Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi Zero/Zero W

Wes’s wonderful Minecraft user notification display

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This Minecraft sign uses a Raspberry Pi to notify you when, and how many of, your friends are logged into your dedicated Minecraft server.

Let’s start by pointing out how wonderfully nostalgic many of Wes ‘Geeksmithing’ Swain’s projects are. From his Raspberry Pi–housing cement Thwomp that plays his favourite Mario games to The NES Project, his NES replica unit with a built-in projector — Wes makes the things we wished for as kids.

The NES Project covered in HackSpace magazine

We honestly wouldn’t be surprised if his next project is a remake of Duckhunt with servo-controlled ducks, or Space Invaders but it’s somehow housed in a flying space invader that shoots back with lasers. Honestly, at this point, we wouldn’t put it past him.

Making the Minecraft friend notification display

In the video, Wes covers the project in two parts. Firstly, he shows off the physical build of making the sign, including laser-cut acrylic front displayed with controllable LED lights, a Raspberry Pi Zero, and the wooden framing.

Secondly, he moves on to the code, in which he uses mcstatus, a Python class created by Minecraft’s Technical Director Nathan Adams that can be used to query servers for information. In this instance, Wes is using mcstatus to check for other players on his group’s dedicated Mincecraft server, but the class can also be used to gather mod information. You can find mcstatus on GitHub.

Each friend is assigned a letter that illuminates if they’re online.

Lucky for Wes, he has the same number of friends on his server as the number of letters in ‘Minecraft’, so for every friend online, he’s programmed the display to illuminate a letter of the Minecraft logo. And while the server is empty, he can also set the display to run through various light displays, including this one, a dedication to the new Minecraft Nether update.

If you’d like to try making this project yourself, you can: Wes goes into great detail in his video, and the code for the project can be found on his GitHub account.

And while we have your attention, be sure to subscribe to Geeksmithing on YouTube and show him some love for such a great project.

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These loo rolls formed a choir

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Have all of y’all been hoarding toilet roll over recent weeks in an inexplicable response to the global pandemic, or is that just a quirk here in the UK? Well, the most inventive use of the essential household item we’ve ever seen is this musical project by Max Björverud.

Ahh, the dulcet tones of wall-mounted toilet roll holders, hey? This looks like one of those magical ‘how do they do that?’ projects but, rest assured, it’s all explicable.

Max explains that Singing Toilet is made possible with a Raspberry Pi running Pure Data. The invention also comprises a HiFiBerry Amp, an Arduino Mega, eight hall effect sensors, and eight magnets. The toilet roll holders are controlled with the hall effect sensors, and the magnets connect to the Arduino Mega.

In this video, you can see the hall effect sensor and the 3D-printed attachment that holds the magnet:

Max measures the speed of each toilet roll with a hall effect sensor and magnet. The audio is played and sampled with a Pure Data patch. In the comments on his original Reddit post, he says this was all pretty straight-forward but that it took a while to print a holder for the magnets, because you need to be able to change the toilet rolls when the precious bathroom tissue runs out!

Max began prototyping his invention last summer and installed it at creative agency Snask in his hometown of Stockholm in December.

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Track your cat’s activity with a homemade speedometer

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Firstly, hamster wheels for cats are (still) a thing. Secondly, Bengal cats run far. And Shawn Nunley on reddit is the latest to hit on this solution for kitty exercise and bonus cat stats.

Here is the wheel itself. That part was shop-bought. (Apparently it’s a ZiggyDoo Ferris Cat Wheel.)

Smol kitty in big wheel

Shawn has created a speedometer that tracks distance and speed. Every time a magnet mounted on the wheel passes a fixed sensor, a Raspberry Pi Zero writes to a log file so he can see how far and fast his felines have travelled. The wheel has six sensors, which each record 2.095 ft of travel. This project revealed the cats do about 4-6 miles per night on their wheel, and they reach speeds of 14 miles an hour.

Here’s your shopping list:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • Reed switch (Shawn got these)
  • Jumper wires
  • Ferris cat wheel

The tiny white box sticking out at the base of the wheel is the sensor

Shawn soldered a 40-pin header to his Raspberry Pi Zero and used jumper wires to connect to the sensor. He mounted the sensor to the cat wheel using hot glue and a pill box cut in half, which provided the perfect offset so it could accurately detect the magnets passing by. The code is written in Python.

Upcoming improvements include adding RFID so the wheel can distinguish between the cats in this two-kitty household.

Shawn also plans to calculate how much energy the Bengals are expending, and he’ll soon be connecting the Raspberry Pi to their Google Cloud Platform account so you can all keep up with the cats’ stats.

The stats are currently available only locally

And, get this – this was Shawn’s first ever time doing anything with Raspberry Pi or Python. OK, so as an ex-programmer he had a bit of a head start, but he assures us he hasn’t touched the stuff since the 1990s. He explains: “I was totally shocked at how easy it was once I figured out how to get the Raspberry Pi to read a sensor.” Start to finish, the project took him just one week.

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Create your own home office work status light with Raspberry Pi

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If you’re working from home and you have children, you’re probably finding it all pretty demanding at the moment. Spreadsheets and multiple tabs and concentrating aren’t nearly so manageable without the dedicated workspace you have at the office and with, instead, small people vying relentlessly for your attention.

