STBook replacement - Pi-top with BeePi!

In October of 2015 I sent my STBook to a friend over the pond for repair.  This friend was awesome for a long time and very helpful.  He is (or was?) a genius with Atari hardware.   He had worked on my STBook  previously and sent it right back in working order with a new battery and charger and the screen repaired.  When the screen failed again rather quickly, I sent it to him again.  This time around it has been over three years, and I never hear from him anymore.  I don’t know what happened to him.  All efforts to contact him have received no reply.  I hope that he is okay and will someday return my computer.  I have a pretty large investment in that very rare STBook.  It is a very unfortunate situation.  You can see some of what happened by starting here and browsing backward through the blog posts.

Recently, I started thinking about what I might be able to do to “replace” my STBook.  I’m not very excited about using emulators.  I prefer to work with the “real” Atari hardware, but where are you going to find another STBook??  I started to think about running an ARANYM setup on a laptop.  ARANYM is virtual machine software, and it amazing what it can do.  Enter the Pi-Top and BeePi!

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I discovered the Pi-top laptop.  As an electronics hobbyist, I’m a big fan of the Raspberry Pi computer and other small, single-board computers like the Arduino.  The Pi-Top is an inexpensive, 3D printed educational laptop.  You simply add the Raspberry Pi and you have a complete laptop with a sliding keyboard and trackpad enabling you to open it right up to get to the Raspberry Pi and add “hats” to the internal sliding modular rail.  The image below shows the pi-top connection bridge on top of the Raspberry Pi, and the Pi-top pulse (speaker, mic and LED array) on the right.

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I noticed on Atari-Forum that Philippe had created some very slick distributions of ARANYM and HATARI with a lot of Atari software and tools and a Mint OS. Theses distributions are BeeKey and BeePi for PCs and the Raspberry Pi, respectively and MacAranym for the Mac.  I got involved in BETA testing of BeePi with my Pi-top.  Soon, Philippe released BeePi 1.0.  Since this distribution is based on Raspbian Stretch lite, it enabled me to interact with my Pi-top devices, specifically the Pi-top pulse (speaker, mic and LED array).  There are several nice example python scripts for the Pi-top pulse to check out on Github.

See this topic for BeePi 1.0

BeePi is truly amazing!  The distribution comes with everything you need right out of the box."  There is even a simple YouTube Tutorial.

The screen you see above is somewhat customized for my purposes with the Pi-Top.  In this version of BeePi when using the Pi-Top, make sure you stick with the default screen resolution for the best results.  At this time the native screen size (1920X1080) did not work with the BeePi screen settings tool (for me anyway).  If you want to make use of more screen area, use the ARANYM setup dialog (fn+Altgr+F12) to set the video.  I had the best results using Fixed Size/Custom Width: 1820 Height: 980.

To use the various Pi-Top devices and software tools, you need to SSH to BeePi at the terminal (SSH root@beepi) and 

apt update

apt upgrade

apt install pt-device-manager

shutdown (Halt System)

When you start up the Pi-Top if you have a speaker or a Pi-Top pulse installed you should hear the cool BeePi startup sound when the desktop loads!

You can also go to github and look for all the cool examples for the Pi-top pulse.  I tried all of them, and they all worked from the BeePi terminal with no problem at all.  The battery gauge app for the pulse is especially useful.

The one thing that is a little frustrating with any Atari is that web browsing can be quite slow.  That is still the case when running Netsurf with BeePi on the Pi-top.  My solution was to install the Chromium Browser on the host side (Raspbian Stretch Lite).

I followed the instructions here.  This did not setup the Chromium Browser in kiosk mode as I expected, but it did give me a minimal desktop with the terminal and the Chromium Browser, which is exactly what I wanted.  I can go to “Tools” “Quit to Host” in BeePi, log in at Bash, type the “startx” command and then launch Chromium.  I haven’t found any limitations so far using this browser.  One important detail is that you will need to add a sudo user to run chrome properly.

adduser (username)

follow the prompts

usermod -aG sudo (username)

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When you are ready to go back to BeePi, just type “reboot” in the terminal, and you will boot back to the BeePi OS.

I want to thank Philippe for his outstanding work with BeePi!  I think it would have taken years for me to properly configure ARANYM, Mint and Teradesk on top of the Pi-Top OS.  I am a fairly experienced Atari user, and I have a nice configuration of Mint and Teradesk on my Falcon, but there is no way I could have come up with anything nearly as nice and complete as this.  It is so well done!  THANK YOU PHILIPPE!!!!

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