Monthly Archives: December 2019

Happy Holidays from SparkFun!

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone! We just wanted to give you a heads up that SparkFun will be closed Wednesday, December 25th, and Thursday, December 26th (though we will still have our regularly scheduled Enginursday post), for the Christmas holiday. We will be back Friday with new products! It's a bit of an odd holiday schedule, we know, but in the meantime we'll be eating cookies and enjoying our favorite holiday movies.

Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

As a quick aside, we are running low on our Limited Edition Artemis SnowBoard. If you haven't picked one up yet this will be your last chance. Click here to find out how to get your board for free!

If you're celebrating, enjoy some downtime and thank you for all your support this year!

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Brass freeform circuit (Raspberry Pi) Instagram tracker

via Raspberry Pi

A few of our favourite online makers decided to take part in a makers’ Secret Santa, producing home-made gifts based on their skills. So, OBVIOUSLY, Estefannie used a Raspberry Pi. Thanks, Estefannie.


I got in a Maker Secret Santa this year so I decided to make a thing and hack Instagram for it. #YTMakersSecretSanta MAKERS SECRET SANTA! FOLLOW EVERYONE: Kids Invent Stuff Colin Furze The Hacksmith Look Mum No Computer Sufficiently Advanced Subscribe to my channel if you’d like to be the first to know when I publish the next video :) Let me know what other videos you would like to see.

In the video above, Estefannie uses a Raspberry Pi to hack Instagram to illuminate a handmade freeform circuit whenever Kids Invent Stuff gains a like on a post.

“But why not use the Instagram API?”, I hear you cry. Well, as Estefannie explains, she wanted the gift to be a surprise, and if she had used the Instagram API, she would have had to have asked them for their details in order to access it.

Watch to the end of the video to see the gift that Estefannie received from her Secret Santa, a certain Colin Furze. You can see his complete build video for the Cat-o-Matic below.

CAT-O-MATIC auto cat feeder/terrifier YTMakers Secret Santa

Fear not your cat feeding issues are sorted………..Furzestyle No cat was harmed in making of this but it did run off……….but came back and is fine. Thanks to the Kids Invent Stuff channel for organising this Secret Santa check them out here And the other channels involved Estefannie Explains Sufficiently Advanced Look Mum No Computer The Hacksmiths Check out the new FURZE Merch store.

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Raspberry Pi 3 baby monitor | Hackspace magazine #26

via Raspberry Pi

You might have a baby/dog/hamster that you want to keep an eye on when you’re not there. We understand: they’re lovely, especially hamsters. Here’s how HackSpace magazine contributor Dr Andrew Lewis built a Raspberry Pi baby cam to watch over his small creatures…

When a project is going to be used in the home, it pays to take a little bit of extra time on appearance

Wireless baby monitors

You can get wireless baby monitors that have a whole range of great features for making sure your little ones are safe, sound, and sleeping happily, but they come with a hefty price tag.

In this article, you’ll find out how to make a Raspberry Pi-powered streaming camera, and combine it with a built-in I2C sensor pack that monitors temperature, pressure, and humidity. You’ll also see how you can use the GPIO pins on Raspberry Pi to turn an LED night light on and off using a web interface.

The hardware for this project is quite simple, and involves minimal soldering, but the first thing you need to do is to install Raspbian onto a microSD card for your Raspberry Pi. If you’re planning on doing a headless install, you’ll also need to enable SSH by creating an empty file called SSH on the root of the Raspbian install, and a file with your wireless LAN details called wpa_supplicant.conf.

You can download the code for this as well as the 3D-printable files from our GitHub. You’ll need to transfer the code to the Raspberry Pi. Next, connect the camera, the BME280 board, and the LEDs to the Raspberry Pi, as shown in the circuit diagram.

The BME280 module uses the I2C connection on pins 3 and 5 of the GPIO, taking power from pins 1 and 9. The LEDs connect directly to pins 19 and 20, and the camera cable fits into the camera connector.

Insert the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi and boot up. If everything is working OK, you should be able to see the IP address for your device listed on your hub or router, and you should be able to connect to it via SSH. If you don’t see the Raspberry Pi listed, check your wireless connection details and make sure your adapter is supplying enough power. It’s worth taking the time to assign your Raspberry Pi with a static IP address on your network, so it can’t change its IP address unexpectedly.

