Author Archives: Alex Bate

Continued: the answers to your questions for Eben Upton

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Last week, we shared the first half of our Q&A with Raspberry Pi Trading CEO and Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton. Today we follow up with all your other questions, including your expectations for a Raspberry Pi 4, Eben’s dream add-ons, and whether we really could go smaller than the Zero.

Live Q&A with Eben Upton, creator of the Raspberry Pi

Get your questions to us now using #AskRaspberryPi on Twitter

With internet security becoming more necessary, will there be automated versions of VPN on an SD card?

There are already third-party tools which turn your Raspberry Pi into a VPN endpoint. Would we do it ourselves? Like the power button, it’s one of those cases where there are a million things we could do and so it’s more efficient to let the community get on with it.

Just to give a counterexample, while we don’t generally invest in optimising for particular use cases, we did invest a bunch of money into optimising Kodi to run well on Raspberry Pi, because we found that very large numbers of people were using it. So, if we find that we get half a million people a year using a Raspberry Pi as a VPN endpoint, then we’ll probably invest money into optimising it and feature it on the website as we’ve done with Kodi. But I don’t think we’re there today.

Have you ever seen any Pis running and doing important jobs in the wild, and if so, how does it feel?

It’s amazing how often you see them driving displays, for example in radio and TV studios. Of course, it feels great. There’s something wonderful about the geographic spread as well. The Raspberry Pi desktop is quite distinctive, both in its previous incarnation with the grey background and logo, and the current one where we have Greg Annandale’s road picture.

The PIXEL desktop on Raspberry Pi

And so it’s funny when you see it in places. Somebody sent me a video of them teaching in a classroom in rural Pakistan and in the background was Greg’s picture.

Raspberry Pi 4!?!

There will be a Raspberry Pi 4, obviously. We get asked about it a lot. I’m sticking to the guidance that I gave people that they shouldn’t expect to see a Raspberry Pi 4 this year. To some extent, the opportunity to do the 3B+ was a surprise: we were surprised that we’ve been able to get 200MHz more clock speed, triple the wireless and wired throughput, and better thermals, and still stick to the $35 price point.

We’re up against the wall from a silicon perspective; we’re at the end of what you can do with the 40nm process. It’s not that you couldn’t clock the processor faster, or put a larger processor which can execute more instructions per clock in there, it’s simply about the energy consumption and the fact that you can’t dissipate the heat. So we’ve got to go to a smaller process node and that’s an order of magnitude more challenging from an engineering perspective. There’s more effort, more risk, more cost, and all of those things are challenging.

With 3B+ out of the way, we’re going to start looking at this now. For the first six months or so we’re going to be figuring out exactly what people want from a Raspberry Pi 4. We’re listening to people’s comments about what they’d like to see in a new Raspberry Pi, and I’m hoping by early autumn we should have an idea of what we want to put in it and a strategy for how we might achieve that.

Could you go smaller than the Zero?

The challenge with Zero as that we’re periphery-limited. If you run your hand around the unit, there is no edge of that board that doesn’t have something there. So the question is: “If you want to go smaller than Zero, what feature are you willing to throw out?”

It’s a single-sided board, so you could certainly halve the PCB area if you fold the circuitry and use both sides, though you’d have to lose something. You could give up some GPIO and go back to 26 pins like the first Raspberry Pi. You could give up the camera connector, you could go to micro HDMI from mini HDMI. You could remove the SD card and just do USB boot. I’m inventing a product live on air! But really, you could get down to two thirds and lose a bunch of GPIO – it’s hard to imagine you could get to half the size.

What’s the one feature that you wish you could outfit on the Raspberry Pi that isn’t cost effective at this time? Your dream feature.

Well, more memory. There are obviously technical reasons why we don’t have more memory on there, but there are also market reasons. People ask “why doesn’t the Raspberry Pi have more memory?”, and my response is typically “go and Google ‘DRAM price'”. We’re used to the price of memory going down. And currently, we’re going through a phase where this has turned around and memory is getting more expensive again.

