I’ve previously blogged about using Pi Zero (and Zero W) devices as USB Gadgets. This allows them to be powered and accessed via one of the micro USB sockets and it shows up as both a CD-Drive and a ethernet device.
A recent update to the Raspberry Pi 4 bootloader not only enables the low power mode for the USB hardware, allows the enabling of Network boot and enables data over the USB-C port. The lower power means it should run (without any hats) with the power supplied from a laptop.
Details of how to check/update the bootloader can be found here.
Given that the Pi4 has a Gigabit Ethernet adapter, WiFi and 4 USB sockets (need to keep the power draw low to be safe) and up to 4Gb RAM to go with it’s 4 x 1.5Ghz core processor it makes for a very attractive plugin compute device.
With this enabled all the same script from the Pi Zero’s should just work but here is the updated version for Raspbian Buster.
Add dtoverlay=dwc2 to the /boot/config.txt
Add modules-load=dwc2 to the end of /boot/cmdline.txt
With this setup the Pi4 will show up as a ethernet device with an IP address of 10.55.0.1 and will assign the device you plug it into an IP address via DHCP. This means you can just ssh to firstname.lastname@example.org to start using it.
Following on from my last post I’ve continued to work on improving my instructions for a USB connectable gadget based on a Raspberry Pi Zero.
Firstly I’ve got a slight improvement to the dnsmasq config I mentioned last time. This removes the dnsmasq.leases file which can cause issues if you plug the Zero into multiple computers. This can be a problem because while I had managed to fix the mac address for Host computer end of the connection the OS still pushes down the host name and it’s own unique id when it requests a DHCP address from dnsmasq, this causes dnsmasq to cycle through it’s small pool of addresses. This combined with the fact the clock on Zero is not battery backed up so only gets set correctly when it can reach internet can cause strangeness with addresses getting expired in strange ways. Anyway there is a pretty simple fix.
Adding leasefile-ro to the dnsmasq config causes it to not write lease information to disk, but rely on the dhcp-script to keep track of things. To do this I needed to add handling for a new option to the script to deal with dnsmasq wanting to read the current lease state at startup.
if [[ $op == "init" ]]; then
if [[ $op == "add" ]] || [[ $op == "old" ]]; then
route add default gw $ip usb0
Now on to getting things working better with Windows machines.
To do this properly we need to move from the g_ether to the g_multi kernel module, this lets the Zero be a USB Mass Storage device, a network device (and a serial device) at the same time. This is useful because it lets me bundle .inf files that tell Windows which drivers to use on the device it’s self so it they can be installed just by plugging it in.
The first order of business is to fix the cmdline.txt to load the right module, after making the changes in the last post it looks like this:
next we need to fix the options passed to the module, these are in the /etc/modprobe.d directory probably in a file called g_ether.conf. We should don’t need to, but to make it obvious when we come back to this a lot later on we’ll rename it to g_multi.conf. Now we’ve renamed it we need to add a few more options.
Now we have the config all sorted we just need to build the disk image. First we need to create a directory called disk-image to use as the root of the file system we will share from the Zero. Then we need to get hold of the 2 .inf files, they ship with the Linux Kernel doc, but can be found online (serial port, RNDIS Ethernet).
Once we have the files place them in a directory called disk-image/drivers. We should also create a README.txt to explain what’s going on, put that in the root of disk-image. Along side that we want to create a file called Autorun.inf, this tell Windows about what’s on the “cd” when it’s inserted and where it should search for the driver definitions.
Full details of what can go in the Autorun.inf file can be found here, but the interesting bits are the DriverPath=drivers which points to the directory that we put the .inf files in earlier. Also the open=”documentation\index.html” which should open documentation/index.html when the device is plugged in which explains how to install the drivers. I also added an icon file so the drive shows up looking like a clock in the file manager.
That should be the bare minimum that needs to be on the image, but I ran into an issue with the g_multi module complaining the disk image being too small, to get round this I just stuck a 4mb image in the directory as well. To build the iso image run the following command:
This will output a file called disk.iso that you should copy to /opt/disk.iso on the Zero (I built the image on my laptop as it’s easier to edit files and mkisofs is not installed in the default raspbian image).
This is working well on Linux and Windows, but I’m still getting errors on OSx to do with the file system. It’s not helped by the fact I don’t have a Mac to test on so I end up having to find friends that will let me stick a random but of hardware in to the side of their MacBook.
Once I’ve got the OSx bits sorted out I’ll put together script to build images for anything you want.
So now we have a Pi Zero that should look like a CD-ROM drive and a Network adapter when plugged into pretty much any machine going, it brings the driver information with it for windows, sets up a network connection with a static IP address and a Avahi/Bonjour/mDNS address to access it. I’m planning on using this to set up my Linear Clock on the local WiFi but there are all manner of interesting things that could be done with a device like this. e.g. an offline Certificate Authority, a 2FA token, a Hardware VPN solution or a Web Controllable display device.
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:
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:
iface usb0 inet static
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:
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:
if [[ $op == "add" ]] || [[ $op == "old" ]]; then
route add default gw $ip usb0
And to enable it add the following line to the end of the /etc/dnsmasq.d/local.conf
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: