Setting up Raspberry Pi

From Cumulus Wiki

Using MX on UNIX-derived Operating Systems

MX runs on various UNIX-derived operating systems (OS), including those found on Apple Mac computers, and those found on devices running Linux.

This article focuses on a computer called the Raspberry Pi

Although the article focusses on one computer type, the Raspberry Pi, the idea is that this article will complement another article Running Cumulus MX on Windows, so feel free to add more to this article to explain how it can be applied to another Unix-derived devices.

In the Cumulus support forum, there are many posts from people who are struggling with using Windows PCs, and it seems a lot of them find "installing" MX difficult.

The same forum reveals few posts from people struggling with setting up the Raspberry Pi, and several posts reporting success with using MX on this small computer.

Précis

Contents

  • The Raspberry Pi is a simple computer that is far easier to learn than a complicated machine like a Personal Computer (PC) running Windows.
  • You can choose either to install the Windows operating system on your Raspberry Pi or to install the simpler Raspberry Pi operating system (based on debian Linux).
    • This article focusses on the latter as another article covers Windows.
    • You don't need to learn much Linux, but this article does cover some commands.
  • The Raspberry Pi is ideal to run Cumulus MX
    • The Raspberry Pi is a computer that is better for the environment, unlike a PC manufactured with lot of components, and a PC wastes a lot of electricity if left running.
    • Downloading the release distribution, and unzipping the files, is the same on any device
    • On Linux you need to (simply) manually install one extra component (Mono-complete), while the equivalent component (.NET) is automatically installed on Windows.
    • Running MX is same on any device (precise command syntax to start it varies, but what MX does when running does not depend on device)
  • It is simplest to connect keyboard and monitor to the Raspberry Pi so all actions are done directly on it.
  • Some optional topics are also covered.
    • One option covered is adding a web server and a database server
    • Another option discussed is using a PC to control a "headless" Raspberry Pi (i.e. one without keyboard and without monitor).

Introduction

It is a small board of electronics that can actually run Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS, various Linux distributions, or the Raspberry Pi OS (based on Ubantu Linux).

In this article, the focus is on the last OS, because that is easiest to install, so look elsewhere on the web for details of installing alternatives. The notes here will generally apply to any version of Linux, although the configuration editor described is only on the Pi.

The Apple Mac runs its own version of Unix, and while standard Unix uses Line_Feed to terminate lines in files, the Mac uses Carriage_Return. Hopefully someone will write an article about the Mac in this Wiki, but in meantime this is closest you can get.

The article will give you some guidance on:

  • Choosing a Pi model to buy
  • Setting up a Raspberry Pi,
  • Installing OS (the NOOBS described here can install various OS, you choose which one you want)
  • Installing Mono (needed on any Linux based OS, but can even run on Windows!)
  • Installing MX
  • Running MX (these notes apply to any Linux OS, but some hints need consideration even in Windows)

It also covers some optional extras!


Which Raspberry Pi to buy

A standard desktop computer consumes at least 200 Watts of power (that is when it is idle, it will increase depending on peripherals attached and any processing being done) all the time it is switched on. A Pi Zero W consumes half a Watt when idle, and up to 1.78 Watt when running tasks or connected to peripherals. A Pi model 4 B (the latest model at time of writing) consumes 2.85 to 80 Watt depending on whether it is idle or working hard. Although Cumulus MX does not need to run 24/7, derived values like highest, lowest, average, and so on, will be more accurately calculated if MX is left running. Although the Pi is not the only small computer model available, it is probably the most popular and the easiest one to use if you do want to run MX all the time and not wreck the planet!

First make a list of what you need

  • Do you want to use a mouse and key board?
    • If so, a model with multiple USB sockets is advisable (like 3B+)
    • This also applies if you want to be able to plug in a USB stick (perhaps for transferring files between devices, e.g. Cumulus configuration and data folder files)
  • Do you want a wired connection to your hub or router?
    • Maybe you are going to update external sites, a wired connection may provide a faster and more dependable communication than a wireless link
    • If so, a model including an Ethernet socket is advisable (like 3 B+)
    • Remember that if you are operating the pi in headless mode, a wired or wireless connection to your LAN is needed for your other device to communicate with the Pi
  • Will your MX need to update a database, feed data to a web site, upload to external sites, or control other devices?
    • If so, a model Zero will have to do each task in turn, and you will see some delay in information updates, plus you will need to use a larger time between updates
    • If so, a model Three (or Four) will be noticeably faster, and support all options in MX, and can update external sites more frequently
  • What interface does your weather station use?
    • If your station communicates to MX via wireless, then you choose a model that supports wireless at the right frequency, all models support basic wireless
    • If your station communicates via Ethernet, then either a wired, or wireless, connection is possible between router/hub and Pi as the station will be plugged into your hub or router
    • If your station communicates to MX via USB, then choose between the model 0W with one USB socket, and the model 3B+ with 4 USB sockets depending on whether you might want to use another USB socket ever
    • If your station uses another communication port (such as serial interface), then you need the additional components that support that interface

Now research how the various models relate to your needs

You can look up online what features are included in the various Pi models, and how they differ in power consumption, and cost. But your decision also needs to consider what you need. Here, I won't describe all the different models, but concentrate on just 2 for simplicity.

The model Zero W is appealing as it has low power consumption, it is perfectly adequate for running MX (but has limited speed, it runs the various threads MX uses sequentially) especially if you only use standard MX functionality and don't ask MX to do all the optional extras, and has limited interfaces for peripherals.

The model Three B plus is appealing as it has medium power consumption, but can cope better with the multiple threads that MX starts, and has more interfaces built in, such as 4 USB 2 ports (useful if you want to connect a weather station using USB and connect a keyboard).

While both models support wireless links and Bluetooth, the latter model also allows a wired Ethernet connection, and that may be useful if that is how you connect to your weather station (an Ethernet connection is also advisable if you want to install a web server, on your Pi). Having an Ethernet connection, as explained later, makes it possible to easily install the Windows Operating System on your Raspberry Pi on first boot.

  • Raspberry Pi Zero W
    • Pi Zero W has WiFi and one micro-USB port which is all that is needed for headless running.
    • Installing onto a faster Pi might speed parts of the installation process, but for actual ‘production’ running this slower, and simpler, Pi will be perfectly adequate.
    • It could run a web server, but that might really slow it down.
    • If you run this headless, all updates are done remotely, so the connectivity and speed of the actual Pi are less important
  • Raspberry Pi Three B Plus
    • The faster speed of this Pi although NOT necessary for running Cumulus MX, will cope better if you are asking MX to do lots of processing (e.g. updating database tables or external sites as well as standard processing).
    • Pi Three B Plus has a socket for an external power supply, Ethernet socket (supports wired link); a HDMI socket for audio/video to TV, or computer monitor; a standard jack audio socket for external headphone, or speaker; 4 standard USB type 2 sockets for weather station, mouse, keyboard, USB stick, or other storage device; plus other connections (e.g. camera).
    • This might be better if you also want to run a web server, and if you want to do other tasks (e.g. word processing - Libre Office is installed as standard on a Pi) on the same Pi.
    • Also consider this model if it is to be used on a remote site so when you visit it is useful to be able to plug in a monitor and other peripherals, and to spend as little time on updating as possible.

Other models are available, but you need to check their specification against your needs. For example, the current model Four has more capabilities, but may be less appealing as it also consumes more power.

What else to buy

You can buy just the Pi, which is just a circuit board, or a kit that includes other components.

Generally buying as a kit is cheaper than buying items individually. A typical kit includes the Pi board with components and interfaces on it, a power supply (with a plug suitable for your mains sockets), a micro-SD card (see later sub-section), some connection leads, and a case that you can fit the board into to protect it.