Machine learning would be interesting. There are machine learning accelerators which would be interesting to put on a piece of hardware. But again, they are not going to be used by everyone, so according to our method of pricing what we might add to a board, machine learning gets treated like a $50 chip. But that would be lovely to do.

Which citizen science projects using the Pi have most caught your attention?

I like the wildlife camera projects. We live out in the countryside in a little village, and we’re conscious of being surrounded by nature but we don’t see a lot of it on a day-to-day basis. So I like the nature cam projects, though, to my everlasting shame, I haven’t set one up yet. There’s a range of them, from very professional products to people taking a Raspberry Pi and a camera and putting them in a plastic box. So those are good fun.

Raspberry Shake seismometer

The Raspberry Shake seismometer

And there’s Meteor Pi from the Cambridge Science Centre, that’s a lot of fun. And the seismometer Raspberry Shake – that sort of thing is really nice. We missed the recent South Wales earthquake; perhaps we should set one up at our Californian office.

How does it feel to go to bed every day knowing you’ve changed the world for the better in such a massive way?

What feels really good is that when we started this in 2006 nobody else was talking about it, but now we’re part of a very broad movement.

We were in a really bad way: we’d seen a collapse in the number of applicants applying to study Computer Science at Cambridge and elsewhere. In our view, this reflected a move away from seeing technology as ‘a thing you do’ to seeing it as a ‘thing that you have done to you’. It is problematic from the point of view of the economy, industry, and academia, but most importantly it damages the life prospects of individual children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The great thing about STEM subjects is that you can’t fake being good at them. There are a lot of industries where your Dad can get you a job based on who he knows and then you can kind of muddle along. But if your dad gets you a job building bridges and you suck at it, after the first or second bridge falls down, then you probably aren’t going to be building bridges anymore. So access to STEM education can be a great driver of social mobility.

By the time we were launching the Raspberry Pi in 2012, there was this wonderful movement going on. Code Club, for example, and CoderDojo came along. Lots of different ways of trying to solve the same problem. What feels really, really good is that we’ve been able to do this as part of an enormous community. And some parts of that community became part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation – we merged with Code Club, we merged with CoderDojo, and we continue to work alongside a lot of these other organisations. So in the two seconds it takes me to fall asleep after my face hits the pillow, that’s what I think about.

We’re currently advertising a Programme Manager role in New Delhi, India. Did you ever think that Raspberry Pi would be advertising a role like this when you were bringing together the Foundation?

No, I didn’t.

But if you told me we were going to be hiring somewhere, India probably would have been top of my list because there’s a massive IT industry in India. When we think about our interaction with emerging markets, India, in a lot of ways, is the poster child for how we would like it to work. There have already been some wonderful deployments of Raspberry Pi, for example in Kerala, without our direct involvement. And we think we’ve got something that’s useful for the Indian market. We have a product, we have clubs, we have teacher training. And we have a body of experience in how to teach people, so we have a physical commercial product as well as a charitable offering that we think are a good fit.

It’s going to be massive.

What is your favourite BBC type-in listing?

There was a game called Codename: Druid. There is a famous game called Codename: Droid which was the sequel to Stryker’s Run, which was an awesome, awesome game. And there was a type-in game called Codename: Druid, which was at the bottom end of what you would consider a commercial game.

codename druid

And I remember typing that in. And what was really cool about it was that the next month, the guy who wrote it did another article that talks about the memory map and which operating system functions used which bits of memory. So if you weren’t going to do disc access, which bits of memory could you trample on and know the operating system would survive.

babbage versus bugs Raspberry Pi annual

See the full listing for Babbage versus Bugs in the Raspberry Pi 2018 Annual

I still like type-in listings. The Raspberry Pi 2018 Annual has a type-in listing that I wrote for a Babbage versus Bugs game. I will say that’s not the last type-in listing you will see from me in the next twelve months. And if you download the PDF, you could probably copy and paste it into your favourite text editor to save yourself some time.

