Author Archives: Ashley Whittaker

New book: The Official Raspberry Pi Handbook 2021

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Hey everyone, come and see, come and see! Here’s a great new bookazine from the makers of the official Raspberry Pi magazine. We do love the folks at The MagPi. Clever, they are.

If, like us, you’re over 2020 already, dive into the pages of The Official Raspberry Pi Handbook 2021, and pretend it never happened. That will totally work.

The front cover of the Raspberry Pi Handbook featuring a Raspberry Pi 4 on a dark background

To help you get the most of out of your Raspberry Pi computer, this official Handbook features 200 pages of essential information, inspiring projects, practical tutorials, and definitive reviews.

Beginner-friendly

A blue double page spread on Starter Electronics

If you’re an absolute beginner, you can learn from the Handbook how to set up your Raspberry Pi and start using it. Then you can move on to the step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to code and make with your Raspberry Pi.

Shiny new stuff

A double page spread about Raspberry Pi 400

You’ll also (re)discover the new Raspberry Pi 400 and High Quality Camera, both released this year. And you’ll find out about the top kits and accessories for your projects.

Be inspired

A double page spread about Reachy robot. Robot is white with big black eyes and a stripy torso

And finally, we’ve also picked out some incredible Raspberry Pi projects made by people in the community to inspire you to get making and coding.

Where can I get the Handbook?

A double page spread on problem solving with Raspberry Pi

You can buy The Official Raspberry Pi Handbook 2021 now from the Raspberry Pi Press online store, or at the Raspberry Pi store in Cambridge, UK.

Personally, we prefer new book smell and the crackle of physical pages but, if you’re less picky and don’t mind on-screen reading, the lovely folks at The MagPi have a PDF version you can download for free.

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Personal Raspberry Pi music streamer

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Mike Perez from Audio Arkitekts took to YouTube to show you how to build your own music streamer using a Raspberry Pi. Haters of Bluetooth and RCA plugs, he’s done this for you.

Mike reports a “substantial difference in sound quality” compared to his previous setup (the aforementioned and reviled Bluetooth and RCA plug options).

This project lets you use a Raspberry Pi as a music player and control it from your mobile phone.

Hardware

Unboxing the Argon Neo Raspberry Pi Bundle

Mike started out with an $80 Argon Neo Raspberry Pi Bundle, which includes a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B. He made a separate video to show you how to put everything together.

This bundle comes with a nice, sleek case, so your music player can be on display discreetly.

Pretty case

Not sure about spending $80 on this kit? In the project video, Mike says it’s “totally, totally worth it” — partly due to the quality of the case.

Software

Mike grabbed a compatible Volumio image from Volumio’s ‘Get Started’ page and flashed it onto Raspberry Pi with Etcher.

Volumio app in action

You can use an Ethernet cable, but Mike wanted to utilise Raspberry Pi 4’s wireless connectivity to boot the Volumio app. This way, the Raspberry Pi music player can be used anywhere in the house, as it’ll create its own wireless hotspot within your home network called ‘Volumio’.

Eew! No more direct audio connection to your phone to listen to music.

You’ll need a different version of the Volumio app depending on whether you have an Android phone or iPhone. Mike touts the app as “super easy, really robust”. You just select the music app you usually use from the ‘Plugins’ section of the Volumio app, and all your music, playlists, and cover art will be there ready for you once downloaded.

And that’s basically it. Just connect to the Volumio OS via the app and tell your Raspberry Pi what to play.

Amp it up

To get his new music player booming all around the house, Mike used a Starke Sound AD4, which you can watch him unbox and review.

What kind of amplification system have you got paired up with your Raspberry Pi–powered music player?

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Defeat evil with a Raspberry Pi foam-firing spy camera

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Ruth and Shawn from YouTube channel Kids Invent Stuff picked a cool idea by 9-year-old Nathan, who drew a Foam-Firing Spy Camera, to recreate in real life.

FYI: that’s not really a big camera lens…

The trick with spy devices is to make sure they look as much like the object they’re hidden inside as possible. Where Raspberry Pi comes in is making sure the foam camera can be used as a real photo-taking camera too, to throw the baddies off the scent if they start fiddling with your spyware.

Here’s the full build video by Kids Invent Stuff

The foam-firing bit of Nathan’s invention was relatively simple to recreate – a modified chef’s squirty cream dispenser, hidden inside a camera-shaped box, gets the job done.