Smile for Picamera

Use the raspi-config application to enable the camera interface and the I2C interface. If you’re planning on modifying the code yourself, we recommend enabling VNC access as well, because it will make editing and debugging the code once the device is put together much easier. All that remains on the software side is to update APT, download the script, install any dependencies with PIP, and set the script to run automatically. The main dependencies for the script are the RPi.bme280 module, Flask, PyAudio, picamera, and NumPy. Chances are that these are already installed on your system by default, with the exception of RPi.bme280, which can be installed by typing sudo pip3 install RPi.bme280 from the terminal. Once all of the dependencies are present, load up the script and give it a test run, and point your web browser at port 8000 on the Raspberry Pi. You should see a webpage with a camera image, controls for the LED lights, and a read-out of the temperature, pressure, and humidity of the room.

Finishing a 3D print by applying a thin layer of car body filler and sanding back will give a much smoother surface. This isn’t always necessary, but if your filament is damp or your nozzle is worn, it can make a model look much better when it’s painted

The easiest way to get the script to run on boot is to add a line to the rc.local file. Assuming that the file is located in your home directory, you should add the line python3 /home/pi/ to the rc.local file, just before the line that reads exit 0. It’s very important that you include the ampersand at the end of the line, otherwise the Python script will not be run in a separate process, the rc.local file will never complete, and your Raspberry Pi will never boot.

Tinned Raspberry Pi

With the software and hardware working, you can start putting the case together. You might need to scale the 3D models to suit the tin can you have before you print them out, so measure your tin before you click Print. You’ll also want to remove any inner lip from the top of the can using a can opener, and make a small hole in the side of the can near the bottom for the USB power cable. Next, make a hole in the bottom of the can for the LED cables to pass through.

If you want to add more than a couple of LEDs (or want to use brighter LEDs), you should connect your LEDs to the power input, and use a transistor on the GPIO to trigger them

If you haven’t already done so, solder appropriate leads to your LEDs, and don’t forget to put a 330 Ω resistor in-line on the positive side. The neck of the camera is supported by two lengths of aluminium armature wire. Push the wire up through each of the printed neck pieces, and use a clean soldering iron to weld the pieces together in the middle. Push the neck into the printed top section, and weld into place with a soldering iron from underneath. Be careful not to block the narrow slot with plastic, as this is where the camera cable passes up through the neck and into the camera.

You need to mount the BME280 so that the sensor is exposed to the air in the room. Do this by drilling a small hole in the 3D-printed top piece and hot gluing the sensor into position. If you’re going to use the optional microphone, you can add an extra hole and glue the mic into place in the same way. A short USB port extender will give you enough cable to plug the USB microphone into the socket on your Raspberry Pi

Paint the tin can and the 3D-printed parts. We found that spray blackboard paint gives a good effect on 3D-printed parts, and PlastiKote stone effect paint made the tin can look a little more tactile than a flat colour. Once the paint is dry, pass the camera cable up through the slot in the neck, and then apply the heat-shrink tubing to cover the neck with a small gap at the top and bottom. Connect the camera to the top of the cable, and push the front piece on to hold it into place. Glue shouldn’t be necessary, but a little hot glue might help if the front parts don’t hold together well.

Push the power cable through the hole in the case, and secure it with a knot and some hot glue. Leave enough cable free to easily remove the top section from the can in future without stressing the wires.

If you’re having trouble getting the armature wire through the 3D-printed parts, try using a drill to help twist the wire through

This is getting heavy

Glue the bottom section onto the can with hot glue, and hot-glue the LEDs into place on the bottom, feeding the cable up through the hole and into the GPIO header. This is a good time to hot-glue a weight into the bottom of the can to improve its stability. I used an old weight from some kitchen scales, but any small weight should be fine. Finally, fix the Raspberry Pi into place on the top piece by either drilling or gluing, then reconnect the rest of the cables, and push the 3D-printed top section into the tin can. If the top section is too loose, you can add a little bit of hot glue to hold things together once you know everything is working.

