Category Archives: Aggregated

LilyPad MP3 Giveaway!

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Wearable technology (or wearables/e-textiles) continues to be a quickly growing segment of the electronics and DIY community. As such, we’ve been hard at work cranking out new tech for people to incorporate into their latest e-textiles projects. Today we want to bring your attention to one of our products - the LilyPad MP3 Player. To give you a demo of this all-in-one audio solution, we made a quick (and kind of strange) video:

The LilyPad MP3 Player contains an Arduino-compatible microcontroller, MP3 (and many other formats) audio decoder chip, microSD card socket, and a stereo audio amplifier. Using this board, you can easily add sound capabilities to your next wearables project. A hoodie with built in speakers, a blanket that plays lullabies as you fall asleep, a teddy bear that talks when you squeeze its hand - the possibilities are only limited by the scope of your imagination. Knowing our customers, you’re probably going to come up with something awesome.

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With that in mind, what are your ideas for using the LilyPad MP3 player? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll select the top five ideas (as chosen by a committee of e-textiles enthusiasts) and send you your very own LilyPad MP3 Player. Even better if you take the player and actually build the project you suggested! We’ll accept entries until Wednesday, 9/3/14 at 9 a.m. MT. Good luck and let the brilliant ideas flow!

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ScratchEd Releases it’s Latest Guide for K-12 Educators – Creative Computing

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Karen Brennan, Christan Balch, Michelle Chung from Harvard Graduate School of Education in conjunction with the ScratchEd team recently authored a comprehensive guide for using Scratch in K-12 space.

This guide captures many tools, tricks, and implementation secrets to introducing and teaching Scratch to children of any age – elementary to high school. The guide is broken down into 6 separate units:

  • 1 - Exploring
  • 2 - Animations
  • 3 - Stories
  • 4 - Games
  • 5 - Diving Deeper (Advanced Concepts)
  • 6 - Hackathon (Projects and Open Challenges)

There is a wealth of combined ideas, strategies, and activities that this team has compiled since the inception of Scratch in 2007.

At 154 pages and 65 MB in size, this is easily the most comprehensive guide available today!

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New Chip Alert: The ESP8266 WiFi Module (It’s $5)

via Hackaday » » hardware


Every so often we run across something in the Hackaday tip line that sends us scurrying to Google, trying to source a component, part, or assembly. The ESP8266 WiFi module is the latest, made interesting because it pretty much doesn’t exist outside China.

Why is it cool? It’s a WiFi module with an SOC, making it somewhat similar to TI’s CC300 in conception (A.K.A. the thing that makes the Spark Core so appealing), in that a microcontroller on the module takes care of all the WiFi, TCP/IP stack, and the overhead found in an 802.11 network. It’s addressable over SPI and UART, making this an exceptionally easy choice for anyone wanting to build an Internet of Things thing; you can simply connect any microcontroller to this module and start pushing data up to the Internet. Oh, it’s also being sold for $5 in quantity one. Yes, for five dollars you can blink a LED from the Internet. That’s about half the price as the CC3000 itself, and a quarter of the price if you were to build a CC3000 breakout board.

There’s a catch, right, there’s always a catch. Yep. About two hours after this post is published it will be the number one English language Google result for “ESP8266.” As far as the English-speaking world is concerned, there is absolutely nothing to be found anywhere on the Internet on this module.

Seeed Studio recently sold a few of these modules for $7 and has some documentation, including a full datasheet and an AT command set. All the documentation is in Chinese. There’s also an “ESP8266 IoT SDK”, but from a quick glance at the code, this appears to be an SDK for the SOC on the module, not a simple way to connect the module to a microcontroller.

Anyone wanting to grab one of these modules can do so on Ali Express. Anyone wanting to do something with one of these modules will have a much more difficult time, most likely poking and prodding bits randomly with the help of Google translate. Should someone, or even a group of people, want to take up the task of creating a translation of the datasheet and possibly a library, we have a pretty collaborative project hosting site where you can do that. You may organize in the comments below; we’ll also be taking bets as to when a product using the ESP8266 will be found on Kickstarter. My guess is under a month.

