Tag Archives: The MagPi

NASA, Raspberry Pi and a mini rover

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NASA scientist Dr Jamie Molaro plans to conduct potentially ground-breaking research using a Raspberry Pi seismometer and a mini rover.

Jamie has been working on a payload-loaded version of NASA’s Open Source Rover

In the summer of 2018, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built a mini planetary rover with the aim of letting students, hobbyists, and enthusiasts create one for themselves. It uses commercial off-the-shelf parts and has a Raspberry Pi as its brain. But despite costing about $5333 in total, the Open Source Rover Project has proven rather popular, including among people who actually work for the USA’s space agency.

One of those is Dr Jamie Molaro, a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute. Her main focus is studying the surfaces of rocky and icy airless bodies such as comets, asteroids, and the moons orbiting Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. So when she decided to create her mini-rover – which she dubbed PARSLEE, or Planetary Analog Remote Sensor and ‘Lil Electronic Explorer – she also sought to shake things up a little.

Brought to life

Constructing the robot itself was, she says, rather straightforward: the instructions were detailed and she was able to draw upon the help of others in a forum. Jamie also built the robot with her husband, a software engineer at Adobe. “My interest in the Open Source Rover Project was driven by my scientific background, but not my ability to build it”, she tells us, of what is essentially a miniature version of the Curiosity rover trundling over the surface of Mars.

After building the rover wheel assembly, Jamie worked on the head assembly and then the main body itself

Jamie’s interest in science led to her considering the rover’s potential payload before the couple had even finished building it. She added a GoPro camera and a Kestrel 833, which measures temperature, pressure, elevation, wind speed, and humidity. In addition, she opted to use a Raspberry Shake seismometer – a device costing a few hundred dollars which comprises a device sensor, circuit board, and digitiser – with a Raspberry Pi board and a preprogrammed microSD card.

With the electronics assembly complete, Jamie and her husband could get on with integrating PARSLEE’s parts

The sensor records activity, converts the analogue signals to digital, and allows the recorded data to be read on Raspberry Shake servers. Jamie hopes to use PARSLEE to study the kinds of processes active at the surface of other planets. A seismometer helps us understand our physical environment in a very different way than images from a camera, she says.

Seismic solutions

To that end, with funding, Jamie would like to heat and cool boulders and soils in the lab and in the field and analyse their seismic signature. Thermally driven shallow moonquakes were recorded by instruments used by the Apollo astronauts, she says. “We believe these quakes may reflect signals from a thermal fracturing process that breaks down lunar boulders, or from the boulders and surrounding soil shifting and settling as it changes temperature throughout the day. We can do experiments on Earth that mimic this process and use what we learn to help us understand the lunar seismic data.”

A Raspberry Pi processes the data recorded from the sensor and powers the whole device, with the whole unit forming a payload on PARSLEE

Jamie is also toying with optimum locations for the Shake-fitted rover. The best planetary analogue environments are usually deserts, due to the lack of moisture and low vegetation, she reveals. Places like dry lake beds, lava flows, and sand dunes all provide good challenges in terms of testing the rover’s ability to manoeuvre and collect data, as well as to try out technology being developed with and for it. One thing’s for sure, it is set to travel and potentially make a scientific breakthrough: anyone can use the rover for DIY science experiments.

Read more about PARSLEE on Jamie’s website.

The MagPi magazine #83

This article is from the brand-new issue of The MagPi, the official Raspberry Pi magazine. Buy it from all good newsagents, subscribe to pay less per issue and support our work, or download the free PDF to give it a try first.

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IoT community sprinkler system using Raspberry Pi | The MagPi issue 83

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Saving water, several thousand lawns at a time: The MagPi magazine takes a look at the award-winning IoT sprinkler system of Coolest Projects USA participant Adarsh Ambati.

At any Coolest Projects event, you’re bound to see incredible things built by young makers. At Coolest Projects USA, we had the chance to talk to Adarsh Ambati about his community sprinkler and we were, frankly, amazed.