With the right type of paint, even old tin cans make a good-looking enclosure
for a project

That should be all of the steps complete. Plug in the USB and check the camera from a web browser. The script includes video, sensors, and light control. If you are using the optional USB microphone, you can expand the functionality of the app to include audio streaming, use cry detection to activate the LEDs (don’t make the LEDs too stimulating or you’ll never get a night’s sleep again), or maybe even add a Bluetooth speaker and integrate a home assistant.

HackSpace magazine issue 26

HackSpace magazine is out now, available in print from your local newsagent, the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge, and online from Raspberry Pi Press.

If you love HackSpace magazine as much as we do, why not have a look at the subscription offers available, including the 12-month deal that comes with a free Adafruit Circuit Playground!

And, as always, you can download the free PDF here.

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Friday Product Post: Welcome to the Real World

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone and welcome back! This week we have two GPS breakout boards that utilize the brand new NEO-M9N module from u-blox. Following that we have the Cthulhu Shield, the world's first open source sensory substitution and sensory augmentation development platform (you'll definitely want to check this one out). Then, to round out the day, we have a micro HDMI cable that can be used with the new Raspberry Pi 4! As a reminder, our Limited Edition Artemis SnowBoard is almost out of stock - if you want to pick one up for free, now might be your last chance. Click here for the rules and details.

These boards may not know Kung-Fu, but they will help you find your way!

SparkFun GPS Breakout - NEO-M9N, U.FL (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - NEO-M9N, U.FL (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - NEO-M9N, Chip Antenna (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - NEO-M9N, Chip Antenna (Qwiic)


The SparkFun NEO-M9N GPS Breakout is a high quality GPS board with equally impressive configuration options. Two options are available, one with a U.FL connector so you can use your own antenna, and the second with a built-in Chip Antenna. The NEO-M9N module is a 92-channel u-blox M9 engine GNSS receiver, meaning it can receive signals from the GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou constellations with ~1.5 meter accuracy. Additionally, this u-blox receiver supports I2C (u-blox calls this Display Data Channel), making it perfect for Qwiic compatibility so we don't have to use up our precious UART ports. Utilizing our handy Qwiic system, no soldering is required to connect it to the rest of your system. However, we still have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard.

In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

Cthulhu Shield

Cthulhu Shield


The Cthulhu Shield is the world's first open source sensory substitution and sensory augmentation development platform! Sensory substitutes are tools and techniques that take information you would normally receive on one sensory organ, and present it in another form to another sensory organ. Your brain then figures out what to do with this information and translates it into usable data. The Cthulhu Shield lets anyone experiment and make devices that can expand your sensory experience! This input device attaches directly into a 5V Arduino development board, enabling it to electrically activate nerve endings in your tongue (yup, your tongue) through an array of 18 electrodes with the included Flexible Electrode Array.

Micro HDMI Cable - 3ft

Micro HDMI Cable - 3ft


This is an inexpensive, 3-foot-long HDMI to Micro HDMI cable that you can use to hook up your Raspberry Pi 4 to a suitable monitor or TV. Heck, you can hook up anything you want with it!

That's it for this week! As always, we can't wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

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Enginursday: Hackaday Supercon Super Wrap-Up

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

In the wake of Maker Faire going away, it's inevitable that other events will soon take the spotlight among electronics enthusiasts. I see the Hackaday Superconference stepping up in this regard. The three-day conference (loose term) hosts a number of workshops and talks on a large range of topics. I use the term conference loosely as it's more of a gathering of electronics enthusiasts and makers with structured talks - truly something for anyone who may identify in one of those groups. So while it might not cover the range of topics that Maker Faire once did, it definitely fills a good chunk of the void.

As mentioned, Superconference consists of three days of workshops, talks, and general discussions and convening. What really sets Supercon apart from other events and conferences is the large area dedicated to working on projects or badge hacking. This also draws small group discussions that I feel are lacking at most conferences I attend.

I've been lucky enough in that for the past two years, SparkFun has spent its sponsor ticket on me. While I'm technically there on behalf of SparkFun to get a pulse on what people are finding interesting and what's the cool or new, it makes for quite the enjoyable trip to Pasadena. And while I try to carve out after-hours time to do some sight-seeing in the area, I always find it difficult to peel my attention away from Supercon. It's too fun and interesting.