Thanks [Liam] for the tip.

Filed under: hardware, wireless hacks

ARM-BMW, The Open Hardware Cortex-M0 Development Board

via Hackaday » » hardware

[Vsergeev] tipped us about a neat Cortex-M0 based development board with a total BoM cost under $15. It’s called the ARM Bare Metal Widget (ARM-BMW), focuses on battery power, non-volatile storage and debuggability.

The chosen micro-controller is the 50MHz NXP LPC1114DH28 which provides the user with 32kB of Flash, 8kB of SRAM, a 6 channel ADC and I2C/SPI/UART interfaces among others. The ARM-BMW contains a 2Mbyte SPI flash, an I2C I/O expander, several headers for expansion/debug purposes, 4 LEDs, 2 buttons, 2 DIP switches and finally a JTAG/SWD header for flashing and debugging. As you can see in the picture above you may either populate your own HC49UP crystal or use the internal 12MHz RC oscillator.

The platform can be powered using either a USB cable or a LiPo battery. As you can guess it also includes a much-needed battery charger (the MCP73831T) and a switched capacitor DC/DC converter to supply 3.3V. You may find all the files on the hardware or software repositories.

Filed under: ARM, hardware

SparkFun Live – Balancing ‘Bots!

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Join us today, 8/26/2014, at 3 p.m. for the latest episode of “SparkFun Live!” In today’s episode, our very own David Stillman and Ben Leduc-Mills will be talking about balancing bots and we’ll be doing some live hacking of some new robots (including the WowWee MiP). Here is the video feed (of course, there’s not much to see until 3 p.m.):

We hope you can join us for the final episode of “SparkFun Live” that will take place in our current building!

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China press and community tour

via Raspberry Pi

As you might have spotted, if you follow us on Twitter, Eben and I spent the last week and a bit touring China, meeting the Raspberry Pi community there and giving interviews to the press, with some sterling organisational help from our friends at RS Components. (A special and huge thank you to Eric Lee, without whom we’d have been absolutely stuffed. Mostly with delicious pork confections and noodles, but stuffed nonetheless.)

Here’s what we got up to.

First up, there were a lot of press conferences to give, with help from the excellent William, our simultaneous translator; after a week of doing this, we ended up with more than 100 pieces of media being written or recorded about Raspberry Pi across China. This one, in Shanghai, is pretty typical.

Press conference

We noticed that the tech press in China is incredibly well-educated; a lot of these journalists trained as engineers and then moved into publishing. (And everywhere we went, at least 50% of the technical journalists were women – something I wish we’d emulate in the west.)


We went to a Raspberry Jam in Shanghai, held at RS Components’ offices. We met some great people (Kevin Deng and the gang from, a Chinese website dedicated to the Raspberry Pi, actually followed us on to the next event in Shenzhen as well), who’d built some amazing projects.

Shanghai Jam

The robot on our desk is LIDAR (laser radar)-equipped, from DFrobot. We’re listening to a talk about open source from David Li, one of China’s most famous open source pioneers. Eric Lee from RS is on the right.


This laser-etcher is one of the projects the 52pi gang had brought along; you can buy lasers for this sort of project off the shelf in China, where the integrity of your eyeball is your own responsibility. I’ve got a couple of coasters with our logo on them on my desk at the moment, made using this machine.

laser etcher

Jackie Li gave an amazing talk about the projects he’s made at home – cameras streaming to remote screens, a simplified media centre for his grandma, robots – and this excellent LED persistence of vision device for displaying reminders in the kitchen.


We flew out next to Shenzen, where hundreds of people turned up for a Raspberry Jam, and where we did more press conferences and more interviews. Before we left for China, I’d been worried that the community base would be smaller than we’re used to. It turned out to be almost too large for us to deal with in the time we’d had allotted in each location.

Shenzhen Jam

It got a bit hard to move in Shenzhen for all the people wanting a photo. We saw some great presentations (one of which, from Martin Liu, who describes himself as a living-room maker, demonstrated the work we sponsored to get the XBMCmenu working in new fonts – including Chinese. It’s at the back of the photo here, behind all the people with cameras.)


