Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi 3B+

Use PlayStation Buzz! controllers with a Raspberry Pi

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Buzz! was a favourite amongst my university housemates and me. With popular culture questions asked by an animated Jason Donovan, answered using real-life quiz controllers with a big red button, what’s not to like?

But, as with most of the tech available in the early 2000s, my Buzz! controllers now sit in a box somewhere, dusty and forgotten.

That’s why it is so goshdarn delightful to see PiMyLifeUp breathe new life into these awesome-looking games controllers.

Bringing Buzz! back

The tutorial uses the hidapi library to communicate with the controllers, allowing them to control functions through the Raspberry Pi, and the Raspberry Pi to control the LED within the big red button.

By the end of this tutorial, you will have learned how to read information about all your USB devices, learned how to read data that the devices are sending back and also how to write a library that will act as a simple wrapper to dealing with the device.

Aside from the Buzz! controllers, available on eBay or similar for a few pounds, you only need a Raspberry Pi and its essential peripherals to get started, as the controllers connect directly via USB — thanks, Buzz!

PiMyLifeUp’s tutorial is wonderfully detailed, explaining the hows and whys of the lines of code needed to turn your old Buzz! controllers into a quiz game written in Python that uses the coloured buttons to answer multiple-choice questions.

Guitar Hero, dance mats, Donkey Kong Bongos — what other gaming peripherals would you like to bring back to life?

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Raspberry Pi Sense HAT impact recorder for your car

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Let the accelerometer and gyroscope of your Raspberry Pi Sense HAT measure and record impact sustained in a car collision.

Raspberry Pi Sense HAT

The Raspberry Pi Sense HAT was originally designed for the European Astro Pi Challenge, inviting schoolchildren to code their own experiments for two Raspberry Pi units currently orbiting the Earth upon the International Space Station.

The Sense HAT is kitted out with an 8×8 RGB LED matrix and a five-button joystick, and it houses an array of useful sensors, including an accelerometer and gyroscope.

And it’s these two sensors that Instructables user Ashu_d has used for their Impact Recorder for Vehicles.

Impact Recorder for Vehicles

“Impact Recorder is designed to record impact sustained to a vehicle while driving or stationary,” Ashu_d explains. Alongside the Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT, the build also uses a Raspberry Pi Camera Module to record footage, saving video and/or picture files to the SD card for you to examine after a collision. “The impacts are stored in the database in the form of readings as well as video/picture.”

By following Ashu_d’s Instructables tutorial, you’re essentially building yourself a black box for your car, recording impact data as the Sense HAT records outside the standard parameters of your daily commute.

“Upon impact, remote users can be verified in real time,” they continue, “and remote users can then watch the saved video or take remote access to the Pi Camera Module and watch events accordingly.”

Ashu_d goes into great detail on how to use Node-RED and MQTT to complete the project, how you can view video in real time using VLC, and how each element works to create the final build over at Instructables.

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Playing Snake on a Raspberry Pi word clock

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I have a soft spot for Raspberry Pi word clocks. True, they may not be as helpful as your standard clock face if you need to tell the time super quickly, but at least they’re easier to read than this binary clock built by engineerish.

“But Alex,” I hear you cry, “word clocks are so done. We’re over them. They’re so 2018. What’s so special about a word clock that you feel it to be worthy of a blog post?”

And the answer, dear reader, is Snake, the best gosh darn game to ever grace the screen of a mobile phone, ever — sorry, Candy Crush.

If you’re looking to build a word clock using your Raspberry Pi, here’s a great tutorial from Benedikt Künzel. And, if you’re looking to upgrade said word clock to another level and introduce it to Snake, well, actually, there isn’t a tutorial for that, yet, but there’s a whole conversation going on about it on Reddit, so you should check that out.

There is, however, a tutorial for coding your own game of Snake Slug on the Raspberry Pi Sense HAT here. So give that a whirl!

Until tomorrow, fair reader, adieu.

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Saving biologists’ time with Raspberry Pi

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In an effort to save themselves and fellow biologists hours of time each week, Team IoHeat are currently prototyping a device that allows solutions to be heated while they are still in cold storage.

