Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Things you don't normally need to worry about

Something we almost never think about nowadays with tech is 'how do I switch it on?', or vice-versa.

Decades of product design and familiarity means we 'just know' how things are supposed to turn on and off.

Except it's a big personal annoyance of mine that the Raspberry Pi has no on/off switch. I know why they've done this, it's all about saving a tiny bit on the cost and keeping the price down as low as possible.

So you're either plugging and unplugging the USB lead, switching it off at a wall socket or maybe you've bought a specific USB lead with an inline switch.

All of which is frankly rubbish. Modern computers aren't meant to be unceremoniously shut off and doing so can corrupt files and in the worst case break the file system badly enough they won't boot. It's unlikely but it does happen. So since the mid-1990s, we've expected computers to have 'smart' power switches that allow for a clean startup and shutdown process. If you shut a Raspberry Pi down, it still sits there consuming power, albeit lots less, until such time as you manually remove power.

I hate this and for anything where you expect a Pi, especially in a portable device, to be used by everyday people it needs an on/off switch that conforms to consumer norms.

I'm not the only person to think like this and there have been a few products over the years catering to this. If you want an off the shelf solution, the Pimoroni on/off shim looks good, but it doesn't fit my need to control power of differing voltages to other things.

So I've used a more generic smart power switch and made my own solution.

When you break it down, the accepted norm of a power button is now something like this.


  • If you push it and the device is turned off, it will turn on
  • If you push it and the device is turned on, it will turn off in a prompt but orderly fashion
  • (optional) If you push and hold some kind of reset/setup process may occur

The module I've gone with is the Pololu "Mini Pushbutton Power Switch with Reverse Voltage Protection, LV", which ticked my boxes. It has a very low current draw in the 'off' state and can be controlled by supplying signals on different pins. I've previously made myself little arrangements with MOSFETs for this but an off the shelf module keeps things compact.

Switching things on with the module is simple. Connect the incoming power supply to VIN & GND, feed that out to the Pi (and anything else) from VOUT & GND. Use a momentary switch to connect pin 'A' to ground and the power comes on. Pushing it again does nothing as the module latches in the on state.

Switching off is a bit more complicated as it has to be driven by the Raspberry Pi.

What I've done to achieve this is use a DPST button with the second 'pole' connecting a Pi GPIO pin to ground. So when you push the button the Pi knows you are asking it to shut down. Which needs a script. A script that needs to always run at startup.

I've opted to use a very basic systemd service for this, which is a very common way to shut down the Pi with a button, there are multiple how-tos around.

First create a file called 'gpioshutdown.sh' somewhere you put your own scripts, I put this in '/home/pi/scripts/' and used GPIO pin 17 but you can change that easily.

#!/bin/bash
gpioShutdownPin="17"

# export GPIO pin and set to input with pull-up
if [ ! -e /sys/class/gpio/gpio$gpioShutdownPin/ ]
then
 echo $gpioShutdownPin > /sys/class/gpio/export
 echo "in" > /sys/class/gpio/gpio$gpioShutdownPin/direction
 echo "high" > /sys/class/gpio/gpio$gpioShutdownPin/direction
fi

while [ true ]
do
if [ "$(cat /sys/class/gpio/gpio$gpioShutdownPin/value)" == '0' ]
then
 echo "$gpioShutdownPin low, Raspberry Pi Shutting Down!"
 sleep 1
 sudo /bin/systemctl poweroff
 exit 0
fi
sleep 1
done
Now make the script executable.
sudo chmod +x /home/pi/scripts/gpioshutdown.sh
You should test this works nicely by running it manually and checking that when you push the power button it shuts the Pi down. Don't do the next step until you've debugged this as you might find your Pi immediately shuts down every time you power it up.

Once this is working reliably, you need to make a systemd service pointing at this script to make sure it starts when the Pi boots up.

Create the file /lib/systemd/system/gpioshutdown.service
 [Unit]
 Description=GPIO driven shutdown service
 After=multi-user.target
 [Service]
 Type=idle
 ExecStart=/home/pi/scripts/gpioshutdown.sh
 [Install]
 WantedBy=multi-user.target
Then enable it with the following
sudo systemctl daemon-reload
sudo systemctl enable gpioshutdown.service
Reboot the Pi, check the status of this new service with..
sudo service gpioshutdown status
..which should show it as running and make sure pushing the button shuts the Pi down.

So far so good and there are a ton of examples like this out there. However it doesn't fully power the Pi off and most how-tos don't cover this.

For that you need another connection to the Pololu module and another script.

The Pololu module has an 'OFF' connection and if you drive this high it will shut off power completely. I have connected this to GPIO pin 27.

To make this go high once the Pi has finished shutting down, create the file /lib/systemd/system-shutdown/gpiopoweroff.sh
#!/bin/sh

gpioPowerOffPin="27"

if [ "$1" = "poweroff" ]; then
 /bin/echo $gpioPowerOffPin > /sys/class/gpio/export
 /bin/echo out > /sys/class/gpio/gpio$gpioPowerOffPin/direction
 /bin/echo 1 > /sys/class/gpio/gpio$gpioPowerOffPin/value
fi

Make it executable
sudo chmod +x /lib/systemd/system-shutdown/gpiopoweroff.sh
Any scripts in this directory get run when the system has reached the final stage of shutting down and has remounted the file system read-only, so is safe to power off.

So now you have made the Pi behave like people expect a normal device to work, safely.

For extra credit it would be possible to make the shutdown script change/replace some files before shutting down if you do a 'long press' for a 'factory reset' but I haven't needed this yet.

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