Squirty cream thing painted black and mounted onto camera-shaped frame

Ruth and Shawn drew a load of 3D-printed panels to mount on the box frame in the image above. One of those cool coffee cups that look like massive camera lenses hides the squirty cream dispenser and gives this build an authentic camera look.

THOSE cool camera lens-shaped coffee cups, see?

Techy bits from the build:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Infrared LED
  • Camera module
  • Mini display screen
All the bits mentioned in the list above

The infrared LED is mounted next to the camera module and switches on when it gets dark, giving you night vision.

The mini display screen serves as a ‘lid’ to the blue case protecting the Raspberry Pi and mounts into the back panel of the ‘camera’

The Raspberry Pi computer and its power bank are crammed inside the box-shaped part, with the camera module and infrared LED mounted to peek out of custom-made holes in one of the 3D-printed panels on the front of the box frame.

The night vision mini display screen in action on the back of the camera

The foam-firing chef’s thingy is hidden inside the big fake lens, and it’s wedged inside so that when you lift the big fake lens, the lever on the chef’s squirty thing is depressed and foam fires out of a tube near to where the camera lens and infrared LED peek out on the front panel of the build.

Watch the #KidsInventStuff presenters test out Nathan’s invention

Baddies don’t stand a chance!

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Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping Guide 2020

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The most wonderful time of the year is approaching! “Most wonderful” meaning the time when you have to figure out what gift best expresses your level of affection for various individuals in your life. We’re here to take away some of that stress for you — provided your favourite individuals like Raspberry Pi, of course. Otherwise you’re on your own. Sorry.

We’ve got ideas for the gamers in your life, what to get for the Raspberry Pi “superfan” who has everything, and options that allow you to keep giving all year round.

Newest and hottest

If keeping up with the Joneses is your thing, why not treat your nearest Raspberry Pi fan to one of our newest products…

Raspberry Pi 400 | $70

Top view of a woman's hands using the Raspberry Pi 400 keyboard and official Raspberry Pi mouse

This year, we released Raspberry Pi 400: a complete personal computer, built into a compact keyboard, costing just $70. Our community went wild about the possibilities that Raspberry Pi 400 opens up for home learners and for those who don’t have expensive tech options at their fingertips.

You just plug in a mouse, a monitor (any semi-modern TV screen should work), and go. The Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer kit costs $100 and comes with a few extras to help get you started. Or you can buy the Raspberry Pi 400 unit on its own.

Depending on where you are in the world, you may need to pre-order or join a waiting list, as Raspberry Pi 400 is in such high demand. But you could give a homemade ‘IOU’ voucher letting the recipient know that they will soon get their hands on one of our newest and most popular bits of kit.

Our latest book of coding coolness | £10

We publish some cool books around these parts. Laura Sach and Martin O’Hanlon, who are both Learning Managers at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, have written the very newest one, which is designed to help you to get more out of your Python projects.

In Create Graphical User Interfaces with Python, you’ll find ten fun Python projects to create, including a painting program, an emoji match game, and a stop-motion animation creator. All for just £10.

So, if you’ve a keen coder in your midst, this book is the best choice to stretch their skills and keep them entertained throughout 2021. Buy it online from the official Raspberry Pi Press store.

Gamers

Raspberry Pi 4 Retro Gaming Kit | £88

Lovely image courtesy of The Pi Hut

The Pi Hut’s Raspberry Pi 4 Retro Gaming Kit costs £88 and includes everything you need to create your very own retro gaming console. All your lucky kit recipient has to find is a screen to plug into, and a keyboard to set up their new Raspberry Pi, which comes as part of the kit along with a case for it. The Pi Hut has also thrown in a 16GB microSD card, plus a reader for it, as well as our official micro HDMI cable. Job done.

Picade 8″ or 10″ display | from £165

Pretty picture courtesy of Pimoroni

How cool does Picade look?! It’s sold by Pimoroni and you can buy an 8″ display set for £165, or a 10″ display version for £225. Show me a self-respecting gamer who doesn’t want a desktop retro arcade machine in their own home.

Picade is a Raspberry Pi–powered mini arcade that you build yourself. All you’ll need to add is your own Raspberry Pi, a power supply, and a micro SD card.

Code the Classics, Volume 1 | £12

And if the gamer on your gift list prefers to create their own retro video games, send them a copy of Code the Classics, Volume 1. It’s a stunning-looking hardback book packed with 224 pages telling the stories of some of the seminal video games of the 1970s and 1980s, and showing you how to create your own. Putting hours of projects in the hands of your favourite gamer will only set you back £12. Buy it online from the official Raspberry Pi Press store.

