Author Archives: Alex Bate

Tinkernut’s do-it-yourself Pi Zero audio HAT

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Why buy a Raspberry Pi Zero audio HAT when Tinkernut can show you how to make your own?

Adding Audio Output To The Raspberry Pi Zero – Tinkernut Workbench

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is an amazing miniature computer piece of technology. I want to turn it into an epic portable Spotify radio that displays visuals such as Album Art. So in this new series called “Tinkernut Workbench”, I show you step by step what it takes to build a product from the ground up.

Raspberry Pi Zero audio

Unlike their grown-up siblings, the Pi Zero and Zero W lack an onboard audio jack, but that doesn’t stop you from using them to run an audio output. Various audio HATs exist on the market, from Adafruit, Pimoroni and Pi Supply to name a few, providing easy audio output for the Zero. But where would the fun be in a Tinkernut video that shows you how to attach a HAT?

Tinkernut Pi Zero Audio

“Take this audio HAT, press it onto the header pins and, errr, done? So … how was your day?”

DIY Audio: Tinkernut style

For the first video in his Hipster Spotify Radio using a Raspberry Pi Tinkernut Workbench series, Tinkernut – real name Daniel Davis – goes through the steps of researching, prototyping and finishing his own audio HAT for his newly acquired Raspberry Pi Zero W.

The build utilises the GPIO pins on the Zero W, specifically pins #18 and #13. FYI, this hidden gem of information comes from the Adafruit Pi Zero PWM Audio guide. Before he can use #18 and #13, header pins need to be soldered. If the thought of soldering pins to the Pi is somewhat daunting, check out the Pimoroni Hammer Header.

Pimoroni Hammer Header for Raspberry Pi

You’re welcome.

Once complete, with Raspbian installed on the micro SD, and SSH enabled for remote access, he’s ready to start prototyping.

Ingredients

Tinkernut uses two 270 ohm resistors, two 150 ohm resistors, two 10μf electrolytic capacitors, two 0.01 μf polyester film capacitors, an audio jack and some wire. You’ll also need a breadboard for prototyping. For the final build, you’ll need a single row female pin header and some prototyping board, if you want to join in at home.

Tinkernut audio board Raspberry Pi Zero W

It should look like this…hopefully.

Once the prototype is working to run audio through to a cheap speaker (thanks to an edit of the config.txt file), the final board can be finished.

What’s next?

The audio board is just one step in the build.

Spotify is such an awesome music service. Raspberry Pi Zero is such an awesome ultra-mini computing device. Obviously, combining the two is something I must do!!! The idea here is to make something that’s stylish, portable, can play Spotify, and hopefully also display visuals such as album art.

Subscribe to Tinkernut’s YouTube channel to keep up to date with the build, and check out some of his other Raspberry Pi builds, such as his cheap 360 video camera, security camera and digital vintage camera.

Have you made your own Raspberry Pi HAT? Show it off in the comments below!

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Estefannie’s Automated French Press

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Why press a french press when the french press can press itself? Here’s Estefannie to explain it all…

Internet Button Controlled Automated French Press

Hey World! What’s better than making coffee? Not making coffee. But still drinking coffee. I decided to make my own automated French Press machine. To automate it, I used a Raspberry Pi, a Photon (Internet Button), two stepper motors, wood, glue, and a lot of imagination.

Okay, okay. I’m sure you get it by now. Here at Pi Towers, we love a good coffee hack. In truth, we love any coffee hack. And we also love Estefannie … so you can see where today’s blog is going.

Building an automated french press

For the build, Estefannie uses the Particle Internet Button to tell a wooden castle when it’s ready to press her coffee. Wooden castle? We’ll get there – hold on.

Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi French Press

Wait, I said hold on … never mind.

The Internet Button houses a Photon, a small programmable WiFi development board for Internet of Things (IoT) prototyping. Alongside RGB LEDs, tactile buttons, and an accelerometer, the Internet Button allows wireless control, via the cloud, to the Raspberry Pi. Perfect for the self-pressing french press.

Esteffannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi French Press

Like so…

So, wooden castles? Two wooden castles act as housings for servo-powered screws that raise and lower the french press pressing bar. When the coffee is ready to be pressed, they turn in one direction, lowering the bar. When the press is complete, they turn the other way to raise it, giving access to the perfectly brewed coffee. Everything is controlled using Python code on the Raspberry Pi, triggered by the press of the Internet Button.

Esteffannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi French Press

The button has three states. Green indicates that everything is ready to press. Magenta indicates the four-minute brew time, and a rainbow tells you that your coffee is ready for consumption. Beautiful.

Automate your own

Once you have perfected the basic build, the same rig could be used to automate no end of household chores. How about setting a timer to slowly press tofu? Turning the rig on its side to open and close a door? Or how about raising and lowing the bar much more quickly to plunger the toilet? Too much? Yeah, I thought the same as I typed it.

You can find the code for the build on Estefannie’s Github. I also suggest subscribing to her YouTube channel for more fun tech hacks and Raspberry Pi builds.

Afterthought

If Simone Giertz is the Queen of Sh!tty Robots, is it fair to say that Estefannie is rightly claiming her spot at the Queen of un-Sh!tty ones?

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Acrophobia 1.0: don’t drop the ball!

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Using servomotors and shadow tracking, Acrophobia 1.0’s mission to give a Raspberry Pi a nervous disposition is a rolling success.

Acrophobia 1.0

Acrophobia, a nervous machine with no human-serving goal, but with a single fear: of dropping the ball. Unlike any other ball balancing machine, Acrophobia has no interest in keeping the ball centered. She is just afraid to drop it, getting trapped in near-infinite loops of her own making.

How to give a Raspberry Pi Acrophobia

Controlling the MDF body and 3D printed wheels, the heart of Acrophobia contains a Raspberry Pi 2 and a Camera Module. The camera tracks a shadow across a square of semi-elastic synthetic cloth, moving the Turnigy S901D servomotors at each corner to keep it within a set perimeter.

Acrophobia Raspberry Pi

Well-placed lighting creates the perfect shadow for the Raspberry Pi to track

The shadow is cast by a small ball, and the single goal of Acrophobia is to keep that ball from dropping off the edge.

Acrophobia, a nervous machine with no human-serving goal, but with a single fear: of dropping the ball.

Unlike any other ball-balancing machine, Acrophobia has no interest in keeping the ball centered. She is just afraid to drop it, getting trapped in near-infinite loops of her own making.

To set up the build, the Raspberry Pi is accessed via VNC viewer on an iPad. Once the Python code is executed, Acrophobia is stuck in its near-infinite nightmare loop.

Acrophobia Raspberry Pi

This video for Acrophobia 1.0 has only recently been uploaded to Vimeo, but the beta recording has been available for some time. You can see the initial iteration, created by George Adamopoulos, Dafni Papadopoulou, Maria Papacharisi and Filippos Pappas for the National Technical University of Athens School of Architecture Undergraduate course here, and compare the two. The beta video includes the details of the original Arduino/webcam setup that was eventually replaced by the Raspberry Pi and Camera Module.

Team Building

I recently saw a similar build to this, again using a Raspberry Pi, which used tablet computers as game controllers. Instead of relying on a camera to track the ball, two players worked together to keep the ball within the boundaries of the sheet.

Naturally, now that I need the video for a blog post, I can’t find it. But if you know what I’m talking about, share the link in the comments below.

And if you don’t, it’s time to get making, my merry band of Pi builders. Who can turn Acrophobia into an interactive game?

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Steampunk laptop powered by Pi: OMG so fancy!

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In this digital age, where backup computers and multiple internet-connected devices are a must, maker phrazelle built this beautiful Raspberry Pi-powered steampunk laptop for his girlfriend.

And now we all want one. I mean, just look at it!

Raspberry Pi Steampunk laptop

There’s no denying that, had Liz seen this before me, she’d have copied the link into an email and titled it INSTABLOG before sending it to my inbox.

