Author Archives: Alex Bate

Sean Hodgins’ video-playing Christmas ornament

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Standard Christmas tree ornaments are just so boring, always hanging there doing nothing. Yawn! Lucky for us, Sean Hodgins has created an ornament that plays classic nineties Christmas adverts, because of nostalgia.

YouTube Christmas Ornament! – Raspberry Pi Project

This Christmas ornament will really take you back…

Ingredients

Sean first 3D printed a small CRT-shaped ornament resembling the family television set in The Simpsons. He then got to work on the rest of the components.

Pi Zero and electronic components — Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

All images featured in this blog post are c/o Sean Hodgins. Thanks, Sean!

The ornament uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W, 2.2″ TFT LCD screen, Mono Amp, LiPo battery, and speaker, plus the usual peripherals. Sean purposely assembled it with jumper wires and tape, so that he can reuse the components for another project after the festive season.

Clip of PowerBoost 1000 LiPo charger — Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

By adding header pins to a PowerBoost 1000 LiPo charger, Sean was able to connect a switch to control the Pi’s power usage. This method is handy if you want to seal your Pi in a casing that blocks access to the power leads. From there, jumper wires connect the audio amplifier, LCD screen, and PowerBoost to the Zero W.

Code

Then, with Raspbian installed to an SD card and SSH enabled on the Zero W, Sean got the screen to work. The type of screen he used has both SPI and FBTFT enabled. And his next step was to set up the audio functionality with the help of an Adafruit tutorial.

Clip demoing Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament

For video playback, Sean installed mplayer before writing a program to extract video content from YouTube*. Once extracted, the video files are saved to the Raspberry Pi, allowing for seamless playback on the screen.

Construct

When fully assembled, the entire build fit snugly within the 3D-printed television set. And as a final touch, Sean added the cut-out lens of a rectangular magnifying glass to give the display the look of a curved CRT screen.

Clip of completed Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Christmas ornament in a tree

Then finally, the ornament hangs perfectly on the Christmas tree, up and running and spreading nostalgic warmth.

For more information on the build, check out the Instructables tutorial. And to see all of Sean’s builds, subscribe to his YouTube channel.

Make

If you’re looking for similar projects, have a look at this tutorial by Cabe Atwell for building a Pi-powered ornament that receives and displays text messages.

Have you created Raspberry Pi tree ornaments? Maybe you’ve 3D printed some of our own? We’d love to see what you’re doing with a Raspberry Pi this festive season, so make sure to share your projects with us, either in the comments below or via our social media channels.

 

*At this point, I should note that we don’t support the extraction of  video content from YouTube for your own use if you do not have the right permissions. However, since Sean’s device can play back any video, we think it would look great on your tree showing your own family videos from previous years. So, y’know, be good, be legal, and be festive.

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The Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list 2017

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Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a beloved maker in your life? Maybe you’d like to give a relative or friend a taste of the world of coding and Raspberry Pi? Whatever you’re looking for, the Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list will point you in the right direction.

An ice-skating Raspberry Pi - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

For those getting started

Thinking about introducing someone special to the wonders of Raspberry Pi during the holidays? Although you can set up your Pi with peripherals from around your home, such as a mobile phone charger, your PC’s keyboard, and the old mouse dwelling in an office drawer, a starter kit is a nice all-in-one package for the budding coder.

Check out the starter kits from Raspberry Pi Approved Resellers such as Pimoroni, The Pi Hut, ModMyPi, Adafruit, CanaKit…the list is pretty long. Our products page will direct you to your closest reseller, or you can head to element14 to pick up the official Raspberry Pi Starter Kit.

You can also buy the Raspberry Pi Press’s brand-new Raspberry Pi Beginners Book, which includes a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a case, a ready-made SD card, and adapter cables.

Once you’ve presented a lucky person with their first Raspberry Pi, it’s time for them to spread their maker wings and learn some new skills.