We met a lot of Shenzhen makers who are also entrepreneurs; on the left here is Zoe from Seeed Studio. Eben’s holding some sensors from their Grove project, which works with Raspberry Pi.


This young gentleman had a robot to show us, controlled with Scratch (on the desk to the right), and a poster for Eben about Pi-controlled brewing. He was terribly shy, and I really wanted to give him a hug, but suspected that might have made matters worse.


We managed to get about an hour at the enormous electronics market in Shenzhen with Eric, where we had some fun looking at components and working out if we could lower the bill of materials cost in the Pi itself. Unfortunately, it’s so big you need at least a week to work your way around the place; we plan to return.


Next stop, Taipei. We started off at Noise Kitchen, where we met a group from CaveDu, a local hacker group. The robot in the middle was being prepared for the next day’s Jam at Tatung university – the display shows how many likes CaveDu’s Facebook page has.


These guys hung around for HOURS to meet us, for which we’re very grateful; our plane was delayed six hours, and we didn’t get there until nearly 11pm. I met a home-made laptop with a removable wireless keyboard (a clever way to get around the hinge problem), and made a new best friend.

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First thing the next morning, we headed out to Tatung university.

tatung uni jam

We were expecting a few tens of people, having failed to learn our lesson from Shenzhen. More than 250 people turned up.

tatung crowd

Among the crowd was my new best friend from the night before. We do not have a language in common, but we bonded over high-fives and fist-bumps.


It was HOT; about 33C in the shade. And unfortunately, the air conditioning in the building got turned off an hour or so in, so we get damper and damper as these photos progress and the temperature climbs well above 40C.

We met a self-balancing robot in a hamster ball.


We bumped into an old friend. (The beer is there for thermal reasons.)


Eben got interviewed, sweaty, by Taiwanese TV.


And this is my other new best friend, Liang Chih Chiang, who gave a presentation (which he’s very kindly translated for me so you can all read it) about our community and social media – a subject that’s very close to my heart, for obvious reasons.

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We saw some amazing projects, like this gaming machine…


…this Pi-powered 3d printer…


…and this, which I was never able to get close enough to to find out what it does. I think it might be a musical instrument. Or possibly a cocktail machine.


Any suggestions, anybody?

We had a wonderful, exhausting, wonderful time. Thanks so much to everybody who came to see us; and an especial thanks to Eric, Desiree, Soo Chun, Katherine and the rest of the RS gang, who looked after us so well. We hope we’ll be back in a year or so – and until then, here’s a picture of a bit of press that I can’t read, but that’s made me laugh more than anything else that’s been published about us this year.









To consume or not to consume…

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Physical computing and arduino projects are a great introduction to programming, building, and inventing. It’s a great tool for students to use in the classroom. While in small, individual quantities, Arduinos are inexpensive – as a teacher, these can get to be expensive as a consumable. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use.

One of my favorite projects to use in the classroom for introducing Arduino is to have students design and build a light sculpture - inspired by our friends at Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. If students each build their own light sculpture with an Arduino, LEDs, acrylic light pipes, and power supply – the cost can be upwards of $50 per student. There are a number of ways to cut costs, while preserving the quality and integrity of this project. Here are a few ideas:

1) Substitute an Arduino Pro Mini for your Arduino Uno

The Arduino Pro Mini is fully equivalent to the Arduino Uno at a fraction of the size and cost. The Pro Mini is priced at $9.95, 50% less than the Sparkfun Redboard. You will need an FTDI programmer and a USB Mini cable – both of these are re-usable, though! Using the Pro Mini will also provide your students with an opportunity to learn to solder their circuits together. We sell a nify ProtoShield that goes with the Pro Mini if you want to keep everything together.