Day one goes down at the headquarters for the parent company of Hackaday: Supplyframe. Mostly it consists of a few early workshops and check ins, but this presents a pretty cool opportunity to talk with others about what they're working on or start exploring the conference badge.

For those out of the loop, interactive conference badges have become a feature of a lot different electronics-oriented conferences in the past few years. This year, the Hackaday Supercon badge was something to behold. Featuring a Lattice Semiconductor FPGA, a fairly large screen and enough features and work spent on it that it warrants a separate article. So when the badge itself is powerful enough to run Tetris, it makes sense that a good a chunk of the conference is dedicated to the badge. Areas with tables and soldering irons provide a place for those who want to really dig into the badge and create something unique with it (more to come on that).

Hackaday Supercon Conference Badge

The workshops present their own unique aspect to the conference. Now, to be fair, it could just be that the conferences I've been to focus more on the companies attending, but the more free-form nature of the workshops seems a lot more appealing to me. I have yet to be able to sign up for one, but the topics such as "USB Reverse Engineering" always catch my eye. The workshop sizes seem fairly limited, so it's easy to hear the instructor and asking questions is a much more attainable task (I've been in some 100+ attendee workshops that made for a bad time). It seems as though I'm not the only one who appreciates the format and topics as they fill up fast. So if you plan on attending, register for the workshops you want as early as possible.

Day two happens at the Los Angeles College of Music down the road a bit (but still in Pasadena). While Supplyframe has a cool, co-working-type space there, the big differentiator is a room big enough to hold larger talks and the main stage. In addition, a smaller second stage is set up in the co-work space (but still pretty big). The topics of the talks are all over the map - everything from reverse engineering older pieces of equipment to learning the hot new trends in electronics, and even covering some very unique projects you might have seen on the Hackaday blog. With the two stages, it presents a bit of need for planning to make sure you're going to see the talks you would like to see. To get between the two stages, you have to go outside the building to an alleyway and then back in. The alleyway is where all the tables for badge hacking and general project work (along with the workshops) reside. I think this is one of the most special parts of the conference.

Main Stage at Hackaday Supercon

This brings me to another cool part of the conference: they feed you. Above I talked about trying to carve out some time to see the sights of Pasadena and do some tourist stuff. This included hitting some of the incredible looking restaurants I would walk by everyday from the hotel to the conference, but the power of free food and good conversation proved too powerful. It presented a time when most attendees' attention would be free and you could easily meet new folks or those who you only know from the web. Most conferences I attend focus your attention to talks, workshops and vendors exhibiting. There's very little time or opportunity to talk with other attendees. The meals at Supercon provide a great opportunity for this. I would even argue it presents a better opportunity than the parties they would host every night.

Alley where badge hacking and workshops happen

The big event of day two is the presentation of the Hackaday Prize, which presents an incredible opportunity to the recipients every year. This year it went to a project called FieldKit, which is working toward an open source hardware and software platform for collecting and sharing field data in environmental sensing. As a small aside, more than one person told me how excited they were that FieldKit won with what they're doing for the citizen science and environmental sensing communities. The team won the grand prize of $125,000, which will hopefully provide a solid launchpad for taking the project to the next level.

Day three looks a lot like day two - more talks and workshops at the same location. The big difference is the badge-hacking prizes presented at the end. If the workshops and talks didn't convince you how talented the people who attend Supercon are, this will. It's amazing to see what folks are able to accomplish with these badges and their spare time during the conference (of which there is very little). Of the things I can remember, there were people running VGA monitors off the badge, someone had a PowerPoint presentation running on theirs (because all conferences need PowerPoint), and a bunch more incredible things a conference badge shouldn't be able to do (if you were there and remember others, please put them in the comments below, I'm seriously spacing on them). Best of all, the prizes were just as impromptu as the projects, with the moderators judging the winners by audience applause and handing them a rolled $100 bill.

Robotic, 3D printed cat

Supercon has what you're going to get from most conferences, but there's something different about it. It could be that I just go to the wrong conferences, or don't pay enough attention at them or that Supercon pertains heavily to my interests, but I think presents a different atmosphere. It's less of a conference and more of meet-up of internet friends (if you plan on attending, have your Twitter handle ready, everyone is going to ask for it). The conversations I have there will remain etched in my mind for years to come. The talent and brilliance of every person I encounter is incredible, along with their willingness to share such. If Supercon has been something on your list to attend, I highly recommend it.