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Tackling climate change and helping the community

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In today’s guest post, seventh-grade students Evan Callas, Will Ross, Tyler Fallon, and Kyle Fugate share their story of using the Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station in their Innovation Lab class, headed by Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

United Nations Sustainable Goals

The past couple of weeks in our Innovation Lab class, our teacher, Mr Aviles, has challenged us students to design a project that helps solve one of the United Nations Sustainable Goals. We chose Climate Action. Innovation Lab is a class that gives students the opportunity to learn about where the crossroads of technology, the environment, and entrepreneurship meet. Everyone takes their own paths in innovation and learns about the environment using project-based learning.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station

For our climate change challenge, we decided to build a Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station. Tackling the issues of climate change in a way that helps our community stood out to us because we knew with the help of this weather station we can send the local data to farmers and fishermen in town. Recent changes in climate have been affecting farmers’ crops. Unexpected rain, heat, and other unusual weather patterns can completely destabilize the natural growth of the plants and destroy their crops altogether. The amount of labour output needed by farmers has also significantly increased, forcing farmers to grow more food on less resources. By using our Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station to alert local farmers, they can be more prepared and aware of the weather, leading to better crops and safe boating.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

Growing teamwork and coding skills

The process of setting up our weather station was fun and simple. Raspberry Pi made the instructions very easy to understand and read, which was very helpful for our team who had little experience in coding or physical computing. We enjoyed working together as a team and were happy to be growing our teamwork skills.

Once we constructed and coded the weather station, we learned that we needed to support the station with PVC pipes. After we completed these steps, we brought the weather station up to the roof of the school and began collecting data. Our information is currently being sent to the Initial State dashboard so that we can share the information with anyone interested. This information will also be recorded and seen by other schools, businesses, and others from around the world who are using the weather station. For example, we can see the weather in countries such as France, Greece and Italy.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

Raspberry Pi allows us to build these amazing projects that help us to enjoy coding and physical computing in a fun, engaging, and impactful way. We picked climate change because we care about our community and would like to make a substantial contribution to our town, Fair Haven, New Jersey. It is not every day that kids are given these kinds of opportunities, and we are very lucky and grateful to go to a school and learn from a teacher where these opportunities are given to us. Thanks, Mr Aviles!

To see more awesome projects by Mr Avile’s class, you can keep up with him on his blog and follow him on Twitter.

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Invent new sounds with Google’s NSynth Super

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Discover new sounds and explore the role of machine learning in music production and sound research with the NSynth Super, an ongoing project from Google’s Magenta research team that you can build at home.

Google Open NSynth Super Testing

Uploaded by AB Open on 2018-04-17.

What is the NSynth Super?

Part of the ongoing Magenta research project within Google, NSynth Super explores the ways in which machine learning tools help artists and musicians be creative.

Google Nsynth Super Raspberry Pi

“Technology has always played a role in creating new types of sounds that inspire musicians — from the sounds of distortion to the electronic sounds of synths,” explains the team behind the NSynth Super. “Today, advances in machine learning and neural networks have opened up new possibilities for sound generation.”

Using TensorFlow, the Magenta team builds tools and interfaces that let  artists and musicians use machine learning in their work. The NSynth Super AI algorithm uses deep neural networking to investigate the character of sounds. It then builds new sounds based on these characteristics instead of simply mixing sounds together.

Using an autoencoder, it extracts 16 defining temporal features from each input. These features are then interpolated linearly to create new embeddings (mathematical representations of each sound). These new embeddings are then decoded into new sounds, which have the acoustic qualities of both inputs.

The team publishes all hardware designs and software that are part of their ongoing research under open-source licences, allowing you to build your own synth.

Build your own NSynth Super

Using these open-source tools, Andrew Black has produced his own NSynth Super, demoed in the video above. Andrew’s list of build materials includes a Raspberry Pi 3, potentiometers, rotary encoders, and the Adafruit 1.3″ OLED display. Magenta also provides Gerber files for you to fabricate your own PCB.

Google Nsynth Super Raspberry Pi

Once fabricated, the PCB includes a table of contents for adding components.

