Tag Archives: Our Staff

“17% women in tech is not enough”

via Raspberry Pi

Technology should be for everyone, but it has to be built by everyone to be for everyone. At Raspberry Pi, we work to empower everyone to become a tech creator and shape our collective digital future, and we hope that our work will help to increase the tech sector’s diversity.

Woman teacher and female students at a computer

Today, part of our team is attending WeAreTheCity’s WeAreTechWomen conference to spread the word about our free programming courses and encourage more women to share their digital skills with the next generation.

I asked Carrie Anne Philbin, our Director of Educator Support, and Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director at WeAreTheCity, about their thoughts on how we can make the tech sector more diverse, and what part role models, education, and professional development play in this.

Photo©John Cassidy The Headshot Guy® http://www.theheadshotguy.co.uk 07768 401009

Vanessa, WeAreTheCity helps organisations foster a strong female workforce, and provides opportunities for women to network and develop their skills. Why do you think it’s important for women and people from minority backgrounds to support each other in the professional world?

Vanessa Vallely: I believe it is important for everyone to support each other. It is important that we work as a collective and collaborate, as at the end of the day we are all trying to achieve the same goal. 17% women in tech [in the UK] is not enough.

“We want more women in tech, and we want them to represent all aspects of society.” – Vanessa Vallely OBE

We cannot be what we cannot see, therefore asking women who are already working in tech to stand up and own their role model status is a great start.

What can individuals do to address the lack of diversity in the tech sector?

Carrie Anne Philbin: Firstly, let’s recognise that we need the tech sector to be more representative of the population of the world. It’s problematic to have a small subsection of society be the controllers of a growing digital world.

Then, we need to be the change we want to see in the industry. Let’s try different avenues and then let’s be open about our challenges and successes.

VV: I believe every woman in the tech sector is a role model to future generations. There are a number of things individuals can do, for example go back to their schools and tell their tech stories, or contribute/write blogs. This doesn’t just raise their profile, it puts their story out there for others to aspire to. I think this is really important, especially if the individual is from a background where role models are less visible. There are lots of different organisations and networks that facilitate individuals getting involved in their school or early career initiatives which has made it easier to get involved and give back.

CAP: As a woman in the computing field, I think it is important that I hold the door open for other women coming through in my wake, and that I highlight where I can, great work by others.

Ever since I realised that my skills and knowledge in computing were useful and allowed me to be creative in a whole new way, I’ve championed computer science as a subject that everyone should experience. Once you’ve created your first computer program or built your first network, you’ll never want to stop.

Carrie Anne, how does your coding session at WATC’s WeAreTechWomen conference today tie into this?

CAP: At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to teach computing well, and about how young people can have great learning experiences so they can become the makers and creators of tomorrow.

“Technology is not a mystery, nor is it hard to learn. I want to dispel this myth for everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, or economic status.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

During my session at WeAreTechWomen, I hope to support attendees to write their first creative python program, based on a project I wrote for Code Club to create a virtual pet. It is my hope that the session will be the spark of inspiration that gets more women and men from diverse backgrounds excited about being creators of technology.

You’ve built a career in tech education as a teacher, YouTuber, and Director at Raspberry Pi. How can beginners get comfortable creating with tech?

CAP: There isn’t anything magical about technology, and once you know this, you can start to explore with confidence, much like our ancestors when they learned that the earth was round and not flat.

“Phrases like ‘I’m not good with technology’ or ‘It’s all too complicated for me’ are reassuring to say in a society where the accepted view is that maths and science are hard, and where this view is reinforced by our media. But it is OK to be a beginner, it is OK to learn something new, and it is OK to play, explore, fail, and succeed on the journey.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

However you like to learn, be it on your own or with others, there is a way that suits you! I’ve always been quite project-minded: I have ideas about things I want to make, and then go and see if I can. This is how I stumbled across the Raspberry Pi in 2012 — it seemed like an accessible and cheap way to make my automation dreams come true. It also wasn’t too bad at randomly generating poems.

Aside from teacher-led instruction or independent exploration, another way is to learn with others in a relaxed and informal setting. If you’re a young person, then clubs like Code Club and CoderDojo are perfect. If you’re an adult, then attending a Raspberry Jam or conferences like WeAreTechWomen can provide a supportive environment.