“The extreme, record-breaking drought in California inspired me to think of innovative ways to save water,” Adarsh tells us. “While going to school in the rain one day, I saw one of my neighbours with their sprinklers on, creating run-offs. Through research, I found that 25% of the water used in an average American household is wasted each day due to overwatering and inefficient watering methods. Thus, I developed a sprinkler system that is compliant with water regulations, to cost-effectively save water for entire neighbourhoods using a Raspberry Pi, moisture sensors, PyOWM (weather database), and by utilising free social media networks like Twitter.”

Efficient watering

In California, it’s very hot year round, so if you want a lush, green lawn you need to keep the grass watered. The record-breaking drought Adarsh was referring to resulted in extreme limitations on how much you could water your grass. The problem is, unless you have a very expensive sprinkler system, it’s easy to water the grass when it doesn’t need to be.

“The goal of my project is to save water wasted during general-purpose landscape irrigation of an entire neighbourhood by building a moisture sensor-based smart sprinkler system that integrates real-time weather forecast data to provide only optimum levels of water required,” Adarsh explains. “It will also have Twitter capabilities that will be able to publish information about when and how long to turn on the sprinklers, through the social networks. The residents in the community will subscribe to this information by following an account on Twitter, and utilise it to prevent water wasted during general-purpose landscaping and stay compliant with water regulations imposed in each area.”

Using the Raspberry Pi, Adarsh was able to build a prototype for about $50 — a lot cheaper than smart sprinklers you can currently buy on the market.

“I piloted it with ten homes, so the cost per home is around $5,” he reveals. “But since it has the potential to serve an entire community, the cost per home can be a few cents. For example, there are about 37000 residents in Almaden Valley, San Jose (where I live). If there is an average of two to four residents per home, there should be 9250 to 18500 homes. If I strategically place ten such prototypes, the cost per house would be five cents or less.”

Massive saving

Adarsh continues, “Based on two months of data, 83% of the water used for outdoor landscape watering can be saved. The average household in northern California uses 100 gallons of water for outdoor landscaping on a daily basis. The ten homes in my pilot had the potential to save roughly 50000 gallons over a two-month period, or 2500 gallons per month per home. At $0.007 per gallon, the savings equate to $209 per year, per home. For Almaden Valley alone, we have the potential to save around $2m to $4m per year!”

The results from Adarsh’s test were presented to the San Jose City Council, and they were so impressed they’re now considering putting similar systems in their public grass areas. Oh, and he also won the Hardware project category at Coolest Projects USA.

The MagPi magazine #83

This article is from today’s brand-new issue of The MagPi, the official Raspberry Pi magazine. Buy it from all good newsagents, subscribe to pay less per issue and support our work, or download the free PDF to give it a try first.

The post IoT community sprinkler system using Raspberry Pi | The MagPi issue 83 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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

The post Make a retro console with RetroPie and a Raspberry Pi — part 2 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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

via Raspberry Pi

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.

RetroPie

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

The post Make a retro console with RetroPie and a Raspberry Pi — part 1 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi underwater camera drone | The MagPi 80

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Never let it be said that some makers won’t jump in at the deep end for their ambitious experiments with the Raspberry Pi. When Ievgenii Tkachenko fancied a challenge, he sought to go where few had gone before by creating an underwater drone, successfully producing a working prototype that he’s now hard at work refining.

Inspired by watching inventors on the Discovery Channel, Ievgenii has learned much from his endeavour. “For me it was a significant engineering challenge,” he says, and while he has ended up submerging himself within a process of trial-and-error, the results so far have been impressive.

Pi dive

The project began with a loose plan in Ievgenii’s head. “I knew what I should have in the project as a minimum: motions, lights, camera, and a gyroscope inside the device and smartphone control outside,” he explains. “Pretty simple, but I didn’t have a clue what equipment I would be able to use for the drone, and I was limited by finances.”

Bearing that in mind, one of his first moves was to choose a Raspberry Pi 3B, which he says was perfect for controlling the motors, diodes, and gyroscope while sending video streams from a camera and receiving commands from a control device.