The build isn’t easy — it requires soldering skills or access to someone who can assemble PCBs. Take a look at Andrew’s blog post and the official NSynth GitHub repo to see whether you’re up to the challenge.

Google Nsynth Super Raspberry Pi Google Nsynth Super Raspberry Pi Google Nsynth Super Raspberry Pi

Music and Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi has been widely used for music production and music builds. Be it retrofitting a boombox, distributing music atop Table Mountain, or coding tracks with Sonic Pi, the Pi offers endless opportunities for musicians and music lovers to expand their repertoire of builds and instruments.

If you’d like to try more music-based projects using the Raspberry Pi, you can check out our free resources. And if you’ve used a Raspberry Pi in your own musical project, please share it with us in the comments or via our social network accounts.

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Colour sensing with a Raspberry Pi

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In their latest video and tutorial, Electronic Hub shows you how to detect colour using a Raspberry Pi and a TCS3200 colour sensor.

Raspberry Pi Color Sensor (TCS3200) Interface | Color Detector

A simple Raspberry Pi based project using TCS3200 Color Sensor. The project demonstrates how to interface a Color Sensor (like TCS3200) with Raspberry Pi and implement a simple Color Detector using Raspberry Pi.

What is a TCS3200 colour sensor?

Colour sensors sense reflected light from nearby objects. The bright light of the TCS3200’s on-board white LEDs hits an object’s surface and is reflected back. The sensor has an 8×8 array of photodiodes, which are covered by either a red, blue, green, or clear filter. The type of filter determines what colour a diode can detect. Then the overall colour of an object is determined by how much light of each colour it reflects. (For example, a red object reflects mostly red light.)

Colour sensing with the TCS3200 Color Sensor and a Raspberry Pi

As Electronics Hub explains:

TCS3200 is one of the easily available colour sensors that students and hobbyists can work on. It is basically a light-to-frequency converter, i.e. based on colour and intensity of the light falling on it, the frequency of its output signal varies.

I’ll save you a physics lesson here, but you can find a detailed explanation of colour sensing and the TCS3200 on the Electronics Hub blog.

Raspberry Pi colour sensor

The TCS3200 colour sensor is connected to several of the onboard General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) pins on the Raspberry Pi.

Colour sensing with the TCS3200 Color Sensor and a Raspberry Pi

These connections allow the Raspberry Pi 3 to run one of two Python scripts that Electronics Hub has written for the project. The first displays the RAW RGB values read by the sensor. The second detects the primary colours red, green, and blue, and it can be expanded for more colours with the help of the first script.

Colour sensing with the TCS3200 Color Sensor and a Raspberry Pi

Electronic Hub’s complete build uses a breadboard for simply prototyping

Use it in your projects

This colour sensing setup is a simple means of adding a new dimension to your builds. Why not build a candy-sorting robot that organises your favourite sweets by colour? Or add colour sensing to your line-following buggy to allow for multiple path options!

If your Raspberry Pi project uses colour sensing, we’d love to see it, so be sure to share it in the comments!

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AIY Projects 2: Google’s AIY Projects Kits get an upgrade

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After the outstanding success of their AIY Projects Voice and Vision Kits, Google has announced the release of upgraded kits, complete with Raspberry Pi Zero WH, Camera Module, and preloaded SD card.

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

Google’s AIY Projects Kits

Google launched the AIY Projects Voice Kit last year, first as a cover gift with The MagPi magazine and later as a standalone product.

Makers needed to provide their own Raspberry Pi for the original kit. The new kits include everything you need, from Pi to SD card.

Within a DIY cardboard box, makers were able to assemble their own voice-activated AI assistant akin to the Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s own Google Home Assistant. The Voice Kit was an instant hit that spurred no end of maker videos and tutorials, including our own free tutorial for controlling a robot using voice commands.

Later in the year, the team followed up the success of the Voice Kit with the AIY Projects Vision Kit — the same cardboard box hosting a camera perfect for some pretty nifty image recognition projects.

For more on the AIY Voice Kit, here’s our release video hosted by the rather delightful Rob Zwetsloot.

