ve added the links to Amazon where I picked up most of the parts for ease of grabbing your own:
- A Raspberry Pi model B (B+ model is linked since B models aren’t sold much anymore)
- An 8GB PNY SD card.
- A few Heatsinks for the processor/RAM, ethernet chip, and voltage regulator
- A JBTech Open Case with Fan to hold the Pi and keep it safe from falling rocks
- A PowerGen Two-port USB charger (2.4amps, 12W) — I’ll explain more on why I picked a two-port charger in another post
With that out of the way, time for everyone’s favorite part: putting it all together!
Starting with the Raspberry Pi, there’s not much variation here. Ever since the Model B+ came out, the Model B shows up less and less and tends to be a few dollars more on Amazon and the like. While I’ll be using the Model B for this endeavor, the B+ provides more USB ports, better power efficiency, slightly different board layout, more GPIO pins, but the processor and RAM specs are the same and those are really the only things I’m concerned about.
The reason I chose the 8GB PNY SD card was simple: It’s what I had sitting on my desk at the time. It’s not the biggest or fastest, but so far it seems to be good for the job. http://elinux.org/RPi_SD_cards has a list of compatible cards and OS flavors that work/haven’t worked and would be a great resource if you’re looking to play with SD card class or size to serve files larger than what you find on a website or blog. I’ve used as much as a SanDisk 64GB microSD card without any issues with Raspbmc serving some media files, so really the world is your oyster as far as storage card options go.
The topic of heatsinks on a Raspberry Pi seems to have gone through a bit of debate across the community and the final conclusion I came to was this: Are they necessary? No. Do they help? Yes. The processor in the Raspberry Pi is designed to operate without an active cooling system. Its design doesn’t allow it to get too hot and there are safeguards in place to prevent damage even if it did. However, I’m of the school of thought that if it can get hot, help it stay cool. Aside from this, heat scans actually show that the ethernet controller actually gets hotter than the processor/RAM, and since I figure (and hope) that network traffic will be greater than the processor need, I purchased these to help do the trick. It shouldn’t matter whether you pick copper or aluminum considering the heat levels we’re working with — a cooler chip tends to live longer either way.
As far as Raspberry Pi cases go, you really have more options than you could care to count. From DIY Lego cases, to swanky, full-aluminum heat-case-sinks, it’s really up to your personal tastes as to which you choose. I went with the JBTech Open Case with Fan because of the cost — only a few dollars — and the fan piqued my interest. Just like with the heatsink: Do you need a fan? No. Does it help? Yes. As a bit of anecdotal evidence, on two similarly chilly days I took temperature measurements from the command line. Running the fan, temps came back at 27.2 degrees Celsius. Without the fan running, they came back at 45 degrees — still well within normal operating temperature, but I figure that cooler temperatures are better for the longevity of the parts. (Note: make sure to get the case that matches your model of Raspberry Pi!)
That’s it for the parts – pretty simple! In the next post, I’ll go into OS installation and setting up Nginx, PHP, and MySQL. If you have any questions until then, leave a comment here or on Twitter!