This build is gorgeous. And as a fan of quirky-looking tech builds and of making things out of wood, it caught my eye in a heartbeat, causing me to exclaim “Why, I – ugh! – I want a Steampunk laptop?!” Shortly afterwards, there followed the realisation that there is an Instructables page for the project, leading me to rejoice that I could make my own. “You’ll never finish it,” chides the incomplete Magic Mirror beneath my desk. I shush it with a kick.

Winging it

“I didn’t really spec this out when I started building. I knew I wanted a box, but didn’t know how I was going to approach it,” explains phrazelle, a maker after my own “meh, I’ll wing it” heart. He continues, “I started with a mechanical keyboard with some typewriter-esque keys and built out a board for it. This went in a few directions, and I wound up with a Frankenstein keyboard tray.”

Originally wanting a hole for each key, phrazelle used a paint relief method to mark the place of each one. However, this didn’t work out too well, so he decided to jigsaw out a general space for the keys in a group. After a few attempts and an application of Gorilla Glue, it was looking good.

Building a Steampunk laptop

With his father’s help, phrazelle’s next step was to build the box for the body of the laptop. Again, it was something of an unplanned mashup, resulting in a box that was built around the keyboard tray. Via a series of mitred joints, routing, and some last minute trim, he was able to fit an LCD screen from a cannibalised laptop into the lid, complete with an LCD driver acquired from eBay.

All of the Steampunk trimmings

“As I was going in the Steampunk direction, gears and gauges seemed to make sense,” says phrazelle. “I found a lot of cool stuff on Etsy and Amazon. The front battery gauge, back switch plate, and LED indicator housings came off Etsy.” He also discovered that actual watch gears, which he had purchased in bulk, were too flimsy for use as decoration, so he replaced them with some brass replicas from Amazon instead. Hand-blown marbles worked as LED defusers and the case was complete.

Inside the belly of the (beautiful) beast

Within the laptop body, phrazelle (do let us know your actual name, by the way) included a Talentcell battery pack which he modified to cut the output lines, something that was causing grief when trying to charge the battery. He utilised a plugable USB 2.4 four-port powered hub to power the Raspberry Pi and optional USB devices. He also added a bushel of various other modifications, all of which he explains on his Instructables page.

I ran with the Pixel distro for this build. Then I went through and did some basic security housekeeping like changing the default password, closing every unnecessary port on the firewall, and disabling the Bluetooth. I even put the Bro IDS platform on it to keep an eye out for shifty hackers… *shakes fist*

This thing runs like a champ! For its intended functionality, it does everything it needs to. You can get on the internet, write papers, check email… If you want to get nerdy, you can even brush up on your coding skillz.

Instructables and you

As I said, we love this build. Not only is it a great example of creating an all-in-one Raspberry Pi laptop, but it’s also gorgeous! Make sure to check out phrazelle’s other builds on Instructables, including his Zelda-themed bartop arcade and his ornate magic mirror.

While you’re there, check out the other Raspberry Pi-themed builds on Instructables. There are LOADS of them. And they’re great. And if you wrote any of them – ahem! – like I did, you should be proud of yourself – ahem! – like I am. *clears throat even more pointedly*

Have you built your own Pi laptop? Tell us about it in the comments below. We can’t wait to see it!

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Tiny LEGO Macintosh Classic with Pi inside

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While he and his son played with LEGO, Berlin-based programmer Jannis Hermanns had the urge to build a replica of one of the first computers he remembers using: the Macintosh Classic. Cut to the addition of a Raspberry Pi Zero running Docker, and an e-paper display, and you have yourself the cutest tech build to blow up my inbox in a while.

Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic

SO SO CUTE, OMG
Image credit Jannis Hermanns

LEGO: for ages four to 99

“I am not 100% sure if it was this exact model or perhaps the Macintosh 128K from 1988, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. All I did with that computer was play Shufflepuck Café,” Jannis reminisces on his website. “But anyway, this isn’t about Shufflepuck nostalgia. It’s about taking things too far while playing LEGO with your kid.”

Building a LEGO Macintosh Classic

To start the project, Jannis ordered a 2.7″ e-paper display from Embedded Artists. He then built a prototype using various colours of LEGO bricks and, well…

Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic

“Let me tell you one thing: it didn’t look good,” admits Jannis
Image credit: Jannis Hermanns

LEGO Digital Designer

Deciding that the ‘use random bricks and see what happens’ approach wasn’t the way to go, Jannis turned to the free LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) application and, using the rainbow prototype for reference, he created a 3D representation of the classic grey case he wanted.

LEGO Digital Designer

Uploaded by Jannis Hermanns on 2017-03-28.

At this point, he discovered a new issue. The screen’s board was too big to fit into the ideal size of the casing. So with a few tweaks, and some work with a Dremel, he was ready to order the necessary bricks for the build.

Ordering enough bricks to make two units, and having to compromise on colour due to time restrictions, Jannis took to building – and Dremel-ing – the case until it was complete.

Building a makeshift Zero W

As he was using a Zero, and therefore had no ribbon cable connector to make life easier, Jannis had to rely on his smarts, and figure out which GPIO pins he needed to solder to connect the screen. He also cannibalised a Raspberry Pi USB WiFi dongle to make a homebrew Zero W (the W was yet to be released at the time of building…just) and got to soldering.

Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic Jannis Hermanns Raspberry Pi LEGO Macintosh Classic

Using Docker and resin.io

With one of the two builds being a gift for a friend, Jannis wanted to be able to access the Pi remotely to update the code and display image. We’re sure his intentions for what displayed on the screen were pure.

While playing with Docker on the Raspberry Pi, I came across the great ARM Docker base images from the folks over at resin.io. After checking out their service, I realized they do just what I was looking for: they’re like a Docker Cloud for the IoT.

Jannis goes into more detail on how to use Docker and resin.io to build your own LEGO Macintosh Classic, along with the necessary links and code, on his blog.

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I can haz pet-themed resources?

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A friend of mine’s cat had kittens this week. So, in honour of their fluffy, cute little gorgeous fuzz-faces, here are some pet-themed resources for you to build for your furry (or feathery) best friend.

Cat Meme Generator

Raspberry Pi pet-themed resources

Everybody loves a good meme. With the right combination of image and text, they can be both relatable and hilarious. There may be many meme-generating apps online, but why bother with them when you can build your own?

Our Cat Meme Generator teaches you how to write functions in JavaScript, how to use JavaScript to manipulate input by a user, and how to use oninput and onchange to make things happen live on a web page in response to user actions.

So grab your camera, take some photos of your favourite pet, and share their exploits with friends and family.

Hamster Party Cam

Hamster Party Cam Raspberry Pi pet-themed resources

The Hamster Party Cam shows you how to turn a hamster wheel into a trigger switch to activate a program, how to write a Python program to take pictures and store them, and how to write a function that makes LED lights flash and play a song. In other words, it teaches you how to pimp your hamster’s cage into THE place to be!

Disclaimer: adding lights and music to the party can be fun, but remember that this may scare hamsters of a shy disposition. As a hamster owner, you have a duty to consider the wellbeing of your pet. Check out the RSPCA Hamster Guide to learn more.

Infrared Bird Box

Infrared Bird Box Raspberry Pi pet-themed resources

We see a lot of infrared nature cams online, and we love to check out the photos and videos that makers share. From wild animals in the garden to chicks hatching in bird boxes, we’ve enjoyed them all.

Building an infrared bird box using the Raspberry Pi NOIR Camera Module and infrared LEDs will allow you and your family to spy on the wonders of nature without disturbing the feathered visitors to your garden.

Expanding on our pet-themed resources

Once you’ve built our fun pet-themed projects, it’s time to take the skills you’ve learned and build on them.

How about using the Raspberry Pi Camera Module to take a photo of your pet from which to create a meme image? You can learn more about getting started with the Camera Module here.

Why not try setting up your bird box to stream footage directly to the internet, so you can keep up to date when you are away from home?

Even if you don’t own a hamster, you can still use the skills in the Hamster Party Cam resource to create switches around the home. So try finding other things that move or spin, like doors and paper windmills, and see what you can hack!

Here at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we take great pride in the wonderful free resources we produce for you to use in classes, at home, and in coding clubs. We publish them under a Creative Commons licence, and they’re an excellent way to develop your digital-making skills.

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