You may want to buy a case, that will protect your Pi from accidental damage. A case specifically designed for your Pi model will have cut-outs in the right place for each interface connection, and will have sufficient ventilation for the electrical components to not over-heat. Some designs have additional holes for securing peripherals.

You may need a power supply.

  • This could be an official Raspberry Pi power supply.
  • Alternatively, any power supply unit that has a micro USB connector will do, the power consumption of a Pi (whichever model) is fairly small, but it will be powered on 24/7, so a low power consumption ‘switched mode’ type is preferred – i.e. one that does not become warm when plugged in with nothing attached.
    • You may have a suitable one left over from an earlier mobile phone.

You may need to buy connection leads:

  • You may need a HDMI lead to connect your PI to your TV or a spare computer monitor.
  • You may need a USB lead to connect to your weather station (the Pi model Zero requires a micro USB, the Pi model 3 requires a standard A end USB) and your station probably has a USB A end connection.
  • If your weather station connects by Ethernet, you will need one lead to connect the station to the router and possibly another to connect the hub or router to the Pi.

If you do choose a model 3 (or later), consider whether you do want to buy a USB mouse and USB keyboard to use with it.

Finally, you may wish to buy a second micro-SD unit as a spare, or some other USB connected (or network connected) storage for back-ups and extra storage needs.

Setting up your Pi

Image alternative

If you are never going to use a keyboard nor Tv (or other monitor) with your Raspberry Pi, there is now an alternative to installing operating system, mono, and MX separately, a single image that contains all elements needed can be downloaded from the Software page Current_Release section, read about using it in Raspberry_Pi_Image article. I will just stress here, that following this alternative option, provided by developer, installs the Raspberry Pi Lite Operating System and does not give you the freedom to add a web site as described below. Also with this option you still need to add Cumulus.ini, strings.ini, all files in data folder, and any files in the Reports folder by file transfer from some other device to the Pi with this image.

Doing it manually

You can find, online, instructions (and videos) about setting up a Pi, these describe all the necessary steps that are described below from buying a suitable micro-SD card, through installing the operating system, and adding additional software. If you use a search engine, then you can find a variety of different sets of instructions, including some that are very simple but basic; and others that are a little more complex so they can explain any options!

In this article, each step in installation is covered, in the sections that follow. Obviously, this article is trying to balance the needs of a novice with the needs of someone who wants to plug holes in their existing knowledge, that need to be comprehensive means it might not seemed to be aimed exactly at what you need. Anyone who feels able to improve this article is welcome to edit it.


The Micro-SD card

You will need a micro-SD card (preferably class 10, the class number indicates the relative speed of read/write compared to original design, so this class is 10 times faster).

  1. A Pi will work with either a class 4 (only 4 times faster), or a class 10, micro-SD card.
  2. Just for the standard install you need a card with a minimum of 8 GB.
  3. Given we are going to add Mono and Cumulus MX to the card, I advise you buy a card with at least 16 GB (as the default operating system installation takes up almost half of that),
    • but you might prefer to buy a 32 GB or 64 GB (or add an external USB drive or USB memory stick) if you intend to keep a lot of data on the Pi.

I won't mention manufacturer names here, but one well known brand (that uses descriptions like extreme) is the market leader, and does have greater reliability than cheaper cards from other manufacturers.

Setting up a Pi is simpler if you buy a micro-SD card that is:

NOOBS makes it easy to install (by default) Raspberry Pi operating system, as if you insert such a micro-SD card into a new Raspberry Pi computer, when you power up the Pi, the operating system will be installed during that first boot. If you have a Raspberry Pi model with an Ethernet connection, and you connect your Pi to your hub/router before you first switch it on, then at that first boot, NOOBS will offer you a choice of several operating systems, with Raspberry Pi as first choice.

Various suppliers offer cards of 16 to 64 GB with NOOBS pre-installed ready for use in a Pi (I bought from a firm in Haverhill, Suffolk, UK).

My advice is to buy your micro-SD card from a firm that specialises in selling Raspberry Pi computers and accessories. That should ensure you buy a card with the latest version of NOOBS (or Raspberry Pi Operating System) and that will make your life simpler than buying a blank micro-SD card and having to down load and add the operating system yourself.

If you want to be able to use the micro-SD card in other devices (like your PC), you may need to also buy an adapter which allows the micro-SD card to be plugged into a standard SD socket. This may be included if you buy a micro-SD card not sold specifically for the Pi, or may be available with the Pi micro-SD under a special offer for buying two items together.

The Operating System

As said before, a number of operating systems can be installed on your Pi, even Windows.

To keep this article simple, I will assume you have bought a micro-SD card either pre-installed with an operating system (OS) so you are ready to go, or you used NOOBS (as described earlier) to install your chosen OS.

If you do need to install any operating system you choose, normally the instructions will be found from where you download the system you have selected. If you have brought a card without NOOBS, you can download/install the Raspberry Operating System Buster yourself, following either instructions on the Raspberry Pi download page, those at this supplier's tutorial guide, or those in Cumulus support forum. To save you looking any of those up, the next sub-section summarises what you need to do.

How to add Raspberry Operating System to a card yourself

  • Decide whether you want
    • the full version of the operating system that supports a graphical user interface (choose this if you want to connect a TV or other monitor to your Raspberry Pi),
    • or the lite version of the operating system that only supports SSH or terminal mode (choose this if you will operate headless - explained at end of this article)
  • Download the latest version of the Raspberry Pi operating system you have selected from https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads.
  • That imager is run on any device, say your pc, and then you select write to save it onto the micro-SD card (don't forget this overwrites anything already on the card).
  • This should work without a need to format the card first, (but if you do need to format it, do so using a SD card formatter downloaded from https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_4/index.html, not for example Windows format tool).
  • After this image has been stored it will have created two (or three) partitions on the micro-SD card (one the boot partition is a FAT partition that can be accessed by Windows, the larger Linux partition is invisible to Windows, the optional third partition uses up any space left on a larger micro-SD card and appears as "data" under "media" in the Linux file structure).

Is the operating system obsolete or up to date?

It is important that your Raspberry Pi (or other device) has the latest operating system version installed. If the Operating System installed is an obsolete one, then each package it includes (e.g. Libre Office), and each package you add (e.g. Mono or PHP), will also be obsolete versions. In the worst case scenario, any attempt to install a package might fail giving an error message that the relevant Raspberry Pi repository is archived.

If you have a micro-SD card pre-installed with NOOBS, as described above, the first boot will install the operating system. It is the version of NOOBS that is included on the card that determines which Raspberry Pi Operating System version is set up:

  • Wheezy (7) released in 2013
  • Jessie (8) dating from 2015
  • Stretch (9) released in 2017 (up to this called Raspbian Operating System)
  • Buster (10) available from 2019 (the first to be called Raspberry Pi Operating System)
  • Bullseye (11) under test in 2020

Be aware that many such pre-loaded and pre-formatted cards include an obsolete version of NOOBS.

  • You may find your card installs the obsolete Raspbian Jessie (version 8 of Debian from 2015),
  • a few install the old Raspbian Stretch (Version 9 of Debian, dating from 2017),
  • a good supplier sells a card that installs latest Raspberry Operating System Buster (Version 10 of Debian, released in 2019).


Wireless Network

How this is set up depends on your Pi model, and the operating system that is loaded on it,

  • it may on first boot ask you to enter your wireless network details,
  • it may list the wireless networks it finds and ask you to choose from the listed SSID,
  • it might not prompt you so you need to use the configuration tool (see next sub-section),
  • or you might need to click on an icon with two red crosses.

Note that there is also a Wi-Fi network country which must be set.

