If you’re wondering about introducing your kids to Scratch, but aren’t quite sure where to start, here’s a handy resource for you. Sean McManus, one of the authors of Raspberry Pi for Dummies, has sent me a link to a couple of sample chapters of the book, including the first chapter on Scratch. You’re welcome to download it to find out whether the book’s for you.
The name Mike Cook echoes around the corridors of Pi Towers every now and then when we make awed conversation about our hardware heroes. Mike used to write a column called Body Building for Micro User magazine back in the days of the BBC Micro, in which he’d create hardware projects that made kids like me swoon at the sheer potential of those GPIO pins at the back of the Beeb’s casing. (The Beeb’s exposed GPIO was a big influence in the design of the Raspberry Pi.) Mike was an early adopter of the Pi, and you’ll have seen several posts here featuring his otherworldly Pi hardware hacks. (The solonoid glockenspiel and the first persistence of vision project we ever saw for the Pi were both Mike’s – see this tag for all the posts on this blog featuring Mikestuff.)
I thought Mike had been quiet for a bit. We hadn’t heard much from him in the last few months: turns out that this was because he was busy with the whizz-bang hardware section of Raspberry Pi for Dummies, the rest of which was written by Sean McManus. If you are even slightly interested in learning about hardware (and having fun with it), you should run to your nearest bookshop right now. Here are some videos to give you a taster of the sort of hardware projects you’ll be able to make with the book:
This second video is only the start of the potentiometer fun – you’ll end up making something that looks an awful lot like an Etch-a-Sketch.
Sean McManus, by the way, who wrote all the non-hardware bits of the book, is also someone I’ve chatted with by email in the past about Pi – and he’s someone to whom I owe a vote of thanks for another excellent book he wrote, this time in the Older & Wiser series. His iPad for the Older & Wiser has saved me many, many hours of shouting “No! Touch the blue thing that looks like an A!” down the phone at my Dad, clearing time to have lovely fatherly/daughterly conversation instead, for which we are all grateful.
So if you’re looking for an addition to your Raspberry Pi library, Raspberry Pi for Dummies comes highly recommended. Thanks to Sean, Mike and all at Wiley for your work on the Pi – we really appreciate it!
Today, there’s more good news for OpenELEC fans. We’re really grateful to the OpenELEC team, who have worked themselves to the bone on getting things running on the Pi; they were the first XBMC distro to be demonstrated on development Pi hardware back in February last year, were the first ever HardFP distribution (that appeared in March 2012).
Stephan Raue says:
OpenELEC 3.0 is built to support XBMC Frodo 12.1 and almost every part of the core OS has been updated and improved since the 2.0 release. The project now supports a broader range of mediacentre hardware than ever before, including dedicated OS images for the budget friendly Arctic MC001 and ultra-low-cost Raspberry Pi systems.
Raspberry Pi deserves a special mention as it’s been a labour of love for the OpenELEC team. OpenELEC’s leading position was made possible by our close working relationship with the XBMC team and many other upstream projects.
From the OpenELEC website:
What is OpenELEC?
Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center, or OpenELEC (http://www.openelec.tv) for short, is a small Linux distribution built from scratch as a platform to turn your computer into a complete XBMC media center (http://www.xbmc.org). OpenELEC is designed to make your system boot as fast as possible and the install is so easy that anyone can turn a blank PC into a media machine in less than 15 minutes.
It’s completely free
A full install is only 80-125MB
Minimal hardware requirements
Simple install to HDD, SSD, Compact Flash, SD card, pen drive or other
Optimized builds for Atom, ION, Intel, Fusion, RaspberryPi and more
Simple configuration through the XBMC interface
Plug and Play external storage
File sharing out of the box
OpenELEC 3.0 highlights and changes
XBMC-12.1 (Frodo) – features include:
DTS-MA and Dolby True-HD via XBMC’s new AudioEngine (not on AMD and RPi)
Greatly improved Live TV and PVR support
Improved image support, allowing the database to use additional image types.
Support for the Raspberry Pi
Better Airplay support across all platforms
Advanced Filtering in the library
Advanced UPnP sharing
For more on AudioEngine support, PVR support and more, visit the OpenELEC site. Huge thanks to all the developers who have put so much work into the OpenELEC on the Pi; we’re very grateful!
Pimoroni’s first anniversary competition has ended, and the entries have been sifted through: you can read all about the winner (and the entries that got an honourable mention) on their website. Well done all: we had fun looking at your entries with Paul at our birthday party on Friday. (Special shout-out to Sophie, aged nearly-five, who had a really neat butterfly VESA mount idea.)
Paul Clark’s winning entry – congratulations, Paul!
Speaking of that birthday party:
Transatlantic flight + party == no fun noodles.
And that, dear reader, is why there wasn’t a post here yesterday.
What else? There’s a bit of birthday video we filmed in New York with LadyAda over at TechCrunch; their proprietary Flash player won’t let me embed, but if you click the picture here you can visit TechCrunch for the full horror.