Talk on the main stage

Best of all, Hackaday puts all their talks up on their YouTube channel. Check them out if you have a free moment. Additionally, feel free to share your thoughts on Supercon in the comments below. I'm always interested in other perspectives as I have only attended in a certain context.

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Hands-free Raspberry Pi Airdrum | The MagPi 89

via Raspberry Pi

We’re always going to beat the drum for projects that seek to improve the lives of people with disabilities. That’s why we fell in love with the Airdrum, which was created to allow anyone, in particular people with disabilities, to play a musical instrument.

The Airdrum – speaker and MIDI song demo

This video demonstrates the speaker functionality with playing a song from a midi file on the Raspberry pi using Fluidsynth. (The hand movement is just for fun) The Airdrum is powered by a power supply for demonstration purposes.

Raspberry Pi Airdrum

Designed by two Dutch electrical engineering students, Alessandro Verdiesen and Luuk van Kuijk, the project came to life during their first year at university. “We aimed to develop a musical instrument that could be used to generate music by moving,” explains Alessandro, who has recently been working on a fully modular version 2.0.

After speaking with therapists and health care institutions, the pair decided to make a drum that could be played by moving objects above a set of panels and they put Raspberry Pi at its heart. “The basic functionality of the Airdrum is to detect the distance of an object above each connected panel and play a sound,” says Alessandro. “These panels contain IR distance sensors and coloured LEDs for visual feedback.”

Sorting the bass-ics

From the outset, Alessandro and Luuk needed their project to be accessible, affordable, adjustable and, in the latest iteration, modular, with each drummable section containing an Arduino Mini, an IR sensor, and LEDs. They also wanted the instrument to have a broader appeal and be suitable for everybody, including professional musicians, so it had to sound as good as it played.

“We needed it to be as versatile as it can be and allow people to choose custom sounds, colours, and lights while being a standalone instrument and a multi-purpose input/output device,” Alessandro reveals. To make it easy to place the modules together, they used magnetic connections between the panels. This allowed them to be placed together in various configurations, with a minimum of two per Airdrum.

These speaker modules can bookend the sensor panels, although the sound can be outputted via the Raspberry Pi to a different sound system too

With a structured plan that divided milestones into electrical, mechanical, and software components, the pair used 3D printing for the enclosure, which allowed rapid prototyping for quick interactions. They used speaker panels to bookend the modules for auditive feedback.

Panel beating

Each of the panels includes a buck converter so that the current through the connectors can be drawn to a minimum. The master module panel contains Raspberry Pi 3 running custom programs written in C and Python, as well as the free, open-source software synthesiser FluidSynth. It connects to the other panels through I2C, constantly polling the panels for their measurements and for the configuration of their colour.

“If an object has been detected, the Raspberry Pi generates a sound and outputs it on the AUX audio jack,” says Alessandro. “This output is then used by the mono D-class amplifiers in the speaker panels to make the tones audible.”

Custom-made Airdrum detecting modules fit snugly into their 3D-printed cases and can be arranged in a full circle if you have enough of them

The pair chose Raspberry Pi because of its versatility and technical prowess. “The Airdrum needed something powerful enough to run software to generate audio through MIDI using the input from the panels and the Raspberry Pi is a great universal and low-cost development board with integrated DAC for audio,” explains Alessandro. “It also has a I2C bus to act as a data transfer master unit and they’re compact enough to fit inside of the casing. The Raspberry Pi enables easy implementation of future upgrades, too.”

Indeed, the pair want to explore the MIDI possibilities and connect the Airdrum with a smartphone or tablet. An app is being planned, as is a built-in synthesiser. “The people we have shown the Airdrum to have been very enthusiastic,” Alessandro says. “That has been very motivating.”

Read The MagPi for free!

There’s loads more amazing projects and tutorials in The MagPi #89, out today, including our 50 tools and tips for makers, and a huge accessory guide! You can get The MagPi #89 online at our store, or in print from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge and all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.

Don’t forget our amazing subscription offers either, which include a free gift of a Raspberry Pi Zero W when you subscribe for twelve months.

And, as with all our Raspberry Pi publications, you can download the free PDF from our website.

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