Author Archives: Liz Upton

Video: Five Years of Pi

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Matthew “Raspberry Pi Guy” Timmons-Brown puts together a video of what the Raspberry Pi community has achieved every year. He’s just published 2017’s update, and it’s a doozy: have a look, and see how many of these projects and people you recognise!

What is Raspberry Pi? – Five years of Pi!

Half a decade. 12 million Raspberry Pis. On the 28th February 2017, Raspberry Pi will be five years old. As with previous years, I thought that I would make a video to commemorate this historic landmark and to show everyone just what Raspberry Pi is about.

We’re going to be celebrating the community that comes up with this amazing stuff all this weekend at our fifth Big Birthday Weekend, here in Cambridge. Tickets (£5 for over-16s, free for people under 16) are sold out for Saturday, but there are still some left for Sunday: grab them while they’re hot! You’ll see some of the projects featured in this video, discover some completely new ones, have the chance to attend drop-in sessions on digital making, robotics and more, meet with hundreds of like-minded Pi fans, and hang out with the team that makes your Raspberry Pi.

There will also be cake. See you there!

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Fake cases for your Raspberry Pi – make sure you don’t end up with one!

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If you’re a Pi fan, you’ll recognise our official case, designed by Kinneir Dufort. We’re rather proud of it, and if sales are anything to go by, you seem to like it a lot as well.

Raspberry Pi case design sketches

Unfortunately, some scammers in China have also spotted that Pi owners like the case a lot, so they’ve been cloning it and trying to sell it in third-party stores.

We managed to get our hands on a sample through a proxy pretending to be a Pi shop, and we have some pictures so you can see what the differences are and ensure that you have the genuine article. The fake cases are not as well-made as the real thing, and they also deprive us of some much-needed charitable income. As you probably know, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity. All the money we make from selling computers, cases, cameras, and other products goes straight into our charitable fund to train teachers, provide free learning resources, teach kids, help build the foundations of digital making in schools, and much more.

Let’s do a bit of spot-the-difference.

Fake case. Notice the poor fit, the extra light pipes (the Chinese cloner decided not to make different cases for Pi2 and Pi3), and the sunken ovals above them.

Real case. Only one set of light pipes (this case is for a Pi3), no ovals, and the whole thing fits together much more neatly. There’s no lip in the middle piece under the lid.

There are some other telltale signs: have a close look at the area around the logo on the white lid.

This one’s the fake. At about the 7 o’clock position, the plastic around the logo is uneven and ripply – the effect’s even more pronounced in real life. 

This is what a real case looks like. The logo is much more crisp and cleanly embossed, and there are no telltale lumps and bumps around it.

The underside’s a bit off as well:

The cloners are using a cheaper, translucent non-slip foot on the fake case, and the feet don’t fit well in the lugs which house them. Again, you can see that the general fit is quite bad.

Real case. Near-transparent non-slip feet, centred in their housing, and with no shreds of escaping glue. There’s no rectangular tooling marks on the bottom. The SD card slot is a different shape.

Please let us know if you find any of these fake cases in the wild. And be extra-vigilant if you’re buying somewhere like eBay to make sure that you’re purchasing the real thing. We also make a black and grey version of the case, although the pink and white is much more popular. We haven’t seen these cloned yet, but if you spot one we’d like to know about it, as we can then discuss them with the resellers. It’s more than possible that retailers won’t realise they’re buying fakes, but it damages our reputation when something shonky comes on the market and it looks like we’ve made it. It damages the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s pockets too, which means we can’t do the important work in education we were set up to do.

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Robocod

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Fishbowl existence is tough. There you are, bobbing up and down in the same dull old environment, day in, day out; your view unchanging, your breakfast boringly identical every morning; that clam thing in the bottom of the tank opening and closing monotonously – goldfish can live for up to 20 years. That’s a hell of a long time to watch a clam thing for.

fishbowl on wheels

Two fish are in a tank. One says “How do you drive this thing?”

Indeed, fishbowl existence is so tough that several countries have banned the boring round bowls altogether. (There’s a reason that your childhood goldfish didn’t live for 20 years. You put it in an environment that bored it to death.) So this build comes with a caveat – we are worried that this particular fish is being driven from understimulus to overstimulus and back again, and that she might be prevented from making it to the full 20 years as a result. Please be kind to your fish.

What’s going on here? Over in Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon University, Alex Kent and friends have widened the goldfish’s horizons, by giving it wheels. Meet the free-range fish.

Just Keep Swimming

Build18 @CMU . . . . . . . . . . . . * Jukin Media Verified * Find this video and others like it by visiting https://www.jukinmedia.com/licensing/view/949380 For licensing / permission to use, please email licensing(at)jukinmedia(dot)com.