The Raspberry Pi 3 sits in the housing and connects to a LiPo battery that also powers the LEDs and motors

“I was really surprised that this small board has a fully functional UNIX-based OS and that software like the Node.js server can be easily installed,” he tells us. “It has control input and output pins and there are a lot of libraries. With an Ethernet port and wireless LAN and a camera, it just felt plug-and-play. I couldn’t find a better solution.”

The LEDs are attached to radiators to prevent overheating, and a pulse driver is used for flashlight control

Working with a friend, Ievgenii sought to create suitable housing for the components, which included a twin twisted-pair wire suitable for transferring data underwater, an electric motor, an electronic speed control, an LED together with a pulse driver, and a battery. Four motors were attached to the outside of the housing, and efforts were made to ensure it was waterproof. Tests in a bath and out on a lake were conducted.

Streaming video

With a WiFi router on the shore connected to the Raspberry Pi via RJ45 connectors and an Ethernet cable, Ievgenii developed an Android application to connect to the Raspberry Pi by address and port (“as an Android developer, I’m used to working with the platform”). This also allowed movement to be controlled via the touchscreen, although he says a gamepad for Android can also be used. When it’s up and running, the Pi streams a video from the camera to the app — “live video streaming is not simple, and I spent a lot of time on the solution” — but the wired connection means the drone can only currently travel as far as the cable length allows.

The camera was placed in this transparent waterproof case attached to the front of the waterproof housing

In that sense, it’s not perfect. “It’s also hard to handle the drone, and it needs to be enhanced with an additional controls board and a few more electromotors for smooth movement,” Ievgenii admits. But as well as wanting to base the project on fast and reliable C++ code and make use of a USB 4K camera, he can see the future potential and he feels it will swim rather than sink.

“Similar drones are used for boat inspections, and they can also be used by rescue squads or for scientific purposes,” he points out. “They can be used to discover a vast marine world without training and risks too. In fact, now that I understand the Raspberry Pi, I know I can create almost anything, from a radio electronic toy car to a smart home.”

The MagPi magazine

This article was lovingly borrowed from the latest issue of The MagPi magazine. Pick up your copy of issue 80 from your local stockist, online, or by downloading the free PDF.

Subscribers to The MagPi also get a rather delightful subscription gift!

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MagPi 76: our updated Raspberry Pi Superguide!

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Hi folks, Rob from The MagPi here! The holiday season will soon be upon us, and that means a lot of Raspberry Pis will be given as gifts. For all these new Pi users, we thought it was time to update our beginners’ guide for 2019 in issue 76 of The MagPi, out now!

And yes, this includes the brand-new 3A+.

Look, up on the magazine rack!

Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s Superguide!

In this Superguide, we’ll take you through the initial setup of the Pi, we’ll help you familiarise yourself with it, and we’ll even show you a couple of fun Pi projects to get started with! Whether you’re a complete newbie to Raspberry Pi or you want need a little refresher, our guide has got you covered.

Superb

3A+ subscription offer!

Speaking of the Raspberry Pi 3A+, we have a full feature on the fresh addition to the Raspberry Pi family, including all the juicy benchmarks, stats, and info you’d ever want to know. There’s even an interview with Eben Upton and Roger Thornton about its development!

In fact, we love the 3A+ so much that we’re offering a brand-new, limited-time subscription offer: sign up for a twelve-month print subscription of The MagPi now, and you’ll get a Raspberry Pi 3A+ completely free!

Hurry though, this offer only runs as long as stocks last.

Be quick, this offer won’t be around forever!

Heads, Pac-Man, and Christmas lights

Of course, there also are amazing projects, guides, and reviews in this issue. This includes As We Are, a mesmerising art project that displays people’s faces on a 14-foot tall screen shaped like a head. We also show you how to start making Pac-Man in our monthly Pygame tutorial, and our smart lights guide has a bit of a festive flair to it.

Get The MagPi 76

You can get The MagPi 76 from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the issue online: check it out on our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF.

Rolling subscription offer!

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? As well as the subscription mentioned above, you can now take out a monthly £5 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre‑order system that saves you money on each issue.

The MagPi subscription offer — The MagPi 75

That’s it for now! I’ll see you next time around Christmas.

 

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