MagPi Essentials books - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

To help them along, you could pick your favourite from among the Official Projects Book volume 3, The MagPi Essentials guides, and the brand-new third edition of Carrie Anne Philbin’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi. (She is super excited about this new edition!)

And you can always add a link to our free resources on the gift tag.

For the maker in your life

If you’re looking for something for a confident digital maker, you can’t go wrong with adding to their arsenal of electric and electronic bits and bobs that are no doubt cluttering drawers and boxes throughout their house.

Components such as servomotors, displays, and sensors are staples of the maker world. And when it comes to jumper wires, buttons, and LEDs, one can never have enough.

You could also consider getting your person a soldering iron, some helpings hands, or small tools such as a Dremel or screwdriver set.

And to make their life a little less messy, pop it all inside a Really Useful Box…because they’re really useful.

For kit makers

While some people like to dive into making head-first and to build whatever comes to mind, others enjoy working with kits.

The Naturebytes kit allows you to record the animal visitors of your garden with the help of a camera and a motion sensor. Footage of your local badgers, birds, deer, and more will be saved to an SD card, or tweeted or emailed to you if it’s in range of WiFi.

Cortec Tiny 4WD - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

Coretec’s Tiny 4WD is a kit for assembling a Pi Zero–powered remote-controlled robot at home. Not only is the robot adorable, building it also a great introduction to motors and wireless control.

Bare Conductive’s Touch Board Pro Kit offers everything you need to create interactive electronics projects using conductive paint.

Pi Hut Arcade Kit - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

Finally, why not help your favourite maker create their own gaming arcade using the Arcade Building Kit from The Pi Hut?

For the reader

For those who like to curl up with a good read, or spend too much of their day on public transport, a book or magazine subscription is the perfect treat.

For makers, hackers, and those interested in new technologies, our brand-new HackSpace magazine and the ever popular community magazine The MagPi are ideal. Both are available via a physical or digital subscription, and new subscribers to The MagPi also receive a free Raspberry Pi Zero W plus case.

Cover of CoderDojo Nano Make your own game Marc Scott Beginner's Guide to Coding Book

You can also check out other publications from the Raspberry Pi family, including CoderDojo’s new CoderDojo Nano: Make Your Own Game, Eben Upton and Gareth Halfacree’s Raspberry Pi User Guide, and Marc Scott’s A Beginner’s Guide to Coding. And have I mentioned Carrie Anne’s Adventures in Raspberry Pi yet?

Stocking fillers for everyone

Looking for something small to keep your loved ones occupied on Christmas morning? Or do you have to buy a Secret Santa gift for the office tech? Here are some wonderful stocking fillers to fill your boots with this season.

Pi Hut 3D Christmas Tree - The Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List 2017

The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree: available as both a pre-soldered and a DIY version, this gadget will work with any 40-pin Raspberry Pi and allows you to create your own mini light show.

Google AIY Voice kit: build your own home assistant using a Raspberry Pi, the MagPi Essentials guide, and this brand-new kit. “Google, play Mariah Carey again…”

Pimoroni’s Raspberry Pi Zero W Project Kits offer everything you need, including the Pi, to make your own time-lapse cameras, music players, and more.

The official Raspberry Pi Sense HAT, Camera Module, and cases for the Pi 3 and Pi Zero will complete the collection of any Raspberry Pi owner, while also opening up exciting project opportunities.

STEAM gifts that everyone will love

Awesome Astronauts | Building LEGO’s Women of NASA!

LEGO Idea’s bought out this amazing ‘Women of NASA’ set, and I thought it would be fun to build, play and learn from these inspiring women! First up, let’s discover a little more about Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, two AWESOME ASTRONAUTS!

Treat the kids, and big kids, in your life to the newest LEGO Ideas set, the Women of NASA — starring Nancy Grace Roman, Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison!

Explore the world of wearables with Pimoroni’s sewable, hackable, wearable, adorable Bearables kits.

Add lights and motors to paper creations with the Activating Origami Kit, available from The Pi Hut.

We all loved Hidden Figures, and the STEAM enthusiast you know will do too. The film’s available on DVD, and you can also buy the original book, along with other fascinating non-fiction such as Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science, and Sydney Padua’s (mostly true) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.

Have we missed anything?

With so many amazing kits, HATs, and books available from members of the Raspberry Pi community, it’s hard to only pick a few. Have you found something splendid for the maker in your life? Maybe you’ve created your own kit that uses the Raspberry Pi? Share your favourites with us in the comments below or via our social media accounts.

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Marvellous retrofitted home assistants

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As more and more digital home assistants are appearing on the consumer market, it’s not uncommon to see the towering Amazon Echo or sleek Google Home when visiting friends or family. But we, the maker community, are rarely happy unless our tech stands out from the rest. So without further ado, here’s a roundup of some fantastic retrofitted home assistant projects you can recreate and give pride of place in your kitchen, on your bookshelf, or wherever else you’d like to talk to your virtual, disembodied PA.

Google AIY Robot Conversion

Turned an 80s Tomy Mr Money into a little Google AIY / Raspberry Pi based assistant.

Matt ‘Circuitbeard’ Brailsford’s Tomy Mr Money Google AIY Assistant is just one of many home-brew home assistants makers have built since the release of APIs for Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Here are some more…

Teddy Ruxpin

Oh Teddy, how exciting and mysterious you were when I unwrapped you back in the mideighties. With your awkwardly moving lips and twitching eyelids, you were the cream of the crop of robotic toys! How was I to know that during my thirties, you would become augmented with home assistant software and suddenly instil within me a fear unlike any I’d felt before? (Save for my lifelong horror of ET…)

Alexa Ruxpin – Raspberry Pi & Alexa Powered Teddy Bear

Please watch: “DIY Fidget LED Display – Part 1” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAZIc82Duzk -~-~~-~~~-~~-~- There are tons of virtual assistants out on the market: Siri, Ok Google, Alexa, etc. I had this crazy idea…what if I made the virtual assistant real…kinda. I decided to take an old animatronic teddy bear and hack it so that it ran Amazon Alexa.

Several makers around the world have performed surgery on Teddy to install a Raspberry Pi within his stomach and integrate him with Amazon Alexa Voice or Google’s AIY Projects Voice kit. And because these makers are talented, they’ve also managed to hijack Teddy’s wiring to make his lips move in time with his responses to your commands. Freaky…

Speaking of freaky: check out Zack’s Furlexa — an Amazon Alexa Furby that will haunt your nightmares.

Give old tech new life

Devices that were the height of technology when you purchased them may now be languishing in your attic collecting dust. With new and improved versions of gadgets and gizmos being released almost constantly, it is likely that your household harbours a spare whosit or whatsit which you can dismantle and give a new Raspberry Pi heart and purpose.

Take, for example, Martin Mander’s Google Pi intercom. By gutting and thoroughly cleaning a vintage intercom, Martin fashioned a suitable housing the Google AIY Projects Voice kit to create a new home assistant for his house:

1986 Google Pi Intercom

This is a 1986 Radio Shack Intercom that I’ve converted into a Google Home style device using a Raspberry Pi and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with the MagPi magazine (issue 57). It uses the Google Assistant to answer questions and perform actions, using IFTTT to integrate with smart home accessories and other web services.

Not only does this build look fantastic, it’s also a great conversation starter for any visitors who had a similar device during the eighties.

Also take a look at Martin’s 1970s Amazon Alexa phone for more nostalgic splendour.

Put it in a box

…and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives…

A GIF from the emperors new groove - Raspberry Pi Home Assistant

A GIF. A harmless, little GIF…and proof of the comms team’s obsession with The Emperor’s New Groove.