If you have had to enter wireless details into a mobile phone, you will realise what is needed:

  • The Service Set IDentifier (SSID) is the name that is used for your wireless network.
    • As mentioned above, you may see a list of those that have been found.
    • You may have typed this into your mobile phone.
    • It may be shown on a card that slips into a slot on your hub or router (you may have changed it from that initial setting).
    • It can be up to 32 characters (letters, numbers, and symbols.
    • Some routers come with a default SSID that is the manufacturer's name, if left unchanged it might conflict with a neighbour, so it is left to you to pick a SSID that is unique to you using up to 32 characters to personalise it.
  • You also need to enter whatever Pre-Shared-Key (password) is used for your wireless network.
    • You will have typed this into your mobile phone, so that can automatically connect to your network.
    • You should have changed it (for security reasons) from whatever was shown as the initial password on the card that slips into a slot on your hub or router (possibly all you have done is add a prefix or suffix that means something to you).
  • Most wireless networks will use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or (from 2006) Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocols, so WPA-PSK is correct for you.
    • Note that your Pi is only able to use these protocols.
    • The earlier Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) was officially withdrawn in 2004 as too easy to crack, so it is not supported on a new Pi.


Other configuration

There are various other configurations you need to do on your PI. You need to use the raspbian configuration tool raspi-config,

  • this can be accessed on your Pi either in a Graphical User Interface (GUI),
  • or by running a command sudo raspi-config in Terminal.

Mandatory configurations

Within the Raspberian configuration utility, you will see an option to change password. You will want to do this so nobody can hack into your Raspberry Pi computer. You will need to enter the new password twice before it replaces the old one.

The default network (host) name for your Pi is raspberrypi, obviously we need to replace that as well with a name that personalises it to you and does not make it easy for a hacker to know what device is represented by that network name.

  • The name can most easily be changed within the Raspberian configuration utility, you will see a Network Options option, it is there that you change the network name.
  • but it can also be edited by opening the file where it is stored using sudo nano /etc/hostname.

Network options can also be configured by clicking an icon on the Pi (this icon might be two red crosses if network settings are missing, two parallel arrows if the network settings are not correctly set, or the wireless symbol if your wireless network is working).

Recommended configurations

The default locale for a Pi is normally en_GB.UTF-8, as they are designed by a company based in UK. Within the configuration option, you can add additional locales (in most cases there is a UTF-8 option which is preferred and at least one other encoding), there are also a number of special alternative locales, but I am not going to explain all the options, look it up if the default locale is not acceptable.

  • Whatever locale you use, if you have already been using Cumulus (1 or MX), you need to ensure the locale matches the one used for your log files. The versions of MX released from the middle of 2020 onwards are very fussy that all dates use the same delimiter (see Cumulus_MX_formal_release_versions), so you need to check the chosen locale continues to use the same date separator as before. The locale is affected by the version of Mono you install and whether you use the locale parameter when starting MX, so I cannot cover all options.
  • Anyway, the default locale is fine if you are in the UK, you use decimal points for real numbers, you use commas for list separators, and you don't have dates with month first!
  • To change the locale, enter Localisation Options.

In the same option area, there are some more options:

  1. Change Time-zone, by default UTC is used all year round. In the UK if your Cumulus MX is set to roll over at 10am in summer, you will wish to change the time-zone to UK time, because MX uses system time for many of its actions.
  2. Change Keyboard Layout if needed, keyboards can support different numbers of characters, and can have different currency symbols, so select whatever is relevant to you

To leave configuration

Select ‘Finish’.

Installing Mono

Sponsored by Microsoft, Mono is an open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET Framework based on the ECMA standards for C# and the Common Language Runtime.

Preparing for Mono installation

Quite often when we try to install, or update, packages on our Pi we will see messages about dependencies, and in some cases error messages saying the installation has failed or been aborted. Before we can install Mono, there are other packages required and these vary depending upon the Raspberry operating system version we have installed, see Mono download instructions for Raspberry Pi. Here are the latest 2 options when this article was updated (if your Mono installation fails, then you selected wrong one):

For Raspberry Operating System 9 (stretch):

sudo apt install apt-transport-https dirmngr gnupg ca-certificates
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 --recv-keys 3FA7E0328081BFF6A14DA29AA6A19B38D3D831EF
echo "deb https://download.mono-project.com/repo/debian stable-raspbianstretch main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mono-official-stable.list
sudo apt update

For Raspberry Operating System 10 (buster):

sudo apt install apt-transport-https dirmngr gnupg ca-certificates
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 --recv-keys 3FA7E0328081BFF6A14DA29AA6A19B38D3D831EF
echo "deb https://download.mono-project.com/repo/debian stable-raspbianbuster main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mono-official-stable.list
sudo apt update

Checking all packages are up to date

Either type:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

or to insert in single line type instead sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade.

Installing instruction

With all the pre-requisites correct as in previous steps, you can install mono package by simply typing sudo apt-get install -y mono-complete.

It is important to note that MX requires the complete edition of mono as there is also a cut-down developer edition of Mono that can be downloaded/installed.

The "sudo" part of this gives us rights, "apt-get" is one of the ways to search the Raspberry repository for applications, "install" is the action we want to do, and "mono-complete" is the package we want.

Completing Package Installation

As the Pi does not know exactly which components are needed when multiple packages are installed with various dependencies, sometimes extra components are installed which in the end are not needed when you complete all your installations.

To clear up, delete any components that are not included in dependencies by typing sudo apt autoremove.

Downloading and Unzipping MX Distribution

For simplicity, MX is installed into standard Pi user's home directory here. You might instead choose to install it on an external drive which has two significant advantages:

  1. there are certain files within MX that are updated very frequently, such constant rewriting can lead to a shorter life for your micro-SD card, by using an external drive for MX, MX files are less likely to be lost, and you are less likely to lose your operating system off your micro-SD card
  2. if you accidentally were to corrupt a critical file on your Raspberry Pi, you would need to rebuild the operating system image, and that deletes all existing files on the micro-SD card, including any related to MX, and you don't want to lose your precious data

Both the optional "data" directory created by NOOBS and any external drive appear within "/media/" in the file structure, but the exact path depends on your set-up and can't be predicted here.

The procedure is exactly same on your Raspberry Pi, as it would be on a Windows PC:

  1. It is recommended, you type sudo mkdir ~/CumulusMX first, so you already have folder ready for MX, but the file can be created by unzipping the distribution.
  2. Run the browser you have available on your Raspberry Pi (the installed browser depends on what Operating System you installed)
  3. To find the link to latest release distribution zip in the Cumulus Wiki, open the Software article in the Current_Release section.
  4. Download the MX distribution from the link that appears there, Mark will update it for each release he makes.

If the latest release has bugs (it is impossible for the developer to check all the ways in which versatile MX can be used), you can Download whatever older version of MX you have decided to install from CumulusMX/releases.

  1. If you are downloading the distribution on your Pi, the easiest option is to download into ~/downloads folder.
    • Whether this location is the default, or you are asked to select location will depend on whether your browser's default settings have been changed.
  2. When download completes, use the mouse to click on the download file name, this should ask if you want to extract (unzip) it.
  3. Ensure the file unzips into your personal directory "/home/pi", although you could place it elsewhere, this is the easiest place to find (because it can also be represented by "~".

MX Back-up issues

You should ensure that you backup the critical files (Cumulus.ini, strings.ini, all files in data folder, any files in Report folder) on a regular basis to another computer (or to your web site) and not rely on any back-ups that MX does.

Configuration issues

If you have not used Cumulus before, there is useful guidance in various other articles that is not repeated here (it may seem a lot to read, but reading these instructions my save you from days of issues, just look at the support forum for examples of people struggling because they did not read up first and so missed key settings):

  • To learn about what MX can do, please see About Cumulus article
  • To learn about configuration, please see MX Administrative Interface and Cumulus.ini articles.
    • It is important to see that whilst most settings can be done in the former, a few are read-only and must be done in latter
    • Also note that some settings are related (e.g. you need to enable real-time before any real-time actions can be selected; equally you need to enable moon image generation before you can tick the upload option; these are just the 2 most common errors)
  • For general advice relating to Cumulus MX, follow that link
  • For What to do when I have a problem with MX, follow that link
  • An article that needs someone to spend a lot of time improving it is Cumulus MX FAQ, but the article could be useful
    • The cumulus 1 FAQ might help (e.g. how to upload past data), but use with caution as Cumulus 1 and MX are very different in how they do many actions


If you have used Cumulus before, but this is first installation on Pi, then you need to copy some files from old installation to your Pi, here are a couple but you may have further configuration files to copy across:

  • Cumulus.ini
  • strings.ini

The two examples above are in same folder as Cumulus.exe or CumulusMX.exe. You also may have configuration files in a mqtt folder, or elsewhere (for example I store some batch files that Cumulus runs for me in a batch folder). Be aware that the characters terminating each line may need editing (see next sub-section).

Remember as mentioned earlier, the configuration file Cumulus.ini may need editing to update port names, any command locations, and to update file locations. Whilst you will find using the admin interface is easiest because it (in many cases) limits the selections to those that are valid; editing the Cumulus.ini file directly might be easier if you have moved from Windows and want to do repeat edits (e.g. changing multiple paths for files is easier using a repeat edit, than wading through all extra web file options in the interface).

  • There is advice about port names at Cumulus.ini#Swapping_from_Cumulus_1_to_MX.
  • For Extra Web Files, local file names will look like /home/pi/CumulusMX/web/trendsT.htm for the standard templates, or it might be something like /home/pi/cumulus_Templates/valuesRecentForDetailT.js if you have created your own templates.
    • Please note that Cumulus MX program code DOES NOT recognise "~/" as shorthand for /home/pi/.
    • Your remote file names, if you have a local server as set up in the notes in the optional sections later, will look like /var/www/html/weather/trends.html or /var/www/html/weather/js/valuesRecentForTrends.js, depending on your folder structure. If you pay for a commercial web server, remote file names will be as specified by them and not dependent on what device MX is on.
    • Remember if web site is on your Pi, MX needs full rw permissions to the HTML folder on your web site, so give permissions recursively using sudo chmod -R ugo+rw /var/www/html for Cumulus MX to successfully copy there.

Keeping existing data and Reports files

If you have used Cumulus before, you will be seeking to keep your existing log files. If you have been using the Windows Operating System each line in each file will be terminated by two control characters (carriage_return and Line_feed). That is fine if you have installed Windows on your Raspberry Pi. Assuming you have installed the Raspberry Pi Operating System or another Linux distribution, then ideally all your files should be edited so they simply use Line_feed to terminate all lines. This can be easily done in an editor like Notepad++ that is designed for computer files.

The novice does not need to worry about changing end of line characters, it is advisable but not essential (as the Pi will treat the CR as a character it does not display)

To get the entire content of your existing data and Reports folder onto your Pi:

  • you could copy them onto the micro-SD card (and move that between PC and Pi)
  • you can transfer files across the wireless or Ethernet network using FileZilla Client (or an alternative file transfer tool).

First of all you need to configure FileZilla Client, unless you have done that previously and saved the configuration:

  • The quickest way is to fill out the "quick connect boxes".
  • Host - this is the IPv4 address of your Pi, I can't tell you what it is, but it is likely to be 192.168.z.xy where the z is probably "1", but it could be another single figure like 0, and the xy is two (or perhaps three) figures you can find out by looking for "pi" (or whatever host username you have set on your Pi) in the admin interface for your hub or router. (It can also be found out by typing hostname -I). Most networks are setup in a way that the subnet range is from 192.168.1.0 to 192.168.1.255.
    • If your Raspberry Pi has both Wireless and Ethernet connections, you will have two possible IPv4 addresses, choose either, the Ethernet one is likely to be quicker.
  • Username - the default for this is raspberrypi (although on older Pi it might be Pi), but you can may have changed this (as described earlier). (It can be found by typing hostname) or by looking at the contents of the file /etc/hostname.
  • Password - again the default for this is raspberry but we changed it as one of the mandatory configurations earlier.
  • Port - 22 is the default, and I have not said how you can change this!

Click QuickConnect and you should see the local files in the left frame and your Pi home files in the right frame. The easiest way is to find the folder called data in the distribution on the left and drag it to the correct position in the right hand frame. Then all you need to do is watch the progress until it successfully finishes.

If you are going to continue using Filezilla, there are options to save the current configuration and to set up a number of alternative configurations (specifying in advanced tab different locations on your PC and different locations on your Pi).

Running Cumulus MX

(When these notes were written, there were topics in the support forum about ways to use scripts for starting/stopping MX, but the distribution did not include any such controlling scripts. The latest MX version includes a script allowing MX to be run as a service, and perhaps someone would be kind enough to expand the first sub-section).

Running as a service

(awaiting someone to explain this)

Running with a terminal session left open

Whichever operating system you are using, to run MX requires an instruction that changes to the directory where it is installed (the instruction below is assuming it is in the standard Pi user home directory, the change directory command will be different if you have installed it elsewhere), and then starting the executable (using mono in the instruction below that applies to any non-Windows operating system). You may wish to add Optional_parameters.

The simplest instruction to run Cumulus MX is cd CumulusMX && sudo mono CumulusMx.exe. Just in case it is not obvious .... if you start MX using this command in a terminal window on your Pi, you must leave that session running, then MX will continue to run.

You can start it off directly on your Pi, and then

  • optionally disconnect the keyboard,
  • switch off monitor or TV attached to your Pi,
  • Just ensure you leave Pi on so that terminal session continues running.

A very quick introduction to Linux

This article is not the place to teach you Linux, you can find books and on-line articles for yourself, but I list here enough for you to understand the instructions used elsewhere in this article.

If you have a Raspberry Pi with a monitor attached, you will see a raspberry icon that you can click to get access to many features including shutdown options.

sudo

Almost all instructions, given in this article, start with a "sudo", it basically gives administrative rights to whatever follows, and therefore allows a standard Pi user to do tasks that otherwise only work for the root user. You use it as a prefix to almost every command you type in terminal mode. There are 3 system commands that in terminal mode will only ever work with this prefix (although if you have installed the version of the Raspberry Pi Operating System that supports a graphical user interface you can also select these actions from a menu):

  • sudo halt = stops any cpu functions, but leaves Pi running; used when you have reached the end of commands you want to do for now
  • sudo poweroff = makes pi do a tidy shutdown and turn off its power; used when you will not be using your Pi for a while
  • sudo reboot (or "sudo reboot -verbose" for diagnostic output during shutdown and reboot) = makes your Pi close down and then reboot; used when you change settings, and after you install new software, to ensure Pi starts with all applications running using the latest settings and latest already installed software

~ and /

The tilde symbol ~ denotes the home directory for the current user. Sub-directories within the current user's folder can be identified by ~/documents or similar notation. To reference a folder in root or any other area, the prefix is always /.

To see what files and folders are in the current directory, type dir for just names or ls for details.

To make a new folder in the current directory, type sudo mkdir folder_name.

chmod

When you are attempting any of the actions listed in this article that involve reading, creating, editing, or moving, files; you might see an error message generally because of a lack of write permissions on an existing file or folder. Whilst rm filename will remove a file even if it is write protected, for nano you need to change the file permissions with sudo chmod -R ugo+rw ~/CumulusMX for full access to all files in your Cumulus installation (see the syntax below if you want to restrict access).