Arduino Pro Mini 328 - 5V/16MHz

In stock DEV-11113

It's blue! It's thin! It's the Arduino Pro Mini! SparkFun's minimal design approach to Arduino. This is a 5V Arduino running …


2) Use plain LEDs for Lilypad / eTextiles projects

Rather than using the flat LilyPad LEDs, use plain PTH LEDs instead. Grab a pair of needle nose pliers and simply roll the legs of the LEDs into rings to sew into. I like to bend the shorter side (negative) into a square-ish ring and make the longer leg (positive) into a rounded / circular ring.

Needle Nose Pliers

In stock TOL-08793

Mini Pliers. These are great little pliers! A must have for any hobbyist or electrical engineer. Crucial for inserting device…


LED Rainbow Pack - 5mm PTH

In stock COM-12903

Sometimes when you have too many choices, it's hard to make a good decision. In fact, there are times when you just want a ba…


3) ATtiny85 & LilyTiny

The ATtiny85 is a small 8 pin “itty-bitty” Arduino. In quantities of 10 or more, you can get it for $2.56 each. Combined with the Tiny AVR Programmer, you have a very nice, low-consumable cost solution for your class. A nice tutorial on programming the ATtiny85 can be found here.

Similarly, the LilyTiny / LilyTwinkle are both lower-cost microcontrollers that you can use for your eTextile classroom projects. To re-program your ATtiny, you can use this nifty SOIC clip from digikey

Tiny AVR Programmer Hookup Guide

October 28, 2013

A how-to on the Tiny AVR Programmer. How to install drivers, hook it up, and program your favorite Tiny AVRs using AVRDUDE!

Got other ideas? Please share these with us. We’re always looking for great ideas teachers are using to get more mileage out of their equipment and hardware.

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Retrosparktive #4 – Time for some new digs.

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Today is the final post for our SparkFun Retrosparktive series! If you missed out on the previous posts, you can check them out here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Before we dive into the Retrosparktive, let’s talk sales! This is your final week to use the promo code RETROSPARK - which is good for $10 off orders over $40. It expires 8/31/14 at 11:59:59 p.m. MT. So use it while you can!

Here are this week’s sale items:

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Generic Servo - Sub-Micro Size

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Vibration Motor

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12V Vacuum Pump

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Stepper Motor -

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Stepper Motor - 125

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Generic High Torque Servo

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Rover 5 Robot Platform

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T'Rex Robot/Motor Controller Board

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100 MHz Digital Storage Oscilloscope

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EasyVR Shield 2.0 for Voice Recognition

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Frequency Generator Kit

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50W Variable Temp Soldering iron

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Bitalino Biomedical Development Kit

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Weather Meters

Well, that’s a pretty healthy dose of products - hope you find something you need! Now on to the Retrosparktive!

If you haven’t heard already, in about a week, SparkFun will be moving to new headquarters a couple miles north of our current location. This move is a huge step in our company history and we’re pretty darn excited.

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A view as the building started to really take shape.

We officially broke ground on the new building in May of 2013 (although the behind-the-scenes process to get the ball rolling started much, much earlier). SparkFun’s new office building is 80,000 square feet of geek-fueled glory sitting on 4.3 acres of land.

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In designing the new building, we worked closely with the architects to create a space that will be utilitarian for SparkFun’s business-y needs, but also foster community and interaction between SparkFun employees with things like a larger exercise space (with a climbing wall!), a single break room (instead of the multiple separate ones we have now) and an open design between departments.

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The new building has a bunch of other cool features like a rooftop deck, solar panels galore (and a general focus on being green), and plenty of room to grow!

We’re very excited about the move, but it might disrupt some things over the coming weeks. We’ll be sure to keep everyone informed of anything that might affect orders and look for a post with pictures of the finished space in the next few weeks once we get settled!

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From Open Making to Open Manufacturing at Open Hardware Summit in Rome

via Arduino Blog


The fifth edition of the Open Hardware Summit, for the first time happening outside the USA, is taking place on the 30th of September 2014  in Rome (you can now book your free tickets here).The event launches the Rome Innovation Week, culminating with the second edition of Maker Faire Rome (3-5 October). 

