PiBox 1.1.0 – the Atreides Plus release

It’s been a long time coming – nearly four years, if you’re counting – but a new major release of PiBox is now available.  This release adds not just features and apps galore, but completes systems: Media, Kiosk and Auto-Kiosk.  And there are releases for manual installation along with ready made SD card images.  So now you don’t have an excuse not to try PiBox.

This release is V1.1.0, which probably seems like an odd number for a major release.  And it is.  V1.0.0 was released quietly quite some time back.  That release wasn’t quite ready for public consumption and I knew it right away, so I just completed the release archives and moved quickly to bug fix mode.  And there was plenty to fix.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Release Announcement’s Changelog section.

There are many important changes for this release, making it the first release reasonably suited for general use.  The following is taken from the Release Announcement.

  • Everything is now licensed with the 0BSD license, making it very open source friendly.
  • Binary releases to make it easier for end user installation.
  • Support for Raspberry Pi Model B/B+, 2, 3 and Zero, including 3 and Zero WiFi.
  • Switched to a squashfs/overlay boot system in preparation for in-field upgrades. This is now handled by an initramfs.
  • Added a MusicFE player (Music Front End, using omxplayer on the backend) app with carousel-type display.
  • Added a PiPics player app to view static images.
  • Added a PiXM player app for use with XMPCR device.
  • Added license generation from Buildroot.
  • Added graphical WiFi scanner to PiBox Network Config.
  • PiBox Media System and Kiosk’s now support better dbus interaction allowing for cleaner interaction with touchscreens.
  • Oh: and touchscreen support was integrated! This is specifically for the kiosk system but works if you install the Media System on the official 7″ Raspberry Pi touchscreen.
  • System boots are quieted with only the MIOT (My IoT) logo showing with a boot progress bar.
  • Boot times are down to <20 seconds for RPi 2 and 3 systems.
  • Improved thread handling with semaphores in multiple apps.
  • Improved webcam app: faster startup, less lagtime, hi- and low-res options.
  • Improved PiBox Network Config unit tests help to stabilize network management.
  • Improved Cairo/GdkPixbus image scaling in all apps, such as the analog clock in PiClock and the Launcher UI in the Media System.
  • Metabuild has improved support of system app builds.
  • Core system bumps:
    • Crosstoon-NG: 1.24.0
    • Buildroot: 2019.05.1
    • Busybox: busybox-1.30.1
    • Linux: 4.19.106

The wiki was completely updated to reflect all changes and a Media System User’s Guide was created (guides for other systems are on the plan for the next major release).  The web site was updated too and the download archive now has full instructions for all release files.

A release is a lot of work.  Maybe more so than the coding.  Bringing all web site documentation up to date took over a month after all testing had completed.  And while I was doing all that release work I ran into a slew of new ideas for the next release:  docker support, x86_64 releases (to go with the ARM Pi releases), a file server, a standalone webcam system, etc.  Extending PiBox to more system releases, each of which meets specific use cases, is the next big step.  And more automated testing – one of the big slow downs for the release was testing all systems on all support Raspberry Pis (the Pi 4 is not yet supported).

With this release I’ve started the use of code names.  As a fan of classic hard science fiction I chose to go with Dune, which has lots of characters, places and subjects suitable for code names.  And of course I’ve started with the biggest name of all:  Atriedes.  The Plus comes from that whole 1.1 vs 1.0 problem I discussed earlier.

So there it is.  Dig in.  Try it out.  Blast me for wasting your time and tell me how I can make it better.  Politely.  I have feelings too.

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