  • chmod command to modify permissions
  • the -R indicates recursive action (i.e. including not just the named folder, but all files within it and all sub-folders, and all files within sub-folders)
  • letters indicating whose permission is being modified
    • u = Owning user (sometimes the owner is the user root, sometimes the owner is the user Pi, for our web pages later we change ownership)
    • g = Group (by default the owning user is also a group, but a group can be defined if you want to give multiple users (with different passwords) the same rights of access)
    • o = Other users (write permission here is needed if for example you are using FTP to move a file from a PC to your Pi, or vice versa)
  • sign for add or remove permissions
  • + = add permission
  • - = remove permission
  • letters indicating what permission is being changed
    • r = read [4]
    • w = write [2]
    • x = execute [1]

Note that as an alternative shorter syntax you can use numbers e.g. 666 is equivalent to ugo+rw. The first digit in the number relates to u, the second to g and the last to o. The values in [] brackets in list of permissions above are added to derive each digit. So if you are reading the Cumulus support forum and you see a reference to permissions which includes a string of 3 digits, now you can understand what is meant.

nano

There are various text editors available on a Pi, nano is a simple one.

Like other text editors this can create a file when a file does not exist and edit (subject to file permissions) an existing file.

Use prefix of 'sudo' to give you access to any file, sudo does not change the actual file permissions, so you might find you can read a file, but not save it after you have done your edit.

When in nano you select to write out to a file, it allows you to change the file name shown. If you choose to save as another file, you will be asked if the new name is correct (again type Y to continue saving).

Do remember that file names are case sensitive, and when you open an existing file for editing look in case "new file" message appears because you have made a typo in the path/file name.

The full syntax is sudo nano -B Path_file_name where the -B means it will create a backup of how the file was before (this can be enabled while in the editor by pressing the control key down and typing B). Alternatively use -C which stores each version in a back-up directory. If you want to edit from a particular line and column you can use +line.column, and also optionally use -l (lower-case "L") to display line numbers which might be useful when trying to correct a problem with a log file like dayfile.txt. If you don't specify a file name, then nano will create a new file and you will need to specify where to save it before exit.

You will probably find it useful to type sudo nano /etc/nanorc as this puts you into the configuration file for nano where you can set back-up, line-numbering, and other options

After typing the nano command you need to specify a filename (it might include a path, see earlier sub-section for use of / and ~) and there are examples later in this article, but if you decide to host a web site on your Pi then you might want to edit its home page with (.html or .php) name like sudo nano /var/www/html/index.php. After you have made an alteration to the current contents of the file, various options are shown at the bottom. Here are two key ones:

  • First is ^O which is used to save the file whilst staying in the editor, to do this press the control key down and type O. Next it shows the current file name, if you press Enter then that file will be overwritten.
  • Another is ^X which means if you press the control key down and type X you get the exit dialogue. If you have not made any edits, or have already saved the file, this just exits the editor. If you have not used control and O to save the file, it asks whether you want to save the edited file (type Y), typing just the Y key lets save continue (any other key stroke exits without saving), then it shows the current file name, if you press Enter then that file will be overwritten.

install

This is used for installing packages, you will often see it used with a parameter -y; as without that parameter you have to type Y to continue at each step of an install.

It is important to mention here that the version of packages installed may well be obsolete, this install is finding versions from a Raspberian repository, more recent versions may be available from the providers of each package. To keep this article simple, I accept the Operating System that is installed by NOOBS, even if it is not the latest available from the Raspberian web site, I accept the versions of Mono, Apache, PHP, MariaDB, and others, that are found at the time you issue the install command. The update and upgrade command that I use in multiple places in this article is still only finding the versions available in the repository, and is included just in case the repository is being updated after any install finishes.

If you have more skill than the level of the person at which this article is aimed at, then you should know how to install the latest version from the appropriate web sites.

removing an unwanted file

You can remove a file or a folder with various commands, including sudo rm filename.

Miscellaneous

I have created a section here, in case anyone wants to add any more instructions. Please feel free to rename it, or indeed add any clarification anywhere in this article.

Meanwhile, look at either this web page or this one for more commands.

Optional actions

An alternative way to load Cumulus MX onto a Raspberry Pi is by using docker (a package installation), it may not be kept up to date but there is such a package at rpi-cumulusmx and a very old one at CumulusMX-Docker.


Any novice can stop reading now, as preceding sections have covered all you need to do to use a Raspberry Pi (or other Unix-based device) to run MX.

However, some people want to do more, so various options are covered in the remainder of this article. If you are a novice, my advice is don't experiment with what is mentioned after this until you are happy that all you have done up to now works. The rest of this article does get more technical, so it might be harder to understand and harder to implement. With that warning in mind, I must add that the remaining sections cover a number of items and it is very likely that some of them could be useful to you.

There are lots of sub-sections, so you can skip over those that do not interest you, while carefully reading the ones that could benefit you.


Standard action before adding any extra packages

  • We run sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y to ensure all packages are up to date before we attempt to add another package.
  • I remind you here that this does not update everything on your computer to the latest versions available for a Pi, that requires a different (more risky) command not taught here.
  • Instead, the instruction quoted above just updates your Pi to a consistent state; based on what is in the repository you are already using.

This action is not repeated below, but potentially applies to all options below.

Databases built into Cumulus MX

You do not need to know what is in those databases to use MX.

Cumulus MX includes two SQLite databases;

  1. The first database was added by Steve Loft, but he never documented what it is used for (see Cumulusmx.db) and in the support forum when someone asked, nobody was able to answer.
    • If you do find out what the first database is used for, please update the Wiki article on it!
  2. The second database is the Weather Diary added by Mark Crossley, that is documented, and in the support forum there is a topic comparing the differences between Cumulus 1 and Cumulus MX weather diaries.

Optionally, you could install phpLiteAdmin (the significant part of that name is in the middle) to read those SQLite databases. Install it using sudo apt install phpliteadmin.


Adding a web server and a database server

This is an option, and may not be useful to you, but is described here in case it is something that you want to do.

This option is not needed if your MX simply updates to an external web service (several are listed in the options in the admin interface), so you do not use the web templates supplied with MX (nor any alternative web pages created by you or a third party).

This option is not needed if you have subscribed to a commercial web server (and optionally database server).

Now you have a Raspberry Pi (or another device than can be left running all the time without consuming a lot of electricity), you might want to add a web server and database server so you can make use of the web templates that Cumulus MX provides, and its ability to update database tables.

You might want this option if you are creating your own web pages, and want to try them out without exposure to the public over the internet.

You might select this option to save the subscription costs of a commercial web server (and optionally database server).

Install Apache 2 (or another web server)

I will mention 3 possible web servers:

  1. You might choose Apache 2 as it is probably the most comprehensive, so if you have enough space on your Pi, install it using sudo apt install apache2 -y.
    • You might want to add Fast CGI (if you don't know what that is, skip this) and therefore add sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-fcgid.
  2. You might choose nginx, as it is quite popular for small computers like the Pi, install that web server with sudo apt-get install nginx -y.
  3. You might choose lighttpd, as it is designed to use as little space on your Pi as possible, install it with sudo apt-get install lighttpd -y.

Install PHP Hypertext Pre-processor

  • PHP is not the only script language available, but it is quite comprehensive
    • being able to be used either in a fairly simple way by non-technical people
    • or in an object-oriented way for those more technical to achieve success with more complex scripts.
  • The simplest instruction to install it is sudo apt install php -y, which version you get depends on your Pi and its operating system.
  • To check which PHP modules have been installed by the above command, type php -m.
  • If you later want to use a database (and a tool like PhpMyAdmin), then your php modules loaded must include at least mysqli and mbstring.
  • I will explain how to find the .ini files later, but unwanted modules can be commented out in your .ini file.

Alternatively, you can install particular php modules, or a particular PHP version, by selecting components from a list. To do this type something like sudo apt install php7-fpm php7-cgi php7-cli php7-common php7.3-mbstring php7.3-mysql php7.3-curl php7.3-gd php7.3-zip -y. Only use this approach to force a particular version (but you may find that is not available), or if you are short of space, and you are only going to use a minority of the php features available in the full set of modules.