You don’t have to be fancy when it comes to housing your home assistant. And often, especially if you’re working with the smaller people in your household, the results of a simple homespun approach are just as delightful.

Here are Hannah and her dad Tom, explaining how they built a home assistant together and fit it inside an old cigar box:

Raspberry Pi 3 Amazon Echo – The Alexa Kids Build!

My 7 year old daughter and I decided to play around with the Raspberry Pi and build ourselves an Amazon Echo (Alexa). The video tells you about what we did and the links below will take you to all the sites we used to get this up and running.

Also see the Google AIY Projects Voice kit — the cardboard box-est of home assistant boxes.

Make your own home assistant

And now it’s your turn! I challenge you all (and also myself) to create a home assistant using the Raspberry Pi. Whether you decide to fit Amazon Alexa inside an old shoebox or Google Home inside your sister’s Barbie, I’d love to see what you create using the free home assistant software available online.

Check out these other home assistants for Raspberry Pi, and keep an eye on our blog to see what I manage to create as part of the challenge.

Ten virtual house points for everyone who shares their build with us online, either in the comments below or by tagging us on your social media account.

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Raspberry Pi clusters come of age

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In today’s guest post, Bruce Tulloch, CEO and Managing Director of BitScope Designs, discusses the uses of cluster computing with the Raspberry Pi, and the recent pilot of the Los Alamos National Laboratory 3000-Pi cluster built with the BitScope Blade.

Raspberry Pi cluster

High-performance computing and Raspberry Pi are not normally uttered in the same breath, but Los Alamos National Laboratory is building a Raspberry Pi cluster with 3000 cores as a pilot before scaling up to 40 000 cores or more next year.

That’s amazing, but why?

I was asked this question more than any other at The International Conference for High-Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis in Denver last week, where one of the Los Alamos Raspberry Pi Cluster Modules was on display at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Advanced Research Computing booth.

The short answer to this question is: the Raspberry Pi cluster enables Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to conduct exascale computing R&D.

The Pi cluster breadboard

Exascale refers to computing systems at least 50 times faster than the most powerful supercomputers in use today. The problem faced by LANL and similar labs building these things is one of scale. To get the required performance, you need a lot of nodes, and to make it work, you need a lot of R&D.

However, there’s a catch-22: how do you write the operating systems, networks stacks, launch and boot systems for such large computers without having one on which to test it all? Use an existing supercomputer? No — the existing large clusters are fully booked 24/7 doing science, they cost millions of dollars per year to run, and they may not have the architecture you need for your next-generation machine anyway. Older machines retired from science may be available, but at this scale they cost far too much to use and are usually very hard to maintain.

The Los Alamos solution? Build a “model supercomputer” with Raspberry Pi!

Think of it as a “cluster development breadboard”.

The idea is to design, develop, debug, and test new network architectures and systems software on the “breadboard”, but at a scale equivalent to the production machines you’re currently building. Raspberry Pi may be a small computer, but it can run most of the system software stacks that production machines use, and the ratios of its CPU speed, local memory, and network bandwidth scale proportionately to the big machines, much like an architect’s model does when building a new house. To learn more about the project, see the news conference and this interview with insideHPC at SC17.

Traditional Raspberry Pi clusters

Like most people, we love a good cluster! People have been building them with Raspberry Pi since the beginning, because it’s inexpensive, educational, and fun. They’ve been built with the original Pi, Pi 2, Pi 3, and even the Pi Zero, but none of these clusters have proven to be particularly practical.

That’s not stopped them being useful though! I saw quite a few Raspberry Pi clusters at the conference last week.

One tiny one that caught my eye was from the people at openio.io, who used a small Raspberry Pi Zero W cluster to demonstrate their scalable software-defined object storage platform, which on big machines is used to manage petabytes of data, but which is so lightweight that it runs just fine on this:

Raspberry Pi Zero cluster

There was another appealing example at the ARM booth, where the Berkeley Labs’ singularity container platform was demonstrated running very effectively on a small cluster built with Raspberry Pi 3s.

