Community Digital Archiving

Self-Sufficient Culture, Heritage and Free Software

Well, it can be done – DSpace on a Raspberrypi

  • January 21, 2013 5:21 pm

The little Raspberrypi computer, designed to re-create that wonderful sense of being able to do things yourself that those of us who cut our teeth in the early days of personal computing thrived on, is bringing the fun of general purpose computing back to all ages, especially kids.  It’s wonderful seeing the blog posts and Twitter comments from parents especially, proud of the achievements of even very young children, on this capable little machine.  The combination of that sense of the possible along with an astonishing price tag of around £25 has resulted in great success, well worthy of the foresight of the small and principled team that made it possible.

But can it run a DSpace archive?

And the answer is Yes!  Well, maybe yeeees-ish…

While in general, Free Software tends to be pretty efficient in terms of its resource use, java-based software like DSpace isn’t known for this aspect of its operation.  But here we are, the Pi in operation, dwarfed by the only USB network stick for network access I had handy:-

RaspberryPi running DSpace

The drawback isn’t memory, of which the Pi only has 256MB (although the latest versions have – phoooaaarr – 512MB) but rather the hit on the  processor.  Start-up takes over 10 minutes, and the first time each page is displayed the processor works hard.  Below is a performance monitor screen shot and you can see the processes and the flat-out working of the processor:-

I know I can, I think I can...

And while it doesn’t show much, here’s the DSpace instance freshly minted:-

Squeaky new DSpace screen

The first time you click on a new screen, it takes a while to get there, but after the first time, the speed is quite reasonable.

So yes, it can be done, and it’s been an interesting exercise.  I used the standard Raspian Linux distribution for this, and it was very straight forward to do the installation.

Why would you do this?  Well in the Raspberrypi tradition, because you can.  But there may be other reasons too.  It may be useful in some instances to have a heavily distributed  series of DSpace instances each of which gets a light impact but which together form a significant archive.  It may be that a particular project needs an Archive but has an impossibly tight budget, but that needs to stick to standard software, and with the Pi, you’ll get change from £50 after buying a wireless USB stick and SD-card storage.  Or, and this is an interesting use case, you may need an Archive somewhere where the power supply is very limited.  The Pi needs less than 5 watts to run.