To test that php is installed, type php -v into terminal, and you will see the exact version that has been installed, a confirmation that it offers command line interface (cli), and a copyright notice.

Creating a Home web page on your web server

You may wish to create a index.php web page at /var/www/html which is the web server root for browsing, or of course you may wish to copy or FTP here all your existing web pages. To view a php web page, go into a browser and type in a url with the same IPv4 address as you use for the admin interface, omit the port (:8998) and instead type in your web page name (e.g. //192.168.1.xy/index.php, where you need to determine digits that replace xy).

Finding your PHP configuration file

For sake of simplicity in this article, from now on I will assume the web server you installed is "apache2", change that segment (in the paths quoted below here), if you installed a different web server.

The web server main php.ini is found at /etc/php/7.n/apache2/php.ini (where 'n' depends on your Raspberry OS version and therefore which PHP version was installed, that was found out in last sub-section).

You may need to edit this file for example to specify where your include files are stored (if not in same folder as script with require/include). Replace "apache2" by "cli" in the path for the batch php.ini file that you may also need to edit.

To run a php script in batch, type php - f <file_name>. You can redirect the output by adding a greater than symbol and the destination file (i.e. > log_file) on the same terminal line.

If you want the MX external commands to run a PHP script for you, use something like "sh" as the program to run (i.e. run shell script); and in the parameters something like /home/pi/CumulusMX/MXutils/autoEOD.sh will run a script "autoEOD.sh" you have added to the "MXutils" folder. In that script, you put something like (assuming you have added a folder 'batch' with a subfolder 'log'):

#!/bin/sh
# This MX batch command file is initiated automatically by Cumulus MX software during last stage of processing the end of a meteorological day
echo "It stores feedback in log file CumulusMXDailyBatch (file name ends with day of month)"
sudo php -f the_path_and_filename_goes_here.php > /home/pi/CumulusMX/batch/log/DailyBatch_Day$(date +%d).log


Install Maria database

MySQL database software is controlled by Oracle and not made available for inclusion in Raspberry Pi repository.

Maria is an alternative that has largely similar command syntax so is likely to work with code (like MX) designed to work with MySQL. Since the MX developer (Mark Crossley) actually uses Maria DB, we can have plenty of confidence it is suitable.

To install this database server, we type sudo apt install mariadb-server php-mysql -y.

Our database files will be stored at /var/lib/mysql by default. Our MariaDB configuration is stored at /etc/mysql/mariadb.conf.d/50-server.cnf, and it is the datadir= entry that controls where the database files are stored.

Making your database secure

We need to assign passwords to control access to the database by typing into terminal sudo mysql_secure_installation. That brings up a screen:

  1. where we are asked to type current password for the root (as no password has yet been set, simply press Enter),
  2. next type Y to signify we are going to set a new password for root,
  3. next type in a new password that you will not forget,
  4. next as explained on the screen we are going to say whether users must select a user name as well as a password, type Y to Remove anonymous users
  5. next we have to decide whether we will only be logging into the database on our Pi (using Localhost) or we might be logging in remotely; type Y or N respectively, but if you choose N remember someone other than you might guess there is a root user and might guess the password you set,
  6. next we have another option of whether to retain or delete a test database, answer N or Y respectively, I would keep the test database for now as you can play with it and then remove it later,
  7. finally you type in another Y as that will Reload the privilege tables and ensure all is set up for your access to the database later.

The message, when the process successfully completes, is "Thanks for using MariDB".

Installing Adminer, or PhpMyAdmin

ExportMySQL.exe and CumulusMX.exe (see Cumulus_MX#Executables for details) both create SQL for updating tables in a MySQL database, such as the one our MariaDB software package we have installed can create.

However, there is nothing in the MX distribution that lets us back up and manipulate (e.g. delete rows with errors, or correct rogue numbers in a column) tables in this database. This option is about installing a package to do the tasks that go with operating a database.

PhpMyAdmin is one tool that can be used to manipulate your MySQL like database (that is the significance of the "My" bit in the middle of the tools's name).

You may like PhpMyAdmin as this offers:

  • a graphical approach (you see a table on screen and navigate to the row or cell you want to work on)
  • a SQL approach (you can try out any SQL here, before adding it to a script that you might use in a web page)
  • a selection approach (you select a database, then select a table, then select an action)
  1. Start the install with sudo apt install phpmyadmin -y.
  2. The PhpMyAdmin installer will ask some questions.
  3. Use your tab key to select <Yes> when it asks whether you want to configure with dbconfig-common.
  4. The version of phpmyadmin in the repository is not compatible with PHP7.2 and above, so follow the instructions at https://devanswers.co/manually-upgrade-phpmyadmin/ to upgrade it to latest phpmyadmin (you might substitute "english" for "all-languages" if you only need the one language).


You may prefer to install a different tool, perhaps adminer that works using a drill down approach. A drill down approach is when you select the database, then select the table, then select the row, then select the column, then select the action. This logical step by step approach is a popular approach, but does not suit everyone.

Install this drill down package with sudo apt install adminer (I leave you to work out the commands needed after that).

Getting web and database servers ready for use

We need to create a user for PhpMyAdmin (or adMiner or whatever) to access our database and another for Cumulus to use to access the database tables. At the moment our database access has the single root@localhost user we created when we installed MariaDB. The initial password was set then, and we need to use it to get access to MariDB monitor where we can insert some SQL commands to create these two users.

PhpMyAdmin on first start up will ask for username (here I choose "admin") and password, thereafter it will use same log-in (by default you see log-in screen each time you restart or if it is left idle for a long time), let us create a user called 'admin' for it.

The database name (here I choose "cumulus" for the data base name), user name (here I choose "weather" for the user name), and password, must all match those set in MX using the MySQL_settings in the admin interface. You could of course use PhpMyAdmin (or AdMiner) to create additional user names, and to create the database, but I assume all is done in the following bit of SQL. Remember, the Windows operating system is not case sensitive, but all Linux based operating systems are case sensitive (so whatever pattern of capitals and lowercase you choose must be used every time. Also all names must start with a letter, can contain only letters or digits (no punctuation), and must not be a reserved word ("password" is a reserved word, so you cannot use that for a password, nor for a column name).

Obviously, these names might not be what you use, but you can amend commands below accordingly. For each line with SQL, it must end with a semicolon (;) as shown. After you press "Enter" key you will get a response saying "OK" if you have remembered the semi-colon. You can actually use "\G" or "\g" instead of a semi-colon, but here we will keep it simple and stick to semi-colon.

The SQL lines have a prompt of a greater than symbol (>) while the command lines have a prompt showing current path. Note that "identified by" is followed by a password enclosed in single quotes.

sudo mysql --user=root --password=InitialPassword
create user admin@localhost identified by 'PhpMyAdminPassword';
create user weather@localhost identified by 'MXPassword';
grant all privileges on *.* to admin@localhost;
grant all privileges on *.* to weather@localhost;
FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
create database cumulus;
exit;

As I type this, Cumulus MX has no exception handling if the username and password defined in the settings do not exist in the database, therefore in this situation it will crash out (with message press Enter to close).

Commands to ensure PhpMyAdmin will work

The following sequence of commands will

  • add the mysqli module to our php install,
  • will restart apache,
  • will create a symbolic link for the phpadmin installation to the server web root so it can be seen (and used) in our browser,
  • will give the standard user (pi) ownership of the database files and the web pages:
sudo phpenmod mysqli
sudo service apache2 restart
sudo ln -s /usr/share/phpmyadmin /var/www/html/phpmyadmin
sudo  chown -R pi:www-data /var/www/html/

Viewing web pages on our new web server

You can view any index.php or PHPMyAdmin web page in your browser by prefixing the address with your Pi IPv4 address e.g. a URL like http://192.168.1.xyz/phpmyadmin where xyz is 2 or 3 digits you look up as mentioned before where FTP was described. If your Pi has both Ethernet and wireless connection, there will be two different values of xyz for you to choose one from. On first run of PhpMyAdmin, as already mentioned, you will see a PHP MyAdmin log-on page where you type username and password we have just set up.