Raspberry Pi superfans

Raspberry Pi Zero W | $10

For just $10 apiece, you can drop a couple Raspberry Pi Zero W into any tinkerer’s stocking and they’ll be set for their next few projects. They will LOVE you for allowing them try a new, risky build without having to tear down something else they created to retrieve an old Raspberry Pi.

Babbage Bear | $9

What to get the superfan who already has a desk full of Raspberry Pi? An official Babbage Bear to oversee the proceedings! Babbage only costs £9 and will arrive wearing their own Raspberry Pi–branded T-shirt. A special Raspberry Pi Towers inhabitant made our Babbage this Christmassy outfit before we photographed them.

Official t-shirts | $12

If you’ve a superfan on your gift list, then it’s likely they already own a t-shirt with the Raspberry Pi logo on it — so why not get them one of these new designs?

Both costing just £12, the black Raspberry Pi “Pi 4” t-shirt was released to celebrate the launch of Raspberry Pi 4 and features an illustration of the powerful $35 computer. The white Raspberry Pi “Make Cool Stuff” option was created by Raspberry Pi’s own illustrator/animator extraordinaire Sam Alder. Drop that inside fact on the gift tag for extra superfan points.

Wearable tech projects | £7

And if they’re the kind of superfan who would like to make their own Raspberry Pi-–themed clothing, gift them with our Wearable Tech Projects book. This 164-page book gathers up the best bits of wearable technology from HackSpace magazine, with tutorials such as adding lights to your favourite cosplay helmet, and creating a glowing LED skirt. It’s on sale for just £7 and you can buy it online from the official Raspberry Pi Press store.

Keep giving all year

What if you could give the joy of opening a Raspberry Pi–themed gift every single month for a whole year? Our magazine subscriptions let you do just that, AND they come with a few extra gifts when you sign up.

The MagPi magazine

The official Raspberry Pi magazine comes with a free Raspberry Pi Zero kit worth £20 when you sign up for a 12-month subscription. The magazine is packed with computing and electronics tutorials, how-to guides, and the latest news and reviews.

Check out subscription deals on the official Raspberry Pi Press store.

HackSpace magazine

HackSpace magazine is packed with projects for fixers and tinkerers of all abilities. 12-month subscriptions comes with a free Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, which has been specially developed to teach programming novices from scratch and is worth £25.

Check out subscription deals on the official Raspberry Pi Press store

Wireframe magazine

Wireframe magazine lifts the lid on video games. In every issue, you’ll find out how games are made, who makes them, and how you can make your own using detailed guides. The latest deal gets you three issues for just £10, plus your choice of one of our official books as a gift.

Check out more subscriptions deals on the official Raspberry Pi Press store.

Custom PC

Custom PC is the magazine for people who are passionate about PC technology and hardware. You can subscribe to receive three issues for just £10, and you’ll also receive a book as a gift.

Check out subscription offers on the official Raspberry Pi Press store.

That’s all folks. Have a holly jolly one. Drop a question in the comments box below if you’re after something Raspberry Pi–themed which isn’t mentioned here. I’m half elf and should be able to help.

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Mars Clock

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A sci-fi writer wanted to add some realism to his fiction. The result: a Raspberry Pi-based Martian timepiece. Rosie Hattersley clocks in from the latest issue of The MagPi Magazine.

The Mars Clock project is adapted from code Phil wrote in JavaScript and a Windows environment for Raspberry Pi

Ever since he first clapped eyes on Mars through the eyepiece of a telescope, Philip Ide has been obsessed with the Red Planet. He’s written several books based there and, many moons ago, set up a webpage showing the weather on Mars. This summer, Phil adapted his weather monitor and created a Raspberry Pi-powered Mars Clock.

Mission: Mars

After writing several clocks for his Mars Weather page, Phil wanted to make a physical clock: “something that could sit on my desk or such like, and tell the time on Mars.” It was to tell the time at any location on Mars, with presets for interesting locations “plus the sites of all the missions that made it to the surface – whether they pancaked or not.”

The projects runs on a 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 with official 7-inch touchscreen

Another prerequisite was that the clock had to check for new mission file updates and IERS bulletins to see if a new leap second had been factored into Universal Coordinated Time.

“Martian seconds are longer,” explains Phil, “so everything was pointing at software rather than a mechanical device. Raspberry Pi was a shoo-in for the job”. However, he’d never used one.