The IoHeat team didn’t provide any photos with their project writeup, so here’s a picture of a bored biologist that I found online

Saving time in the lab

As they explain in their prototype write-up:

As scientists working with living organisms (from single cells to tissue samples), we are often required to return to work outside of normal hours to maintain our specimens. In many cases, the compounds and solutions we are using in our line of work are stored at 4°C and need to reach 37°C before they can be used. So far, in order to do this we need to return to our workplace early, incubate our solutions at 37°C for 1–2h, depending on the required volume, and then use them in processes that often take a few minutes. It is clear that there is a lot of room here to improve our efficiency.

Controlling temperatures with Raspberry Pi

These hours wasted on waiting for solutions to heat up could be better spent elsewhere, so the team is building a Raspberry Pi–powered device that will allow them to control the heating process remotely.

We are aiming to built a small incubator that we can store in a cold room/fridge, and that can be activated remotely to warm up to a defined temperature. This incubator will enable us to safely store our reagents at low temperature and warm them up remotely before we need to use them, saving an estimate of 12h per week per user.

This is a great project idea, and they’ve already prototyped it using a Raspberry Pi, heating element, and fan. Temperature and humidity sensors connected to the Raspberry Pi monitor conditions inside the incubator, and the prototype can be controlled via Telegram.

Find out more about the project on Hackster.

We’ve got more than one biologist on the Raspberry Pi staff, so we have a personal appreciation for the effort behind this project, and we look forward to seeing how IoHeat progresses in the future.

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Make a retro console with RetroPie and a Raspberry Pi — part 2

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Here’s part two of Lucy Hattersley’s wonderful retro games console tutorial. Part 1 of the tutorial lives here, for those of you who missed it.

Choose the network locale

RetroPie boots into EmulationStation, which is your starter interface. It’s currently displaying just the one option, RetroPie, which is used to set up the emulation options. As you add games to RetroPie, other systems will appear in EmulationStation.

With RetroPie selected, press the A button on the gamepad to open the configuration window. Use the D-pad to move down the options and select WiFi. You will see a warning message: ‘You don’t currently have your WiFi country set…’. Press the D-pad left to choose Yes, and press A. The interface will open raspi-config. At this point, it’s handy to switch to the keyboard and use that instead.

Choose 4 Localisation Options, and press the right arrow key on the keyboard to highlight Select, then press Enter.

Now choose 4 Change Wi-fi Country and pick your country from the list. We used GB Britain (UK). Highlight OK and press Enter to select it.

Now move right twice to choose Finish and press Enter. This will reboot the system.

Connect to wireless LAN

If you have a Raspberry Pi with an Ethernet connection, you can use an Ethernet cable to connect directly to your router/modem or network.

More likely, you’ll connect the Raspberry Pi to a wireless LAN network so you can access it when it’s beneath your television.

Head back into RetroPie from EmulationStation and down to the WiFi setting; choose Connect to WiFi network.

The window will display a list of nearby wireless LAN networks. Choose your network and use the keyboard to enter the wireless LAN password. Press Enter when you’re done. Choose the Exit option to return to the RetroPie interface.

Configuration tools

Now choose RetroPie Setup and then Configuration Tools. Here, in the Choose an option window, you’ll find a range of useful tools. As we’re using a USB gamepad, we don’t need the Bluetooth settings, but it’s worth noting they’re here.

We want to turn on Samba so we can share files from our computer directly to RetroPie. Choose Samba and Install RetroPie Samba shares, then select OK.

Now choose Cancel to back up to the Choose an option window, and then Back to return to the RetroPie-Setup script.

Run the setup script

Choose Update RetroPie-Setup script and press Enter. After the script has updated, press Enter again and you’ll be back at the Notice: window. Press Enter and choose Basic install; press Enter, choose Yes, and press Enter again to begin the setup and run the configuration script.

When the script has finished, choose Perform a reboot and Yes.

Turn on Samba in Windows

We’re going to use Samba to copy a ROM file (a video game image) from our computer to RetroPie.

