Project Pi3Desk: Building an awesome Pi3 desktop with btrfs, USB SSD, zswap, and $30!

Some might wonder why on earth I was doing kernel builds with a Raspberry Pi 3, such that I looked the temperature and throttling behavior.  This week, I explain!  I’m trying to make the Raspberry Pi 3 into the best little desktop I can - without breaking the bank in the process.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Comments from Blogger)

2018-03-20 by Aaron

"There’s one modern filesystem that supports transparent compression: btrfs."

I beg to differ, ZFS existed and had transparent compression long before BTRFS.

Now even if you had considered it, I do agree that ZFS would be the wrong tool for this problem. I’m sure you’d be able to get ZoL running on an RPi. But BTRFS is probably both easier and better suited for this task.

2018-03-20 by Russell Graves

I hadn’t realized ZFS supported compression - thanks for the correction!

I didn’t look into ZFS particularly hard, though, as it’s entirely overkill for this project, as you note.

2018-03-28 by Aaron

Yes, ZFS has lots of great features. Transparent compression, blending the idea of filesystem and volume management, CoW, checksumming every block, online scrubbing to identify blocks that fail checksums and repair (if possible), RAID5/6/7 like behavior but avoiding the write-hole, create sub-filesystem directories which can have different settings/behavior with reserved space or quotas. Lots of stuff.

But yes, while it CAN be run on machines with little RAM, it’s easiest on 4+GB, and if you have more memory it can cache more and more in memory for reads or writes.

2018-03-31 by tuco

Have you looked at, odroids? They do accept eMMC and goes from 1GB of ram up to 4GB with their ODROID-N1. I was surprised how much I could do with ODROID-XU4 before gifting it to my dad.

2018-04-01 by Advantage

Wow this article is really impressive. I love my Pi 3 but I haven’t found myself using it for anything other than an OpenVPN box to allow me to remotely access shares on my local network at home. RetroPie is a fun way to use the Pi 3 but it’s limited quite a bit when compared to RetroPie x86 on my Ubuntu laptop. I agree that one should expect more out of a system with 4 cores and a GB of ram and the sd card really holds it back. I’ll likely give this a try in the coming months. Thanks a bunch!