“By being kinder to ourselves and seeing ourselves as life-long learners, it is easier to overcome insecurity and build confidence.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

A great way to approach new learning is at your own pace, and thanks to technology, we have access to online training courses with great videos, exercises, and discussion — many of these are completely free and let you connect with a community of learners as well.

How do you think educating the next generation about computing will change the makeup of the tech sector?

CAP: We’re in an exciting phase for computing education. The world has woken up to the importance of equipping our young people with the knowledge and skills for an ever increasing digital landscape. This means computer science is gaining more prominence in school curricula and giving all children the opportunity to discover the subject.

“Education can be democratising, and I expect to see the makeup of the tech sector reflect this movement in the next five to twenty years.” – Carrie Anne Philbin

Unlike physics or music, computing is still a relatively young field, so we need to do more research into what is encouraging and what isn’t, particularly when we work with young people in schools or clubs.

We’re still learning how to teach computing, and particularly programming, well to encourage greater diversity, so it’s great to see such a vast Gender Balance in Computing research project underway as part of the National Centre for Computing Education here in England. It’s not too late for schools in England to get involved in this project either…

What can I do today?

The post “17% women in tech is not enough” appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Pulling Raspberry Pi translation data from GitHub

via Raspberry Pi

What happens when you give two linguists jobs at Raspberry Pi? They start thinking they can do digital making, even though they have zero coding skills! Because if you don’t feel inspired to step out of your comfort zone here — surrounded by all the creativity, making, and technology — then there is no hope you’ll be motivated to do it anywhere else.

two smiling women standing in front of a colourful wall

Maja and Nina, our translation team, and coding beginners

Maja and I support the community of Raspberry Pi translation volunteers, and we wanted to build something to celebrate them and the amazing work they do! Our educational content is already available in 26 languages, with more than 400 translations on our projects website. But our volunteer community is always translating more content, and so off we went, on an ambitious (by our standards!) mission to create a Raspberry Pi–powered translation notification system. This is a Raspberry Pi that pulls GitHub data to display a message on a Sense HAT and play a tune whenever we add fresh translated content to the Raspberry Pi projects website!

Breaking it down

There were three parts to the project: two of them were pretty easy (displaying a message on a Sense HAT and playing a tune), and one more challenging (pulling information about new translated content added to our repositories on GitHub). We worked on each part separately and then put all of the code together.

Two computers and two pastries

Mandatory for coding: baked goods and tea

Displaying a message on Sense HAT and playing a sound

We used the Raspberry Pi projects Getting started with the Sense HAT and GPIO music box to help us with this part of our build.

At first we wanted the Sense HAT to display fireworks, but we soon realised how bad we both are at designing animations, so we moved on to displaying a less creative but still satisfying smiley face, followed by a message saying “Hooray! Another translation!” and another smiley face. LED screen displaying the message 'Another translation!'

We used the sense_hat and time modules, and wrote a function that can be easily used in the main body of the program. You can look at the comments in the code above to see what each line does:

Python code snippet for displaying a message on a Sense HAT

So we could add the fun tune, we learned how to use the Pygame library to play sounds. Using Pygame it’s really simple to create a function that plays a sound: once you have the .wav file in your chosen location, you simply import and initialise the pygame module, create a Sound object, and provide it with the path to your .wav file. You can then play your sound:

Python code snippet for playing a sound

We’ve programmed our translation notification system to play the meow sound three times, using the sleep function to create a one-second break between each sound. Because why would you want one meow if you can have three?

Pulling repository information from GitHub

This was the more challenging part for Maja and me, so we asked for help from experienced programmers, including our colleague Ben Nuttall. We explained what we wanted to do: pull information from our GitHub repositories where all the projects available on the Raspberry Pi projects website are kept, and every time a new language directory is found, to execute the sparkles and meow functions to let us and EVERYONE in the office know that we have new translations! Ben did a bit of research and quickly found the PyGithub library, which enables you to manage your GitHub resources using Python scripts.

Python code snippet for pulling data from GitHub

Check out the comments to see what the code does

The script runs in an infinite loop, checking all repositories in the ‘raspberrypilearning’ organisation for new translations (directories with names in form of xx-XX, eg. fr-CA) every 60 minutes. Any new translation is then printed and preserved in memory. We had some initial issues with the usage of the PyGithub library: calling .get_commits() on an empty repository throws an exception, but the library doesn’t provide any functions to check whether a repo is empty or not. Fortunately, wrapping this logic in a try...except statement solved the problem.