Raspberry Pi 3 cluster demo at a conference stall

My show favourite was from the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Center (EPCC): Nick Brown used a cluster of Pi 3s to explain supercomputers to kids with an engaging interactive application. The idea was that visitors to the stand design an aircraft wing, simulate it across the cluster, and work out whether an aircraft that uses the new wing could fly from Edinburgh to New York on a full tank of fuel. Mine made it, fortunately!

Raspberry Pi 3 cluster demo at a conference stall

Next-generation Raspberry Pi clusters

We’ve been building small-scale industrial-strength Raspberry Pi clusters for a while now with BitScope Blade.

When Los Alamos National Laboratory approached us via HPC provider SICORP with a request to build a cluster comprising many thousands of nodes, we considered all the options very carefully. It needed to be dense, reliable, low-power, and easy to configure and to build. It did not need to “do science”, but it did need to work in almost every other way as a full-scale HPC cluster would.

Some people argue Compute Module 3 is the ideal cluster building block. It’s very small and just as powerful as Raspberry Pi 3, so one could, in theory, pack a lot of them into a very small space. However, there are very good reasons no one has ever successfully done this. For a start, you need to build your own network fabric and I/O, and cooling the CM3s, especially when densely packed in a cluster, is tricky given their tiny size. There’s very little room for heatsinks, and the tiny PCBs dissipate very little excess heat.

Instead, we saw the potential for Raspberry Pi 3 itself to be used to build “industrial-strength clusters” with BitScope Blade. It works best when the Pis are properly mounted, powered reliably, and cooled effectively. It’s important to avoid using micro SD cards and to connect the nodes using wired networks. It has the added benefit of coming with lots of “free” USB I/O, and the Pi 3 PCB, when mounted with the correct air-flow, is a remarkably good heatsink.

When Gordon announced netboot support, we became convinced the Raspberry Pi 3 was the ideal candidate when used with standard switches. We’d been making smaller clusters for a while, but netboot made larger ones practical. Assembling them all into compact units that fit into existing racks with multiple 10 Gb uplinks is the solution that meets LANL’s needs. This is a 60-node cluster pack with a pair of managed switches by Ubiquiti in testing in the BitScope Lab:

60-node Raspberry Pi cluster pack

Two of these packs, built with Blade Quattro, and one smaller one comprising 30 nodes, built with Blade Duo, are the components of the Cluster Module we exhibited at the show. Five of these modules are going into Los Alamos National Laboratory for their pilot as I write this.

Bruce Tulloch at a conference stand with a demo of the Raspberry Pi cluster for LANL

It’s not only research clusters like this for which Raspberry Pi is well suited. You can build very reliable local cloud computing and data centre solutions for research, education, and even some industrial applications. You’re not going to get much heavy-duty science, big data analytics, AI, or serious number crunching done on one of these, but it is quite amazing to see just how useful Raspberry Pi clusters can be for other purposes, whether it’s software-defined networks, lightweight MaaS, SaaS, PaaS, or FaaS solutions, distributed storage, edge computing, industrial IoT, and of course, education in all things cluster and parallel computing. For one live example, check out Mythic Beasts’ educational compute cloud, built with Raspberry Pi 3.

For more information about Raspberry Pi clusters, drop by BitScope Clusters.

I’ll read and respond to your thoughts in the comments below this post too.

Editor’s note:

Here is a photo of Bruce wearing a jetpack. Cool, right?!

Bruce Tulloch wearing a jetpack

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Ultimate 3D printer control with OctoPrint

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Control and monitor your 3D printer remotely with a Raspberry Pi and OctoPrint.

Timelapse of OctoPrint Ornament

Printed on a bq Witbox STL file can be found here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:191635 OctoPrint is located here: http://www.octoprint.org

3D printing

Whether you have a 3D printer at home or use one at your school or local makerspace, it’s fair to assume you’ve had a failed print or two in your time. Filament knotting or running out, your print peeling away from the print bed — these are common issues for all 3D printing enthusiasts, and they can be costly if they’re discovered too late.

