Raspberry Pi Zero Gadgets

I’m still slowly plugging away at my linear clock project. Currently I’m working out how to make it easy to configure it to connect to WiFi network.

One approach is the Physical Web/Web Bluetooth approach I’ve talked about before. This is a really neat solution but it only works with Android phones at the moment as Apple don’t look to be planning any Web Bluetooth support at the moment.

While looking for a more general solution I decided to look at expanding the method I’ve been using to develop the clock. Raspberry Pi Zero’s USB port can act in both Host and Device mode. This means you can plug it into another computer and have it show up as a peripheral. There is support for several different modes, Ethernet adapter, Mass Storage, Serial port plus a few others. The most popular is the Ethernet adapter. You can find some really good instructions on setting all this up here.

This works pretty well for a developer looking to access the Pi Zero to poke around but it’s still a little bit brittle for a consumer device as it relies on Bonjour/avahi to locate the device as it will end up with a randomly assigned 169.254.x.x address. This can be solved by adding some more config options after the instructions in the blog I linked to earlier.

  • First we need to fix the mac address that the Ethernet device presents. This is so that when you plug the Zero into a computer it always recognises it as the same device. To do this we need to add some options to the g_ether module. Create a file in the /etc/modprobe.d directory called g_ether.conf with the following content:
    options g_ether host_addr=02:dd:c8:f7:75:15 dev_addr=02:dd:dc:eb:6d:a1

    This sets the mac address for Zero end of the connection to

  • Next we need to give the Zero a fixed IP address, to do this we add the following to the /etc/network/interfaces file:
    auto usb0
    iface usb0 inet static
      address 10.33.0.1
      netmask 255.255.255.0
    

    The 10.0.0.0/8 range is one of the RFC 1918 private address ranges, I picked 10.33.0.0/24 as it’s not likely to clash with the average home network address range.

  • We also need to stop the dhcp client from adding that 169.254.x.x address, this is the bit that took me ages to find, but in the end you just need to add noipv4ll to the end of /etc/dhcpcd.conf
  • That takes care of the network from the Zero’s point of view but we still need to find a way to assign a network address to the Host computer. This is done with a DHCP server and the simplest to set up for this is dnsmasq. This is where the first tricky bit happens as dnsmasq is not installed by default in the raspbian lite image*. Once installed add file called local.conf to /etc/dnsmasq.d/ with the following:
    interface=usb0
    dhcp-range=usb0,10.33.0.2,10.33.0.5,255.255.255.0,1h
    dhcp-option=3
    

    This tells the Zero to serve up an address between 10.33.0.2 an 10.33.0.5, but given we fixed the mac address of the host end of the network connection it will always end up just handing out 10.33.0.2.

After all that you should have a Pi Zero you can plug into any computer and it should always be available on 10.33.0.1 (as well as raspberrypi.local if the connected computer supports Bonjour/Avahi). This will make writing documentation a lot easier.

I have a couple of extra bits as well, such as a script that sets the default route to the IP address handed out by dnsmasq so if you have internet sharing/Masquerading enabled on the host then the Zero can access the internet. (There is also DHCP option 19 which should enable packet forwarding on the DHCP client, but I need to investigate how this actually works and what effects it has on different OS)

The script lives in /root/route.sh looks like this:

#!/bin/bash
op="${1:-op}"
mac="${2:-mac}"
ip="${3:-ip}"
host="${4}"

if [[ $op == "add" ]] || [[ $op == "old" ]]; then
  route add default gw $ip usb0
fi

And to enable it add the following line to the end of the /etc/dnsmasq.d/local.conf

dhcp-script=/root/route.sh

There is still on niggle, that while the driver (RNDIS Ethernet driver) for this is shipped with Windows you still need to manually install it before it will work. There are some inf files that ship with the Linux kernel docs that can make this a lot easier to do so my next task is to work out how to user the g_multi mode which allows the Zero to be both a Ethernet adapter and a Mass Storage device. This will mean that the Zero will show up as a thumb drive as well the network adapter. I can then include some Documentation and the inf files on that drive. I have most of it working, but it still needs a little polishing, I’ll post again when I’ve got it all working nicely.

*You need to find a way to get the Zero online to install it, I used the RedBear IoT pHAT which lets me get on to my WiFi while still powering/accessing the Zero via the USB socket, but you can also boot the Zero normally with a USB Ethernet or WiFi adapter. To install dnsmasq run the following:

apt-get install dnsmasq

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