Alex K, negligent fishparent, says that the speed and direction of the build is determined by the position of the fish relative to the centre of the tank. The battery lasts for five hours, and by all accounts the fish is still alive. Things are a bit jerky in this prototype build. Alex explains:

The jerking is actually caused by the Computer Vision algorithm losing track of the fish because of the reflection off of the lid, condensation on the lid, water ripples, etc.

Alex and co: before you look at more expensive solutions, try fixing a polarising filter to the camera you’re using.

All the code you’ll need to torture your own fish is available at GitHub.

Of course, Far Side fans will observe that there is nothing new under the sun.

Fishbowl on wheels by Gary Larson

Image from Gary Larson, The Far Side.

If you’ve got any good fish puns, let minnow in the comments.

 

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CD Tea

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Caffeination is an important cornerstone of Raspberry Pi development. Gordon in particular drinks so much tea in any given day that we are concerned for the sustainability of Sri Lanka’s plantations, not to mention the colour of his insides. (Conversation at 10.30 this morning: “Gordon, how many cups of tea would you estimate you drink in a day?” “Em…fifteen? I’ve already had five this morning, I drink it through the day and I usually have at least one in bed at night.”)

In an act of one-upmanship, Carrie Anne, James and the other people who write our educational resources have been showing us the state of their mugs this morning too.

Because we love you and want to make you happy, we are not illustrating this post with a picture of Gordon’s insides.

We like to make sure that Gordon, Carrie and the rest of the office tea-drinkers are doing as much work as possible, and are undistracted by the need to steep yet another bag. So we were delighted to happen upon this project from Andrey Chilikin. This is what happens when you are innovative enough to turn one of those antique computer-cup-holders on its end and add that standby of makers everywhere, the trusty lollipop stick. Hook it up to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins, and Bob’s your uncle.

tea bag

If you’d like to automate your own tea habit with old hardware, you’ll find all the code you need and a wiring schematic at Andrey’s GitHub. Thanks Andrey!

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Fly AI

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Happy 2017, everybody! We’re back in the office (for values of “we” equal to me and a cup of coffee – the rest of your friendly Comms team is still on vacation). I hope your New Year’s resolutions are still unbroken. Mine involves that coffee, which doesn’t have any sugar in it and is making January feel much bleaker than necessary. I’ll be fascinated to see how long I can keep it up.

On to the Pi stuff.

I spotted this magnificently creepy art installation from David Bowen just before Christmas, and have been looking forward to showing it to you, because I like to know I’m not the only person having specific nightmares. In this project, a Raspberry Pi AI is mothering a colony of flies: whenever if spots and correctly identifies a fly, it releases a dose of nutrients and water.

flyAI

flyAI creates a situation where the fate of a colony of living houseflies is determined by the accuracy of artificial intelligence software. The installation uses the TensorFlow machine learning image recognition library to classify images of live houseflies. As the flies fly and land in front of a camera, their image is captured.

David says: “The system is setup to run indefinitely with an indeterminate outcome.”

Which means there’s potential for an awful lot of tiny corpses.

It all sounds simple enough, but there’s something about the build – the choice of AI voice, the achingly slow process of enunciating everything it believes it might have seen before it feeds its wards…the fact that the horrible space-helmet-bubble thing is full of flies – that makes for the most unsettling project we’ve seen in a long time.

Fly AI

If you are inspired by this arthropod chamber of horrors, you can read about more of David’s projects on his blog. You’ll be delighted to learn than this is not the only one employing house-fly labourers. More power to all six of your elbows, David.

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Fireside romance at your command

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Redditor Hovee has a sense of romance firmly cemented in 1975. With a Google Home device, a Raspberry Pi, a gas fire and the pants-removing tones of Marvin Gaye, he’s rigged up his sitting room for seduction.

The setup does not yet open a box of chocolates and a bottle of red wine, or unfurl a rug made out of something fluffy and dead, but we’re sure that with some iteration it’ll start doing just that.

Ok, Google turn on my FirePlace!

Instructions here on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/homeautomation/comments/5doqs8/ok_google_turn_on_my_fireplace/da6h33o/ I connected my google home to ifttt which does an API call to my raspberry pi running home-assistant controlling my global cache itach which is wired up to my gas logs.

Whats going on here? Hovee’s Google Voice is talking to the Raspberry Pi, which has Google’s Home Assistant installed on it. The fireplace (which is some newfangled thing that does things my fireplace doesn’t) has three positions: on, off and remote control. By switching the fireplace to remote and adding a switch (a nice long way away from the hot fire), the Pi can control both the flames and the music. Hovee has documented what he’s done on Reddit.

It was felt by most people at Pi Towers that it would be inappropriate to illustrate this post with that picture of Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug, however well it captures the mood, so we’ve edited it slightly for delicate sensibilities.

A photo Burt Reynolds turning on the Raspberry Pi romance

We like projects that involve setting things on fire. Got your own? Drop us a line and you might see it featured here.

 

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