And there we have it: success!

Demo of our Translation Notification System build

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: http://rpf.io/ytsub Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: http://rpf.io/yttranslate Buy a Raspberry Pi from one of our Approved Resellers: http://rpf.io/ytproducts Find out more about the #RaspberryPi Foundation: Raspberry Pi http://rpf.io/ytrpi Code Club UK http://rpf.io/ytccuk Code Club International http://rpf.io/ytcci CoderDojo http://rpf.io/ytcd Check out our free online training courses: http://rpf.io/ytfl Find your local Raspberry Jam event: http://rpf.io/ytjam Work through our free online projects: http://rpf.io/ytprojects Do you have a question about your Raspberry Pi?

Our ideas for further development

We’re pretty proud that the whole Raspberry Pi office now hears a meowing cat whenever new translated content is added to our projects website, but we’ve got plans for further development of our translation notification system. Our existing translated educational resources have already been viewed by over 1 million users around the world, and we want anyone interested in the translations our volunteers make possible to be able to track new translated projects as the go live!

One way to do that is to modify the code to tweet or send an email with the name of the newly added translation together with a link to the project and information on the language in which it was added. Alternatively, we could adapt the system to only execute the sparkles and meow functions when a translation in a particular language is added. Then our more than 1000 volunteers, or any learner using our translations, could set up their own Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT to receive notifications of content in the language that interests them, rather than in all languages.

We need your help

Both ideas pose a pretty big challenge for the inexperienced new coders of the Raspberry Pi translation team, so we’d really appreciate any tips you have for helping us get started or for improving our existing system! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Pulling Raspberry Pi translation data from GitHub appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Eight years, 2000 blog posts

via Raspberry Pi

Today’s a bit of a milestone for us: this is the 2000th post on this blog.

Why does a computer company have a blog? When did it start, who writes it, and where does the content come from? And don’t you have sore fingers? All of these are good questions: I’m here to answer them for you.

The first ever Raspberry Pi blog post

Marital circumstances being what they are, I had a front-row view of everything that was going on at Raspberry Pi, right from the original conversations that kicked the project off in 2009. In 2011, when development was still being done on Eben’s and my kitchen table, we met with sudden and slightly alarming fame when Rory Cellan Jones from the BBC shot a short video of a prototype Raspberry Pi and blogged about it – his post went viral. I was working as a freelance journalist and editor at the time, but realised that we weren’t going to get a better chance to kickstart a community, so I dropped my freelance work and came to work full-time for Raspberry Pi.

Setting up an instantiation of WordPress so we could talk to all Rory’s readers, each of whom decided we’d promised we’d make them a $25 computer, was one of the first orders of business. We could use the WordPress site to announce news, and to run a sort of devlog, which is what became this blog; back then, many of our blog posts were about the development of the original Raspberry Pi.

It was a lovely time to be writing about what we do, because we could be very open about the development process and how we were moving towards launch in a way that sadly, is closed to us today. (If we’d blogged about the development of Raspberry Pi 3 in the detail we’d blogged about Raspberry Pi 1, we’d not only have been handing sensitive and helpful commercial information to the large number of competitor organisations that have sprung up like mushrooms since that original launch; but you’d also all have stopped buying Pi 2 in the run-up, starving us of the revenue we need to do the development work.)

Once Raspberry Pis started making their way into people’s hands in early 2012, I realised there was something else that it was important to share: news about what new users were doing with their Pis. And I will never, ever stop being shocked at the applications of Raspberry Pi that you come up with. Favourites from over the years? The paludarium’s still right up there (no, I didn’t know what a paludarium was either when I found out about it); the cucumber sorter’s brilliant; and the home-brew artificial pancreas blows my mind. I’ve a particular soft spot for musical projects (which I wish you guys would comment on a bit more so I had an excuse to write about more of them).

As we’ve grown, my job has grown too, so I don’t write all the posts here like I used to. I oversee press, communications, marketing and PR for Raspberry Pi Trading now, working with a team of writers, editors, designers, illustrators, photographers, videographers and managers – it’s very different from the days when the office was that kitchen table. Alex Bate, our magisterial Head of Social Media, now writes a lot of what you see on this blog, but it’s always a good day for me when I have time to pitch in and write a post.