OctoPrint

OctoPrint is a free open-source software, created and maintained by Gina Häußge, that performs a multitude of useful 3D printing–related tasks, including remote control of your printer, live video, and data collection.

The OctoPrint logo

Control and monitoring

To control the print process, use OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi connected to your 3D printer. First, ensure a safe uninterrupted run by using the software to restrict who can access the printer. Then, before starting your print, use the web app to work on your STL file. The app also allows you to reposition the print head at any time, as well as pause or stop printing if needed.

Live video streaming

Since OctoPrint can stream video of your print as it happens, you can watch out for any faults that may require you to abort and restart. Proud of your print? Record the entire process from start to finish and upload the time-lapse video to your favourite social media platform.

OctoPrint software graphic user interface screenshot

Data capture

Octoprint records real-time data, such as the temperature, giving you another way to monitor your print to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted process. Moreover, the records will help with troubleshooting if there is a problem.

OctoPrint software graphic user interface screenshot

Print the Millenium Falcon

OK, you can print anything you like. However, this design definitely caught our eye this week.

3D-Printed Fillenium Malcon (Timelapse)

This is a Timelapse of my biggest print project so far on my own designed/built printer. It’s 500x170x700(mm) and weights 3 Kilograms of Filament.

You can support the work of Gina and OctoPrint by visiting her Patreon account and following OctoPrint on Twitter, Facebook, or G+. And if you’ve set up a Raspberry Pi to run OctoPrint, or you’ve created some cool Pi-inspired 3D prints, make sure to share them with us on our own social media channels.

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Prepare to run a Code Club on FutureLearn

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Prepare to run a Code Club with our newest free online course, available now on FutureLearn!

FutureLearn: Prepare to Run a Code Club

Ready to launch! Our free FutureLearn course ‘Prepare to Run a Code Club’ starts next week and you can sign up now: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/code-club

Code Club

As of today, more than 10000 Code Clubs run in 130 countries, delivering free coding opportunities to approximately 150000 children across the globe.

A child absorbed in a task at a Code Club

As an organisation, Code Club provides free learning resources and training materials to supports the ever-growing and truly inspiring community of volunteers and educators who set up and run Code Clubs.

FutureLearn

Today we’re launching our latest free online course on FutureLearn, dedicated to training and supporting new Code Club volunteers. It will give you practical guidance on all things Code Club, as well as a taste of beginner programming!

Split over three weeks and running for 3–4 hours in total, the course provides hands-on advice and tips on everything you need to know to run a successful, fun, and educational club.

“Week 1 kicks off with advice on how to prepare to start a Code Club, for example which hardware and software are needed. Week 2 focusses on how to deliver Code Club sessions, with practical tips on helping young people learn and an easy taster coding project to try out. In the final week, the course looks at interesting ideas to enrich and extend club sessions.”
— Sarah Sherman-Chase, Code Club Participation Manager

The course is available wherever you live, and it is completely free — sign up now!

If you’re already a volunteer, the course will be a great refresher, and a chance to share your insights with newcomers. Moreover, it is also useful for parents and guardians who wish to learn more about Code Club.

Your next step

Interested in learning more? You can start the course today by visiting FutureLearn. And to find out more about Code Clubs in your country, visit Code Club UK or Code Club International.

Code Club partners from across the globe gathered together for a group photo at the International Meetup

We love hearing your Code Club stories! If you’re a volunteer, are in the process of setting up a club, or are inspired to learn more, share your story in the comments below or via social media, making sure to tag @CodeClub and @CodeClubWorld.

You might also be interested in our other free courses on the FutureLearn platform, including Teaching Physical Computing with Raspberry Pi and Python and Teaching Programming in Primary Schools.

 

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