The topic of this edition of the Summit wants to reflect on how production models are shifting from one to one, to one to many structure and the latest schedule features several outstanding speakers of the open hardware scene such as Adrian Bowyer (father of RepRap), Tomas Diez (Fab Lab Barcelona Director), Yasmin Elayat (GOOD fellow), Becky Stern (Director of Wearable Electronics, Adafruit Industries), Eric Pan (Founder, Seeed Studio, Forbes China’s 30 under 30), David Lang (OpenROV Founder, Author of Zero to Maker), Gawin Dapper (CTO, Phonebloks), Nick Ierodiaconou (Co-Founder Open Desk), Phoenix Perry (Founder, Code Liberation) and many more.

Check the Summit’s blog for features and updates about speakers.

Guidelines for the MAX5977’s Critical Component Placement and Routing

via Maxim - Application Notes

This application note presents guidelines for the placement and routing of the most critical components and traces in a typical design for the MAX5977 high-performance, hot-swap, electronic fuse, high-side current-sense controller.

Defcon Side Trip: Pololu And Robots

via Hackaday » » hardware

PololuDuring our trip out to Vegas for Defcon, we were lucky enough to catch up with a few of the companies that should be of interest to Hackaday readers. One of the companies based out of the area is Pololu, makers and purveyors of fine electronics and robots. In an incredible bit of lucky scheduling, LV Bots, the Las Vegas area robot builders club, was having an event the same weekend we were there. A maze challenge, no less, where builders would compete to build the best robot and write the best code to get a pile of motors and electronics through a line-following maze in the fastest amount of time.

The Bots

The LV Bots events are held in the same building as Pololu, and unsurprisingly there were quite a few Pololu employees making a go at taking the stuff they developed and getting it to run through a maze. At least one bot was based on the Zumo kit, and a few based on the 3pi platform. Interestingly, the Raspberry Pi Model B+ was the brains of quite a few robots; not extremely surprising, but evidence that the LV Bots people take their line-following mazes seriously and are constantly improving their builds.

Each robot and builder ‘team’ was given three runs. For each team, the first run is basically dedicated to mapping the entire maze. A carefully programmed algorithm tries to send the robot around the entire maze, storing all the intersections in memory. For the second and third runs, the bot should – ideally – make it to the end in a very short amount of time. This is the ideal situation and was only representative of one team for that weekend’s event.

The worst case scenario is a bot that doesn’t quite have the proper mapping algorithm down. For example:

If, however, a robot can figure out all the nodes in the line following map, the second and third runs can go by pretty quick:


Although I did arrive a bit after normal working hours, [Ryan] and [Kevin] were kind enough to take me around their shop for a small tour of the joint. It’s more or less what you would expect: one giant room with pick and place machines, giant ovens, solder paste dispensers, enough equipment for all the testing and rework, and a giant wall of filled with all their products. One of the more interesting pieces of equipment was a soldering robot. Yes, as in a robot with a soldering iron. Here are the pics:

Solderbot3 Solderbot2 Solderbot1

Being after hours, the machines were not running. [Kevin] did send me a video of the manufacturing process of their A-Star 32U4 Micro, shown below:

In addition to their huge manufacturing room, the guys took me up to their dev lab where they come up with the design of all their products. Lego abound, surprisingly in already built configuration. I’ll let the picture galleries speak for themselves, shown below.

The Bots

DSC_0009 The maze DSC_0008 DSC_0007 Setting up for a run DSC_0004 DSC_0003 Blinky again PacBot DSC_0030 LV Bots RaspiBotsB DSC_0005 DSC_0023 Blinky


DSC_0056 "The" Pololu Truly, important stuff happens in the design lab Shop floor Thousands of dollars in pogo pins The 'wall of samples' DSC_0041 DSC_0053 Hundreds of steppers DSC_0055 DSC_0054
Filed under: hardware, Interviews

Pololu DRV8835 Dual Motor Driver Kit for Raspberry Pi B+

via Pololu - New Products

This compact expansion board plugs directly into the GPIO header on a Raspberry Pi B+ and provides an easy and low-cost solution for driving a pair of small brushed DC motors. Its integrated DRV8835 dual motor driver operates from 2 V to 11 V, making it a great control option for low-voltage motors. The board can deliver a continuous 1.2 A (1.5 A peak) per motor, or a continuous 2.4 A (3 A peak) to a single motor when configured with both channels connected in parallel.