AIY Projects adds natural human interaction to your Raspberry Pi

Check out the exclusive Google AIY Projects Kit that comes free with The MagPi 57! Grab yourself a copy in stores or online now: http://magpi.cc/2pI6IiQ This first AIY Projects kit taps into the Google Assistant SDK and Cloud Speech API using the AIY Projects Voice HAT (Hardware Accessory on Top) board, stereo microphone, and speaker (included free with the magazine).

AIY Projects 2

So what’s new with version 2 of the AIY Projects Voice Kit? The kit now includes the recently released Raspberry Pi Zero WH, our Zero W with added pre-soldered header pins for instant digital making accessibility. Purchasers of the kits will also get a micro SD card with preloaded OS to help them get started without having to set the card up themselves.

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

Everything you need to build your own Raspberry Pi-powered Google voice assistant

In the newly upgraded AIY Projects Vision Kit v1.2, makers are also treated to an official Raspberry Pi Camera Module v2, the latest model of our add-on camera.

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

“Everything you need to get started is right there in the box,” explains Billy Rutledge, Google’s Director of AIY Projects. “We knew from our research that even though makers are interested in AI, many felt that adding it to their projects was too difficult or required expensive hardware.”

Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi Google AIY Projects Vision Kit 2 Raspberry Pi

Google is also hard at work producing AIY Projects companion apps for Android, iOS, and Chrome. The Android app is available now to coincide with the launch of the upgraded kits, with the other two due for release soon. The app supports wireless setup of the AIY Kit, though avid coders will still be able to hack theirs to better suit their projects.

Google has also updated the AIY Projects website with an AIY Models section highlighting a range of neural network projects for the kits.

Get your kit

The updated Voice and Vision Kits were announced last night, and in the US they are available now from Target. UK-based makers should be able to get their hands on them this summer — keep an eye on our social channels for updates and links.

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Start a CoderDojo with our free online training

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You can now sign up to our newest free online course Start a CoderDojo to learn more about CoderDojo and how you can easily set up one of these free coding clubs for young people in your area. With less than two weeks until the course begins, we wanted to tell you about the course’s content and why the course’s creator put it together for you.

Start a CoderDojo || free online learning || Raspberry Pi Foundation

Get support and advice on how to grow your confidence in coding and start a CoderDojo for young people in your area.

What is CoderDojo?

CoderDojo is a global network of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people aged 7 to 17. There are currently more than 1700 Dojos running regularly across 75 countries. All of these clubs were started by individuals who are passionate about giving young people the opportunity to learn to code. Some people assume you need technical skills to start a Dojo, but that’s not true. The most important thing is that you can bring people together for a shared goal.

What is covered on the course?

The course was developed by Philip, CoderDojo’s Educational Content Lead. It gives those who think empowering young people to be tech creators is important the resources and supports to achieve that goal by starting a Dojo. Divided over three weeks and running for about four hours in total, the course provides practical advice and resources on everything you need to know to plan and run a fun, social, and creative coding club for young people.

“In the first week, you’ll look at what coding is, at the worldwide CoderDojo community of coding clubs, and at the creative approach CoderDojos take to helping young people learn to code. In week two, you’ll move on to setting up your Dojo with a team, a venue, and any needed materials. You’ll also look at how to find young people to attend. Week three wraps up the course by giving you sample plans for a Dojo session and a Dojo’s year, and we’ll be talking about how to grow and develop your Dojo over time as your attendees become better coders.”
— Philip

Who is the course for?

Anyone interested in enabling young people to be tech creators should take this course. Parents, teachers, librarians, IT professionals, youth workers, and others have all started Dojos in their community. They say that “it’s an amazing experience that led [them] to expand [their] personal horizons”, and that they “find it really rewarding”.

The course is free and open to all — if you’re interested, then sign up now.

If you’re already mentoring at a Dojo, the course is a great opportunity to revise what you’ve learnt, and a chance to share your insights with newcomers in the discussion sections. Parents and guardians who wish to learn more about CoderDojo and are considering getting involved are also more than welcome to join.

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