[RDD] Rivendell Running on Raspberry Pi 2

Brian theturtle32 at gmail.com
Thu Jul 2 11:25:47 EDT 2015

Yes, Pi's aren't necessarily the most reliable platform. Though my
impression is that the build quality and reliability has improved quite a
bit since their initial release a few years ago. In particular, the Pi 2
has been much more stable for me. Granted, I'm not using hundreds of them
in the field.

The upside, regardless, is that the insanely low cost means you can
sprinkle these things around like candy for redundancy without even hardly
blinking an eye.  You could easily have a standby in your primary on-air
studio, and should something go wrong with the first one, just switch over
to the second one and pick up where you left off.

Another option, as you pointed out, Marc, would be to use a Pi as a remote
X11 display for RDAirPlay running in a VM on a racked server with AoIP
drivers. Or use VNC, etc. The cost savings isn't as substantial, since
you're still shelling out for a server with enough processing horsepower to
comfortably run potentially multiple VM instances with mission-critical
playout responsibilities... but then even if the Pis crash and burn,
RDAirPlay will continue running unaffected. In that scenario, you'd only
lose your UI. Granted, that could also be bad if you're running in Manual
or LiveAssist mode, but since RDAirPlay would still be running on the
server, you could just use another machine or a laptop to reconnect to VNC
and you're good to go again in a matter of a couple minutes. Especially if
you plan for that scenario ahead of time and have a simple procedure in
place for people to follow in the event that something does go wrong.

Even if the procedure is to pull the cables from one Pi and plug them into
the backup Pi that has an identically cloned SD card, that would be simple
enough even for most non-technical people to manage. Especially in the
scrappy underdog stations where everyone has to wear multiple hats and
handle unexpected situations more regularly. And the worst-case downtime
would probably be about 4 to 8 minutes from the time the decision was made
to fail over to the backup.

Also, if you start looking at other similar platforms besides the Raspberry
Pi – like BeagleBone for example – you can find similar options that would
solve the problem a little bit more reliably, while being only slightly
more expensive. The BeagleBone Black with Debian pre-installed goes for $55
– only $15 more than the Raspberry Pi 2 – with no SD card needed.

IMO these types of setup could be a fantastic option for community-run
stations, college stations, student-run stations, or commercial stations in
smaller markets... basically any station that wants a modern, quality,
up-to-date automation platform, but can't justify either the hardware or
software costs involved with installing/maintaining/upgrading traditional
commercial options. Sadly, I'm sure we're all aware of wonderful little
stations that have to fight almost just to keep the lights on and end up
with vulnerable Windows XP installations, just because they can't afford
the basic maintenance cost of upgrading their installed base of 8+ year old

That is the context in which I think this kind of solution is a more
immediately compelling option. For larger commercial media companies who
operate tens or hundreds of stations, I suspect that it's not going to be
as appealing because the reliability downsides we just discussed could
potentially become orders of magnitude more frustrating for the engineering
staff to deal with at that scale.

On the other hand, perhaps Google's well-established data center
implementations exclusively using cheap, low-end, commodity PC components
might suggest otherwise? Though I suspect that those efficiency gains are
only reached at a larger scale, when you have the resources to build out
and implement the staff, policies, and procedures necessary to manage a
system that's fundamentally built on unreliable components.

At the end of the day, I suspect that using inexpensive components like
Raspberry Pis will provide the best cost/benefit tradeoffs for small
stations that have to make every dollar count.


On Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 7:46 AM, Marc Steele <steelegbr at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello,
> The idea Pis as thin clients rather than actual playout boxes isn't a bad
> one. Though I'd be inclined to look at a vendor supported thin client
> option for a big station over Raspberry Pis. They come with the cost
> benefit but have been known to eat through SD cards and prove generally
> unreliable on occasion (we've got a national fleet of them doing digital
> signage in studios where I work).
> There's also split ads and whatnot to worry about in a big installation.
> I'm not sure I'd go with just one big box in the middle running all the
> audio, even if you usually rely on one SQL/file server (with a warm/cold
> backup).
> Either way, splitting audio out from a thin client unit in the studios
> could be a winner. Especially if it costs less and proves more reliable
> than KVM extenders used in the installs I've supported.
> The one I've been meaning to get the time (and licences) to play with is
> VMs in a fault tolerant environment using LiveWire or Rivenna. Potentially
> a bit overly complicated for a small service but the sort of thing you
> start thinking about with multiple splits and services.
> Regards,
> Marc.
> On 2 July 2015 at 15:27, Brad Beahm <brad at kliqfm.com> wrote:
>> The idea of running Rivendell on the Pi could be quite appealing for
>> multi-station radio groups... under certain conditions.
>> If I had the time and money here's how I'd do it.
>> Use server class hardware, redundant drives, lots of RAM and a big UPS to
>> run the official Broadcast Appliance server version from Paravel.  That
>> would hold the /var/snd audio and mySql database.  And I'd put in the
>> professional Audio Science audio card(s) into the server machine. (or if
>> you've got a AOIP plant the network audio drivers would be on that server
>> machine). GPIO and Switcher cards could also go there for satellite uses.
>> The Pi's would then just connect to the server as individual hosts. They
>> could be setup to use the Core Audio Engine on the server so their cheap
>> audio isn't a problem. I think you'd also be able to us the Pi's GPIO pins
>> to control starts/tallys from equipment in the studio
>> I'd mount the Pis behind the monitor in studio (could be touchscreens).
>> The only cables you'd need to run would be the Ethernet, power,
>> keyboard/mouse and any GPIO.
>> It'd be a lot more efficient to have a bunch of Raspberry Pis as thin
>> clients to the server than to try and build out whole machines for each
>> studio.  Keeping spares would be a lot easier too as you could keep fully
>> configured Pis or just a few configured SD cards handy. A swap would only
>> take a few minutes.
>> And at $40 you could put a Pi in about every office (Traffic, PD, Prod,
>> Engineering) to allow logs, music, and spots to be imported conveniently.
>> The overall system cost could be pretty low compared to a similar system
>> of that size from other automation vendors. (I'm thinking of products like
>> Enco1 http://www.enco.com/products/enco1.html)
>> Brad
>> On Wed, Jul 1, 2015 at 11:20 AM, Brian McKelvey <theturtle32 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> Sure can! The built in audio output is unbalanced and very, very noisy.
>>> Terrible, really.
>>> But I had no problems at all connecting a USB audio adapter and using
>>> that instead.  Even a $7 one from Amazon has a dramatically better noise
>>> floor than the built in audio.
>>> So yeah, basically any Linux-supported USB audio device should work fine.
>>> Brian
>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>> > On Jul 1, 2015, at 4:46 AM, Rob Landry <41001140 at interpring.com>
>>> wrote:
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >> On Wed, 24 Jun 2015, Brian wrote:
>>> >>
>>> >> Just thought I'd share with you that I got Rivendell running
>>> flawlessly on a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.
>>> >
>>> > Can you get good quality audio out of it?
>>> >
>>> >
>>> > Rob
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