Samba used to be installed by default in Windows, but it has recently become an optional installation. In Windows 10, click on the Search bar and type ‘Control Panel’. Click on Control Panel in the search results.

Now click Programs and Turn Windows features on or off. Scroll down to find SMB 1.0/CIFS File Sharing Support and click the + expand icon to reveal its options. Place a check in the box marked SMB 1.0/CIFS Client. Click OK. This will enable Samba client support on your Windows 10 PC so it can access the Raspberry Pi.

We’ve got more information on how Samba works on The MagPi’s website.

Get the game

On your Windows PC or Mac, open a web browser, and visit the Blade Buster website. This is a homebrew video game designed by High Level Challenge for old NES systems. The developer’s website is in Japanese — just click BLADE BUSTER Download to save the ROM file to your Downloads folder.

Open a File Explorer (or Finder) window and locate the BB_20120301.zip file in your Downloads folder. Don’t unzip the file.

Click on Network and you’ll see a RETROPIE share. Open it and locate the roms folder. Double-click roms and you’ll see folders for many classic systems. Drag and drop the BB_20120301.zip file and place it inside the nes folder.

Play the game

Press the Start button on your gamepad to bring up the Main Menu. Choose Quit and Restart EmulationStation. You’ll now see a Nintendo Entertainment System option with 1 Games Available below it. Click it and you’ll see BB_20120301 — this is Blade Buster. Press A to start the game. Have fun shooting aliens. Press Start and Analog (or whatever you’ve set as your hotkey) together when you’re finished; this will take you back to the game selection in EmulationStation.

If you’ve been setting up RetroPie on your monitor, now is the time to move it across to your main television. The RetroPie console will boot automatically and connect to the network, and then you can move ROM files over to it from your PC or Mac. At this point, you may notice black borders around the screen; if so, see the Fix the borders tip.

Enjoy your gaming system!

More top tips from Lucy

Change the resolution

Some games were designed for a much lower resolution, and scaling them up can look blocky on modern televisions. If you’d prefer to alter the resolution, choose ‘RetroPie setup’. Open raspi-config, Advanced Options, and Resolution. Here you’ll find a range of other resolution options to choose from.

Fix the borders

These are caused by overscan. Choose RetroPie from EmulationStation and raspi-config. Now select Advanced Options > Overscan and select No on the ‘Would you like to enable compensation for displays with overscan?’ window. Choose OK and then Finish. Choose Yes on the Reboot Now window. When the system has rebooted, you will see the borders are gone.

The MagPi magazine issue 81

This article is from the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, which is out today and can be purchased online, at the Raspberry Pi Store, or from many newsagents and bookshops, such as WHSmith and Barnes & Noble.

The MagPi magazine issue 81

You can also download issue 81 for free from The MagPi website, where you’ll also find information on subscription options, and the complete MagPi catalogue, including Essentials guides and books, all available to download for free.

the MagPi subscription

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Make a retro console with RetroPie and a Raspberry Pi — part 1

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Discover classic gaming on the Raspberry Pi and play homebrew ROMs, with this two-part tutorial from The MagPi Editor Lucy Hattersley.

Raspberry Pi retro games console

Turning a Raspberry Pi device into a retro games console is a fun project, and it’s one of the first things many a new Pi owner turns their hand to.

The appeal is obvious. Retro games are fun, and from a programming perspective, they’re a lot easier to understand than modern 3D powerhouses. The Raspberry Pi board’s small form factor, low power usage, HDMI connection, and wireless networking make it a perfect micro-console that can sit under your television.


There are a bunch of different emulators around for Raspberry Pi. In this tutorial, we’re going to look at RetroPie.

RetroPie combines Raspbian, EmulationStation, and RetroArch into one handy image. With RetroPie you can emulate arcade games, as well as titles originally released on a host of 8-bit, 16-bit, and even 32- and 64-bit systems. You can hook up a joypad; we’re going to use the Wireless USB Game Controller, but most other USB game controllers will work.

You can also use Bluetooth to connect a controller from most video games consoles. RetroPie has an interface that will be very familiar to anyone who has used a modern games console, and because it is open-source, it is constantly being improved.