Populating your database tables on your Pi

Cumulus MX has functionality to update database tables at one of 3 intervals:

  1. real-time
  2. standard interval
  3. end of day

The database tables can use the column names in the schemas pre-defined by Cumulus MX or in a custom schema (where you specify the column names). The settings are all in MX_Administrative_Interface#MySQL_settings, so read that section to find out more.

You might have started using MX before you set up your database. There is a option in that part of the admin interface to create database tables (as required) for each of the 3 updating intervals. For example, the default name for the table updated at the standard interval is "monthly", but you could give it a name of "standard" or whatever you like.

The MX release distribution includes another executable. Type cd CumulusMX && sudo mono ExportMySQL.exe monthly to run the executable. The first parameter is "monthly" even if the table has a different name.

  1. if the table name is defined in the admin interface, and the table already exists in the database with the correct columns defined, then the executable will use that table.
  2. There is an optional second parameter that specifies the log file name to read.
    • if the second parameter is not specified, this executable will look at every log file (in "data" folder and with file name that starts with month, then has "log.txt"),
  3. for each line in the log file the executable will try to insert a row in the database table
    • the SQL syntax used is "insert ignore", so if the row for that log file line already exists in the table, it will skip onto next line of log file.

Similar instructions apply for the end of day table, although as there is only one daily summary log file, there is no optional second parameter, just type cd CumulusMX && sudo mono ExportMySQL.exe dayfile.

There is no way to use this executable for insert of past rows into the real-time table.

If you have been running Cumulus on another device previously and already have database tables, the next section explains how you can create SQL to export your old database and use that SQL to populate the new table.

Transferring database tables to your Pi

If you have been using Cumulus before (and already have a database) then you can use PhpMyAdmin on your old device to export out all the Cumulus tables as SQL in a zip file, FTP that zip file across to your Pi, then use PhpMyAdmin on your Pi to import that zip file.

Providing you selected the right options for what SQL you created in your export, the import will contain SQL to create the tables and to insert all the rows into each Cumulus table on your Pi. Please note that there is a limit of around 1000 rows that can be imported in one action, so for your bigger tables, you will only create the table once, but you will do several Replace row actions (export from old device, then import to Pi) each transferring just one thousand rows, until the whole table is on the Pi. You may prefer to use "ExportMySQL.exe" as described in previous section to recreate your bigger tables from the Cumulus log files.

You might want to also export/import the tables in the PhpMyAdmin database (as they contain your preferences for each of your tables) in a separate zip, although these might need some extra transformations, as they are specific to a particular version of the database server (and the old database server version may not match the MariaDB version on your Pi). Some PhpMyAdmin tables do change for different versions of the tool, so that too may make export/import of its tables more complicated.

Restarting Web Server

After all these installs, we need to restart Apache (so it loads the PHP and MariaDB), by typing sudo service apache2 restart or (if we just want the Apache configuration reloaded) by typing sudo systemctl reload apache2. Similar commands apply for other web servers.

We will need to restart Apache (or whichever web server we installed) any time we change our php.ini files, database passwords, and anything else that is checked when the web server starts.

Operating your Raspberry Pi in headless mode

The terminology "headless" means using another device to send commands to a Pi via a wired or wireless network, instead of connecting a keyboard and monitor (or TV) directly to the Pi so you make all selections directly on it.

For a novice, the easiest way to set up your Pi (as described above) requires (at least temporary) a keyboard and a monitor (can be a TV) to be connected to it. You might also want to connect a mouse. Depending on the Raspberry Pi you bought, and whether you bought a keyboard (or can borrow one from any PC you have), the ease of making these connections will vary. Once your Pi is set up, and you have started MX running, you can disconnect these peripherals, and leave your Pi running.

The options described in the rest of this article cover all aspects of using a PC to do actions on your Pi, including how to change some settings on your Pi without ever connecting a keyboard and monitor to the Pi. For a novice, there are lots of opportunities to make errors in the following options, so remember the cricketer who said "If at first you do not succeed, try and try again, if you continue to fail, give up".

Remote access

There are various different ways that another device can access the Pi over networks. The most popular lets a Terminal mode on your other device connect to your Raspberry Pi using Secure Shell Home, and the commands you type in on your other device are just the same ones you would type directly into the Raspberry Pi terminal mode. The responses you get are also the same. What is likely to be different is

  • any control sequences,
  • any copy and paste operations,
  • and any other actions that are specific to the terminal mode on the other device.


You can use the browser on your PC to connect to the web server created by the MX engine to run the admin interface (all that needs is that the Pi and the PC are both connected to your hub or router, so they are on the same local network):

  • to change settings
  • or to look at the web pages provided in that interface.

Your PC can be used (as well as your Pi) to look at any web pages updated by MX (all that needs is your device to be able to connect to whatever web server runs your web pages).

Ways of using PC to do what can be done on a Pi

On your Pi, there are various applications that you can run with graphical interfaces, these let you achieve what you want by on screen selections, without having to learn what Linux commands to type in. You might wish to use these when you are operating your Pi in a headless state (without keyboard or monitor), so you want to see these graphical interfaces on your PC. See this tutorial for one way to do this. Although this article does not cover such options that let you see graphical user interfaces, these let your other device see selection screens, browsing screens, and similar, just as you would see them if you had a monitor connected to your Pi.


An alternative way to work on your Pi is its its terminal mode. This lets you use sudo to overcome the fact that the default user does not have root rights, and can therefore allow you to achieve tasks where a graphical interface fails because of the ownership of the part of the file structure where your action is taking place. The commands you type into a terminal screen on a Pi can also be typed into a terminal screen on your PC, and you will see the same responses. For this to work, you need to switch Secure Shell Home (SSH) on as that is what controls access over a network. This article explains most aspects of SSH in the next few sub-sections.


What is Secure Shell Home?

Secure Shell Home (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network. If you have two devices (your Pi and another computer), SSH will allow the two devices to exchange commands and responses between a terminal and a computer over the wireless or Ethernet (or mixture) network that connects them.

You may be too young to remember when communication with a computer was often done (remotely) using a Teletype (or similar device) acting in terminal mode. Just 4 decades ago this would have been a familiar experience for anyone working with computers, now it may seem strange for you.

It is possible you have remote connection from home to a computer at your work (although that probably uses a different protocol as the network is likely to be better secured as it passes over the internet).

SSH is switched off by default on a standard Raspberry Pi set up.

You can if you have a keyboard and screen attached to your Pi, go into the configuration screen it offers and switch SSH on. The easiest way is using the Raspi-config tool, either from the main menu (raspberry Pi icon inside a square) or in terminal mode with sudo raspi-config (choose option 5 = Interfacing Options, look for SSH). This will enable you to later access your Pi from your PC and might be useful later on. While you are in the configuration tool choose option 1 = Change User Password, and set the password you will use for your SSH session; the default password is raspberry, but you don't want to let hackers into your Pi, so you will choose something hard to guess.

The next sub-section describes how you can switch SSH on during the first boot, by creating a file on the micro-SD card before you insert it into your Pi, the file is removed as part of the boot process, so this only works once.

Pre-configuring the Pi for headless operation

If you want to set up your Pi headless (without monitor, keyboard, mouse), then you must ensure SSH (which is off by default) is switched on as your Pi boots up. Otherwise you have no access to do any setting up, and you cannot even close down the Pi tidily! The only way to achieve this, is by adding a file SSH to the boot partition before the micro-SD card is put into the Pi. If you don't do this you cannot get headless operation, and you will need to move a monitor or TV, mouse, and keyboard, across to the Pi.