And I’ve just been sent copies of the Raspberry Pi Haynes Manual. It’s by Gray Girling, a Friend of Pi who has been involved with the Raspberry Pi project behind the scenes for a long time now. It’s really worth a look; think of the book as a technical manual for people with a little bit of experience who want to learn more. (We’d suggest that kids aged 12 and up who know a a bit about Python and Linux should get a lot out of it – it’s a book that should find a place on the shelves of a lot of grown-ups too.)
The book will lead you through projects in software and hardware (scrape web pages! run an X server! get Bluetooth, LEDs and SPI devices running!) – by the end of the book you’ll be gutting a plush toy and turning it into a device that speaks your tweets, and making an MP3 web server. Hearty recommend, and not just because Eben and I wrote the introduction.
A few notices: if you’re at BETT this week, come to Stand B240 to meet one of the Robs, Clive and a bunch of impaled Jelly Babies.
Pete Lomas is at Campus Party in Sao Paolo, Brazil. He’ll be giving a talk on Friday at 5.30pm; if you’re in town, go and hear what he has to say!
Finally, Eben and I are flying out for some meetings in the US today; we’ll be incommunicado until the weekend.
Update, Feb 1: I just had mail from the folks at No Starch Press, who say:
We heard from a couple customers that they were a little stretched by the price of the books and the international shipping costs, so we decided to bump the coupon value to 40% off to make it easier on everyone. We’re applying the 40% discount to anyone who already used the code, so they’ll have the best price, too.
We enjoyed both books, but in particular, we really think the authors of Super Scratch Programming Adventure are on to something: what kid doesn’t enjoy pyramids full of treasure; and what kid doesn’t want to write a game about them? As well as introducing them to Scratch itself, and to programmatic thinking, the book’s a great introduction to game design. Kids will start building games from the first page. And we loved the presentation; this thing is part comic, part storybook.
No Starch have an offer for Raspberry Pi users: if you enter RPi at the checkout on their website, you’ll get 30% off both of the books (either purchased separately or together). Print book purchases come with free ebook editions, and the code will work for ebooks alone, too, so you don’t need to fork out for shipping if you don’t want to. Click on the books to order.
First up, Adafruit’s Raspberry Pi Web IDE is now in Alpha, and they’ve made some improvements which I think you’ll find very helpful. The package now includes:
Python step debugger
Node.js update to 0.8 from 0.6 for faster navigation, and page loads.
Package node binaries with the WebIDE for faster, and easier installs
You’ll need to reinstall to take advantage of the new features.
Web IDE debugger in action – click to visit Adafruit
We’ve been nominated for one of Techcrunch’s Crunchie awards! We’re up for Best Hardware Startup, and you can vote for us here. You can vote once a day; we’d really appreciate it if you could take a minute to show your support!
Mark Baldridge is taking a year out between high school and university, and he’s spending that year on hobby projects. This is one of them: a home-made pinball machine with a Raspberry Pi for brains.
Click to visit TechFruits for a tour of the system, and some video
We thought this was a brilliant project. Eben and I have always fantasised about having the time to refurbish an old pinball machine, but we’d never thought of building one from scratch – we’re in awe. Mark is also blogging his progress on his own website – check it out!
Getting Started with Raspberry Pi
O’Reilly have just published a new Raspberry Pi book under the Make banner. Full disclosure: I haven’t actually got my hands on a copy of Getting Started with the Raspberry Pi yet, so I can’t review it here. But I do know Matt Richardson from Make, who wrote it; and I know that he’s a great teacher and demonstrator, and a very engaging writer, so I feel pretty confident in telling you to go and check it out. When I last spoke to Matt, he mentioned that the book would contain a chapter on using the Pi with Arduino, which was something we didn’t include in Eben and Gareth’s The Raspberry Pi User Guide (the two books should complement each other nicely, if you have room on your sheves) – Matt’s book also contains a chapter on working with webcams. Click the image to visit the Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Amazon page.
Alan O’Donohoe led another London Raspberry Jam last week. We’re really excited to see that his message is getting out: every one of these events seems to be larger and more diverse than the last. (Alan has started holding the events at weekends, which makes them much more accessible for kids.)
Around 70 children, parents and teachers came to learn what they could do with a Raspberry Pi at a number of workshops – we sent Rob Bishop, our roving engineer, to join in. Alan has a short post about the event, and a photo album you can have a flick through. He’s looking for sponsorship so he can make the jams even bigger and better – if you can help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll pass your message along.
Finally, here’s a project from Gareth James, a man who lives five minutes from the train station but always seems to get there just as the train is leaving. He’s made a very handsome picture frame which displays train times, powered, of course, by a Raspberry Pi. You can find out how he did it on his website.
Here’s a quick status update on the site. I’ve started revising the old resource pages, beginning with the Books and References page. Most of the books listed were out of print or old editions, so I’ve started replacing them with comparable books that are currently available. The list is pretty short at present, I’d love to get some input on recommended books you’d consider essential for an open hardware designer. Post a comment below and let me know what to add. Some CC or GFDL licensed ebooks would be really nice if anyone knows of any.
Also, I’ve put up a poll to get some input on what sort of Open Hardware project readers are most interested in seeing. This first poll is to find a general direction for a project and once we get enough input, I’ll put up another to narrow down some features. You can find the poll in the right column of page. If you haven’t picked an option yet, please do.