New Product Friday: Sequence of Events

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Welcome back new product fans. As always, we have a few new products this week and even a demo of our new SparkPunk Sequencer. Check it out.

The sequencer really is a rewarding kit to build. Sure, it takes some time, but when you’re done, you get a very cool (and big!) piece of hardware. You can check out the demo video here.

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The SparkPunk Sequencer is a musical control voltage sequencer designed to control the SparkPunk Sound Generator. With the pair, you can create ten-step musical motifs, but there are hidden opportunities in the sequencer: it can be modified and connected to external hardware in clever and interesting ways. Unlike typical sequencers, this kit offers many tricks and modifications like adjusting Sequence length by connecting solder pads together at the bottom right of the PCB, routing pins to make a one-shot sequence playback, even creating a tempo clock or influencing the analog signals of LEDs.

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Remember the multimeter fiasco from a few months back? We now have multimeters back in stock and they don’t interfere with any tradmarks or copyrights (that we know of). The yellow has been changed to a pleasant (and neutral) light gray. It’s the same meter you’ve grown to know and love, but with a more law-abiding appearance.

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We have our 10 pack of alligator clips back in stock. These come from a new supplier and are now RoHS compliant! They are 50cm in length and have shrouded alligator clips at either end. These are really handy to have around.

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Lastly, we have a new version of the RS232 Shield. This rev of the RS232 Shield provides you with the option to choose between two pins from an Arduino (D0 to D7) as software serial ports to communicate with RS232 Shield. Also headers are included with this shield but will need to be soldered on by the end user. Use this shield anytime you want to communicate with devices that use the RS232 protocol, like home automation equipment.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Thanks for coming back to the site and checking out our new stuff! See you next week, we’ll have even more new products for you, see you then!

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Layer Cam: the lensless tourist camera in a lunchbox

via Raspberry Pi

Have you ever noticed the way that everybody takes the same photo when doing the tourist thing? Just look at Google: there are a million pictures of people punting past King’s College Chapel in Cambridge out there, all taken at the same angle, from the same position – and they’re all online. So why do we (and I’m just as guilty of this as everybody else) spend precious time taking pictures of something that somebody’s almost certainly taken a better photo of already?

SaladeTomateOignon in Paris, another photogenic city, has noticed the same thing.

He says:

28 million people visit Paris every year, taking dozens of pictures each. Every building, every statue has been captured, under every sky and every light.

Because billions of pictures of the Eiffel tower have been taken, I am sure that you can find matching cloud patterns in dozen of them, even if taken years apart.

Pictures have been taken with simple pin-hole camera, smartphones or with the most complex and expensive large format silver film camera or DSLR, and lots of them are now online.

On the Internet, those photographies are sprinkled over the city, with some areas densely covered, and other more sparsely. Each website is like a stratum of pictures of every kind: postcards, paintings, photos, satellite images…

Layer cam is a project to tap into those layers, like a drill extracting a core sample of images.

Based on a Raspberry Pi, connected to the Internet through wifi and geolocalized by a GPS chip, Layer cam runs with Python code (mostly made from bits of code I found here (Martin O’Hanlon) and there (disasterjs) and taps into Panoramio API. The ‘Layer cam’ logo has been designed by Alice.

We love this project. It’s just the right amount of pointless, it’s in a Tupperware box, Paris is beautiful, and it made us smile. You can find out how to build your own at saladtomateoignon, with code and physical build instructions (which involve rubber bands and duct tape, like the very best of projects).

Happy Halloween

via Nuts and Volts

So, you may have noticed that the issue currently in your hands is a bit ... different. We're trying something new — something maybe even ... scary! A Halloween spectacular so exciting that even our magazine cover is wearing a costume! Okay, so yes, we realize it's only September, but we're starting extra early this year. We want to make sure you have ample time to ramp up your Halloween and act on the cool ideas and projects in this issue!