I’d forgotten some of the early stuff before looking at 2011’s blog posts to jog my memory as I wrote today’s. What were we thinking when we decided to ship without GPIO pins soldered on? (Happily for the project and for the 25,000,000 Pi owners all over the world in 2019, we changed our minds before we finally launched.) Just how many days in aggregate did I spend stuffing envelopes with stickers at £1 a throw to raise some early funds to get the first PCBs made? (I still have nightmares about the paper cuts.) And every time I think I’m having a bad day, I need to remember that this thing happened, and yet everything was OK again in the end. (The backs of my hands have gone all prickly just thinking about it.) Now I think about it, the Xenon Death Flash happened too. We also survived that.

At the bottom of it all, this blog has always been about community. It’s about sharing what we do, what you do, and making links between people all over the world who have this little machine in common. The work you do telling people about Raspberry Pi, putting it into your own projects, and supporting us by buying the product doesn’t just help us make hardware: every penny we make funds the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s charitable work, helps kids on every continent to learn the skills they need to make their own futures better, and, we think, makes the world a better place. So thank you. As long as you keep reading, we’ll keep writing.

The post Eight years, 2000 blog posts appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Guess the weight, win a thing!

via Raspberry Pi

Today marks the four-year anniversary of Nicola Early joining the Raspberry Pi team. Nicola works as Administrator at Pi Towers and is responsible for so many things that I dare not try to list them all. But among all her tasks, the most important one is the care and maintenance of the office rubber band ball.

Pi Towers Raspberry Pi Rubber Band Ball

The rubber band ball chronicles

Every working day for the last four years, whenever the postman delivers the packs of letters, Nicola has had at least one new rubber band to collect. And so over time, the ball has grown and grown and grown.

Nicola is very protective of the ball, so if you come to her desk in search for a rubber band, you’ll have to withstand her glare as she reluctantly removes one from her expanding collection.

Pi Towers Raspberry Pi Rubber Band Ball

If we are to consider that, in the UK, there are about 261 working days in a year, and Nicola has been working at Pi Towers for four years, it’s fair to estimate the ball consists of at least 1044 bands.

So our question for you is this:

How much does the ball weigh?

Submit your guess in the comments below*, or in the tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram post for this blog, and the closest guess will win a Raspberry Pi T-shirt and, if we can manage it without her noticing, a band from the very ball in question.

Pi Towers Raspberry Pi Rubber Band Ball

To take part, you need to submit your guess in grams by midnight next Monday 17 September. Multiple guesses on the same platform from the same account will be ignored — so behave.

*Members of the Raspberry Pi team may not take part, as there are scales on Nicola’s desk, and I don’t trust any of you.

The post Guess the weight, win a thing! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Hang out with Raspberry Pi this month in California, New York, and Boston

via Raspberry Pi

This month sees two wonderful events where you can meet the Raspberry Pi team, both taking place on the weekend of September 22 and 23 in the USA.

And for more impromptu fun, you can also hang out with our Social Media Editor and fellow Pi enthusiasts on the East Coast on September 24–28.

Coolest Projects North America

In the Discovery Cube Orange County in Santa Ana, California, team members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation North America, CoderDojo, and Code Club will be celebrating the next generation of young makers at Coolest Projects North America.

Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs. This year, for the first time, we are bringing Coolest Projects to North America for a spectacular event!

While project submissions for the event are now closed, you can still get the last FREE tickets to attend this showcase on Sunday, September 23.

To get your free tickets, click here. And for more information on the event, visit the Coolest Projects North America homepage.

World Maker Faire New York

For those on the east side of the continent at World Maker Faire New York, we’ll have representation in the form of Alex, our Social Media Editor.

The East Coast’s largest celebration of invention, creativity, and curiosity showcases the very best of the global Maker Movement. Get immersed in hundreds of projects and multiple stages focused on making for social good, health, technology, electronics, 3D printing & fabrication, food, robotics, art and more!

