Book Review: Raspberry Pi Super Cluster

 

Book Review: Piotr J. Kula. Raspberry Pi Server Essentials. Birmingham, UK: Packt Publishing, 2014.

 A book review by D.M. Wiig

Raspberry Pi Server Essentials is an informative, step by step discussion of how this amazing little computer can be set up as a fully functioning web server. The book begins with a discussion of the basics of setting up a Raspberry Pi and walks the reader through the process of obtaining necessary hardware, installation of the Raspian operating system and initial system configuration. There is also a brief discussion of the design of the Raspberry Pi for readers who are more technically inclined.

I might point out that if the reader is not comfortable working at the command line level and performing system operations such as disk formatting and writing or directory tasks that this section may be a little daunting. Less technically inclined readers may want to purchase an SD card that is preloaded with the Raspberry Pi operating system software. These cards are available from a number of sources at a reasonable price and provide plug-and-play convenience.

After discussing the Raspberry Pi hardware setup the author moves to a consideration of network configuration from Local Area Networks to wireless and Ethernet connections. Once again there is a concise presentation of some of the basics for readers who have some experience working with routers and home networks. After a discussion of performing Raspberry Pi system updates and some basic system monitoring functions the author turns to the task of installing a web server on the Raspberry Pi.

There are several good open source web servers available for Linux operating systems such as Apache software, but the author points out that while these servers contain a number of useful features and are very powerful they are also cumbersome when used on a computer with limited RAM and a relatively slow processor such as the Raspberry Pi. The use of a fast PHP based web server called nginx (pronounced ‘engine x’) is one solution to this problem. Nginx is a fast lightweight server that is designed to deliver the maximum content with a minimum load on system resources. The author first walks the reader through a discussion of downloading and installing nginx. There is also a discussion of downloading and setting up a lightweight SQL database server called SQLite3 to run on the server.

The remaining chapters of the book discuss how to set up and use a number of useful applications on your now functioning Raspberry Pi web server. These applications include setting up and managing a file server, using the Raspberry Pi as a game server for popular open source games such as OpenTTD, using the official HD camera module designed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation for streaming live HD video, and setting up the Raspberry Pi to control a home media center.

There is also an interesting discussion of setting up software on the Raspberry Pi for use with the Bitcoin cryptocurrency implementation. Readers are walked through the installation of Bitcoin software bitcoind on the Raspberry Pi and the use of Bitcoin wallets and Bitcoin web addresses. The chapter concludes with a brief section on Bitcoin mining with CGMiner software.

Raspberry Pi Server Essentials is a concise yet informative look at how the Raspberry Pi can be used in a variety of web server applications. Some technical knowledge of basic hardware and command level interaction with the operating system software is helpful in reading this book but not essential. For those readers who desire more information the author provides a number of links to additional resources pertaining to the material covered in each chapter. The world of open source technology is an amazing one. This book is a good read for those who want to venture into managing their own open source based web server.

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