Friday, August 12, 2022

The One Indispensable Hardware Accessory for Your Raspberry Pi 4B

I love my Raspberry Pi 4B. Love it. I've worked entirely online, 8+ hours per day, for more than two decades, and my 4B (the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Extreme Kit, 8 Gb of RAM, 128Gb mcro SD card "hard drive," $139.99 at Amazon, not an affiliate link) is my "desktop daily driver."

Unless you require special/proprietary software that's only available for e.g. Windows, the Pi can probably handle your desktop PC needs, at least if you go with something like my "high-end" kit. Kits with less RAM and less storage are still useful, but if you're planning to use a Pi as your main computer, go big.

Most kits come with everything you need to get started: The actual computer, which is just a stand-alone circuit board; a heat sink, and possibly a fan, both of which snap on easily; a case to cram that stuff in; an AC power adapter/cable; Mini HDMI to HDMI cables to connect up to two monitors (you'll need adapters or different cables if you're running VGA, DVI, etc.); and a micro SD card with NOOBS pre-installed on it (NOOBS lets you choose which of several operating systems to run, including the Raspberry Pi OS and some others).

But most kits don't include one absolutely, positively indispensable accessory:


The Pi 4B sports four USB ports -- two of them USB 2, two of them USB 3.

Now, you may only use two of those ports on a regular basis -- one for your keyboard, one for your mouse.

But you know you're going to want to plug other stuff into the machine now and then. A USB flash drive. A USB hardware key for logging into "two-factor authentication" sites. A USB cable to charge up some other device. You might even want to keep a USB headset or webcam plugged in all the time, which would use up additional ports.

And the ports on the Pi are really cramped for space. They're all located on one end of the box, and right next to each other.

Here's the basic 4B, not yet installed in a case (photo by Michael H. („Laserlicht“) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0). Keep in mind that the whole thing in a kit-provided case is about the size of a pack of cigarettes:

As you can see, with even two of the ports already in use, maneuvering something into the third or fourth (let alone the third and fourth) is going to be a real pain.

So, when you order your Raspberry Pi, do yourself a favor and throw a decent USB hub with a cable several inches long into your shopping cart at the same time. Having several open USB ports hanging out away from the case will save you from several seconds of irritation every time you want to connect or disconnect something.

You're welcome.

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