“I’d written some software for calculating orbits and one of the target platforms was Raspberry Pi. I’d never actually seen it run on a Raspberry Pi but I knew it worked, so the door was already open.” He was able to check his data against a benchmark NASA provided. Knowing that the clocks on his Mars Weather page were accurate meant that Phil could focus on getting to grips with his new single-board computer.

Phil’s Mars Weather page shows seasonal trends since March 2019.

He chose a 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 and official-inch touchscreen with a SmartiPi Touch 2 case. “Angles are everything,” he reasons. He also added a fan to lower the CPU temperature and extend the hardware’s life. Along with a power lead, the whole setup cost £130 from The Pi Hut.

Since his Mars Clock generates a lot of data, he made it skinnable so the user can choose which pieces of information to view at any one time. It can display two types of map – Viking or MOLA – depending on the co-ordinates for the clock. NASA provides a web map-tile service with many different data sets for Mars, so it should be possible to make the background an interactive map, allowing you to zoom in/out and scroll around. Getting these to work proved rather a headache as he hit incompatibilities with the libraries.

Learn through experience

Phil wrote most of the software himself, with the exception of libraries for the keyboard and FTP which he pulled from GitHub. Here’s all the code.

The Mars Clock’s various skins show details of missions to Mars, as well as the location’s time and date

He used JavaScript running on the Node.js/Electron framework. “This made for rapid development and is cross-platform, so I could write and test it on Windows and then move it to the Raspberry Pi,” he says. With the basic code written, Phil set about paring it back, reducing the number and duration of CPU time-slices the clock needed when running. “I like optimised software,” he explains.

His decades as a computer programmer meant other aspects were straightforward. The hardware is more than capable, he says of his first ever experience of Raspberry Pi, and the SmartiPi case makers had done a brilliant job. Everything fit together and in just a few minutes his Raspberry Pi was working.

The SmartiPi Touch 2 case houses Raspberry Pi 4 and a fan to cool its CPU

Since completing his Mars Clock Phil has added a pi-hole and a NAS to his Raspberry Pi setup and says his confidence using them is such that he’s now contemplating challenging himself to build an orrery (a mechanical model of the solar system). “I have decades of programming experience, but I was still learning new things as the project progressed,” he says. “The nerd factor of any given object increases exponentially if you make it yourself.”

The MagPi Magazine | Issue 99

Check out page 26 in the latest issue of The MagPi Magazine for a step-by-step and to learn more about the maker, Phillip. You can read a PDF copy for free on The MagPi Magazine website if you’re not already a subscriber.

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Raspberry Pi smart IoT glove

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Animator/engineer Ashok Fair has put witch-level finger pointing powers in your hands by sticking a SmartEdge Agile, wirelessly controlled by Raspberry Pi Zero, to a golf glove. You could have really freaked the bejeezus out of Halloween party guests with this (if we were allowed to have Halloween parties that is).

The build uses a Smart Edge Agile IoT device with Brainium, a cloud-based tool for performing machine learning tasks.

The Rapid IoT kit is interfaced with Raspberry Pi Zero and creates a thread network connecting to light, car, and fan controller nodes.

The Brainium app is installed on Raspberry Pi and bridges between the cloud and Smart Edge device. MQTT is running on Python and processes the Rapid IoT Kit’s data.

The device is mounted onto a golf glove, giving the wearer seemingly magical powers with the wave of a hand.

Kit list

  • Raspberry Pi Zero
  • Avnet SmartEdge Agile (the white box attached to the glove)
  • NXP Rapid IoT Prototyping Kit (the square blue screen stuck on the adaptor board with the Raspberry Pi Zero)
  • Brainium AI Studio app
  • Golf glove
Waking up the Rapid IoT screen

To get started, the glove wearer draws a pattern above the screen attached to the Raspberry Pi to unlock it and wake up all the controller nodes.

The light controller node is turned on by drawing a clockwise circle, and turned off with an counter-clockwise circle.

The full kit and caboodle

The fan is turned on and off in the same way, and you can increase the fan’s speed by moving your hand upwards and reduce the speed by moving your hand down. You know it’s working by the look of the fan’s LEDs: they blinker faster as the fan speeds up.

Make a pushing motion in the air above the car to make it move forward, and you can also make it turn and reverse.

“Driving glove”

If you wear the glove while driving, it collects data in real time and logs it on the Brainium cloud so you can review your driving style.

Keep up with Ashok’s projects on Twitter or Facebook.

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