Alex will be adorned in Raspberry Pi stickers while exploring the cornucopia of incredible projects on show. She’ll be joined by Raspberry Pi’s videographer Brian, and they’ll gather footage of Raspberry Pis being used across the event for videos like this one from last year’s World Maker Faire:

Raspberry Pi Coffee Robot || Mugsy || Maker Faire NY ’17

Labelled ‘the world’s first hackable, customisable, dead simple, robotic coffee maker’, and powered by a Raspberry Pi, Mugsy allows you to take control of every aspect of the coffee-making process: from grind size and water temperature, to brew and bloom time.

So if you’re planning to attend World Maker Faire, either as a registered exhibitor or an attendee showing off your most recent project, we want to know! Share your project in the comments so we can find you at the event.

A week of New York and Boston meetups

Lastly, since she’ll be in New York, Alex will be out and about after MFNY, meeting up with members of the Raspberry Pi community. If you’d be game for a Raspberry Pi-cnic in Central Park, Coffee and Pi in a cafe, or any other semi-impromptu meetup in the city, let us know the best days for you between Monday, September 24 to Thursday, September 27! Alex will organise some fun gatherings in the Big Apple.

You can also join her in Boston, Massachusetts, on Friday, September 28, where Alex will again be looking to meet up with makers and Pi enthusiasts — let us know if you’re game!

This is weird

Does anyone else think it’s weird that I’ve been referring to myself in the third person throughout this post?

The post Hang out with Raspberry Pi this month in California, New York, and Boston appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

The last 10%: revamping the Raspberry Pi desktop

via Raspberry Pi

Simon Long is a Senior Principal Software Engineer here at Raspberry Pi. He’s responsible for the Raspberry Pi Desktop on both Raspbian and Debian, and his article from The MagPi issue 73 explores the experience of revamping our desktop. Get your copy of The MagPi in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

The PIXEL desktop on Raspberry Pi

It was almost exactly four years ago when I was offered the chance to work at Raspberry Pi. I knew all the team very well, but I’d had hardly any involvement with the Pi itself, and wasn’t all that sure what they would want me to do; at that time, I was working as the manager of a software team, with no experience of hardware design. Fortunately, this was when software had started to move up the list of priorities at Raspberry Pi.

The 2014 updated desktop

Eben and I sat down on my first day and played with the vanilla LXDE desktop environment in Raspbian for 15 minutes or so, and he then asked me the fateful question: “So — do you think you can make it better?” With rather more confidence than I felt, I replied: “Of course!” I then spent the next week wondering just how long it was going to take before I was found out to be an impostor and shown the door.

Simon Long Raspberry Pi

Simon Long, Senior Principal Software Impostor

UI experience

To be fair, user interface design was something of which I had a lot of experience — I spent the first ten years of my career designing and implementing the user interfaces for a wide range of products, from mobile phones to medical equipment, so I knew what a good user interface was like. I could even see what changes needed to be made to transform the LXDE environment into one. But I didn’t have a clue how to do it — I’d barely used Linux, never mind programmed for it… As I said above, that was four years ago, and I’ve been hacking the Pi desktop from that day on.

Raspberry Pi desktop circa 2015

Not all the changes I’ve made have been popular with everyone, but I think most people who use the desktop feel it has improved over that time. My one overriding aim has been to try to make the Pi desktop into a product that I actually want to use myself; one that takes the good user interface design principles that we are used to in environments like macOS and Windows — ideas like consistency, attractive fonts and icons, intuitive operation, everything behaving the way you expect without having to read the instructions — and sculpting the interface around them.

Final polish

In my experience, the main difference between the Linux desktop environment and those of its commercial competitors is the last 10%: the polishing you do once everything works. It’s not easy making something that works, and a lot of people, once they have created something and got it working, leave it and move onto creating something else. I’m really not great at creating things from scratch — and have nothing but admiration for those who are — but what I do enjoy doing is adding that last 10%: going from something that works to something that works well and is a pleasure to use. Being at Raspberry Pi means I get to do that every day when I come to work. Every time I see a photo of a Pi running at a Jam, or in a classroom, anywhere in the world, and it’s using my desktop — the thrill from that never goes away.

If you’d like to read more about the evolution of the Raspberry Pi desktop, and Simon’s adventures at Raspberry Pi, you can access the entire back catalogue of his blog posts here.

The post The last 10%: revamping the Raspberry Pi desktop appeared first on Raspberry Pi.