You can look online for classic games, but we prefer homebrew and modern releases coded for classic systems. In this tutorial, we will walk you through the process of setting up RetroPie, configuring a gamepad, and running a homebrew game called Blade Buster.

Get your microSD card ready

RetroPie is built on top of Raspbian (the operating system for Raspberry Pi). While it is possible to install RetroPie from the desktop interface, it’s far easier to format a microSD card† and copy a new RetroPie image to the blank card. This ensures all the settings are correct and makes setup much easier. Our favourite method of wiping microSD cards on a PC or Apple Mac is to use SD Memory Card Formatter.

Attach the microSD card to your Windows or Mac computer and open SD Card Formatter. Ensure the card is highlighted in the Select card section, then click Format.

Download RetroPie

Download the RetroPie image. It’ll be downloaded as a gzip file; the best way to expand this on Windows is using 7-Zip (7-zip.org).

With 7-Zip installed, right-click the retropie-4.4-rpi2_rpi3.img.gz file and choose 7-Zip > Extract here. Extract GZ files on a Mac or Linux PC using gunzip -k <filename.gz> (the -k option keeps the original GZ file).

gunzip -k retropie-4.4-rpi2_rpi3.img.gz

Flash the image

We’re going to use Etcher to copy the retropie-4.4-rpi2_rpi3.img file to our freshly formatted microSD card. Download Etcher. Open Etcher and click Select Image, then choose the retropie-4.4-rpi2_rpi3.img image file and click Open.

Etcher should have already located the microSD card; remove and replace it if you see a Select Drive button. Click Flash! to copy the RetroPie image to the microSD card.

See our guide for more information on how to use Etcher to flash SD cards.

Set up the Raspberry Pi

Insert the flashed microSD card to your Raspberry Pi. Now attach the Raspberry Pi to a TV or monitor using the HDMI cable. Connect the USB dongle from the Wireless USB Game Controller to the Raspberry Pi. Also attach a keyboard (you’ll need this for the setup process).

Insert the batteries in the Wireless USB Game Controller and set the power switch (on the back of the device) to On. Once everything is connected, attach a power supply to the Raspberry Pi.

See our quickstart guide for more detailed information on setting up a Raspberry Pi.

Configure the gamepad

When RetroPie starts, you should see Welcome screen displaying the message ‘1 gamepad detected’. Press and hold one of the buttons on the pad, and you will see the Configuring screen with a list of gamepad buttons and directions.

Tap the D-pad (the four-way directional control pad on the far left) up on the controller and ‘HAT 0 UP’ will appear. Now tap the D-pad down.
Map the A, B, X, Y buttons to:

A: red circle
B: blue cross
X: green triangle
Y: purple square

The Left and Right Shoulder buttons refer to the topmost buttons on the rear of the controller, while the Triggers are the larger lower buttons.

Push the left and right analogue sticks in for the Left and Right Thumbs. Click OK when you’re done.

Top tips from Lucy

Install Raspbian desktop

RetroPie is built on top of the Raspbian operating system. You might be tempted to install RetroPie on top of the Raspbian with Desktop interface, but it’s actually much easier to do it the other way around. Open RetroPie from EmulationStation and choose RetroPie setup. Select Configuration tools and Raspbian tools. Then choose Install Pixel desktop environment and Yes.

When it’s finished, choose Quit and Restart EmulationStation. When restarted, EmulationStation will display a Ports option. Select it and choose Desktop to boot into the Raspbian desktop interface.

Username and password

If RetroPie asks you for the username and password during boot, the defaults are pi and raspberry.

The MagPi magazine issue 81

The rest of this article can be found in the latest issue of The MagPi magazine, which is out now and can be purchased online, at the Raspberry Pi Store, or from many independent bookshops, such as WHSmith and Barnes & Noble. We’ll also post the second half on the blog tomorrow!

The MagPi magazine issue 81

You can also download issue 81 for free from The MagPi website, where you’ll find information on subscription options, and the complete MagPi catalogue, including Essentials guides and books, all available to download for free.

the MagPi subscription

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