And that’s not to mention the horror that is arranging video conference calls and home life around one another. There’s always the danger that a housemate (young offspring or otherwise) might embarrassingly crash your formal party like what happened to Professor Robert Kelly live on BBC News. (See above. Still funny!)

Well, Belgian maker Elio Struyf has created a homemade solution to mitigate against such unsolicited workspace interferences: he built a status light that integrates with Microsoft Teams so that his kids know when he’s on a call and they should stay away from his home office.

DIY busy light created with Raspberry Pi and Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT

The light listens to to Elio’s Microsoft Teams status and accordingly displays the colour red if he’s busy chatting online, yellow if his status is set to ‘Away’, or green if he’s free for his kids to wander in and say “Hi”.

Here’s what you need to build your own:

The Pimoroni Unicorn pHAT has an 8×4 grid of RGB LEDs that Elio set to show a single colour (though you can tell them to display different colours). His Raspberry Pi runs DietPi, which is a lightweight Debian distro. On top of this, running Homebridge makes it compatible with Apple’s HomeKit libraries, which is how Elio was able to connect the build with Microsoft Teams on his MacBook.

Elio’s original blog comprehensively walks you through the setup process, so you too can try to manage your home working plus domestic duties. All you need is to get your five-year-old to buy into your new traffic-light system, and with that we wish you all the luck in the world.

And give Elio a follow on Twitter. Fella has mad taste in T-shirts.

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Resurrecting a vintage microwave sensor with Raspberry Pi

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Here’s one of those lovely “old tech new spec” projects, courtesy of hackster.io pro Martin Mander.

After finding a vintage Apollo microwave detector at a car boot sale, and realising the display hole in the top was roughly the same size as a small Adafruit screen, he saw the potential to breath new life into its tired exterior. And resurrected it as a thermal camera!

Right up top – the finished product!

Martin assumes it would have been used to test microwave levels in some kind of industrial setting, given microwave ovens were a rarity when it was produced.

Old components stripped and ready for a refit

Anyhow, a fair bit of the original case needed to be hacked at or sawn off to make sure all the new components could fit inside.  A Raspberry Pi Zero provides the brains of the piece. Martin chose this because he wanted to run the scipy python module to perform bicubic interpolation on the captured data, making the captured images look bigger and better. The thermal sensor is an Adafruit AMG8833IR Thermal Camera Breakout, which uses an 8×8 array of sensors to create the heat image.

The tiny but readable display screen

The results are displayed in real time on a bright 1.3″ TFT display. Power comes from a cylindrical USB battery pack concealed in the hand grip, which is recharged by opening up the nose cone and plugging in a USB lead. Just three Python scripts control the menu logic, sensor, and Adafruit.io integration, with the display handled by PyGame.

It gets better: with the click of a button, a snapshot of whatever the thermal camera is looking at is taken and then uploaded to an Adafruit dashboard for you to look at or share later.

Sensor and screen wired up

Martin’s original post is incredibly detailed, walking you through the teardown of the original piece, the wiring, how to tweak all the code and, of course, how he went about giving it that fabulous BB-8 orange-and-white makeover. He recorded the entire process in this 24-minute opus:

Apollo Pi Thermal Camera

This vintage Apollo microwave detector now has a shiny new purpose as a thermal camera, powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero with an Adafruit thermal camera sensor…

But what can you actually do with it? Martin’s suggestions range from checking your beer is cold enough before opening it, to testing your washing machine temperature mid-cycle. If you watch his video, you’ll see he’s also partial to monitoring cat tummy temperatures. His kid doesn’t like having his forehead Apollo Pi’d though.

Check out more of Martin’s projects on hackster.io.

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Stay busy in your Vault with a Raspberry Pi Zero Pipboy

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While being holed up in the Vaults living off our stash of Nuke cola, we’ve come across this mammoth junk-build project, which uses Raspberry Pi Zero W to power a working Pipboy.

Pipboy scrap build

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UK-based JustBuilding went full Robert House and, over several months, built the device’s body by welding together scrap plastic. Raspberry Pi Zero W serves as the brain, with a display header mounted to the GPIO pins. The maker wrote a Pipboy-style user interface, including demo screens, in Python — et voilà…

Lucky for him, semiconductors were already invented but, as JustBuilding admits, this is not what we’d call a beginner’s project. Think the Blue Peter show’s Tracey Island extravaganza, except you don’t have crafty co-presenters/builders, and you also need to make the thing do something useful (for our US readers who just got lost there, think Mr Rogers with glitter glue and outdoor adventure challenges).

The original post on Instructables is especially dreamy, as JustBuilding has painstakingly produced a really detailed, step-by-step guide for you to follow, including in-the-making photos and links to relevant Raspberry Pi forum entries to help you out where you might get stuck along the way.

And while Raspberry Pi can help you create your own post-apocalyptic wristwear, we’re still working on making that Stealthboy personal cloaking device a reality…

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, the following is the kind of Pipboy you can knock up for yourself (though we really like JustBuilding’s arts’n’crafts upcycling style):

3D Printed Pipboy 3000 MKIV with Raspberry Pi

Find out how to 3D print and build your own functional Pipboy 3000 using a Raspberry Pi and Adafruit 3.5″ PiTFT. The pypboy python program for the Raspberry …

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