The file, you add to the boot partition (there is a second partition that may be invisible), must be named "SSH" with those three letters in capitals, but with no file extension. You can create the file with whatever text editor you have available.

  • On a Windows PC, if you right click (while viewing the boot directory on the card) there is an option called New and if you select a text file it will create an empty file with the extension .txt. (In windows there is an option to hide extensions which is on by default, so you may need to deselect this option [New menu -> Options] to see this extension). On Windows you can open the file using Notepad to verify it is empty, if you gave accidentally created a file of another type like word processing it will be full of characters some of which do not display. Anyway, you must remove any extension from the file name so it is really just SSH.

Type into the file touch ssh, but nothing else, no empty lines, no end of line characters.

When the card is inserted into your Pi, on boot this file will be removed and the SSH option will be enabled. The default password is raspberry, once you have successfully got SSH working. You should then use sudo raspi-config (choose option 1 = Change User Password, and set the new password you will use for your SSH session next time).


How to use SSH?

If you have a Windows PC, this will allow you to open a Command prompt, Power Shell, or Terminal window (the selection you have available depends on certain settings).

If you have a Linux or Mac device, open Terminal.

Next, (assuming your Pi is running, and that your other device is on the same local network), type ssh pi@raspberrypi to get access to default user in your Pi.

(As an alternative for Windows operating system, you can install PuTTY, this has the advantage that you can enter the connection settings into it, and configure various other options, and these are remembered, so might make it easier to use. PuTTY software (an SSH client for Windows) can be downloaded from https://www.putty.org/).

When you are using a terminal, it is a sequential device, each line is either something you type in or something sent back in reply. The action that result from any key combinations depend on your terminal application, not just whatever you are running on your Pi. Your mouse can't affect cursor location, but the mouse might be needed to select text, the left click might copy what is selected, and the right click might paste (what is in your PC's clipboard) at current cursor position.

You can use SSH access from your PC:

  • when you need to edit a file on your Pi,
  • or do a file transfer between Pi and PC or vice versa.

Running MX from your PC

If you choose to use the simple sudo mono CumulusMX.exe command in a terminal (or command window or Powershell) session on your PC, remember MX will detect if that session is ended and will shut down MX. This means if you want to keep MX running you need to keep your session on your PC running and you loose the advantage of saving electricity by running MX on a PI because your PC remains on.

As I type this a new release 3.8.0 is to allow MX to run as a service, and a future release is planned to change the associated script, so anything I write here might become obsolete, and the next sub-section gives you some links to the support forum about alternatives to the new feature. Hopefully, someone will edit this article, when instructions have settled down and won't change on next release. Basically, the ability to run MX as a service, means that MX actually runs independent of the session that starts or stops the service; and therefore implies you can shut down your PC without stopping MX.

Hopefully someone will add notes to this article about the running as service option. I have not tried it, so I cannot add such notes.

Older information about using a PC and a PI

In the Cumulus Support forum, there are articles about a stop/start routine, a backup routine, and how to run MX as a service. I will let you hunt for and read the relevant topics, as you may find details in more than one place. This article currently avoids describing these to try to keep content simple. Here is just a list of some alternatives to having to leave your terminal session running:

  1. Use start/stop routine (see earlier link), this effectively starts a separate session for MX to run in and leaves the standard terminal session free.
  2. Run MX as an init service (see the earlier post in the service link above), be aware that this is a new feature in the new release of MX 3.8.0, again this starts MX outside your terminal session
  3. Use Screen software to start up a separate session that you can log off from without MX stopping (see how to run using screen}
  4. Run MX as a systemd service (see the more recent posts in the service link above), be aware that at time of typing this is planned to be incorporated in a future release but the MX developer has no knowledge in this area


Headless Wireless Network set up

If you don't connect a keyboard and monitor to your Raspberry Pi, you can't set up the wireless network configuration on your Pi using one of the provided configuration tools as described in the earlier wireless network sub-section.

You can use the SSH approach described immediately above to access the Raspi-config tool and in that do the necessary configuration.

There is one further, complicated, way to set up the wireless configuration so that the wireless network will work when you first boot up your Raspberry Pi. If you have brought the Zero model, that does not allow Ethernet connection, you might decide to follow this complex approach that involves creating a text file in the boot partition of your micro-SD card, and store it in the boot directory on your micro-SD card with a file name wpa_supplicant.conf before you insert that card in your Pi and do its first boot.

A note of caution here, it is easy to make mistakes, and you may find this does not work. It is presented here just to cover all options, to use this does require some technical skill, a novice will be better off avoiding this.

Ensuring you are using a text editor that won't add any unwanted control characters, add the following text using UTF-8 encoding:

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev
update_config=1
country=GB

network={
    ssid="YourNetwork"
    psk="YourNetworkPassword"
    key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
}
  • Obviously, if you are not in United Kingdom, you will replace GB by the country code that applies to you.
  • Within the first set of quotes, replace YourNetwork by whatever Service Set IDentifier (SSID) is used for your wireless network.
    • You may have typed this into your mobile phone.
    • It may be shown on a card that slips into a slot on your hub or router, but you may have changed it from that initial setting.
    • Whatever it is, and it can be up to 32 characters (letters, numbers, and symbols), type it within the double quotes.
    • Some routers come with a default SSID that is the manufacturer's name, if left unchanged it might conflict with a neighbour, so it is left to you to pick a SSID that is unique to you using up to 32 characters to personalise it.
  • Within the next set of quotes, which relate to the key (or password) that protects access to your network, replace YourNetworkPassword by whatever Pre-Shared-Key (password) is used for your wireless network.
    • You will have typed this into your mobile phone, so that can automatically connect to your network.
    • In this case, you should have changed it (for security reasons) from whatever was shown as the initial password on the card that slips into a slot on your hub or router (possibly all you have done is add a prefix or suffix that means something to you).
  • Most wireless networks will use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or (from 2006) Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocols, so WPA-PSK is correct for you.
    • Note that your Pi is only able to use these protocols.
    • The earlier Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) was officially withdrawn in 2004 as too easy to crack, so it is not supported on a new Pi.

Should you wish to set up your Pi with several network definitions, please see Notes by ExperiMentor (a contributor, in Switzerland, to the Cumulus support forum).

Downloading MX distribution on PC

If you download MX on your PC, then you will probably unzip the distribution there, and use a tool like FileZilla to copy the installation to your Pi. First of all you need to configure FileZilla Client, unless you have done that previously and saved the configuration:

  • The quickest way is to fill out the "quick connect boxes".
  • Host - this is the IPv4 address of your Pi, I can't tell you what it is, but it is likely to be 192.168.z.xy where the z is probably "1", but it could be another single figure like 0, and the xy is two (or perhaps three) figures you can find out by looking for "pi" (or whatever host username you have set on your Pi) in the admin interface for your hub or router. (It can also be found out by typing hostname -I). Most networks are setup in a way that the subnet range is from 192.168.1.0 to 192.168.1.255.
  • Username - the default for this is raspberrypi (although on older Pi it might be Pi), but you can may have changed this (as described earlier). (It can be found by typing hostname) or by looking at the contents of the file /etc/hostname.
  • Password - again the default for this is raspberry but we changed it as one of the mandatory configurations earlier.
  • Port - 22 is the default, and I have not said how you can change this!

Click QuickConnect and you should see the local files in the left frame and your Pi home files in the right frame. The easiest way is to find the folder called CumulusMX in the distribution on the left and drag it to the correct position in the right hand frame. Then all you need to do is watch the progress until it successfully finishes.

If you are going to continue using Filezilla, there are options to save the current configuration and to set up a number of alternative configurations (specifying in advanced tab different locations on your PC and different locations on your Pi).